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Hope Abandoned

Chapter Text

The world didn’t end.

Not yet.

Stark Tower was lit up in a soft glow of evening lights. The Avengers milled around, a low hum of contentment filling the halls. Without preamble, they began to gather in the spacious living room that overlooked the city and pour each other drinks. As much as they differed from one another, they also have come to rely on the strengths of their dysfunctional family.

Natasha easily bantered with the boys as she effortlessly slid into the seat next to Clint. He was razzing Bruce about some mechanical malfunction in the lab earlier in the day. Tony butted into the conversation to side with his science bro as Steve tried to calm the rowdy bunch. Standing guard by the windows, Thor took the sight in and smiled. His human counterparts had a light about them that could draw in anyone.

Thor frowned. As much as that was true, there was still something about their nature that left him in the dark.

“Stark?”

Conversation ceased as the group turned to the lightning god in expectation. When Thor made no move to continue his train of the thought, Tony raised a brow and cleared his throat. “Yeah, what’s up, Maybelline?” Natasha snickered and Clint stifled his smile. Steve, on the other hand, elbowed the snarky anti-hero in the side.

Thor blinked myopically, brushing off the, what was sure to be, tasteless comment. “Explain to me these traits that you all possess.”

The group looked at each other in bafflement as Tony snorted. “Can you be more specific, twinkle toes?” Another elbow to the side had Tony wincing.

The Asgardian crossed his arms as he came closer, joining the haphazard circle. “My toes do not, as you say, twinkle. But that is another matter. I am referring to your status as an Alpha. What does that mean?”

Anger and bitterness permeated the once cheery atmosphere, all eyes shifting away to focus on their own riotous thoughts. Confused, Thor looked around at his companions. “What? Did I pronounce your status wrong?”

Bruce sighed and tapped Thor’s shoulder for attention. “No. You didn’t say it wrong. You just hit on a, well…”

“Let’s call it a sore subject, pal,” Tony cut in, scratching the back of his neck.

Thor furrowed his brows. “If it is such a bad thing, then why have you kept this information from me for so long? It could have put all of us in danger. That is the coward’s way, man of Iron.”

“He didn’t mean it like that, Thor,” Clint clarified. “It’s something we all have to deal with. Not telling you…it wasn’t meant to be a bad thing.”

Natasha rolled her eyes. “What the boys are trying to say, big man, is we all have a specific dynamic to our lives but it doesn’t hinder what we do in the slightest. We’re all born a certain way, or…”

Steve’s eyes shadowed. “Or we’re made that way. You can’t change what you are.”

Thor huffed in frustration. “As well and good as that is, I know what it is like to be born under a certain mantel that will not lift. But you all speak in riddles. What is this nature of an Alpha?”

Tony shrugged and looked to Steve. “You want to take this one, team leader?”

Steve grimaced. “You know more about this than I do, considering what I am. You should know that by now, Tony.” The blonde turned away and left the room.

Tony watched Captain’s retreating form and sighed as he rubbed his face. Natasha pushed off the couch and lightly shoved Tony’s shoulder. “Smooth move, Romeo.”

Clint followed Natasha’s lead and shrugged at the remaining members. “I think the geeks got you for this one, Thor. Good luck.”

Bruce rubbed his eyes under his glasses and shook his head. “Yeah, sure. Why not? I love this subject.”

Tony flopped down on the abandoned couch and grinned. “You know you love it, Bruce. It is still one of the most studied subject of our time.”

“Doesn’t mean I like going back over it again and again.”

Thor watched the conversation between the two wind down before they both looked to him. “What?”

Tony snorted and rolled his eyes. “You should probably sit down. It’s going to be a long conversation.”

~

A half hour later and a couple more drinks between Tony and Thor had the blonde even more baffled than ever. Bruce watched the proceedings with slight interest, more curious at the Asgardian’s reactions than anything. He interjected here and there in the explanation but allowed Tony to guide the conversation.

“So you mean to tell me, you can get a male PREGNANT?! What sorcery is that?”

Tony couldn’t help laughing as Bruce took over.

“I know it’s a lot to comprehend, Thor, but try to understand. The genetic markers of humans have been changed. We now live under these new Dynamics, or laws. As an Alpha, we protect and breed for the sake of the human populace.” Bruce looked resigned as Tony made a face. “It is the common assumption that an Alpha, whether male or female, is the strongest, most likely to survive-”

Tony snorted. “Yada yada yada. It takes off the principles of the animal kingdom. The Alpha leads. The Omega follows. And the Betas watch it all happen. We are always awesome. Everyone else are always losers. We get it.” He stood up and wavered slightly, righting himself before Bruce could help. “Listen, golden boy, it’s a lot to comprehend but we did the best we could with what we had. We’re born this way and, without a lot of hard work, it’s not changing.”

Bruce’s face turned dark, gnawing his lip to distract himself. Thor glanced at him briefly before tuning back in to the inebriated genius. “I grasp the intent humanity might have. Yet, it seems sad. Why not allow everyone to choose for themselves?”

Tony shook his head, losing himself in a laughing fit. Bruce sighed and pushed his glasses back up his nose. “If only it could be so simple, my friend. If we allowed everyone the right to choose, it would be the same as everything else. The world would fall. In this way, at least nature can take its own course. No matter how badly we corrupted it.”

The room quieted down as Thor mulled over the explanation as best he could. Tony retreated to the bar to fix himself another drink and Bruce tried halfheartedly to talk him out of it. Watching how they interacted, the Asgardian quirked his head and was struck by a burning query.

“If this so called Dynamic exists for everyone, then, what are you?”

The question sounds off like a grenade. Tony placed the liquor bottle back on the shelf and turned to stare at Thor. Bruce slumped back on the couch and snatched his glasses off his face, rubbing vigorously.

“Of course you would ask that,” Bruce muffled out.

Tony came over to lean on the back of the couch and touched his sweating glass against the scientist’s forehead. “Do you want me to answer that?”

Bruce glared up at the egotist. “It’s not a question of answering what we are. It’s whether to divulge what the others are. It’s their right to keep it private.”

“Really? From one of their own teammates?” The genius rolled his eyes. “That seems fair.”

“Fair is not having to discuss it in the first place, Tony.”

The genius rolled his eyes and pointed to Thor. “We’ll tell you what each of us is, but no back stories. That’s for the them to decide.” Looking at the spectacled geek, he gave a cheeky grin. “Fair now?”

“Fair enough.”

Tony stood up straight and gave a cocky wink. “I’m an Alpha, born and raised.”

Bruce snorted and snatched the drink out of his lowered hand. “Yeah, yeah. Show off.” Setting the glass down on the table, Bruce leaned on his knees and shrugged. “It shouldn’t be hard to guess. The big guy is an Alpha. Beyond an Alpha, actually.”

“Yeah, we call him Super-Alpha.”

Grimacing, Bruce looked up at Tony. “Really?”

“Really.”

The scientist sighed. “Okay. Well, he’s in a league of his own. And I’m…for lack of a better term, a Beta. Always have been,” he muttered bitterly.

Thor nodded, seeing the characteristics that he grasped from their conversation come to light. “I understand the Man of Iron being this ‘Alpha’ and your angry, Green man being of the same virtue. But how can you be more than one? Should you not share what your counterpart has?”

“Good question. Good,” Bruce looked to the ceiling. “Question.” Thor sensed the sadness and anger creeping to the surface and hastily looked to Tony for silent help. He shrugged.

“Um…I can do the splits.”

Bruce barked out a laugh. “You wish you could do the splits. If your suit’s not on to help you, I doubt you could bend.”

