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Two Worlds, One Family

Chapter Text

Tony looked at the wreckage of the village. He’d been too late. He had been Iron Man for three years now, and he thought all Stark Industries weapons had been destroyed as he had ordered then. Obviously, he was wrong. The village in the middle-east, not so far from that cave where he first became Iron-Man, was in shambles. But more than that, everyone had died. Every single civilian, and he hadn’t been able to help.

“Jarvis”, he called, “thermal scan.”

There was nothing. Nothing but ruins, and the sharp beating of his own heart. Proof that Tony Stark has a heart, ha. What a joke. Suddenly, a red dot appeared on his screen and he blinked. Did he hallucinate? Jarvis scanned the place again when he asked, and his heart started to beat faster when he realized there was really a red dot on his screen. Someone, hopefully. He went to the dot as far as he could, bursting into the collapsed house. The warmth came from under a pile of rubbles, a pair of bloody legs sticking out from it. He pushed the rubble aside as quick as he could, heart beating faster and faster until…

The couple was snuggled together, bodies crushed from the weight of the stones and beams, and very obviously dead. Yet, there was a warmth… Carefully, as respectfully as he could, he pried them apart. They were protecting something. The warmth. He let out a gasp when the child appeared, grey with dust but alive. God, he was alive. He was just a baby, really – maybe three months tops, nothing more.

He opened his warm brown eyes and stared back at Tony. The man stared, feeling something awakening and welling up inside of him, something he had never felt before. Slowly, he took the child from his parents embrace. There was a silver curb around his small wrist.

“Well, hello, Peter Parker. I’m Tony Stark. Pleased to meet you.”

*

It all started well before that event, though. In fact, everything started before Tony Stark’s birth and conception. It started before his parents met. Everything started the day Captain America, National symbol and hero, died.

The worst was that at that time, no one realized what had happened. Steve Rogers had crashed his plane to save America from Hydra’s missiles after getting rid of Red Skull. Something, though, something had happened the moment Red Skull seized the Cube, which would later be known as “Tesseract”. Something no one could have foreseen. A very specific, weightless chemical was released in the atmosphere.

It took some time more before anyone realized something was happening. It started with an unexplained rise of miscarriages, followed by an epidemic even the most brilliant scientists were unable to explain or stop. In the span of ten years, there was not a male Omega left alive, and none born to replace them.

Humanity wasn’t lost though, as plenty of Omega woman remained, and soon life resumed. Male Omegas became a thing of the past, close to a legend. The knowledge of their unique psychology and biology, now obsolete, was classed and eventually forgotten. A new humanity rose.

 

It was in that world, in May 29, 1970, that Anthony Edward Stark was born, to Howard and Maria Stark. They were both of a generation that yet remembered Omegas, and as joyful as Tony’s birth was, it was also a miracle in itself – for Tony was born an Omega. The first in thirty-five years. Unique, more unique than even them could know. And so, they did the only thing they could think of to protect him: they hid his status, until he was old enough to decided by himself what he wanted to do.

Tony had obviously inherited his father’s genius, and he was barely twelve when he conceived what he called “The Patch”. The Patch was an inhibitor and a simulator, that allowed him to pass for an Alpha by suppressing his natural scent and creating a new one. He was determined to never let the world know of his condition, playing the part of the billionaire womanizer. Only one knew who, or rather, what, he really was: his friend and assistant, Pepper Potts.

Eventually, he became Iron Man, which he thought would be the most major change in his life. He was, however, wrong. The most major change was yet to come.

*

“Tony? Tony are you back?” Pepper called as she climbed down the stairs to the lab. “Tony, I’m so sorry, I got the news from Rhodes…”

Slowly, she made her way through the lab, to where she could see Tony’s legs sticking out on the floor. He was sitting on the floor once again, instead of using his desk-chair like a normal human being.

