“Reports of climate changes, alterations in the atmosphere, as well as anomalies in the solar irradiance and Earth’s magnetic field keep coming in from all over the world. What began as a series of random occurrences two weeks ago has now progressed to a constant stream of events, and there seems to be no end in sight. The world’s top scientists have assured the public that these changes are not dangerous. However, miniature earthquakes continue to plague the fault line areas; semi-strong tsunamis have been measured along most coastlines in the aftermath of bigger quakes, although there have been only minor damages. Check your local news for any extreme weather reports in your area. Also, it would seem we’re going to have another red-sky event tonight, people, so if the weather allows, take your family sky-gazing.”
Tony huffed at the radio and motioned with his hand for J.A.R.V.I.S. to change the channel.
“Are you going to make another flight tonight?” Bruce’s voice carried across the lab.
“Yes,” Tony replied, tilting his head. “The readings are getting erratic. I want a proper look in the… upper… thermosphere.” He grunted, struggling to tighten a bolt on the equipment he was planning on taking up with him, to get proper readings.
Bruce walked over, cleaning his hands on a paper towel. “How are your radiation shields?”
“Better than the first time I tried to go up there,” Tony grinned. “My tan was positively glowing after that flight.”
Bruce rolled his eyes, not amused by his exaggeration. “Did you call Pepper?” he asked then. “Just because she’s on the other side of the continent doesn’t mean you can’t tell her when you plan on going into space.”
“Technically, it isn’t space, and you know it.”
“Doesn’t matter to her,” Bruce pointed out.
Tony finished tightening the bolt and then tossed the wrench to the side. “When did you become my relationship advisor?” he asked with a half-smile – not that he minded; a happy Pepper meant a good time for Tony, and if Bruce helped him manage his relationship, all the better. “I’ll give her a call,” he promised.
Bruce simply nodded and went over to one of the computer terminals, starting to go over the previous week’s readings, staring at the variations and calculations.
Biology had never been Tony’s strong suit, but he knew enough to be alarmed. So far, there had been no simple explanation for the changes on Earth; no solar flares, no changes in their immediate region of outer space. Nothing from Earth’s core, either; that had been another trip Tony wouldn’t forget for a long time, and there were still parts of his body where hair hadn’t grown back.
The scientist in him refused to rest before an answer had been provided to him, though.
A tap came from the door and Tony glanced up to see Steve Rogers standing there, carrying a tray of what looked like coffee and food. He grinned and ordered J.A.R.V.I.S. to open the door. “You come bearing gifts,” Tony noted.
“I know how to get your attention,” Steve noted, setting the tray on a table. Tony pushed his chair towards it, wheels rolling soundlessly across the smooth floor, but before he could snatch himself a cup of the brown, sweet-smelling beverage, Steve’s hand was there, blocking his path.
“What?” Tony snapped up at him, incensed that his imminent consumption of coffee had been halted.
“I need to talk to you,” their team-leader said.
“You’re talking to me.”
Steve sighed, and that small frown that just begged for a thumb and forefinger to squeeze it was right there on top of the ridge of his nose. “Okay, fine,” he relented and stepped aside to let Tony claim one of the coffee cups. “Do you have any new data about what is happening?” Steve asked.
“When I do, you’ll be among the first to know,” Tony promised.
“He’s flying some new equipment into the sky later today,” Bruce added as he approached, taking one of the sandwiches and leaving the coffee untouched. Tony decided he might as well drink that one as well and reached for it.
Steve gave him a look, then redirected his gaze at Bruce. “So, you’re working on it?”
“Like every other scientist in the world,” Tony told him, lips moving against the rim of the cup.
Steve nodded again. “Why aren’t there any results?”
“Because what’s happening isn’t making any sense,” Bruce told him. “As far as anyone can see, it isn’t life-threatening. Of course there have been plants showing signs of withering, and some animals that are more sensitive to changes in the habitat than others, but so far, nothing alarming.”
“Why so worried, Captain?” Tony asked.
“It’s all over the news. It’s all the people are talking about, and… don’t you feel a little weird?” Steve asked. “Like when you swallow, things don’t seem to settle the right way?”
“Go see a doctor,” Tony suggested, although he doubted there could ever be anything wrong with the super-soldier. “You’re just letting all this fear propaganda get to you. I’m sure there are a lot of doomsday movements that are having their payday delivered right to their doorstep with oddly colored skies and weather being all over the place – but at the same time they’re saying that global warming is finally here.”
“What do you think?” Steve asked.
Tony gave it a few seconds. “I don’t know. Whatever it is, I won’t like it until I know what it is, but until I know it’s something life-threatening, I refuse to panic and hide under the bed.”
“I’m not panicking,” Steve huffed.
“Then go beat up a few punching bags and enjoy life as we know it,” Tony ordered, and with a rather sheepish look, the blond left the lab.
Bruce had a small frown on his face when Tony turned to look at him.
“Not you, too,” Tony complained.
“He said he’s feeling strange,” Bruce reminded Tony.
“It’s probably just a bad case of nerves. I’m sure even Captain America gets an upset tummy every now and then.”
Bruce nodded slowly, then took a large bite out of his sandwich and returned to his equations.
Tony balanced the two coffee mugs and rolled back to his work table, settling in to finish the analyzing equipment.
Five days later
Tony thought there had to be some cosmic joke in effect: three days after Steve’s hesitant confession that he was feeling strange, the entire globe fell ill. Well, not everyone, but an insanely large percentage of the population, which was something that happened only in science fiction.
The illness spread erratically, yet swiftly, and no one knew how it was transmitted. Tony was among the last to get ill, and he’d almost thought he had gotten away with it before it hit him like a sledgehammer to the forehead in the early morning hours.
Knowing that most of the Tower’s occupants had already fallen ill in the previous days – including Clint, Natasha, and – most amazingly – Steve, Tony knew he was better off staying in bed.
When the cramps started, Tony was fairly certain he couldn’t have gotten out of bed even if he had wanted to; his stomach had never hurt so much, abdominal muscles twisting, jumping and clenching hard enough to bring him to tears. It felt like someone had stuck their first inside him – up through his ass, the fucker – and was having a party while he suffered.
He didn’t feel like throwing up, nor had he any interest in trying to empty his bowels when it felt like his rectal walls were already turning themselves inside out.
Eventually the steady, churning burn in his lower body lulled him into a feverish sleep, and he awoke to find Bruce in his room.