“Hey, I resent that the suit could even make me bend. I have to tell it to do that first.” Tony put his hand over the glowing reactor in his chest, mock offended.

“Whatever helps you sleep at night, Romeo,” Bruce relaxed subtly but Thor felt the tension all the same. “You wanted to know about the others too?”

“If you think it would make a difference…”

Tony waved the question away. “Nah. It doesn’t make a difference to how you should see or treat us. Just know that it’s not exactly a conversation starter at parties. Now, Ms. Romanov-”

Bruce put his hands up as he interrupted. “Whoa now. Don’t go badmouthing her. I won’t take any responsibility for what will happen to you.”

“I’m not badmouthing her. I was merely going to point out that she was next on the list.”

“Uh-huh. Sure.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Anyway, Natasha Romanov is a creature unto herself.”

“She’s a female Alpha,” Bruce scratched the back of his neck. “Which is rare, I might add. She has a couple special circumstances,” Bruce coughed as Tony eyed him. “But those are for her to share. Next is-”

“Good ol’ Eyes in the Sky. Clint. Now he’s just your run of the mill-”

“Alpha. Hawkeye is an Alpha.”

Tony raised a brow. “You act like I was going to say something different.”

“You were,” Bruce shrugged. “Too many bad habits, Tony.”

“Uh-huh. And last is the American Dream.”

“Steve Rogers is a bit, well…”

Remembering the Captain’s abrupt exit from the lounge had Thor leaning forward. “Is Steve not well?”

Both of the science enthusiasts looked at Thor cockeyed. “What do you mean, buddy?” Tony asked, finally sitting back down on the couch.

Slightly flustered by the sudden attention, the Asgardian grasped his hands between his knees. “He was not happy with the question I posed to everyone. Nor does he share the same era as the rest of you from what I understand.”

“Steve’s fine,” Bruce smiled. “He also has special circumstances to his dynamic. But I think Tony needs to explain this one. As best he can anyway.”

“Hey! Why do I have to do it?”

“Maybe because your father had something to do with it.” Bruce stood up and stretched his arms above his head, noticeable popping noises comes from his tensed back. “Wrap it up, you two. Early morning tomorrow.” Bruce waved a hand in farewell as he left for bed.

Tony stuck his tongue out at the retreating back and muttered, “Hypocrite.” Mussing his hair with both hands, he ground his teeth and thought about the easiest answer at hand. “Okay. First, you gotta understand that Steve came from a time when experimentation was just getting underway for the Alpha/Omega project. We’re not quite sure where he fits in with everything. Obviously, he was injected with an Alpha supplement in that SuperSoldier genome dear ol’ dad created. But as far as any of us can tell, he’s completely normal. No traits or anything. So for all intents and purposes, he’s been established as a Beta.”

Thor studied the pinched lines creasing Tony’s features and nodded slowly. “But you do not agree?”

The genius rubbed his jaw and stared back into the stormy blue eyes. “Honestly…no. I think whatever dad did made Steve’s body rebel against it. Or absorb it completely. I really have no idea since Captain Save the Day won’t let me near him. Can’t say I blame him. I think he still has the capability, but it’s been tamped down. To me, he’s a Suppress.”

Silence filled the room. Tony glanced back at Thor and saw a completely blank face. “Did you get all that?”

Thor blinked and nodded. “Of course. But, I do have a question.”

“Shoot.”

“What’s a Suppress?”

Tony threw his head back and groaned. “That was the whole point of that explanation.” Shifting to his feet, Tony loosely beckoned the thunder god to follow him. “Come on. I’ll show you how this stuff works. Probably be easier anyway.”

“How can you show me? I would really rather not watch a mating cycle you have.”

Eyebrows shot sky high as Tony snorted. “You wish. Besides, believe it or not, I don’t have a mate.”

Thor stopped dead in his tracks. “That cannot be possible.”

“Oh, really? Don’t believe everything you see, pal. I have taken many to my bed but I can control myself, contrary to popular belief. I’m not about to ruin someone else’s life by having them forcibly mate with me. I would rather stay the philandering, hotheaded billionaire than cause such damage to anyone again.”

Thor gaped at the honesty. Tony sniffed and turned away, tossing over his shoulder, “Besides, I’m picky. Haven’t found anything worth keeping yet.”

A smile graced Thor’s lips as he shook his head, moving on as well. “Such brazenness is encouraged on Asgard. Means you should be good in battle. And in bed.”

Tony laughed and led the way into his haphazard part of the lab area. A definite line of flaming red had been put down the center of the tiles, splitting the precarious condition of one side from the pristine and clinical aesthetic of the other. Thor straddled the line until Jarvis politely informed him to choose a side to stand on, otherwise his protocols would activate.

Hurrying to comply, Thor carefully stepped into the chaos of paper and books. “What ‘protocol’ would your invisible man be referring to?”

Tony was busy shuffling papers and moving precariously stacked beakers around the desk. Picking up a vial full of what appeared to be yellowish sludge, Tony peered at the questionable contents in the test tube before downing it himself. Thor choked back a cry and reached for the idiotic man.

“What in the name of Odin-?!”

Tony coughed and waved the god off. “Relax. It was tequila…ish. Dunno how long it’s been there though.”

Thor shook his head and took a step back. “Fool.”

“Nobody called me a wise man,” Tony grinned. “But you will have to try something for me. I’m quite curious to see the effects of our little genetic tinkering on another being.” He picked up a small vial with a curiously luminescent shimmer to the grayish liquid contained inside. “This here is my counter answer to the ever popular suppressant. Jarvis, could you bring up the diagram on the Omega biology?”

“Of course, Sir,” a lilting, masculine voice hummed through the walls. The lights dimmed as a digital readout appeared in the center of the lab, a slowly rotating human being displayed. “This is a typical human being that has been born with the characteristic trait of an Omega. Said Omega has the properties of-”

“We got this part. Skip ahead to the reasoning and use of a suppressant,” Tony interrupted, leaning back on his desk and folding his arms over his chest.

“Very well. The Omega, once an appropriate age, will begin to undergo rapid hormonal replacement and begin to give off pheromones. The typical age for transition is the pre-teenager to teenager stage, between twelve and sixteen. Women will experience this fluctuation until the average age of nineteen while men will continue to aggressively undulate until the age of twenty-one.”

The display changed to a female figure and a male figure side by side. A list of symptoms scrawled next to each with a few bullet points thrown in to mark extreme behavior or atypical characteristics.

“Would you like me to skip ahead to the heat period, Sir, or continue with the symptoms and general behavior of a female versus male Omega?”

Tony waggled his eyebrows at Thor and nudged him. “Here’s the good part. Describe the heat cycle, Jarvis.”

A slight pinch of exasperation to the AI voice was the only indicator of annoyance. “How very like you, Sir. Would you like me to enable imaging or continue using the training modules?”

Thor shook his head vigorously and Tony winced. “Yeah, no. We’re going to pass on the porn tonight. Thanks, Jarvis.”

“Very good, Sir. The general assumption of the female and male body differing changed with the induction of the Omega gene into the human system. This becomes predominant when the heat cycle, or for a more commonly used term, ‘period’ begins. During this process, an Omega will begin to have their hypothalamus-”

“Small words, Jarvis.”

The AI coughed. “Of course. Apologies, Master Thor.”

“None taken.” Thor waved it off, wishing to understand rather than be offended.

