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In which Tony builds a robot, and Bad Things happen to Good People

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When Tony Stark is born, the doctor comes out to give Howard the usual speech; the speech he gives to disappointed Alphas who had hoped for an heir, and hopeful Omegas eager for a child to spoil. The ‘Well of course we can’t be sure if he is an Omega or Beta until he reaches puberty-‘ speech.

 The speech withers in his throat and dies when he meets Howard Stark’s eyes. The moment stretches uncomfortably.

 "My son,” Howard speaks slowly and clearly. “Is Beta.” Calmly, steadily, daring the doctor to disagree.

The doctor said nothing, but quietly withdraws inside to sign 'Male Beta' under Tony Stark's name. Because if the heir to Stark industries could not be the Alpha he was meant to be, Howard would make sure the world knew him as the next best thing.

And make sure his son knew he had disappointed him by just being born.

 


 

It is never enough. Tony doesn’t know what would be enough because sometimes it's as though his father expects him to fly. He can climb as high as he can (building a circuit board at five) and work as hard as he can (graduating from MIT at seventeen) and strain as hard as he can for the stars (now, sitting at the dining room table with a battered Frankenstein of a portable computer he’s made himself, trying to make a machine that can learn) and it's never enough.

 Tony pushes the computer screen away, green on black text blurring for a minute. He presses the heels of his hands into his eyes, trying to will away the heavy weight pressing behind his eyes. It's been three days since he came home from MIT, nursing a spectacular hangover from the graduation party that he still isn't over. He feels hot and sticky and sick, the air was too close in his bedroom so he’d come down here to code (and maybe, maybe his father might walk past and see what he was working on).

And fuck, what had he done at that party? Admittedly he can’t remember that much of it because hey, drugs and alcohol, and since being Beta means he isn’t likely to get anyone pregnant, there was probably a lot of that too. But whatever it was just refuses to leave him alone, and it’s hard to concentrate on coding when his skin feels too tight and itching from the inside.

 “Tony.”

 ... and that’s just what he wanted when he came down here, wasn’t it? For his father to see him, notice him, ask him. Not for his dad to come in when he’s sick and feeling like shit. Tony rubs his face and looks up at Howard Stark.

 And that, that right there is his least favourite sight where his father is concerned. The thin-lipped, disappointed before he even sees what Tony is trying to do; that whatever it is, it’s not worth his time. Why is Tony trying to show him this useless piece of trash?

And the whiskey. There’s always that. This time there’s only a finger of it in the tumbler, but the smears on the glass tell of a lot more, and Tony’s bitterly familiar with his father when drunk.

He tries anyway “Hey dad.”

“What are you doing.” It’s not a question, it’s not even curiosity. It’s disappointed. It’s always disappointed. If Tony was building a circuit board, why hadn’t he made a computer? If he built an engine, why didn’t he build one that did something new? And if he was building an intelligent program, why wasn’t it already working?

Tony usually just feels tired and fed up, now he feels sick and restless, as though his skin is two sizes too small. There’s a jerk in his stomach, like something inside him had just kicked.

Oh please, he is not going to be sick. Not in front of his father like this-

“What are you doing?” And this time it is a question. A ‘why are you ruining that circuit board?’ question.

And hey, ten thousandth time lucky “I’m trying to-“ he starts.

Howard walks over; one hand reaches out to brace himself on the table. Drunk then. Really drunk. His frown gets darker, his nostrils flare.“What are you- you smell like-“

“I’m not feeling great-“ Tony chokes off when his father grabs hold of his hair and pulls his head to one side, bends down and inhales the crook of Tony’s neck. And fuck, Tony can smell him beneath the stench of alcohol, something hot and cloying and making his stomach roil and kick, sick and hot and –

“You’re in Heat.” Howard’s voice is a hiss.

“What!” Tony pushes himself up and fuck oh shit, he feels wet, slick between his legs and sticky, staining his jeans dark. His legs shake and he has to brace himself on the table. And then it’s like a kick inside his head and suddenly oh fuck he wants.

Like someone's punched some kind of override switch in his head and all his can think how much he wants to be fucked, right now, wants be bent over and fucked and knotted and bred. Furious and more desperate than anything he's ever had before, on any drug, with anyone. His cock is hard and aching and pressing painfully against the zip of his jeans. Fuck fuck oh fuck-

“You-“ Howard laughs and he’s standing there laughing at Tony in his ruined trousers, while he’s sick and aching and humiliated. Tony just wants the floor to open and swallow him whole. “You can’t even do that properly. I actually thought you could be an heir, some kind of legacy-“

Tony’s had enough, he can feel tears prick the back of his eyes and no, he’s not going to fucking cry because that would somehow make this worse and it’s already a fucking nightmare. He turns to get out, having to hold himself up on the table as his legs tremble.

And Howard’s hand wraps around his throat, tight enough to choke, to make him gag and stagger. The crack of glass as the tumbler hits the floor. “You couldn’t manage to be an Alpha.” And the smell is thick and ugly and cloying and sick, underlayed with the reek of whiskey. “You can’t even manage to be a Beta. What use are you if you can’t even do that? You’re an Omega. What the fuck are you good for?”

Tony grabs at the hand cutting in his windpipe, the pressure makes him choke and oh god, don’t be sick, don’t be sick. He tries to pull the arm away, but he’s trembling and weak and his father’s grip is like iron. He can barely breathe. Howard's grip tightens and he feels any strength he has drain out of him, his cock twitches. Alpha, some part of him whispers. Surrender.

Howard leans in again, Tony can feel his breath on his neck. “Fuck, you smell good.” It’s barely a whisper. “Fuck.” Presses his face against Tony’s neck, inhales. “So fucking good. You-“ He barks a laugh. “Omega. You are good for something."

And - and oh fuck he's drunk, and Tony's in Heat, and oh fuck no, and he can taste bile in his throat. He tries to kick, bite and pull away - run-

The grip on his throat doesn't weaken, and Howard's hand catches on his hip, on the belt of his jeans, yanking him back against him. The contact knocks whatever strength Tony’s panic had drawn up out of him. The contact, the heat of Howard's – his father's – hot breath on the back of his neck, the brush of teeth. The feeling of – oh fuck no please stop please – his cock against Tony's back, hard and Alpha-

And he screams, tries to scream. His throat feels crushed; all that comes out is a hissing gasp. It’s a stifled shriek when he’s pushed face down on the table. Howard's pinning him with a hand on the back of his neck, the other scrabbling drunkenly at the fly of Tony's jeans.

Get off get off please god no and there's a part of Tony, the part that doesn't think but is just mindless blind Heat-desire, that wants this. Like the worst tension before orgasm, built up until it’s unbearable and he just wants relief, no matter how. Some part of him that doesn't care that this is his father and he doesn't want this – that just wants to be fucked and knotted and bred through his Heat. He can feel himself getting harder against the pressure in his jeans, wet streaking his thighs, ready and eager even while he's struggling not to throw up all over the embroidered tablecloth.

He can’t breathe, the air is crushed from his lungs; he can’t breathe. He can’t scream. If he could just scream, someone would come -

The hand on the nape of his neck pulls away, Tony kicks, drags in a breath. And screams. Screams and screams and feels the button on his jeans snap open, trousers and underpants dragged down around his ankles. The air is like a slap across his soaked thighs. He can smell himself, hot and sharp and eager and oh please please no please-

"You-” Howard's voice is hot with lust and alcohol, reeking pheromones that makes him ache and gag at the same time. "You sick little pervert. You want this so badly you're soaking." He shoves three fingers inside Tony.

He tries to kick and his feet get tangled in his trousers. Screams again and Howard slams a hand on his face, crushing it to the tablecloth. He can taste starch and the sick taste of Alpha, hot and wrong and oh god please fuck no please

And he tries to breathe, and tries to scream when Howard pulls his fingers out and grab his hips and hauls him up until Tony can feel his cock against his slick skin. His nails scrabble and tear on the tablecloth and please, please “Please.” his lips move and he can taste salt, his face is wet, and the tablecloth he’s lying on is stained grey and damp. “Please.” Cough, try and breathe.

