Actions

Work Header

Recovery

Chapter Text

Tony considered himself insane for the next three days. Those three days were the days he willingly stayed in Steve’s power, begged for his attention, and gloried in every thrust-and-spill of Steve’s cock within him. For three whole days he begged for Steve’s come morning, noon, and night, and Steve was more than willing to oblige him. For three days he lived in a haze of orgasms, sweat, and the smell of Steve working itself into his pores, and he craved every single second of it.

The fourth day, when the heat broke, Tony woke up with a clear head for the first time in almost a week. He pushed himself upright in the bed, limbs a little shaky and sore from everything that had happened, feeling like he’d just been on one of the longest benders of his life. There was no headache, unfortunately, so he had no excuse for forgetting why there was a deeply-satisfied glow suffusing him, a pleasant ache that only came from his most satisfying sexual encounters.

Opening his eyes to see Steve sleeping next to him in the bed made the memories, the real reason he was here in Steve’s apartment, come back in sharp focus. His next conscious memory was of him in Steve’s shower, scrubbing himself with gritted teeth, holding onto the contents of his stomach through sheer force of will. Three rounds of washing, even with Steve’s pheromone-dampening body wash, still couldn’t quite rid Tony of the scent that curled around him in the steam – the warm, luscious scent of a recently-fucked omega.

God damn it.

For several weak moments, Tony had been hoping everything had been some kind of thoroughly fucked-up nightmare. That maybe him and Steve had just stopped by his place for a little pack closeness, had done some roleplay, and Tony had fallen asleep and had a terrible dream. Tony opened his eyes and forced himself to look down, to touch his body, to see the slight roundness of his abdomen and to feel the slick, easy opening of his ass. He slowly dropped his head to the wall of the shower and let the few necessary moments of panic seize him in their icy claws, have their way with him, then retreat.

This had happened. He now had to deal with it. No one was going to save him but himself.

He shut off the water and toweled himself dry before looking in the mirror. He looked haunted, and a little bruised, but physically he wasn’t too badly off. Steve might have held him down, raped him, forcibly changed his gender, and went and bonded himself to him, but he hadn’t physically damaged Tony.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? Tony thought with a soft, bitter laugh.

There was a blister pack of medication on the sink, prominently displayed so he couldn’t miss it, and Tony picked it up to make his bleary eyes focus on it. Emergency contraceptives.

Tony spent a few moments crouched in front of the toilet when the nausea hit him just thinking about why he would need them. And then he downed the pills so fast he nearly dropped them before he could get them into his mouth. That Steve had left them there, that he had given Tony this courtesy-. Or maybe it was just because after going through all the trouble of fucking Tony into submission he didn’t want Iron Man grounded by pregnancy.

Pregnancy. What the ever-loving fuck.

Clothes. He needed clothes. And he needed to go home. Steeling himself, Tony opened the door and went back into the bedroom. Steve was still out, lying on his side of the bed, curled around the space where Tony had been. He sported a faint frown even in his sleep, hands fitfully fisting the sheets as if wondering where his omega had gone.

Right here, asshole.

Tony had never wanted to kill so badly. Red-hot rage flashed across his vision, consuming him as his eyes darted around the room. There was a heavy lamp on the side table, Steve’s shield on the floor, and somewhere in the apartment were the locator bracelets for Iron Man. Tony could see it, feel it, how Steve’s skull would break under the lamp base, how blood would spray from his throat once cut by the shield’s edge, how Steve’s whole body would be destroyed if Tony unleashed Iron Man on him. He could do it; he could kill him right now. Nothing had felt so pure before. The rage easily overcame the strong urge to put himself back into Steve’s hands, to let him know he was close.

No, you don’t get me so easily.

Steve stirred sleepily, rolling over a little and relaxing into the bed, his hands still idly searching for his missing partner. Tony had a short, sharp vision of ripping away Steve’s most prized alpha attribute and shoving it down his throat.

Tony backed away before he did anything rash, holding onto his temper with both hands. He didn’t need to touch the arc reactor to remind himself about the virtue of patience. If he destroyed Steve, he’d feel a hell of a lot better, but then he’d have to explain to Fury, to S.H.I.E.L.D., to everyone what had happened, and Steve wouldn’t have to pay more than once for what he’d done. Death would be easy. Payback was not.

And if Steve died… Tony would have to find someone else to take care of his new problem, let someone else have claim. And the icy, hollow flutter in his gut when he thought about Steve lying dead warned him that could be bad. Maybe catastrophically bad. Tony pulled his clothes onto his body almost violently, hands starting to shake because of how thick Steve’s scent was in the room. It was mingled with his own heat odor, making a cocktail that Tony just wanted to sit there and drink in. He wanted to go right to the source of the aroma, press his lips against Steve’s skin, press his body against his and beg to be-.

Tony bit the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood and kept getting more clothes on his body, instead of stripping like his hormones wanted. Steve was his… bonded. Well, no, more accurately now Tony was his pheromonically hardwired receptacle, as there had been no romance to go along with the ritual. As long as Tony lived, nothing would slake his urges faster or more completely than Steve Rogers. Steve’s voice would always elicit a strong response in him, his scent would be intoxicating, everything about him would pull at Tony from every angle. If you were a loving, committed couple, that might everything you had ever wanted.