“As I was saying, during the heat cycle, an Omega will have an overabundance of hormones flood their physical body. When the hormones reach their peak, the height of potency, the Omega will begin to give off a certain pheromone that will attract Alphas to them. The Omega will have no control of their immediate attraction to any Alpha and will coerce the Alpha to mate, or consent to intercourse. Unfortunately, it can be a dangerous time, considering the ages when the body is first inducted into this new cycle. As such and to keep birthrates to a steady minimum, the suppressant was created and became readily available to the public through the use of clinics and pharmacies, if not personally prescribed by a doctor. Do you wish for a further explanation, Sir?”

Tony glanced at the Asgardian and saw the blank stare. “Nah. That’ll be all. Thanks, Jarvis.”

“My pleasure, Sir. Master Thor.”

Roused from his thoughts, the blonde nodded his head. “Thank you.” Leaning against the other side of the desk, Thor glanced at Tony and shrugged. “Doesn’t seem too enjoyable.”

Tony raked his hand through his hair and sighed. “It’s not. But it’s also a part of who we are as human beings now. We just have to accept it and move on. But, it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it.” A wicked grin appeared as the genius produced the vial again and held it out.

Thor warily took it and stared at the mesmerizing contents. “What is this?”

“Like I said earlier, it’s my rebellion against the suppressant. Just a little hormone cocktail to kick-start the heat cycle. I patented the mixture so no evildoer would get it into their head to use it as a biological weapon.” Tony shrugged. “But also figured it might come in handy someday. You never know.”

Thor gingerly went to hand the concoction back but Tony stopped him. “It’s an experiment. You don’t have to, by any means, but if you want to see where you would fall…take it. It’s not going to change you into one of us forever or anything like that. It should merely give you the symptoms of one of our Dynamics for twenty-four hours.”

Thor brought the vial closer and shifted it from hand to hand. “Is that wise?” he murmured.

Tony scoffed. “Is anything we do? It’s honestly up to you.”

Taking the stopper carefully between two fingers, the Asgardian wiggled it loose and was hit by a pleasant smell of…home? The rich air, his mother’s oils, the sleek musk of leather…

“How is this possible? I can smell Asgard. Can you-” Quickly shoving the open vial at Tony, the genius jerked back and put out his hands.

“Whoa! Don’t!” Tony let out a shaky laugh. “Easy, buddy. That’s some really powerful stuff to go pushing at people. Next, you’ll be my drug dealer.”

Thor frowned. “Stark. How do you know the scents of my home?”

“That’s not what it is. Scout’s honor. The hormones act as a replicator and will reproduce the most familiar, calming scents to entice and draw you closer. It’s what ultimately helps you give over to the hormones and let the cycle happen.”

Bringing it back to his nose to inhale the liquid better, Thor drifted into his memories. “It doesn’t seem possible.”

“Neither is getting a man pregnant. But here we are in our fucked up, little world. Thank you, science,” Tony snarked, rubbing at his temples. “Damnit. I think I made that batch too potent.”

“Are you alright? Should I get the others?”

“No. Not a good idea until I sanitize the lab. That’ll knock us all out of commission if given the chance,” Tony gestured, trying to take a few deep breaths. “Could you close it if you’re not going to take it? Need to get my brain back a little bit.”

Curious at the out-of-sorts genius, Thor watched the pupils begin to take over the irises and Tony continuously open and close his fists. After a too long moment, the Asgardian looked back to the vial and felt longing for what it contained. Safety. Familiarity.

Home.

“You swear that it will be gone from me by day’s end tomorrow?”

Tony shuffled a bit and looked sporadically around the area. “Buddy, I can’t guarentee shit when it comes to you. But when it comes to a typical person, yeah. It goes away. Eventually.”

“That’s comforting,” Thor scowled. But…the draw would not ebb. Inhaling a mix of the chemicals and that heady scent, the Asgardian succumbed. Tipping the vial back, the liquid swished and disappeared as Tony watched. Knowing the AI would be recording any proceedings in the laboratory, he took a step away from the blonde and waited.

Thor scrunched his face from the odd flavor coating his tongue. “It does not taste as it appears to be.” Eyeing the empty vial, he tried in vain to not smash it as he dropped it to the desk. Unfortunately, his palm landed on top of the vial, effortlessly crushing it. Grimacing as he lifted his hand, the tiny pieces of powdered glass sparkled back. Thor looked to Tony’s unconcerned face and shrugged.

“Don’t worry about it,” the genius commented as he slowly began to semi-circle around the god. “More importantly, how you feeling?”

Thor cocked his head and concentrated on his body. “I feel no different, if that is what you are asking. The concoction was not to my taste.” Making a face, Thor pushed away from the desk and walked a few paces. “My motor functions are unchanged and my head is no longer clouded by the smells of home. I believe the only thing out of sorts would be my stomach from such a sour mixture.”

Tony tried not to look too disappointed, but his sad puppy dog eyes came out anyway. “I wasn’t expecting too much. But…I thought something would have happened.” Rubbing at his neck, Tony glanced over Thor’s body one more time and sighed. “Ah well. Time for bed anyway. Come on, pal. You staying here tonight?”

Stretching his arms and back, the Asgardian shivered and hummed. “I am in no mood to travel the Rainbow Bridge tonight. Mayhap tomorrow, as long as the day remains well.” Thor shivered again as a spike of heat ruptured up his spine. “Stark…?”

“Yeah?” Turning at the call of his name, Tony paused on the threshold and held his breath. Thor was flexing his hands and panting. Literally panting for air as sweat broke out on his forehead. “Talk to me, bud.”

Thor watched Tony move closer to him as if he was moving through molasses. “Where is this heat coming from?” Hands keep opening and closing on impulse, trying to drain some of the excess energy. It doesn’t work. “Tony.”

His name comes out like a whine and the genius can’t help but twitch at the implication. “Okay. O-kay. Jarvis, start air decontamination in the lab.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Recessed in the filtering system, the air-vacs turn on with a slow hum, a low decibel vibrating the walls and tickling the ears. Thor flinches from the sound and Tony can’t help but be intrigued.

“Jarvis, are you getting all this?”

“Of course, Sir.” If the AI could scoff, Tony was pretty sure he would. The amount of sass he put into the system was alarming even to himself sometimes. “If I may say so, Sir, would you like me to alert the rest of the Avengers to the outbreak?”

“Outbreak?!” Thor looked wildly around the lab, shuffling first in one direction before pacing to another.

“Whoa, whoa! There’s no outbreak, big guy,” Tony soothed, putting his hands up. Looking up at one of the camera feeds in the ceiling, he grit his teeth. “There is no outbreak. Right, Jarvis?”

“No, Sir. There is no outbreak. However, the hormone levels are steadily increasing within the confinement of the laboratory and, if necessary, you will need to be extracted. If you should remain with Master Thor through the influx of hormones, you will trigger your Alpha genes.”

Tony huffed and put his hands on his hips. “Theoretically, yes. But, seriously?! Look at the guy. He doesn’t even smell like an Omega.”

“None the less, Sir. Your hormonal level is indeed beginning to spike. You will begin to prowl soon, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

Rolling his eyes, the genius crossed his arms and cocked his head at the blond god. “Yeah, I mind,” he snarked to himself, mind whirling over the invisible possibilities swirling through the Asgardian. “Hey, buddy. Question for you.”

Thor twitched, fingers tapping out sporadically on his thighs. “What…is it?”

Tony smirked and easily began cataloguing the minute details of Thor. “Where is it you want to be most right now?”

Thor scowled and opened his mouth to say…nothing. He looked confused and closed his mouth. Glancing around the room, the Asgardian slowly deflated and even began to pout. His fingers became erratic against his thighs.

“Pardon my intrusion into your obvious enjoyment of tormenting Master Thor, but Sir?”

“Hmm?” The words washed over Tony from a distance, his sole focus on the slowly unraveling god.

