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Tony Stark glared at the Stark Industries board of directors and couldn't decide who he hated more – his father or his father's partner. Given that Obadiah Stane had done his best to kill Tony, twice, that was saying quite a lot. But while the late, unlamented (at least by Tony) Obi might have been a treacherous, murderous bastard; it was Howard Stark's will that had the fossils on the board looking so smug. Or at least the line in it about opening further instructions in the event of Stane's death.

Damned piece of paper had outted Tony in the first sentence. An entire lifetime of hiding who and what he really was undone with a simple, 'My son, Anthony, is an omega.' The rest of the sentence, '…and therefore unfit to run the company on his own,' was the icing on the fucking cake. Right, unfit. He'd been the creative genius behind SI since he was a teenager, but somehow, his damned biology made him a lousy CEO. He ignored the inner voice – sounded a lot like Pepper's – saying, 'No, Tony, it's your personality, not your internal organs,' and fixed his glare on SI's chief counsel.

The old man looked unimpressed – Tony always had hated lawyers especially ones with Twitter accounts they used to make certain the whole world knew about the omega-thing five seconds after the board – and said, "The terms are quite clear, if you do not mate within six weeks after Mr. Stane's death, you forfeit controlling interest in the company."

Dear old Dad had stipulated Tony receive a stipend that would keep him rolling in money for the rest of his life, but without Stane's 'calming' influence on his omeganess, he considered Tony a liability to his legacy. Which meant he either mated or SI would go right back into the weapons business. Of course, even if he went along with this bullshit, there was a good chance his alpha would order him to knock it off and go back to creating better bombs. No wonder they all looked so happy.

Not a one of them wanted to take the riskier road to profits offered by clean energy, when being merchants of death was a sure thing. Fuckers. Should have gotten rid of all of them when he'd had the chance, but he'd thought it better for SI's stock to stabilize from the 'no more weapons R&D' announcement before he started cleaning house.

He considered storming out and telling them good luck on doing things without him. Hell, he owned most of the patents on his work, so he could block its further use in weapons and wash his hands of the lot of them, but … The fucking company would still have his name on it, as would every bringer of death it churned out. He had to close his eyes for a moment against the memory of seeing the company logo stenciled on the side of the missile that had left the shrapnel embedded in his chest. A lifelong souvenir of his time in Afghanistan. But he'd thwarted his captors and his injuries, had survived to sit at this over-priced table with these worthless, visionless alphas, and he'd be damned if he'd be defeated now.

Tony stood up and gave them all his most insincere yet charming smile. "If you'll excuse me, it seems I have a mating ball to plan." A ripple of unease passed over their expressions and well it should. Like the Ten Rings, his board of directors would soon find out, trying to force Tony Stark to do something had dire consequences.

*

Like most alphas, Howard Stark had been visibly appalled when the doctors had presented him with a knotless infant son. An omega. While it had been more than a century since even attitudes labeled betas as less than alphas, even the word 'omega' was always spoken with either distaste or a condescending 'isn't he cute' air. Naturally, Howard, being the prideful man he was, had decided to hide the family 'disgrace.'

A small fortune had been spent to make certain not a scrap of paper or a single word identified Tony as anything less than an alpha, while Tony's own temperament had guaranteed no one would identify him otherwise. From infancy on his friends were all alphas and betas – or at least as far as he knew. More than one obstetrician to the rich and famous had retired early after a hefty 'silence' bonus.

When Tony had reached puberty and headed for MIT, his father had hired a beta from his freshman class to be his assistant. Yes, Tony had actually needed one of those even back then since tending to get so absorbed in his lab work he forgot to do things like eat, sleep or keep appointments had always been a problem, but Pepper Pott's duties had also included posing as his girlfriend. They'd gone with an off-again/on-again sort of relationship vibe while becoming good friends, and until Howard's letter had told the fucking world, she had been the only living person who knew he was omega. She was still among the very few who knew about the arc reactor in his chest. No, she didn't know everything about him -- including one huge gold-and-red hued secret – but Pepper was the first person he always turned to when he needed to talk something out.

"You could always go for an easily manipulated alpha," she said while they went over possible venues for the ball. It was short enough notice they were going to have to throw a lot of money at a non-traditional location even with the Stark name behind the reservation request.

Tony snorted. "That sounds like a quick way to end up battered." Omegas had been left out of most laws reforming beta status, and, as in most things, opinion lagged even further behind. Most viewed a mated-omega as something close to the alpha's property and domestic abuse complaints were mostly ignored. No, Tony's wouldn't be, but that wouldn't save him from the beatings or the front-page scandal. Not to mention, given his mouth, all the comments about him deserving every cut and bruise. As if anyone did. "Pass on that."

She worried her lower lip. "There isn't enough time for you to be certain that won't happen no matter who you choose." She looked and sounded distressed on his behalf.

He sighed. "I know." He didn't know if Howard had assumed there would already be someone of at least mate-potential in Tony's life or if, once again, Tony's well-being had come last in his father's plans, but there was no room for the sort of long courtship someone like him needed to find an alpha who would want him, not his wealth and position.

"Maybe … I know he's angry you didn't tell him before, but Rhodey would marry you." Rhodey more formally known as Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes was one of Tony's better friends, but he was also the military liaison with SI. "And the air force will probably send him." A Stark was damned close to an American version of royalty and when someone of that status held a mating ball, interest groups tended to send candidates along like lobbyists after a politician's vote.

"No," Tony shook his head. "He'd never hurt me, but Rhodey wants SI back in the weapons business." No great wonder since Hammer Industries was the Department of Defense's next best choice, and that was no great choice at all. "He'd see it as his patriotic duty to make it happen." As would anyone sent by the other branches of the service as well as the relatives of every damned businessman hoping for a piece of SI's profit margin.

"I think … that's the answer. You need to pick the front alpha for the organization that wants to back what you're trying to do, not what you did in the past."

She didn't look happy and his own stomach churned. The list would be a short one and wouldn't allow any room for attraction. He'd be condemning himself to the same loveless sort of relationship as his parents, one that swiftly had suppressed his mother's heat cycle so he'd been an only child. "That makes the trick figuring out who sent whom." He'd need to sneak JARVIS into any security system, but one hadn't been invented that could keep Tony out, so no problem.

*

Steve Rogers leaned back against the bulkhead of the SHIELD aircraft and found himself thinking about how little had changed. Odd, given, since to his mind less than eight months ago it had been 1944. That made him either in his 90s or a few months over 31, depending on whether or not someone counted the almost seven decades he's spent frozen solid.

Given the time trapped in the ice, it was fair to say more had changed than he could easily wrap even his super-soldier-serum enhanced mind around, but yet … Here he sat on a military transport, headed back to headquarters with his team after successfully taking out a Hydra base. He snorted softly, the line about 'the more things changed, the more they stayed the same' had been old before he was born, but as they also said, 'the devil was in the details.'

"You doing all right there, Cap?" Clint Barton called over his shoulder as he made some adjustment to the flight controls. Once Steve had managed to fly a plane well enough to guide it into a controlled crash, but he hadn't had the chance to study the logistics of the SHIELD hoverjet. Needed to make that a priority. With only three members to his team, they all needed to be able to handle their transport in and out.

"Fine," he answered. Tired, battered around the edges, but Barton and the woman sitting in the co-pilot's seat could say the same. Natasha Romanoff reminded him a lot of Peggy – strong, deadly and beautiful. It had bothered Steve at first, having a mated pair as his team, but whether they never let it interfere with the job or did it all the better to keep one another safe, Steve could never have asked for finer comrades in a fight. At first it had all been Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow, but one mission had put them at ease in each other's company and on a first name basis. Now, when the two lovers didn't want time alone together, they tended to seek him out for video game or movie marathons. He frowned. "Ready for dinner, though."

Clint laughed. "I hear ya, Cap. We should touch down in time for dinner."

"Only if Fury brings pizza to the debriefing," Natasha pointed out.

Steve shrugged. "We've had worse."

Ninety minutes of swapping stories about 'worse' later, Clint landed the jet on the deck of SHIELD's helicarrier. An aircraft carrier in the sky created by Howard Stark's son. Most of the more fantastic planes, armament and devices also included the description 'Stark whipped it up one weekend.' Hard to believe anyone could be smarter than Howard, but it seems his kid had more than managed it.

Agent Phil Coulson was waiting for them when they deplaned. "Director Fury wants to see you in the conference room," he said, dashing any hopes for a quick detour to the mess. Fortunately, a supreme with extra cheese was also waiting.

Steve grabbed a slice, then settled into a chair. Technically part of being squad leader was doing most of the follow up reporting, but Fury always preferred to get a full team's perspective on things so Steve didn't do much but start things off. All in all it had been a fairly simple operation, extraordinary only in that it had gone almost entirely as planned. Scientists captured or killed, chemical weapons all destroyed.