“J.A.R.V.I.S. called me in,” Bruce told him and offered a glass of water and some pills. “You’re worse than the others,” he added.
Tony tried to refuse the drink and the pills, but Bruce was insistent when in his nursemaid-mode, and eventually Tony gulped down the water and swallowed the pills, feeling marginally better afterwards.
“Happy called, from L.A.,” he told Tony after a while, when he had ushered Tony over to a chair and was changing his sheets. “Pepper’s been sick as well, but she’s taking it like a champ.”
“Good for her,” Tony groused.
“Happy also said that Rhodey’s been bedridden for a couple of days.”
“Shit,” Tony swore. “Is there anyone who’s not down for the count?” His eyes then fell on Bruce, who looked like he’d never been better. Compared to Tony’s shitty state, it wasn’t a surprise; even Mick Jagger would look good compared to him. “Aren’t you feeling…?”
“No,” Bruce shook his head and finished adjusting the pillow. “Do you want to shower?”
“If I could stand straight, maybe,” Tony muttered.
“I can help.”
“It’s fine. Just let me lie down.”
Bruce helped him back to bed, took his temperature and then left, promising to come back with more pills and water. Tony dozed off, curled into himself, hoping like hell this was going to end soon.
“Normal life is resuming. Rough estimates show that more than sixty-five percent of the world’s population experienced a period of illness in the last week and a half. Hospitals and health centers have been overwhelmed and understaffed as alarmed citizens attempt to get help for their sudden and previously unrecognized ailments. While others suffered from aches and a rise in body temperature, a large number was forced to bed-rest with agonizing abdominal pains.
“Many suspect that the recent changes in the atmosphere may have triggered this wave of illness, and considering the wide-spread yet consistent symptoms, many healthcare professionals are inclined to agree, although no one has yet dared to guess where these changes originated from – and whether they’ll return.
“The global uncertainty has triggered a response in many countries, leading to riots and instability –”
“You listen to that crap?” James Rhodes’ voice cut through the news reporter’s monologue and Tony swept his hand through the air, signaling for J.A.R.V.I.S. to switch off the TV.
“Trying to get the big picture,” Tony replied and smiled at the other man who ventured deeper into the workshop.
“I hear you got sick the bad way,” Rhodey noted.
Tony just nodded. “Not an experience I would like to repeat in the near future. It also figured I was the only one in the team who got the worst version.” He looked the other man over. “You look…”
“It wasn’t that bad for me,” Rhodey shrugged. “Also, I think Pepper got the worst case scenario, but luckily, it wasn’t all that hard on her.”
“She’s a tough lady,” Tony offered, looking at his feet for a moment. He would have wanted to be there for Pepper, but he hadn’t been able to raise himself from bed without Bruce’s help, so flying across the continent hadn’t been an option, even if J.A.R.V.I.S. could have handled the suit for him.
“She’s also here, and wants to see you,” Rhodey pointed out.
That was Tony’s cue to leave the workshop for a bit, so they went to the elevator, rode up to the main floor and entered to find the Avengers gathered in the living room with Pepper and Happy. She looked up, appearing as healthy as always, and rose to her feet to properly greet Tony.
“Hey,” she whispered when Tony slid his arms around her lithe, tall form, “you okay?”
“Good as new,” Tony told her.
“Bruce said you were really sick.”
“Shall I ask J.A.R.V.I.S. for a second opinion?” she threatened, and Tony gave her an apologetic look and kissed her.
“I’m fine now,” he promised. “Besides, if Captain America got sick, the rest of us didn’t really stand a chance.”
“I didn’t get sick,” Bruce noted from the couch, stirring a cup of tea he held in his hands.
“Yeah?” Happy asked. “Me neither. Everyone else kept falling like flies. It was scary. Even at the hospital, more than half their staff was down with whatever the hell it was.”
“CDC is probably doing overtime to figure it out,” Natasha noted. “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s working on it, too, as is every other agency, research center and private lab. It won’t remain a mystery forever.”
“At least it’s over,” Rhodey decided as he sat himself down on the couch.
In the kitchen, Steve and Clint were making something to eat. Clearly they weren’t in agreement over the menu, snapping back and forth at each other and shifting ingredients around the table. Natasha looked over at them, raising an eyebrow, and got up to referee.
“Tensions have been up all day,” Bruce observed, a small, humorless smile on his lips. “I think now that the world’s back on its feet and people are starting to ask questions, everyone here knows it’s just a matter of time before the Avengers are needed to bring order to the streets.”
“It’s good that people are shaken up every once in a while,” Tony noted as he and Pepper sat down on the couch as well. “Keeps them alert.”
“I’m not sure anyone needed a wake-up call like this one,” Bruce disagreed. “For the entire population to get sick simultaneously, regardless of their whereabouts, is worrisome – not to mention the environmental changes that have been steadily happening over the last weeks.”
“You’re just jealous because you didn’t get sick like the rest of us,” Tony stuck out his tongue.
“Looking at you, whimpering and sweating for three days, I’m not sure it’s a loss,” the scientist shot back, and Pepper carded perfectly manicured nails through Tony’s hair to keep him from continuing the light banter.
In the kitchen, the disagreement seemed to have grown into an argument, which was weird. Tony looked up while taking one of Pepper’s hands in his, idly caressing it. “What’s going on in there?” he asked, frowning as Clint got into Steve’s face, body stiff and raised to his full height. He had nothing on Steve, though, who shoved him back, hard – and it seemed the situation ignited completely at that. Natasha tried to get between the two before actual blows started falling, and through it all there weren’t any clear insults being traded. It was like watching a pantomime fight over something Tony wasn’t aware of.
Steve, being a super-soldier and all, had no problem shoving both Clint and Natasha back. The two assassins seemed to decide to gang up on him, and even without weapons being drawn, it looked like a brawl was only seconds away.
Rhodey stood up suddenly, shoulders pushed forward, face grim. “Enough!” he shouted. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Three heads whipped around to look at him, and Tony found himself jumping a little at Rhodey’s voice. Sometimes he forgot the man was in the military.
“It’s none of your business,” Steve snapped.
“Maybe I’ll make it my business, then,” Rhodey offered, taking a step forward, and there was such a blatant threat in his every movement that Tony had to blink twice to check whether he was seeing right; Rhodey had the uttermost respect for Steve – for Captain America – and for him to get in Steve’s face like this was totally unlike him. Sure, Rhodey could pick a fight just like the next person, but his self-control was usually pretty high.