“May I point out that Master Thor is about to reach critical cortisol and dopamine levels, with a severe amount of adrenaline that is uncommon in the normal ratio of Alphas. You may want to stand clear, Sir.”

Tony waved off the AI. “Got it. Thanks, mom.” He stepped closer to the god instead. “Thor, big guy, what’s going on?”

The blonde’s eyes narrowed. “You did this. This…” Thor flushed as a wave of tingling heat pressed on his spine and swarmed his chest. Panting out, he fisted his hair and shook his head. “Madness. What have you done?”

“Haven’t done a thing, pal. Just showing you the joy of our genetic lineage.” Tony lost his smile at the stormy glare piercing through him. “Uh oh.”

Thor roared out a battle cry as he charged for the cocky egotist. Barely sidestepping in time, Tony stumbled toward his desk and tried to decipher where he placed his emergency bracelet. The Asgardian shivered and curled into himself as his skin sang for relief. Snarling at the onslaught, Thor thrust out his hand and called for Mjolnir.

Thunder shook the Avengers Tower as angry, monstrous clouds descended, the weather obeying the tormented emotions of their wielder. The lights flickered and hummed as the generators tried to compensate for the onslaught of electricity flowing throughout the system. Tony fumbled at his desk, a string of expletives easily leaving his mouth before he finally located a gleaming silver bangle with a blue, circular disc as the centerpiece.

“About damn time.” Muttering to himself, the genius slipped the bangle on, disc pressing snugly against the delicate interior of his wrist.

“If I may indulge in one of your more poignant statements, Sir,” the AI interrupted, unaffected by the proceedings.

Twisting to get a read on the situation behind him, Tony frowned at the distressed god, emotions warring between rage and an almost pitiful state of incomprehension. “And what might that be, Jarvis?”

“I told you so.”

Scoffing, the genius summoned the gauntlet out of the bracelet, a shining, silver prototype that slid effortlessly over his hand and forearm. “Tell me later. Wake one of the new Sentinels. It’ll be good practice for you.”

“Already on it, Sir.” Jarvis split his priorities and sent an emergency signal to one of the suits of armor slumbering in the subbasements of the Tower. Diagnostic readings flashed across the eyelets of the mask in rapid succession before powering on the mainframe. Eerie, glowing light flowed into the eyes and spread throughout the seams of the suit. The Sentinel was released from its cache of wiring and stepped out of its power hub, quickly orienting itself and calling up a map of the Tower. “Sentinel prototype mach 5.2 is active. Arrival time estimated at 28.6 seconds.”

Mjolnir smashed through the protective glass barrier surrounding the laboratory and slammed into its Summoner’s waiting hand. A bolt of lightning emitted from the contact and lanced off the metallic surroundings. Noise doesn’t even begin to cover how deafening the onslaught of sound is, the decibels rioting across the spectrum and leaving Tony’s ears ringing. The genius blinks rapidly and cracks his jaw, trying to relieve the pressure in his ears.

“Thor, dude! Seriously! It’s not that big a deal!” Tony took aim at Thor’s feet and gave a warning shot of highly-charged muons from the glowing core of his gauntlet.

The beam scorched the area in front of Thor, battle sense having him take a step back. Baring his teeth, the god swung Mjolnir by its leather strap and flung it at the puny human. Pushing off the floor, Thor followed right behind his hammer with a raised fist and a roar.

Eyes widening at the impending doom reigning at him, Tony quickly scrambled away from his desk as Mjolnir exploded into the space he just vacated. “Shit.” Glancing to see Thor flying right for him, Tony raised his armored arm just in time for the connecting hit. Bracing himself, the genius was rewarded with a quick flight into the wall. Back slamming into the solid presence, the air collapsed from Tony’s lungs as he slid down to a crouch.

“Okay, buddy,” he growled. “That wasn’t very nice.” Grunting with the effort to stand, the ill-equipped Iron Man dodged around a feral kick and slammed his armored fist into the unprotected side of Thor. The Asgardian swallowed the pain and swiped at the irritating presence. He summoned Mjolnir back to his hand and growled.

Tony backed away to put some room between them just in time for his newly activated Sentinel to land. The Jarvis controlled robot took in the scene and crouched into a defensive position. “Sir, I must say that this is all going rather poorly. What is your initiative?”

“Get the scary god to calm down.” Tony charged at Thor and fired off another shot at his legs.

“Seems a tad menial, Sir.” The Sentinel dodged to the opposite side of the god and mimicked its creator, forcing the Asgardian to relinquish ground.

Ducking under a heavy swing of Mjolnir, the genius barely blocked the upward kick aimed at his head. “Working on it!” Tumbling to the side, Tony missed the god’s landing knee on the reinforced ground. A splintering crunch made him wince. Briefly spotting a couple chemicals now scattered over Banner’s desk, Tony grinned. “GOT IT! Jarvis, hold Thor. His Highness needs a little cocktail.”

“I don’t believe that would be the prudent thing at the moment, but if you must.” Shooting a beam meant to distract, Tony made sure the Asgardian turned his attention to the robot before bee-lining for Bruce’s compounds. Quickly taking in what he had to work with, the genius rapidly picked up and discarded different vials. A precarious equation formed in his head as Tony grasped at one of the chemicals and poured it into an empty beaker before picking up another. “God, I hope this works. Jarvis, make a note that we need to keep a supply of GHB handy!”

“I cannot condone that.” The Sentinel worked his way to Thor’s exposed back and locked its arms under the god’s braced shoulders. Thor struggled in his new bonds, grasping at air with his free hand as the Sentinel moved its head away. “Sir, I don’t mean to press, but I cannot hold Master Thor for long.”

Roaring at the confinement, Thor swung Mjolnir over his shoulder and felt it connect with hard metal. A hard jolt of lightning ricocheted through the hammer and slammed into the robot, sending the Sentinel jerking and spasming to the floor. Thor made a revolution with Mjolnir and brought it down right on the Sentinel’s head. The resounding crunch left sparks and melted metal in its place.

“I’m sorry, Sir. But it seems that Master Thor has destroyed the Sentinel’s core drive. I can no longer operate the system.”

Tony braced himself against the desk and sighed. Those things weren’t cheap, no matter how much he treated them like toys. Rousing himself, he gave the concoction in the beaker a good swirl, not caring about the spillage. Fumbling around in the drawers, the genius snatched out a syringe and uncapped the needle with his teeth. He submerged the tip into the sloshing liquid and pulled the plunger. Glancing over his shoulder, Thor was done pummeling the Sentinel and was staring at his turned back.

Not good.

Tony waved the needle and watched as Thor bared his teeth. “Naptime, big guy.”

The feral blonde charged the genius and swung his hammer, smashing the once pristine desk into splinters and broken glass. Tony rolled and easily held onto the delicate needle, staring wide-eyed at the destruction. Thor whipped around to the genius, labored breathing out of rhythm with his usual unflappable manner about “battle”.

Tony pointed at the carnage. “I’m so telling him you did that.”

Thor threw Mjolnir at the crouched figure and leaped. The egotist sighed and pushed off to avoid the earth-shattering hammer, changing to leap toward Thor instead. Exposing the gauntlet’s palm, Tony let a beam contact the Asgardian’s shoulder and twist his torso away. The god faltered, but continued to follow through with his punch. Tony took the opportunity and grabbed the thrown arm, bringing up the shining needle to stab it into the flexed appendage. Depressing the liquid and pulling the syringe free, the genius grinned before a fist smashed into the side of his face.

Thor had another arm.

Obvious.

Fuck.

