The world on the outside is trying to pull me in,
But they can’t touch me cos I got you.
June 18, 2012.
The first time Tony met Steve was the first time they broke each other, shouting and swearing, and also the first time they had rough, angry sex. Tony likes to reminisce on that day, how a normal introductory conversation had slowly escalated into Steve yelling about him being irresponsible and untrustworthy and Tony screaming back about how he wasn’t his father and Steve had no reason to hover over him.
Except Steve is his godfather, and Tony is similar to his father in so many ways.
And then they’d stood there, Steve glaring at Tony’s back and Tony’s fingers clenched around the door handle to his bedroom. Tony had turned, ready to start again, but Steve had been everywhere, big and tall, forcing Tony into his room with his strong, warm body and pressing him against the wall. Tony had had a limp for a few days that Peter was sure to make fun of at every turn, but that had been the start of happiness in Tony’s life.
That had been a year ago, a year filled with breaking Steve into the 21st century, discovering that there were even more superheroes beyond the Avengers, like Peter, the Fantastic Four, and even the X-Men, and fighting constantly against Loki. Throughout all of that, it had been simple: they had to work together, and Steve was their captain. But then it had happened; Loki was exiled, and they’d severed any way for him to return. Which meant they were living together with nothing to distract them from each other.
It had taken a week before Steve had snapped and everyone had received a meeting memo, strangely located in the theatre room. When everyone had finally gathered on the various couches, Steve had glared at them and then had turned out the lights. “We’re watching a movie,” he’d announced.
Thor had been the first one to speak (yell, actually), and that had set them off. Before long, they were all joking, teasing, and laughing, and that had been the start to a long night of movies.
It’s the morning after, and Tony is absolutely refusing to listen to Steve, who is currently going on about how badly he needs to pee. “I’ll just take you with me,” he threatens finally, and Tony sighs before rolling off of him and letting his face mash into the pillow.
He pushes himself up, however, when he hears the shower turn on. “Ass!” he yells from the bed, and Steve just chuckles. After a few moments of stretching and grumbling, Tony rolls out of bed and forces his way over to his dresser where he goes commando and throws on a pair of black sweats and a grey t-shirt before padding into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He mumbles through a conversation with Steve before rubbing a hand through his hair, tossing an air kiss toward the shower, and exiting.
When he ends up in the kitchen, it’s empty, and he figures everyone is still sleeping off their hangovers. He rubs his chest, a constant reminder that he has to be good now. He hunts down the pancake batter mix, dumps that in a bowl, pours water in, and then leaves it to seek out fruit.
Tony yawns and scratches his stomach, his pants sagging around his hips a little. He’s almost thankful for Steve and his anger toward their lack of friendship because now he doesn’t really care what he looks like while he meanders about the mansion. Before, if he wasn’t in the suit, he was in a suit, or at least nice-looking clothes because he had this image to maintain what with no one liking each other and keeping their public appearances up. He pushes away from the fridge, rolling his eyes at his rambling mind.
“Stark,” someone grumbles tiredly, and Tony looks over his shoulder to find Thor dragging his feet toward a stool at the island.
“I’m making coffee; do you want some?” he offers. He can practically hear Steve going on and on about how glad he is that they’ve finally connected and how he really expects Tony to set an example with him.
“Sure,” Thor says, clearly surprised.
“You can mix the batter, then,” he says, taking the bowl, grabbing a spatula, and placing them in front of Thor, “Just stir.” But Thor is still staring at him as Tony turns back to the long counter. He tosses the cutting board onto the island before taking his armful of fruit and sitting. “What?” he asks, arching an eyebrow at Thor. Thor gestures roughly at his chest. Tony rolls his eyes. He unpeels four bananas before slicing them up thinly, but he sighs halfway through and puts down his knife and fruit. “What?” he snaps angrily.
“What is it?” Thor asks, gesturing again.
“It’s a battery,” Tony bites out, though he doesn’t expect Thor to even really understand that.
“Like for flashlights?”
Tony looks up, mildly amused that he’s just been compared to a flashlight, but he nods regardless. “Yeah, like for flashlights. Hello,” he adds as a soft kiss is placed on the back of his neck. Steve’s arms wind around him, and he settles his chin on Tony’s shoulder, leaning their heads together. Thor watches them with a curious expression. “How was your shower?” he asks, picking his knife back up.
“Are you making pancakes?” Steve murmurs, leaning his mouth over to Tony’s jaw.
“With bananas and strawberries.”
“You’re my new favorite person.”
“I’m always your favorite person.”
“Meh.” Steve laughs when Tony mocks hurt.
“Go make the coffee,” he says, shrugging Steve off of him. Steve kisses the top of his hair before turning to the counter.
“So, do you actually have a heart?”
Tony rolls his eyes at the same time Steve sighs. “Yes, I have a heart,” Tony snaps, “Anymore pressing questions?”
“Why didn’t you drink with us last night?”
“I can’t. My heart doesn’t allow it anymore.” Thor nods, apparently approving, and they continue on with their morning, making pancakes and chatting. The others slowly trickle in, and it’s a continuous stream of expected first responses. When Natasha arrives, she hungrily takes in the slivers of skin that show everytime Tony moves before frowning at the casual yet intimate touches between Tony and Steve. Clint shows up teeming with playful jabs and ridiculous faces, erupting the kitchen in laughter every once in a while. Bruce enters with Betty, Jane, and Peter trailing after him, and Tony and Clint spend fifteen minutes going on about what they were all up to together until Steve silences Tony with a glare, and Tony just nuzzles against Steve adorably while everyone stares on.
The pancakes are a hit, and they’re just relaxing and chatting in separate groups when Thor suddenly stands up and roars, “I CHALLENGE YOU.”
And Steve just stares at him with wide eyes and a frightened expression. Tony looks over, curious, but Steve pushes him back out of sight. “Thor,” Steve says quietly.
“Whatever it is, I will win. Where shall I find this game?”
“Downstairs.” And then Thor storms off, and they watch him before turning to Steve. “I may have told him about air hockey.”
“Oh my god, versus you?” Clint asks before jumping off his seat and sprinting after Thor. The rest act in a similar way until Steve sighs and pulls himself off his stool.
“You’re going to let him win, aren’t you?” Tony murmurs, sliding off his seat and going over to pour another cup of coffee before following Steve out of the kitchen.
“Absolutely not. Have you seen him when he wins? It’s horrible. He goes on and on about it for weeks. Hey, uhm,” Steve suddenly breaks off, stopping and turning. He looks at Tony for a moment before stepping forward and cupping his face. Tony looks up at him curiously, blinking when Steve brushes his thumb across the soft skin of his face. “Thank you. I know it’s probably hard for you because they all just stare and ask questions, and I know you get annoyed with people easily anyway, but thank you.”
“It’s no problem. I want this to work, too, you know.”
“I know. Everyone wants it to work. I just—I really appreciate you trying so hard.” Tony shrugs, trying to play it off, but Steve can see the shine in his eyes. “You know I love you, right?”
“Yeah,” Tony nods, “I do.” He steps forward, careful not to spill his coffee, and he leans up, kissing Steve chastely. “And I love you.” Steve smiles, thumb still rubbing small lines in Tony’s face until Tony pulls away. “C’mon, they’re going to start making bets about how long it takes us to have sex if we don’t get down there.”
Steve laughs, and they head off together, taking the elevator downstairs. When they arrive, Peter is perched in an offensive stance and firing the black puck back and forth with Thor, who looks frighteningly concentrated. Peter scores and jumps into the air, arms flying up. Thor throws his mallet across the room as Peter does a victory dance.
“Wow, you let Spiderman beat you?” Clint teases.
“ROGERS.” Steve sighs, and Tony kisses the back of his shoulder before going over to one of the desks pushed into the back of the room. He snags a black pad out of one of the drawers and heads back to sit on one of the couches. As Thor and Steve set up, he waves one hand over it, and the pad comes to life, tinted blue.
“What’s that?” Peter asks, plopping down next to him.
“Work stuff,” Tony replies, sipping his coffee before logging through a few combinations and locks until he arrives at a series of small square-shaped screens. He opens one of them, and Peter watches with interest as he flicks through blueprints.
A roar erupts, and they both look up to find Steve smirking. Tony watches them for a few minutes, the clang of the puck and Thor’s occasional yell filling the room. It’s a long game, and they’re just finishing when Peter gets up to draw a tournament board with Clint across the room at the chalkboard.
And so, for the next few hours, they spend their time going against each other, Tony letting himself get dragged in occasionally until he’s facing Steve, and he grins widely. “You’re going down, Rogers,” he says, wiggling his eyebrows.
“I’m undefeated so far,” Steve retorts, and Tony watches him bite the corner of his lip before releasing it. The ding of the puck vibrates against his wrist. Tony looks down, and Steve has scored.
“Cheater,” he grumbles before pulling the puck out and firing it across the board. Their game is silent and intense, and, when they finish, Steve is grinning. Tony glares playfully at him until something crashes into his shoulder, and he winces, turning. Clint is holding a ping pong paddle. “Not a chance,” Tony says before going around the table and taking Steve’s wrist.
“What?” Steve says, allowing himself to be pulled away from the air hockey table.
“I want to cuddle,” Tony murmurs, and Steve beams. Betty and Jane overhear, and they erupt in loud, obnoxious noises. As they make their way over to one of the unoccupied couches, Clint runs Thor through the rules.
Steve falls into the comfy confines of the couch, leaving one foot on the floor, and he pretends not to notice the way half the room is watching them. Because of all their time was normally consumed with Loki or ignoring each other, they’ve hardly seen any public displays of affection between the two.
Tony settles himself between Steve’s legs, leaning back and resting his head on Steve’s broad shoulder. He brings his black pad back to life as Steve sets his arms around him loosely, one resting along Tony’s thigh and the other curled around his waist, hand flattened underneath Tony’s shirt and against his stomach.
“What are you working on?” he asks quietly, brushing his nose against Tony’s ear.
“Forms for Pepper. She wants me to go through them, sign them, and send them back over.”
“Did she agree to the promotion this time?”
“Mhm.” Tony leans into Steve’s touch, eyes slipping closed as Steve kisses his jaw and tightens the arm around his body. They rest there together, Tony breathing softly and slowly as Steve draws small circles around his stomach and breathes in the scent of his hair, blue eyes open to watch the rest of the room play and sneak glances over at them.
Tony straightens after a few minutes, fingers moving across the screen again. Steve moves his hand from under Tony’s shirt to rest his elbow against the couch and card his fingers through Tony’s black curls. The older man hums appreciatively, and they continue on this way until Thor yells about them needing to compete. After ping pong is foosball, in which Peter is repeatedly jabbed in the ribs by everyone (except Steve), and then badminton, in which they form teams.
Thor immediately claims Steve as his opposing captain before grabbing Peter. “Spidey’s mine!” he yells, and Peter gasps for air, trying to squirm away from Thor’s grip.
“I’m commandeering your team,” Bruce informs, and Thor doesn’t argue, surprisingly. With Bruce as captain, he takes Betty and Jane while Steve takes Clint and Natasha, Tony already at his side.
“Unfair teams!” Clint suddenly yells, and Steve rolls his eyes.
“We’re far more badass,” Tony shuts him up, and that’s that. The girls completely dominate, shoving the boys out of the way until they back away fearfully and let them have at it, Natasha taking Betty and Jane on single-handedly and winning.
“Okay,” Steve says near five o’clock, stretching, “Thor, kill the war-face. We’re breaking for dinner. Tony,” he adds with a sigh, glaring at him. Tony shrugs and winks before going over to put away his pad and head up the stairs. He’s not surprised when Steve enters their bedroom a few minutes later to find Tony facing the window thoughtfully while Jarvis categorizes his few hundred voicemails.
Steve frowns, lingering in the doorway. He watches his body shift before he reaches up to tap his fingers and work his magic. “Tony?” he asks from across the room, and the older man immediately turns, a smile brightening his face. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?”
“Just checking. Are you not eating dinner?”
“No, I will. I just have a lot of work I need to get done, and I know you want everyone to get along, but I am still running a company.”
“Tony,” Steve sighs, smiling, “You don’t have to participate in everything.” He crosses the room, speaking only again when he’s in front of Tony, “After dinner, you go to your lab and just work, and whatever else happens is fine. I’m not trying to keep you from working.”
“Has anyone told you lately just how great you are?”
“Mm, why don’t you?” Steve says with a smile, leaning down.
“You are amazing,” Tony murmurs quickly before pressing his mouth to Steve’s hungrily.