Steve moved over, leaving Clint and Natasha standing tensely at the back of the kitchen. “Back off, Colonel,” Steve ordered – or rather, growled – stopping only when he and Rhodey were chest to chest. Rhodey was half a head shorter although he tried to make himself look big, dressed in uniform and looking ready to take this to the end.
“Okay, alpha males!” Tony called out. “That’s enough. You’re embarrassing everyone in the room.”
Steve glanced at him, but didn’t sneer or snap in reply.
“Come on, guys,” Bruce agreed. He still had the tea cup in his hands but he had stopped stirring it after the situation began to grow heated. “What’s the problem? Let’s sort it out and move on.”
“There’s no problem,” Steve replied then glared at Rhodey once more. “Unless he has one.”
“Oh, you’re starting to make me want to have one,” the shorter man replied.
“Jim!” Pepper finally snapped. “Take a step back and breathe. What is wrong with you both?” she asked, concern in her voice.
Steve was the one to take the step back, and after a few, deep breaths, he looked almost guilty. Rhodey, on the other hand, kept scowling at him, back straight, shoulders tense, still in fight-mode.
“What was the original disagreement about?” Bruce asked. “Between Clint and Steve?”
“I said we should boil some potatoes,” Steve answered slowly. “Clint wanted to make chips.”
Everyone stared for a moment. “Wait, what?” Tony exclaimed. “You fought over potatoes?!”
“Chips are good!” Clint claimed from across the room. Tony swore he could see Steve’s muscles twitch in retaliation, but he didn’t reply.
“We can have both,” Bruce decided. “We have plenty of people over. It’s nothing to fight about.” He sounded casual, but Tony could hear the tight note beneath it; while the Avengers didn’t regularly had disagreements over things as trivial as food, this was ridiculous even for them – and for Steve to actually get physical with any of his teammates outside sparring was unheard of. Steve seemed to realize that himself.
“Rhodey, sit down,” Pepper ordered, and Tony looked at his friend who still appeared like a peacock ready for a fight.
“Yeah, sit down, Hot Rod,” Tony agreed, and finally Rhodey took his original place on the couch, slowly relaxing. He kept looking at Steve, though, who retreated back to the kitchen and started working on his share of the potatoes while Clint took the other half to make chips.
“Is this normal?” Happy asked with a frown.
“No,” Tony and Bruce responded in the same breath.
If the disagreement over boiled potatoes vs. chips was bizarre, the rest of the world followed on the same note like a clunky carriage: fights broke out all over the place, from small skirmishes to quickly exploding mass brawls; people who had been calm and peaceful for all their lives suddenly had a bone to pick with the strangest of adversaries.
It was soon determined as a ‘hormonal imbalance’, but finding a definite medication for people of all ages, genders and races would take time. People were simply urged to cool themselves off and steer clear of trigger situations.
There only pattern the experts found to explain who was getting a testosterone and aggression boost was in how people had experienced the brief illness – or whether they had experienced it at all: those who had not gotten ill, and those who had suffered from severe abdominal pains, displayed next to no increased signs of aggression; the part of the population that had gotten away with the faster, more superficial version of the illness were now suffering from severe hormonal imbalance.
That explained what was happening among the Avengers as well: Clint, Natasha and Steve, who had gotten sick but not in the way Tony had, were now often glaring daggers at each other. For safety reasons, the three of them weren’t allowed to spar together without supervision – not before someone figured out a way to control the hormonal surges.
“With all our understanding of the super-soldier serum, there’s no way Steve should be affected like the rest of us,” Bruce murmured one day, leaning over his notes. The semi-circle of screens around him showed various test results, collected data and comparisons between different test subjects.
“Does that mean it will get worse for the rest of us?” Tony asked. He didn’t look forward to that, but he agreed with Bruce that any changes from the outside should affect Steve differently than the rest of the population. Also, why had Bruce been immune to whatever it was – just like Happy – while so many others fell victim to the illness and its aftermath?
Whatever it was, it wasn’t selective – or, its parameters weren’t something they had yet understood. Diet, geographical location, living conditions or past medical history didn’t seem to have any effect on who got which end of the short stick. Age, sex or skin tone didn’t seem to be variables either.
Tony liked riddles, but he didn’t like the ones he couldn’t solve. Mostly because there wasn’t supposed to be a riddle he couldn’t solve, which meant someone, somewhere, was cheating.
He turned back to his screens, deciding to take another look at the atmosphere readings. Perhaps this was some new form of chemical warfare. Not that any weapon they were familiar with, or had envisioned, could affect the entire planet in ways they had seen so far.
And what Tony Stark’s brain couldn’t cook up… it was better for everyone if those things didn’t exist.
Tony woke up feeling anxious. He hadn’t dreamt, as far as he could recall, so stirring to a sensation of being covered in sweat was a nasty surprise. With a gasp he shoved the covers away from his body, but the relief was minimal at best: he felt incredibly hot, yet not feverish.
“Sir?” J.A.R.V.I.S. prompted, not sounding concerned, but then, Tony hated it when the AI acted like a doting mother hen.
“Crank up the AC,” Tony ordered.
A moment later he heard and felt a draft on his skin, but it was like moving desert air and Tony sat up with a sigh. The anxious feeling still sat deep in his gut and he had no idea where it had come from – or what it thought was supposed to happen. He rose to get himself a glass of ice-cold water, to see if that helped, but after quarter a gallon he had to accept that wasn’t doing the trick either.
Tony grimaced as he felt a drop of sweat bead at his neck then travel down along his back and into the crack of his ass. “Fuck’s sake…” he muttered and pulled on a pair of sweats, a shirt, and headed outside. Maybe if he ate something, his body would get back to its normal routine.
It was a good plan, and he was close to putting it in motion when he reached the common floor, stepped out of the elevator and realized everyone else was awake. In and of itself, finding the other Avengers up and about wasn’t new or strange; Tony worked strange hours and slept when it became necessary. It looked like it was mid-afternoon – he hadn’t bothered to check the time when he woke up – and the clock on the wall confirmed his guess.
Tony looked at the others, a greeting ready on his lips – then he suddenly sensed something. His entire body froze as he halted to take a better look at his teammates. The other Avengers – save for Thor, who was still visiting Asgard – had looked up upon his entrance, and were currently busy ogling at him. “What?” Tony asked. He knew he probably looked like hell due to the internal heating issues his body was currently struggling with, but that didn’t warrant such stares.