Tony wanted to kill him. And he didn’t dare. The next asshole alpha to catch him in a vulnerable state might not care that he was Iron Man. Tony breathed out slowly as he carefully began to search the apartment for the locator bracelets, trying not to scent the air at all. If he let himself go, even a little, Tony could easily see himself being pulled back to bed again, searching for Steve’s touch. Most omegas weren’t like this, Tony knew that, he’d hired plenty, but then against most born omegas learned how to work through their heats and hormonal upswings in puberty. Tony was a newly-minted omega, and didn’t have a scrap of experience in dealing with heat. His body was saturated with hormones, and his urges would be sharper, his heats stronger, his body making up for decades of being a beta.

Of being who he was.

But even bonded to Steve, someone even more unscrupulous could try to take advantage of Tony’s new body. If he was captured, all someone would have to do was deprive him of alpha come while he was in heat, and he’d eventually crumble. Omegas had been known to go insane under those circumstances, and Tony was ripe for that kind of torture right now. Hell, all Steve would have to do would be to keep his pants on the next time Tony went into heat, and Tony would do anything he asked to get relief. But he hadn’t, except for that very first time, when he’d extracted those promises out of Tony. Other than that first time, Steve had been unstinting and generous in his care.

This was literally a case of better the devil he knew than the devil he didn’t.

The fucker.

Tony had once read a science fiction story about an alternate earth, one where humans hadn’t evolved from wolves. There were no dynamics, no alphas, no omegas, no pack, no scenting. Only women could bear children, and men could only father them. There were no hyper-fertile, fecund omegas, no potent alphas, no heat or knotting or seasons of rut. Everyone was essentially a beta, and sex was a voluntary act, rather than a pheromonally-driven need.

He remembered it had garnered a lot of controversy from the scientific community. Psychologists had wondered how sexism would have worked in a world like that, if one gender or another would be particularly oppressed, while those in the medical and anthropological community wondered how these alternative humans would even survive without heat and rut. They whole race would go extinct, some had said, without a biological alarm going off at regular intervals. Right now Tony would happily take that world, and any rampant sexism or threats of extinction, over his own. At least there, changing would take an extraordinary amount of effort.

It was a nice thought, a calming one, but Tony didn’t linger there long. He lived in this world, the real world, and so did any solutions. And all solutions began and ended with your pack. Tony had been nearly alone for all of his adult life, after his parents had died, only aligning with Stane until he’d betrayed him, and occasionally moving into Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy’s orbit. It wasn’t unusual for a very driven person to pare down his or her pack so one could concentrate on a career, but even a pared-down pack was usually at least three people. Not two. Not one. When Stane died, Tony had tentatively strengthened his bonds with his few remaining friends, but people had still considered him very strange for being so alone, regardless of how many willing fans wanted to bed him.

To find himself packed up with five of the most volatile and dangerous people in existence was as much a shock to them as him. The shock was it had been working. Not perfectly, not all the time, but he’d started to trust them, to lean on them. He’d become comfortable around them, enough to drop a mask or two, to let the push-and-pull of their dynamics help guide him through the landmines of living with superheroes. Thor was a powerful alpha, bonded already to his genius scientist girlfriend. Clint was a fellow beta, and Natasha was, through birth or whatever the hell her former employers had done to her, intersexed, able to be any dynamic with good acting and a spray of pheromone perfume. He envied the fuck out of her right now. Bruce was a brutally oppressed omega who’d lived celibate and in control for so long that he’d been nearly a beta.

And Tony had gleefully run through all their dynamics, figuring out his new friends like he figured out a mathematical problem. It was new for him, this business of packing up, and all the more interesting because of it. Had he been the best pack member ever? No. He’d gone at it alone for so long, no family pack, and only a tiny work and friend pack, that he didn’t play well with others. He’d loved his independence more than figuring out his place in the hierarchy. But this… Tony ran a hand over his abdomen and pulled away, tightening his belt against the nigh-invisible rounding. He couldn’t forgive this.

He needed to talk to Bruce, and fast. Most omegas learned to managed their heats when they hit puberty, at least enough that they could get into seclusion and give their partner a call before heat pulled the under. But Tony had been made omega, and that meant stronger, sharper urges, more intense heats, and deep craving for contact with the one who’d made him so, and all of that when he’d never had to deal with it before. Tony might have been able to cultivate patience, but impulse control had never been his strong suit, particularly when it came to sex. He wasn’t used to denying himself in that arena.

Steve had used that as a weapon, as leverage to get Tony pliant and unsuspecting before attacking.

Smart little soldier, Tony thought, teeth gritting.

Tony finally found the bracelets shoved in the fridge (the last place Tony had thought to look, so, clever Steve), and clamped the metal around his wrists. It let him know he could still destroy Steve when he wanted to.

That comforting thought let him leave Steve’s apartment without calling the suit indoors and blasting him into dust.

But he knew he couldn’t leave for long. Never again.

--

Tony left from the roof, calling Iron Man and flying back to the Tower. He didn’t walk, take the subway, or call a cab just out of general principle, wouldn’t call SHIELD, and not even Happy’s legendary discretion could keep him from noticing his boss’ scent had changed so drastically.

“Sir.”

JARVIS’ voice was unexpectedly… contrite? Apologetic? There was some hint of emotion in JARVIS’ tone, the vocal inflection sub-routines picking some shading of speech to convey some subtle information.