Fury nodded, seemed pleased, but Steve got the impression his mind had already moved on to something else. "Well, that's one pain out of our asses, but we've got another one warming up." He turned his one good eye on Natasha. "Agent Romanoff, there have been some interesting developments at Stark Industries."

Steve had never met Tony Stark, but he'd heard a lot about him. Most from Natasha, more than half of it less than positive despite the man's obvious creative genius, although there always seemed to be an undercurrent of begrudged affection in there, too. Coulson was Tony's handler, but Natasha had done an undercover stint with the company while Coulson and his team healed up from trying to stop Stane from killing Stark's assistant, a Ms. Potts. Even hearing it first-hand from Phil it had been on the hard to believe side.

Apparently Stane had developed some sort of armored suit similar to one worn by someone the press had dubbed Iron Man. Although Stane's had been bigger, more like a tank in a human shape. He'd mowed through Coulson and the others easily enough, and had closed in on Potts to make the kill. Fortunately for everyone, the nearby arc reactor had blown up, reducing itself, the suit and Stane to pieces so small not even SHEILD's techs could reconstruct anything. Rumor was Stark was going to be brought in on the project which would finally give Steve a chance to meet his old friend's son. A son older than Howard had been the last time Steve had seen him – eight months and two days or seventy some years ago.

"What's Stark up to now?" she asked.

"Turns out your boy is an omega."

She blinked. "Did not see that coming."

"Neither did anyone else. And it gets even stranger. Apparently his father didn't think he could handle things alone and left a provision in his will in the event of Stane's death. Tony has three weeks and counting to either mate or lose the company. The ball is day after tomorrow."

Clint snorted. "Oh, that's going to bring out the sharks."

Steve frowned at the idea of Howard forcing his son into marriage, but Steve had always had old-fashioned ideas about mating. And by old-fashioned he meant they'd been called that when he was a kid, but he believed in finding one's true bondmate, not in mating instincts or expedient matches guiding things.

"Exactly why you're going," Fury said. "All three of you." He stood up. "Stark's a valuable asset and officially one of our consultants. Keep him safe, people."

*

In the end Tony had been forced to purchase a half-finished hotel, then have the ballroom and lobby completed to have a place to hold the damned ball. A total waste of money, but at least the half-finished part meant no guest rooms available. Given less than a century ago the highlight of the evening would have been him on all fours getting fucked for the first time in front of everyone, he was more than happy to keep as many horizontal surfaces unavailable for copulating as possible.

One good side of this mess, he could be a lot louder about his support of omega rights. Even if his alpha would probably use it as an excuse to beat the shit out of him. Oh, well, bright side there, too. Howard's will said he had to mate, not that he couldn't be a widower. Business. It was all about the loopholes.

"Mr. Hogan is here with the car, sir," JARVIS announced.

"Great," he sighed, then fit his earbud into place. "You clear on what I need?"

"Yes, sir," the AI answered. "I am to scan all single alphas, identify them and their affiliations."

Tony nodded and walked out of his bedroom. Pepper was waiting with Coulson. He knew the agent was probably attending on orders, but in the three months since Stane had died his assistant and his babysitter had grown close. Tony had even given him the 'hurt her and die' speech which the guy probably didn't appreciate as much now that he knew a mere omega had been behind it. And no, he didn't have the luxury to sink into a pity party right now.

He needed a clear head and sharp focus if he wanted to get through this night with the least awful option he could find. If not, he had a Plan B. Damn, he wished Howard were still alive so he could break his nose. "Okay, kids," he said, slinging an arm around each of their shoulders, "Let's get this over with."

Pepper gave him an almost watery smile, and throughout the ride she clutched his hand like they were going to a funeral. Coulson looked … inscrutable. At the very least the drive to the hotel, set the bar very low for his expectations.

He decided the construction equipment on the grounds gave the place a certain ambiance, one that said loud and clear the location didn't like this any more than he did. He stopped just outside the ballroom, Pepper and Coulson flanking him, and considered walking away one last time. He could still live the life of a wealthy man, and a few months ago that might have been enough. But now he wanted his life to stand for more than fancy cars and fine food. This was about the legacy of the Stark name and atonement. For that, he needed SI's resources and to make certain his name was never stenciled on the side of another bomb. No, he could not lose control of the company. He took a deep breath and walked into the ballroom.

*

Moving from mud covered by wood planks and unpainted walls into the opulence of the ballroom made many of the guests stop and stare, but after a guy moved from one era to the next in a single nap, it sort of failed to impress. Still, the food looked good. Not that Steve wanted anything in his hands.

He'd walked into fire fights with less tension hanging in the air, but he guessed that was to be expected, given this was as far from Cinderella's ball as it got. He remembered reading about things like this when he was a kid back in Brooklyn. Big, fancy bash so the omegas and alphas of high society could meet up and … mate. Often whether the omega wanted to or not. Steve shook his head. Not everything about the 'good old days' was good. He needed to remind himself of that from time to time. Kept him off his high horse.

Used to duty on the front lines, it had taken Steve some adjustment to this part of the job. Blending in with crowds, knowing where his people were without making obvious eye contact, etc. Not that it was a particular problem tonight. His tuxedo looked like standard issue, and given the way Natasha looked in her evening gown, no one would think a thing about it if he stared at her all night. He frowned slightly. Come to think of it, shouldn't the alphas here for Stark be more interested in him than a gorgeous dame in a gown?

He added that detail into his observations and his stomach began to churn as it became clear at least a third of Stark's suitors were doing a poor job of hiding their preference for beta females. Guess it was a stretch to think a simple thing like sexual orientation would keep an ambitious alpha male away from the Stark fortune. Give him a working stiff's salary any day.

*

"Hey, Nat, nice to see you," Tony said greeting his former employee, smirking at the death glare she gave him at the nickname. Natasha, Natalie, hey, not his fault her real name and her cover name had Nat in common. Made life so much easier which was the only thing easy about this damned night.

"Stark," she said with a nod.

"Here for one of my rebounds?" he asked.

She gave him that 'I can kill you with a thought' glare, but fortunately that was the only thing she bluffed about. "No, to make certain your rebounds take rejection politely."

"I do have people for that," he told her. "Not that I don't appreciate how much SHIELD cares."

An elegant shrug, and damn he liked her style. Pity he couldn't get all hot and bothered over an alpha female. "Orders are orders."

He would have loved to have stayed and banter with her, but his brief respite was apparently over as yet another knothead all but grabbed him and whisked out onto the dance floor. After a moment JARVIS informed him, "George Regan. Nephew of Martin Kernot, sir."

Another damned member of the board. "Not a chance, big guy," he said pulling away as he had done with the other sons, nephews and cousins related to his fucking board of directors. He was about to announce he'd mate with anyone who would help him get rid of every one of the old bastards.

"You're not going anywhere, bitch," Regan hissed, clamping down on Tony's wrist.

Seriously? He had at least ten years and 100 IQ points on this prick and he thought just because Tony's anatomy was designed to take it up the ass versus put it there that he could order him around during a fucking dance? He did a subtle push, twist he'd known since he was a kid, and freed his wrist. The guy's face went red, and he stepped toward Tony instead of backing off. Fine, time to put all those boxing workouts with Happy to use, except a broad hand clamped down on Regan hard enough to make him wobble like his knees wanted to buckle.

The owner of the hand didn't even glance at Regan. Instead he fixed his baby blues on Tony and said, "I believe this was our dance, Mr. Stark?"

He had a look in those gorgeous eyes that said he knew Tony could put the punk on his ass, but maybe creating a scene wasn't the best way to go here. Fine. "Yes, of course," he answered and slipped gracefully into tall, blond and handsome's arms. Nephew vanished the second he was released.

The man's bearing screamed military, while the awkward way he sort of shuffled his feet meant, "You can't dance, can you?"

"No, not really."

Tony sighed, remembering the line about Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in high heels. "Just steer me what direction you want to go and try not to step on my feet."

"Yes, sir."

Oh, yeah, definitely a military man, but JARVIS chose that moment to say, "I'm afraid the gentleman is not in my database, sir."

Not likely. At least not without a lot of covert help. "So did Fury decide to send a prince charming to the ball?"

"I believe in that metaphor you would be prince charming and I'd be Cinderella, but if you want to go with the omega equals demure female stereotype, we can."

Oh, he liked this one. First time all night he could say that and he had to have danced with thirty suitors already. "So that would make you … Major Cinderella?"

A blinding smile answered him. "Captain, actually, but thanks for the promotion. Captain Steve Rogers."

He blinked, all too familiar with that name. "As in …?"

"That's me."