Slowly, he became aware of something that could be described as a secondary layer: the gazes of Clint, Natasha and Steve became like physical things, pressing against him and under his clothes to caress his sweaty, itching skin. For a brief second he wanted to strip all his clothes and throw himself down on the floor, but he blinked out of it before his hands could start reaching for the hem of his shirt.
His nose detected a smell – faint but musky – and it almost reeled him in, making him lean forward, eyes searching for its source. Tony’s eyes met Steve’s, and his knees gave beneath him. Also, at the back of his mind, he registered his underwear turning into a sodden mess, which was fucked up because he was one hundred percent certain he hadn’t just wet his pants.
Tony’s asshole clenched, along with his insides.
“Tony?” Bruce’s voice sounded like it was drifting across a large body of water. “Are you okay?”
The heat on Tony’s skin was becoming unbearable, but it had nothing on the new, pulsing need inside him. He needed –
Clint started stepping forward, a hungry look on his face. Tony had never seen anything like it, and it scared him a little. Only, fear was being left second in comparison to the heat and want that bordered almost on nausea, but he knew that throwing up wouldn’t ease his condition.
Steve shot out his arm, shoving Clint away, and blocked his path. It was clear Clint didn’t like that because he immediately moved to face Steve, body poised to fight.
Behind them, Natasha moved to the side, eyes dark, and she had almost gotten past the two men when Steve noticed her, lunging to intercept her. Natasha dodged, rolling away and getting back onto her feet. Her eyes were narrowed and angry, and she snarled, circling, yet unable to get past Steve.
Clint, now unopposed, continued across the room towards Tony, but Steve took after him before he managed to take five steps, grabbed the back of Clint’s neck and slammed him down, face-first into a small table by the couch. It was smashed into pieces beneath the impact, glass and wood shattering.
“Steve, stop! What’s wrong with you?!” Bruce shouted, keeping his distance.
Tony blinked at the fight and the alarm in Bruce’s voice; his mind felt distant, like it had been separated from what was really going on.
Clint was struggling, although feebly, and Natasha was still circling. Steve remained in a low, threatening pose, challenging them to test his superiority. Eventually Natasha moved forward, sliding beneath Steve’s first block and managing to get in a few good punches before Steve simply lifted her up and threw her down.
“We’re going.” Bruce’s voice was suddenly closer, and his hand closed around Tony’s upper arm, yanking him up. Tony’s knees could barely hold him up, so Bruce simply dragged him to the elevator, punching the buttons frantically as the fight continued in the living room; Clint had gotten back to his feet and he had a broken piece of wood in his grip. “J.A.R.V.I.S.,” Bruce called out once the elevator doors finally closed. Tony let out a moan of protest, feeling like someone was gripping him around the windpipe when he was cut off from the others.
“Yes, Dr. Banner?” the AI responded.
“Are there any alien particles in the air?”
“None that I could detect, although the behavior displayed by Agents Barton and Romanoff, as well as Captain Rogers, much resembles what has been reported in the last five hours around the world. Should I call for S.H.I.E.L.D. to intervene?”
“I don’t…” Bruce hesitated, then shook Tony a little. “Tony, I need you with me. Just before you came up, we were going over some data that was coming in. People being… Tony, are you listening to me?”
Tony blinked. The air smelled wrong – or it smelled right, but he wanted to smell something else; the same thing he had smelled upstairs, in the living room. “We have to go back,” he managed to say.
“No. We’re not going back up there, unless you want the other guy to come out and deal with the situation,” Bruce told him sharply.
They arrived at their destination – Tony’s primary workshop – and Bruce dragged him over to the transparent door, opened it and took them through. Tony heard the other man initiate lock-down, but all he could focus on was that the air still smelled wrong. He sniffed at himself, to see whether that was better or worse, but all he got was a reek of desperation.
His skin was getting hotter, his insides itching even worse, and he looked around for something to help with that. Eventually he just collapsed to the floor and half sat, half lay there, unsure which he wanted to do more.
“J.A.R.V.I.S., show me what’s happening upstairs,” Bruce ordered, and one of the big screens came to life, showing several camera angles. Many of them showed Clint and Natasha on the floor, apparently unconscious. “Are they –?”
“They are alive, although it would seem Captain Rogers triumphed in their fight,” J.A.R.V.I.S. replied.
“Where is Steve?”
“Heading down stairwell B; I blocked his access to the elevators.”
“Good thinking. Can you give me visual of his movements?”
“Do you have a theory, Doctor?”
“No, unfortunately not. But the fact that Tony’s current state is so different from the rest of them… Wait, is that…?” Bruce pointed a finger at the screen when J.A.R.V.I.S. finally caught up with Steve’s movements.
“Captain Rogers appears to have entered his own floor in order to get his shield and he is now approaching the workshop level,” the AI confirmed. No sooner had J.A.R.V.I.S. said that when Steve suddenly appeared behind the transparent wall, chest heaving, cheeks a little flushed, his hair a complete mess. A few bloody lines showed on his skin where Clint or Natasha must have wounded him.
“Steve,” Bruce called out, “I don’t know if you can hear me, or understand me, but you need to put the shield down and try to remain calm.”
Obviously Steve wasn’t interested in listening to Bruce’s opinion. The blue eyes searched the room until they fell on Tony, but unlike in the living room, Tony couldn’t really feel him. Tony did whimper, though, just in case Steve could hear him, and Bruce cast him a worried look.
Steve shifted his shield, methodically, then brought it down against the wall, hard, its edge colliding and creating spider-web cracks all over the surface.
Bruce jumped, alarmed. “J.A.R.V.I.S., can you knock him out?”
“Yes, Dr. Banner. May I suggest you and Mr. Stark wear a pair of protective masks to keep you from –”
“No!” Tony cried out; his nostrils were flaring at the alluring smell he had finally found again, wafting in from the small cracks in the reinforced glass wall. “Please, let him in.”
“Tony –” Bruce started.
“I… need him,” Tony begged him, trying to get to his feet. He felt hot, heavy and a little weak – just like he had back in the living room. On top of that he was starting to hurt all over, and he was fairly certain that if this went on any longer, he might actually get a cramp in both his anal sphincters. “J.A.R.V.I.S., open the door!”
“Sir, my sensors suggest significant changes in your bio-feed –”
“I don’t care,” Tony argued. He really didn’t.