“HEY LOVEBUGS, NO SEX. WE’RE HUNGRY.”
Steve sighs, pulling back, “Want me to call you down when dinner is ready?”
“Nah, I think I’m gonna skip out, if you don’t mind. I’ll make sure to snack while I’m working, don’t worry,” he says before Steve can complain.
They part with a kiss, Tony remaining in their room for a bit longer. Throughout dinner, Clint eagerly describes a triathlon to Thor, to which everyone groans and the Norse god proclaims that it sounds like the “game of men” they play in Asgard. They decide to schedule one for another day before settling down in the theatre room to argue over movies.
It’s only much, much later, well past midnight, that Steve gets a rather startling text. Do you remember how you asked me to test the new repulsor blasts on your shield? Well, I was thinking. And then Steve straightens, his eyes wide as he takes in the picture of Tony stretched over his shield, sweats hanging low and t-shirt gone, leaving his sweaty, muscled torso open for viewing.
“Where are you going, Wonder Boy?” Clint asks lazily.
“Uh, lab. Business. Er—Tony needs me,” he finishes lamely, and he can hear them all snorting with laughter as he turns out.
He curses the elevator for being slow even though it’s really not, and, when the doors finally open, he jogs down the hallway to press his fingers against the glass wall to open the door to Tony’s workshop. Inside, he can hear soft grunting noises, and his jeans fit uncomfortably as his eyes search.
“Tony?” he calls, feet quick.
“Your shield is fucking cold,” Tony says from somewhere deep in the workshop; away from the cameras, Steve realizes, and he silently thanks Tony before jogging off in the direction of his voice. When he finds him, Steve immediately reaches for the hem of his t-shirt and pulls it over his head. Tony is bent backward over the shield, one hand braced against the wall and the other curled behind him, his cock hard and inviting.
“Couldn’t wait,” Steve grumbles even as he kicks off his shoes and undoes his belt.
“You were taking too long,” Tony snaps, breath hitching as his back bends further and his fingers press deeper. “I sent that text, like—fuck—last year.”
“Turn around.” Steve shoves down his jeans and briefs in one handful, and he steps out of them as Tony’s fingers come out with a slick pop. Steve groans and marches over to him, catching him in messy, hungry kiss. Tony’s teeth tease at his lips, desperate to mark them and pull back to find them pink, wet, and swollen.
“Fuck me. God, please,” Tony begs, pulling away. Steve glances at the shield even as Tony squirms until his back is to Steve’s chest. “I’ll clean it,” he promises. Steve still hesitates; this is his shield, after all. “Oh my god,” Tony groans, slamming his head into Steve’s shoulder and lifting his blue eyes to find Steve’s face, “This is seriously, like, every wet dream I ever had as a teenager.”
“That shouldn’t turn me on,” Steve sighs as his cock twitches against the perfectly round curve of Tony’s ass.
“Except you love thinking of an innocent, teenage me getting off to my Captain America p-p-posters, fuck,” Tony ends in a breathy moan as Steve takes his hips and slams inside, waiting only a second for Tony to adjust before he picks up a bruising pace. He reaches up to take Tony’s hands, and he fits them into the handles in the back of the shield. Tony groans and lets his body be abused, bent double over the shield. It’s freezing against his warm, flushed skin, but he loves it, makes him want Steve so much more. The hard outside digs into his arms and stomach, but it’s a good pain, and it only gets better when Steve reaches a hand around to stroke him in time with his thrusts.
Tony moans loudly, shifting and tensing, as Steve slides over his prostate, and Steve grins, reaching down with his mouth to bite and kiss at Tony’s spine, which sends shake after shake through the smaller man’s body. “Not yet,” he whispers when Tony’s ass tightens, and Tony nods, closing his eyes and taking in a long breath. God, he’s wanted this all day.
Steve’s feet nudge at Tony’s, and he spreads his legs, gasping when Steve braces one hand in his hair, fingers fisted, and he fucks hard and quick into Tony. He presses his cheek against the shield, panting, and his whole body trembles with the force, and he groans, chest heaving. “Steve.”
Steve licks at the curve of his spine, and Tony comes undone, knuckles white around the straps and torso cooled by the vibranium. A shake rips from his core, and he releases a throaty moan, almost painful sounding. Steve groans and bites into the back of his shoulder, releasing Tony’s hair to grab at one of his hands. His last thrusts stutter and lose rhythm, and Tony’s breath is unsteady as Steve moans into his neck, all control gone.
Steve stops only when they’re both weak and weary, and he pulls out, panting. Tony turns, licking his lips and puffing out a breath of air. “Woah,” he says, and Steve nods, grinning in the afterglow.
“You didn’t even get the shield,” Steve comments, and Tony laughs, pushing away.
“It’s fucking cold,” he mumbles, rubbing his stomach. Steve smiles wider as he steps into his jeans, leaving them unbuttoned as he retrieves Tony’s sweats.
“I’ll run you a bath,” Steve promises, and Tony laughs.
“Ever the romantic.”
“I believe it was you who told me the first time we had sex that I wasn’t allowed to leave after.”
“Well yeah,” Tony says, pushing Steve playfully, “I demand massive amounts of cuddling after letting you have my ass.”
“Trust me, I never planned on leaving.”
Steve just laughs and pulls Tony to him, pressing a kiss to his mouth. “I love you. You know that, right?”
“Yeah, I do. And I love you, too. C’mon, I want a bath now.”
“God, you’re so demanding.”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s wonderful. Come on.” He steers Tony out of the workshop, who continues to chatter away until they’re heading down the hallway to their room, and then he just settles for leaning into Steve and enjoying his warmth. Tony wanders the room while Steve runs the bath, and he rolls his eyes when he hears Tony talking to Jarvis. When he’s got the water at a nice temperature, he flicks open the control box on the wall and programs a hold for the bath like Tony’s showed him how to. He strips out of his clothes and climbs in after, sighing as the hot water envelops him.
“Jarvis, if you’d be so kind,” Steve says softly, and Jarvis replies with an affirmative that makes Tony whine. “Thank you, Jarvis,” Steve says, smiling.
Tony is unusually quiet when he joins Steve, though Steve doesn’t comment on it. His body is soft and relaxed in Steve’s arms, and he knows it’s because Tony is at peace and comfortable. “Are you going to sleep tonight?” he asks after some time, breath whispering across Tony’s ear.
“I will if you want to.”
“Kind of, but I don’t mind if we stay up a little.”
“No, it’s fine,” he replies softly, turning his head nose into Steve’s neck and sighing.
They spend nearly an hour soaking in the calming, warm wetness before Steve nudges Tony, who’s half-asleep, and they set about draining the tub and drying off. As they settle into bed, Steve on his back and Tony against him, head on his chest, Tony yawns and wraps an arm around Steve. “Lights,” he says, and the room is doused in darkness. “I have to work in the shop tomorrow,” Tony mumbles, “I need to work on some upgrades, okay?”
“Of course.” Steve leans down to kiss Tony’s head, who’s already well on his way to sleep.
The next morning, Steve wakes alone. The bathroom is still hot and moist, and so he knows Tony has only just left. He showers quickly before dressing in jeans and a t-shirt and heading downstairs. There’s no one in the kitchen as he makes his way to the fridge, though Peter manages to startle him as he’s seeking out a grapefruit. “What’s up, big guy?” Steve jumps at his sudden voice, and he turns, nearly dropping his breakfast. Peter tosses the Spiderman mask on the island before going over to the cabinet to pick a box of cereal. His suit is ripped and dirty, and his face is cut.
“What happened to you?” Steve demands, taking out the orange juice and milk.
“Oh, nothing. Just some fun.” Peter shrugs and pours Fruity Pebbles into a bowl before taking the milk from Steve.
“Hey kids,” Coulson says as he enters the kitchen. “Cap, are you aware the basement is exploding?”
“Ah. Parker, should we be worried about some sudden villain?”
“Doubtful. I’m gonna go change, though. Steve, Thor begged me to take him to the pet store. Do you want to come?”
“Whenever he wakes up.” That turns out to be an hour, and Steve goes upstairs to seek out his grey hoodie, pulling his leather jacket on over that. They go downstairs into the garage, past the hallway that leads to the workshop, and they take one of the SUVs.
“So, where has Gwen been lately?” Steve asks, and Peter shrugs from the passenger seat.
“She’s been busy with university. Take this turn.”
“Shelter, yeah, but there’s a pet store in the mall.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on him. Plus, I know you’ve been trying to find someone to go shopping with you.”
Steve doesn’t speak again until Peter is laughing at Thor sifting happily through flannels. “Peter, can I ask your opinion?”
“Sure, Cap.” Peter leans against a rack of clothes as Steve continues to search for a specific sweatshirt.
“Tony,” Steve says slowly, his voice low, “Do you think he—uhm—he would—I mean—”
“Yes,” Peter cuts him off, smiling, “If you propose,” he pauses when Steve looks up, “I think Tony will most definitely say yes. Especially if you promise to wear your military uniform,” he adds with a laugh.
Steve goes back to his sweatshirts until he finally finds it, royal blue with the Captain America shield on the back and the top of his uniform on the front; Tony has been eyeballing it for some time now. “Peter,” he starts again, catching the younger man’s attention, “If he said yes, would you—would you be my best man?”
Peter looks thoroughly shocked. “But—”
“No,” Steve shakes his head as Peter turns toward Thor. “I always imagined Bucky would be by my side,” he says softly, “Though sometimes I thought it might be Howard because Bucky would be opposite me. If we’d had more time,” Steve trails off for a moment, looking away. “You’re one of my best friends, Peter,” he says firmly, looking back up, “Even though I haven’t known you that long, I feel closer to you than anyone else in this time, aside from Tony, of course. I mean, if you don’t want to, I understand. I just—”
“Cap,” Peter cuts him off, “I’d love to. You know I think of you as a brother dad thing. I’m honored. Really. So,” he wiggles his eyebrows, “You got any plans yet?”
“Not really. I’ve just been thinking. You don’t think it’s too soon, do you?”
“Not at all,” Peter says as Thor starts to make his way back over. “You’ve been dating over a year, with Tony Stark, no less, which is pretty much a lifetime to him. I mean, he created an element, realized what Vanko was doing, and destroyed an entire army of corrupt droids in, like, a week.”
“Peter,” Steve says with a smile.
“God, I know, my inner fanboy is showing. What I’m trying to say is I don’t think it’s too soon at all. You have something very unique with Tony. I think it’s just right.”
“What’s just right?” Thor asks, stopping by them.
Peter takes one look at Steve and shakes his head, “Whatcha got there, Goldilocks?”
“They have so many wonderful things here!”
“Excuse me,” Steve says suddenly as his pocket buzzes. Thor starts to show Peter what he’s found while Steve wanders off, sliding down the lock bar to answer the call. Tony insisted on a nice phone and promised a tutorial, and Steve considers himself to be pretty skilled with his little device. “Hello, Pepper,” he answers cheerfully.
“I don’t actually have a reason for calling. Are you busy?”
“Nope, just at the mall with Peter and Thor.”
Steve laughs, “Yeah. How are you?” Things are weird between them sometimes. They’re friends, rather close, actually, but Steve always feels bad for essentially stealing Tony, even though both parties claim they weren’t actually in a relationship, and it had only been a few stray kisses. Steve knows, though, because he’s see the way Pepper looks at Tony sometimes, knows because it’s the same look he has given Tony.
“I’m okay,” Pepper says, “Taking a break from this mound of papers. And you?”
“Happy. Very, actually.”
“I’m glad. Find anything interesting in your shopping?”
“That sweatshirt for Tony.”
“Oh, finally. He’s been talking about it for weeks, but he’s gotten so lazy.” Lazy is Pepper’s way of checking up on Tony, and Steve smiles. He’s picked up some of her mannerisms regarding Tony, especially when he really ought to be keeping nosy people out of their business.
Lazy. “Yeah, I have a feeling he’ll be down south for a while. Upgrades and all.”
“Oh, trust me, I’ve noticed. Sometimes Jarvis disappears from the office. I mean, it’s only my office, and I don’t really use him that much, but there are times when he’s suspiciously absent because Tony’s being psychotic.”
“Well, you know how he is.”
“Mm. Well, Steve, these papers are haunting me. Don’t be a stranger.”
“You, as well. Bye, Pepper.” He’s somehow found himself in the suits when he hangs up, and he stops, thinking of Tony in a tux. He needs to start recruiting help.