Well, fuck. Even if Fury had decided to send a suitor instead of arranging a meeting on the helicarrier, he sure as hell wouldn't want Tony anywhere near Captain America. "So I take it you're here to guard my ass, instead of ask for it?"

God, help him, the guy blushed as he nodded. And the liking just kept rolling on. Weird as hell since, he'd never liked Cap. Too many stories in his youth that contained the punch line 'why can't you be more like him?' Had meant Tony had passed Capsicle's frozen ass off to Fury when one of SI's expeditions finally found him, and nothing about him turning out to be alive when he'd defrosted had changed his mind about wanting to see him. But Rogers was the first alpha all evening to make his pulse quicken. Maybe … No, he liked SHIELD well enough to work with them from time to time, but Fury was too good at the 'lies within lies' part of his job for Tony to be bound to someone who took orders from him. He needed to stick with the plan. Plan B, since A had proved an utter bust. So he needed to get through this expected farce, then tomorrow he could walk into a bar and hire an alpha to mate him in exchange for a life of luxury on the other side of the planet.

"Thank you for the dance, Captain," he said, stepping back the moment the music ended.

"A pleasure, Mr. Stark," he answered, then turned and walked away while another alpha took his place.

Ten turns around the dance floor later, and, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Tony, sweetheart, don't be that way," Justin Hammer said, replacing Tony's latest partner. Idiot's touch made his skin crawl.

"Don't call me, sweetheart, and no, we're not even going to pretend to do this." Man didn't have an original thought in his head, right down to the name of his company. Hammer Industries, Tony's ass, and no way this poor excuse of a human being was getting his hands on it or SI.

"Tony, Tony, Tony, we could be so great together." God, it was annoying how often he said a person's name.

"Great?" Now there was a word that had no business even existing anywhere near Hammer. "We're talking Hindenburg levels of disaster here." He pulled away or at least he tried to.

Hammer was smaller than him and softer. No way he should have been able to stop his escape or draw Tony even closer.

His muscles felt weak, and his head started to spin. "What …?"

"Like it?" Hammer asked, grinning. "Nerve agent activated by skin-to-skin contact. Oh, but you haven't had the antidote have you? That's a shame."

At least three SHEILD agents in the room, plus private security, and Tony couldn't manage more than a whispered, "Get away from me."

"You should be honored, Tony," he said, steering him into an alcove that lead to a side room. "You're the first field test of this stuff. It's designed to distract the enemy by forcing every beta female and omega into their heat cycle."

No, shouldn't be possible. Heat was a voluntary system so no one could get pregnant who didn't want to.

"The nice helpless thing is a cool side benefit," he went on quickly stripping Tony out of his tuxedo, then pushing him down on a chaise lounge that shouldn't even be there.

"No," Tony hissed, even as his skin began to burn, aching for a touch. "No, don't."

"Now, honey, you don't mean that. I can already smell how wet and ready you are for me," he said, reaching for his fly.

Things began to haze, blurring Hammer's smirk and muffling the sound of the zipper lowering. Tony couldn't even manage a hissed promise to kill the alpha for this. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see even blurred images, but a yelp and a loud thud, made them snap back open. Tried to focus but between his forced-heat and the drug, he couldn't make much sense out of anything, but the figure leaning over him … wasn't Hammer.

Too big, eyes too … blue. He whimpered, remembering those eyes and didn't flinch away from the tentative touch of broad hands, but hissed at the brush of a coat sleeve against his skin. Another whimper, feeble tugs on hated cloth and he found himself nestled against miles of bare skin. Not enough. Still silk between him and what he needed. "No, don't want this," his mind managed to compel the protest even as his hips pressed against the alpha's groin.

A soothing sound answered him, and a broad hand began to gently rub the small of his back, calming him, helping him beyond the drug to escape into sleep.

*

It had taken Steve all of a minute to decide he hadn't liked something about the sight of Justin Hammer leading Stark off somewhere private. Too long, but he'd enjoyed having the omega in his own arms a little too much so he had to give himself a moment to figure out if he was reacting with jealousy or professional concern.

"He hates Hammer," Natasha said, appearing at his elbow.

"Hate sex can be good." Clint on the other side.

"Not when they hate someone as much as Stark hates Hammer," Coulson said, striding past them toward the alcove.

They entered the room in time to hear a very weak, but very clear refusal of attentions, one Hammer seemed to find amusing. Last inside, but the first to reach the alpha, Steve grabbed him and threw him against the far wall with enough force to break bone.

Clint the only beta in the room, the other three exchanged a look at the obvious scent of Stark's heat, but, even accounting for an individual omega's body chemistry, it smelled off. "Something's wrong," Steve said, the wide-eyed fear in Stark's eyes making him reach for the omega before he could think a touch might not be welcome, especially from an unmated-alpha.

But Stark curled toward him, whimpering and tugging at Steve's tux, until somehow he found himself bare-chested and cradling the naked omega against him. Obviously painfully aroused, Stark did another weak tug at Steve's trousers, but by focusing on the wrongness of the heat scent, Steve managed to keep his own arousal in check while he did his best to calm Stark.

"Hammer drugged him," Natasha said, her face grim and her knuckles bloody. Apparently he'd been too focused on Stark to notice a brief, but painful interrogation. "Forced his heat."

Nausea twisted his stomach and he hissed through clenched teeth, "That's obscene."

"Agreed." Coulson's tone was mild and totally at odds with his next words. "I believe it might be best if adoption were Mr. Hammer's only option for future offspring. Driving while drunk can have such tragic consequences."

Clint nodded while a blood-curdling smile crossed Natasha's face and they hustled a barely conscious Hammer out of the room. A moment later Ms. Potts hurried into the room. "Tony?"

"He's all right, Pepper," Coulson assured her. "We got to him in time, but we do have a secondary problem."

They did? Steve looked around the room for another threat, his arms instinctively tightening around Stark. It seemed to be the last assurance the omega needed, because with a soft sigh, he fell asleep.

"Oh, no," she whispered also seeing something Steve had missed.

Coulson must have picked up on his confusion, because he pointed out, "He's obviously imprinted on you, Captain Rogers."

Imprinted? Oh, right, the scramble for skin contact. Shouldn't have let Stark get him half-naked let alone snuggle against him. "But it won't last," he said. Imprinting altered an omega's scent to 'unavailable' in the same way mating did, but unless they actually mated, it would fade.

"Not before the deadline."

Oh, right. Even if Stark could find an alpha willing to overlook the imprinting, the scents wouldn't match and no judge would sign off on the mating. It would cost Stark the company. All because he'd forgotten something as basic as no touching a victim of sexual assault, not to mention an omega in heat. Had to make this right. He had to … "I'll do it. Take him as my mate." He flushed at the choice of words. "Not 'take' take him, but on paper. I can be his mate. He already has my scent so we'd never need to even see each other again." His stomach churned at the thought of that – omegas weren't the only ones who imprinted and part of his mind was already screaming 'mine!' but Stark hadn't asked for this any more than he had Hammer's assault. He had to make this right. He had to.

*

"Tony?"

"Hmm?" Who?

"Tony, I need you to wake up at least a little." Oh, Pepper.

"Umm, too comfy," he protested, snuggling closer to the hard, warm muscle cradling him.

"I need you to sign this. Please, Tony, then you can go back to sleep."

"'romise?"

"Yes, I promise."

Tony roused himself enough to grip a pen, to sign the paper she shoved in front of him. "Sleep, now," he murmured, letting the pen fall to the floor.

"I trust that will suffice, your honor?" Coulson's voice.

"Yes, yes, of course," a strange male voice answered.

Stranger. Something warned Tony of danger, and he tried to force away the drowsiness weighing him down, but strong arms tightened around him. Not with the power of restraint, but enough to reassure him. Safe. He was safe. He went back to sleep.

*

"Steve, last guest just left." There was a kindness in Natasha's voice that just about destroyed him, and his arms tightened around Stark. His husband. His almost mate. Given Stark consulted for SHIELD it was melodramatic to say they might never see each other again, but the next time they met, he'd be nothing but a name on a marriage contract and the guy with whom he'd exchanged a few words during part of a dance.

Steve wasn't going to get off so easy. He'd held his sleeping omega for hours while thwarted suitors, their sponsors and guests ate and drank their way through the night. He'd done more than imprint, he'd all but bonded. Took more than a few words, an alluring scent and a warm body in his arms to truly bond, but Steve wouldn't be getting over this any time soon.

With a sigh, he carefully eased out from underneath Stark, who immediately made a sound of distress. "Shhh, it's all right," he soothed as he quickly set his clothing to rights. Not wanting to manhandle Stark back into his tux, he wrapped him in the tablecloth someone -- Coulson? – had thrown over them mostly to hide the fact his seed wasn't leaking from Stark's backside while the judge made their marriage official.