“You may not be thinking clearly.”
“I feel like I’m dying,” Tony claimed, looking up at Bruce imploringly. “Please, let him in. I know it will help. He won’t hurt me.”
Bruce looked down at him, but before he could decide either way, Steve hauled his arm back for another strike and brought the vibranium shield forward with all his strength, shattering the wall into a hundred little pieces.
Tony could have sworn a small explosion took place in his body; his senses were overwhelmed by the other man’s presence. Steve had overcome all opposition, standing there victorious, and the smell of him clogged up Tony’s nose. His gut clenched and he hauled himself up – just so that Steve could wrap his strong arms around him and lift him into his arms, their mouths crashing together hard enough to draw blood. The shield went clattering across the floor as Steve adjusted his hold on Tony, hoisting him higher.
Steve’s body was firm; pure muscle and heat burning against Tony’s flushed skin. Their clothes were a thin boundary between them, an annoyance and a hindrance. Tony’s fingers dug into Steve’s shirt, trying to yank it off or apart, then felt his backside collide with something hard and he was settled on top of what had to be one of his work stations.
“Guys?” Bruce’s hesitant voice barely broke through the haze as Steve’s hands released Tony – only to tear his pants and underwear off his body. The fabric tore loudly beneath super strength. “Tony, Steve, what’s going on?” Bruce was closer now, Tony could sense him; he was like a cool breeze, annoying yet refreshing, but Tony didn’t have the patience to look at him, or listen to him – not with Steve’s hands coming back, yanking at his shirt. Tony participated enough to get it off his form in one piece, then watched with hungry eyes as Steve divested himself of his own clothing in hurried yanks.
Steve always neatly folded his clothes, if possible; now he discarded them where they fell and stepped back between Tony’s spread thighs, grabbing them and yanking his hips closer to the edge of the table. Steve’s cock was hard and flushed, and Tony had an unhealthy craving for it, suddenly.
“Tony, please, listen,” Bruce started again, but Steve was already leaning in, skin against Tony’s skin, and it was like a drug wrapping all around Tony, leaving him in a cocoon where the only sound was that of his own heart and the breaths of the blond above him.
Tony could smell him, feel him, and soon Steve would help quench the need that made his entire body shiver.
“Steve, wait, you can’t just –”
Bruce tried to pull Steve back, but the blond snarled at him like a dog guarding his bone. The sound went straight to Tony’s spine and his legs twitched, trying to close around Steve’s waist.
“Please, I need it,” Tony managed, hand finding Steve’s chest, his neck, and then he felt the blond thrust forward, despite Bruce’s sound of alarm. Steve’s cock sank into him, and it occurred to Tony, briefly, that usually things didn’t go so smoothly without sufficient preparation.
Steve growled above him, hips working, and Tony’s attention narrowed to the satisfying burn that replaced the anxious ache in his body. Finally! His lips curled into a smile and he moaned, deep from his chest, letting go.
“So hot and wet,” Steve murmured in his ear as his hips kept thrusting, his teeth tightening on Tony’s neck. “Mine,” Steve finished.
Tony thought he felt the other man come, the blond’s hips stuttering and then coming to a halt.
So much for the legendary super-stamina.
Tony blinked up, bleary-eyed and dissatisfied. The edge of his need had been scraped off and smoothed, but he didn’t feel like he was done just yet.
Tony looked to the side, finding Bruce standing a few feet from them, cheeks flushed, fists tightly balled up. He looked ready to snap if someone so much as touched him, and his eyes were dark.
A hand grabbed Tony’s chin, hard, and his face was yanked to look up, at Steve. His blond hair was sweaty and beads of sweat decorated his fair skin. His chest was still heaving but he looked a little less wild; not by much, but it seemed the most burning need was gone from his system as well.
That mixed smell of sweet and musky still hung around them, though, and Tony shifted, moaning, and felt Steve’s cock still inside him. He was so wet…
“I’m not done,” Steve told him, and as if to make a point, he moved his hips forward.
“Good,” Tony countered, and their lips crashed together again.
Bruce knew he should have left. If for nothing else, then because there were two people fucking and he hadn’t been invited to watch – nor was he the watching type. However, this was Steve and Tony, who had never shown any sort of sexual interest in each other; as far as Bruce knew, Tony was happy with Pepper, and Steve had never struck him as someone who might be interested in men.
But here they were, fucking on one of Tony’s work tables as if there were no tomorrow, and Bruce wasn’t sure how, but they hadn’t used a single second to prepare Tony. Not that it was his topmost concern at this point, seeing Tony twist, writhe and welcome Steve with every single fiber of his being. It had, however, cemented his conclusion that something had happened that wasn’t entirely natural.
It had started when Tony entered the living room, that much was clear. Tony had gone weak-kneed and Steve had proceeded to eliminate the competition, after which he followed them down here and didn’t allow anything to stand between him and Tony. It was bizarre, and a little frightening, but Bruce was fairly certain they weren’t hurting each other and he had a feeling that if he tried to really pry them apart, he might have to Hulk out in order to do that.
The first round had taken mere seconds. Bruce had dared to hope that it would be over at that point, but Steve merely shifted and kept going.
After round five, Bruce started expecting something to give. Tony had come twice, and he was no longer moving, simply taking Steve’s thrusts and watching the ceiling like he was in a daze. He didn’t protest or push the other man away, though, and Bruce hung back, digging nails into the insides of his palms and willing for it to end.
Upstairs, Clint and Natasha had gathered themselves up and retreated into Natasha’s room. Save for some bruising and scrapes, they seemed fine.
Steve finally stilled, drawing back from Tony. Bruce’s eyes moved down, his mind trying to remain clinical and observant as he saw the trail of pearly cum follow Steve’s softening organ, and the wet mess between Tony’s legs.
“Is it over?” Bruce finally dared to ask.
Steve looked at him but didn’t growl. On the table, Tony shifted, turning to lie on his side where he pulled up his legs. The air in the room seemed to grow heavier, second by second, until Steve reached for Tony, fingers sliding up his flank. Surely he didn’t want to go again… Tony let out an unhappy sound, and Steve pulled back, blinking rapidly a few times. “Tony?” he said finally, as if someone had smacked him upside the head and brought him out of a light sleep.
Bruce looked back and forth between the two men, watching as their faces morphed into new expressions: Tony’s brow furrowed, the recently peaceful features twisted by sudden anger; Steve looked alarmed and confused – and guilty.