Thor ends up with a tiny puppy that fits in the palm of his hand that he tries to stick in his pocket and sends Jane twelve pictures of. Funnily enough, it’s Darcy who responds to all of them. After Peter has coaxed Thor to the register, Steve disappears to the right of the store where they keep the felines. There’s this tiny black and white tuxedo kitten that’s curled into a fuzzy ball that lifts his head when Steve kneels down in front of the glass. “Hello Rory,” he says softly, splaying his hand on the glass. Rory immediately unfurls and bumps his head against the glass, and Steve’s fingers twitch to his pocket before he can stop himself.
“Good afternoon, Mister Rogers,” Jarvis’ voice answers instead of Tony.
“Hello Jarvis. How are you today?”
“Quite alright. I’ve been working all day, which is a nice reprieve from activating only to give the weather.”
Steve laughs, “Surely Tony talks to you for more than that when he’s not working.”
“Oh yes,” Jarvis says, sounding almost sarcastic, “An assortment of complaints about soap in his eyes, coffee requests, and sexual assaults are daily, though I do enjoying working in the shop.”
“I do not assault you!” Tony yells from somewhere deep in the workshop, “You practically beg for it.”
“Always, sir. It’s my British charm.”
“Good thing you don’t have a body.”
“You’d never leave.” Steve is breathless with laughter, as he usually is with these two.
“Too right, honey. Switch the call to the mainframe, would you?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not done with you yet.”
“I look forward to our later rendezvous, Mister Stark.”
Tony laughs softly, suddenly louder before he speaks, “Hello sweetheart. What do you need? No, keep that one up,” he adds to Jarvis.
“What’re you up to?” Steve asks casually, still watching Rory.
“Rewiring the boot I shorted out the other day.”
“If you want to go to the moon,” Jarvis begins.
“I was only testing limits!” Tony exclaims.
“On the reserve power.”
Steve smirks. Tony sighs. “Yes, dear.” There’s silence for a moment and then, “Shit.” Steve stiffens. “Shit, shit, fuck. Dummy! Steve, hold on.” He listens as Tony shouts commands, swears, and threatens Dummy. When he returns, Steve has asked one of the employees about Rory. “So, uh,” Tony comes back as the employee is opening the cage, “This sucks.”
“Well… stuff,” he finishes lamely, “I need to go, though. Did you actually need something?”
“His name is Rory, he’s six months old, and he’s black and white.”
“Does he have pointy ears and a tail?”
“Will he bite me?”
“Only if you give him reason.”
“Can he sleep with us?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! Goddamn it!”
“Steve, I have to go.’
“Mister Rogers,” Jarvis’ voice interrupts him, “It appears that Tony has successfully set the lab on fire.”
“It’s not on fire. Dummy! Fuck, that hurts. Jarvis!”
“Sir.” The call drops, and Steve sighs.
“Mister Rogers,” the nervous employee says, approaching him with Rory.
“Thank you,” Steve says, pocketing the phone and taking Rory.
“Oh, he’s cute,” Peter’s voice floats over to them, and the employee squeaks.
“They will be brothers!” Thor proclaims, glancing over Steve’s shoulder before returning his attention to little Lucas in his cage.
“Thor, they’re different species,” Peter sighs, “You look concerned. What’s his name?”
“Rory. Tony’s on fire.”
“Hm. Nothing unusual. So, Rory?”
“I think so.”
“Either way, Thor’s hungry, and there’s a burrito place in this mall.”
Steve sets about getting situated with Rory, and they stop by the car before getting lunch. Thor traumatizes the poor waitress with his four-burrito order, and so Steve and Peter try to keep it simple. As they’re paying, Tony calls. “Okay, everything is okay. Alright? I’m okay.”
Steve swallows. “Except you’re not,” he says tightly.
“I may have burned my hand.”
“It’s nothing serious. Barely second degree.”
“Oh god, Tony.”
“I’m at the hospital with Bruce. The lab is okay. Jarvis is running scans on the boot. I think something’s wrong with the wiring, or something went wrong when I shorted it. I was wearing gloves,” he quickly adds before Steve can ask, “I’m okay.”
“When will you be back?”
“Soon. And your little friend?”
“Rory. He’s in the car.”
“Just distract yourself with him. I’ll be home in time for dinner, I promise. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’m just worried about you. Give Bruce my thanks. I love you.”
“I love you, too. I’ll see you soon.”
He hangs up, and Steve palms his face, sighing. Peter doesn’t ask. Thor doesn’t notice. And then, as if Steve hadn’t had enough to contemplate on his drive home, Peter answers his phone for him while he’s backing out.
“Webhead, what’s your status, Fury?” he says, and Steve smirks.
“Backing out. Hang on a second.”
He hands the phone over when Steve’s driving regularly again, and Nick nearly crashes them. “You need to go to the hospital.”
“Why?” he demands, thinking back to his just finished conversation with Tony.
“I don’t think I’m the right person to explain.”
“Nick, is this about—”
“No. I know Stark nearly burned his hand off. This is about… Peggy.”
“Peggy’s dead, Nick.” Steve remembers that funeral, remembers seeing an old, white-haired Peggy days before she died, just a year ago, not long after he’d been thawed. They said she’d been holding on for nearly three years, refusing to let old age and fragility take her, said that she just kept saying, I’m waiting. I’m waiting. And when he’d seen her that one and only time, she’d just smiled and said, Steve. You’re late.
“Yeah,” he says softly, and Steve’s heart is racing, “Yeah, I know. But her daughter isn’t. Not yet, at least. She’s… she’s been asking for you.”
“I think you should just go, let her explain.”
Steve hangs up and makes a left. “Everything alright?” Peter asks cautiously.
“I don’t know. We have to make a stop.”
When they enter the waiting room, a nurse is pacing by the doors, and she jumps when he enters, immediately rushing over. It still startles him sometimes how everyone knows who he is. “Mister Rogers, this way, please.” Peter and Thor go to take seats as the nurse ushers him through a set of double doors and down the hall.
“Is Marge alright?” he asks. His hands shake, and so he sticks them in his pockets.
“She’s… she won’t be with us much longer. It’s almost frightening,” she pauses to push through another set of doors, “She sounds just like her mother. She refuses to go. I’m waiting. She just keeps saying that, like Peggy did.” She stops outside of Marge’s room. “She’s in there.”
“Thank you.” Steve pushes through, and Marge’s tired, blue eyes look over to him.
“Steve,” she says, and he braces himself.
“Marge,” he greets, going over and pulling up a chair beside her bed.
“Oh, Steve.” She reaches out her hand, and he takes it. He’s only met her twice, once when he visited her mother and again at the funeral, but she’s always been sweet to him. “When I was a little girl, I used to run away all the time,” she murmurs, her voice weak, “My mother never understood why. One day, after I’d disappeared for three days and she’d had a whole manner of people out looking for me, she cried and cried until I told her I was just trying to make her happy. When she asked me what I meant, I said that I was looking for you.”
Steve blinks, and his chest hurts. He tries to keep his breathing steady, but thinking about Peggy is always hard for him.
“Do you know why my mother called me her miracle child?” Steve shakes his head, lifting his hand to wipe at his eyes. Marge squeezes his hand, “Because she had me when she was fifty-five. Fifty-five, can you imagine? They said they’d never seen someone so strong, so determined, the doctors. You think I would’ve learned from that, loved sooner, had children sooner, but no, here I am, not strong, not like my mother. I have nothing to live for. My husband is dead. My children have been stillborn. This is my last journey, and I need you.”
“Whatever I can do,” Steve whispers, squeezing her hand as her heart starts to slow, the haunting melody of the monitor filling the room.
“Steve, I’m dying because I did exactly what my mother did, and I kept trying. Do you know how many times she gave birth? Four times before she got me. Four. I think that’s why she had me at fifty-five. Fifty-five,” she repeats, closing her blue eyes and leaning back against her pillows. “I gave birth to two stillborn babies before I finally found happiness.”
Steve looks up. “Marge,” he says, squeezing her hand.
She opens her eyes and smiles at him, “Oh, Steve. I’ve waited long enough.”
“Marge, what do you mean you found happiness?”
“I’m going to die. I’m going to see my mother and my Victor again.”
“Marge,” he presses.
Her eyes flicker to him, blue as the sky, “Please look after him. You just have to sign the paperwork. I want you to have him. He’s so beautiful. Name him… name him after that man that you loved. Steve.”
“Marge,” he breaks.
“Please look after him,” she gasps, squeezing his hand tightly as the monitor ticks slower and slower.
He doesn’t know what to say. So he nods. And he waits.
When the nurse finds him outside the room, his face in his hands, he asks for Tony’s room. He spends ten minutes pacing outside the door before he plucks up the courage to go inside.
“Steve?” Tony sounds incredulous. Bruce is helping him get his t-shirt on over his head. “What are you doing here? I told you I was going to be back soon. They’re releasing me in a little while.”
“Are you allowed to leave the room, at least?” he asks, and Tony looks a little worried.
“Yeah, I just have to stay attached to all my meds and stuff. Why, what’s up?”
“I need you to come with me.”
“Tony, just. Please,” he says, his voice breaking. He looks away, trying to regain control.
Tony nods, and Bruce sets him up so that he can leave. “I’ll let them know where you are if they come checking,” he says, and Tony nods before walking over to Steve with his rolling drip.
“How’s your hand?” Steve asks when they get into the hallway.
“It’s fine,” Tony waves it away, “What’s going on with you?”
“I, uh—I’ve just seen Marge. Peggy’s daughter,” he clarifies.
“And why is she here?” Tony asks, afraid.
“Because she’s dead, Tony. I just watched her die.”
“That’s not all,” Steve cuts him off, “Tony, I don’t know how to explain this.” Steve presses a button in the elevator, and they go back up to Marge’s floor, the maternity ward. Steve doesn’t know why he didn’t realize it earlier. Tony looks at him with wide eyes, but Steve refuses to look back at him. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.
They stop outside a long window that opens up to a dozen or so babies, all in cribs, either asleep, crying, or staring about. He looks until he finds the name CARTER, and he points. Tony holds his hand. “What’s his name?” he asks softly.
“I think… James,” Steve says, and Tony nods.
“Okay?” Steve asks, disbelieving, and he finally turns his gaze to Tony, who’s staring determinedly through the window at the small, sleeping bundle of blue.
“Okay,” Tony repeats. “How does this work?” He finally looks up at Steve, who blinks. “Steve, please don’t cry,” he begs, squeezing his hand, “Please don’t because I don’t even—Steve,” he breaks, pulling on his arm. Steve relents, burying his face in Tony’s shoulder as Tony abandons his drip and wraps his arms around Steve, wincing and cursing as the drip drags after him.
He doesn’t cry; he refuses to. But it’s so hard to handle all of this. “I’m okay,” he whispers after a moment, brushing his cheek against Tony’s before straightening, “I’m okay.” He cups Tony’s face and presses a firm kiss to his forehead. When he pulls back, he leans their heads together and stares into Tony’s blue eyes. “Are you okay?” he asks.
“Steve, this is Peggy’s grandson. I know you want to be a dad. And—fuck, Steve—sorry, I know. Just,” Tony breaks off, shrugging away from Steve and straightening, “Look. If you stay with me, if we’re together for the rest of our lives, you can never have this, not truly, and this is as good as it gets for you. Peggy’s grandson. It’s like a little piece of her. And I—I want to help you. I want to do this with you.”
Steve isn’t so sure he can hold back his tears if Tony continues much longer, and so he just nods, cutting off anything else he might’ve said, and leaning forward to kiss him. “Thank you.”
They stand there together, holding hands, looking in at the babies, and Tony says, “So, James?”
“Marge told me to name him after the man I loved. Peggy used to talk about me and Bucky all the time.”
Tony hears it in his voice. “Do you want that?”
Steve shakes his head. “It hurts so much. Thinking of him as Bucky, I’d expect so much I could never have. I never got to say goodbye to him. I never got to bury him. I don’t want to go every day calling that little baby James and thinking that it’s Bucky.”
“So we’ll think of a name. Me and you. Dads.”
“Are you sure?”
“As long as I have you. So, what now?”
“I just have to sign some paperwork. Marge—she, uh—she already had this set up before I even got here.”
“Let’s go get your paperwork, then.”
October 22, 2012.
Four months later.
Tony looks over at the door as Steve enters, who smiles at the sight of him. “I wondered where he’d disappeared to,” Steve murmurs, coming over and sliding into the passenger seat. Sam is tucked away in Tony’s arms, a bottle in his tiny mouth.
Tony shrugs, “He was restless.”
“You look good with him,” Steve says, leaning over to kiss Tony lightly, “Are you coming to bed after? You’ve been down here awhile.”
