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Steve considers him. They have him on his hands and knees on the desk, inspecting him, like he’s some kind of bitch, like he’s an attraction at the world’s most morbid museum. He gently brushes Tony’s hair back from his head, lightly squeezes his chin. “I always wondered,” he says, conversationally. “I suspected, I think. What are the odds?”
 
Is Steve talking to him? He squeezes his chin, tighter; Tony’s eyes water. “One-in-two-hundred,” he manages, keeping his eyes trained down.
 
“That’s right, that was it. One in two-hundred men are submissive by birth. You had statistics on your side,” he notes, “easy to blend in. No one would suspect.”
 
“Except you,” Tony bites out, despite himself.
 
Steve smacks him, gently, on the cheek. It smarts. He wags his finger in front of Tony’s nose. “Don’t talk back, sweetheart.”
 
Tony is a sweetheart, now. He used to just be ‘Stark’. He thinks he preferred it when they were equal, and Steve was allowed to hate him.
 
Tony was screwed the second Ross found out his dirty little secret. If he was a normal person, they’d probably lock him up some kind psychiatric facility, or shock him, or drug him till he’s a drooling cabbage. Truth is, you’re not supposed to change your designation; to even want to is – a sickness. Which deserves to be punished.
 
But Tony isn’t normal people, not by a long mile. Even Ross concedes they need him, and he does no one any good locked up in a cell, or on community service. So here’s what the Accords court mandated: therapy, obviously. House arrest, but not really; his curfew extends to whatever his Dominant wants it to be, and Steve is lenient. They’ve tagged his ankle, but no one pretends that Tony wouldn’t be able to remove it if he didn’t want to. And he belongs to all of them, now. He’s communal property. Part of the therapy is easing Tony back into what the psych calls an ‘appropriate lifestyle’.
 
He’s the team bitch, is what that means.
 
“I don’t like this,” Clint says, casually. Tony doesn’t know what he’s talking about; his hairstyle? His legs? The shape of his finely-trimmed beard? “I want him hairless.”
 
His fingers creep lightly under Tony’s belly, pluck at a single hair just above his pubic bone. Tony yelps, and Clint laughs, smooths his fingers down. “Sorry,” he says, “I’ll warn you next time.”
 
They don’t hold it out over him, not really. They don’t belittle him, like they could. Even Clint has a sense of – maybe it’s pity, actually. Tony thinks they just pity him.
 
“We’ll discuss it,” Steve promises. “Maybe if he’s a bad boy. This would need to go too,” Steve says, tapping along his beard. “And maybe, if he’s a really bad boy…”
 
He runs his fingers through Tony’s hair, tugs, makes his arch his back. “But I wouldn’t want to do that,” he whispers, “’cause then, what would I have left to hold?”
 
Tony flinches away, right into Sam’s hands. “Shh,” he says, soothing him like a frightened animal. “Steady there, Stark. We’re not going to hurt you.” Their hands are all over him, smoothing, touching, tweaking, pinching. No one touches his cock, but one of them spreads his cheeks, bares his hole to the air.
 
“I think we should get him to keep it open,” Clint says casually. “I know the knots in the right places. Keeps his cheeks spread, he wouldn’t even be able to close.”
 
“Maybe,” Steve says again, promising nothing. “We’ll see.”
 
“You have a wife, man,” Bruce says with mild disapproval.
 
“And she says if she could, she’d be here too.”
 
Steve sighs. “Okay,” he says. “That’s enough. No fighting, he’s not going anywhere. There’s plenty of time for everyone to have a turn.”
 
Tony recognises Bruce’s fingers; they’re the same hands that used to probe him when he was injured, with broken bones and a lacerated scalp. Now, he’s stroking Tony’s ribs, over and over, like he’s a prized pig. “I’m sorry, Tony,” he says. “For what it’s worth – I’m glad it’s us.”
 
That doesn’t help, surprisingly.
 
They leave him, him and Steve alone, together. Steve crouches by the table, rests his arms by Tony’s hands, looks up at him. “So,” he says, quietly. “How’s it going?”
 
“Fuck you.”
 
“Please don’t use that language.”
 