Tony let gravity carry him to the unforgiving floor as the world around him zoomed out of focus, sound receding. He hoped that a few brain cells would be left by the time Thor was done. Or even that nasty cocktail he injected would eventually take effect. He tried getting up. Honest. But his limbs were so heavy, leaden weights sprawled chaotically around him. And damn him, but the flicker of blonde hair caught his eyes.

Steve...

Chapter Text

Was that shouting? Nah. Way too quiet for shouting. More like the stuffy talk at board meetings. A slow ringing built up in his ears to dull out the noise. Definitely a concussion, if only a minor one.

Blinking his eyes to clear the lingering fog, Tony shuffled his arm to leverage himself into a sitting position. He picked his head up and watched the room spin. His name…those sounds really came together like his name. A whisper. A staccato whisper.

“-ny…to-…tony…”

Blonde hair and endless blue eyes swam into focus directly in front of him. Coughing a bit at the effort, Tony tried a wobbly smile. “Steeeeve.”

“Tony! Hey, come on. Tony!”

Why did the love boat of America have to smell so good? Tony pitched forward as he followed the scent and ended up with arms cradling him. “You smell good.”

Steve scoffed and looked around at the destruction. “What to high heaven did you do now, Stark?”

Tony’s only reply was to shove his face further into his chest. Steve rolled his eyes and gently pried the battered guy away from him. “Jarvis, can you tell me what happened?”

“Of course, Master Steve. I have a recording that would be most beneficial.” The AI immediately called up a digital screen with a video feed of the earlier proceedings in the room. Steve watched silently as Thor began to act erratically and fight with Tony and then the AI itself.

Meanwhile, Tony slowly gathered his wits and enjoyed the hug/support he was getting. Something was missing from this picture. He was beaten to hell. He had Steve holding him. The lab was a wreck. Thor…Thor. Shit. Thor.

“Steve,” the genius coughed out. “Hey, Captain Underwear…Steve.”

The blonde held Tony at arm's length and frowned, trying to get the brunette to focus his eyes on him. “What, Stark?”

Tony looked into those deep eyes and shuddered. Not a good time. He shifted his gaze to the recording of the room and found his mind shaking off the haze. “Where’s Thor? Was he here when you arrived?”

“What? No. That’s what I was-”

“Jarvis!” Tony interrupted, stumbling to his feet as he held his head. “Where’s Thor?!”

Steve was right behind him, hovering his hands at his unsteady sides. “Tony, I don’t think that’s a-”

“Master Thor is heading for the balcony, Sir. I suggest you hurry if you wish to catch him.”

The genius growled and made to take off. Steve grabbed his arm instead. “Wait. You can’t just-”

“You don’t get it.” Tony pulled his arm free and glared at the blonde. “He’s in a drug-induced state.” Shuffling into a jog, Tony glanced out into the hall and headed toward the abandoned lounge.

Steve let the egotist go as he watched the end of the video feed. Tony injected Thor with whatever nonsense he made and fell at Thor’s hand. The Asgardian, though, stumbled back and began to shake. He reached out hesitantly for his fallen comrade before gripping his head and running out of the lab camera’s view.

“Jarvis, what in the name of the good Lord was going in here?”

The AI sighed mechanically. “Master Thor insisted on the knowledge of the Alpha/Omega genome and Master Stark introduced him to the hormone replacement serum he formulated himself.”

“What?!” Steve fisted his hands and sneered. “Of course he did. What does this miracle drug do?”

“The hormone replacement serum is meant as a counter balance to the widely used suppressant. The manufactured chemicals stimulate the brain to begin a mating cycle, effectively shutting down the blockers set in place by continuous suppressant use. Its primary use is meant for the extreme cases of suppressant abusers and the late development of Dynamics in any given person.”

“Wow.” Steve shook his head. “That idiot. Okay. I got it.

“My pleasure, Sir. May I also forewarn that those same hormones are still active in this lab space. Master Stark was in contact for a prolonged period of time and I must confess that you, as well Sir, have become contaminated. I detect a rise in your-”

“Don’t worry about me.” The blonde’s features darkened as he turned to follow the eccentric idiot. “It has no effect on me anyway.”

The AI turned the loop feed off. “I merely wish to indicate that you are showing the beginning stages of a heat cycle. Your body’s core is already rising in temperature and your senses should be heightening as we speak.”

“That’s not possible, Jarvis. I’m not anything. The late Mr. Stark saw to that,” the blond bit out, a hint of melancholy mixing with a punch of anger.

“As that may be, Sir, you should be careful. You are showing signs of rapid hormone production and you are reacting to them.”

Stunned, Steve felt the world retreat as the words sank in. He didn’t have time for this. He really didn’t. “Thanks, Jarvis.” Shaking his head to clear the sluggish thoughts, the blond waved to no place in particular and ran out of the lab.

“Oh, dear,” the AI sighed, ordering replacement lab equipment and requesting a cleaning service while keeping an eye on its creator.

~

Tony barreled down the dimly lit halls, stumbling every few paces into the cushioning walls around him. It was supposed to be a harmless experiment. He swiped at his sweaty forehead and winced as his swelling cheek was grazed. A colorful litany sprinkled from his mouth, centered on his earlier actions with pain as an afterthought.

This was not going well.

A startling crash had the genius picking up his pace. “Damnit, Thor,” he yelled. “That better not be my bar!”

“You’ll be lucky if it’s just the bar.”

Glancing to the side, Tony startled at the unaffected blonde easily keeping pace with him. “I thought I left you at the lab!”

Steve grimaced. “Right. Like I’m going to let you at Thor by yourself when you did such a good job of calming him down the first time.”

“I didn’t think it was going to end up going sideways,” Tony pouted as they came to the glass walled lounge.

“Sure. Because whenever you’re involved, things always remain vertical.”

“Is that a hint of snark I detect in Cap’s voice? I would never think my bad habits were rubbing off- Whoa,” the brunette sucked in a breath at the damaged furniture and sparkling fragments littered over everything. Glancing at the bar, he noted the flickering lights and the lone bottle left precariously standing on the otherwise ruined shelf. The Asgardian was weaving around the broken couch and flipped chairs, much like a wounded animal searching for refuge. Focusing back on Steve, the genius gestured at the chaos and snorted. “At least the scotch is still good.”

The blonde shook his head. “Only you, Stark-”

“Tony,” the egotist frowned. “Since when did I become Stark again?”

Raising a brow, Steve folded his arms over his chest. “Do you want me to count the ways or give a list?”

“Are we really going to do this now?” Tony mimicked the blonde and folded his arms as well, glaring into those angry blue eyes. “Because I think we should.”

Steve rolled his eyes and pointed at the destroyed room. “Of course you’d rather go on about you than help someone you purposely DRUGGED.”

“It was an experiment,” the brunette muttered.

“On your FRIEND!” The blond watched the genius glance away, possibly tuning him out altogether. “And that’s how you’re going to protect yourself instead of admitting that what you did was WRONG, Tony!” Steve threw up his hands before settling them on his hips, lowering his head to take a deep breath. “Look. We do this all day, every day. Let’s take five minutes to actually help Thor before we tear into each other, okay?”

Tony scoffed and waved off the words. “Whatever you say, Mr. Pacifist. This can always wait, right? Like we don’t need to work together or anything.”

The blonde gritted his teeth, trying to ignore the jab and failing miserably at it. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Tony whirled on him quicker than a strike and punched his pointed finger into his chest. “It means I don’t think you have my back! It means that you wouldn’t be there to protect me like I would protect you! It means that I don’t mean as much to you…” The genius’ words faded out as the red haze left his eyes and his words actually registered with his higher functioning brain. Elevated adrenaline. Posturing. Claiming… “Oh. Damn.”