Lifting him easily, Steve carried Stark to a waiting car, then held him for a few more precious minutes during the drive back to Stark's Malibu estate. But all too soon, he settled him in a bed probably worth more than a month's salary. Stark whimpered again when Steve drew back, but easing a pillow into his arms seemed to calm him. Not the most flattering substitute, but at least it would let him rest. While legally married he felt it too presumptuous to kiss him, but he brushed his hand across Stark's forehead, let the soft silk of the dark hair tickle his skin. Then he did the only thing he could. He left.

*

Tony woke up to find the sun high in the sky. His body felt weak, yet restless, and he remembered he'd been drugged. Hammer. God!

"It's all right, Tony," Pepper's voice soothed him, pulling his attention to a nearby chair. "SHIELD stopped him in time." She stood up and handed him the front section of the newspaper. Hammer didn't warrant a headline or an above the fold mention, but there in the lower left corner was an article about a car accident leaving him in critical, but stable condition.

Reading the damned thing seemed to exhaust him, and he sighed. "Any idea how long the effects of the drug will last?" Never gone through heat before beyond the pseudo-heat caused by the onset of puberty, and he did not like it. At all.

"At least four more days."

Alarm swept through him. "I can't lose four more days."

"Yes, you can." She handed him two more documents. One told him that he'd gotten married during the night to no less than Steve Rogers. The other was a contract releasing all rights to … anything that had anything to do with Tony – his name, his company, his wealth, his property, his body everything. He held in his hand an omega's wet dream, not to mention his attorney's, all signed and notarized. So why did he look at it and see nothing more than the loudest 'don't call me, I'll call you' brushoff of the millennium?

*

Steve took one liberty and one liberty only as Tony Stark's husband. He used the 'clout' to get Stark's AI to accept his emails. He wanted Stark, not chance, to bring about the next meeting between the two of them. So he sent what Ms. Potts had referred to as JARVIS his schedule. Nothing classified, merely a daily notice of where he would and wouldn't be. And if he did so more in the hopes Stark would seek him out than avoid him, no one needed to know but him.

That taken care of he turned his attention to his own 'outting.' Until his name and fingerprint had graced those contracts, his return to the land of the living had been kept under wraps. But Stark was a favorite of the scandal rags and his alpha was big news. Almost as big as the news that Captain America was alive.

*

Tony's doctor put him on bed rest for a week and Pepper moved in for the duration to make certain he didn't get creative with those instructions. So eight hours of sleep and three disgustingly nutritious meals a day it was. She'd even had JARVIS lock him out of his lab so the one time he'd tried to go down there when she'd had a meeting, he'd still been forced to be a good boy. Especially since his cars were housed in his lab.

He'd tried arguing with JARVIS but his AI had exercised the 'I' part of the equation and refused to comply with anything that would so overtly risk Tony's health. Thwarted, he retreated to his bedroom in the, probably, vain hope that his own creation didn't tell on him. And just how was it that he'd ended up taking orders from both his assistant and his AI?

"Sir?"

He scowled at the ceiling, his default when wanting to register his displeasure with the damned thing. "What?"

"I have received a message from War Machine saying Iron Man's was received and he will be on alert until further notice."

Oh, okay. "Thanks."

"I live to serve, sir."

Tony snorted, but mentally crossed 'Iron Man out of action' off his list of immediate concerns. It hadn't been easy for him to keep his other life secret. Not so much on the logistics. He was a genius, and for all the jokes about a virtual model decoy he really had made one, so at the same time Iron Man had fought Stane, several people had seen him on his yacht while he spoke franticly on the phone with Pepper to help her blow up the arc reactor and save Iron Man. Weird to live through, but an effective alibi. He'd used Stane's habit of selling weapons under the table to muddy the waters further, leaving sporadic evidence here and there to suggest he'd also sold some of Tony's intellectual property as well, so he could continue to use the non-weapon aspects of the armor in other ways. And finally a modification of the same stealth system he'd designed into SHIELD's helicarrier masked his armored comings and goings, so hiding who he was, wasn't really a problem. But he'd lived in the spotlight so long he craved it at times, and he found it annoyingly difficult to refrain from jumping up and down and shouting 'it's me, it's me' every time someone praised Iron Man's actions.

But it had also left the problem of what happened when Iron Man couldn't respond. Something re-enforced by his palladium poisoning scare. By all rights he should be dead now, killed by the very device that kept him alive, but he'd found a case full of his father's old journals while doing some security upgrades at SHIELD's New York headquarters. Mostly dated stuff, but he'd been on to something shortly before he died – the creation of an element Howard had been convinced existed on other planets but had never quite formed here. Tony played with the concept and ta da, brand new element to power the arc reactor core and a patent poised to change the face of world energy. But, yes, he'd almost died. Before he'd finished destroying every weapon Stane had sold to terrorists. And from that War Machine had been born.

He'd had to develop a different power source for Rhodey's silver armor which left it flight capable, but without the raw energy to use the repulsors as weapons. Not really a problem since he knew the man he wanted to put in the suit would prefer more conventional weapons anyway. Flash forward a few months and Rhodey had found an unexpected package waiting in his quarters along with a note, Even a superhero needs back up. JARVIS made certain all contact between the two of them was untraceable by outsiders and Rhodey. He'd felt better having someone out there who could take over for him. He'd just never expected to need to use it because he'd gone into heat.

Tony sighed and decided to get his daily dose of masochism out of the way. "So what's the fan club saying today?"

He'd programmed JARVIS to understand sarcasm – necessary when the AI had to interpret what Tony meant versus what he sometimes said, although it had the unfortunate side effect of JARVIS learning how to use as well as translate it – so the far wall filled with multiple screens of people and blogs basically eviscerating him with words. JARVIS had even categorized them.

First there were the ex-one-night stands going on about how he'd gotten them drunk before sex. He supposed they had to say something to keep from dying of terminal embarrassment. Since an alpha male simply didn't take it up the ass, Tony, like most closet-omegas, had resorted to female-betas as sex partners. Except he'd had his own genius and money behind the prosthetic knot he used to hide his non-alpha status. Since knotting happened only between mates – the intimacy of the 30-60 minutes knotted together, not the sex itself, being what formed the bond between mates – all he'd needed to design was something that felt real and enlarged properly as it rested against the vaginal entrance. Not all that difficult, although it had always felt awkward on his end. More than once he'd wished Howard had at least let his ego rest enough to pretend he'd sired a beta instead of an alpha, but no such luck. In any case, people in general liked to think it was obvious when bedding a false-alpha, so all those lovely ladies who had smirked about time spent between his sheets had a lot to live down. Whatever.

Given alpha-simulated sex wasn't what he desired, a good half the time, he'd simply picked up the hottest, drunkest beta-female in the room and let her pass out in his bed while he retreated to the workshop. But he'd gone through with the act often enough to warrant the next category of 'why Tony Stark sucks.' He was a slut, a total manwhore. Which was totally fine until the first tweet about his omega status hit the net.

No, most omega's weren't virgins when they mated, and certainly next to none were by his own age, but there were a lot of double standards about omegas and sexual experience. So while few would look down on him for two or three non-mate sex partners, the excess that so many had smirked over in the past now was looked upon as obscene or even a sign of mental imbalance. Since no self-respecting alpha would have a thing to do with him, this all lead to the natural assumptions of category four – he'd entrapped his husband by going into heat at his omega ball, which, in direct contrast to the 'good old days,' was simply not done.

Fox News particularly enjoyed venting outrage at his behavior – past and present. The Captain America lives news had broken around five minutes after his marriage contract had been filed, adding howls about Tony having despoiled a national icon and hero to the fire. He could have put a stop to most of this by releasing the evidence SHIELD had put together about Hammer's drug and a conspiracy by his board of directors to use Hammer as plan B should their own first choices not pass muster, but he'd opted for a higher payoff. He'd exchanged an agreement of silence for resignations and the avoidance of a scandal that would make SI stock plunge even further. He'd also forced them to turn over every share they owned. It had left him with a full 70 percent of SI shares and free to replace the lot of them with individuals who shared his new focus on clean energy. But it had also deprived him of any defense against his attackers.

Jury was still out on whether Captain America's terse press conference saying no, fingerprints didn't lie and he really was alive, not to mention nothing had happened he did not want to happen and he had no regrets about being Stark's husband had helped or not. Might have been a little more convincing if he'd managed a smile or maybe had called Tony something more sentimental than 'Mr. Stark.' But at least he hadn't blown the whole 'mouth shut if you get the hell out of my company' deal.

Speaking of Fox News, they had a flashy graphic up demanding, 'Is Tony Stark pregnant?' "Focus in on Fox."