“Tony?” she asked again as she closed in on his position.
“Shh, Miss Potts, you’ll wake him up”, the man whispered without looking up to her.
“Wake… Oh my God”, Pepper gasped when she finally was able to see the baby tucked against Tony. “What are you doing with a baby? Where did you even pick him up?”
“In the village”, Tony replied. “He was the only one left alive.”
“I will contact social services”, Pepper said, “I’m sure they will find him a nice home to stay in.” She was already grabbing for her phone, but suddenly Tony was up, his fist tightly closed on her phone.
“Don’t”, he said.
“But…”
“Don’t”, he said again, adjusting his grip on the baby. “He’s mine now.”
What?” she asked shrilly, even more startled. “Tony, that’s insane! You can’t keep that baby! Here, let me take him and go take a bath, you stink.”

She made a motion to take the baby boy, and to her astonishment, Tony moved away, tucking him even closer to him, a low growl coming from his chest. She had only heard that threatening sound from him once: when she had found out about his status as an Omega. From female Omegas, however… it was the sound mothers made when their cubs were threatened in any way. A warning sound, that any Alpha could recognized for what it was: an advice to stay away, or suffer the consequences.

She backed up slowly, putting her hands up as she took in Tony’s ruffled appearance. She’d seen him drunk more than once, and more generally a wreck of a human being, but this was new. The protective stance, the way he kept the child close to him. She realized he wasn’t wearing his Patch anymore, something he only did in the intimacy of his own home, and that something in his scent had changed.

“Oh god”, she whispered. “You’ve already scented that child, haven’t you?”

It wasn’t really a question: now that she focused on it, she could smell the sugary sweet, milky scent of the child mixed to Tony’s fresh pine and orange blossom. As far as Tony was concerned, the baby was his. She pinched the bridge of her nose, breathing deeply and thinking.

“Alright”, she said, “I won’t try anything. You can relax, Tony.” She waited until he shifted a bit, seemingly reassured. “But you need to think this through: everyone knows you’re Iron Man. This child will be in danger. And how will you explain his sudden appearance?”
“Pepper”, he called, and she startled at the use of her name. It was an agreement between them that he would only use it when she helped him through his heats. Otherwise, she was Miss Potts, his assistant. “No one has to know about him”, he said softly. “No one will know about him. I will keep him safe. This is my mission, now.” He paused. “I can’t let the world know… Did you smell him?”

She cocked her head to the side, intrigued by his words, and sniffed the air – and suddenly she caught it. The Anomaly. She was so used to smelling it whenever Tony was nearby, she hadn’t paid attention. She gasped in surprise.

“He is… He is one, too?”

Tony nodded, his fingers brushing gently against the child’s cheek. He was wrapped in a filthy rag, and Tony was still bloodied from the battle, yet he was sleeping peacefully.

“You will be the only one to know about him, at least for now. Until he is old enough to understand why we had to keep him a secret.”
“Alright”, she agreed. “Do you know his name?”

Tony’s gaze softened as he stepped closer to her, so she could see the kid better. He had tufts of brown hair and a pale skin.

“Peter”, he replied. “Peter Parker.”

There was a long moment of silence as they both looked at the sleeping baby.

“I will get the necessities for him”, she said. “I assume… you will want to deal with the rest yourself?”
“You assume well”, Tony replied with his trademark smirk. “Go one. Formula, a onesie and some clothes, diapers… It should be enough.”

She nodded and started to walk away, but she turned back to stare at him.

“You really should take a bath”, she said. “You smell, and not in a good way.”

*

“Tony, you have to tell Rhodes. No matter how much you improved Jarvis, he can’t take care of Peter alone while you’re in heat.”

Tony slapped the rag he’d been holding on his desk and looked up. Of course, he had thought about it. How could he not? He couldn’t leave Peter alone for three consecutive days, not when Pepper was with him.

“I don’t like it”, he said.
“I know”, Pepper said soothingly, “but it’s for Peter. You know you can’t handle suppressants, there is no other solution.” She paused. “Besides, you can trust Rhodes.”
“It is… a lot to trust him with”, Tony admitted. “I’ll do it”, he said when Pepper looked like she was about to protest. “I’ll do it.”