Please don’t use that language,” Tony mocks. “Yeah, well fuck you. And fuck you. And – hey, guess what? Fuck. You.”
 
“I didn’t ask for this.”
 
“Like hell you didn’t. I know you asked for it.”
 
“No, I mean – “ Steve frowns. “Sit up,” he says distractedly, “we’re not having this conversation while you’re on your hands and knees.” He throws Tony the fluffy white robe he’d been wearing before he stripped off for show and tell.
 
“You mean what?” Tony snarls, bundling the robe around his waist. “Elaborate to me, Sir, oh fearless leader – “
 
“Didn’t you hear? Bruce told you. After you failed the test – “
 
“I didn’t fail.”
 
“Right, but after you failed the test, Ross wanted to give you to the military. He wanted to send you away. We stepped in, or – I did. Because I know that’s not what you want – “
 
“And this is?”
 
“It’s better than that,” Steve snaps. “And you know it’s better than that, so save the dramatics.”
 
Tony fixes his jaw. “If you were doing this for me,” he says quietly, “you’d leave it all at the door. The groping, the – I’m the dom bullshit. You’d tell Ross one thing, you’d do another, you’d let me live my life the way I wanted to live it – “
 
“The way you wanted to live it? As a dom who can’t get it up? Who lurches from one crisis to another – “
 
You’re a dom who lurches from one crisis to another – “
 
“Your shrink is right. You need order. You need routine.”
 
“You need to shove your routine up your ass.”
 
A beat. Steve continues. “I have rules,” he says. “I’ll have your timetable drawn up.”
 
“Steve – “
 
“Wake-up is 06:30. Bedtime is before midnight. What you do with your time during the day is choice – unless we want you.”
 
Tony used to be more than a sex slave. He used to his own person, not communal property.
 
“You’re so generous.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
“I was being facetious.”
 
“I know.” He pauses, picks up Tony’s belt where it’s discarded over the couch. Bends it, braces it, slaps it against his palm once, twice. “I’ll give you a pass,” he says casually. “Because you’re new to this. And because I know it’s a hard adjustment. But if you talk to me like that again… there will be a consequence.”
 
Tony used to think of Steve as harmless. A bit of a stick in the mud, and slightly self-righteous, but mostly harmless.
 
He’s starting to think Steve might be a sadist in disguise.
 
 
He’s in bed by 11:30PM. Not because of Steve; no, he was just tired. It’s been a hard day, what with the strip show and Steve’s best mafiosa impersonation. The past few months have been – admittedly exhausting.
 
Dominance is like a second skin. Tony hadn’t needed to think about it. He was aware it was driving him crazy. And he was aware it was illegal. But Howard Stark only had one son; he’s not the first man to dress his son up and call him dom. There’s a fucking precedent. The law exists for a reason.
 
He wakes at 06:30, just like Steve wanted. Again: not for Steve. He’s working on the new nanite suit, it takes time and effort. So he’s slinking down to the workshop by 7 and eating breakfast there, working away like the busy bee he is.
 
He almost forgets that his life doesn’t actually belong to him anymore.
 
“I don’t want you spending all day down here,” Steve sighs, walking into the workshop like he owns it, which despite everything, he doesn’t. He picks at some sheets on the desk. “It’s not healthy.”
 
“I don’t fully care what you think is healthy,” Tony says, bluntly, not turning round.
 
“You think it’s good to spend all day working?” Steve says, eyebrow raised, like he’s talking to a child.
 
“Yes.”
 
“Even if it means you haven’t seen or spoken to anyone at all? All day?”
 
“If it means avoiding having to crawl on my hands and knees, then again: yes.”
 
Steve sighs. “I know this is hard for you. Everyone said, this adjustment will be impossible – “
 
“Yeah, you’re telling me.”
 
“You’re on edge.”
 
“I’m always on edge!” Tony snaps. He swallows it. Turns back to his work.
 
“We care about you, Tony,” Steve says after a time, gentle. “We’re not doing this out of spite.”
 
“Sure you’re not.”
 
“We’re not. Except – except Clint, maybe,” Steve relents. “I won’t lie to you, he’s… a loose canon.”
 