Like maybe JARVIS had full medical diagnostics in the suit and really couldn’t help but notice his creator was suddenly an omega.

Shit.

“Yeah, J,” Tony said, suddenly feeling about a thousand years old.

“May I assume your continued desire for discretion when it comes to personal problems, or would you prefer public humiliation for your enemies?”

Tony’s throat closed for a second and he went into hover mode as his vision blurred. He blinked back a veil of tears with an effort and took a dozen deep breaths, and thanked several different powers that JARVIS was as advanced as he was. No stupid-ass questions about how Tony had changed; JARVIS had looked at the available data and extrapolated cleanly. Tony had left the Tower in the company of Steve Rogers with the mutual verbal intention of spending time together, with the added connotation from body language and tone of voice that the time would be at least partly sexual, in the time-honored way of accentuating and deepening a pack bond. Tony had not left Rogers’ apartment in nearly six days, confirmed by checking all cameras in the vicinity. Tony had been a beta six days ago, and was now an omega. Rogers was an alpha. Only alpha semen could turn a beta into an omega. Tony had never expressed any interest in becoming an omega. Rogers’ unusual body chemistry made his hormonal levels unusually high, and had expressed constant concern for Tony not fitting into the Avengers’ pack. And Tony’s heart rate and vocal patterns indicated extreme stress and anger.

Therefore Steve Rogers had forcefully turned Tony Stark into an omega. The fact that Tony hadn’t called for help was a moot point; Rogers was capable of physically overpowering nearly any standard human, and once heat had taken effect, along with forcible bonding, Tony wouldn’t have wanted to get away.

Until now.

Tony was torn, the bubbling desire for revenge, for just firing a missile into Rogers’ apartment had have done with it warring with the cold, nauseated feeling that destroying his bonded would destroy any chance of getting through heat quickly ever again. The quieter, cooler part of him, slowly trying to assert itself through the tangle of raging emotions, wanted to see what Fury would do if he found out Captain America had gone so far off the rails; that might be the only way to get justice without having to announce to the whole world what had happened.

“We’re going discrete now, JARVIS,” Tony said.

“Very well, sir. Dr. Banner is in his laboratory with Dr. Ross, Agent Barton is currently in the kitchen on his floor, Agent Romanov is utilizing the jogging track on level sixty-four, and Mr. Odinsson is viewing Formula One racing in the communal media room.”

Tony had a moment’s pause at the apparent non-sequitur before his brain kicked in. Even if Thor was bonded, the hell if he would get near any alpha while reeking of post-coital pheromones. Barton would be reasonably safe, Natasha… probably. But he needed to see Bruce. Bruce’s control was legendary, and even his alter-ego was safe, at least in that way. The Hulk didn’t have any sexual expression; like a child, he was entirely neutral. And Bruce Banner he trusted. Tony could have flown somewhere else, but he needed the lab equipment in the Tower, and he needed help from someone now. With Betty Ross there, beta and Bruce’s bonded, there was no chemical way Tony could rile them. He just needed a clear route to the labs so no one else would catch what had been done to him until he’d gotten some kind of treatment. Or at least a damn decontamination shower.

He trusted Rhodey even more – hell, even if Rhodey was an alpha, he would trust him with this, and Pepper, fuck, Pepper was his rock, beta-solid and understanding. But Pepper was in Hong Kong and Rhodey was in Cali and- fuck it.

“JARVIS, get me to the landing pad by the lab and initiate calls to Pepper, Honeybear, and Big Science.”

“Immediately, sir.”

He was just touching down as the connection was made, Pepper’s welcome face coming up on his HUD.

“Pep-.”

“Tony, what’s going-?” Pepper froze and studied the display of Tony’s face in her screen. “I’m on my way back. I’ll be there by morning. Don’t leave until I get there.”

She clicked off the call with an abruptness that Tony actually sorta adored. Something was bad. Talking about it over the phone was never Tony’s strong suit. And she’d drop everything to see what the problem was, judging by the expression on his face. Thank you.

“Tony, you done with whatever you were doing? You haven’t answered your calls in a week.” Rhodey answered, hard on the heels of Pepper’s terminated call.

“No.”

Rhodey had been looking off to the side, fiddling with something, but snapped his attention back to his phone screen at Tony’s bare, one-word response.

“Yeah? What’s going on?”

“Drop by. I owe you lunch.”

Rhodey came as alert as if Tony had just called about another alien attack on New York.

“I’ll be there by midnight.”

“It’ll be lunch time somewhere.” Tony couldn’t quite remember how to do the smiling quip he was supposed to in order to make this easy and neutral. He really, really wanted that ability back.

“Midnight at the latest,” Rhodey said, and the screen abruptly went dark.

The relief made him a little faint. He had back-up on its way.

He took slow, easy breaths in and out and repeated that to himself several times.

Back-up is on the way.

“Sir?” JARVIS prompted.

“Call Banner.”

The picture didn’t activate when the call connected, which meant Bruce was on speakerphone, listening as he went through one experiment or another. Just like always.

“Tony? You and Steve made it back finally?” Bruce asked absently, a few beeps sounding in the background as he fiddled with some instrument.

Tony had to exert an uncomfortable amount of control not to laugh, or possibly scream. “What did you think I was doing for a week?” he asked, determinedly neutral.