Hot breath against the back of his neck, like some kind of animal. “Fuck,” sick, hot, horrible. “Yes, beg. Fuck. You want this, you sick little-“

No, no, oh fuck please stop please shit stop, please don’t please-

And then he pushes in and oh god then he screams, he screams and it hurts, it hurts- Thick and burning ripped apart and bloody and sick and screaming with teeth in the back of his neck. Screaming and screaming, saliva and blood running down his neck where Howard –his father – has bitten hard enough to draw blood. Screaming and he can still hear him whisper against his ear yes yes yes oh yes so good fuck yes god you’re good-

He keeps pushing in until it's deeper than Tony thought you could go. So deep he feels something split inside him and Howard grunts oh yes and slumps over him, short sharp thrusts until he starts to knot and groans into Tony's hair. Tony can’t breathe, the pain yanks the breath from his lungs, the pain almost drowns out the horrible revulsion that this is his father fucking him, fucking him raw and tender and aching and sickening, sickening relief. Then Howard grunts and oh fuck he can feel him come inside him, slick and hot and his fingers are tightening on his hips hard enough to leave bruises.

He strangles out a scream and finally it sinks in that no one is coming. He can scream until his throat tears out and no one is going to hear. Or maybe they can hear, and just don’t care.

He screams anyway, if only because it hurts. It hurts and it's not going to stop- it hurts- stop now -they’re knotted and he can’t move. He pulls and tears his nails bloody on the tablecloth and Howard just coughs a laugh and pins Tony to the table by the small of his back. “S- stop moving.” His voice stutters, nails dig in the bare skin and Tony can barely feel it, dwarfed by the pain of this – this thing that’s happening to him. “You squirm- like a whore – fuck-“ He's getting hard again inside him again, and Tony feels himself slicken in response. NO please not again please oh please-

And finally he can’t scream any more, when his throat is harsh and empty and so raw he can barely breathe, and all he can do is gasp and choke with his face pressed to the tablecloth, he can see nothing but the filaments of the stitching so close to his face. He’s got no sense of time left, this could have been going on for hours - days- like this - Howard just pinning him to the table now, too drunk to do more than pant hungrily in the back of his neck.

And finally, finally, oh god please - he unknots enough to pull out. Tony draws in a ragged breath, gives a hacking cry that hurts almost as much as everything else. The breath is crushed out of him as Howard pushes himself off of him. Tony chokes, coughs, spits. Tastes bile. Closes his eyes and stays still, as though if he plays dead Howard will just leave.

He hears the clump of hard-soled shoes on the bare boards of the floor. The clink of a belt being done up. A sudden silence that stretches until Tony finally opens his eyes, because if this is going to start again he is going to try and run.

Howard is just looking at him, hands still on his belt buckle. The light glints off the metal, and his eyes are in shadow. Tony can’t read his expression, even if he were in any state to take anything in. He just looks back, and sees himself in his father’s unseen eyes: half naked, jeans around his ankles, come and slick streaking his thighs and leaking from him. Eyes dark and bruised and accusing.

The buckle clinks. His hands shake. Howard jerks his head away and stumbles towards the door. Yes leave just fucking go please god. The snap of the handle opening. Get out get out please get out please. The clamp of shoes on the boards. The echo of the door slamming closed. He’s alone.

 Tony doesn’t know how long he’s there before he manages to push himself off the table. Sharp spiking pain and his legs don’t hold him. Tony collapses, tries to hang on to the table leg and just slides down until he’s on the floor. And he doesn’t want to get up. He just wants to crawl under the table, curl up and not move any more until it doesn’t hurt, until he can make it not have happened. Until he could make it so his father had not raped him.

Just the thought brings a scream to his ragged throat. He can’t stay here. He can’t stay here where anyone can find him. Where his father can find him.

His nails are broken where he’d been tearing at the tablecloth. They’re red with clotted blood, and burn as he gropes along the carpet. He tries to crawl; and his trousers bunch around his ankles. He rolls over and his thighs are streaked with blood and slick with- with-

Tony grinds the heels of his hands into his eyes until he sees sparks. Stop. Just stop.

Get up.

He yanks up his jeans and underwear and that hurts, it hurts. The fabric sticks to his bare legs, his ass, rubs raw on his abused hole. He’s no longer in Heat. He’s not even hard any more – he doesn’t know if he orgasmed or if it just went away when his Heat ended. The idea of anyone touching him right now makes him want to throw up. The button on his jeans has been torn off.

Get up.

His computer is lying on the floor. It must have fallen off the table during – during. Tony hugs it to him. The hard edges cut into his chest.

He has to crawl to make it as far as the door. Please, please, let no one be there. Let no one see him like this. Let his father not see this. Please. He has to haul himself up to reach the door handle, hands slippery with sweat.

The hallway is empty. It’s two staggering, unbearable steps to the stairs, and he has to haul himself up step after step. There are twenty seven steps from the ground to first floor. Tony has never counted them before.

Finally, finally. He’s at his bedroom. The door handle slips from his fingers, the door swings open and he collapses inside. It hurts, it hurts and the pain builds up in his throat. He can’t let it out, not yet. Not here behind a door his father has the keys to.

He gets to his bathroom and that has a deadbolt. He locks it, and finally, finally he can stop. Crawl into the shower and curl up in a ball as though if he makes himself small enough he could just stop existing. That time could ignore him and run backwards and this could have not happened. The movement just makes everything hurt and his skin crawls in his torn clothes and the bruises he can feel forming on his hips. Curl up and crush his eyes closed. It hurts, it hurts and the pain in his throat is trapped there. He can’t scream, he can’t cry. It just freezes in his throat.

Tony doesn’t know how long he sits there, the shower switches itself on after a few moments, and Tony hugs his knees and lets the water run over him and get rid of the smell. The smell. The sharp smell of his own Heat, the sticky smell of sex and come and blood. The cloying stench of Alpha, heady and sickening and wrong.

It must have taken a long time for the water to get cold, but Tony’s still there, it trickles over his soaked shirt and down his back and through the fabric of his jeans. It stings the scratches on his back and neck, and between his legs where- fuck he must have been torn. He’s going to need stitches or something-

And it’s that. The thought that he’s going to have to go to the hospital, that he’s going to have to go out like this, tell someone what happened. My father raped me. The water burns his eyes, trickles down to scorch his lungs and Tony curls up, crosses both arms over his head and screams into the hollow of his body, the hot lines of his tears a contrast to the now freezing water washing them away, his voice a thin worn thread.

His breathing is ragged, harsh sobs broken by his teeth chattering from the cold. His body is getting numb and that’s fine, in fact, that’s more than fine. His fingers fumble with his shirt and he drags it off and throws it as far away as he can manage. It hits the door and slops to the floor, leaving a dark, dripping mark.

Undoing his jeans is harder; his fingers slip on the zipper and that’s not just the cold making his hands shake. Finally he kicks them off with his underwear, they snag around his shoes and he pulls them off too. He’s naked under the pounding, freezing water that knocks the wind out of him and leaves him panting.

At some point, the water stops. Tony’s spent so long curled up in a ball it feels like he’s frozen that way. And that’s fine. He’s numb with cold and so exhausted he doesn’t even have the strength for tears any more. Without the water to freeze him there’s no point in staying in here. He crawls out, unlocks the door.

It’s his room. It seems insane that he woke up here this morning. He has to shove his desk in front of the door before it feels safe. He will never feel safe here again. The computer is still lying on the floor by his bed where he dropped it. Tony collapses next to it, and climbing into bed is just too much, too exposed. He pulls the covers off and curls up under the bed. He’s too tired. He can’t sleep. He can’t stay awake. He can’t -

He doesn’t have the strength to finish the thought.

 


 

The sounds of hammering drags Tony awake some uncertain time later. It’s not the first time he's woken sick and aching on the floor. The blankets are damp and sodden from his soaked body and stick to him when he tries to struggle free from under the bed, like countless clammy hands. Tony draws his legs up to kick them off and bites off a cry at the pain that jerks through him.

 “Tony? Master Tony? Breakfast is waiting.” There is another knock. The draws in his desk rattle where it’s been pushed up against the door. “Tony. Get up.”

Tony crawls out from under the bed, and hauls himself up until he’s sitting on it. Even that hurts. Even that takes more out of him than he’d like to admit. Tony drops his head in his hands and kneads his forehead. It feels like the world’s worst hangover.

“Tony!”

“I’m up!” His voice is hoarse and cracks on the second word. He swallows. “I’m coming!”

It takes him until his second attempt to get to his feet. Each step hurts, although he’s no longer bleeding, from his neck or from- anywhere else. There are dark, finger-shaped bruises on his hips, and when he looks at himself in a mirror, there’s a collar of bruises across his throat as well.