"If I must, sir," JARVIS answered with extreme distaste even as he enlarged the image and engaged the sound. Made Tony feel like he had someone on his side while he listened to the morning crew go on about the risks of a pregnancy at his age and how utterly unfit a father he'd make. Couldn't argue with any of that, but at least he didn't have to start a new category file.

"JARVIS, have SI issue a statement that I don't have a miniature-Capsicle in my oven."

"Of course, sir. Should I have them use those words?"

He rolled his eyes. "Keep it up and I'll lend you out to Muzak."

"I quake in terror, sir."

"See that you do."

*

With the press in a frenzy, Fury benched Steve for a few weeks, and he spent the time either in the gym or studying every word/video clip ever written/recorded about Tony. Yes, Tony. Watching tapes of the press conference he'd winced at the 'Mr. Stark' he'd used when referring to him and had made it a point to think of him as Tony from that moment on so it never happened again. In any case, given his husband had been in the public eye since birth, there was quite a lot to wade through. Next to none of it flattering. Boggled his mind how vicious people were even as they reaped the benefits of Tony's genius. And reading between the lines, he decided if he ever had a chance to go back in time and meet up with Howard again, he'd punch the bastard instead of hug him.

He ached to go to Tony, to help him. Figured keeping him from doing something rash like forcing his way into his husband's life was half the reason Natasha and/or Clint usually sat with him. He appreciated the support and the deterrent, but he kept thinking, 'Tony's going through this all alone.'

*

"Come on, Pepper, don't cry," Tony pleaded, frantically handing tissues to the strongest person he knew while she all but wailed.

"But … but you're giving up your company," she sobbed, even in her distress too kind to say he was letting public opinion drive him out.

He shook his head. "No, I'm just handing over the CEO crap to you. And you know how much I've always hated that shit." Totally true, besides, "It's not like I haven't made you do all of it for years without the title." Also true, and it irritated him to no end he hadn't thought to hand over the business reigns to her officially five seconds after he'd put Obi in a box. Well, multiple boxes.

"You're just saying that to make me feel better!"

He gave her an incredulous look. "You've been hounding me every day since I took the damned job to live up to my responsibilities. And when I didn't, you took care of things for me. Right?"

She nodded.

"Don't you think it's about time you got the credit and salary that goes with having to make all those decisions for me?"

She worried her lower lip.

Oh, hell. "That was a trick question. It absolutely is and long overdue at that." He sighed. He knew it was the timing messing her up. All the attacks on him and the wholesale resignation of his slime-ridden board had sent SI's stock crashing down only months after it had finally recovered from his closing the weapons manufacturing division. If he didn't want a flat out financial disaster, he really had no choice but to resign as CEO. "Honestly, Pep, I've been thinking about doing this for months." Had almost done it when he'd been dying, but he'd discovered the answer before he could go through with it, and had decided to wait. "I just wanted Stark Tower to be operational before we made it official so I could point to it and say 'that's her baby' whenever anyone said you didn't have what it took to do the job."

"Really?"

He nodded. "JARVIS, tell her."

"Mr. Stark drafted the outline for the exchange of power on October 3 of last year."

"See? Almost four months ago." She stopped crying, and Tony went to the workshop sink to wet a washcloth for her. "I'll still be on the board, have the majority of stock, and of course, remain the devastatingly handsome genius behind everything. It's all win-win for me." He sighed, handing her the cloth so she could wipe the salt off her face. "But I've fucked things up enough it's going to be rough on you."

She might be his best friend, but she was also an employee he'd compensated handsomely for all the crap she had to put up with and there might not be enough money in the world to make up for what she would have to endure once the announcement was made. She might very well end up saying 'to hell with this' and walking right out of his life as well as his company. The very thought made bile burn the back of his throat, but there was too much at risk, too many jobs on the line, so he sucked it up and played his final card, "Please, Pep, I don't think I can do this without you."

"All right, Tony. I'll do it."

*

Steve put his fist through a re-enforced wall when Stark Industries announced Pepper Potts would be assuming the positions of CEO and Chairwoman of the Board. It took almost a full day for the bones in his hand to heal.

*

To his disgust, Tony's doctor insisted he go through a true heat to make certain Hammer's drug hadn't done any permanent damage to his reproductive system. "Why?" he demanded, knowing his chances of ever having a baby had dropped from slim to none since Rogers wanted nothing to do with him.

His doctor gave him a mystified look. "You have a good five years before you might go through menopause and a younger mate who might change your mind about wanting children."

Tony rolled his eyes, but wasn't about to go into the details about the likelihood of that. "Fine." Three days later his body was less than thrilled with him and he had to spend a lot of quality time with a dildo, but it felt more … organic than the drug-induced heat.

Between … workouts, he found his thoughts clearer and he found himself tinkering with the plans for the almost completed Stark Tower. He had designed two separate living areas for himself – a luxurious penthouse and a small apartment off his personal workshop for the days he wouldn't interrupt his work until he was too tired to even ride an elevator up to his official home.

Pepper had a full floor of her own, and he'd smirked when he wrote 'Coulson' on the apartment below hers. But if he was giving her lover a luxury apartment, could he do less for his own husband? Sure Rogers had made it clear he didn't want to see him again, but he had his Malibu estate and could easily not be in residence whenever the alpha was home. Even if that proved impractical, Tony had a private garage in the sub-basement levels and an equally private elevator. They could easily avoid each other. He frowned. He'd hacked Rogers' file and had discovered his husband lived at SHIELD Headquarters or on the helicarrier. Meant he'd been assigned a bedroom and bath area. Everything else was communal. All sorts of ridiculous when he was married to a Stark. Besides, he might not like Captain America, but he owed Steve Rogers big time.

He knew the alpha was unlikely to go for it, that he'd probably take up permanent residence in the helicarrier rather than even live in the same city with Tony, but he decided fuck it and gave Rogers a floor of his own to call home if he wanted it. Given how isolated being from another time could make a man, he decided Rogers probably considered his team family and assigned another floor to Natasha and her mate, Barton. Since there might be others he didn't know about, he blocked out three more one-per floor apartment suites, then set about designing a workout area worthy of two SHIELD assassins and a super-soldier. At least it passed the time, and, hey, it gave him plenty of sweaty fantasy fodder when he had to reach for the dildo.

*

Steve started the evening of May 4 on the SHIELD HQ observation deck watching Stark Tower light up right on schedule. He couldn't find much beauty in modern buildings, but he had to admit it was an impressive sight given the building had been disconnected from the city power grid. A new prototype arc reactor powered the whole thing, and would, according to press releases, for the next year. For security's sake, not a single outside tenant would be allowed, but, if the arc reactor worked as planned – and it looked to be doing just that -- projections were the building would pay for itself within a week in new investors to SI.

Knowing he'd had nothing to do with the reactor or Tony, he felt guilty for the surge of pride, but not for the satisfaction over how many of Tony's critics would have to eat their words over the next few days. "You did it," he whispered into the night. "You showed them all."

A minute later all hell broke loose. Loki had stolen the tesseract and Barton.

*

"Natasha has been sent to collect Dr. Banner," Coulson said and Tony fought the impulse to glare at him. When the agent had arrived, he'd assumed it was to share a congratulatory glass of champagne with Tony and Pepper, but it seemed over the last few hours the Avengers Initiative had gone from scrapped theory, to active. "Fury wants you on the helicarrier to assist."

He nodded and activated the file. Holographic data on the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man spilled into the room.

"Iron Man hasn't been seen for months," Pepper said, and no, he hadn't. Between suffering through two almost back-to-back heats and getting the Tower operational, Tony had been too exhausted for a mission. Fortunately, nothing War Machine couldn't handle had come up, so he'd been able to concentrate on using the armor for more domestic work like taking the Tower off the city power grid. In the process he'd overtaxed the stealth mode. Looked like vacation was over.

"Can you call in War Machine?" she asked.

"He has his hands' full in Syria, but we're confident Iron Man will make an appearance."

Tony sighed at the almost smug tone. He guessed it had been too much to hope for that Coulson wouldn't figure it out and if he knew, Fury did. But he doubted the suspicion had spread any further. They'd want the kind of control being privy to his biggest secret would give them and be jealous of sharing it. Fine. "Tell Fury, I'll be there," he said without turning around. "In the meantime, I believe Pepper needs a ride to LaGuardia."

"My pleasure."

Pepper appeared at his shoulder and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Take care of yourself, Tony."

"Do my best," he answered. All he could promise given even a quick look at the files. Looked like he was in for one hell of a reunion with Rogers.

*

Bothered by how easily Loki had surrendered, the combative way Thor had joined the party, and the abrupt appearance of Iron Man, and Banner's obvious discomfort in being here, Steve sat at the conference table feeling like things were going to go from bad to worse before they got better. Tony's sudden entrance fit right in with that theme. He didn't even glance at Steve.

