Steve was warm.
Wasn’t that what freezing to death felt like? You got warm, stopped worrying about it? fell asleep?
But that wasn’t right, because he was waking up. And he wasn’t just warm, he was hot, sweating even--
He could BREATHE!
Steve drew a deep, gasping breath, the air hot and sharp and painful on his lungs. He coughed it back out, and then drew a second, and a third. The world swam and moved, swooping around him, his body dangling like a string-less puppet from something hot and soft, curled around his chest and cradling his head.
He should open his eyes, really--
“He’s MINE!” Tony bellowed, his furnace burning in his throat and shredding the words into a rough, furious roar of heat. The Captain, ice still clinging to his tattered uniform, was in danger. The Russians were creeping closer, some fifteen miles, now, while Tony was distracted with SHIELD. Yelena, an ice wyrm, was a real threat to him, but SHIELD were the threat to hi-the Captain; they wanted to take him, to keep him frozen until they could do things to him--
Tony remembered blue light thrust into his chest, fighting his fire, fighting iron--
“Mr. Stark, Captain Rogers’ body needs to be preserved! He deserves to be buried in Arlington, with his men!”
“He’s not dead yet, I can feel him, Fury. Don’t you dare presume to know what is best for him!” Tony snarled, swooping his head down to eye the human directly. The heat off his throat melted the ice around him, and Tony noted with deep satisfaction that Coulson and Natasha turned towards the warmth with shoulders loosening.
They believed him; Natasha’s calm acceptance was a balm on a ragged and angry mind. Fury, too distant a mind to feel, was harder to convince.
“Seventy years on ice, Tony, even the Serum would have issues with that.”
Tony growled helplessly, banked his fire back to safe levels, and reared back on his hind legs so he could tuck his chin without overbalancing. Carefully cradled in his front paws, the Captain was damp and no pinker than the ice around him. Tony turned his cheek to see in infrared, but he was still cold, four below, maybe four and a half.
But Tony could feel him, a cold and slow and frightened mind... So afraid, but so resigned. live, damn you, you made it this long!
“I know, Fury; crystallization damage, hypothermic hypoxia, I think...he drowned in supercooled water. The Ice is amorphous, non crystalline... He’s alive now, and he’s mine, and I’m going to save him, Director, whether you like it or not.”
“And if he dies?”
Suddenly furious with borrowed grief, Tony thundered back down onto his wing hands, Steve cradled against the warmth of his chest, shaking the ice and sending glacier scientists onto their asses. “Then I will GRIEVE! As is Right and Proper! I am not your agent, to be honed and polished and available to you whim at any moment! I will fly the earth, and burn the sky, and I. Will. Grieve!”
“What do you need?”
Tony’s jaw snapped shut on a steady stream of sparks, blowing them out his nose as balmy air instead. His chest calmed, the thundering roar of his damaged heart quieting. “Wise choice, Director. A medic, crash car-- no, belay that...” A Heartbeat, slugish and pumping blood the thickness of syrup, but a heartbeat nonetheless, became audible as he calmed, focused. “A heated IV, monitors, whatever respiratory equipment you have, and get me a line to the cryo department in Michigan.”
Fury nodded and, already turning to his team, said; “tell JARVIS that if I hear about him hacking my servers one more time, I’m gonna give him a medal. Publicly.”
Too absorbed in the new, slow heartbeat echoing in his ears, Tony missed the friendly threat entirely. He needed time, and focus. Warmth he could do, control-- it was no worse than soldering something small enough to fit in an ear, and he had done that. He could do this. He leaned down, bracketing himself with his wings to create a still space, safe from the wind, he brought Natasha and Coulson in close. The medic scrambled over-- Ross, yes, acceptable. She was His, and she owned Bruce, who owned some of Tony, and who was owned in turn. yes, good. She pushed his claws out of her way, rearranged his grip on the Captain, so his wrists rested on the ice, and started pushing air into the Captain’s mouth. Start warming at the core...his blood would follow, with a little aid from the IV...