Bruce paused, and Tony could almost see his head come up, like a deer suddenly hearing a hunter’s footstep, knowing danger was near.

“Steve called… he said you two were having a little pack time.”

Tony couldn’t stop the bark of bitter laughter that forced its way past his lips.

“Tony?” Bruce asked very gently.

“I’ll meet you in the lab.”

“What happened?”

“One minute. In the lab,” Tony repeated, and touched down on the landing platform. The phone clicked off, and with a curt command to JARVIS, Tony kept the suit on. No way in hell he was going to broadcast pheromones in any public space in the tower. He reeked his new status, even to his own nose. Pepper might kill him for leaving Iron Man scuff marks on the floor, but better that than the alternative.

He froze in place for a moment, struck by the sickening thought that maybe what Steve had said at his apartment hadn’t just been the product of the man’s deranged mind. Maybe it had been more than pre-meditated rape, maybe it had been a conspiracy. Steve had said he wanted Tony to need “us.” No one had come looking for him for a week. Pepper and Rhodey had excuses, but did the others who lived in the Tower really think that Tony would go on a one week pack-sex bender?

Maybe they had, maybe they’d wanted this as much as Steve, maybe Bruce had determined which of the alpha Avengers had the best shot at changing Tony, maybe-.

“Tony?”

Bruce was standing in the doorway, hair tousled from sleeping on the couch in the lab instead of making it up to the suite he shared with Betty. And Betty herself was right at his shoulder, looking as fabulous as always, despite the fact she’d probably shared that couch with Bruce. Her easy presence beside him, the signature calm of a very securely-bonded beta with her mate, dispelled Tony’s paranoia like a soap bubble popping. Bruce would never… Never.

Tony hadn’t made it down to the lab in his promised minute, and Tony was never late for science.

“Are you all right?” Bruce asked.

“Lab,” Tony said curtly, and started walking. He used tracking software to see the worried glances Betty and Bruce shared before following after him, and felt a little comforted by that. They cared. They’d been worried.

Back up is here.

The doors to the lab slid shut behind them, and JARVIS clicked on the high-privacy settings, opaquing the windows and putting the security feeds into separate servers.

“What happened with Steve?” Bruce asked, eyes narrowing a little as Tony shift uneasily in the suit. He still hadn’t deigned to crack his faceplate, and Tony could see Bruce’s breathing deepen a hair as he began to regulate his calm. He didn’t blame the man a bit; silence from Tony seemed to usually presage something of dire import.

Like, you know, him dying. He never should have let Bruce and Pepper compare their Tony-wrangling notes.

“What did he tell you?” Tony asked warily. Steve had to have told the others something. Tony had been too focused on what was happening to him to pay attention to what Steve might have been doing behind his back, but surely he must have called or texted the team at least once to assuage them that he and Tony were all right.

All right, everything’s fine, just fucking Tony into an omega, TTYL.

Tony clenched one hand into a fist hard enough that the servos whined slightly.

“The same thing you did,” Bruce said softly.

Tony shivered inside the confines of the suit. In their last battle, Steve had had everyone clicking so smoothly it had been like driving one of his favorite cars. Every Avenger was in tune with the fight, with each other, with the kind of effortless aid and quasi-telepathic sensitivity to danger that a close-bonded pack shared. Tony was in it, but not quite of it, and he’d been impressed, almost shockingly so. He’d been able to see a few ways out of dangers no one else had, and had helped his pack as best he could, more proud than he could even say. Steve had looked exasperated, like normal, but that day his irritation couldn’t shake Tony’s mood.

For once, Tony actually thought he got it. For maybe the first time in his adult life, Tony could see the strength of a pack he was a part of, and cared enough to want to strengthen that bond. Steve was probably the best alpha Tony had ever heard of, the best man and leader anyone could want for their pack. He wanted Steve to stop sighing at his break-away runs. He wanted to understand, to be understood. He had wanted in, and Tony hadn’t wanted to deliberately bond since he’d been a kid. Pepper, Happy, Rhodey, those had been slow-burn bonds of long association, like Stane, and killing Obadiah… For him that had been like cutting off his own arm. He hadn’t thought he’d want to deliberately bond again.

Until a week ago. He hadn’t intended to go even as far as they had before Steve had wrested control away from him, but he’d wanted to start. He’d wanted to try.

That’s the message he’d sent everyone. If Steve had sent the same, no wonder no one had come looking for him; they’d all been holding their breaths, waiting for the good news.

Tony popped his faceplate.

Both Bruce and Betty looked like they’d just been sucker-punched as Tony’s scent, unfortunately concentrated by nervous sweat and confinement, rolled out to taint the air.

Bruce’s nostrils flared, and Tony could see the muscles of his chest and belly working as he suddenly went into a deliberate deep-breathing pattern, maintaining his calm and keeping the Hulk at bay. And that was bad, very bad, because Bruce’s control was good enough that Tony hadn’t seen him struggle with it since Loki had put his mind-whammy on all of them on the Helicarrier.

“My God,” Betty said, her hand firm on Bruce’s shoulder, grounding him. “Steve?” The shock in her voice, on her face, and Bruce’s near-Incident-level reaction was perversely more reassuring than anything else they could have said or done.

Tony jerked his head in agreement.

“Sit,” Bruce ground out, determination winning out over Hulk-out rage. “We’ll see what we can do.”