Steve sighs, but he’s smiling fondly. “Yes, really,” he says, “And Sam is not nearly big enough to be you.”
“Awh, miss me?”
“Of course I do.” They hang out in the workshop until Sam has finished his bottle, and then they head back upstairs to put Sam to bed and retire to their room. “Are you okay with everything?” Steve asks when he settles on his side.
Tony returns from the bathroom, naked, and Steve swallows when he climbs into bed. “Yeah, why? Do I not seem okay?”
“No,” Steve says, pulling Tony toward him, “You’ve done beautifully these past four months with Sam. I just know how you are, and I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed or something.”
“Do I seem that way? No—don’t.” Tony pushes himself up, sheets pooling around his waist. “I told you, the day we got Sam, that I wanted to do this. It’s just another step in our lives and this is leading to something else,” he finishes, narrowing his eyes at Steve, who just leans forward and kisses him silent.
“Tony,” he says finally, one hand curved around his jaw, thumb stroking his cheek. He leans forward to kiss his forehead. “Tony, this time is so different from mine, but there are some things I would never trade, like you… and us.”
Tony presses a kiss to Steve’s lips before resting their temples together. “What are you doing?” he murmurs. Steve pulls away, leaning over the side of the bed toward his pants. Tony straightens, his face unreadable, as Steve returns with a small silver ring. “Really?” Tony mumbles, staring at Steve with wide eyes.
“Really,” he promises, “I want to call you my husband, I want to raise Sam as fathers, together, and I want you by my side as Iron Man, Tony Stark, and my love.” Steve pauses to roll the ring in his fingers until Tony reaches forward and takes it, causing Steve to smile. “Tony—”
“Nope, I’m going to kiss you now.”
And he does.
December 3, 2012.
Two months later.
Tony looks up, dazed, blinking to focus his eyes until they settle on one of the computer screens behind him. He pushes his goggles up, frowning and carefully shutting down his equipment. As he makes his way upstairs, he absentmindedly picks up a few stray toys and tucks them in his pockets until he reaches the kitchen where he prepares a bottle. Sam is nearly over the bottles, but he still likes them sometimes late at night. His watch beeps, a second alarm, and he nods to himself. When he opens Sam’s door, the tiny baby is on his stomach and wailing, little hands trying to push himself up.
“Hey bumble,” Tony says softly, running a hand over his back before lifting him in his arms. “Sam,” he coos, bouncing him a little, “What’s wrong, bee?” When he sits, Sam screams harder, and he sighs, standing again. “You’re turning into me, kid,” he says fondly, tucking the bottle in his back pocket and shifting Sam onto his stomach on one arm. He’s seen Steve do this plenty of times, and so he rubs Sam’s back as he pushes back out of his room, bouncing his steps a little.
By the time he reaches the workshop, Sam is silent save for a few soft sighs and mumbles. He takes a seat in one of his older cars, turning Sam, who blinks up at him. “Jarvis, project a movie for me, would you?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Thanks, honey.” Sam’s little hands fumble over the bottle as his head turns toward the screen. Tony reaches for the tablet he keeps in the center console now, and he works with one hand while Sam watches the movie flicker by. This has become habit for them, one that Tony has grown to love. Sam seems to sense when Tony’s been locked away in his workshop for too long and wakes late enough that Jarvis informs only Tony. When they take up position in the car, Jarvis plays one of three, Nightmare Before Christmas, a random Land Before Time, or Finding Nemo, because, somehow, Sam already has movie tastes and goes into hysterics when Tony tries to play something else.
Tony works on small things for Stark Industries, and Sam slowly finishes his bottle and drifts back to sleep. Steve doesn’t usually come down, but sometimes he pads in, yawing and adorable. Jarvis kills the movie ten minutes after Sam is asleep again, and Tony powers off his tablet and climbs carefully out of the car. Jarvis shuts down the workshop behind him, and he takes the stairs because Sam hates the elevator.
When he gets back to Sam’s room, he paces the room for a bit before kissing his son and setting him back in his crib. The lights are on, dimly, when he enters his room. “Jarvis, lights. Go back to sleep,” he adds to Steve, who sinks back into the bed and turns on his side. “Sleep,” he repeats, kissing his forehead before he undresses and climbs into bed.
A loud, blaring alarm wakes them.
“What the fuck,” Tony groans even as Steve leaps out of bed and grabs his shield from where it rests against the wall. “Jarvis.” He nearly falls on the floor before he makes it to the closet where his bodysuit is.
“Some kind of storm, sir, that’s managed to blast a hole in one of the walls.”
Tony grumbles and shoves his bare legs into the suit. He pushes out of the room with it hanging around his waist, and oh. “Jarvis.”
“Yes, sir. That’s it.”
“Sarcasm so appreciated, honey,” Tony sighs, palming his face. A gaping hole at the end of the hall has dropped the temperature dramatically, wind whistling by and icy rain howling into the mansion. “Shield. Force field. Something, Jarvis. In front of the hall. Hole,” he corrects himself.
“Very articulate, sir.”
“Uhm,” Tony can’t come up with a clever response. He reaches up to rub the sleep from his eyes, turning his gaze to where Sam’s door is open and his crib empty, so Tony jogs away, pulling the rest of his suit on as he goes. Chaos erupts from the meeting room downstairs as he approaches, but Tony hones in on Sam’s cry. Steve exits moments later, the baby curled against him, one hand braced protectively against his head.
“Can you handle that?” he says tightly, nodding toward the room before padding away with their son.
Two hours later, Tony seeks out Steve, who is in Sam’s room, cradling him as he rocks in the chair. “Hey,” he says softly when Tony enters.
“You know Storm? X-Men?” Tony clarifies.
“Yeah, I saw her there.”
“They were screwing around, a group of them, and she released one accidentally.”
“Splendid,” Steve says, shaking his head.
“There are contractors coming tomorrow, but Jarvis put up a shield to keep out anything. Is he alright?”
“Just startled,” Steve says, pressing a kiss to Sam’s crazy brown hair, “He’s fine now.”
“Wanna bring him to our room?” Tony smiles knowingly. Steve rolls his eyes, but moves to follow him across the hall, mirroring his smile.
February 17, 2013.
Two months later.
“Sir, Mister Barton at the door.”
Tony groans, digging his fingers into Steve’s shoulders. “Jarvis, patch me over to the com.”
“Tony,” Steve hisses, leaning his forehead against his chest.
“Barton, I’m a little preoccupied right now. Can this wait?”
“Oh, so that’s where Steve is.” Steve groans, hiding his face in Tony’s neck.
“Yup. Bye,” Tony says shortly. The connection drops, and Tony tugs at Steve’s hair, pushing down with his hips. “Oh my god, you’re blushing,” he comments before kissing Steve roughly. That seems to sufficiently distract him, and Steve groans again, rolling his hips so that Tony breaks the kiss with a gasp, head snapping back. His foot skids against the dashboard of the car for a moment before Steve reaches back with one hand and snatches up his ankle, hooking it behind him again. Tony’s other leg, pressed against the leather of the seat, wriggles, hitching higher, and he digs his heels into Steve’s back, trying to bring himself closer.
Steve pants out something incomprehensible, his mouth hot and wet against Tony’s neck, and Tony arches into him, nails scratching at his back as he seeks for something, some friction. “Steve,” he groans, pushing up into him again. Steve’s hips snap quicker, and his mouth breaks from Tony’s skin with a gasp, one of his hands curling over the door.
“Tony—god—Tony,” he stutters, and Tony just about loses it when Steve reaches his free hand down to curve around his ass and pull him against his body. Tony’s head slams back against the door, bad idea, but the leather pads it alright enough, and his back bends, desperate to feel more of Steve, Steve, fucking Steve, who leans down and licks over Tony’s collarbone.
He’s so close, and he can feel the blinding heat uncoiling at the base of his spine to explode in his belly. Steve’s mouth is so tantalizing, so hot, as he kisses openly around Tony’s chest, and then his tongue darts out, and Tony hisses, eyes snapping open. Mouth hung open in disbelief, he looks down, blue eyes flashing wildly. Steve peeks up at him through his lashes, biting his bottom lip, and Tony tries to say something, anything, but then Steve licks the edge of the reactor again, and Tony full out moans, his back sinking and his hips lifting.
“Steve,” he pants, his hand fisting in Steve’s hair and pulling him upward, toward his mouth. He just—can’t. It’s too much, and Steve’s whole body angles when he kisses Tony hungrily, who gasps into his mouth, fingers digging hard enough they’ll leave bruises in the back of Steve’s neck and on his arm as his orgasm rips through him.
He pulls away from the kiss, desperate, and Steve groans against his skin, lips skittering down to land on the front of his shoulder, where he bites, hard, and his whole body shakes as he spills into Tony’s ass. Tony is still riding down from his white-washed vision when Steve kisses his jaw, breath heavy and still shaking a little.
Neither of them can really breathe properly or speak for a minute or two until Steve leans back, easing Tony away from him, and they collapse into the seats, Steve’s hand splayed across Tony’s thigh and Tony’s head pressed into the leather seat. “We gotta do this more often,” Tony finally says, gesturing to the car, “That was—excellent.”
“Excellent,” Steve repeats, rolling his eyes, but he leans over to kiss Tony regardless.
“Sir,” Jarvis sounds impatient, “Mister Parker at the door.”
“Honestly,” Tony sighs, “Com, Jarvis.” He waits for the connection to pull up before he speaks again, “Hey webhead, what is it?”
“Daddy!” Sam shrieks, defiant-sounding.
“Be right out, bee, one second,” Steve says to the air as he opens the door and pulls on his briefs. Once he’s in jeans, Tony forces himself out of the car and tugs on his sweats commando, pulling on his shirt and padding over to the door to go get Sam while Steve finds his shirt.
“Really,” Peter says, staring at him through the glass.
“Really,” Tony answers, pulling the door open and propping it against his back so he can take Sam. “What’s up, kid?” he directs to Peter.
Peter shrugs and follows him into the workshop. “Sam woke up from his nap, and we were hanging out for a while, but then Gwen came over, and she was kind of… bitchy, actually, so I figured I’d disappear and use your child as an excuse.”
Steve snorts as he comes into view, causing Sam to bat his hands wildly. Steve smiles and coos something inarticulate as he scoops Sam out of Tony’s arms and soars him through the air before bringing him back and kissing him on the forehead. Tony smiles fondly at them before turning back to Peter. “Wanna talk about it?” he asks, nodding toward his workbench.
“I mean, I guess.”
“I’m gonna head upstairs,” Steve says, waving to Tony, which Sam mimics. He stops off in their bedroom to grab his drawing pad and a blanket, which he sets up in the massive backyard so that Sam can roll around, and he lies on his stomach, art supplies scattered around him. “I’m getting married tomorrow,” he tells Sam, poking him in the side so he giggles. “You’ll be there.” Sam just rolls around for a bit until he pushes himself up, and Steve watches him go, smiling.
The next day, his smile is even wider.
“Knock, knock,” Betty’s voice calls as the door opens, “Someone was looking for his daddies.”
Steve turns from Tony’s bowtie, beaming. “Hey bumble,” he greets fondly, going over to lift Sam from Betty’s arms. “Are you being good?” Sam smashes his hands on Steve’s chest before he notices the pins and grabs for them. Thankfully, Betty scoops him away, laughing. Steve leans down to kiss his son’s wild brown hair.
“Almost time. Pepper is going to murder you if you’re late,” Betty reminds.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tony mumbles, coming around to kiss Sam, as well. “Alright, bumble, your daddies need to get ready.”
“Daddy!” Sam cries, and they smile as Betty heads back out.
“You ready for this?” Steve asks as he turns back to Tony.
“Of course I am.” He takes Steve’s hand, and they make their way out to the next stage of their life.
March 22, 2016.
Three years later.
“Geronimo!” Sam screeches as he reaches the top of the slide and zips down.
“Seriously?” Steve says to Tony, shoving him playfully.
“What?” he responds with a grin, bumping back into him.
“Star Wars was one thing, but Doctor Who, too?”
“Yeah, whatever.” Steve reaches out to take Tony’s hand, finger rubbing over the ring after he’s laced them together. “Sam, no hide and seek unless you tell Thor first, alright?” Steve calls, and Sam just waves a hand before scrambling up the ladder to the slide again, Thor helping him.
Steve and Tony make their way to the beach, away from the playground, and Tony squeezes his hand. “How’d the meeting with Fury and Coulson go?” he prods.
Steve sighs and gives him the you-know-that’s-confidential look even as he opens his mouth to betray the look, “Thor doesn’t know yet, alright?”