Snapping out of his focus, he whipped his head up high, using his long neck to get about the windblown snow and belch a vast cloud of billowing flames into the sky as warning. The creaking, icebreaking roar of liquid nitrogen on seawater heralded her reply, and a great dome of ice burst out of the windward sea ice.
A Russian, bundled up in the traditional furs of the border guard, waved from the top of her head, and she bellowed a ‘You’re welcome!’ into the perpetual night. Relief washed over him in a muscle-weakening wave, but he remained still, he couldn’t see what was happening under his belly and it would be so easy to hurt one of his hoard.
“Hawkeye! Clint, get up here, I need you!” He yelled, swinging his head over the excavation site, tilted so his right eye saw the whole place. Clint waved his bow from the top of one of the geodesic domes, and Tony picked him up by offering a horn for him to hitch his harness to.
“Whatd’ya need, bossman?” He asked, voice raised over the howling wind. Clint would be a good addition to his Hoard, he would need more now that he had Steve to protect.
“Eyes. Stand tall, point of shoulder, and watch.”
Clint set off down his neck, slithering over glossy scale, and swinging around his nape spike and onto the point of shoulder, where the muscles of his wings bunched, and prevented spikes from growing. “Anything in particular, Mr. Stark?”
Tony shook his head, ridding himself of the slithery feeling of a climber. “All of them, I will be busy.”
Clint patted him firmly on the shoulder, which Tony would never admit was a great comfort, and Tony bent his head back down, into the shelter of his wings. The scent of his hoard had built in the bubble of warm air; gentle Betty, sharper Natasha, and Coulson who was hoard-but-not, Weyr, but not owned.
Faint, the scent of steel and leather and... gunpowder, blood, factory smoke... Captain. His unique scent, under a mess of others, banked by the cold, was a round one, warm smelling despite the ice; the smell of summer in the city. Tony felt his eyes dilate, the irises flushing from brown to gold in satisfaction.
He wasn’t breathing on his own, no, but he was breathing, and Tony could smell his life on the air. Tony focused, drawing warmth from his furnace and trickling it into Steve, so so careful... so delicate... Blood, loosened by the warm IV, flowed smoothly now and carried the heat all through the Captain’s core, heart beat more strongly, lungs opened more easily...
Tony drew as close to the weak, resigned mind as he could, basking it in the literal warmth of oxygen and blood, and the metaphysical warmth of ‘you will fucking live if I have to give you my heart, you damned idiot now BREATHE.’
A flinch, a stutter, confusion and doubt and then horrid, gut wrenching hope and--!
He drew a breath, a heave that arched his back and sent Tony scrambling to support him without dropping the tiny body to the ice.
“Away, now, all of you! Back away!” Natasha ordered, sending unnoticed and inconsequential medical people scurrying away. She pulled the IV, hustled Betty away, and Tony was free to lift Steve, coughing and struggling, in pain, dont be in pain! to his chest, to tuck him close with his cheek against the glorious, healthy 37 degrees of Steve’s skin and clear the pain away.
Hello, my name is Tony Stark, and you are Steve Rogers. You’re safe now.
All of the hurt of unfreezing was a lot in a tiny human body, but in Tony’s it was no worse than sitting in one place for too long. He stretched his wings out to shed the sensation, feeling Clint sway on his back, while Steve breathed the warm, humid air Tony provided. Alive, alive! Awake, even!
Barely, it was true; Steve’s mind chugged along slowly, sleepily, for a few breaths, until Tony felt the warmth of life start to come from within, rather than without. Then Steve jerked fully awake, aware and in an instant looking for the threat, his mind howling into a void for ‘Bucky’.
Another dragon, one long missing.
Sadness swelled in Tony’s breast, not like the hard fury of grief, it dampened his fires, and he ached in sympathy.
Gone, Steve, I’m so sorry.
Hard fists struck at his cheek, and something hit his chest, a knee maybe? But his hide was too thick for even a supersoldier to hurt with his bare hands.