Tony pauses, and goes back to the wardrobe and pulls out everything until he finds the old black turtleneck he’d thought was oh-so bohemian two years ago. It’s a bit tight around his shoulders but it covers the marks on his neck. It hugs him comfortingly, like a second skin. Tony drops his head against the wardrobe door. He can do this. He has to do this.

He’s wearing old, worn trousers and still it hurts to walk. He gets himself as far as the doors to the dining room, then stops. He can do this. He’s not sure what the other options are. Scream and throw a fit? What good would it do? Who’d even listen?

The table has been cleaned. The air of the room is fresh. He wonders who replaced the tablecloth. His mother and – oh shit – father are already at the table. He’d hoped- well, as though his father has ever been ashamed of anything. His mother doesn’t even look up. The liquid in her glass is translucent, and moves too sluggishly to be water. His father looks at him, it’s calm, cool and evaluating, as though Tony is one of his inventions and he's carefully noting every movement.

Tony grits his teeth and forces himself not to limp, to sit down sharp and straight backed and not wince. Howard just keeps watching him; Tony forces himself to meet his gaze. It sends a kick of revulsion through his stomach, Howard’s eyes are darker than usual; he doesn’t look to have slept much.

The maid comes in bringing breakfast. The plates are put down in front of them. Tony looks down at the eggs and bacon and golden toast and doesn’t know if the nausea he’s feeling is revulsion or hunger. He swallows it down and tries a bite of toast. His stomach wakes up fully and he’s suddenly ravenous. He eats in great starving bites, ignoring the small noise of protest his mother makes at his horrible lack of manners.

When he looks up from his now-empty plate, his father hasn’t touched his food, still watching him intently.

 


 

It’s easier to pretend nothing has happened. Everyone’s all too happy to pretend. Tony locks himself in his room almost every day – he unscrews the lock on his door and fits a new one, one only he has the keys for – and spends his time at the computer, because if he’s thinking about coding, he’s not thinking about anything else. His mother must have noticed something, but her reaction is to drink more, turning from wine to sherry to gin, to avoid it. The servants have noticed, of course they have, but no one says anything. Jarvis would have, Jarvis practically raised Tony, but Jarvis died before Tony went to MIT, and the new butler prefers to ignore Tony.

And Howard- well, his father hasn’t said anything. He’s not even spoken to Tony since – since - (You sick little pervert, you want this-) but every time he sees Tony, he never looks away. Tony’s skin crawls at every meeting, he’s started avoiding meals and eating in the kitchen to stay away.

He’s hungry a lot of the time, he’s used to going without meals when he’s working on a project, but these days missing even one is enough to make him dizzy. It’s probably an Omega thing. And no, he’s not thinking about that. Any of that. If he starts, he won’t stop. But it sneaks up on him anyway. Smells are sharper, clearer. He can tell if the cook is making bread even from the other side of the house.

Then one day he almost walks into his father coming around a door, and the sudden onslaught of Alpha, sick and wrong makes him reel. Howard grabs hold of his shirt and Tony freezes, his joints lock. But he just leans in and his nostrils flare as he inhales. His lips twitch in what is not quite a smile, and he lets Tony go.

Tony flees, and locks himself in his bathroom. He collapses against the door and slides down, burying his face in his hands, shoving the heel into his mouth to stifle the first sob. It tears free so sharply that it actually hurts. Hacking and coughing and digging his teeth into his hand until he tastes iron. He can still feel the scratch of Howard’s nails across his chest, the tightness of his shirt collar snatching at the back of his neck – the scratches had healed weeks ago –the pain he still feels if he walks too fast or sits down too hard. How easy it was for his father to hold him in place, how easy it had been for him to rape him, how easy it would be for him to do it again.

And maybe it’s just too much, because Tony gags on the taste of his own blood, and only just makes it to the toilet in time. The smell of bile just makes it worse and Tony retches until he’s hanging limply over the bowl, shaking. He can’t stay here. He can’t live here, pretending nothing happened. He has to get out. He’ll just take a car and get out, drive out of New York and go- somewhere. Anywhere but here.

Finally, he gets up and goes back to his room. He doesn’t need to pack much – most of his things are still in the suitcases he brought back from MIT where he hadn’t bothered to unpack them. He’ll take the computer he cobbled together; he won’t give up his project just to escape his father. It’ll come with him and he’ll finish it. He’ll go tonight. Leave a note saying he’s going back to do –something – at MIT, and hopefully his father will be too busy in the workshop and his mother too busy at the bottle to notice he’s gone until a few days have passed, and he’d have gotten away by then.

 


 

 The nausea hasn’t entirely left him by the time he wakes up past midnight, although he manages to keep his hurried dinner down for the time it takes to pack. He tucks the computer under one arm, and his suitcase under the other, and unlocks the bedroom door. It’s dark. Everyone has long since gone to bed. Tony creeps down to the ground floor, but as he passes the dining room, he can’t hold it in any longer and makes a bolt for the nearest toilet.

He’s hunched over the bowl when he hears footsteps outside. He tries to stifle the sound of his panting, but it’s not enough. The door opens.

There’s only one person who’d be up at this time, and Tony is not surprised to see Howard. He swallows bile and wipes his mouth. Howard doesn’t move, just looking down at him. He glances at Tony’s discarded suitcase and computer. “Going somewhere?”

Tony glares, a sort of battered defiance rising in him. Did his father really expect him to stay here? After this?

Howard doesn’t wait for an answer, but picks up Tony’s suitcase and –the computer. “Come here.” Impatient.

And Tony might take the risk and make a run for it without the suitcase, but he’s not leaving the computer with Howard. He’d wipe it, or take it apart for parts, and Tony’s program- which is starting to process data on its own now – wouldn’t stand a chance.

He gets up uncertainly, and follows his father down to his workshop. They’re the only ones there, just them, the tools and half-built machines, the bottles of alcohol. Tony looks around and spots a solid, heavy wrench. He picks it up and hefts it. It’s got a good weight, and if Howard tries-

Howard looks back at him and glares. “Don’t be ridiculous Tony.”

Tony doesn’t put it down, but the scorn in his father’s eyes. Like he’s three years old again and has just melted his first circuit board. Like he’s being childish and absurd and oh so disappointing to his father.

“You raped me.” He manages to keep his voice steady, although he almost gags on the words.

“I can see you’re going to be a child about this.” Howard walks over and yanks the wrench from Tony’s hands. “Sit down.” He indicates a stool.

Defeated, sickened at himself, Tony does as he’s told. Howard puts down the wrench and picks up a syringe. He pulls up Tony’s sleeve, wipes it down with antiseptic, and presses the needle in. Tony flinches. “Stop moving.”

-You squirm like a whore-

Tony jerks away and Howard curses, slams his free hand on Tony’s shoulder to hold him in place and drives the needle in again, drawing a full syringe of blood.

“There. God, you’re being such a child.” He turns his back on Tony, and injects the blood on a glass slide, then adding a small drop of something else.

Tony doesn’t care, he just wants to go. He gets up and creeps over to where his father had left the computer. “Sit down.” Howard glares at him from over his shoulder. “Sit down and don’t move.”

Tony grabs the computer and hugs it to his chest, sliding one foot after the other back towards the door.

Howard turns around. “Sit down!” It’s a roar. Tony feels his insides twist and sits down on his stool without even meaning to. Howard nods, satisfied, and looks down at whatever the hell he’s doing.

“You’re pregnant.” He says instead.

If Tony hadn’t been holding the computer so tightly, he would have dropped it. What?

“You were in Heat.” Howard continues, “They can last five days at least; and there’re just two things that can end it – ill health, or pregnancy. Particularly in your first Heat. What with your behaviour over the last few weeks, then I find you throwing up in the toilet, and this test confirms it.” He looks up at Tony. “You’re carrying my child.”

The world makes a horrible, light-headed revolution. The wave of weakness and revulsion that sweeps over him is so violent Tony stumbles backwards; he hits the wall and collapses, still curled around the computer. He feels utterly sick and horribly cold.

“I wouldn’t try whatever disappearing act you were planning” The words sound like they’re coming from underwater, but when Tony looks up Howard has walked over to stand over him, face blank and impassive. “I’ve had your trust fund frozen, and the drivers know better than to let you take a car. You wouldn’t get half a mile.”