Steve gaped, his arms going limp at his sides as words refused to come. “Wha…what in the world…?”

The genius scrubbed his hand through his hair and pulled the offending appendage down his face, completely choosing to ignore the whole situation. “You know what, you’re right. Let’s just do this, okay?”

Not waiting for an answer, Tony took off into the room and carefully skirted around the god. He slowly flexed his armored fingers and felt the resounding hum of power gather in the palm of his hand. A flicker of white in the peripheral of his vision had him looking at Steve, the super soldier moving parallel to himself. Nodding his head in acknowledgement, the genius shuffled closer to Thor, a slow string of muttering reaching his ears.

“Thor? Buddy?” The Asgardian jerkily looked over to him, eyes trying hard to focus. Tony slowly put up his human hand, leaving the gauntlet at his side. “Hey, I know you’re not feeling too well. Can you talk to me, pal? Tell me-”

“…Stark.” The name leaving numb lips like a choked cry. “I can’t…this.” A shudder rocked the god and he nearly fell to his knees, catching himself by pride alone. “Home. I need to go home.”

Alarmed, Steve caught Tony’s eyes and vigorously shook his head no. The genius slightly nodded before focusing back on Thor. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, big guy. You should come back with us.”

Thor sensed the presence creeping toward his back and turned with a snarl, raising Mjolnir. “Get. Back.”

Steve quickly put up his hands in a show of surrender. “Whoa there, Thor. We’re just trying to help. Tony needs to make this right.”

Tony scowled at the barely concealed threat. “Come on, buddy. I can give you something else to help you relax.”

Backing away from the enclosing figures, Thor glanced between the two and shook his head. “No…no. I need to leave. You cannot-”

A deafening roar split through the air. Tony stiffened and looked to the lounge entrance in panic. “That is not good.”

Confused, Steve glanced at the pair before looking to the entrance as well. “What was that?”

Tony sighed. “Bruce just found the lab.”

Heat burst under the god’s skin. Thor stifled a groan as he closed his eyes and let the wave crash over him. He could not last much longer. Opening his bleary eyes, the Asgardian saw the two preoccupied humans and fled toward the balcony. Thor barreled into the protective glass and found the cool, open air a kind relief on his burning flesh.

“Thor!”

Glancing back, both the Captain and Man of Iron were closing in on him once again. He sent them a brief smile. “Forgive me, my friends.” Grasping Mjolnir, the god mustered up his remaining strength and called to Heimdal, to the Rainbow Bridge. The lightning immediately licked down to the proffered hammer and shattered on the surrounding concrete.

The force slammed the unprepared duo into the ground as the remaining panes of glass ruptured around them. Skidding to a halt, the blow had Tony coughing for air and trying to fight the black edges of oblivion. Steve rolled into the impact, ignoring the bite into his hands as he stopped himself and pushed off the cracked and wavering balcony. Prepared to tackle the god, the blonde saw the remnants of the Bridge fading and scowled. The concrete below his feet groaned as the constant power ebbed away and left the damage behind.

“Tony, is this balcony reinforced?” Turning to his downed companion, the blonde instantly became concerned by a trickle of blood and unfocused eyes. “Tony?!”

The genius weakly lifted a hand and rattled out a laugh. “Come on, Cap. Don’t sound so worried.”

Steve landed hard next to the brunette and did a quick rundown of what injuries he could see. “Of course I’m concerned! We need to get you inside. Are you having any pain in your neck, back? How about your ribs?” The blonde unconsciously moved his hand to palpate the defined chest, noting with a sigh of relief that the constant glow of the reactor was not showing any signs of damage.

Tony shivered at the contact and dug up enough strength to gently slap the massaging hand away. “’m alright, Steve. Really. Nothing I can’t handle. Just need a couple pills and a beer.” And you, he kept to himself. Barely.

“You will not be drinking,” the super soldier frowned, cupping Tony’s head and staring into his eyes. “Besides, I’m fairly certain you have a concussion.”

The genius licked his dry lips and couldn’t help the rush of heat that flushed his cheeks. So close. His hazy eyesight glanced at the parted lips of the blonde before slowly looking back into those baby blues. Too close. “Steve…”

The blonde didn’t remember moving closer, but his name…if he could hear it said like that again. That tongue barely flicking out had a whine settling in the back of Steve’s throat. Tony was injured. But he looked so resilient, smelled so strong. Besides…he was hungry.

Hungry…? Steve’s eyes instantly widened in shock. WHAT?

“And here we thought that there might actually be a problem.”

The less than amused statement had Steve dropping Tony’s cradled head and jumping away in a rush. Tony winced as his head bobbed into the concrete once more before glaring up at the intrusion. Natasha, glorious in her comfortable lounging clothes, had her arms crossed and a glare fit to match, barely contained rage simmering under the surface.

“What the HELL is going on?”

“Language,” Steve muttered quietly, eyes downcast in thought.

Natasha turned her glare on the super soldier. “Don’t you language me, Captain! This place is destroyed. Bruce is on a warpath that I could barely bring him back from. There are pheromones everywhere. And to top it off, you and the playboy of the century are out here making out!” Steve had the decency to turn a cherry red as Tony snorted. “I think I have a right to a little colorful language.” The redhead huffed, forcing a shot of calm into her tense nerves. “Explain. Now.”

“Thor’s gone.” Clint stopped next to his partner and motioned behind him. “And Banner wants an explanation once he’s got the green man down deep.”

“Of course he does,” Tony muttered, carefully rolling onto his side with a groan of pain. Steve twitched, almost crossing back to care for the brunette. Almost. He ground the screaming instinct as he glanced at the other Avengers.

“Thor went back to Asgard. We couldn’t stop him.” Tony pushed himself into a semi sitting position and was taking shallow breaths. The blonde dug his nails into his biceps and planted his feet, frown growing bigger as he struggled with himself.

Natasha caught the strain from the corner of her eye and grimaced. The smell was strong, but it was news that the Wonder Boy could be affected. Not good. “What did you do, Tony?”

The genius pouted and swiped at the drying blood on his forehead. “Why does it have to be my fault?”

“When is it not?” Clint scoffed, noting the precarious emotions filling the air. He caught his partner’s eye and tipped his chin gently, silently backing whatever move Natasha wanted to make. “What happened in the lab?”

“Oh. You know. Charades.” Tony got to his knees and gritted his teeth as he forced his body to stand. “The big guy wanted to know how we played the game is all.” The world righted itself before sliding away the next instant, body going lax. “Shit.”

Clint moved forward to catch the falling egotist but was stopped by Natasha’s hand flicking into his peripheral. Steve was there a heartbeat later, strong arms encasing the brunette and bringing Tony to rest against his chest. “You shouldn’t have gotten up yet,” the blonde muttered gruffly.

Tony’s eyes flared wide at the contact, a growl slipping from his mouth as his mind went on autopilot. Steve balked at the sound but his arms refused to budge. The brunette grew steady in the blonde’s arms and fixed those blue eyes with a demanding stare. “Rogers,” Tony rumbled, his hands settling on the fit hips of the super soldier. “If you want to stay the pure, little, good boy everyone knows and loves, I suggest letting me go. Otherwise, I cannot guarantee what I will do to you.”

The fingers kneading into his sides had the blonde stuttering and looking down. “Uhm…y-yeah. No. Okay.” Steve shook his head and dropped his arms, albeit reluctantly. He grabbed the distracting hands and bit his lip, feeling embarrassment override his pounding heart and the unknown draw to stay put. “I-I need you to let go, T-t…Stark.”