“Sir, would you like to put Iron Man through diagnostics?” JARVIS said suddenly, giving Tony a perfectly legitimate and normal excuse to shuck his armor that didn’t make him think he was deliberately disarming. Exposing himself. Tony went through a couple deep breathing exercises himself and nodded. The disassembly arms descended from the ceiling and began the sequence.

“What the hell happened?” Bruce asked, as JARVIS delicately disassembled Iron Man.

“Fuck if I know,” Tony said, sitting gingerly on a padded stool as the last of the armor was whisked away. Betty hovered near him, a needle and blood-pressure cuff on the table next to her, and raised an inquiring eyebrow. She appeared calm, but with the same underlying anger Bruce shared, and smelled like the calming chamomile tea Bruce brewed on a hot plate in the lab. Tony stuck out his arm and she quickly took several blood samples, never touching him more than necessary. Even so, even so… Tony was relaxed here. He felt safe with them.

He honestly felt safe, and drawing on, oh say, that really horrific time he’d been captured in the Sandbox, he knew it took longer than two hours to feel safe again afterwards, even once at home. It had taken him months to find an even keel after Afghanistan. Not hours. Tony put his head down as Betty fed her samples into various machines, breathing slowly and carefully as Bruce as both scientists tried to find him a miracle. He could smell them both so easily, Betty’s chamomile and disinfectant, Bruce’s vanilla and spice with the odd acrid tang from his internal passenger. He knew their scents, he’d know them anywhere, but it had never been so easy to smell them before.

Omega senses, he realized with a sinking stomach. Their sense of smell was always so much more powerful than a beta, or at least that’s what he had observed and had told to him.

“We were just… bonding,” Tony continued, the words trickling out of him slowly as Betty and Bruce worked. It was easier when their backs were turned, when they weren’t looking at him, their ears nevertheless pricked up. “And he didn’t stop.” He said the last in a rush and clamped his mouth shut on the rest.

Bruce stopped what he was doing and pushed away from the lab bench, a decidedly olive tone to his skin. The acrid Hulk smell took an upswing as Bruce physically struggled for control, and Betty turned away from her work to put her hands on his shoulders. Eye-to-eye, they stared at each other as Bruce fought the Hulk back down, Betty’s fierce words soothing the savage beast at least enough for Bruce to take the wheel again. After long, long moments, the air so tense even Tony forgot his own situation for a minute, Bruce finally turned around, green just fading from his eyes.

“We have to tell Fury,” Bruce said, his voice completely flat with suppressed anger. “And the others. He hurt you, Tony.”

Tony opened his mouth to object, a lifetime of near-lone running wanting him to deal with this on his own. And stopped as Bruce and Betty bracketed him, not quite touching, their scents soothing even as both nearly shook with the same rage and disgust Tony was feeling.

His head snapped up at that realization, that their anger at Steve was helping drain the nigh-poisonous ball of loathing that had settled in Tony’s gut. That kind of empathy didn’t just happen, not unless you were…

“We need you Tony. I want to make sure you need us.”

Steve’s words came back to him, unwanted but right. Tony had initially wanted a pack bond. And he’d gotten it. Bruce, Betty, all the Avengers were bonded, and though Tony had been resisting a full bond, by “virtue” of Steve’s actions he’d settled into the spaces they’d been keeping open for him in the pack.

He hadn’t wanted it this way, wouldn’t have wished what he’d gone through even on an enemy, but right now he was too wrought up to resist the single bright point he’d been given.

Tony opened his arms a little, an instant of terrified vulnerability quieted as Bruce and Betty nuzzled him gently, a simple and intimate welcome that thawed a little of the fear that had been choking him all day.

“We’ll help you,” Betty said fiercely.

“And so will the others,” Bruce said. “Please, let them. Let Fury know about Steve.”

“There is no need.”

Tony turned sharply to see Thor, Clint, and Natasha just inside the open doorway.

“JARVIS, what the hell?”

“Sir, you did not lock the door.”

“I put up a Do Not Disturb sign.”

“Not possible to disturb us anymore than we are already,” Clint said, arms crossed across his chest, eyes as hard as they were on the range.

“We did not overhear,” Thor said, crossing the floor in a few strides to kneel before Tony’s stool. “We felt your pain when you entered the Tower. My friend, my brother, my packmate, what has been done is the basest treachery by a man I once considered worthy of being followed. Believe me when I say I know this betrayal cannot go unanswered.”

Thor knew. He knew, deep in his bones, how it was when someone turned on you. He understood. And he was kneeling. He was subsuming his alpha instincts to let Tony know Thor expected no submission from him. A look over at Clint saw some of the same empathy in his eyes, and Tony wondered who’d fucked him over. And how he’d missed that pain before.

And they knew too, it had been Steve. He hadn’t had to tell them. He hadn’t had to tell them out loud, he hadn’t been forced to relieve everything. This… was how it was supposed to work. This was how a pack, a real pack behaved. Tony swallowed hard.

“You can make this work,” Natasha said, her voice soft. “It doesn’t feel like it, I know. It feels like your body is a runaway train, but you can make this work.”

And she knew too. He knew she knew. He knew she hadn’t always been the way she was now, but she’d learned how to conquer herself.

“I’ll help show you,” she said.

“Me too,” Bruce said, with a gentle touch on Tony’s shoulder. “I have some tricks to help.”

“And the first trick is getting Cap and-” Clint began.