“Get out,” Tony finally snapped at the blond.
“Tony, I –”
“Out!” Tony shouted, and Steve jumped back as if the words were a physical thing.
Bruce shifted and the blond looked at him, almost helplessly. “What did we just do?” he asked, as if Bruce had all the answers.
“Besides the obvious?” Bruce raised an eyebrow.
Steve opened his mouth then closed it. His lips pursed, and the blond head hung for a moment. “It was overwhelming,” he said at length. “I wanted him, and I took him, because there was no reason not to – there was no reason to say no to it.” He looked at Bruce again, appearing so small despite the display of strength mere hours ago. “What’s wrong with us?”
Bruce looked at him, and then at Tony who was watching them from his curled-up position, sweat and signs of sex marring his tanned skin. “I have no idea,” Bruce confessed, and that scared him more than many of things he had struggled with in his life.
In the coming weeks, the world crumbled a little. What had happened at the Tower happened everywhere: men and women who had suffered an illness similar to Tony’s went into some kind of heat, almost like animals, and the others – the people who had displayed signs of aggression earlier – fought over them.
It didn’t happen only in the privacy of people’s homes, either; everyone affected seemed to lose all control and morale.
As Steve had so aptly described in the immediate aftermath of his and Tony’s tryst, it hadn’t occurred to him to deny the urges that overtook him.
At such an early stage, it was impossible to depict if this was a one-time occurrence, or whether something like this would keep happening repeatedly. Some women reported that their ‘heat’ followed close to their own menstrual cycle. For the men who experienced the same thing, like Tony, it came out of nowhere and threw all physiological rules out the window. It was hard to get reliable statistics, however, because most men weren’t comfortable coming forward with the necessary information, and even the women seemed reluctant to share in their experience.
Those who had not fallen ill were left to stand on the sidelines, watching the chaos – and sometimes falling victim when they tried to intervene. After all, not all unions were consensual, regardless of the need to couple: when a group of aggressors cornered a lone person in heat, the repercussions were less than pleasant.
Once the hormones had stopped playing a major part in their systems, Clint, Natasha, Steve and Tony reverted back to their old selves. Clint and Natasha repeatedly stated that it had burned to lose to Steve – but they were also fortunate that they hadn’t been the ones to win the right to fuck Tony. “No offense,” Clint had added.
“Screw you, Barton,” Tony had snapped. He had been in a rather ill mood ever since the events in the workshop. Bruce had tentatively asked to examine him, right after, but Tony had been unwilling and uncooperative. Bruce understood that whatever had happened was deeply personal, but their situation also provided data they desperately needed. Still, he hadn’t wanted to force himself onto Tony – not so soon after what had happened with Steve.
Steve had become quiet and withdrawn; his mere presence would trigger an argument from Tony, and he seemed embarrassed over the whole thing. He had always been a man of self-control and high values, and the fact that he may have, unknowingly and unwillingly, raped Tony…
It wasn’t rape, though. At least, Tony never called it that, and if Bruce tried to imply his consent hadn’t actually been given, it was clear that that particular opinion wasn’t valued by Tony; as much of a victim as Tony was, just like Steve, he refused to go that far with the accusations. Perhaps Tony remembered how it had felt, in the throes of his passion, when biology overrode the logical parts of his brain; that even if he and Steve would have never chosen each other, and were somewhat repulsed later, they had still been conscious to their choices and needs.
Once things began to calm down all over the world, questions were being asked: who was worthy of being in power if this happened again? Could a few days’ lapse impact a person’s whole life? World leaders were unsurprisingly unforthcoming of their own roles and ‘statuses’, which led to accusations in many oppositions that facts were hidden and the people were being kept in an illusion that everything was under control.
It was clear to anyone who wanted to look that nothing was under control: the majority of the population was struggling with new sexual and biological identities; those who had not been affected deemed themselves ‘healthy’, while the others were not.
When Fury heard of what had happened at the Tower, he decreed that for the time being, no one should know about it. “We cannot compromise Iron Man’s image,” he had stated.
Tony had kept any commentary to himself, but he did take the armor out for a rather destructive test flight afterwards. However, they all knew, rationally, that as long as control was in the wind and all of humanity was re-learning their place in the society, it was better to stay quiet about any changes in the ranks of the Avengers.
And, as far as the team was concerned, nothing had changed: one incident did not redefine who they were.
In the midst of the emotional rollercoaster within the Tower and in the world outside it, Tony had, to his utter shame, forgotten about Pepper.
Or, not forgotten: his thoughts were on her the second his head cleared, his ass still dripping with Steve Rogers’ cum. He thought of her when he sat in the shower, curled up, and told J.A.R.V.I.S. to shut up and leave him alone. In his head he had gone over the discussion that loomed ahead of them when they were next in contact, because Tony refused to lie to her about what had happened. He wasn’t proud of his total lack of self-control that had led to one blond super-soldier pounding his ass for a few hours, but he would admit to it like the man he was – or had been.
It seemed to be up for debate what anyone was right now, as if these bizarre events had completely reshaped thousands of years of evolution.
Perhaps that was what it was: evolution in one, giant leap. Not that Tony knew why a self-lubricating ass had any business sitting on the evolutionary ladder. Perhaps it was a fluke. That made a whole lot more sense: maybe this was a trial run, and it had mistakenly been administered to men and women both.
Not that women had any use for a dripping ass, either…
Bruce had wanted to do tests, to get some evidence, but Tony had balked at the idea. He still couldn’t believe Bruce had seen it all, but he understood and appreciated the other man’s concern. It didn’t make it easier to process, but at least Tony felt like he’d had backup, and if he had wanted to end it before it did, Bruce would have done it for him – or, the Hulk would have, depending on how far gone Steve had been.
Tony was keenly aware that most people wished he would talk things over with Steve. There was a tension between them that Tony couldn’t help but feel. It wasn’t like their bickering before, after they first met; this was something he had no control over. It was like a full-body shudder, only emotional, and Steve folded way too easily. After all, Steve had defeated every other contestant and won the right to mount Tony’s ass; the least he could do was to show some balls afterwards.
This led Tony to wonder whether he was actually mad at Steve about what had happened, or lamented Steve’s return back to his apologetic self.