“You’re with the SSR, Steve, you’re safe, it’s okay, I’m so sorry, please, you’re breaking your hands--”
Sharp spikes of pain echoed through Steve, and he did stop, trapped some twenty feet off the ground, wet and exposed to the wind now that Tony had pulled his head away. The fight went out of him, and he leaned against Tony’s chest, his forehead against his balled up fist.
“Where--” he coughed, a conscious clearing of his throat, though Tony’s thoughts went immediately to drowning and water on lungs and coughing and coughing-- focus. “Where am I?”
“Greenland, you ploughed into a glacier, then the ocean, and froze.”
Near his wing hands, balancing him on the ice so he could stand on hind legs, Betty and Natasha stood arguing with Coulson, over something that filled their hearts with uncertainty and concern; Tony didn’t listen in though, he had a feeling they would consider the truth risky, but then, they couldn’t read minds, so, ha.
“How long was I out-- The push past the Majino line- I need--”
Tony’s heart clenched with doubt, with horror, but at least he could say they won, at least... “It’s been seventy years, Captain. We won the war, Hitler’s dead, a long time ago.”
He could feel it not sinking in, feel the Captain going shocked and still, the empty void in his mind that was ‘Bucky’ --surely, Sergeant Barnes on Margaret, Aery Corps, Brooklyn Weyr, lost in ... yes. Lost in an avalanche, days before Steve went down-- the symetry was overwhelming, but there was no way Bucky could have survived the way Steve had. It wasn’t possible.
Borrowed grief overwhelmed him, burning Steve up even though he sat still and silent in his grip. Tony couldn’t bear it, so he backed off, counting in reverse primes, babbling engineering principles until his mind wasn’t quite so open.
He had wanted... wanted to have Steve, to put him in the Weyr, have him in mind, but this was too much, too soon. There was no space for Tony in a brain still healing from a broken bond as all encompassing as that one.
Steve was still sick, weak, and his brain whirling with shock, he needed time to process, to dream, so Tony left a suggestion, an offer, on the edge of Steve’s awareness.
Sleep, magically peaceful, and a ride home, to the Manhattan Weyr.
The Captain accepted, almost before Tony was done offering, and fell limp in Tony’s paws.
“Natasha! A bed, please. NICOLAS!”
Natasha pounded twice on his wing wrist in acknowledgment before darting off to collect a stretcher, and Fury raised his head from a scientist’s clip board.
“Pack up, and get my harness ready, we’re getting out of Yelena’s territory! Straight flight to New York; clear me with ATC, or I will plough my way through regardless. Hop to it, people!”
“You heard the dragon, Pack it up! Dr. Letterman, keep your men and gear out of our way; your dig can continue as scheduled once we’re gone, Dr. Ross, you’ll want to be in the belly plate?”
She would, Tony thought mulishly. She would have to look after Steve for him while he flew them all home. Eight hours, minimum... he would need his headset, and satellite phone; Pepper would be furious if she didn’t have at least that long to get the Weyr ready for his early return.
The domes and panels of the camp folded into panniers, which he crouched for, so they could be lifted his back, and the loops of his harness rose up under the competent hands of his crew. He needed both hands to put it on, though, and carefully lay Steve down on the cot, under Natasha’s watchful guard, and Betty’s command. They were hard to distinguish, in their padded coats, and Steve rapidly vanished inside a thermal tent, Betty working on him with her arms inside.
It made Tony’s chest ache, losing sight of them like that.
He shook it off, stepping carefully around the tiny scurrying humans, and hauled his harness onto his back.
Time to go home.
Steve woke up.
He hadn’t... quite expected to. The last time he fell asleep with the wind blowing ice in his face like that, he hadn’t expected to ever see the world again. It hadn’t sunk in yet that this was different.
He blinked slowly, feeling dazed.
We won, you’re safe.
He felt safe. The room was familiar, dragonstone, and fired glass. Sunlight tinted that unmistakable yellow by the tiny crystals of dragonfire trapped as it was made.