“Loki is back.”
Tony stops them dead, jaw unhinged. “Loki? Are you kidding me? How is that even possible?”
“Because that shield was set up against the person Loki was then and not the person he is now. Tony,” he pauses to turn to him, “I talked to him.”
“Oh my god, Steve,” Tony says, pulling his hand away and resuming his walking; Steve has no choice but to follow. “You can’t just assume he’s different because he found a way back and you talked to him. For Christ’s sake, Steve.”
“There’s more,” Steve interrupts tightly, “I reacted the same way you are, but then Nick—Tony, Nick—said he believed him. Why? Because he called Coulson from a payphone, gave his location, and was unarmed when they arrived. He willingly went into lock-up and has undergone every test Nick had for him. He surrendered his staff thing, swore an oath of Asgard and Jotunheim not to use his magic, and he told them everything. Tony, he—he had a child with him, a little girl, when they found him. She’s his daughter.”
Tony nods after a moment of silence. “Okay. Why is he here?”
“He said that Jotunheim isn’t safe, that his daughter was in danger. He’s an outcast, just like he was in Asgard and here on Earth.”
“You want to give him a room at the mansion, don’t you? Fucking hell, Steve.”
“I get it,” he cuts him off, shaking his head and looking toward the sea, “If Fury said it was okay, I would agree with him. I may not like him, but I respect him. Is—uh—is Loki’s daughter—blue?”
“She’s like Loki. It depends.”
“How old is she?”
“Almost six. Her name is Brielle.”
“And her mother?”
“Slaughtered by the king of Jotunheim after he allowed Skrulls to invade Loki’s home and destroy everything. You can see why he didn’t feel safe. He tried to go to Asgard, to plead with Odin, but he was attacked. That was two years ago. They’ve been in hiding and on the run since then.”
“How are you going to tell Thor?”
“Without Mjölnir, and we’re going to let Loki explain.”
“And Brielle? Has she been tested?”
“Yeah,” Steve says with a sigh, “Yeah, she was. This is so crazy, though, Tony.”
Tony looks up at Steve’s face, frowning. “How long have you been sitting on this?” he asks, taking Steve’s hand. “Steve, how many meetings have you had?” he persists when Steve doesn’t respond.
“This was the third. He’s been here for a month.”
Tony blinks. “Well. Okay. When are you telling Thor?”
“Hopefully today. Nick wants to break it to him first and then decide about the team later.”
“Fair enough. Oof,” Tony breaks off, looking down, “Well hey there, kid, what’s up?” He bends to lift Sam into his arms, grunting softly. “Damn, bumble, you’re getting big.”
“You’re bigger,” Sam retorts, sticking his tongue out before leaning away from Tony and bending his head back. Steve kisses him on the cheek, and so Sam leans back into Tony, leaning his head against his shoulder. “Tony, why is Steve so sad today?”
“Steve’s okay, bumble, don’t worry.”
“No, he isn’t,” Sam persists, “Look at him.”
“Come on, let’s see if the water’s cold.”
“I bet it is!” Sam shrieks as he wiggles in Tony’s arms until he puts him down.
He takes off toward the water, and Tony looks over at Steve for a moment before going after him. Steve smiles as Sam’s giggles erupt, high-pitched and happy, and he follows them, putting on a brave face.
Peter looks up from his textbook as the walls shake around him. “Tony,” he says, but Tony doesn’t answer beyond a grunt. “Tony, hey.” Tony grunts again, and Peter rolls his eyes. “Honestly, you’re, like, so self-centered. Can you not hear that?”
“Working,” Tony mumbles, bending a little and sighing when Dummy doesn’t follow him.
The walls shake again, and Peter glares at Tony. “Seriously,” Peter says, “Tony.”
“Peter, if it’s something to do with anatomy, go ask Steve. My head is full of mechanics.” Tony waves at Dummy. “Here,” he says, pointing toward where he’s soldering.
“Tony,” he grounds out, “The walls are shaking.”
“Peter.” Tony yanks his goggles off, but then the walls tremble again, and Tony’s brow furrows.
“Behold!” Peter exclaims, throwing his hands up, “He actually sees things beyond himself!”
“Oh, shut up,” Tony grumbles, tossing his goggles to the worktable and putting away his things. “Stay here. I’m gonna go upstairs and see what’s going on.”
“Stay here?” Peter repeats, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, stay here,” he says, pointing a threatening finger at Peter before sighing, “Jarvis, lock down the lab.”
“Oh my god, I’m not some lousy teenager that needs to be babysat.”
“Your jokes are lame, and you are a teenager. Stay here, Peter.” Tony heads out of the workshop and jogs upstairs where Steve is just heading off to the stairs.
“Do you know what’s going on?” Steve asks, but Tony shakes his head.
“I was downstairs with Peter. You think it’s Bruce?”
“Nah, he’s with Betty. I just walked past their room, and he’s alright. I think it might be Thor.” They take the elevator to the lower basement levels where the holding cells are, and, on approach, Nick greets them with a sigh. “Thor?” he asks, and Nick nods.
“He’s—uh—he’s not taking it so well. He may not have the hammer, but he’s still a Norse god,” Coulson says as he closes the door behind him, “It might be better to let them hash it out.”
“Where’s Brielle?” Nick asks, looking over to Coulson.
“In the booth with the guards.”
“She probably shouldn’t be down here while they talk.”
“She can hang out with Sam,” Steve offers, and Tony nods.
“Yeah, Steve will watch her.” Steve rolls his eyes. “What, I’m helping Peter with his homework.”
“No, Peter is bothering you in the shop again while you work.”
“Well, whatever. You know what I mean. C’mon, Fury, she’ll be fine with Sam.”
“I’ll go get her,” Coulson says before Nick can respond, to which Nick just throws up his hands. Nick goes back to the monitoring room, and Coulson returns after a few moments with a fragile-looking girl. She’s thin and short with jet black hair that’s plaited down her back and sharp, hard blue eyes.
“Hello,” she says quietly. “Mister Rogers,” she continues, nodding her head.
“Brielle,” he greets, “This is my husband, Tony. We thought you might like to spend some time away from all the noise. We have a son about your age.”
“Yes, Sam. You remembered.”
“Of course I did,” she snaps, her tone harsh, and Tony arches an eyebrow.
“Right, well, Peter is probably trying to find a way to destroy everything, so I’ll be off. Brielle, it was lovely meeting you.”
“And you, Mister Stark.”
“Right. Uhm, call me? If anything,” he adds to Steve before disappearing. Steve takes Brielle by the hand and leads her off, talking to her quietly as they head upstairs. She isn’t much of a conversationalist, and he finds himself falling silent after only a few attempts.
He stops by Sam’s door and knocks. “Bee, you busy?”
“Nope, come in!” Sam exclaims, and Steve opens the door, leading Brielle inside.
“Sam, this is Brielle. Do you remember Thor telling you about his brother?”
“Loki, right? The guy that’s been downstairs for a while?” Steve sighs; he should have figured Sam would have found out somehow. He has that knack like Tony does for knowing everything without any explanation.
“How do you know about my dad?” Brielle accuses, pulling her hand away from Steve.
Sam shrugs, flicking his green eyes back down to his book where he’s coloring in a picture of SpongeBob with no pants. “Brielle, do you want to color with me? I can tear out a page for you.”
“Do you have anything else besides that?” she sighs, going to sit near him.
“I think I might have one you’d like, hold on,” he says, dropping his pencil and scrambling over to where his toy chest is.
Steve smiles and leans against the doorway. “Sam, I’m gonna go grab my sketchpad, alright? I’ll be right back.”
“Why do you call him Steve? Isn’t he your dad?” Brielle asks as Steve walks away, but he doesn’t hear Sam’s response. He grabs his pad from his room along with a book, and he’s just searching for a pencil when footsteps pad into his room.
“Sam?” he questions when he turns, and then immediately drops his things, rushing over. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he says, pulling Sam toward him and kissing his forehead, “What happened?”
“B-Brielle,” he hiccups as Steve frowns and wipes away his tears with his thumb, “Sh-she hurt me. She t-twisted my arm.” Sam shows him his reddened arm, and Steve swallows thickly, holding Sam against him and rubbing his back.
“It’s okay, Sam,” he whispers, kissing his hair, “It’s okay, calm down.”
“It h-hurt,” he mumbles, and Steve nods.
“I know, baby, I know. It’s okay, though. Do you want me to get some ice for it?” he asks, pulling back and squeezing his shoulders. Sam shakes his head. “Alright, stay here. Let me grab my stuff, and I’ll come back with you, and I’ll talk to Brielle, okay?” Sam follows him across the room anyway, sniffing and rubbing at his eyes. “Oh, bee,” he sighs, kneeling again to lift Sam in his arms. He situates him on one hip so he can carry his art supplies and book in the other, and they head off down the hall again to where Brielle is coloring quietly.
“Brielle, sweetie,” Steve says, lowering Sam to the ground and kneeling in front of her. Sam immediately clings to him, laying his head on his shoulder. “Brielle, you can’t do that kind of stuff, okay?”
“He deserved it,” she says shortly, scribbling out of the lines.
“Brielle, can you listen to me, please?” She throws the crayon down and turns to him, crossing her arms. “Why did you do that to Sam’s arm?”
“Because,” she begins defiantly, “he’s not a strong warrior. It shouldn’t have hurt him. He deserves to get hurt if he’s not going to be strong enough to defend himself.”
Steve opens his mouth, unsure of what to say, but Sam saves him, “She said it was a c-custom of one of the planets she visited. Daddy, are there other planets?”
“Yeah, bud, we talked about that.”
“Okay,” Steve says, rubbing his face, “Brielle, this is Earth, and children are not warriors. You’re safe here. We’re not going to let anything happen to your dad, okay? We’ll protect him and you. But you cannot hurt other children like that, okay? Okay?” he repeats when she doesn’t respond. She unfolds her arms and picks up her crayon again. “Now, can you please apologize to Sam?”
“NO!” she screams, scribbling furiously.
“Brielle,” he sighs, “Listen. Sam is just trying to be your friend. You can’t hurt your friends.”
“He’s not my friend. And neither are you. I want to go back downstairs. There are real warriors down there.”
“Your father is busy with your uncle right now. Until they’re done, you have to stay up here with me and Sam, okay?” She doesn’t respond, just reaches for a different crayon.
“Steve, I don’t want to color anymore,” Sam mumbles, and Steve nods, leaning over to press a kiss to his forehead.
“Alright, want me to read to you?”
“What book are you reading?” he asks, already heading over to the rocking chair in the corner of the room, a few of Steve’s fingers curled away in his small hand.
“Something Tony gave me. C’mon, I think you’ll like it.” He lifts Sam up into his arms again, though he shifts once Steve’s sitting down so that he’s curled against him, legs dangling off the edge. Steve kisses the top of his head before opening his book and reading in a soft voice.
Steve looks up as he hears a child-like scream erupt upstairs. Peter arches an eyebrow before he reaches into the fridge. “Everything okay up there?” he asks, smirking.
“She’s kind of terrifying. She gave Sam an Indian sunburn because she didn’t think he was a strong warrior,” Steve says, and Peter snorts.
“That’s awesome.” He retreats with two sodas and a grapefruit. “Your husband was hungry and said I should take a break from my studying.”
Steve smiles. “Of course he did.”
“Hey, actually,” Peter says, leaning against the island where Steve is making a platter of crackers with cheese on some and peanut butter on others, “Want me to take them out somewhere? We could go to the park. I’ll watch them. You can help out with the Loki situation. Yeah, I’m clever,” he answers Steve’s shocked look.
“Tony told you.”
“Whatever, Tony told me. Park, ice cream, maybe a little sight-seeing for his daughter? What’s her name?”
“Mm, sounds French. What d’you say?”
“I don’t know, Peter,” Steve sighs, “She’s pretty bad.”
“I’ll web her if she starts getting unruly. That’ll show her mighty warrior and all.”
Steve laughs. “Alright, bring Tony his grapefruit. I’m gonna give them some time to cool down first.”
Peter and he part ways, and, when Steve enters Sam’s room again, he’s quick to put down the platter and run over to the two, wrapping an arm around Sam and pulling him out from under Brielle’s assault. “Oh no, you’re not leaving,” he grunts, stepping in Brielle’s way as she tries to jump up and make a run for it. She tries to dodge around him, but he just drops to a knee and catches her around the middle. She gasps when she punches him and hits hard muscle.
“Hey!” he yells when she reaches across to Sam, who scrambles to get out of Steve’s arms. Steve releases him, but keeps his hold on Brielle, sighing. “What happened?” he exclaims.