“No shit.”
 
“He doesn’t have experience, his wife’s neutral. His kids are neutral. He’s not been around people like you like I have – “
 
People like me?!”
 
“Yes, people like you,” Steve says calmly. “Come upstairs, talk to us. You’ll feel better. I’m ordering in – “
 
“You don’t understand,” Tony spits, scathing. “How could I expect you to understand. ‘I won’t lie to you’, well tough shit, you already did.”
 
Silence. Then: “Is this about Bucky? If he makes you uncomfortable, I understand. I won’t make you – “
 
The screwdriver is in his hand, and then it’s not. He’s thrown it, hard; Steve dodges, it crashes into the wall behind his head.
 
And then, there’s real silence.
 
Steve seems to be considering. “You shouldn’t have done that,” he says, levelly.
 
Tony shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he mutters, quickly turning back to his work. “Just – I’m sorry, that was wrong. I’ll come up – “
 
“A bit too late for that, don’t you think?”
 
Tony shuts his eyes. “Don’t.”
 
“Don’t?”
 
“Punish me,” Tony wheezes. “Please.”
 
“You think you deserve it?”
 
Tony doesn’t know. He doesn’t know how this works, what’s deserving of punishment and what’s not. “No. Yes. I don’t know. Just don’t, please.”
 
He thinks, Steve will lock him in the cupboard until his fingertips bleed from scratching and he can’t scream anymore. He’ll beat his ass with a leather belt so he can’t sit. Make him stand until he drops, put his hands on the desk and rap a metal ruler across the knuckles –
 
“Come here,” Steve says.
 
Tony turns, braces himself against the desk. “Wait,” he says, “don’t hurt me. Please, don’t hurt me.”
 
Steve shakes his head. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he says, softly. “You just need to understand.”
 
He’s shaking. Fuck, why is he shaking? Grow up, Stark. Get it together. Stop – embarrassing yourself, be stronger, be better. “It’s natural,” Steve is saying gently. “You’re allowed to be nervous,” he adds, stepping closer when it becomes apparent Tony can’t do it himself.
 
“I’m sorry,” Tony whispers. “Really, I didn’t mean it, I was just – you’re right, it’s hard for me, just give me another chance and I’ll do it right this time – “
 
“Tony – “
 
He holds up his palm, repulsor whining as it fires up, nanites spreading down his arm. “I mean it,” he warns, going for tough, not frantic. “I’ll blow your fucking head off if you take a step closer.”
 
Steve stops. He holds up his hands. “You’re scared,” he says. “What are you scared of?”
 
Tony scoffs. “Are you joking?”
 
“No, I’m curious. What do you think I’m going to do to you?”
 
“Fucking hell, I don’t know. Beat me. Whip me. Tie me up, leave me in closet.”
 
Steve frowns. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
 
“Yeah, I believe you.”
 
“Tony, I’m not going to hurt you. You don’t like pain, I understand. It’s a hard limit for you, isn’t it?”
 
“A – what?”
 
“A hard limit. It means you don’t like it under any circum – “
 
“I know what it means,” Tony snaps. “I just – didn’t think you would.”
 
Stalemate. Steve raises an eyebrow. “Can I tell you what your punishment will be?”
 
“No.”
 
Steve sighs. “I’m not going to hurt you. You need to understand that no one here is – laughing at you. No one’s trying to mock you. You’re ours. You’re mine. You’re a sub. No one care if you kneel, or if you wear a collar. You’re welcome.”
 
Tony doesn’t believe him, because he’s not an idiot.
 
“Put down the repulsor,” Steve says, “I won’t ask again.”
 
“What happens if I don’t?” Tony asks.
 
“Then your punishment will last longer.”
 
A beat. “What is my punishment?”
 
“You’re going to go upstairs and sit with me. Naked.”
 
Tony is shaking his head, firing up. “I’m not doing that.”
 
“You are.”
 
“I’m not.”
 
“Then fire. Blow me away. Burn off my head.”
 
“Stop it,” Tony mutters.
 
“You can put a hole in my stomach, or you can put down the repulsor, take off your clothes, and go and sit on the couch.”
 