She could tell Tony was worried. He hardly ever left Peter – even now, the child was in a high chair beside his desk, squishing an Iron Man plushie whose hand he had drooled on so much it was disgustingly wet. He had a bedroom for himself, and a large one at that, with a cradle and everything, but he slept in Tony’s bed, cradled safely against his father.

The house had been baby-proofed and there were toys and baby things a bit everywhere, and it was obvious how much Tony loved his adoptive son. It would be his first heat since he had him, and she honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it was less intense than usual. Tony was high on hormones now, just like Omega women were with their own children.

“It’s four times a year, Tony”, she reminded him. “You are in heat four times a year. Surely you can entrust Peter to your best friend four times a year?”
“Yes”, Tony sighed. “Alright, I’ll call him and tell him to come by tomorrow.”

*

“There’s something changed here”, Rhodes said, looking around as he stepped into the house.

Pepper didn’t answer.

“Mr. Stark should be in the living-room”, she said, before going back to her tasks.

Rhodes took in her stiff attitude and the weirdness of the house, on his guard. He came by quite often, but it had been a month and a half since he last dropped by. His gaze dropped on a chewed on plushie laying on the ground, and he wondered if maybe Tony had gotten a dog. The farther he went, the weirder he felt.

He stopped dead in his tracks when he finally took in the scene in the living-room. Tony Stark was sleeping on the couch of white leather, but that was not the weird thing. The weird thing was the baby sleeping on his chest, Tony’s arms wrapped protectively around him. They both looked completely at ease there.

“What. The. Hell.”

The words were enough to wake up Tony, who startled and immediately rose up, keeping the child against himself.

“Oh, is it time already?” he asked, looking at his wrist-band. “Oh, yeah.”
“I’m dreaming. I must be dreaming.”
“You are not, in fact, dreaming”, Tony replied. “I have things to tell you.”
“Where the hell does that child come from?”
“A destroyed village in the Middle East”, Tony said. “That’s not the important part. Rhodes, meet Peter Parker. My son.”
“Is that why we barely see you anymore?” Rhodes asked, connecting the dots.
“Bingo. Now, Rhodey, I have a service to ask you.”
“Let me guess: you want me to watch over him while you do something you absolutely have to do”, Rhodes said, smirking, “which must involve Pepper, otherwise she would have been keeping him.”
“That’s where the second secret comes in”, Tony said, reaching up to his neck. “Because I will need your help more than once.”

That got his attention, though Rhodes wasn’t exactly sure he wasn’t having the weirdest dream ever. Tony pealed what looked like a layer of skin from over his scent gland, just under his ear, and a new scent spread through the room. Rhodes remained silent a very long moment as he analysed what information his brain gave him, until his jaw dropped, and he turned pale.

“You… You are an Omega?!”
“Ding ding! And that’s a good answer”, Tony said, finally standing up. “I am an Omega, and I need someone to look after Peter during my heats. You are the only one I trust enough to ask, Rhodes. It’s my cub we’re talking about, and I’d rather watch the world burn than have anything happening to him.”
“…I’m gonna need a drink to accept that”, Rhodes said, finally stunned by all the unbelievable news he’d just heard.
“Good luck”, Tony replied. “There must be a bar somewhere close you can go to.”
“What are you talking about?” Rhodes asked, even more confused now.
“About his recent sobriety”, a voice answered behind him. Pepper walked closer and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing briefly in support. “Tony has decided to stop drinking altogether for Peter’s sake. There is not a drop of alcohol in this house.”
“Damn”, Rhodes replied, understanding downing on his face, “you’re really serious about this.”
“Yes”, Tony replied. “So? Will you do it?”
“Of course”, he said, and paused. “Can I take him?”

He could feel Tony’s reluctance to hand him the sleeping child, but a minute later, he was holding Peter for the first time.

“He’s so small”, he whispered, completely entranced. “Hello, Peter. I hope we’ll be good friends.”

In his sleep, Peter smiled and snuggled closer to him, and Tony visibly relaxed. He was safe, and everything was alright. Pepper had been right: he could trust Rhodes. He could trust him with his life, and he could trust him with his child.

“Welcome to the family, I guess”, Pepper said with a chuckle. “That one is going to be so spoiled.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about”, Tony replied.
“I do”, Rhodes laughed.