Instead he launched into an explanation of why Loki had needed the iridium with a side rant about how could Fury possibly operate the helicarrier with only one eye?

"He turns," Maria Hill informed him with a frostiness that reminded Steve of his long arctic sleep. Not particularly impressed with Tony's manners, it still made him bristle with the need to protect his mate.

"Sounds exhausting," Tony said.

Steve knew the feeling especially a few hours later when he told himself he needed to check in on Tony and Banner. He almost gaped as Tony turned the full force of his mind and his sarcasm on Steve and his instinctive defense of SHIELD. By the time he'd crossed the threshold to escape the scathing wit, he found he couldn't blame Tony. Something was going on and it was time he did some checking on his own.

*

Tony felt like he wanted to crawl out of his skin in the same wrong way he had during the forced-heat. He had from almost the moment he'd taken off the suit and stowed it away in a security closet he'd designed for himself. At first he'd chalked it up to meeting Rogers again, but the disappointment of discovering his husband was nothing more than a brainless SHIELD stooge should have drowned his lingering not-wanted anxiety, but if anything it was getting worse. Not the best time for Fury to show up and start making excuses for using the tesseract to create weapons. Oddly, it didn't even get better when Steve arrived with the prototype for one of them, proving he was not merely a mindless lackey.

Should have been happy, but, "What the fuck do you care what I think? You washed your hands of me before I even woke up!"

Steve glared back. Steve, shouldn't he be Rogers? "I couldn't stay! You were drugged!"

"I haven't been for months!"

"You knew where I was!"

"Only because you made it clear you didn't want to see me!"

"What? No, I wanted you to come to me!"

Big hands on his hips, then strong arms around his body, pulling him close, pulling him into the kiss he'd been dying for since their dance. Of course that was when the world blew up.

*

It had been easier to decide to crash the plane into the arctic than to leave Tony in the middle of an attack, but he grit his teeth and managed it by telling himself the only way to keep his mate safe was to fight. At least Iron Man showed up by the time Steve reached engine 3, so Tony was talking them both through the repairs. But the price was too high.

*

Tony was halfway out of his battered suit when Fury announced Coulson's death over the com. "Oh, God," he whispered, sinking to the floor. He'd liked Coulson and felt cold all over at the thought of never hearing one of his damned deadpan putdowns again, but worse, oh, so much worse – how was he going to tell Pepper? He moaned softly at how much pain he knew this would cause her.

The sound brought an instant response. "Tony? Where are you?" Steve.

The thought of a warm comforting embrace to chase away the ice in his blood almost made him answer, but no. He'd seen Steve's face after the explosion, seen how much the alpha had wanted to forget everything and stay with Tony. If he found out he was Iron Man he'd either fight him about putting the suit back on or spend all his time trying to protect Tony. Either way his focus wouldn't be where it had to be. Tony would have no choice but to sit this one out, but he owed it to Pepper to see it through. "I'll meet you in the conference room."

*

Steve clenched his fists in frustration. On top of his own sorrow for Coulson's loss, he wanted to scream when Tony avoided his touch. He understood something had happened in the lab to make them say and do things they never would have normally done in front of others, but at least on his part, every word wrung out of him had been the truth.

Another alpha might have blamed distraction over this on his omega figuring out Loki's plan, but Steve believed in determination and doing what was right, not in self-deception. He went to organize the others while Tony hurried off to do what he could to repair Iron Man's armor. He didn't really expect to see his husband again this side of the fight, but Tony was waiting for them just outside of Clint's room. "Can I have a minute?"

"I'll meet you on the flight line," he told his teammates. "I don't have much ti-"

Tony's kiss cut him off a quick, but deep touch. When he drew back, he said, "I just wanted to do that once without anyone else's influence."

He nodded. "Stay safe, omega."

"You, too, alpha."

*

His tussle with the engine rotor having brought down the final curtain on the stealth mode, anyone looking toward the top of Stark Tower saw Iron Man landing on the penthouse balcony, but he'd deliberately designed the building so no one could see him walk along the armor removal platform. At least no one but Loki.

"So an omega is the great Iron Man," he smirked as Tony moved toward the bar. "You humans are full of surprises."

Tony shrugged. "Only if you underestimate us, but it's understandable. We tend to do a lot of that ourselves."

*

The lack of glow from the center of Iron Man's chest plate making his stomach clench in dread, Steve ripped off the front of the helmet. The pale face it revealed made his own heart seem to stop. "No, Tony," he groaned, dropping to his knees beside his fallen mate. "Don't –"

The Hulk roared and Tony's body convulsed, the light shown and his eyes snapped open. "What? Whoa. Oh, did you kiss me?" he asked looking all alive, beautiful, and confused. "Tell me you kissed me."

He smiled so hard it hurt. "I was just getting to it."

*

Cap, the fucker, benched him. Tony had been hurt, he said. Tony had argued his stupid reactor had shut down for a few seconds, but he was fine now, and beyond the almost died drama, he wasn't really banged up more than anyone else. Their fearless leader -- and did 'heat of the battle' elections really count? Because Tony was seriously reconsidering his vote – had given him an assessing look and had pointed out the suit was too damaged to be relied on so go get some sleep. Might have thrown a damnit in there, but Tony had been too busy seething to be certain as he watched the others file out to go assist with rescue work.

SHIELD had arrived within moments of Tony's fall from wherever and had taken Loki off their hands while their techs helped Dr. Selvig dismantle the portal device. Totally not needed here and no way in hell he was taking a fucking nap while people could still be trapped by debris. "JARVIS," he snapped the moment Steve's star-spangled ass vanished into the elevator, "get the Mark V armor ready."

"Is that wise, sir? Captain Rogers seemed most adamant –"

"I have a signed document saying loud and clear he doesn't get to be the boss of me," Tony muttered heading for his workshop. Tony always had one armor in development, one in use, and an older version in working order as backup. Given the invasion they'd been facing, he'd needed the upgrades of the Mark 7 so he'd risked pulling it into service after the helicarrier engine had its way with the Mark 6, but the prior model would do for the heavy lifting needed for search and rescue. But he had to do two more things before he became Iron Man again.

First he swapped out his arc reactor. No way was he using it a second longer until he'd had a chance to figure out exactly what his nuke-ride to the stars had done to it. Which left the second thing. "JARVIS, call Pepper."

He'd tried to reach her when he'd thought he was going to die. Thought he'd owed it to her to say goodbye, tell her he was Iron Man so his death was going to mean something and thank her for being his friend. He'd been almost relieved when she hadn't picked up. Worst part of that presumed one-way ride had been it meant he couldn't be there for her when she found out about Coulson. But he'd lived and could be, but first? First, he had to tell her.

"Tony?" she answered almost immediately, but there was a lot of background noise. Sounded like a helicopter powering up. "My God, where are you? Are you all right?"

"Fine, SHIELD got me out before the bad guys showed up." He hated lying to her again, but she had enough to deal with right now.

"I'm so glad to hear that, but I can't talk right now. I have to get to the hospital."

"What? What's wrong? Are you hurt?" She should have been safe on the way back to California after a stopover in Washington.

"No, but Phil was. They had to do surgery and I need to be there when he wakes up."

Son of a bitch! He was going to fucking dismember Fury. "That's great, Pep."

"What?"

"I mean great that he's going to be okay. He is, right?"

"They think so."

"Tell him I'm glad," and he was. He hadn't really known how much he liked the guy until that lying sack of shit had told them he was dead. "Oh, and, Pep, if you could tell him that when Fury is in the room, that'd be great."

"Do I even want to know?"

"Absolutely not, but I'll tell you later anyway." Along with everything else. "And, in case I haven't said it recently, I love you."

"I love you, too, Tony. Stay safe!"

Fortunately she hung up before he had to lie again. "Let's suit up, boys," he said, stepping onto the platform. As he donned his armor, he told JARVIS to get the building reactor ready for outside taps. It had been part of the router system he'd set up on the undersea cable. Yes, it took Stark Tower off the grid, but it would also allow his building to keep most of Manhattan going for a two months.

"And push the final construction on the next reactor. Make sure it's done right, but we're going to need it ahead of schedule."

"Yes, sir."

His faceplate snapped into position. Time to rejoin the party.

*

Steve heard the already familiar sound of Iron Man coming in for a landing and scowled. Contrary to popular belief, Steve cussed. He'd been in the front lines of a war, of course, he cussed, but mindful of being around civilians, he settled for upping the wattage on his glare. "I thought I told you to stand down, Iron Man."

Tony shrugged. "Changed into my formal wear so I'm good to go. You coordinating or am I going solo?"