“She ripped up my picture and called me stupid!” Sam yells, pointing a shaking finger at her.
“That’s because you are stupid!” Brielle shrieks, kicking Steve in the shin and whimpering when that hurts, too.
“Brielle,” Steve says firmly, letting her go only to hold up his hands, “Apologize to Sam. Now.”
“Why should I? Why should I listen to you? You’re just as stupid as he is!”
“He’s Captain America!” Sam yells, “He’s not stupid!”
Brielle’s blue eyes widen, and she stares at Steve in awe. “You’re Captain America?” When he nods, unsure, she gasps. “My dad told me about you. He said you were a fierce warrior that even he respected. He said we were going to Earth because he knew if he explained to you what had happened, you would be nice to us.”
Steve sighs, looking at Brielle. “I’m trying to be nice to you, Brielle. I want to, but you have to stop hurting Sam. He’s my son.”
She bites on her lip and looks between Steve and Sam before nodding and stepping away from Steve’s hands to approach Sam. “I’m sorry,” she says, holding out her hand. Sam looks over at Steve, who nods, and so he shakes Brielle’s hand, offering her a smile.
“All better now? Good,” he says when they nod. “Alright, Sam, I’ll tape your picture up. I brought you guys a snack.” He brings them the platter, and they sit across from each other, cross-legged, and eat it while Steve hunts down some tape in Sam’s desk. “Brielle,” he says when he’s found it, “There’s another superhero here, Spiderman, who’s gonna take you two out later to the park and for ice cream, is that okay?”
“What’s his name?” she asks from around a mouthful of cracker and cheese.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full. His name is Peter. Sam, where’s your picture?” For the next twenty minutes, all is well, and no one cries or screams. Peter shows up, and he takes Sam to get his jacket and shoes on while Steve hunts down something for Brielle. After Steve’s driven Peter half crazy with his parenting concerns, they leave, and Steve retreats to the holding cells where Thor and Loki are talking civilly to find Coulson in the monitoring room. “Where’s Nick?” he asks, dropping into a chair.
“He went out for a coffee run. Things are going well, as you can see,” Coulson says, motioning toward the one-way glass.
“Thankfully. Peter took Brielle and Sam out for ice cream and the park.”
Coulson nods. “How is she otherwise?”
Coulson laughs. “Loki said she might be like that.”
“It’s to be expected, though,” Steve says with a shrug, “I mean, she’s been running for her life, and that’s all she’s ever known. When do you think things will really settle with them?” he asks, nodding toward the glass.
“Thor is a lot better than he was. He took a break earlier, and he talked to Nick and us. He said it was fine if we told the team whenever, so I think we’ll call a meeting later. As for Loki, I think he should be able to leave the cells after the meeting, depending on reactions, of course.”
“Good. God knows Brielle needs him. He can finally be a real father and not just a warrior to her.” Coulson laughs again before Steve pushes out of the chair. “Alright, well, I’m gonna go make sure Tony hasn’t set anything on fire again. You know where to find me.”
“Stop it,” Steve says thirty minutes later.
“Stop what?” Tony mumbles.
“Stop planning Brielle’s death; it’s frightening. She’s just a child.”
“For Christ’s sake, Tony.”
“An Indian sunburn? Did you ice it?”
“No, he didn’t want me to.”
“Did you at least hang his picture on the fridge?”
“Of course I did.”
“But you let Peter take them out? Let’s hope he comes back alive.”
“She’s not that bad.”
“I can’t believe she folded when she found out you were Captain America. That’s hilarious.”
“You’re impossible.” Tony just flashes him a smile before returning to his work. “What are you even making? You’ve been working down here forever.”
“I’m working on something for Sam. You can’t see; it’s secret,” he adds quickly when Steve approaches, angling his body to hide the in-process item.
“What is it?” Steve prods, leaning down to kiss the back of Tony’s neck. He shivers at the contact, and Steve smirks, kissing down until the hem of his wife beater stops him, and then he trails back up his spine, biting at the spot on his neck again.
“Steve,” Tony breathes, head dropping forward a little.
“Mm?” Steve purrs, winding his arms around Tony from behind and trailing his lips up to his ear where he licks around the curve and then reaches down to bite softly at the curve of bone behind his ear, which makes Tony shiver again and straighten a little, leaning into the touch. “Is that a toy robot?” he whispers.
“Oh, you dickhead,” Tony grumbles before throwing his leg over the bench and turning in Steve’s arms. His hands go up, fisting in Steve’s hair and pulling him down for an open-mouthed kiss. Tony sucks on his tongue even as Steve lowers his body until he’s kneeling. His fingers work at his belt even as Tony pushes forward and wraps his legs around Steve, hooking his ankles behind him. “I want you to fuck me on the bench,” Tony mumbles when they part for breath, and Steve’s mouth dips to seek out Tony’s jaw.
“Okay,” Steve agrees, breathless, popping the button on his jeans and tugging down the zipper.
Tony grabs his jaw and forces his mouth up again where he kisses him hotly, groaning into his mouth when Steve stands, pulling Tony with him. He would normally object to being manhandled, but he just clings to Steve, who is busy stepping out of his jeans and turning so that he can sit on the bench.
When they’re situated, Steve immediately pulls back from Tony’s mouth to tug down the waistband of his sweatpants, and Tony pushes himself up, allowing Steve to slide them off. He leans back, and, somehow, his sweatpants end up on the floor. He pulls Steve in for another kiss, groaning when he rolls his hips into Steve’s, naked skin sliding against one another.
“Stay here,” Tony says when they break, and Steve whines when Tony clambers off his lap, darting over to the dashboard of computers. He returns with a bottle of lube, flapping his hand at Steve, who gets the message and pulls off his t-shirt. Tony tosses him the bottle before pulling off his own t-shirt, and he turns so that his back is to Steve while he perches himself on his lap, leaning his head back to kiss Steve’s jaw. “If you wouldn’t mind,” he murmurs, and Steve just smirks and kisses his cheek.
Tony gasps when one slicked finger enters him with no preamble, and, holy shit, those are definitely Steve’s other fingers tracing soft, skittering patterns on his balls while he circles the finger inside Tony’s ass. “Well, fuck,” Tony grunts, arching his back and letting his head land on Steve’s shoulders. Steve’s other hand comes around to curve over Tony’s dick, who responds with a soft groan.
Steve preps him quickly, sliding a second finger in after a minute, and then the third, and Tony can’t help it if he rocks down onto Steve’s hand, panting and groaning. When he finally finishes, Tony braces his knees on the bench, legs bent behind him, and Steve steadies him with his hands on his hips as he lowers himself onto Steve’s cock, biting back a moan as he settles in his lap, breath rattling in his chest.
“I am definitely too old to be doing this shit,” Tony grumbles, taking a minute to adjust. Steve laughs softly and presses a kiss to the side of his neck, and Tony can feel his smile against his skin. “Stop laughing at me,” he continues, leaning his head against Steve’s.
“Don’t bend your knees, then. I got you,” Steve whispers.
“I’m too short.”
“Oh my god,” Steve laughs harder, “Your feet don’t touch the ground.”
“I’ll kick you.”
“Uh huh.” Steve rolls his hips, lifting Tony as he does, and Tony’s retort trips into a gasp. Steve spreads his legs, pushing Tony’s wider as he does, and Tony buries his face in Steve’s neck, groaning. They move together, Steve’s fingers pressed hard into Tony’s hips, just the way he likes, and the muscles in Tony’s thighs shifting as he presses back down on Steve’s cock even as Steve thrusts up into him.
Tony’s panting into Steve’s neck, his tongue tasting his skin and teeth nipping at his throat. Steve groans his name, nosing at his face until Tony lifts his mouth to Steve’s, and they kiss wetly, desperate. Tony reaches up a hand to hold against Steve’s neck, occasionally digging his fingers into the muscle there and sometimes up higher into his hair, but the other hand drops to his dick because Steve’s hands are busy.
“God, Tony,” Steve moans suddenly, pulling away from their kiss to drop his forehead to Tony’s shoulder and gasp for breath. Tony can feel it suddenly, Steve’s muscles tensing around him, rippling in his chest where it’s pressed against Tony’s back.
“Close, baby?” he manages to ask, clenching down around Steve, who moans again, biting the back of Tony’s shoulder and spasmodically tightening and releasing his grip on Tony’s hips. “You gonna come for me, Steve?” Tony pants, his own hand moving quickly over himself. “Oh, Steve—you feel so good in me.”
“Yeah,” Tony breathes, and there it is. Steve gasps and grips Tony tightly, groaning against his back and that’s all it takes for Tony. His body tenses and breaks in a shake, pressing back against Steve as he comes over his hand and stomach, hard and fast. “Fuck,” he moans, hips still shifting down until it’s too much, he can’t, and he stills, collapsing into Steve’s body.
Gravity separates them, and Tony lets out a shuddering breath when Steve relaxes under him, releasing his hips and rubbing his thumbs over them in a soft apology. Tony leans back with Steve, who rests against the worktable, his knees protesting. Steve notices his discomfort and brings his hands to his ankles, pushing until Tony unfolds his legs and lets them dangle in the air.
“Hey,” Steve mumbles, rubbing a hand over Tony’s collarbone and kissing his hair.
“Hey yourself,” Tony sighs, eyes closed.
“My legs hurt.”
Steve’s muscles tense for a second, and Tony tries to move away from him before Steve can manhandle him, again, but he’s not fast enough, and Steve lifts him up and off his lap, settling him on the bench. “Stay there, I’ll find something to clean you up,” he says, heading off. When he returns, Tony sticks his tongue out at him, and Steve just smiles and kisses him. Tony jumps in surprise when a damp washcloth wipes over his stomach, and he tries to push Steve away, but he just kisses Tony harder. “I got it. Relax,” he commands, rubbing his nose against Tony’s. He obliges, letting Steve finish, before he straightens and reaches for his sweatpants. “Come upstairs,” Steve says, brushing a soft hand over the back of his neck.
Tony starts to point toward his work, but then he sees Steve’s face, and he nods. “Okay,” he agrees before bending to get his shirt. He waits while Steve gets dressed, rocking on the balls of his feet, and they head upstairs, hand-in-hand, when he’s done. To Tony’s surprise, though, Steve leads him into the living room instead of another floor up to their bedroom. “Are you okay?” Tony asks unsurely, allowing Steve to steer him toward the couch.
“I’m just tired,” Steve admits, reaching for the remote once they’ve sat, “It’s been a long day, and I wanted to relax with you.”
“Is she really that bad?”
“Make it work,” Steve hands Tony the remote, “And yes. I feel so horrible for saying it, but honestly, there’s a reason we’re nervous about Loki, never mind his offspring. She just—it hurts, Tony. I hate seeing Sam cry. Especially cos he was trying so hard to be her friend, and she just completely annihilated that idea.”
“C’mere,” Tony sighs, tugging on Steve’s sleeve, “Lie down. Let me take care of you. C’mon, head over there.” Steve follows his directions until he’s on his stomach, splayed over Tony’s lap, fingers digging into his back. His muscles uncoil under Tony’s touch, and he sighs, letting Tony work out the knots while they watch some BBC show Tony’s been going on about.
They remain like this for almost an hour until Tony is just rubbing soft circles into his back and sometimes drawing strange patterns with his fingers. Tony’s phone rings after this hour. “Jarvis, put it on the com, thanks.”
“Of course, sir.”
“Hello, Peter. How’re things?” he answers the call, catching Steve’s attention.
“Good enough,” Peter responds, “Just left the park, and it’s close enough for dinner, so I thought I’d pick up Gwen and take them out, if that’s alright.”
“Yeah, of course,” Steve says, “Thank you.”
“Hey, no problem. We’ll be back a little later, then, probably right in time for bed. Sam wants to talk to you, hold on.”
“Hi!” Sam’s voice shrieks after a moment, “Guess what, guess what!”
“What?” Steve and Tony ask at the same time.
“I almost made it across the monkey bars! Peter even let me go on the last few! It was so much fun, and I met a superhero today!”
“Oh yeah, which one?” Tony says.
“Mister Xavier. He was with a couple kids who he said were gonna go to his school one day. Isn’t that so cool? I wish I could go to his school. That would be so much fun.”
“I bet, bumble,” Steve says, “Did you have fun with Brielle today?”
“Yeah, we had an okay time. I have to give Peter back his phone. He’s flapping his hand at me.”
“Alright, bee, have fun. We’ll see you when you get home.”
“Okay, bye, I love you!”