And, okay, it was very sudden and unexpected, but it was good news. It was very good news. The proof that Tony Stark has a heart.

Chapter Text

Tony was stunned. He knew the day would come, of course, but he hadn’t expected it now. He was sitting in the middle of the living-room, playing with Peter before he had to go down to the lab and work a bit. His little boy was waddling around and laughing like usual, the brightest star of them all, but suddenly he’d turned around and looked straight back at Tony.

“Mama?” he called, and at first Tony thought he had misheard.

But he hadn’t.

“Mama”, Peter said again, grinning and walking up to him. “Hug.”
“Yes”, Tony finally said, picking him up and squeezing him against his chest. “Good, Peter!” he laughed, ruffling his still thin brown hair. “You’re right, Mama’s here!”

He’d read many books about child-rearing to know what to expect, but it seemed Peter was early. He had started to walk two months ago, when he was barely nine months old – to pick up a toy he’d left on the ground, and to Tony’s great surprise. And now, eleven months old, not even a full year, he was saying his first words. The drawback was that he still had no tooth. Absolutely none. Tony had worried at first, but Pepper had asked about this to a paediatrician and it turned out, babies couldn’t do everything at the same time. They picked something – teeth, hair, talking, walking, etc – and did it, and then set out for something else.

“What’s the commotion all about?” Pepper asked as she walked in, bringing a baby bottle with her.
“Peter just said his first word!” Tony said, beaming – proud, so proud of his boy. “He said ‘mama’!”

Pepper turned her gaze to Peter, smiling.

“Is that true, Pete? Did you talk?”
“Mama”, Peter answered, swinging himself into Tony’s arms and giggling. Suddenly, he held out his arms for Pepper. “Pepa”, he called, “Pepa, Pepa!”

In shock, Pepper drew her hand to her mouth, her eyes shining from unshed tears.

“Yes, Pete, that’s right”, she said. “Come see Pepper.”

As Tony watched over them, he realized eight months had passed since he picked up Peter. Eight months, and it still felt like it was yesterday that he brought back home is little boy. During those eight months, he had only appeared at official events and board meetings. He hadn’t put on his armour once, and hadn’t drunk a single drop of alcohol. And now that Peter slept all night long, the boy slept in his own bed – not that the decision hadn’t been difficult, but Tony knew it was for the best.

Peter was growing up, faster than Tony expected. Luckily, Pepper was more foresighted than he was, and she’d been gathering information about schooling. About home-schooling, and good schools in New York. Tony was thinking of relocating there, where a tower was being built. Stark Tower. It was not for now yet.

*

Tony stared at the results. Dying. He was dying, and his son was just turning two. The ARK reactor, and more specifically, the palladium, had been slowly poisoning him without his knowledge. Tiredly, he dragged a hand across his face. The world had known him as Iron Man for four years now. He had gone on two missions since he’d adopted Peter, always taking care of not endangering himself. Pepper and Rhodes – ‘tío Rhodes’, as Peter called him – were the only one knowing about the boy, but that couldn’t go on indefinitely. Peter needed to be around people, to see the outside world. Pepper had called him overprotective, which he probably was, but he was uncomfortable letting the boy out of his sight.

“Miss Potts”, he called. “I want you to start searching for a nanny. A serious one, who can be trusted with the knowledge of Peter’s family, and with his status.”
“So you finally realized he would need that”, Pepper said with a relieved smile as she stepped into the lab. “I already know the one.”
“Great. Call her and arrange a meeting.”

His eyes dropped back down to the results, and he breathed in deeply. If Pepper took care of his work-related problems, and the nanny watched over Peter, he could focus on making an improvement to the ARK reactor. He could hope to save his life, and live long enough to see his son grow up.

It was two days later that he met Natalie Rushman, a very pretty Alpha with a professional air. He wasn’t quite sure about trusting her despite her impressive pedigree, at first, but decided to hire her when Peter enthusiastically climbed into her lap for a hug.