He crouches down next to Tony; Tony turns his head away, trying to burrow through the wall with his shoulderblades. Howard grabs him by the hair and yanks his head around, forcing Tony to look at him. “You are going to stay here and have my child.” His voice is a cutting whiskey hiss. “You are going to provide me with a replacement for the profound failure you have turned out to be.” The hand in his hair spasms, then his lets Tony go and gets up. “My god Tony, look at you. It’s all just a game to you. You fuck and drink your way through MIT, you can‘t create anything worthwhile-“

Tony knows this lecture, he’s heard it so many times he could probably recite it in his sleep. It’s so familiar and so fucking wrong to hear it here.

“- and even this. Fuck, Tony you couldn’t even manage to be born right. This is the only thing you’re good for?”

It’s more of a question than anything. Tony looks up in revolted disbelief – is he expecting an answer? – Howard pauses, hesitates, then shakes his head. “What else would you expect anyway? You should be glad it happened here, rather than MIT. They would have kept you going for days, and no one would have been able to guess who the father was.”

“Yeah, I'd have preferred that.” The words slip out before Tony’s aware of them.

The slap doesn’t have much strength behind it; Howard’s at an awkward angle, leaning down. It still makes stars blink in front of his eyes, and rattles his teeth.

“Of course you would. It’s all about you, isn’t it Tony? It’s all about now. You don’t care about this family, about Stark Industries. You don’t care what this would do to us, to the company, to have my son, my Omega son, being fucked by half of MIT’s Alpha frats. You’re so selfish it’s unbelievable. God, Tony, you’re barely human."

“You’re going to stay here, and you are going to have my child. You are going to do one thing in your miserable life that might actually have value. You’re going to give me the child you were meant to be.”

 


 

Tony doesn’t get to go back to his room for the rest of the night; Howard leaves him in one of the guest rooms and locks the door. Tony stares at the door for several long moments. It’s not much of a lock. He could pick it with his shoelaces. But where would he go? He’s got no one to go to. His friends at MIT are, let’s face it, more interested in his money than they are in him, and they’d hand him back to Howard before his father would even have to ask. He’s got no money and fuck, how do you do anything without money? He’d be on the streets, he’d be starving. And he’d be pregnant. He is pregnant.

Tony is still curled up around his computer as though it's some kind of fucking shield. He puts it down on the bed, carefully, then presses one hand on his abdomen. He can’t believe it. He doesn’t want to believe it. The idea makes him sick to his bones. This isn’t real. This can’t be real. This can’t be happening to him.

There are places that could deal with this. He’s heard about them, and heard his fellow MIT frats joke about this Omega who totally visited one, or how they shouldn’t be too worried about protection since that was an option now so who cared? Tony hadn’t paid it much attention, he was a Beta, he was pretty unlikely to get pregnant. What were Roe vs Wade or Omega reproductive rights to him?

He doesn’t know where to go. He wouldn’t know who to ask. And even if he did, how would he get there? No car, and Tony’s not sure if he could even get out of the house. He knows his father, and he’s nothing if not thorough. He’s only going to have one chance at this. He’s going to have to wait and do his research. If Howard thinks he’s given up and is playing along, he’ll be more likely to ignore him. So if Tony just waits, he’ll go on one of his all-night workshop benders and forget about Tony. Then he could try and get away.

He’s allowed to go back to his room in the morning. The locks have been changed on all the doors. He doesn’t have a key.

 


 

Tony plans his escape carefully over the next week. The next two weeks. The next three weeks. It takes him as long as a month until he finally admits to himself that it’s not going to work. Because every time Tony leaves his room, even if it’s to grab something to eat from the kitchen, there’s Howard.

He doesn’t do anything, or say anything. He’s just standing there, each time. Just watching. His eyes rake over Tony and it’s like he’s not wearing any clothes, every time. He’s checking to see if Tony’s changed. If he’d... developed.

Tony tries not to go out of his room if he can help it. Mostly he huddles up with his computer and writes code until his fingers bruise from hitting the keys. Eats when his head starts to spin with hunger, then almost immediately pukes it up again. He tries not to think about that. He tries not to think about anything but the program he’s writing. The code. The code that is by now almost writing itself.

Tony gets up one morning, curled in a pile of blankets with the computer by his head where he’d finally dropped from exhaustion. He throws off the clothes he’s slept in, and staggers into the bathroom. He’s about to step into the shower, when he catches his own eyes in the mirror.

He looks exhausted. Dark circles under his eyes, and he’s lost weight. His cheeks are pinched, and surely his collarbones and ribs are a bit more visible than they were even in his most obsessive inventing days. He can feel them when he runs his fingers down his chest, then pauses at his diaphragm. Hesitates, then probes at his stomach. He presses his palms against it, trying to press the soft rounded bump flat. Maybe it’s the pressure, the horrible reminder of what is happening to him, or that this is what happens every morning, but Tony collapses in front of the toilet again.

He puts on the baggy shirt and pants he usually wears when he's building something; discolored from oil and grease, and loose enough that he doesn’t have to see himself.

He tries not to look at himself in the mirror from then on, and when he can’t help it, takes a hammer and smashes it and throws the pieces in the bin. He has to keep wiping his blood off of the computer keys as he types that night, and coding is slow.

His fingers have scabbed over, but it still hurts to type. Which is good, that’s great. It drowns out the horrible, knotting feeling in his stomach, that’s not hunger and not nausea but something twisted and strange and wrong.

Then one day-evening-morning-night?- the door opens and Tony jumps, because there’s only one person who’d bother to come in and not knock. He stumbles out of his chair to his feet, back against his desk.

Howard closes the door and locks it, frowning. “Come here."

Tony doesn’t move. His knuckles turn white on the wood of the desk.

Howard doesn’t bother to repeat himself. He steps forwards, snags Tony by the shoulder and drags him away from the desk. His grip is hard as a trap, and when Tony tries to pull free, the fingers just tighten. He couldn’t defend himself when he’d been healthy, what else could he do when tired and ill? Tony drops his head, feeling sick and helpless.

Howard looks down at him – they’re almost the same height, but Tony might as well be a five year old right now – eyes raking over the overlarge shirt and sweatpants that hides his body. “Take that off.”

Tony grips the cotton of his shirt but doesn’t move.

The grip on his shoulder tightens until his bare bones creak. “Do you want me to strip you?” Howard snaps.

Defeated, exhausted, and knowing that Howard would do it if he didn’t obey, Tony does as he's told. The air in his room is a steady seventy-seven degrees, and stings his skin as though it were freezing water. He strips off his shirt and pants, and when he tries to stop, Howard just frowns at him until, hating himself; Tony takes off his underwear as well.

Naked and sick, swallowing to control his rebelling stomach, Tony closes his eyes. He hasn’t looked at himself properly for weeks now; he doesn’t want to start now. He hasn’t touched his body properly in about as long. He can feel it changing around him and that’s bad enough without confirmation.

Howard doesn’t say anything; Tony can almost feel his eyes rake over him. Still holding him in place, he puts his free hand on Tony’s abdomen. It’s shockingly warm, presses surprisingly gently against the curve of his stomach, rubs slightly and Tony doesn’t have to look, he can feel how much the skin has stretched.

The sudden human contact kindles warmth in the pit of Tony’s stomach, and he turns his face away, trying to force down the surge of sudden, perverse arousal.

“You’re four months along.” Howard’s voice is thoughtful. His hand rubs slow circles on Tony’s abdomen, warm and comforting. Tony feels himself get hard, start to slick between his legs and turns his face away, feeling his cheeks burn as his body betrays him again.

Howard doesn’t miss it, he laughs. “God, look at you.” He sounds amused. “Look at you.” He grabs Tony’s hair and yanks his head down. The pain makes him open his eyes.

He’s pale. He hasn't been out of the house since this happened, and the idea of being naked to tan or sunbathe is revolting. His olive skin’s gone a sort of sick sallow color. The bones in his chest are more obvious now, in contrast to his belly, which is now becoming visibly distended.

“Look at you.” Howard still sounds amused. His hand is still cupping his stomach, in contrast to the tight grip he’s still got on Tony’s hair. “So fertile, and you only need a touch before you’re gagging for it.” His thumb rubs circles under his belly button, side of his hand pressing just above Tony’s cock.