The Steve that had pushed him down onto the table hadn’t been apologetic. Not one bit…
Those thoughts were constantly on his mind before J.A.R.V.I.S. announced that Ms. Potts, Mr. Hogan and Colonel Rhodes were in the elevator, coming up. His heart jumped into his throat, and for a few frantic, precious seconds he was ready to shit his pants and hide under the bed. How was he even going to begin to explain things to Pepper? He wasn’t ready – not that he ever would be – but eventually he shuffled over to the elevator doors with an invisible tail between his legs.
When the doors opened, he peered up at the people he had known for many important years of his life. People he trusted – and who trusted him, hopefully; people who believed in him.
Pepper met his eyes, stepped closer, and instantly Tony felt that something was wrong. It was a sixth sense he had come to possess only recently, and most of the time he hated it because it had led him into the workshop, with Steve between his legs – and he wasn’t going to think of that while Pepper was walking towards him, eyes a bit red as if she had been crying, her trembling hands reaching for him.
For a horrible moment Tony considered the fact that someone had told her what had happened, and the three of them were here to console poor Tony who had been raped by his friend, teammate and leader.
Pepper didn’t say anything. She simply pressed herself against his chest, a little less mindful of the arc reactor than usual, and wrapped her arms around him. She smelled strange. She smelled wrong. Tony felt confused, but he wrapped his arms around her anyway because it was the right thing to do. He thought of kissing her, but that felt strange, too. Wrong. Why was it wrong to want to kiss Pepper, to take her to their bed and make love to her? To make her stop shaking and make her smell like him, instead of whatever the hell she smelled like right now – which was wrong…
“Tony,” she whispered, voice teary against his neck.
“I’m okay,” Tony said, in case she had been told the truth.
Pepper pulled back, gazing up at him. Her lips trembled.
“Did… something happen here?” Rhodey asked tentatively. “J.A.R.V.I.S. indicated something along those lines, but you had clearly sealed his lips.”
For a reason, Tony thought. His mind worked furiously: if Pepper was upset, but she didn’t know what had happened, why was she ready to start bawling her eyes out? “Did something happen on the West Coast?” Tony asked in return.
Pepper’s knees buckled, just a little, and Tony had to hold her weight or let her collapse to the floor. She pressed her face to his chest, crying, and still Tony couldn’t banish the little notion from his mind that she didn’t smell right. It wasn’t that she smelled bad, but…
“I’m so sorry, Tony,” Pepper sobbed. “I don’t… I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“The same thing that’s wrong with the whole damn world,” Happy growled, his face dark. Now that Tony looked at him, he looked drawn into himself, trying to appear small, and that wasn’t like him.
Tony frowned. “What happened?” Pepper sniffled against his shirt, hands clutching him painfully tight. “What happened to Pepper?” Tony clarified, looking from Rhodey to Happy and back.
“I tried…” Happy started, shifting uncomfortable. “I tried to protect her. That thing… the heat, they’re calling it on the news; it hit her, right in the middle of a meeting. Half the board went insane. We were under-staffed because people had already been acting weird for days, and there had been… incidents. I got her out, but she was in a horrible condition, and I didn’t know whether to call you or take her to a hospital.
“We tried the hospital first, but they sent us away, because they were fully booked and this was going on everywhere – even amongst their staff. There was a couple fucking on the reception desk,” he added with a grimace. “So I took her to the house, and I called Rhodey, because I thought…” He didn’t go on, and he was no longer looking at Tony.
Pepper had gone silent in his arms, but she was still crying; he could feel the wetness of her constant tears through his shirt.
“Then what happened?” Tony asked.
“I went over immediately,” Rhodey said. “I had already seen… There was some chaos on the streets in L.A., just like everywhere, and I wanted to make sure she was safe, even though Happy was with her.” He looked Tony in the eye, steadily, his jaw clenched. Whatever was on the tip of his tongue, he didn’t want to say it, but he was a good man, a good friend, and he would always do the right thing. “I got there, got out of the suit, and it hit me out of nowhere. Next thing I know, we were…” He looked away and refused to finish the sentence.
Tony thought back to the moment he had walked into the living room and saw the three Avengers. He didn’t have to hear the rest; he had seen Rhodey and Steve clash before any of this had happened, and it all clicked in a painful, horrible way. “You fucked her,” Tony snapped. He told himself to be angry, to be furious.
“Tony, I’m sorry,” Rhodey looked at him, raised his hands in an apology.
“Sorry? You think of that while you were in her? How fucking sorry you were?!” Tony’s arms tightened around Pepper, who let out a whimper, from pain or because of the subject matter. “I ought to kick your ass right out of that window,” he growled. “J.A.R.V.I.S., assemble the armor.”
“Woah, Tony,” Happy started.
“What did you do, Hogan? Stand there and watch?” Tony asked – seethed. He remembered Bruce, standing there, helpless, yet unwilling to leave Tony alone. He hadn’t appreciated it then, hadn’t thought about how weird it was – how horrible it had to be for a man who didn’t feel the pull either way.
“Sir ,” J.A.R.V.I.S. started. The AI would assemble the suit and do what Tony ordered, but J.A.R.V.I.S. didn’t have to like it.
“Tony, no,” Pepper said, finally pushing herself out of the grip of Tony’s arms. He let her go, too easily; he should have held her tighter, harder, longer. But, as he let her go, he understood one fundamental truth about what had happened to all of humanity, and in turn, to Pepper and him: they were no longer compatible. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, voice tight, face wet. “You weren’t there – but I understand, now, that it… wouldn’t have mattered even if you were.” Her words were so sad, breaking at the end. She knew, just as he did. Perhaps Tony smelled wrong to her, too.
Tony felt the fight drain out of him. He looked at Pepper – the love of his life, his closest friend – and then at Rhodey – his oldest friend, his confidant, his fellow armored superhero. He forced his brain to rationalize this, and as if sensing the change in his attitude – and probably reading it on his face, too – Rhodey walked over and laid one firm hand on Tony’s shoulder while circling Pepper with his other arm, clearly comforting her.
“I will take care of her,” Rhodey promised. “I will treat her right, Tony, I swear. I don’t know what this is, but something happened to us that night, and we can’t undo it.”
Tony frowned. “You make it sound like you got married or something.”
“I can’t explain it,” Pepper spoke up, “but when it was over… I had never felt so close to anyone.” A sad, apologizing look washed over her face, as if it was her fault somehow. “Tony, I love you, with all my heart, but I don’t think we can undo this thing. The moment I saw you, I knew…”
“We’re no longer a matching set,” Tony joked wryly.
She gave him a teary smile.
