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Friendly Facades

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It had felt like both an eternity and yet a blink of the eye, Steve mused dispiritedly as he traipsed towards the communal kitchen through corridors that could have, should have, been familiar. Several renovations had been made to the Avengers' Compound in the three years that Steve and his team had spent as fugitives in Wakanda. Objectively, the changes were positive, benefiting Avengers new and old, but they also -intentionally or otherwise- served to alienate the "Rogues" even further as though being dubbed rogues wasn't enough. Steve's footsteps faltered a bit as he cringed, internally admitting that the estrangement between "his" team and the one Tony had built was justified. Especially in reference to Steve himself.

Steve's thoughts trailed off as he approached the entryway to the central communal kitchen, his attention instead relocated to the lone figure sitting at the table, seemingly absorbed in the interactive holographic display before him. With dark sable hair and accompanying silver accentuating his temples, the alpha would have been easily recognizable even without the neutral blue tunic and sentient scarlet cape. Not to mention his scent, which was an odd combination of mystical myrrh and cedar as well as something metallic and tangy. Steve knew the sorcerer, who had introduced himself as Doctor Strange during the Rogues’ return-to-America debrief, shared a height with him but the sheer air of authority the other alpha emanated almost made the super soldier feel small again. While he might have felt intimidated by another alpha, especially one who was now a part of the leadership of a team Steve himself had formerly led, Doctor Strange had been one of the more welcoming members of said leadership. Definitely friendlier than Colonel Rhodes, who would have been responsible for the Rogues’ murders if looks could kill.

In fact, Steve was actually glad that the sorcerer was the only one present, more than a bit grateful for a bit of respite from the malice -subtle or otherwise- that most of the Compound’s inhabitants held towards him. Yes, he acknowledged that any ill feelings towards his team -especially himself- were more than warranted, but it was still exhausting and demoralizing to be faced with in addition to the regrets that already were suffocating him. He wasn’t sure why Doctor Strange was so cordial to them, especially considering how King T’Challa had warned the Rogues of the alpha’s wrath, but Steve was certainly not going to complain.

Apparently, the sorcerer had been aware either of Steve’s approach or entrance because he broke the super soldier out of his thoughts with a wave of one gloved hand. Steve took the silent gesture as an invitation, and gratefully took a seat at the table across from Strange, who waved away whatever had been on the holo-display before giving Steve his attention.

“Mister Rogers, I’m glad to see you. How have you been settling in?” Strange’s rumbling baritone was the definition of alpha masculinity, and Steve hoped that the moments it took him to fight the instinct to challenge the other man for domination would appear as though the blond was thinking on an answer. There was no apparent change to Strange’s stature, nor his mystic-metallic scent, so presumably the sorcerer believed just that.

“It’s been…an adjustment,” Steve hedged, then shrugged, “I understand why so many have issues with me, and everyone who fought with me three years ago, but I hadn’t realized how tiring it would be. No one has been outright nasty, but I guess we kind of thought that coming home would be more…homey, which was probably naïve of us in hindsight,” He allowed himself to slump a little in his chair as he spoke, running a hand through his one-again-short blond hair with a sigh. Steve really did understand, and he knew they deserved it, but almost everyone seemed to believe that Steve was remaining pigheaded even after all those years.

Thankfully, Strange seemed to believe him if the wrinkle of sympathy on his brow and slow nod of his head meant anything. “Yes, I can see where that would be unpleasant,” He murmured, leaning forward to rest his elbows on the table, clasping his forearms as he crossed them. “But I think there is something else on your mind, isn’t there?”

Steve flinched slightly, eyes lowering to focus on the tiling of the kitchen floor as he huffed a pained breath. Strange was observant, to the point where Steve might even think he was telepathic if not for the man’s mild words of scorn towards invading others’ minds during the earlier meeting. As it was, the super soldier was infinitely glad that the man was not indeed a mind-reader. While he was glad Strange had asked, Steve would prefer to explain things in his own words, rather than have his memories violated. He felt a pang of guilt once again for defending Wanda from Tony, something he had grown to regret as the woman’s self-pity had continued exacerbating her violent tantrums.

God, Tony. Steve had so many regrets surrounding the charismatic omega, the brave un-enhanced human who fought just as hard as the rest of them. A wave of shame washed over Steve every time he thought of those brown eyes, normally warm like hot chocolate on the coldest winter’s night, watery and dull and wide with Steve’s betrayal. There was no good reason for Steve having held back the gruesome truth regarding Tony’s parents, just his own selfish want to avoid dealing with the whole situation. Sure, he could spin it as having wanted to protect Bucky, but anyone with half a brain would know that Tony -kind, forgiving, selfless, gracious Tony- would no doubt be able to see through his grief to understand that Bucky had not had any choice.