“I won’t.”
 
“If you don’t do it now, then it’ll be two days without clothes, and you’ll have to wear a sign that says why you’re being punished.”
 
“I’m not – stop it! I’m not a boy, you can’t – “
 
“Ten seconds. Put a hole in me, or strip.”
 
“Steve, I – “
 
“Nine.”
 
“Wait! Hold on, just – give me – “
 
“ – ght. Seven – “
 
Tony clenches his fist. “Stop it. Stop it, I don’t want – “
 
“Five. Four, three – “
 
Tony drops the repulsor.
 
“Two. On – “
 
He starts to strip.
 
 
He’s ashamed of his body.
 
Not in the sense that he’s ugly; he knows he’s not. He’s always taken care of himself. He’s trim, lean, clean. It’s not judgement that upsets it, it’s that it’s his body. Private. And when he was dominant – or at least, when he was pretending to be dominant – no one could touch him. No one wanted to. He owned himself.
 
He doesn’t try to hide. He doesn’t cover himself with his hands, or stand by Steve’s hip. He walks to the kitchen with an enforced carelessness, like it doesn’t bother him at all, pours himself a coffee. Natasha raises an eyebrow at him. “You in trouble?”
 
“I guess,” Tony says, nonchalantly, like it’s no big deal.
 
“How long?”
 
“Until tomorrow.”
 
“I’ll turn up the heating, then,” she says thoughtfully, and presses a loose, careless kiss to Tony’s shoulder as she leaves.
 
Tony takes his coffee to the couch, perches there, legs drawn up. It’s warmer than the cold metal seats of the kitchen against his bare ass. Clint arrives, fresh from a workout, smirks at him. “Who did you piss off?” He asks.
 
Tony’s eye twitches. “Who do you think, asshole?”
 
He holds up his hand. “Alright, alright,” he says. “Tetchy,” he adds, muttering under his breath.
 
He continues his work on his tablet. No one disturbs him. Vision floats through, makes small-talk, then picks up some of his books and leaves. When Steve comes back from his run, he lies out on the couch, panting, feet on the coffee table.
 
Tony says nothing to him. He ignores him. Steve takes a swig from his water bottle, then says, “you’re angry at me.”
 
Silent treatment.
 
“Fine, you can be angry. I don’t blame you. It’s a hard adjustment.”
 
Sure. It’s hard, realising you no longer belong to yourself.
 
Steve is looking at him, he realises. Up and down. “What?” Tony snaps, despite himself, “what’s so interesting?”
 
Steve shrugs a shoulder. “Nothing.”
 
“Clearly, something is.”
 
“You look good. Take good care of yourself.”
 
Tony flushes, tries to ignore him. “And what?”
 
“Put down the tablet.”
 
“I’m working.”
 
“I know,” Steve says gently – and Tony’s coming to hate that gentle tone, because he knows what it means, like pavlov’s bitch and a bell – “put down the tablet, come put your head in my lap.”
 
Tony doesn’t want to. He just – does not want to. He doesn’t want to have to stare up, awkwardly, into Steve eyes. He doesn’t want to be a lapdog, not when he was once more than that, an equal.
 
But he wants his clothes back, too.
 
Tony shuffles. He gets his body onto the couch, pushes back, lies down. He keeps his eyes fixed somewhere blurry, lest Steve try to meet his eyes, but he doesn’t; he just sighs, rests his head on the couch back, and cards his fingers through Tony’s hair, stroking, scratching.
 
Petting.
 
He tolerates it, for a time. And then, he loses time. He shuts his eyes, briefly, and it’s like – falling into a vat of syrup.
 
Every               thing
 
                                    be      
comes
 
                                                                        Slow
 
He blinks, bleary. The light has changed direction. It’s warmer. Steve is still – touching him, so he shuts his eyes, exhales. Soft, droopy; everything is sweet, and peaceful. It’s the most – fantastic feeling Tony’s ever felt. Ever. It’s like being high and wrapped in the world’s softest blanket and dropped marshmallows. It’s like swimming in clouds.
 