Natalie took care of Peter, just like he expected, for two months. That was the time it took him to realize he should have trusted his instinct, because she wasn’t what she pretended to be. He understood the moment Peter started to speak in Russian as he played with his stuffed t-rex, the moment he heard the incongruous words out of the mouth of his two years old son. Tony Stark is dying, and even if he wasn’t, he isn’t fit for the Avenger Initiative.

He had heard about the Avenger Initiative before, from Director Nick Fury. It didn’t take him long to piece together the facts – that Natalie wasn’t exactly your usual nanny, but rather a SHIELD agent undercover to observe him.

“Tell me”, he said to her as she was grabbing her bag to go out at the end of her day of work, “how much did you tell SHIELD about Peter?”

Natalie stopped dead in her tracks, and turned around. No longer a nanny, but something other. Different. Dangerous.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Mr. Stark.”
“Oh please, cut the crap”, Tony said, repressing his urge to lunge for her throat. She’d been near his cub. She’d held him in her arms. Traitor. “I know you were sent here to spy on me. Tell me, what did you tell them about Peter?”

There was a long moment of silence, and Natalie’s stance relaxed.

“I told nothing”, she replied. “I was supposed to get close to you by becoming your secretary, but then Miss Potts went in search of a nanny. I know why you said nothing about him. And I know why you said nothing about yourself. I will not endanger your safety, nor Peter’s, Stark.” She paused. “I was, however, allowed to make you an offer.”
“What kind of offer?”
“Your father left plans to the SHIELD, about the ARK reactor. It was just a prototype. It could allow you to upgrade it. Save your life. I could give them to you.”
“Against what?”
“A favour”, she replied. “Nick Fury is certain the time will come we will need a favour, either from Tony Stark or from Iron Man.”
“A favour”, Tony repeated. “A favour in exchange of the plans.”
“We are not monsters, Mr. Stark. Nor heartless. Your death can, perhaps, be pushed back to a later time if we do something simple.”
“Alright”, Tony said, and she looked surprised by his quick agreement. “The plans, in exchange of a favour. Deal.”
“It was a pleasure, Mr. Stark.”
“I guess it means I have to search for another nanny, then.”

She rose a brow at that sentence.

“Because you would keep me as a nanny?”
“You did a good job at that. Peter likes you a lot, and he was able to go outside thanks to you. And I’m quite sure you’re more capable than your usual nanny to protect him.”

Natalie smiled, a genuine smile this time.

“I do like Peter too”, she admitted. “Are you serious? You would really keep me?”
“We’re moving to the centre of New-York in three months”, Tony declared. “There would be room for you to stay. More than room enough, if I dare say.”
“I would love to.”
“Then it’s a deal.” He paused. “Natalie Rushman isn’t your real name, isn’t it?”
“I’m Natasha”, she said, holding out her hand. “Natasha Romanov.”
“Pleased to meet you, Natasha.”

When Natasha went back home that night, she couldn’t contain her giddy smile. She hadn’t expected to be allowed to see Peter again. But now, she was going to live close to him. Close to the boy she had always thought she couldn’t have.

Peter would speak a perfect Russian, she decided as she fell asleep.

Chapter Text

“What are you doing, Peter?” Tony asked curiously as his son sat in the living-room of their apartment in Star Tower, putting on his shoes.

“I’m going to the park!” Peter replied excitedly, his tongue poking out as he focused on tying his shoes. “Tetka Natasha said we’d go together!”
“Did she?”

It wasn’t unusual per se, Natasha – or, ‘Aunt’ Natasha as Peter called her in her native Russian – often went on walks with the little boy. It was becoming increasingly important as he grew up – he should have been in pre-school already, but Tony just didn’t feel like Peter could understand how important it was that no one knew he was his son. He would be too much of a target. As it were, everyone thought Natasha raised her nephew. But lately, she hadn’t been able to be with Peter much. SHIELD business, she’d said, and she looked worried.

Tony didn’t know everything, because she was very secretive, but after three years of living under the same roof, she let her guard down a bit around him. Not enough to let anything SHIELD-related spill, but enough to let him know the world had gone even crazier without his knowledge. He was about sure it had something to do with the destruction of a little town in New Mexico. On the other hand, there had been her friend and colleague’s tumultuous affair with an Omega a year ago. Said Omega had curiously disappeared from Earth a bit before the event in New Mexico.