“No.” Tony interrupted Clint before he could get going. “I want to, shit, I nearly did him in myself, but the asshole wouldn’t suffer nearly enough. Get Fury.” He swallowed. “I want him to pay.”

Clint’s initial shock at Tony’s words gave way to a nasty smile. “Fury will cut him to shreds.”

“That’ll do for a start,” Tony all but snarled, and bared his teeth. The answering growls from his pack helped fill some of the empty space inside him.

--

One of Nick Fury’s virtues was his decisiveness. He could gather intel, nurture an assent, string someone along for months if necessary, but when the time came to pull the trigger, there was no hesitation.

“I’m bringing you all in. This will be dealt with now.”

It was Bruce who’d given the bare-bones explanation to Fury over video comm, with everyone else backing up Tony behind him. The feeling of comfort it gave him to have the others close… Tony was relaxing into it even as he recognized its source with a sinking heart. He was an omega, one still giving off post-heat pheromones, and the natural instinct of the pack was to protect the omega against anyone but his alpha.

But they were his pack, and his friends, and their anger hadn’t been any less than Tony’s when they’d figured out what had happened. If he could contemplate destroying his alpha, if he could use his anger and logic to override instinct, they could too.

He had to believe that. Pepper and Rhodey were still hours away, and he didn’t want to think of Steve Rogers curled up and sleeping in his apartment like nothing bad had happened for a moment longer. There were times to cultivate patience.

And there were times to pull the trigger.

Tony stood and let JARVIS armor him up again for the trip in the Quinjet, inexplicably missing the closeness of the others as the metal separated him from the mingled scents. But he wasn’t separate from them. He could feel their eyes on them, the faint tugs on his heart that told him they were there. Back up was already here.

--

“We have ways of dealing with betrayal, Stark. I’m going to talk to him for you.”

Tony’s anger flared briefly at being handled, but Fury cut him off before he could even get going, effortlessly turning aside the collective pack outrage the Avengers were emitting.

“The last thing you need is to be in a room with Steve Rogers. Until you stabilize, you’re going to be vulnerable. You’re in my pack too, Stark, and I’m not going to let this lie any more than they would. Do you all understand?”

Fury was a beta, an astonishingly low-key one, but it was much more than his dynamic that had led him to the Directorship of SHIELD. He understood the sometimes-volatile men and women under his command, and in one way or another, they were all part of his pack. Even Thor’s anger, growing every moment he was holding back, could recognize that. If any of the Avengers saw Steve now, he wouldn’t get the justice he deserved before the confrontation dissolved into a deadly pack brawl.

“Stark, I want you in the observation room. The rest of you, stay here. I want to find out what the hell was going through his head. After that… we’ll see to his punishment, I will promise you all that.”

“We’ll be waiting,” Thor said darkly, tiny sparks of lightning beginning to crawl across his armor, the barest hint of his true state of mind.

“And ready,” Natasha added, fingers flexing like claws. Behind her, Clint was deceptively relaxed, idly tracing the side of his vest where Tony knew he kept his throwing knives. Against the wall, Bruce had taken a seat and closed his eyes. If he opened them, he’d be sporting the same lighter shade of olive green he’d been showing off-and-on since Tony popped his faceplate.

Their anger fed back on him as he left the room, and gave him a little more of the strength he needed if he was going to lay eyes on Rogers.

--

Tony had needed it even through the glass of the observation window when Steve sauntered in, muscles rolling under his tight shirt and pants, a visual siren call that made Tony flinch, feeling like he should be out there with him, rubbing up against him, drinking in his scent-.

He shut his eyes and took a couple breaths of the neutral air before regaining his composure enough to look again.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Fury’s voice was deadly cold, and his frosty tone made Rogers flinch visibly. “I am curious to know what was going through your damn mind, what justifications you made to think this was all right.”

Fury didn’t bother to name Steve’s crime. And Steve didn’t ask. Maybe some little twitch of that shame and guilt Tony had heard in his voice was still working in the depths of his soul.

Steve stared straight ahead, unable to meet Fury’s eye. “The pack,” he said, almost too quietly to be heard.

“The pack,” Fury repeated, the word sharp.

“Tony wouldn’t let the pack come together.”

Fury remained silent, arms crossed, not giving Steve any encouragement one way or the other. He could keep talking and hope he wasn’t lengthening the rope that would be used to hang him, or stay silent and hope his few words wouldn’t condemn him. A long moment later, Steve spoke again.

“We were alone,” he said slowly. “Sir, we were alone. Every one of us had been alone for most of our lives. But when we came together during the Battle of Manhattan, I felt it. I felt the pack forming between us. I knew it was slower for Tony because he couldn't scent us through his armor, but I thought that would come in time. We’d be working together, training together, and I thought everyone would be able to come together. We’d all finally have a pack.”

“Every single one of the Avengers has had a pack at some point in time, Rogers,” Fury said, with not a hint of warmth softening his tone. “Even Stark. He might have a very small pack outside the Avengers, but he has one. Potts, Rhodes, and Hogan. Stane used to be on the list too, until he turned. That’s a betrayal not ever forgotten, or forgiven.”

“Sir, I read his file-.”

“Captain, if you’ve read his file, your memory is exceptional, so I don’t know why I have to tell you that Tony Stark has very excellent reasons for not immediately strong pack-bonding with dominant alphas.”