The bed was soft, when he moved, it tried to coax him back to sleep with slight resistance, and it was so warm. The air, and the blankets both. He was dressed, at least, his uniform in tatters but nearby on a chair, and a thick sweater folded on the table for him.
Yes, for you, it’s not as warm out here.
He glanced to the door, his sleepy, dazed brain not quite registering much beyond the strange dragon on the edges of his senses. What if he wasn’t ready to get up yet, he was hungry, but he just wanted to sleep.
Clint made breakfast when I heard you starting to wake up, promise it’s safe to eat.
The voice had an edge of pleading, coloured with concern, and Steve levered himself to his feet.
The sweater was nice, nicer than anything he’d ever worn, and warm. As his head popped out of the neck, a hood flopped over his ears, but then slid back. He fumbled for it, and pulled it back up, because the fabric had been in the sun and it was warm.
We gave you a meal on the flight but, I don’t think you noticed? If you don’t eat soon, I’m going to have to eat another cow, and Pepper says beef is bad for me, so you’d be doing me a favour if you could stop projecting hunger all over the Weyr, thanks.
Steve shook himself awake enough to be vaguely amused, though it didn’t make it as far as his face, and took his time putting his boots on. There was always enough food at a Weyr, if you didn’t mind meat. Vegetables were rationed as much as anywhere else, but a human’s meat ration was nothing when you had to feed a dragon.
No rationing any more, Cap. You can have as many bananas as you like. Were bananas rationed? I seriously have no idea.
The boots weren’t actually the same as his, the laces were strangely silky for one, with a bright flash of colour weaved in, but
Yeah. Things have changed, a bit. Everyone has their own phone line, now. Oh, and the laces are nylon.
An abrupt sense memory of parachute ‘silk’ under his fingertips, and the smooth glide of Peggy’s shiny new harness knocked the wind out of him.
Peggy! Come and eat and I’ll tell you all about her.
The calm assurance in the dragon's voice was enough of a contrast from the fury and fire when Steve had first opened his eyes that he got his breath back in a great rush, a grin spreading across his face.
Mine! Tony interjected smugly, an image of an elderly dragon, lounging in a warm sand nest flickering past Steve’s awareness.
Oh for crying out loud.
The door opened without Steve’s help, and an eye most of the height of Steve’s torso peered in, shading from brown to gold as the pupil relaxed to get him in focus.
“Don’t go into shock now, they’ve only just stopped yelling at me for telling you. I said you could take it, and you are, now come on.”
“Has anyone ever told you you’re pushy?”
The eye crinkled in amusement and looked him up and down. “Has anyone ever told you you’re hungry? Because you are so hungry right now, you can’t even feel it.”
Tony retreated, a great river of honey brown and red scales flowing past the doorway, the moving away to reveal the inside of the Weyr. Steve’ breath caught in his throat at the sheer scale of the space; it was at least three times the size of Brooklyn Weyr, and twice the size of the last time he’d been here. Huge machines stood bedded into a floor of sand some fifty feet below the doorway, and Tony moved through the space with ease despite being the biggest dragon Steve had ever seen, bar--
Howard. Tony Stark.
Steve followed Tony’s mental guidance to the staircase, and down, in a daze.
Howard Stark, the premier dragon of the Western front, an enormous, playfully inventive brute who ran his section of the front with an iron paw and his terrifying machines of war.
Oh, of course. You knew him?
Steve nodded, pausing on a landing to look up at Tony’s head, sweeping down to look at him again, something mechanical in his paws.
I never met him, of course.
And that Tony was here, in Manhattan, meant that Howard was dead. But Tony wasn’t that old, Howard couldn’t have died in the war.
Yeah, he Begat me at... seventy, I think. Died when I fledged; shipping accident.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Humans. You’re so weird. All these hangups about parents and childrearing. Bizarre.”