It didn’t take a genius to link the dots, and Tony was one. His missions as Iron Man over the years had been far and few, mostly support, as he focused on his son and his business. And, alright, the weird little gathering he called family. He had realized how utterly alone he was when he became Iron Man, and he was surprised by how much this had changed. How Peter had rallied people around him. He’d noticed the change when Peter got very sick two years ago and Rhodes, Pepper and Natasha immediately rallied to have medical help. Everything had turned out alright, but Tony had felt the reassuring presence of his friends.

He was pulled out of his thoughts by the elevator opening and Peter running up to Natasha, squealing a loud “Tetka!” as he was picked up and spun around. Almost immediately, she started to speak in rapid-fire in Russian – which Tony understood, thank you very much – and Peter nodded and replied with an equally good accent. Sometimes, Tony wondered if maybe they hadn’t overdone it with the languages: at barely five, Peter spoke Spanish, Russian and English. And like all multi-lingual kids his age, he had trouble knowing when to speak one language. He used English with Tony and Pepper – ‘Pepa’, since the nickname had stuck -, Spanish with Rhodes – why Rhodes had taught Spanish to his kid was beyond Tony – and Russian with Natasha. And the trouble came when he wanted to tell his mama what he’d done with them, because he could only tell things in the language he’d done them. And Tony didn’t speak Spanish. (Jarvis and his translator were life-saving, really.)

Peter bolted out to grab his coat – an atrocious, sickly green, toad shaped thing that Tony had immediately loved – and Natasha walked up to him.

“What’s the problem?” Tony asked immediately.
“Not exactly a problem… SHIELD is calling in their favour”, she said.
“How bad is it?”

She cocked her head aside.

“Depends.”
“On what?”
“Your reaction. I’m taking Peter for a walk. SHIELD will be there in two hours. You should meet them in your office, because this place is very obviously occupied by a kid. If you want to keep the secret, of course.”
“Buy him an ice cream”, Tony replied, already planning this meeting. “I will contact you when it’s safe to come back.”

She merely nodded, grabbing Peter’s hand when he came back, and exiting the building. Tony took a deep, calming breath. It was in moments like this that he itched for alcohol. He’d been sober for close to five years now, and was determined on never falling back into his self-destructing habits, but days like this were rough. The need to take the edge off. Steeling himself, he instead took a few of those calming pastilles Pepper had gotten for him – “all plants, nothing bad. It’ll just help with the nerves” – and went to get ready. He had a feeling, whatever this favour was, he would need all his mind.

*

Tony stared at Nick Fury, wondering if the man was mocking him. But Fury didn’t look like he was the kind of man who joked around, which meant he was probably very serious. Which was, to put if mildly, very fucked up.

“Are you telling me”, he finally said – and god his Patch was itching, why was it itching, it had never itched before – “that you found Captain America, aka the man my father never shut up about, frozen but alive and that you brought him back to the world? A man who spent, what, seventy years in the ice?”
“I do believe it is what I said, yes”, Fury replied, nonplussed as ever.
“And what does it have to do with me? I don’t do creepy serums, that’s not my line.”
“The favour we are asking for is very simple, Mr. Stark”, Fury said. “That you house Mr. Rogers here and help him adapt to life in the 21st century. We can’t keep him at SHIELD headquarters, and he must stay in a place secure. Stark Tower is the most secured place after our headquarters, even more than the Pentagon.” He paused. “Will that be a problem?”

Tony cringed at the idea of someone he didn’t know close to his cub. On the other hand, he couldn’t refuse. Fury was right, it was a very simple favour. He definitely had room to house Rogers, and probably six more, before it started to become a problem. He was more concerned by the safety of his son, and by the fact that Rogers would inevitably learn he was an Omega. Could he be trusted with that kind of information? There was no way of telling. God, he probably had all those bigoted views about Omegas. It was going to be a nightmare.