Someone lifts his legs, sits. He can hear them talking, hear people talking over his heads, but it’s like – listening through a wall, muffled, low, comforting. “Steve,” Tony tries to say, but his mouth won’t make the sounds he wants them to make. He opens his lips, tries to say, what’s happening to me, but something is rested on his tongue, long, warm, slightly salty –
 
Fingers. Tony sucks on them. Steve dips them down his throat, the place where gum meets cheek, swipes them around his mouth. Tony squirms, slightly; he wants the stroking back, now.
 
“Can I pull him off?” Natasha asks.
 
“Sure. Just don’t let him get it on the carpet.”
 
She lets him lie on his back, just gently stroking his cock. Tony whimpers. He shuts his eyes, luxuriates in it, the sensation, the feel, hips twitching. Natasha’s hands are small, her fingers gentle. He can feel it building inside, more and more, like a wave, cresting, and when it comes he’s almost afraid –
 
Still, he spills into her hand. She catches it in her palm, on her fingers, while Tony’s eyes roll into the back of his head and he’s boneless on Steve’s lap. “There,” she says, slightly smug. “Isn’t that better?”
 
“Clean her hand,” Steve says lazily.
 
Tony eats himself from her palm, licks at her fingers, sucks till every drop is gone. “See?” Natasha says. “He’s self-cleaning. Very efficient. No mess.”
 
Tony rolls onto to his side, curls up, face resting in Steve’s belly. “This a punishment?” He slurs, slack-jawed and sleepy.
 
Steve gently strokes his hair. “Sure it is,” he tells him. “You didn’t want to come here. You felt embarrassed. You thought we would laugh at you. But now you know we want you here, and we want you to feel good. So even though it was bad for you at first, it’s good for you now. And that’s what punishment is meant to be.”
 
That’s not what dad said. Dad said, punishment is about making it hurt bad enough you don’t do it again. It’s about making you stronger, so the next time, you’re not so weak.
 
“Well then I wanna get punished every day,” Tony slurs, and giggles.
 
“We can do that,” Steve laughs.
 
“Oh boy,” someone says – Bruce? – “isn’t he a sweetie under all of it.”
 
“He sure is,” Steve says, letting Tony grab at his hand where it’s slung over the couch cushions, suck on his fingers.
 
Tony giggles again. He feels – elated, like he’s flying. Like he’s drugged. A high. He rolls himself so he’s facing Steve’s belly, clutching his hand to his chest like stuffed toy. “What’s so funny?” Steve asks.
 
“D’know,” Tony whispers, and cackles to himself.
 
They keep talking. “He’s gone under pretty fast,” someone says.
 
“Well, he’s not used to it,” someone responds, defensive.
 
“He’s right, we need to watch it. The drop will be killer.”
 
Tony can’t believe his eyes are getting heavy. It’s only late afternoon. He thinks – he thinks he might fall asleep. “I think I might fall asleep,” he says, yawning.
 
“Sure, sweetheart, you can sleep.”
 
Oh, good. If Steve says so, then it is so. He’ll just – shut his eyes now, rest up… just a nap, he’s not even that tir –
 
 
When he wakes up, thirteen hours later, he’s wrapped in a blanket. It takes him some time to place himself, and to remember; he’s not on the couch. Does he have a vague memory of being moved? Maybe. It’s – this is –
 
Steve’s bed, sans Steve. Huh. Go figure. Tony’s mouth tastes like death. His head is – not good. Someone’s left a glass of water and an advil by the bed, like he’s hungover or something. Come to think of it, he feels hungover…
 
He tries his feet on the floor. Almost steady. There’s a pile of clothes on a chair by the bathroom, a sticky note that reads ‘for Tony’. No underwear. Maybe that’s one of Steve’s rules; wake-up at six on weekdays, no alcohol, an hour’s exercise everyday and – oh, by the way, no underwear you dirty slut.
 
Tony pulls on the sweat pants and the soft T-Shirt, brushes his teeth, gargles, spits, washes his face. He doesn’t bother with a shower, because he suddenly thinks: I’d like to be in bed. So instead of heading down to lab, he climbs back into Steve’s queensized monstrosity, with all its comforters and pillows, hunkers down. He’s asleep, like a snap.