Please don’t please don’t please Tony closes his eyes, then opens them again when Howard yanks on his hair. He feels slick and aching, body longing for more contact. “You spend your time complaining about this, or wasting your time with – whatever you’re trying to do – and your body knows exactly what it wants.” He –finally – pulls his hand away from Tony’s stomach, and the relief doesn’t last long before he pinches Tony’s nipple between thumb and forefinger. The sensation is a kick of lust in Tony’s rebelling stomach, his cock twitches. Howard twists it lightly, as though checking if he’s giving milk yet.

“Not yet.” And that’s so familiar it’s almost sickening: Howard’s disappointed. “A bit early, but you’re so eager and fertile, who knows?”

He lets go of Tony’s hair and nipple, smiles and turns away. “We’ll have to have more regular check-ups, so I can see how you’re getting along.”

He door closes, but Tony waits until he can hear his father’s steps die away before he carefully steps away from the discarded pile of his clothes and curls up on his bed, wrapping himself in a blanket. He’s still hard and aching, and all Tony can think of is how only a few months ago, sitting at the dinner table, he would have done anything to have his father pay this much attention to him.

But not this. Please, not this.

 


 

The program doesn’t have anywhere to go.

 It’s finished, at last. It took him six months to write, he started when he was still in MIT, but now all Tony has to do is enter data and the program can process and evaluate and even write its own code in response. And it wants more, more than Tony could ever enter. The three dots after each new entry is processed are a quiet plea for more.

 It needs to be out of the computer, in the world where it can find data for itself. Where it might be safe.

And if Tony can’t give it that, if he can’t even provide it with the data it needs to function then what good is he? What the fuck is he good for other than as his father’s breeding toy?

Tony hunches at the desk and grits his teeth against the reminder, but he can’t forget any more, unless it’s between lines of code. It’s becoming more obvious every day and soon his clothes aren’t going to be enough to hide it. Even his mother looked up from her glass of wine to ask if he ought to be eating so much when he’d been dragged out to ‘a family dinner’. She needn’t have worried, he couldn’t eat a mouthful.

Between the unabated morning sickness and his complete loss of appetite, Tony wonders if he might starve himself into miscarrying. But although he’s getting thin to the point where the bones in his wrists are visible, the – Tony can’t call it a child – that thing, hasn’t shown any sign of suffering. It’s still growing, and Tony is sickeningly certain he felt it kick.

He can’t do this. He’s running out of time. Howard’s made sure he can’t get to any pills or –anything like that. Maybe he could have an accident, fall down the stairs or-

Or jump. The mansion’s a good six stories up at the highest point. Howard’s probably not thought of that. There’s a balcony on the sixth floor, he could go up, climb over the railing, and –

And leave his program alone, confused in thoughts that have only just started running, lost in a computer Howard would probably have destroyed. He has to make sure it will be safe, outside the computer.

Tony waits until he knows Howard is out of the house. His father hasn’t been leaving if he can help it, preferring to stay and keep an eye on Tony and – that thing. But Obie insisted and he’s gone. Not for long, but it should be long enough.

The workshop is dark, but the lights come up when Tony takes a few, uncertain steps in. He sticks to the bits and pieces in the corners of the workshop – things Howard is unlikely to miss. Pipes and strips and the occasional large plate that he’ll have to cut and rivet into place because he sure as fuck won’t be able to weld upstairs and he’s not leaving anything here for Howard to scrap.

There’s a service elevator that’s hardly ever used, and it takes every ounce of strength Tony has to cart his pile of circuits and wire and scrap metal to it, and out again to hide under his bed.

It’s only when he’s sure Howard is back, and in his workshop, that Tony starts trying to make somewhere for his program to live.

It’s the first time he’s tried to build something since MIT, and it’s sickening how hard it is. He gets tired so easily, he can’t lift nearly as much as he could and has to work around gained weight and wasted muscles to even lay out his components, such as they are.

He doesn’t know what he can make out of this. Not a full robot, which is what he’d like. He’s got enough for a torso and maybe one leg, so either it’s going to need wheels or it’ll have to hop everywhere. The thought startles a laugh out of Tony. It sounds alien, coming from his throat after so long. Tony can’t remember when he last laughed. MIT, probably.

So. Torso, one leg. Or an arm; and he can bolt the wheels on later, if he makes the right connections for them. He pulls out his tools from where they’ve mostly lain untouched since he came home five months ago and starts working.

 


 

 

Whatever is going on at Stark Industries must be important, because Howard is too busy to afford Tony much attention, something which he is almost screamingly grateful for. Obie’s there a lot too, he sees Tony and laughs and tells him he ought to watch his weight if he wants a chance with some ‘hot little Omegas’. Tony manages something that might pass as a smile in dim light and flees upstairs.

At least he doesn’t know. At least nobody knows, other than Howard.

 After thinking it over, Tony’s decided to cannibalize his computer and directly install the motherboard and memory into the robot. It’s easier than trying to transfer the program through software, and Tony’s not sure he could convince the newly formed program to do so. Under the bed has become a minefield of bent metal and rods, connected with a maze of circuitry and wires. Bit by bit coming together.

There is another family dinner. Obie’s invited. He and Howard spend the time laughing and making jokes, and Tony forces himself to eat the full three course meal only to lose it as soon as he can excuse himself. He wipes his mouth, flushes, and huddles upstairs to wire up his robot’s lone arm to the central circuit board.

The robot’s midsection is the hardest. Tony's cut the metal panels into smaller sections so he could try and hammer them into shape by hand, but it doesn’t work. He hasn’t even got the strength for that. He’ll need to go into the workshop again.

Howard’s still upstairs, saying goodnight to Obie, and that usually takes a few hours of cigars and whiskey and more whiskey. Tony picks up the panels, and even that’s enough to knock him off balance. The world swims, and he nearly drops them, bracing them against his distended belly. Come on, come on. He feels his stomach rebel again, but whatever – if anything- is left there stays down. Tony opens the door and creeps out, back against the wall

He takes the elevator, and the workshop is empty. He’s got no way of rolling the steel in his state, but Tony finds a good frame he can brace the panels against and beat them until they have the right curve. His robot is going to be a little dented, but he can fix that. Somehow.

The first bang of the hammer locks his muscles and freezes him in place, listening. It’s stupid, this place is soundproof, no one can hear he’s down there. His nerves itch and drag at him at the second and third swings of the hammer, but still, no one. It’s okay, no one knows he’s here.

The sound fades, the movements become rhythmic, it’s sweet and familiar, the sensation of metal bending under his hands, coming into shape. The panels are sliding together nicely, and there’ll even be enough overlap that he'll be able to comfortably rivet the pieces in place. There’s a rivet gun he can use here, then he can take the finished piece upstairs and maybe tell the program about it. He doesn’t think it’ll understand, but it’ll be nice-

“Tony.”

Oh no.

 


 

Howard is at the foot of the stairs, his mouth a flat line of disappointed. The hammer trembles in Tony’s hand, the panel slips and falls with a clatter.

Howard walks over and picks it up. Looks at it, dismisses it in the same glance. “I don’t care what you think you’re doing.” His voice is cold, calm, deadly; “You are endangering my child.”

“I-“ Tony has no idea what he’s even going to say.

“You-“ Howard grabs Tony by the arm, pries the hammer from his fingers. “Came down here to do –whatever this is –without a thought to what you might be doing to my child.” Tony tries to pull away. It’s as useless as ever.

“God Tony, do you think?!” Howard shouts, picking up one of the panels, “Does it even occur to you what you might be doing? No. It’s me, me, me. Nothing but me. This – this sorry excuse for a project. Fuck, look at these dents, I wouldn’t use this as a cookpot, let alone whatever you were thinking of doing with it. Don’t you get it?” He shakes Tony. “You are useless at this. Worthless. I’ve never seen you make anything of use here, and this is just – a joke.” The throws the panel at the wall, it hits with a clang. “And the one thing – the one thing you can do that’s actually good, that might make you worthwhile, you stupidly endanger while you chase after these- stupid Omega whims.”

He takes a breath, tries to control himself, face flushed with rage and alcohol. “I have to go now. Obie needs me to cover at the office for the night while he gets some rest, and your mother demands that I drive her to the airport. But when I come back he and I will be having a talk about your – situation. And your irresponsible attitude. And believe me Tony; this will be the last time this happens.” He drops Tony’s arm, and turns for the stairs. “Get this garbage out of my workshop right now.”