“No problem at all. When is he supposed to arrive?”
“He is already here.”

Tony blanched but didn’t say a word as the door opened and a massive guy came in. Really, his father hadn’t done him justice. He was bigger than he’d said. And he looked completely out of place, with his shirt tucked in his trousers, belted at the waist like he was a grand-pa and not a twenty-something, and in all honesty rather handsome, guy.

“Mr. Stark”, he said, smiling and extending his hand. “It’s a pleasure.”
“Captain”, Tony replied, his eyes glued to those shoulders – was it really possible to be that broad-shouldered? He turned to Fury. “I believe we’re done here, then. I’ll take Mr. Rogers to his quarters.”

And with that, Fury was gone, and Rogers remained there, standing awkwardly.

“It’s incredible how much you look like Howard”, he finally said as Tony considered the past quarter of an hour.
“Do I?” he replied automatically. He then glared up. “Sit down, Captain. There are a few things I need to say before I let you loose in my Tower.”
“About your status, I guess”, Rogers said with a nod. “Don’t worry about it, I won’t say a thing.”

Tony’s jaw dropped.

“My what? How the-” he caught himself before he could swear, a habit he’d taken since Peter had entered his life. “How do you know that?”
“Tony – I can call you Tony, right? Just call me Steve, by the way. The serum enhanced my sense of smell. Whatever way you use to mask your scent, it doesn’t work with me.” He cocked his head aside. “I thought the world would have changed its opinion on Omegas, honestly, but if you had to hide…”
“You don’t know”, Tony breathed, staring back at him. “God, they didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?” Rogers asked frowning and leaning forward.
“There are no more male Omegas, Steve. I’m the first in thirty-five years, and unlike you I’m not fond of becoming the subject of experiences.” He paused. “However, that was not what I wanted to say. Well, partly, but not entirely.” He took a steadying breath, noting that Steve’s scent was… unusual. He had been sure the man was an Alpha, but the underlying sugary scent was telling him the opposite. “My son. You are not talk to anyone about his existence. Not even Nick Fury.”

Steve blinked, silent for a second.

“Is that the other scent you were trying to mask?” he finally said. “I assumed it was to look more professional to Fury. Don’t worry”, he added when Tony looked about to panic, “it works on regular people.”
“You… knew?”
“The moment I stepped in the room”, Steve confirmed. “Just as I can tell Natasha Romanov is part of your pack and Pepper Potts isn’t really your Alpha. You do a good job hiding all of it, but I just…”
“Enhanced smell. Right. I believe I’ve said everything of importance.”
“I, on the other hand, have something to ask. About the… accommodations of my room. Is it heat-proof?”
“Every room is heat-proof”, Tony replied. “You never know when you’re going to need it.”
“A wise decision.” He paused, clearly expecting something more from Tony. When he didn’t get it, he sighed and resumed. “As you can guess, I don’t have a steady heat-partner anymore… or yet, depends on how you look at it. I hope it won’t be a problem.”

Tony blinked.

“Are you trying to tell me you are an Omega”, he finally managed to say, trying very hard not to flip his desk.
“Did they not write it in my file? I was an Omega”, Steve replied, apparently not overly disturbed. “Before the serum. The serum activated hormones in my body, so now I’m both Alpha and Omega. The first one, I’ve heard. Or rather, the first not to be sterile just from that biological contradiction. They call that status ‘Beta’.”

Tony just stared back, unflinching. And then, suddenly, he started to laugh. Hysterically, to Steve’s confusion. He would calm down a bit, look at Steve and start to laugh again.

“This is… I don’t even have words for this”, he finally managed to say. “But getting yet someone else in my house? I really don’t like it.”
“I don’t really like the idea of taking a heat-partner either”, Steve replied stonily, “but suppressants, much like hormonal contraception, don’t work on me anymore.”
“And let me guess, your next heat is like really soon?” Tony said, twirling a pencil between his fingers.

To his surprise and relief, Steve shook his head.