“And what if I say no, I don’t want to?” The purred words were so close. Steve glanced back up and shuddered. Tony was leaning into him, hovering a hairbreadth away. Good God above, all he had to do was lean in and those lips would be there touching him…licking him…devouring…

“This is painful to watch,” Natasha sighed.

Steve’s lust shut down in an instant, the thought that they were not alone registering in his mind. He immediately pushed Tony away, not ever bothering to make sure he was still standing as he took off. He kept his head down to hide the deep crimson painting his face and neck as he passed by the two agents.

They let him go.

Tony stumbled from the abrupt shove and watched in stunned silence as the tensed blonde retreated into the Tower. His eyes landed on the raised brow of the redhead and dark expression on the archer, displeasure clear in both their features. Hands tightening into fists, the genius bared his teeth and stalked closer to the pair.

Clint moved to intercept the pissed brunette but Natasha held her hand up to Tony. “Knock it off. We’re not trying to get in on your territory.”

Instantly confused, the genius stopped short. “What?”

The redhead rolled her eyes as the archer relaxed his muscles. Clint blinked slowly. “You mean, you don’t know? The air is full of your scent. And Steve’s reaction…well, you should know.”

Tony furrowed his brow and tested the air. The smell was definitely his, but there was something…a musk of some sort. Was he bonding? “Shit.”

Natasha scoffed. “To put it lightly, yes. Now explain what the hell you’ve done to compromise all of us.”

Chapter Text

Calm. Utterly and completely devoid of all that is not calm.

“One…”

Bruce let the damage and chaos surrounding him fade away as he breathed in and held it. After a pause, he pictured the destroyed mess of his workspace and let it go out with his breath. Sitting on the floor of the ruined lab, he had his palms resting on his crossed legs and his eyes closed. He was trying for inner peace.

“…Two…”

Inner peace. He didn’t want to be counting his breaths. He didn’t want to be in such a mindset to have to count. Period. The ease he had earlier was completely wiped out.

“…Three…” Okay. That one didn’t count. “…Three…”

In, hold, and out. “Three…” And then Tony, damn him…

“Fuck.”

A spike of anger melted the vestige of calm and Bruce punched the floor beneath him as a roar ripped through his system.

“Bruce?”

Whipping around to look at the entrance, Bruce let out an irritated sigh. Steve hovered on the threshold with his hand out, nervous and wary. The bespectacled nerd waved limply at the blonde and let his head roll forward. “Yeah?”

Steve looked down the hall toward his private quarters and sighed. He couldn’t just leave. Shamed at the thought of abandonment, the blonde moved into the lab. “You okay?”

Bruce glared halfheartedly and snorted. “Bad question, Cap.”

“Right, right. Sorry.” The super soldier gave a weak laugh and sat down near the scientist. “Want some help?”

Bruce studied the blonde for a long moment, concern bringing his brows together. “There’s nothing to help with,” Bruce shrugged and looked at the ceiling. “Pretty sure Jarvis has already ordered everything I had in here, down to the same testing equipment models I was using.”

“That is correct, Master Bruce,” the AI system responded without hesitation. “And I took the liberty of moving up that shipment of compressed mercury for you.”

Bruce shook his head in bemusement. “See? Told you. Thanks, Jarvis.”

“But of course, Sir.”

Steve smiled back at the scientist, glad to see the trembling slowly ebb from his body. “We’ll put it back to rights.”

“Oh, I’m sure. But it will take more than this,” Bruce gestured vaguely at his surroundings, “being fixed to put this place back together.”

“What do you mean?”

Looking at the blonde, the scientist frowned. “You can’t be serious? You’re giving off way too many pheromones not to notice.”

Dread pooled into Steve’s stomach but he studiously ignored it. “Um. No. I’m not.”

“Don’t be foolish. This lab was in the process of decontamination when I came in. Jarvis already alerted everyone that there was a hormone outbreak in the Tower.”

Steve fisted his trembling hand and plastered on a flimsy smile. “But it’s never had any effect. I’m immune to it all, remember?”

Bruce stared at the hopeful blonde and mentally catalogued his symptoms. “No,” he tried slowly. “You’re not. Well, not anymore.”

Steve let his head drop, not wanting to accept the news but knowing it was inevitable all the same. Hearing it from Dr. Banner made it a tad easier, considering the man didn’t particularly care one way or the other. “Well…hell.”

A laugh broke from the scientist at the unexpected curse. “You could say that.”

Steve began to laugh too and found the tension ease a little as both of the men dispelled some of the nervous energy from the room. Resting in the now comfortable silence, Steve leaned back on his hands and looked up at the ceiling. Bruce shifted slightly and folded his hands together, enjoying the feel of his rage machine simmering to a low purr.

The blonde roused himself as an unsettling thought wheedled into his head. “Say, Bruce…”

“Hmmm?” The scientist sat up straight and looked to the blonde.

“You can tell, can’t you? What I am?”

“Uh…” Bruce scratched the back of his head and sighed. “Yeah. Yeah, I can.”

Steve closed his eyes. Sitting back up, he turned to the scientist and straightened his back, preparing for the blow to come. “Tell me. I want to know.”

Bruce grimaced, brought his arms in front of him, and unceremoniously cracked his back. “The fact that you’re asking not only delays your ability to accept what you already know, but also allows your brain to lay blame somewhere else. Not the best person to do that to, you know.”

The blonde couldn’t help looking away, frustration bubbling to the surface. “It just doesn’t make sense. Even after all this time, I…they changed me, Bruce. It’s obvious. How-?”

“You mean how can the golden boy that had people swear up and down he was the new breed of Alpha actually be an Omega?” Bruce snorted and limply gestured at himself. “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the Beta with a mean alter ego?”

Startled by the mocking tone, Steve looked over and frowned at the air of resigned dejection. “Bruce, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”

“I know,” the scientist sighed, holding up his hand. “It is what it is, my friend. The reminder is always there after all.”

“…Yeah.” Steve fell quiet, allowing the silence to fuel his thoughts. After a few moments respite, the blonde roused himself and glanced at the meditating doctor. “Why now? I’m in my nineties, of all things.”

Bruce let out a breath and slumped his shoulders, giving up on his calming techniques. “I don’t think it works like that. Not with you, at least. You have to remember that you were genetically modified and, for all intensive purposes, cryogenically frozen the extent of your prolonged lifespan. The probability stands that you were never allowed to reach your peak of hormonal awareness, that along with the possibility that you were given suppressants unaware. Have to keep the image of the American ideal alive, don’t you think?”

“You’ve been hanging around Tony too much, haven’t you?” Steve chuckled. “I don’t know about the suppressants, but everything else…well, it’s possible.” The blonde stared at his hand and watched as he slowly opened and closed it. “Is there any way to stop it, to go back?”

“It’s not a bad thing. You’re still you, Cap, the strongest, fiercely loyal, all around good boy that we all know and care about. Your Dynamic doesn’t make you any less lethal. Trust me.” Unfurling to stand up, Bruce groaned a bit as his joints let out their protest from misuse. “What I’m more curious about is how you’re going to handle yourself from now on. We’re not looking to protect you outright. We will all be there for you, just as you’re there for all of us. But, when you start going into heat, you’re going to be a problem.”

Alarm bells sang in Steve’s head as he followed Bruce’s lead to stand. “What?!”

“It should be obvious. You’re an Omega, might be the strongest one out there, but still an Omega. And you’re heading into your first heat in a building of mostly Alphas.”

“But-I…” Steve stumbled back a step. “What in the world…?”