“Love you, too,” Steve and Tony say together.
“Well, I’m almost at Gwen’s house. I’ll call you if need be. Otherwise, I’ll see you guys when we get back.”
“Thanks again, Peter. Bye,” Tony says, ending the conversation. “Look at that,” he addresses Steve, “All better.”
Steve sighs and pulls himself up, kissing Tony on the way. “For now. We’ll see how he is when they get home.”
That turns out to be quite the event.
“Before you freak out,” Peter says over the phone, and Tony straightens immediately, “he’s okay.”
“What happened?” Tony demands, clambering off the bed and ignoring a very confused-looking Steve. It’s an hour past Sam’s bedtime at nine o’clock, but they trust Peter, and they figured everything had been fine, especially when he called at seven thirty to confirm they’d be back a little late.
“He’s okay,” Peter says again, “I just pulled up, but you need to come down here.”
“Is that my daddy?” Sam’s little voice mumbles in the background.
“It sure is, bee. They’ll be right down, okay? Just stay calm, remember?”
“Peter, what happened?” Tony demands, waving at Steve before disappearing from the room. He can hear Steve following him as he jogs down the hall.
“Uhm—I don’t really know how to explain it. Brielle is okay. She didn’t get hurt. I mean,” he hastily says, “He’s not hurt. He’s okay. Sam is fine.”
“Just come down here,” Peter says before the line goes dead. Tony curses and breaks out into a full run, taking the stairs because he can’t be bothered to pace through the elevator. When he reaches the basement door, Steve is right behind him, and Clint is peeking his head out of the living room. Peter is just straightening away from the car with Sam in his arms when they arrive in the garage.
“Daddy,” Sam whimpers, reaching his arms out.
Steve gets there first, and he takes Sam from Peter, cradling him against his strong body. “What happened?” he says, his voice hard.
“Okay, just—just hold on. Let me get Brielle back to Loki, okay? Just—he’s fine,” Peter says when Tony steps forward, “You’re freaking me out, guys. I’m trying really hard not to panic right now, alright? Sam, what did we say?”
“No crying,” Sam mumbles, lower lip trembling.
“No crying,” Peter repeats, “Okay? Just stay calm.”
Sam nods, swallowing his tears. Tony looks between the two, and Peter holds up his hands before going around and opening the other side of the door. “Oh, baby,” he finally breaks, going over to Steve and pressing his forehead to Sam’s, “Are you okay?”
“I’m s-scared,” Sam whispers, and Tony closes his eyes.
“Peter,” Steve tries, but Peter just shakes his head.
“I’ll meet you in his room, okay? Sam,” he pauses to catch Sam’s eyes, “Remember what I told you.” Sam nods again, and Steve and Tony watch Peter disappear with a sleeping Brielle in his arms.
“C’mon,” Tony says, moving away and motioning for Steve to follow him, “He’s obviously alright, and, for whatever reason, he doesn’t want Sam telling us. Let’s just—let’s just go upstairs and wait for Peter.”
They’re just settling in Sam’s room when they hear footsteps down the hall. Peter enters moments later, looking a little more composed. “Hey,” he says. Sam pushes off of Steve’s lap, and he lets him go, watching as Sam runs over to Peter and clings to his legs. “Hey bumble,” he whispers, kneeling down and embracing Sam, “It’s okay. We’re home now, and we’re safe, okay?”
“B-but, P-P-Peter,” Sam chokes, and Peter just rubs his back and nods.
“I know, it’s okay. Just calm down.” But Peter’s voice isn’t as strong this time, and Sam breaks in his arms, sobbing. Tony immediately kneels behind Sam, and the second his hand goes on his son’s back, Sam pushes away from Peter and into Tony’s arms, who retreats back to the rocking chair, staring at Peter and holding Sam tightly.
“Start talking,” Tony orders, rubbing Sam’s back.
“Alright, well,” Peter begins, straightening. He opens and closes his mouth a few times before turning away and taking a deep breath. “Sam is a mutant,” he finally blurts, and the room falls into a heavy, tense silence. “Or—or something,” Peter finally says, swallowing, “But he has superpowers. I—I don’t know how to explain this. We were—we were leaving the ice cream place, and we were going to my car—Brielle had to pee and—damn it,” he breaks off, shoulders shaking.
“Hey, Peter, it’s okay,” Steve says, standing and going over to him, “Whatever happened, it’s okay. You just need to tell us.”
“I didn’t tell you. I should have. I should have as soon as it happened,” Peter snaps, pulling away from Steve. He looks at the opposite wall, his eyes glassy. “After Sam met Xavier in the park, he—Xavier—came over to me. He told me Sam was a mutant. He said that some people were just born with it, but I didn’t believe him. I mean, he’s just—he’s just Sam. But then we were leaving the ice cream place, and we went to wait by the car while Gwen took Brielle to the bathroom, and—we were—there was—”
“Sit down,” Steve interrupts him, pointing to the other chair.
Peter obliges, taking the seat shakily, while Steve leans against the wall, glancing over at Tony, who nods. “He’s okay,” he mouths. Sam is quieter now, just sniffling. “Asleep,” he whispers.
“Anyway,” Peter says, clearing his throat, “There were these guys. They came out of nowhere, and they—they attacked us. I told Sam to get in the car, to lock it, and he did. I—I tried, I did, I tried to fend them off, but there were three of them, and then the—the door just—exploded in—in these little shards on the ground. Sam was sitting there, screaming, and the door was gone, and his hands were bleeding. He ran out of the car because he was scared, and one of the guys tried to grab him, and then it was like—like magic almost. He tried to push the guy away,” Peter puts up his hands in demonstration, “And his hands were blue, and the guy was just—he turned into ice and—shattered. The other two were so freaked out that they ran, and I tried to get to Sam, but he was so scared that—I don’t even really know. He put his hands down, by his sides, and the street just—broke. It split in half, like ice, like it had been a frozen pool of water or something, and I grabbed him, but he’s—he’s fine. He’s just—a mutant.”
“Are you okay?” Steve asks suddenly, connecting the dots.
“I’m—I’ll be alright,” Peter corrects, looking away from Steve, “I’m fine. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“Peter, what happened?”
Peter tries to move away from the approaching Steve, but he just grabs his arm and stares down at him. “His hands burn when he does it, and, I mean, he was scared, and he was holding onto me.”
“Let me see.”
“It’s fine. I’ll take care of it. I—Steve—I don’t want him to see!” he finishes in a shout, twisting away, “I don’t—want him to see.”
Steve blinks at him, but Tony clears his throat before either of them can speak. “He doesn’t want to scare him anymore,” Tony says, and Peter nods. “Look, he’s asleep, we’ll put him to bed and talk about this more.”
“I’ll—workshop,” Peter says, leaving before they can stop him.
Tony stands when he’s gone, carefully carrying Sam over to his bed where he lays him down on his back and sets about removing his clothes. “What do you think?” he asks as Steve finds his pajamas.
“I think this is pretty crazy, but he’s our son. I don’t love him any less.”
“I didn’t mean that,” Tony sighs, “Of course I still love him. I just meant—I don’t know, Steve. I want to call Xavier.”
Steve nods, “Me too.”
When they finish dressing Sam in his striped pajamas, they go down into the workshop where Peter is perched on one of Tony’s tables while Dummy holds up a mirror for him to see his back with. “I got it,” Tony says as he approaches.
“Thanks,” Peter mumbles, pulling his hand away.
“What is it?” Steve asks.
“A burn,” the familiar voice of Charles Xavier precedes himself. Two people walk behind his wheelchair, one a handsome young man that they don’t recognize and the other Wolverine.
“Xavier,” Tony greets. He’s entirely accustomed to Charles being able to get past their security, and so he doesn’t bat an eyelash nowadays when the telepath shows up. Steve, however, straightens at his appearance, brow furrowing.
“I’ll fill you in later,” Tony says, touching his arm before returning his attention to Peter. “So, a burn? From ice?” he directs the question at Charles.
The handsome young man answers instead, “When a mutant who possesses the power to manipulate ice is young and has only just discovered his abilities, his hands burn, and so anyone he touches when using the power is burnt. It’ll pass with time and when he learns to control it. I know because I am much alike your son. My name is Bobby.”
“Bobby,” Steve says, “Nice to meet you. You can—control ice, too?”
“I can.” Bobby steps forward, leaving Charles and Logan behind him. “Is Sam still awake?”
“No,” Tony says, “And I’d prefer if you didn’t wake him up. He’s very shaken.”
“Understandable. Professor Xavier would like to invite him to our school, and I would like to ask your acceptance to personally mentor Sam.”
“But he’s going to be okay, right?” Steve says, looking to Charles.
“Of course, Mister Rogers. Sam is just like every other mutant out there.”
“Can we set up a time for you two to meet?” he directs to Bobby, who nods, smiling.
Three hours later, after they’ve seen Peter off to bed and had a long talk over tea with Charles and Bobby, Steve and Tony head upstairs, tired and dragging their feet. Falling asleep is easy, but Steve isn’t out for long before he feels something grabbing at him. He groans and forces his eyes open, trying to see in the darkness. “Daddy,” Sam’s little voice says, and Steve frowns.
“What’s wrong, bee?” he whispers, looking over at him tiredly from where he’s pressed against the side of the bed, reaching across the empty space to pull at Steve’s t-shirt, the closest thing he can reach.
“Daddy, I’m scared,” he mumbles, and Steve sighs. He carefully pulls his arm away from Tony, touching his shoulder lightly when he stirs before he scoots over and bends over the side of the bed to pick Sam up.
“Why are you scared, sweetie?” he asks, pushing his back against the headboard and brushing Sam’s hair out of his face.
“I didn’t mean to hurt Peter.”
“Peter’s okay. He knows you didn’t mean to.”
“Is he mad at me?”
“Oh, baby, no,” he murmurs, pressing a kiss to his forehead, “Peter loves you very much. Are you scared about what you did tonight, too?”
“I didn’t mean to!”
Steve frowns when he feels the wetness of Sam’s tears soak through his t-shirt. “Sam, it’s okay,” he promises, rubbing his back, “You don’t have to be scared. You’re a superhero, just like Tony and me.”
“Do I get to go to Mister Xavier’s school now?”
Steve laughs softly, pulling Sam back to look down into his face. “Yes, you do. Professor Xavier has set up a new program recently for younger students, and you’re going to join that in the fall after you’ve turned five, okay? There’s also a man that you’re going to meet tomorrow. His name is Bobby, and he can do things like you can.”
“Really. Now, why don’t we go to sleep? Do you want to stay in here?”
“Yes, please.” Sam clambers off his lap, bumping Tony in the process, who grunts and snores, to which Sam giggles. Steve puts a finger to his lips, and Sam nods, carefully slipping under the blankets and waiting for Steve to lie down again before he snuggles against him. “I love you, Steve,” Sam whispers.
“I love you, too, Sam. Go to sleep.” Steve kisses the top of his messy brown hair as Sam sighs and relaxes.
Tony wakes up feeling very, very warm.
He opens his eyes blearily, but ends up closing them again with a groan. “Steve, I think Tony’s awake.” He tries to reach up a hand to rub his face, but his body is so heavy, and he feels like he’s suffocating. “Tony?”
“Sam, hush. Tony, are you okay?”
Tony scrunches his nose, shifting his thick tongue around in his mouth. He feels… weird. Steve’s cool hand comes down on his forehead, and he flinches. He can feel the bed move as Steve gets off, but then Sam’s little hands are braced on his arm, peeking over his side at him. He cracks an eye and looks up at Sam, trying a smile, but his stomach grumbles, and he groans again.
“Sam, get off. Tony, are—”
Tony swats at him, rolling off the bed and nearly falling on the floor. Steve catches his elbow, steadying him, and he takes a moment to grab his head and sink into Steve. He starts to open his mouth to say something, but there’s that feeling again, and he pushes away from Steve, making a staggering beeline to the bathroom.
“Alright, off to your room,” he hears Steve say a few moments later.
“Is Tony sick?” Sam asks cautiously.
“Yeah, come on. Let’s get you dressed, and then I’ll make you breakfast, okay?”
“What about Tony, though?”
Steve smiles tightly, ushering Sam out of the room, “I’ll take care of him, don’t you worry. What do you want to wear today?”
“I don’t care,” Sam says with a shrug, reaching up on his toes to twist his doorknob, “I wanna be comfy.”
“Alright. Come on.” Steve helps him into a pair of tiny jeans before tugging a t-shirt over his head and seeking out a requested sweatshirt. Once he’s dressed, bare toes wiggling while Steve brushes his hair, he and Steve go back and forth about what to eat for breakfast.