But Tony still nosed at him, sniffing, and when Steve rubbed a hand over his nose in comfort, he nudged him hard enough that Steve had to hug his whole head just to keep upright. Dragons haven’t changed in seventy years, at least.
“You inherited the Hoard?”
Under his arms, Tony huffed. “Howard’s hoard was boring; weapons and bombs, pah! Yeah, I looked after it, tried my best to like it, even, for the name on things. But it didn’t work out. Go eat, I’ve got to go blow some glass.”
Steve let go of his snout and felt cold again for the loss, but turned towards the smell of food anyway. Tony was right, he felt like he could eat a whole cow.
The ear splitting roar of flames over a sand pit had him knocking the door closed behind him, Tony’s chuckles echoing in his ears.
“Hey, good morning. Well, It’s evening, but I only do breakfast foods, and Jane only does eggs on toast, so you’re stuck.”
The man at the stove was blonde, well muscled, and had a lopsided grin. And a dog. The woman he gestured to when he said ‘Jane’ was a tiny scrap of a thing, wearing pants and a sweater the same size as the one Steve had on. She waved, and the cuff slid half way up her forearm.
“Jane, on Thor, nice to meet you.”
He waved back. “Captain Rogers, on-- uh.” He definitely felt like he should say ‘on Tony’, his brain a confused mess of Tony’s distant focus where he expects to hear Peggy, and the yawning emptyness of Bucky’s death. He froze, metaphorically, and tried not to give in to the panic clawing at his chest.
“Just go with him, his hoard is people, if you feel it, go for it. Clint, itinerant on Tony.”
Steve met the hand held out to him on automatic, feeling stiff and cold, but leaning on the social niceties to keep him on his feet. He could feel Tony thinking of him, offering more support, but he couldn’t lay this much on a dragon, it wouldn’t be fair.
“Then, Steve, on Tony. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He shook firmly, finding calluses on Clint’s hand just like his own. Even relaxed and in the kitchen, Clint had his harness on; a waist strap and chest cross in the shiny fabric Tony had called nylon. It didn’t look much like the leather he remembered, but it looked the part.
“Right! Hero worship aside, dragon bullshit aside, Tony is a massive fucking nag, so sit your ass down and start shoveling,” Clint ordered, steering him into a bakelite chair by the shoulder, and pushing a huge plate of food in front of him.
Steve tucked in.
Tony ‘watched’ over Steve’s shoulder all day, then all week, as he heard the histories and fates of everything he’d ever known. He felt like glass in Tony’s mind; tough and smooth and hard, his edges all melted smooth by fire, but.
But fragile. It wasn’t until the third day that he really started believing what Clint and Betty were telling him. Oh, he’d been listening, absorbing; Tony could feel the architecture of his brain healing around the new information, building a picture that decoded the view outside his window, but that picture really crystalized on the third day.
Tony didn’t sleep that night, reliving the yawning gap between Steve’s outstretched fingers and Bucky’s hand. When that was worn out, Steve’s brain exhausted, it kicked up a fuss about the long, slow dive into the ice. Thor had rumbled, and laid over Tony’s back, his denser, faintly magnetic body holding Tony to the earth in the face of an insatiable urge to dive after the Valkyrie.
Fifteen seconds was a long time to prepare for death, and Steve had done a good job, which made it harder, Tony could feel it, to come back from the brink.
Steve slept a lot after that, almost fourteen hours most days, and Tony got an awful lot of work done; intricate blown glass for the new Tower, a new shirt of scale mail for Cap, a robotic goods handling system for a UK company, and a handful of other projects waiting in his inbox.
More than Pepper had expected from him for the entire quarter, given the call to the Arctic.
They didn’t want to overwhelm Steve with new people, so the Hoard was barred to visitors for a while, and they kept business to the outer reaches of the Weyr, but slowly, he started looking around for something to do.
Tony had just the thing.
“Steve, hey! Steve, up and at ‘em!” Tony rumbled, nosing at the bedroom door. He knew Steve was thinking about going out, finally, and finding out what Brooklyn looked like now, or getting street food; he was kinda jonesing for a hot dog, and making Tony hungry again.