He sighed. He was hardwired to protect his mate, but there was no denying Tony could handle himself or that they needed his muscle. Time to concede defeat and live to fight about it another day. "Let's put your scanners to work, then. Relieve Thor, and he can help Hulk get rid of those …."

"Big ass ugly nightmares?"

In spite of everything a smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "I think disposing of them is going to be an even bigger nightmare, but SHIELD's given us a staging area to dump all the alien remains."

"Of course, they did," he answered, lifting off again, but he paused a few feet up. "By the way, Fury lied. Coulson's alive. I'll leave it to you to tell the other kids."

Steve stared for a moment, then, civilians be damned, cussed a blue streak.

*

Digging out the survivors proved grueling work given how many had not made it. Between the alien weapons, falling stone and shattered glass hundreds had been killed or horribly injured. But with JARVIS' help, Tony managed to find anyone with a pulse still beating. The armor, the rescue crews or his teammates did the rest.

Night fell while they worked, and Stark Tower glowed with light, helping everyone see while powering rescue equipment when emergency generators failed. Somewhere he knew his public relations people were having orgasms and that reminded him. "JARVIS," he said while using his repulsor to cut threw a beam blocking workers from at least five heat signatures, "we need to get that Avengers merchandise to the stores ASAP." He'd had the foresight to know the Avengers Initiative going active would mean a disaster like this, and disasters required relief funds. So he'd had his people create a series of toys and posters around the members he'd known Fury wanted – Captain America, Thor, the Hulk and Iron Man. Had a whole warehouse full of the stuff ready to go with all profits designated for rescue and clean up. "And monitor all film about the incident. See how clear Nat and Barton's faces are. If their covers are blown, we'll need to get action figures of them in the works, too." Not to mention settling them into post-spy lives.

"Of course, sir."

"And start a damage inventory on the Tower." Had looked like mostly cosmetic damage to the outside with the interior limited to the penthouse area, but he needed to make certain there hadn't been any hidden structural damage.

"Right away, sir. Shall I mop the floors while I'm at it?"

"Yeah, we're having guests." Didn't take a genius to know all of them would keep going until they dropped, and he had floors of apartments a lot more comfortable to crash in than the street.

The Hulk faltered first, transforming back into an exhausted Bruce Banner when sorrow began suffocating rage. He collapsed the moment he became human again. Fortunately Barton was nearby. "Banner's down," he said over the comlink, his own voice rough with exhaustion, reminding Tony the beta had been through a hell of a lot before the battle even started.

"Take him to the Tower," he answered. "You all have rooms there. JARVIS will guide you."

"Um, right."

"Natasha, go with them," Steve ordered. "Make sure they get there." A polite way for one alpha to tell another to stand down.

"Acknowledged," she answered.

Tony switched over to a line linked only to Steve. "You going to try that with me again?"

Steve sighed heavily. "Can that suit get you home if you pass out?"

"Yes, but I won't."

"Then no, I'm not going to try that with you."

"Good," he said, jetting off to the next heat signature.

*

By dawn both the rescue dogs and Tony's scanners failed to find a single remaining sign of life in the rubble, turning the remaining work into recovery and rebuilding. Relief crews arrived and Steve put his foot down. "Iron Man, report to the Tower, now."

There was a long pause and Steve wondered if he'd fallen asleep inside his suit, but finally Tony asked, "Are you going back?"

"Yes, damnit, now get your ass moving."

"Language, Cap," he murmured, but a moment later he landed next to Steve. "Want a lift?"

A clear 'not budging until you do' if Steve had ever heard it. He put his arms around metal-covered shoulders. "Let's go."

Apparently Tony was too tired to think to switch over the com because he asked, "JARVIS, landing pad status?"

"Surprisingly functional, sir, but your living quarters will need some repairs before being pressed into service."

Tony made a whining sound, but before Steve could respond they were landing on the penthouse balcony. Instead of following him directly into the room, Tony moved along an elevated walkway while various robotic arms removed his suit. Once it was gone Tony stopped, glancing wistfully toward what Steve assumed was his bedroom.

He looked gray with exhaustion, and he swayed like the mere effort of standing up would soon be beyond him. "I'll be in my –"

Steve really didn't care what he had to say, and cut him off by swooping him up into his arms. "JARVIS?"

"Yes, Captain Rogers?" a voice answered from the wall or the ceiling.

"Do I have quarters here?"

"Yes, sir, four levels down."

"I feel like I should object to this," Tony said as he was carried into the elevator. "I can walk."

Steve snorted. "No, you can't. You could have an hour or so ago, but now you get carried."

"I'm-"

"An omega. My omega, and you will damn well let me take care of you after everything you put me through."

Tony huffed, but rested his head against Steve's shoulder and stopped vibrating with tension. "Fine."

"Fine."

Steve emerged from the elevator into a huge apartment. He was too tired for anything else to register. Instead, he carried Tony into the bedroom, got them both stripped down, then curled up with him on the bed. Steve fell asleep within seconds, but not before making certain Tony already had.

*

Tony woke up with the morning sun which seemed unlikely given he felt like he'd slept longer than an hour or so. "JARVIS, what day is it?"

"It is 7:45 on the morning of May 7, sir."

He'd slept for two full days? Irritated at his weakness, he stumbled into the bathroom, brushed his teeth with a new toothbrush, then showered just to clear his head. When he emerged feeling a little more human he found a pair of boxers, jeans and one of his t-shirts sitting on the top of the dresser. "Where is everyone?"

"Captain Rogers is in his kitchen preparing breakfast. The others are still sleeping."

He smirked slightly. Steve and Nat were both alphas; Barton and Banner, betas, although Banner hovered in some sort of genetic limbo where he was almost an alpha, which undoubtedly had caused some of the instability that let him turn into a rage monster in the first place; and Thor was ...? As far as Tony knew, Asgardians didn't have alpha-beta-omega sub-types, but given the guy was badass enough to have 'God of Thunder' as part of his title, Tony figured he had to go into an honorary alpha category. And then there was him. The lone omega of the group. Yet the only one who had slept less than he had was an alpha modified by super-soldier serum. Was it immature to want to tweet that as proof he wasn't inferior? And if he did, would it prove the opposite?

Tony sighed, guessing the fact he still felt like he could sleep another week meant crowing about being awake would probably bite him in the ass. For a brief moment he even considered lying back down, but how he felt now was as likely to be from sleeping too much as too little. Some coffee and a few hours in his workshop would sort him out, he decided. A plan in mind, he opened the bedroom door, then had to clutch at it when the smell of food made him feel light-headed. Right, two days asleep and at least another day since he'd had more than a quick power bar.

Pride screamed at him to make for the elevator, told him he had … something edible in the workshop. Didn't he? Yes, he did. More power bars and a coffee maker. All he needed, but … God, that bacon smelled good. And coffee already made. He found himself hovering in the kitchen doorway before he'd made the conscious decision to even move.

Steve was moving an omelet from a pan to a plate. Looked like something out of a cookbook instead of the mess resulting from Tony's pathetic attempts, and it made his stomach growl with want.

"Morning," Steve said, adding four strips bacon crisped just the way Tony liked it. "Come eat your breakfast."

His breakfast? Again he seemed to move before thought and found himself sitting at the table with a piece of bacon in his mouth. So good. So hungry. He'd devoured all of the bacon and half the eggs before he managed to recover any sense of manners and he had the grace to flush. "Sorry," he said softly.

A chuckle answered him. Not a mocking sound, but a good-natured one. "I inhaled an entire box of cereal, dry, before I could even think about making breakfast."

Yes, his enhanced metabolism would have made his hunger even worse. "But you're all right?"

Steve nodded. "But I think I'll be ready for second breakfast in an hour or so," he said, sitting down next to Tony.

Second breakfast? "That's a Hobbit thing, right?" he asked, after a sip of coffee.

"Yes, I read it between battles." He gave Tony a rueful smile over the top of his own mug. "Read the trilogy between missions."

"More things change?"

"Exactly."

Tony frowned, glancing around the kitchen. Like the rest of the suite – all of the suites he'd set up, it was filled with state-of-the-art gadgets and high-quality furnishings, but utterly devoid of personality. "I'm sorry about all this," he said waving his hand to take in all the generic elegance surrounding him. "I didn't know any of you well enough to personalize things, but you can make any changes you want. The others, too." Or at least they could once small things like 'I want a different dresser' had any place in the city again. That could take some time even with all the money and labor SI was pouring into things. He brightened, "But I designed the gym with you and Nat in mind. And there's an archery range for Barton." He'd already offered Banner a lab, but he didn't really have anything special for Thor. What would the God of Thunder want or need?

Steve's hand touched his wrist, interrupting an impending meltdown over not having provided adequately for a guest. "It's all fine, Tony. It's overwhelming even, especially since I didn't think you wanted me in the same city with you."