 


 

 

Tony rescues the panels. He stacks them carefully under his bed, folds the articulated arm, as tall as he is, and hides that as far back as he can, against the wall. He doesn’t think it’ll work; Howard will find it and get rid of it. And even if he somehow completed it, he doesn’t think his father would have any patience with Tony's robot. He’d have it scrapped. Tony picks up each component as though it were something raw and vulnerable. The fragments of his unborn machine.

He pulls a spare blanket over it, as though it would catch a cold, or somehow hide it from Howard, then stands. His head spins, and Tony has to lean against the wall to keep his balance. He collapses in the chair in front of his desk, looks at the computer. He doesn’t turn it off now. Even if it didn’t damage his program, it wouldn’t understand what was happening.

 How long will he be able to keep it on? How can he even explain to his program, which is barely aware there’s even something outside the digital world of the computer, that it will be turned off, maybe thrown away? It has no concept of non-existence. It’s barely been awake.

Tony closes his eyes. Lowers his head until it’s resting on his crossed arms. Folds himself away as he did the pieces of his robot. He wonders if Howard will try and turn him off as he will his program, just an empty burnt out thing. Something he can fuck and breed that can’t think.

The sixth floor balcony seems a better option.

 


 

 

Tony must have fallen asleep because the next thing he’s aware of is a hammering at his bedroom door. His neck is stiff and his fingers burn with pins and needles as blood flows back to them. He shakes his head to clear it from the heavy fog, and the door opens.

 It’s the butler, Mason. He’s pale, his lips are pinched and twitch for a moment before he speaks, his hands twisting one over the other. “Master Tony.”

 Tony rubs a hand over his eyes, “What?” What now? What the fuck now?!

 “You must come downstairs, something has happened.”

 Everyone is downstairs, the butler, the maids, even the cook is peering out from behind a cracked door. Two police officers are waiting dressed in soaked black coats. Their boots have tracked damp footsteps halfway down the hall. They look up as he comes down the stairs.

“Anthony Stark?”

Tony nods, one of the police, a heavy-set Alpha woman, takes a step towards him, her eyes are dark. “I’m afraid we have some bad news.”

It’s a mark of how horrific things have become that Tony simply can’t imagine what that could be.

“There was an accident.” The other police officer puts in.

“Your parents are dead.”

 


 

The Beta woman working at the surgery doesn't speak her name. Doesn't write her name. If anyone calls her anything they call her Doris, which was the name of her aunt's cat who died when she was seven. She likes to think if anyone goes after her they'll end up chasing after an old, bad tempered fleabag fifty years dead.

 Because even with the new laws and regulations, you can't be too careful.

 They don't advertise, that would be begging for a firebomb and twenty-four hour protests like the last place she worked at, but they have other ways of getting the word out. If you need them, and need them desperately enough to start looking, you'll find them eventually.

 And they're busy, always so busy. They try and fit everyone in but there's always so many who are left waiting all day and have to be told to come back tomorrow because we have to close now. I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

 It's Omegas mostly, with the odd Beta wearing the shell-shocked look of how is this even possible because, funny thing, sometimes if you have sex it might result in a child, even if you are both Betas. Yes, even if you've never had a Heat. Because people don't fit into three nice little boxes and it's more like a spectrum really and you can never be really sure.

It's mostly Omegas though. Walking in with an embarrassed Alpha in tow. Talking with friends and radiating the brash confidence of the scared shitless. Sitting between thunderously disapproving parents. Or between parents who look like they're going to cry too.

The worst ones are those who come in alone. They're usually the young ones, the ones who've maybe had one Heat, if that. A bad Heat. A Heat with strangers or people they shouldn't have trusted. The ones who stare off into the distance and who Not-Doris tries to press to take the assault survivor literature they've started bringing in from a sympathetic donor organisation.

She tries to see them first. They're also usually those further along, who've sneaked away from blissfully ignorant parents when the evidence became too big to hide. Who are terrified they might not be able to come back if they're not seen today.

The boy with the amazing red car Not-Doris was admiring from her half-closed blinds is clearly, miserably, in this last group. He's maybe five months along, but combined with what looks like very bad morning sickness, it looks a lot later. He sits in the hard, sticky plastic chairs, and stares at nothing, hands twitching, scratching and picking at the knees of his jeans

They try not to take names. It's against regulation, but after so long it's hard to break ingrained habit and thought of what could happen if the lists fall in the wrong hands just makes her sick. The boy signs his name 'Anthony' with a practised flourish that hints at flowing into a surname, but the boy stops himself.

"So, Anthony." Not-Doris tries to smile at him when they're in the consulting room. The boy stares straight through her. "How far along are you?"

He blinks, seems to come to life a little. "Five months."

"About twenty weeks?"

"Something like that, yeah."

His hands twitch again; flutter to his arms, his knees, everything but his stomach. "Is there any other damage?" She hates asking this, five months too late, but so many of them never go to hospital for the shame of it; and late help is better than none.

The boy's eyes flash rage, "What's that got to do with anything?"

"Nothing. But if there's anything we could help with, if anything hasn't healed properly-"

He shakes his head, and turns away to stare out of her window, at the blur of scarlet that's his car.

"And you want-"

"I want it gone." Sharp. "Just get it out."

"Are you sure-" She hates to ask, but she has to.

"I want it gone!" The boy's voice breaks; a shrill twist of hysteria. "Just- make it go away."

"It's okay." She leads him over to the bed; he lies down and looks up at her through long dark lashes. Under the sickness and exhaustion he's very beautiful. She's seen this story play out so often and it sickens her every time. "We'll get it started today, but you'll have to come back-"

 He's already shaking his head before she's finished. Not-Doris holds up a hand to forestall the inevitable objection, "We'll need to check you over, get everything started-"

 "I don't care." He sits up, goes even paler and slumps back. One hand over his mouth trying not to throw up.

 Not-Doris keeps a bowl in her office for moments like this, and holds it out for the boy to be sick in. She pats his shoulder gently, pulling back when he flinches. "It's necessary; we don't want anything to happen to you."

"I-" he swallows. "I don't care. You want money? You can have the car. I'll sign every warranty you want to say it wasn't your fault if something happens. Just get it out. Please, I want it gone."

It's against the book, but it wouldn't be the first time. It's still early, if they put him under, give him the injection and start dilation; it should be done in just over an hour.

"Have you eaten anything in the last twenty-four hours?" The boy gives her a disgusted look and gestures to the trickle of bile at the bottom of the bowl- see for yourself

She informs her fearless superior, the one who actually uses her real name, and starts preparing the nitrous oxide and the injection.  Seeing her approach with the gas mask, the boy shakes his head and pulls up his shirt.

"Are you sure?"

"I need to know. Just-" His head drops back on the cushioned rest. "I need to be sure."

"It'll hurt."

The boy gives a humourless laugh. "I know."

He doesn't move when she presses down on his stomach to feel for the right place, and only clenches his hands into fists when she slides the needle in and closes his eyes when she pushes the plunger down.

He doesn't open his eyes when the mask is placed over his mouth.

 


 

The car is still there when Tony walks out. That's good. In the run-down neighbourhood the flashy red just screams 'steal me!' He wasn't looking forward to walking home. Tony feels like he's been punched in the gut half a dozen times and can't quite straighten up. He gropes along the hood of the car, manages to unlock the door and collapse inside.

 The flyers the nurse had pushed into his hands that he didn't realise he was still holding spill from his fingers into the footwell. One flops against his thigh, its cover showing a vicious orange crack on a black background. Not your fault: sexual abuse is a crime printed in white. Tony picks it up and throws it as hard as he can at the windscreen. It's too flimsy to go far and flutters down to join the others by his feet.

He fumbles with the keys and the engine roars. The nurse had asked if he had a driver and he'd said yes because he didn't need to be told he shouldn't drive like this. He's driven while drunk and while on speed and while three people were having sex on his backseat and trying to get him to join in. He can drive with his head full of fog and stomach full of hot and hurt. He drive. He can drive. No one can tell him not to. The butler was too busy with arranging the funerals to bother with stopping Tony and Obie's off dealing with the fallout to the company and his father is dead is dead is dead is dead.

Tony has no idea where he's driving. He's taken a wrong turn somewhere and he doesn't recognise anywhere. He's getting odd looks and yes, he know it's the car but stop looking you fucking assholes, stop it stop it leave me the fuck alone.