“Hey, Tony. Whats up?”
“Let’s go out. I need another pig, definately, and Pep’s telling me we’re fresh out, and I should have mutton, but, uh, no. So,we’re going to the Commons. Do you have your harness yet? Come on.”
It was tiny, and half swallowed, but still, progress!
“Sure, let me just grab it.”
It was on the hook beside the door, obviously, but the unfamiliar buckles gave the capsicle some trouble. Tony waited patiently; his hunger was reflected, so he could wait.
do you have your mark, this time? Pepper asked, from some hundred feet overhead. Even Tony couldn’t reach that high without standing up on his tail, but he craned his head up to put her in view anyway.
would I do such a thing? How uncouth!
She radiated a wordless sense of ‘really?’ and he snorted.
yes, I have it. He plucked the stamp out of his harness and waved it at her. Honestly, I know Steve doesn’t have a cash card, I wouldn’t make such a fuss.
Which was a good point, Steve was definitely owed access to the Weyr coffers, bonded team or not, he was Hoard just as much as Clint and Natasha were.
I’ll get it sorted out, as soon as his birth certificate arrives.
“Tony? You ready?” Steve called from below, and Tony relaxed down to his level again.
“Sure. Do you ride point, or head?” Tony asked, tucking his mark back into his harness at his waist.
“Uh, I don’t mind, Brooklyn Weyr brat, and all.”
Tony nodded, and dipped his shoulder to the landing nearest Steve’s door. Brooklyn Weyr was a lightweight one, the dragons small enough to only command a crew of one, so their brats had to do all jobs. “I can see you, this way. Peggy was nearly my size, did you never have a chance to choose?”
Steve hauled himself up Tony’s shoulder and into the space between his wings. A pang told Tony that he needed to get Steve upstate to visit Peggy soon, but Steve spoke up anyway. “Too busy to settle! Besides, half the time, she was dropping us hot, and going straight into a dogfight.”
Tony laughed, his whole body shaking with it. “She dropped you, didn’t she? from the belly netting! How ignominious!”
Steve thumped him companionably in the wing joint. “It worked, didn’t it? She made it all the way to the twenty first century!”
Tony quieted, still amused, but aware of the very mixed feelings this conversation was generating in Steve. Elation, horror, grief, they were supposed to be going out for lunch not to a wake for Steve’s lost years.
“Yeah. It worked. Secure?”
Steve bounced on his lines, the weight twisting Tony’s harness just slightly, and confirmed, and Tony pushed open the Weyr gates. Unfiltered sunlight streamed in, summer-warm and worth a good bask, Tony would have to make time for that, maybe with a nice engine to tinker with, and a minion or two...
He shook out his wings and, since Steve weathered the shake flawlessly, leapt into the air without further ado. The hot summer sun had built thermals miles high over the city, and Tony slid effortlessly into one, on the tail of a smaller brother headed in the same direction.
On his back, Steve’s breath caught and his mind went silent, awestruck by the spiraling flocks all over the city. Humans and dragons thronged this city, and never was it more visible than on a thermals day. Up and down in companionable streams, dragons soared lazily, even those on the job taking their time in the delicious heat.
“Ah, pardon. sir. Sorry,” said a broadwing, with the bold yellow harness of a taxi, as he overtook them. His back held over thirty passengers, and he winged away lazily towards Longisland.
“My god, Tony...”
“I know, isn’t it amazing?” The whole of Manhattan was technically His, but no one cared, this was New York! Lightweights, Longs, Bantams, they all flew over and under and around them without a single collision or argument, a giant coordinated flock. The days of humans yelling at dragons for landing on delicate roofs was over, and the city was a much friendlier place than it had been in Steve’s time.
Tony didn’t climb too high, out of consideration for the last time Steve took a deep dive, and brought them down in the Common’s central square.