Tony nodded, slowly, then allowed a frown take over. “So, let me get this straight: you’re happy?”
“As happy as we can be, living with the fact that we did something horrible to you,” Rhodey replied. “We both love you, man. This doesn’t change that – won’t change that, unless you can’t deal with it. Even then… we’re still there for you.”
Tony knew what he meant, but that wasn’t what he was going for. “You didn’t feel remorse afterwards – save for my hurt feelings,” he adjusted his wording. “No anger or bitterness?”
“No,” Pepper shook her head. “Other than because we betrayed you.” It was her turn to frown. “Tony, did you…?”
Rhodey seemed to follow her train of thought. “Did someone try to… do that to you?”
“Tried and did,” Tony replied, because he would blurt it out eventually.
Pepper’s eyes widened. “Are you okay?”
Tony shrugged. “Save for some hurt feelings, we’re both fine. Confused, but fine. We sure as hell aren’t rolling around in some blissful harmony.” He looked at the two of them. “Don’t take it the wrong way, I’m happy that… it worked out for you. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to go: man and woman.”
“Who did you get it on with?” Happy asked bluntly – Happy, who had been there during Tony’s wild years, and had seen him in more compromising positions than most people could imagine.
“Steve,” Tony revealed, because this wasn’t the time to start holding back.
“Rogers?” Rhodey blinked. “Wow… okay. Is that going to be a problem for the two of you?”
“He can still pull rank on me, and I’ll shoot him down just the same,” Tony replied bitingly. “Things have been a little… strained. Mostly because… I don’t know… Obviously because shit happened and neither of us is very well-equipped to deal with it.”
Pepper didn’t look horrified – none of them did. Clearly they thought Tony had had a good time – which wasn’t too far from the truth, but that wasn’t the point. Not really. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“No,” Tony shook his head.
“I’ve talked to a few people,” Happy admitted. “Most people… they’re not happy when it’s over. It’s like after a really bad drunken one-night stand.”
That was actually the most apt description for it, now that Tony thought about it. “But some people are fine with it,” he pointed out, looking at Pepper and Rhodey – who managed to look even more guilty.
“Clearly,” Happy nodded. “It’s really weird. There’s no pattern to it. And it doesn’t seem to matter which sexes are involved, either,” he added, a bit more uncomfortably. “People seem to lack certain… filters… when they’re in that heat thing.”
“You don’t say,” Tony mused, although if truth be told, he had always been a fan of Steve’s body. Not enough to bed him while he had been with Pepper, but no one could stop him from fantasizing in the privacy of his own head. Now that the fantasy had become harsh reality, it was clear he hadn’t paid enough attention to the gritty details.
On the other side of the room a door opened, and the other Avengers walked in. Steve froze instantly when he spotted Tony and then the other three.
“Hi,” Natasha greeted. “How are… things…?” she asked, halting, noticing Rhodey and Pepper standing close to each other, Rhodey’s arm around Pepper.
“Peachy,” Tony replied, making a gesture with his arm for them to move towards the couches. “Let’s sit down, shall we?”
“Should we leave?” Bruce asked.
“Why bother,” Rhodey offered. “We can swap tales.” Everyone moved to the couches, then Rhodey proceeded to give Steve a pointed look when the super-soldier sat himself down opposite from Tony. “I think you and I –”
“Alright, stop, right now!” Tony ordered loudly. “Or I swear I’ll put on the suit and kick both your asses.”
Rhodey stopped his threats, but that didn’t keep him from giving Steve silent looks of disapproval. Clearly he thought Steve had done something wrong because he and Tony weren’t on an emotional honeymoon together.
“So, the two of you,” Clint gestured between Rhodey and Pepper.
“Is there a question in there somewhere?” Rhodey challenged him.
“The suit,” Tony threatened.
“Yes, we fell in bed together,” Pepper answered, sitting up straight.
“During the heat?” Natasha confirmed. “That thing really made a mess of things.”
“How did it happen here?” Pepper asked.
“Oh, we were fairly contained,” the assassin responded. “Just the five of us. Steve made sure we understood he’s the pack master, and then proceeded to claim what we all wanted to stake a claim on.” She pointed at Tony.
“Thanks for making me sound like a piece of meat,” Tony noted wryly.
“That’s pretty much how it felt, in a nutshell,” Clint backed Natasha up. “You suddenly want something you’ve never considered within your tastes, and you go for it. All inhibitions gone, reason abandoned… It was a nice afternoon.”
“And you weren’t even invited to the party,” Bruce noted from the side. He was sitting a safe distance from the others, observing them all. Now that Tony looked at Happy, he noticed his former bodyguard was doing almost the same thing. “It’s interesting how different the outcomes are,” Bruce noted, nodding at Rhodey and Pepper. “Perhaps your pre-existing friendship is a factor.”
“Tony and Steve are friends as well, right?” Pepper noted. “As much as they like to deny it.”
“We work together,” Tony corrected. “We… tolerate each other.”
“We were friends,” Steve argued, much to Tony’s surprise.
“Were?” Tony clarified.
“I don’t know what we are now,” the blond added, looking him in the eye. Perhaps it was Rhodey’s presence and the challenge he posed, but Steve was standing his ground, not leaving the scene at the first sign of Tony’s ire. “I know one thing, though,” he added before Tony could think of a comeback.
“What’s that?” Tony asked.
“You are mine,” Steve said, voice level, expression determined. “I staked my claim. I won the competition.”
“It was a one-time deal.”
“And if it isn’t?”
“Maybe next time I tell Bruce to Hulk out and throw you out of my shop.”
“How d’you figure that?” Tony asked, eyes narrowed.
“Because you begged him to let me in,” Steve responded – not smugly, but stating it for the truth it was.
Tony leaned back and swallowed. There it was again: the calm confidence that almost overpowered him; Steve was showing his true colors and Tony liked them. “That doesn’t mean anything,” he tried. “Just because I welcomed you in once, literally and figuratively –”
People groaned around him, as if the subject made their ears burn.
Steve, on the other hand, never looked away from him. “We’ll see,” he said. “You know that when the time comes, I’ll fight anyone for the right to be with you – and I’ll win.”
When put like that, Tony believed him. Not because he was Captain America, or a super-soldier, but because Steve fought to the end for the things he deemed worthy of fighting for, and Tony had a feeling that even if they didn’t share Rhodey and Pepper’s togetherness, there was already some kind of bond between them.