Instead, Steve had kept it a secret even after Ultron and his own sharp accusations -sometimes my teammates don’t tell me things-, and he had even tried to lie to the man who loved him, the man he claimed to love. The sheer heartbreak, betrayal, abandonment in Tony’s eyes had not truly registered at the time, but now it was all Steve could think of. He had told Tony that he wanted a family together, promised the omega forever, then turned around and almost killed him for actions that were honestly mostly Steve’s fault.

Yet he still selfishly hoped that Tony would talk to him, that things could be fixed. Steve knew Tony, knew how forgiving he was, how he tended to blame himself for everything regardless of where fault truly lay. As awful as it was, that tendency towards self-hate that Tony had gave Steve hope that they could still be together, have a family together. It would take time, no doubt, and lots of communication especially on Steve’s part, but a part of the alpha was sure that they would be together again.

Of course, that wasn’t what he told Strange, not exactly at least.

“I just…I regret a lot of things about how I reacted to the Accords, how I didn’t listen to Tony. I…don’t know if you knew this, we didn’t want the media to know, but Tony and I were together. Were planning on making a family together. I was going to bond him, and I messed that up. Obviously, I screwed that up but I haven’t even seen Tony since and I want to apologize to him. He deserves that much at the very least.” Steve bit his lip, anxious as he watched Strange for a reaction. Much to his surprise, though, the sorcerer didn’t react much other than to cock his head a bit, face still neutral.

“That is quite a burden to have on you. I’m glad to hear that you understand the weight of your actions, though.” Strange looked pensive for a moment, as though debating something, before huffing a breath with a small smirk, seemingly reaching some resolution. He stood, the odd cape flaring dramatically, and Steve stiffened slightly as Strange’s eyes seemed to shift from concerned leader to calculating and smug. Steve didn’t even have time to react when the sorcerer lashed out at him, moving too quickly for Steve to prepare a counter. Strange’s palm hit Steve’s chest with surprising force, but even more surprising was that Steve fell backwards through his chair as the world around him seemed to splinter like shattered glass.

After a second of reorientation, Steve gathered himself, letting out a shout and surging to lash back at Strange. Instead of the punch connecting, though, Steve merely shot through the sorcerer, stumbling awkwardly as he tried to catch his balance after the missed shot. Strange just turned to face him again, smirking, then whirled back to face the kitchen entryway as a voice that was hauntingly familiar wafted to Steve’s ears.

“Stephen? What the hell is going on down here? Friday told me there might be a situation, but then said she was mistaken and won’t tell me anything else. What are you up to, huh?” Steve couldn’t see Tony past Strange’s cloak, which was moving to block Steve’s view as he tried to catch a glance of the omega. His heart still leapt into his throat at his name, though, elated that Tony was using his first name even if it was a bit odd that he wasn’t just calling him Steve. That elation was short lived, though, as Strange answered Tony, as he noticed that Tony was making no effort to see him at all, that the omega didn’t even seem to notice his presence.

“I have no idea what Friday could possibly have been talking about, dear,” Strange hummed, laughter evident in a voice that was warmer than Steve had ever heard. A tsk from Tony was the only response from the omega, although Steve still couldn’t see him so perhaps he was communicating something bodily with the sorcerer. Steve shouted his name, trying to get Tony’s attention, but there was no response besides a very flippant lash of one of the cape’s edges.

And then Steve’s heart dropped to the floor, breath cut short by the sight in front of him as that damn piece of sentient red fabric apparently calmed down. The view he was presented with destroyed all hope he had had of starting anew, because all he could see was Tony, caught in an embrace with Strange. Their lips were locked passionately, the stupid cape getting in on the action by wrapping around Tony as well, before they broke apart with a soft moan from Tony. The omega looked up at the alpha with soft affection, biting his lower lip lightly.

“Oh, you’re up to something, Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange,” Tony murmured, a purr that sent achingly familiar shiver’s down Steve’s spine as he tried to choke back his despair, “you’re just lucky I love you, or I might decide that I could find better father material for my babies.” Steve couldn’t stop a startled whimper from escaping his lips, which Strange noticed if the brief quirk of his lips meant anything, when Tony took a slight step back and Steve finally saw that the omega was rather heavily pregnant. Given the exchange, they were obviously Strange’s pups, and Steve finally broke down and sank to his knees with another choked sob as he was faced with this new reality he had made for himself.

Strange pulled Tony back into an embrace, tucking the omega’s head under his chin and humming softly at him. Judging by the smirk on the sorcerer’s face, the sharp challenge in his eyes, he had planned this all. Suddenly, Steve understood why T’Challa had warned him about Stephen’s wrath. If only he had just listened.