It's one run-down street after another, boarded up shops and people shuffling between them and surely that's the way there, Tony thinks he recognizes the ugly concrete church and that would the road taking him to the highway-

It's not. It's a dead end piled with rubbish and no way through. Tony actually carries on a little way before it sinks in he isn't going to get through here. He puts the car into reverse but his hand must have shaken and the gears crash. He tries to step on the brakes and his foot slips on the pamphlets on the floor and kicks the accelerator instead, making the car bark and lurch forward.

And that's it, that's it. That's all he can take. Before it even registers, Tony is beating his fists against the steering wheel and screaming, a terrifying, inhuman noise that's been swallowed up inside him for five months. It's terrifying, and he can't stop. It's like part of him is standing outside his own body, watching it thrash and scream and beat itself mindlessly against the inside of the car.

His elbow strikes the horn and it goes off, loud and unbearable and he screams even louder to drown it out. He kicks and hits the accelerator again, the disengaged engine roars, kicks and stamps until the rape survivor literature under his feet is a muddy torn ball of paper rags. Strikes his head against the wheel- the horn blares again - and he can't even feel it. Wraps his arms in a shield around his head and head butts the wheel over and over until his skull and forearms go numb, and maybe if he does this enough times this whole screaming horror would just break open and finally make sense.

Everything goes a bit white after that, and when his brain turns back on he's hunched against the steering wheel, forehead pressing down against the horn which is ringing out a long bovine roar. The silence when he sits up is deafening. His entire body hurts. His arms are coming up flushed red and blue and his head is ringing and heavy. He feels beaten and defeated and too tired to move.

His face is wet. Tony touches his forehead to check if he's cut himself in his fight against the steering wheel, but that's just sweat. It's only when he touches his cheek that he realizes he's still crying.

 


 

 

No one tells him he can't use the workshop. In the absence, Obie's stepped up as his guardian, but he's too busy trying to run Stark Industries to spend much time at the house, and when he does stop by, Tony holes up in his room.

He knows it's not fair, Obie had nothing to do with all of this and would probably have handed his fath- Howa - fuck Tony you can't even think his name - him, anyway, to the police when he found out. He doesn't care. Right now being around anyone is like splinters under his skin.

He tells Obie he'll be going to the house in Malibu after the funeral. He wants to be by himself. Obie nods and says yeah, nothing like some time in the sun to forget, eh? And Tony nods and nods and would agree and do almost anything to be left alone right now. To get away. Anywhere but here.

He presses a hand to his flattening belly. It's taking a while for the swelling to go down, but he can look at himself in the mirror now.

It won't happen again. Never. Never. It took a few days to find the right Heat suppressant, and get it anonymously and untraceably. The one that's prescription only and has a list of warnings as long as Tony's hand with things like increased probability of blood clots and not to be used if at risk of heart attacks. But he won't go into Heat again, won't get pregnant again, won't even smell like Omega any more. He can go on pretending nothing happened. He can forget in safety.

He's dragged the pieces of his robot into the workshop to finish it. No rivets, no scrap metal, he won't have his program be satisfied with Howa- with his cast offs. His program will have the best, will have a home that doesn't rust or break or fail it when it needs it the most. Will not have anything that could be considered a failure. The program doesn't understand, would be happy with any idle thing Tony could give it, so Tony's going to give it the best. Nothing but the sleekest, best-turned steel, nothing but the finest arc welding, the best pneumatics, the most delicate wiring. Tony works until his eyes burn, his fingers prick and bleed and his clothes are so covered in oil and charred with welding they're barely recognizable as clothes.

Obie, when he comes by, sometimes tries to nudge him out, to coax him into a press conference or society meeting where he can grieve with his friends. When Tony ignores him he shrugs and carries on directing the workmen to box away his fath- the other inventions in the workshop.

"Tony?"

It's some unknown time later. Tony floats down from his world of mathematics and angles where he'd been fitting the final components of the old computer into his robot. His program's new body. His program's new home.

There's a mug of something that might have been coffee by his elbow, and Obie is standing next to him.

His hand is on Tony's elbow.

Tony jerks away as though he'd been burnt.

"Tony, we're going to need to get going."

Go? Go where? Everything outside his program and his robot is a blur.

"It's time for the funeral."

Funeral, right. Funeral. Fun-er-al. His mind picks the word apart until it's meaningless. It means leaving the workshop though, and that's bad. He's just about to finish the last connections and boot up the robot for his program to interface with it for the first time.

"I just -can I just finish this? I'm nearly done." His voice is hoarse, and Tony is suddenly aware he's been saying his thought processes out loud and clamps his mouth shut before something even worse can escape.

He must not have said anything too horrific, because Obie smiles sadly and shakes his head, patting Tony on the shoulder. "So much like your father."

It's just as well Obie turns away then, and doesn't see the expression on Tony's face.

And maybe that's it. Maybe that's his fath- Howa- Howard Stark's final act against Tony because when he wires everything up with shaking hands, boots up the robot and watch the lights flash green for go, slightly blurred because he's trembling, nothing happens. The robot just sits there, hunched and unmoving, connected, power flowing, all systems online but not responding.

And Tony knows, just knows that he's fucked up again. He's so fucked up he can't even do this properly. His program is there, only now it's trapped inside a shell Tony made oh-so-solid and he's not sure if he could get it out now. And either he can switch it off and risk killing something that's only just started to exist, something he made, which is relying on him, or he can leave it there, trapped in a little metal shell, desperately printing those three sad dots, begging for data that can never come. Because Tony has fucked up, Tony will always fuck up, Tony is a complete fucking failure and oh god, why is he even here? He should have thrown himself off the balcony six months ago, before he had a chance to find out just how utterly awful he is and mess it up for the only thing that ever relied on and needed him.

"Tony! Time to go."

He runs his hand up and down the robot's support struts as he passes, maybe it can feel the pressure, it's got the sensors. Maybe it can see him in the little camera he installed. Maybe it can understand how utterly fucking sorry he is for failing yet again.

 


 

The service isn't really one service, it's two. His father's cremation is the first day. They lay him out in his coffin, arms over his chest. Eyes closed. Tony stares at the polished wood of the casket, eyes fixedly tracing the whorls and patterns in the grain. That way it looks to everyone as though he's looking at his father.

 Tony knows, with the utter clarity that usually only comes when he's designing something, that if he looks at Howard, he'll go insane. He'd try and pull him to pieces with his hands- gouge out his eyes, chew off his hands, show them all what this big bad Alpha was like, or he'd tear himself open instead to show Howard that see? I killed it! I killed your child your grandchild your heir your monster or he'd find the remains the nurses at the surgery pulled out of him and he'd throw it in the coffin and laugh and laugh and never stop.

Then they'd take him away and lock him up, and there'd be no one to look after his program.

He stares at the coffin until it's taken away and it's gone, and Tony can breathe again.

Then the next day it's his mother's turn, and time for the ceremony. There's a crowd waiting outside by the grave where his mother's to be buried.

The crowd of friends and investors chat over drinks and nibbles from the refreshments table. A few people try and talk to Tony, but quickly stop bothering after a few thousand-mile stares, muttering how we're here if you want to talk, be strong it'll get better, I can see how much you'll miss them. Tony stares into the distance until they go away, and lets their words wash over him like so much lukewarm garbage.

Then he and Obie are called back into the chapel, and the funeral director is waiting for them, holding an urn. He and Obie talk for a few moments, there's some signing off of forms and formalities, and Obie is given the urn. He looks at it for a few moments, as though wondering what he's supposed to do with it, then turns to Tony with a small smile.

"Here, I think it’s right that you have it Tony. He'd have wanted it."

The urn is the size of a large bowl, still warm in Tony's hands. He is holding the remains of his father. Everything the man is, was, did, is in this urn that Tony is holding in his hands.

Everything that was Howard Stark, Tony has at his mercy.

As though he intended this all along, Tony nods at Obie and walks further into the chapel, turning a corner out of sight and opening the first door he comes to.

It's a washroom.

And yeah, that's good, that's great. Tony starts unscrewing the cap and look, his hands aren't shaking. Even if he can't even build a home for his program, he can at least do this.

Inside is so much powder, a sort of off-grey white sandy stuff. Tony walks over to one of the urinals, pours the powder down it, and flushes.

He closes his eyes, and it's as though something he hadn't been consciously aware of, some great unbearable weight, is melting off him. It runs hot and cool and sweet down his spine, over his bones, washes over his mind and leaves him clean. Tired, sick and aching in places he didn't know existed, but clean. Almost safe.