Bruce took a step closer and held out his hands. “Calm down-”

Steve’s hands were shaking. Wait, he was shaking. Gripping his hands into fists, he forced himself to calm down, closing his eyes to steady his erratic heartbeat. “This can’t be happening,” a pleading desperation wormed into his voice, causing his words to come out like a whine.

“Steve, what do you want to do? I’ll help with what I can, but you can’t leave. That would be suicide.”

When he opened his eyes, Bruce was watching him with a detached and calculating manner. “I can’t…I don’t-”

“Did you find a mate?”

The words jarred Steve back from the brink of his derailing mind. “What? No. No. Who-?”

Bruce nodded his head. “I do have my own suspicions about that. But if you don’t have one, that’s one less thing to deal with right now. We need to keep you unmated and away from everyone else. You’re going to want to sleep this off until we have a concrete plan in place or until you’re ready to mate.”

“But…what about you?”

Annoyance finally appeared in the scientist’s features as he motioned for Steve to follow him. “Beta, remember? I don’t care about your cycles or anyone else’s Dynamic. The Big Guy though…” Bruce stopped and chewed his bottom lip. “He…might be a problem. Best not to find out. Come on. You need to get to your room.”

A bit shaken by the news but knowing he had no other alternatives at the moment, Steve pretended he was gearing up for battle and squared his shoulders. He would not take this lying down. Moving out of the lab, he glanced down the halls and followed the scientist. If there was one thing he knew he could do, it was fight.

~

Natasha was going to finally kill Tony Stark.

She couldn’t help the frustrated twitch of her eyebrow as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Let me get this straight. You were meant to give an explanation to Thor. Instead, you imbibe a god and set him loose.”

Clint’s lips spasmed into a smile before he could stop himself. Natasha’s backhand struck his blocked arm and the glare she sent him was full of evil promises. He let her hand drop and his smile fell with it. Turning to the smart yet stupid brunette, Clint re-crossed his arms. “We get what he did. Now it’s a matter of figuring out how to proceed from here.”

Tony rolled his eyes heavenward and silently pleaded for some sort of patience. His nerves were shot. He was pretty sure he was weaving on his feet. And Steve…God, he needed at that man. He just up and left him out here, didn’t even bother to look back, to touch him…to kiss…

Growling, low and mean, snapped his mind back to the present. Quickly assessing his surrounding, he found the menacing noise was coming from him and the agents were shooting him annoyed looks. He shook out his clenched hands and coughed. “Urm…yeah. That happened. So. Thor. He took off to Asgard, most likely to sleep off the effects. The best we can do is keep track and monitor when he breaches Earth’s hemisphere again. Until then,” Tony shrugged, brushing off the topic and making his way through his shattered windows.

“Stark!” Natasha reached out to grab his arm as he passed by, but was stopped by Barton. He put up a placating palm and motioned for Tony to stop. The genius ground his teeth but stopped, body humming to keep moving.

“What are you going to do when you find Steve?”

Tony blinked, nonplussed. “I don’t think that’s your business. Or yours, Ms. Romanov.” Putting on a haughty air, the egotist waved his hand. “But if you must know, I’m going to find Mr. Rogers and put him over my knee. Maybe make him kneel and beg for me.”

An angry flush sprang to life over Natasha’s usually stoic features. “You will do no such thing!”

Penetrating eyes narrowed as a murderous cloud came over Tony and he stalked closer. “Watch me.”

Clint was immediately in his face, bracing his hands on his chest to stop him. “Knock. It. Off.” Giving a soft push, the genius backed off, body still braced for a fight. “We’re not challenging you.”

“To hell with that! Steve has a choice in this! Especially…” Natasha bit her lip, trying to stifle the overwhelming emotions. Turning away, she grabbed herself in a hug. “You can’t just make him have you, Tony.”

“I don’t plan on forcing the man. I would never accept him like that. You, of all people, should know that.” Shaking his head, the brunette walked away and tossed over his shoulder, “He’ll choose me.”

The redhead whirled around to find Tony briskly leaving the lounge and disappearing down the hall. Fisting her hands, she turned on Clint. “Why did you stop me? He needs to be quarantined!”

“Nat,” Clint sighed, running his hand through his hair. “You couldn’t stop him. Not when it comes to Rogers. You know that.”

She moved closer to the archer and grit out, “I would have.”

He leveled a stare at her and frowned. “Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. But it will happen eventually. Whether you want it to or not. The bond is growing.”

The assassin felt the words slap her and sagged a bit at the blow. “Steve, he…he deserves better.” Funny, she didn’t remember looking away or trying to blink back the wave of sadness. “Stark is going to hurt him.”

“And we’ll be there to kill Tony when that happens.” A warm hand touched her arm and brought her focus back. Clint smiled. “I think I’d be more concerned about Steve hurting Tony, don’t you think? Cap can handle himself, super soldier or not. He was around long before any of us. Don’t forget that, Nat.” Clint’s hand gave a squeeze of reassurance before dropping away.

Natasha looked up into Barton’s kind eyes and felt herself let some of the anger go. “Okay. But only because you insist.”

Clint nodded and turned back to the destroyed lounge. “That’s my girl.”

She followed his gaze, eyes lingering on the dim hallway. “What do you want to do now?”

“I have no idea,” the archer shrugged. “I don’t think we’re going to get much sleep considering.”

Natasha nodded in agreement and found herself turning to look out at the city. “Do you want to go get a drink?”

Another shrug before a pat on her shoulder. “Sounds good to me, but I think we should change.”

Glancing down, the redhead mentally berated herself. A loose pair of lounge pants and a comfy shirt were the only things covering her. Looking at Barton, he was no worse than she in an almost identical outfit. No weapons to speak of. Fight first, fashion later was the secret mantra. “Good idea.”

A laugh from Clint took some of the tension away and before she knew it, Natasha was laughing too.

~

Stark bit down on his urge to hurt something.

ANYTHING.

“Sir, the new lab equipment and furniture will be arriving promptly at a quarter past eight. Would you like the pleasure of assembling the items yourself?”

Stalking down the hallway, his nose couldn’t help but pick up the heady scent of Steve. His Steve…running away from him. Making him work for it.

Catty bastard.

“Lab stuff, yes. Furniture, no.” Tony glanced up at a mostly hidden nodule in the ceiling and shrugged. “And if they’re delivering any chemicals at the same time as the equipment, make sure they put the chemicals down in the ground floor safe. I’d rather not be cleaning up another explosion,” he muttered to himself.

“Very good, Sir.”

Stark nodded absentmindedly and stopped in the doorway of the lab. Though the place was a wreck, it barely registered as rage crept through his veins. A very familiar scent by now, Steve was releasing more pheromones coupled with a contented and anxious mix. What made Tony bare his teeth and growl as he spun away was the scent of a very present and barely controlled Bruce Banner lingering on every note.

“Jarvis! Where’s Steve?”

“Master Steve is currently being escorted by Master Bruce to his chambers. Would you like to me to alert him-”

“No!” Tony realized he was shouting and grit his teeth, barely pushing down his seething anger. “No. I got this.” A steady rumble from deep in his chest and hands turning to fists, the genius reverted back to primal instinct. Mine.

The Alpha in him swelled, his territory brazening taken from him. So not going to happen. The brunette charged down the hall, senses keying into the charged air, the scents, the distant hum of voices. A snarl lashed out at the walls as unbidden images lanced his mind. The baritone hum could be a chuckle of dark wanting. The unruffled reply could be a beckoning query. That being he called a friend could be salivating at the chance to mate…to MARK.

The growling a constant background noise at this point, Tony began running and ignored the pain radiating from the different points of his body. He was not about to lose Steve. God help him, but he was going to face off against Bruce Banner…the Hulk.