May 3, 2016.
Two months later.
Tony’s watching one of their most recent fights from his hack in the street corner cameras, though he’s only really half paying attention to that and mostly focused on one of his boots and its wiring. The fight ends without him even really noticing and switches over to the mansion’s cameras, but he’s hunched over and frowning at something until he hears a loud crash, and he flinches, looking up. His frown deepens; he doesn’t usually keep a watch on the mansion’s cameras, but Bobby was doing his lesson with Sam here today, and he wanted to make sure nothing went awry.
“Captain Rogers, sir,” Jarvis says, “in the weight room.” Jarvis widens the screen, and, sure enough, the punching bag has lost the fight, and Steve is breathing heavily, running a shaking hand through his hair. Tony makes an indignant noise; he’s not even using the one he designed specifically for Steve, the one with the core that could withstand just about anything. He understands soon enough, though, as he watches Steve lift another bag onto the hook, take a breath, and start in on it. He wants to break it. They’d had a rough fight the other day, lost a civilian as they were trying to save her, and Steve didn’t take those things lightly.
“Jarvis, how do I look?” Tony asks, already shutting off his tools.
“Greasy and sweaty, sir.”
“Perfect. I’ll be back in a bit, sweetie, don’t wait up.”
“Shall I inform Mister Rogers of your approach, sir?”
“No, that’s alright. Better keep him on those bags until I get there.”
He steps into the weight room through one of the side doors so that Steve will see him approaching, and he watches his husband nearly rip the bag in half as it goes sailing across the room. He knows Steve knows he’s there, and he gives him a brief nod, turns to collect another bag, and looks back up. Tony puts his all into it, swaggers up to Steve with his hands dug into his pockets, grinning when he flicks his gaze south and sees Steve’s sweat-damp pants tighten a little. “Pissed off about the fight?” he asks, quirking an eyebrow, and Steve grunts, turning back toward the bags again.
Tony steps right in his way so that when Steve turns to hook it up, he’s standing there, smirking, and he can see a flash of anger in Steve’s eyes before he lowers the bag. “What?” he snaps, and Tony sighs dramatically.
“It’s not the punching bag’s fault.”
“Get out of the way, Tony,” Steve says, frowning, but Tony just rolls his shoulders and sighs again.
“Don’t feel like it,” he says, and now there’s definite frustration building in Steve, but that’s exactly what he’s aiming for. He steps forward, lifting one hand up to push the bag away, and Steve looks down at him, still frowning. “Maybe you should take your anger out on something else,” he challenges, and he watches Steve’s jaw work, his teeth grinding together. “Maybe,” Tony continues, other hand coming up to tug the ties on Steve’s pants loose, “you need to release a little pent up frustration. All that fighting the other day, all that bullshit that happened, maybe you shouldn’t be hitting a bag.” The ties come undone, and Tony lets his hand slip upward, underneath the shirt and over Steve’s hard stomach.
“Shut up,” Tony snaps, and that’s it. The bag hits the floor at the same time that Tony’s feet leave the ground, and he chokes back the embarrassing noise he’d been about to make because he’s on solid ground again in a second, pinned beneath him in the boxing ring, and okay, when did Steve learn to move so fast?
“Just because you come in here all greased up and sweating doesn’t mean you can swagger your way over here and pretend you know what the fuck is going on in my head,” Steve growls, but his hands are betraying him, yanking Tony’s jeans off, and, when he takes a second to notice that Tony went commando, it seems his brain catches up to what he said because he looks up, and he’s sorry all over.
“No way, stop it,” Tony says, and he actually punches Steve, whose brow furrows in confusion. “You’re pissed,” Tony says, “So goddamn furious about that fight the other day.” Tony almost wants to pat himself on the back when he slams a knee against Steve’s side and actually manages to roll them so that Steve is beneath him. “You need to get rid of th-that,” his words stagger at the end as Steve wraps one strong hand around his half-hard cock and tugs upward, wrist twisting.
“And you’re so cocky you think that you can get rid of it?” Steve challenges, and then Tony’s back hits the hard floor of the ring, and he grunts, breath whooshing out of him for a moment. He watches Steve suck three of his fingers between his lips, and he swears, spreading his legs as Steve shoves down his pants with his other hand, dropping them only to his knees, and it’s all Tony can do not to shout as Steve stretches him, fast and rough and angry.
Tony makes an undignified noise when he’s manhandled again, Steve’s hand coming down on his hip and yanking him toward his lap as he pulls out his fingers, and Tony’s shaking when he feels the swollen head of Steve’s cock nudge at his entrance. “Yeah,” Tony gasps, arching toward him, “Come on, Cap.” Tony shouts when Steve makes a primal, angry noise and slams inside him, and his back bows, cock leaking against his stomach.
Steve remains looming over him, driving into Tony, rubbing over his prostate and unraveling him until Tony is shaking and begging for more, for harder, for faster, and Steve gives it to him until his thighs are trembling, and he lifts Tony higher, fucks him into almost angrily, and Tony just fists a hand over his dick and strokes in time with Steve’s thrusts. He digs his thumb over the slit of his cock on every upstroke, pressed against the bundle of nerves beneath the crown until he’s writhing and clenching tightly around Steve.
Steve takes one hand from his hips, and Tony cries out when his fingers cup Tony’s balls, teasing them and squeezing lightly, and he barely lasts another tight slide up his dick before he’s coming, his whole body wound tight and hot. It’s watching Tony come undone that pushes Steve over the edge, punches the air out of him and turns his thrusts erratic and shallow as he spills into Tony’s ass, panting.
Tony sinks back into the ring, boneless, groaning softly when Steve pulls out and sinks back onto his heels, chest heaving. A sheen of sweat cover both their bodies, and Tony doesn’t think he’ll be able to think straight for at least an hour. He holds up a hand, though, and Steve laughs loudly, his shoulders shaking. “You can’t be serious,” he says, and Tony snorts unceremoniously.
“High five,” he says, and Steve just smiles fondly at him and slaps his hand. “How do you feel?” Tony asks.
“Sleepy,” Steve murmurs, bending over his husband and nuzzling into his neck, leaving soft, open-mouthed kisses over his shoulder.
“Glad I could help,” Tony whispers, pressing a kiss to his ear and sighing.
June 12, 2016.
One month later.
“Pizza!” Sam screams, and Steve shoots him a look even as Tony smirks.
“Sam, stop it,” he says, catching Steve’s look, “We’re in public.”
“Yeah, no shrieking until we’re outside,” Peter adds, reaching over and tickling Sam, who bats at him and giggles.
The waitress smiles as she approaches, putting down three pizzas on their table. Steve helps Sam get a slice of pepperoni while Tony looks over at Peter. “How are things?” he asks quietly.
Peter shrugs, his smile falling. “Not looking good,” he admits, “All we do is fight, y’know? It’s like it doesn’t even matter, us, anymore. All she cares about is sex and work and Matthew. God, it’s like, if you want to fuck around with Matthew, then go ahead. Sorry,” he mumbles when Steve shoots him a look.
“Have you talked to her about all this?” Tony asks, pulling a slice of Hawaiian onto his plate.
“Yeah,” Peter sighs, grabbing a slice of cheese, “I told her that if she was so interested in Matthew that we should just end this before one of us gets hurt even worse, and you know what her response was? Oh, I’m not going to be the girl who broke up with Spiderman.” Peter shakes his head, jaw clenched. “Like, glad to know Peter Parker means something to you,” he spits suddenly, and Tony frowns.
Steve reaches a hand across the table, folding it over Peter’s shaking one. He opens his mouth to say something when Sam interrupts him, “I like you, Peter. I think you’re really cool, and most times, I like you better than Spiderman because then I get to hang out with you and have fun, and you’re like my older brother, Peter. I don’t think Gwen is very nice if she likes Spiderman better. She shouldn’t even like Spiderman better because you’re Spiderman, and so you’re the same person anyway, so what does it matter?” Peter allows himself a small smile as Sam leans against him. “I think you’re the best ever.”
“Thanks, bee,” Peter murmurs, ruffling his hair, “That means a lot.”
“No problem!” Sam exclaims, “Tony, what’s on your pizza? It looks yucky.” Tony laughs and pulls off a piece, handing it over. “Thank you!” Sam giggles, stuffing it into his mouth. He starts to talk, looks at Steve, and promptly snaps his mouth shut, chewing vigorously. The three men burst into laughter, looking over at him, and he just smiles widely, his teeth red from the sauce.
“Sam, close your mouth,” Steve says fondly. “God, he’s just like you,” he adds to Tony.
“It’s frightening, really,” Peter comments, “So, crazy bee over here tells me you guys have a spectacular weekend planned. Where’re you taking him?”
“I’M GONNA SEE A POLAR BEAR!” Sam hollers, and Steve’s face disappears behind his hand.
“Sam,” Tony says tightly, and Sam shrinks, looking over at him. “Stop yelling. We’re in public. Use your indoor voice.”
“I’m sorry, Tony.”
“It’s okay. Just keep it down.”
“Okay. Peter,” he whispers, “I’m gonna see a polar bear.”
“At the zoo?”
“Yeah! And then and then and then, we’re going to the carnival. Steve said you could come if you weren’t busy, right, Steve?”
“Of course. We were getting there,” Steve says, looking over to Peter.
“I’d love to come.”
“Maybe you can bring Gwen, see if that doesn’t patch things up,” Tony offers.
“That actually sounds like a great idea. What time are we leaving?”
“Eight o’clock. Early, I know, but we’ve got a lot of ground to cover,” Steve says when Tony groans.
“I’ll let her know.”
Dinner carries on until Tony’s paying and Sam suddenly reaches across the table and curls his small fingers around Peter’s cup. It freezes instantly, ice curling up around the glass edges, and Peter stares on with wide eyes. “Dude!” he exclaims when Sam sits back, grinning, and Steve beams, leaning over to press a kiss to his crazy brown hair. “When’d you get so good, bee?” Peter asks, lifting his glass and inspecting it.
“Bobby’s been teaching me lots. I can only do small things, but he said I’ll be able to do lots more later. Isn’t that so cool, though?” Sam says excitedly, practically bouncing. He chatters with Peter all the way back to the car, where he lets Peter buckle him in before Tony pulls out, and they head back to the mansion in comfortable conversation about Bobby, polar bears, and a jumble of incomprehensible words until one of Sam’s long yawns turns into a sigh, and he’s out cold.
“See you in the morning, kid,” Tony says as Peter heads off, and he waves before disappearing from the garage. Steve lifts Sam in his arms, who curls against him, and they head upstairs in silence, Tony putting Sam to bed with them before they head into their own room. “He really is getting good,” Tony says as Steve disappears into the bathroom, “Think he’ll like Xavier’s school?”
“Probably,” Steve says before the toilet flushes, and then he’s heading back into the room, slowly unbuttoning his shirt. Tony stops him before he even gets to the second one, brushing away Steve’s fingers and stepping into his space as he undoes the second button.
“Can you believe how lucky we are?” Tony says, not looking up at him, but instead continuing with his shirt, his hands slow and measured, “I mean, you survived in the ice for seventy years, seventy, and then you wake up and somehow, I don’t even know, you tolerated me, and you loved me, and I mean—that’s more than I ever dreamed, ever could have asked for.” Tony flicks his gaze up, blue eyes under dark lashes, before it returns to the buttons, and he continues, “I never thought I’d actually manage it—be enough of a not-dick for you to even like me, consider me a friend maybe, but no, instead you—ask me to marry you.” Tony undoes the last button and looks up into Steve’s eyes, smiling softly. “And then we got Sam, and even Peter, and just—I love you. Thank you.”
“You never have to thank me,” Steve says, taking Tony’s jaw in his hands, “I do all I do because I love you, and I never want you anywhere but right by my side.”
“I was originally unbuttoning your shirt because I was going to convince you to have sex with me,” Tony quips, and Steve laughs, shaking his head before pressing a firm kiss to Tony’s mouth.
“There you are,” he says when he retreats, “Here I was thinking Tony Stark had turned into some sap out of a romance novel.”
“Oh god, not those trashy ones.”
“Still want that sex?”
“Always,” Tony murmurs, reaching up to kiss Steve again, and, when they fall on the bed, Tony is maybe turning into a bit of a sap because he fuses his mouth with Steve before he says, “Slow.” When Steve quirks an eyebrow, he clarifies, “Make love to me.” And they’ve done it a million times before, like they’ve done everything else, but Tony doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to feeling so at home, right here, in Steve’s arms.