Tony dropped Steve off with a dipped shoulder, and they walked the rest of the way to Tony favorite rotisserie.
“It’s busier, I guess. Good to see so much food.”
Tony swung his head low so Steve didn’t have to shout. “The central USA is one big farm these days, and the Japanese raise the best beef in the world, food technology has come a long way.”
“Buy me that pork, and prove it, mister,” Steve challenged, prompting Tony to half knock him over with a nose bump.
“Three human, one dragon, to go.” The cook raised a claw in acknowledgment, and hit the pedal to start turning the spit. “Mustard and onions on mine. Steve?”
“All the trimmings! We buying for Clint, too?”
The cook gathered a bellyful of fire and started cooking a marinaded pig. The smell made Tony’s mouth water, and Steve’ stomach grumbled. “Steve, you eat enough to feed a small platoon, I’m not going to short change you.”
He felt a rush of embarrassment from the human by his right paw, and turned his head upside down to look at him, only contorting his neck to get him the right way up when Steve looked uncomfortably like he wanted to do a handstand.
“Thanks, Mr. Stark, thats... pretty swell.”
“Well, you humans eat so little, it’s hardly going to make a difference.” Tony let his neck twist back into a more normal position, just in time to watch the human cook carve Steve’s tiny portion off with a buzzsaw, dumping it straight into the open middles of three buns already loaded with onions and ketchup. A quick, artistic squirt of mustard, and the cook held out the order for Steve to pick up.
“Are you sure that’s even enough?” Tony queried, training his right eye on the portion. “I’d barely even be able to taste it.”
“I’ll be fine! Get your own!”
Tony snorted, his ploy successful in relaxing Captain tight-pants, and stamped his mark onto the paybook. The cook held out his pig by the spit, and Tony slid it off the end with the napkin. Walking on his winghands, now, he led the way to the hypocaust, and got them a place to sit down.
A small flock of courrier weights looked longingly at his back, making a very polite ‘please’ with their wings, and Tony flapped his tail vane at them in acquiescence. They swarmed over his back, their small, carefully held claws doing him no harm, and settled in to eat their own lunches. the hypocaust was pleasantly warm, though not too hot, on a day like today, and Tony settled in under their weight comfortably.
Steve dithered until Tony nudged him to sit on his forearm, and they settled in to eat together.
He could feel Steve getting closer, his mind open and relaxed, and this was not the place for it, but maybe it was the perfect moment.
“My Hoard, Steve. You worked it out yet?”
Steve wiped his mouth on his napkin, and nodded. “Scientists, right? Knowledge?”
Tony chuckled. “Almost. It’s people, interesting people, strong people, weak people, dragon people, human people, and... I’d like to invite you, properly, to be in that Hoard.”
Steve went still, chewing thoughtfully.
“When you found me...”
A feeling of togetherness, an intimate connection of minds-- “Yeah, I came close,” Tony confesses, nibbling at his onion stuffing. “You... It wouldn’t have been a good time.”
Steve shrugged. “You’re pretty present,” he tapped his head. “Is now a good time?”
Tony looked at him, in both senses, and felt that same warm, possessive rush. Steve’s brain wasn’t fractured in a hundred different directions now. He was just... lost. Curious, looking outwards, not inwards. The big, painful space left by his best friend’s death was almost overwhelming, but almost was only ‘almost’.
“Well, alright then.” He took a deep breath, the sleepy couriers on his back shifting to accommodate it. “With you be in my Hoard? Open your mind to me? Bond as crew, in the knowledge that I will hold you, keep you, and be insufferably possessive of you?”
“Yeah, Tony. I will.”
“Oh thank god, no, seriously, I am ridiculously possessive, just, you’re mine now, mine, mine, mine. It’s the best. I gotta get you some better clothes, what is this, and there’s an expenses account, I hear it’s the best.”
Steve laughed at him, properly, and flushed a little pink. Already their minds were reaching out, and they didn’t fight it anymore.
They’d be each other’s for good.
Captain and Dragon.