He rinses the urn under the tap, to make sure there's not even a grain left. Then he dries it on one of those pull-down towel hand driers and screws the cap back on.

Outside, the speeches are about to start. Obie smiles at Tony, "Ah here he is. We all know how hard Tony has taken his parents' deaths, but the grieving process is so much easier with such supportive friends and colleagues. I think it's only fitting he gives the first speech, don't you?"

There's some polite applause and Tony, still holding the empty urn, is hustled up the steps to the podium. There's a small microphone, and he looks out over a sea of faces that blur into total unrecognition. His brain goes completely blank and he has no idea what he's supposed to say.

"My Mother-" That seems like a safe place to start. His mother hadn't existed save at the bottom of a bottle for the last eight years. "Was a wonderful woman." That might have been true, maybe. Brave and selfless. Once upon a time. A model to all Omegas everywhere. His mouth flows easily over the words, and they don't gag him at all. I am honored to have known her. And hey, maybe he can do this. He can focus on Obie's face and he can practically read the script off of it, what's expected, what he needs to do to convince them all that nothing's going on here and he's fine and he's not about to melt down and have to be taken away.

His father's harder and Tony honestly has no recollection of anything he said because all he's thinking is you're dead, you died and I killed your child and I flushed your ashes down a public toilet, only he probably didn't say that out loud because Obie keeps smiling and some of the mourners dab away tears.

Then it's over and he can get down. Tony sits down in a hard plastic chair and stares blankly as Obie takes his place and starts a speech Tony doesn't catch a single word of. Colleagues, investors, it seems like everyone's got something to say.

Tony barely hears a word of any of them until about an hour in; when he sees the next speaker, a stooped, wizened man tottering up the steps to the podium. There are several of them, Tony realizes, a little wrinkled group huddled together, laden down with so many medals it's amazing they're still upright.

The Howling Commandos.

It hits Tony all at once. These people are heroes. Great heroes. They were covered with so many decorations after the war that the army had to invent some just for them. They fought with Captain America, who was Tony's childhood idol and he's still got a little toy Captain somewhere in his room, along with some of the comics before his father had sneered at that sentimental rubbish and Tony had thrown them away.

These are some of America's greatest heroes.

And the one on the podium is telling Tony what a great and wonderful and beloved human being Howard Stark was.

Tony feels the madness he'd swallowed earlier threaten to come up and stands up almost before he's aware of it. The world is spinning too fast he's not aware where he's going until he gets there and he's standing next to the refreshments table.

There's bottles of wine and beer, and a few spirits. Tony spots a bottle of brandy, is about to pour himself a glass, then thinks better of it. He takes the whole bottle back to his chair and does shots out of the cap for the rest of the ceremony.

 


 

Tony's not sure what Obie thinks when he's driven home that evening. He's not sure if he made a disgrace of himself getting crashingly drunk at his parents' funeral, or if that could be considered an appropriate part of the whole 'grieving son' routine.

 Tony's still holding the urn. He didn't want anyone to get hold of it, look inside and realize that it's empty. Maybe he can chip off that whole 'dearly beloved' shit and use it to hold backup drives. Fuck knows it's a step up from what it was holding before.

He's so drunk he only just makes it back to his room. He fumbles for the light switch, misses it, drops the urn, stumbles sideways and hits his bed. He falls over with a 'whumph' on the blankets and tries to crawl under them, only managing to kick the lot off.

Fuck this, fuck everything. Tony closes his eyes and curls up into a fetal ball, shivering in the cold air, fists pressed into his eye sockets. Enough. Enough. Stop it. He wants to stop, he wants to leave, he wants to run until he leaves Tony Stark behind forever. He wants to stop existing. He wants to have never existed. He wants-

The scratchy warmth of a blanket is pulled over him. Tony opens his eyes and a duvet is thrown over his head. He tugs it off and switches on his desk light.

The robot is holding a second duvet in its lone claw, lifting it up to toss it at Tony. It's so close that Tony must have nearly tripped over it getting to the bed. It drops the duvet when Tony sits up, blinking. It lifts its arm with a hiss and whirr that sound almost shy, the black eye of its camera lens fixed inquiringly on Tony, as though asking if this was the right thing to do. Was this acceptable? Was it good?

A bark of laughter so broken it's almost a sob escapes Tony. "You're okay. Fuck, you're okay. You scared me to death, you dummy."

 


 

 

Howard is dead. When Tony forgets this he goes and sits with Dummy, closes his eyes and listens to the clicks and whirrs of his bot. Sometimes it touches his shoulder, or his hair, trying, in its own confused way, to comfort him.

 He sleeps like that, sometimes, and wakes with an old blanket around his shoulders and Dummy hovering, worried.

Often there’s alcohol involved, because when he’s drunk he doesn’t have to think. Alcohol and Heat suppressants so he doesn’t have to think or feel and can just- just live. Be alive. Be free.

He can do what he wants, go out when he wants, build what he wants. He goes out and parties like he had in MIT, skin crawling with every touch on his bare skin until he grits his teeth and just goes for it. Because he’s not going to be this fucking scared for the rest of his life.

He drinks until his skin goes numb, and he can’t feel the mouth he kisses with. The pretty young Beta doesn’t mind his original hesitant sloppiness and kisses back, hard and hot. The hands scrabbling at his trousers brings a kick of panic to his stomach, and he has to pull away and undress himself.

And it feels good. He can close his eyes and not see Howard, the Beta (whose name he doesn’t remember) gasps and laughs and scratches his back to get him going. It’s fun, and it’s good, and he’s in control. It’s safe. It’s good.

He’s eager to do it again.

With the Heat suppressants, no one can guess he’s anything but Beta. He acts like one, smells like one, and if anyone gets close enough to notice he’s getting wet, they’re usually too drunk to notice. Besides, everyone knows Tony Stark is a Beta who fucks like he wants to be an Alpha, who’d bother to question that?

He doesn’t see Obie much, those three years. He doesn’t see anyone much, outside of the parties. At home, it’s him, Dummy, and a few people he hires to clean the place a few times a week. The rest of the time, it’s just him and the bot and the workshop. And that’s safe, and that’s good. And if he forgets to eat for days on end, and falls asleep on Dummy’s arm struts, and drinks until he can’t think of anything, let alone dream: hey, it’s his life. His damn life. He’s keeping it that way.

But eventually the aimless life is a bit much, a bit too pointless, and he’s longing for a challenge. And that’s when Obie comes in, when he’s twenty one, to bring him into the company.

“It’s what your father would have wanted.” Obie smiles; he’s finally given up trying to save his hair and just shaved it all off.

Tony forces a smile, they way he always done when someone clings to him and drawls about how brave he’s being about his dreadful loss. He swallows another mouthful of whiskey, and feels better, his stomach settling.

“It’ll do the company a lot of good, you know, having a Stark back in charge. Nothing can replace Howard, but having you there-“ He breaks off, because Dummy’s gotten hold of his sleeve and is pulling him half off the couch.

“Dummy, stop it-“ Thank you, you crazy bot. Who knows what’s set Dummy off; after writing his program, Tony’s more or less left him to it, and he’s gotten more than a few ticks as a result.

He untangles Obie’s sleeve from Dummy’s claw, and Obie beats a hasty retreat to the balcony. He looks down at his mangled sleeve, and gives a rueful smile. “Well Tony, you’ll do it?”

For a moment, Tony is overwhelmed with the urge to say no. Tell Obie he can have the lot, better still, he’ll pay Obie to run the company into the ground, and make that the end of Howard’s legacy. For a moment. But then he looks at Obadiah, who’s trying to pull the stray threats from a sleeve that’s mostly just stray threads. Who has, in his own way, tried to be kind to Tony. Who has been, in every way that counted, more of a father than Howard had ever been.

Obie just wanted him to be a figurehead, he didn’t want to give Tony too much responsibility after everything that had happened – even though he didn’t know the half of it. Tony glances back into the workshop, where Dummy’s camera is pointed at him.

He’d built him four years ago, in five months of pure hell. What could he build now, with Stark Industries’ resources? He could turn the company upside down, he could make Obadiah proud.

He could throw his father’s memory into such shadow that no one would even remember his name in fifty years.

Tony smiles, a real smile. Even now, those are rare enough to feel odd on his face. “Yeah, Obie, I’ll do it.”