Steve paled a little, and Tony felt an entirely platonic urge to kiss Fury for systematically taking Steve apart. This was a hell of a lot more effective and satisfying than trying to rip Steve’s dick off and feed it to him to get the point across.

Cleaner, too.

“If Tony wanted to be a lone wolf, he could have done it without disrupting the rest of the pack! He keeps trying to separate us, interrupting bonding time-” Steve stopped himself and hung his head before Fury could rev up his glare. “He wanted us around, but didn’t want us together.

“Packs take time.”

“We didn’t have time, sir! We could be called at any time, for anything. Without the pack bond we’d be no better than individuals, and that can be so dangerous. We could have lost each other before we even…” Steve’s hands clenched into fists and his eyes closed. He was actually starting to shake very slightly. “I could have lost him.”

Fury looked up, but not at Steve, back across the room, into the mirror Tony was watching from. “War bonds can be the strongest and most profound of pack bonds.”

“I know that.” Steve’s voice had dropped to an alpha’s territorial growl, and Tony had to grip the edge of the window frame to keep his knees from going weak. He gouged the nails of his other hand into his palm until they nearly drew blood to get himself back under control. Thank fuck he wasn’t actually in the same room; Steve would be throwing off a truckload of pheromones as Fury continued to pick apart his alpha superiority complex.

“You had one of the smoothest-functioning packs in the war, and most of that you attributed, rightly, to the fact that the Howling Commandos had pack-bonded hard and fast when you rescued them from that HYDRA base. It helped that Barnes was already part of your pack, and together with the Commandos, you were the poster children on how teamwork between the Allies would win the war.”

Fury wasn’t talking just to Steve anymore, but Steve didn’t seem to realize it.

“And then Barnes died, you were frozen, and when you woke up your entire pack was dead.”

Steve went rigid and still, aside from the heaving of his chest.

Jesus wept, Tony thought, heart sinking. The man had been in bond shock from losing his pack, had been desperately trying to fill that void with the Avengers. That Tony was blood kin to someone who’d been park of that pack, even if only peripherally, had only exacerbated everything Steve had been going through. The whole sickening situation could be written off as Rogers’ temporary insanity in the face of his trauma.

Oh fuck, Fury, tell me you aren’t… so help me God if you get him off the hook I will find some way of pulling down SHIELD brick by brick around your ears while it burns…

“There is no justification for what you have done. If you think your history will somehow negate the fact you raped someone with the intention of forced bonding through induced omegahood, no matter how you try to dress it up in pack dynamics, you are sorely mistaken.”

“He could have died,” Steve said, his voice very faint. “Stark could have died if-.”

“Any pack is made up of individuals. No individuals, no pack. You force-bonded him, you made him give up his free will-.”

“I never would have abused that!” Steve protested, his growing thick. “There just had to be some way to get through to him, to help keep him safe when he would have thrown his life away trying to take everything on himself when we could have been there to help him! We nearly lost him in the Chitauri attack before I’d gotten a chance to know him. It was the only way…”

“No. It was not. A five-minute conversation with him and he might have listened. If not to you, then to Banner, or Romanov, or Barton. You could have worked through them. You were the pack alpha – you were supposed to help direct your people! If he wouldn’t bond with you all right away, it was your job to figure out why, not-.”

“Give him no choice,” Steve finished, a little bit of sanity coming back into his face, and with it, real fear.

“I think you know what happens next. I’ve been speaking with the rest of the Avengers. Given the nature of your group, we can’t take this before the media. But I think Stark would have appreciated pack justice anyway.”

Tony bared his teeth in nearly an alpha’s feral, challenge-ready smile as Steve went white. Pack justice was old, the ancient dark side of humanity’s evolution from their lupine roots that was universal across all cultures. As old as bonding, as old as packs, when the lead alpha failed, the pack could determine how to punish an errant member on their own.

Steve might well turn white; Thor had looked pissed.

“Tell me, anyone pass around a book back in the day in France? The Little Prince?”

Steve nodded.

“You remember what the fox said that might pertain to this situation?”

Steve nodded again and took a deep breath. “’You remain responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.’”

“Tony Stark is not, nor will he ever be, tame. But, if you survive your pack, you know what you have to do.”

“Take care of him.”

Listen to him. If Stark wants to take care of his heats with drugs and toys, you don’t even look in his damn direction. If he picks another alpha, you never touch them or challenge them. If he has a fit of insanity and decide he’d rather get it over and done with fast and calls you, you drop whatever the hell you’re doing and respond. It doesn’t matter if he hates your guts and won’t even look at you, it doesn’t matter if you are busy with anything short of life-or-death, you respond immediately. You made this mess. You will do whatever it takes to make amends for the rest of your life.”

Tony’s breath whooshed out of his lungs as he considered that carefully.

Steve just stared at Fury, pale as the stars on his uniform, mouth open, eyes seeing something that left him horror-stricken.

“I… I didn’t think…”

“That was obvious.” Fury’s voice was dripping with contempt.

Tony was irrationally proud of Fury. He couldn’t have delivered that line any better.

“I was trying to help us.”

“You didn’t give him a chance, or a choice, and I will be damned if I will let anyone ruin one of my people the way I was.”

Tony clutched the window frame again, this time in a very different kind of shock. Steve rather looked like he needed a window frame of his own. Fury?