"I was going to stay in California," he admitted.

"'Was.' You're staying now?"

The implications of that question were on the staggering side, and Tony stalled by sipping some more coffee. Finally, he said, "Iron Man is an Avenger." Except it came out a lot more like a question than the firm statement he'd meant and he winced internally. But it was a question, wasn't it? The others could say no, would say no even if they thought he'd proven himself, but Steve refused. Paper or no paper, Steve was still his alpha.

Steve sighed, "It goes against every instinct I have."

Tony knew this. An alpha always tended to protect non-alphas and to go overboard with omegas, but their own omegas? What he was asking Steve to accept was … well, pretty damned close to a superhuman effort, but then Steve was a superhero. "I am Iron Man."

He needed him to understand that. It wasn't a suit he put on, it had become most of who he was, and there were so many ways Steve could take it all away even without the legal rights he'd surrendered. Mostly all he'd need to do was tell the world an omega was inside the armor, then let lawsuits, governments and the military do the rest. "Just like you're Captain America. Take it away and …" He paused to consider the 'and.' Neither of them was nothing more than a costumed identity, but it was a huge part of who they were. "And there's a huge hole left. Maybe one too big to climb out of."

After a few moments Steve said, "I woke up a few hours ago, and I've spent most of the time thinking about it." Another rueful smile. "Mostly how I could stop you from ever going near that suit again without totally destroying you, but … I once told my best friend that guys were laying down their lives during the war and I didn't have any right not to do the same. You've got something like that driving you."

Tony nodded.

"Means I'm not going to be able to stop you anymore than Bucky could stop me." He looked so sad Tony couldn't help shifting from his chair to sit in Steve's lap so he could hold him. Steve's arms tightened around him, almost to the point of pain and the breath he drew in sounded ragged. "It's going to be hard for me, Tony. And you're going to have to be able to tell when I'm ordering you to do something you don't want to versus forgetting and trying to protect you."

Given how much Tony hated taking orders it wasn't going to be easy for him either, but the stakes were high enough, he'd find a way. "I will."

Steve shuddered. "I ordered the portal closed. Too soon, I…"

"No," he hissed, biting down on Steve's earlobe hard enough to sting. "There was a nuclear shock wave right behind me, and knowing you, you gave me more time than you should have."

"I … I won't be able to give that order next time. Fate of the world be damned, I won't."

"Then let Nat do it. Like you may have to for Barton." It was the logical solution and also reminded his alpha that he wasn't facing anything Natasha hadn't for as long as Steve had known her.

He nodded, and slowly stood, giving Tony time to get to his own feet, but no. Instead he tightened the arms around Steve's shoulders, and lifted his legs to wrap around his alpha's hips. It made Steve shudder and his cock rise to press against Tony. "This is going to get you mated, omega."

A warning, a last chance to escape, to keep their marriage 'in name only.' It didn't work for Tony anymore. "I liked you when we first danced," he admitted. "Since then you've saved me and gave me freedom when others would have all but enslaved me." His lips brushed against Steve's neck. "And now you've agreed to let me stand at your side like a true partner. How could I not want you?"

Steve caught his lips in a searing kiss, but somehow managed to make it to the bedroom without colliding with anything, and as their lips parted, he lowered Tony down onto the bed. A strange look was in his eyes when he eased Tony out of his clothes. No, not strange, just one he'd never seen directed at him before. Precious. Steve was looking at him like he was something precious.

Warmth curled through him, while his cock hardened and his hole got almost as wet as it had during either of his heats. God, he was bonding without even having Steve inside him. How was he going to survive this man? "Steve," he groaned, reaching for him.

Steve scrambled out of his jeans and boxers, then settled his gorgeous body over Tony. Felt so damned good, Tony moaned, clutching at him, canting his hips upward, seeking the hard length teasing him with its promise. "Now," he panted. "Need you now."

Both of them groaned loudly when the he sank into Tony's body, and a few quick thrusts, pushed the knot up against Tony's entrance. Not good enough. For the first time it felt like something he desperately wanted instead of the threat of a life he'd never desired. He shifted his legs, getting some leverage, then jerked forward at Steve's next inward thrust. He cried out in a mixture of pain, pleasure and triumph as the flesh popped inside him, sealing him to his alpha for … forever.

The thought made him begin to come, his inner muscles settling into a blissful milking to match the slow pulse of Steve's seed. Desperation appeased, they began to kiss and caress, exploring each other with lips and hands, their eyes drinking in everything, promising everything. "Steve, God, Steve," he moaned, not used to feeling this much.

"Mine," Steve answered, then recaptured his lips. "Finally mine."

Mine. It was a good word to describe the feelings coursing through Tony. He could feel every splash of Steve's seed inside him, while the rest of the man had him wrapped in the same warm cocoon of limbs that Tony had curled around him. "Mine."

Epilogue

Steve got out of the back of the car with a nod at Happy. More than a year of this and Steve still wasn't used to having Tony's driver opening the door for him or all the cameras focused on their arrival, but such was the life of the rich and famous, and by extension, their long-suffering husbands. "You ready?" he asked bending down enough to peer into the backseat.

"Never and always, Cap," Tony answered, taking his arm.

Manhandling his beautiful omega one of his favorite things, Steve had to resist lifting him out of the car, instead of merely helping him, and yes, there went the cameras. Tony was hardly a recluse, but this was the first official function they'd attended since he'd started showing and no one looked better in a maternity tux than Tony Stark Rogers.

Instinctively he pulled Tony close as his omega stood fully upright, tucking the five-month-old swell of Tony's belly between their bodies while he fought the urge to growl at the crowds.

Tony chuckled. "Easy there, Capsicle, Mini-Cap needs to get used to these things."

Steve flushed slightly and tried to calm his protective instincts. He mostly succeeded and shifted his stance so he flanked, instead of shielded his husband. Didn't stop him from keeping a watchful eye out for any threat as they walked up the red carpet. The world still didn't know Tony was Iron Man, but he was rich and married to Captain America. Two things more than capable of making him a sought after target. One of the reasons the other Avengers were already here. And anyone who thought Natasha's evening gown would prevent her from destroying someone who even looked wrong at Tony hadn't been paying attention.

Tony pretended not to notice all the covert hovering beyond a few sarcastic comments about testosterone overkill, but mostly he stayed close to one of them at all times. Thank God. He loved his mate with all his heart and soul, but some days it seemed like Tony was deliberately trying to give him a heart attack.

Trying to relax, he glanced around the room and spotted Pepper and Coulson on the dance floor. He gave them a smile of greeting, while Tony rested his hand on the baby bump and smirked.

Pepper rolled her eyes, but smiled, Tony far too incorrigible not to make it clear his 'bun got put in the oven' the night she and Phil had married, making it sound like a wedding was the ultimate aphrodisiac when they'd planned things out very carefully. They'd waited a year before they'd started talking about having a baby. No way Steve was letting Tony anywhere near that armor while carrying a child – Iron Man took far too many hits in the field, and Steve was barely managing with his mate beneath that battered armor. So they waited until Tony had reached a place where he could handle being out of the field for the duration. Even then his version of 'out of the field' meant creating an Iron Man drone Tony piloted via a set up that would make Wii weep.

The drone wasn't even close to a good substitute for the man, but it could handle the heavy lifting on aerial reconnaissance and long-range shooting. Tony had finally told Pepper and Rhodey about his alter ego, so War Machine had signed on as a standby member of the Avengers for when a more hands-on-armored approach was needed. And of course, no one who saw Iron Man's chiseled metal abs would ever assume Tony's pregnancy had anything to do with any differences in how he fought.

Once Tony was back in the suit, something Steve tried not to think about, Natasha had decided she might take a pregnancy leave of her own. "What's on your mind, handsome?" Tony asked, squeezing his hand.

"Family, and how ours is growing," he answered.

"Good thoughts?"

"The best."

"Hmm, excellent, since I'm having a craving."

"What do you need?"

"For my handsome husband to dance with me."

He smiled, "I can handle that."

Tony led him out onto the dance floor, then slipped into his arms. "Yep, you had an excellent teacher."

He looked far too pleased with himself, but Steve had to kiss him, but to teach him a lesson, he opted for the tip of Tony's nose.

Tony wiggled it, frowned, then settled in against Steve's chest as much as the baby would allow. "I thought of a name," He said after a few moments.

They knew it was a boy. Between Steve's worry about potential side effects of the super-serum and Tony's age, the baby's middle name was practically 'next test,' and Tony was far too curious a person for the gender to remain a mystery. Since then they'd bantered around possible names but nothing had really sounded right. Closest they'd gotten was to use Tony's maiden name as his middle. "What?"

"Peter."

Peter Stark Rogers. Steve smiled. "I like it."

end