“Sir, I thought you were a beta.”

“I was. Then someone who wasn’t as ‘protective’ as you decided to turn me against my own organization when I fell into enemy hands.”

Steve looked down at the ground again, his entire posture one of utter submission.

“Go face your pack. If you survive, we’ll talk again.”

Steve collapsed where he stood, dropping to his knees with his head nearly to the floor when Fury stalked out. Tony thought he heard Steve say something over and over again, in time with Fury’s footsteps.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry…”

“How?” Tony demanded, the second Fury entered the observation room. “Your scent, you’re a beta. How the hell did you reverse it?”

“I didn’t.”

“Bullshit! Tell me!”

“Volkov had me for a year. He fucked me twice a day, regular as clockwork, asking questions about SHIELD, about the local bases, about anything that would help his organization. Soon as my heats started, he’d deprive me unless I talked. I held out twelve hours the first time. They bombed the safehouse two days after I talked.” Fury looked off into the middle distance and idly rubbed one wrist. “He thought he had me, and got a little careless with the handcuffs. I got my hands on a kitchen knife.”

Fury tugged up his shirt and revealed horrific scars crisscrossing his abdomen.

“I won’t show you the rest. I had two choices; I want to make damn sure you have more.”

Tony had to put his wrist up to his mouth to help him stop throwing up. He knew what other scars he would see if Fury had decided to drop trou. His choice. He could have chosen to open his veins or stab himself in the heart. But he’d chosen instead to mince his own ovaries, puncture his uterus, probably cutting his own testicles away and mangling his lubrication glands and prostate so he could never feel pleasure, never be swamped with hormones again. He’d chosen self-castration as the biggest “fuck you” to his captor he could imagine.

Physically present or not, Nick Fury had the biggest set of balls Tony had ever heard of.

“It nearly killed me. Volkov dropped me at the bombing site, figuring I’d be dead before SHIELD could save me. He was wrong. I told the Director where he was hiding; Volkov was dust in an hour.”

“Kinda making all of this feel like kiddy pool stuff in comparison, Fury.” At least Tony had been left whole…

Fury snorted. “Volkov was drug-dealing weapons’ smuggler without a single compassionate bone in his body. He was a disgusting excuse for a human being and I knew that going in against him. Rogers blindsided you in every sense of the word for reasons he could make justifiable in his own head. But he’s capable of remorse. And change.”

“He’s insane,” Tony nearly hissed. “He is out of his goddamn mind. After Thor and the others take him apart, I don’t want to see him again.”

Fury was silent for a long moment and tugged his coat closed, wafting the faint scent of Steve’s pheromones past Tony’s nose. He caught himself before leaning into the delicious, intoxicating aroma and shot Fury a glare.

“I think there’s an argument that he did have a break with reality. But he’s about to get that reality check brought home. Volkov would have never kneeled and begged for forgiveness.”

“He’s not kneeling to me.”

“He will. Tell me, Stark, what do you want to do?”

“Go on suppressants,” Tony snapped, biting off the unsaid idiot.

“You’re newly-made. Your hormone levels won’t stabilize for at least a year, maybe longer, considering who changed you. Suppressants might not even work; they could even make your heats worse. You’re stuck riding them out, one way or another. Banner will tell you the same thing the doctors said would have happened to me.”

“Fuck.” Tony looked away, balling his hands up, then making himself relax. “Fuck!

He didn’t think he could make Fury’s choice – even if he employed surgeons instead of mutilating himself with a kitchen knife, he couldn’t see how castrating himself would make this any better. He could try to hold out with toys and Bruce’s meditations and whatever drugs would help take the edge off, though he’d spend a long time trying to figure out what would satisfy his hormonal breeding imperative. He could find someone else to help.

He didn’t even consider forcing Steve to be his personal sex toy. A faint whiff of his hormones could nearly undo him – once he put himself back into his power, there would be no forcing involved. Tony would be able to get through heat fast, sure, and probably would hate himself, Steve, or both afterward. Trust Fury to bring it up and make him think it over before his hormones took over again. And they would; it was inevitable.

“Are you ready to watch this?”

Tony looked up to see his team file in the room, dropping their weapons by the door as they surrounded the still-kneeling Steve in a loose circle. Over the speaker, Tony could hear their growls as they got ready to pounce, teeth showing, crouching in readiness to spring into action.

“I challenge you,” Thor rumbled, nearly incomprehensible in his anger. “I followed you because I thought you were a good man, Steven Rogers, but instead you showed the worst of yourself to one who was just beginning to trust your judgment.”

Steve lurched to his feet, white to the lips, chest heaving as he desperately sucked in air.

“I did what I had to do for the good of the pack.”

Natasha stepped in, fast, and backhanded Steve hard enough to whip his head to the side before sliding back. “No excuses.”

“I was afraid for his life.”

Clint moved that time, with an open-ended slap strong enough to split the skin of Steve’s cheek. “Screw you!”

“We need him.”

Bruce stepped in and gripped Steve’s hair tight, forcing his head back. “Not like that.”

Steve shook his head as Bruce stepped away, and slowly dropped into a combat stance, meeting each of his pack’s eyes with a haunted gaze. “Come on!”

Tony felt himself howling through the glass with the rest of his pack as they charged, hands gripping the window frame for dear life as his alpha went down under the Avengers’ initial attack.