“It shouldn’t be before another month. My cycle is twice that of a normal Omega, so every forty-five days.”
“A month. We have one month to find a satisfying solution. That’s just great.”
“It’s better than a week”, Steve pointed out. “I’d go elsewhere for two days if it were just me, but Fury has been very insistent that I shouldn’t leave Stark Tower.”
“You know what? It’s enough for one day. We’ll deal with it later. C’mon, you’ve got a tower to visit and people to meet.”

Steve nodded and grabbed the duffel bag he’d brought with him. The office where Tony met his clients and other professional relationships was on ground level, so they didn’t have to go further than he liked into the tower.

“Jarvis”, he called as he guided Steve to the elevator. “Enter Steve Rogers into security database. Authorizations level one to twelve. And send a message to Natasha to come back home.”
“Yes sir”, the AI answered, and Tony had expected Steve to startle but he didn’t.
“I’ve seen weirder”, Steve commented with a smile. “I expect either Miss Potts or Miss Romanov is with your son?”

Tony nodded, still wary but feeling a bit more comfortable now that he knew Steve had been an Omega, even if it was a long time ago.

“How old is he?”
“Five”, Tony answered. “His name is Peter.”
“Peter”, Steve repeated, letting the name roll on his tongue. “I’m curious though, did Miss Potts sire him? I didn’t peg you as a maternal type, especially if you wanted to keep your status a secret.”

Tony nearly choked at his words, as he had never expected anyone to think he wasn’t the one who’d sired Peter. Steve’s suggestion seemed both ridiculous and kind of nightmarish.

“ he finally managed to squawk.
“Oh, maybe it was an accident, in which case my question was insensitive… I’m sorry”, the young man said, looking genuinely mortified.
“Wha- No! You got it all wrong”, Tony groaned. “God held me… Peter is adopted.”

A complicated expression crossed Steve’s face, as he settled on a non-committed “ah”.

“Anyway”, Tony said, still red-faced, as he stepped out of the elevator, “this will be your quarters. There’s a living-room, two bedrooms, restroom, bathroom. Two stories up is the communal living-room, and just upstairs is the communal kitchen.” He paused. “Natasha is on the story just under yours, Miss Potts is three stories up and I’m on the top story with Peter. You can visit as you want, there’s a library, a game-room, and a gym, amongst others. My lab is out of bounds, of course. And I bet you’ll like the greenhouse on level five.”
“Thank you for your hospitality”, Steve said, putting his bag down. “I bet I have some catching up to do, don’t I?”
“Oh yes, you do”, Tony replied. “You can ask Jarvis for anything you need, and of course anyone in this building can help you.” His watch beeped, and he motioned to him to follow. “Natasha is back with Peter. You’ll get to meet him.”

As they went down, he started to scratch his neck. Damn, the Patch really was itchy. He knew he shouldn’t keep it on for too long, but it had never done that before. Sighing, he peeled it off and put it in his pocket, rubbing his gland distractedly. He noticed Steve was eyeing him.

“What is it?”
“You’ve been using this for long, haven’t you?”
“Yeah”, Tony replied. “Since I was fifteen. I usually don’t wear it when I’m home. Peter says I smell weird.”
“You should reduce your use of this device”, Steve said. “Your gland is red and swollen. If you don’t, you’ll develop an allergy. You won’t be able to use it anymore, at all, nor any kind of hormonal contraceptive.”

Tony eyed him suspiciously, his fingers still pressed against his – and yeah, Steve was right about that – swollen scent gland.

“How would you know that?”

Steve looked taken aback.

“It’s basic sex ed?” he replied. “And a bit of biology. High-school level, though.” He looked back at him warily. “Did no one tell you that?”
“No other male Omega, remember?” Tony grumbled.

He had tried to read through the volumes of information that remained, but they were out-dated and simply not helpful at all, with all that puritanism and everything. He couldn’t use any kind of basic hormonal treatment for Omegas, as they were all designed for women and would be at best ineffective on him, at worst downright dangerous. Which meant heat suppressants and hormonal birth-control, like the pill, were inaccessible to him. Biology wasn’t his forte, sadly, or he would have designed something other than the Patch. Instead, he’d settled for condoms and a steady, trustful heat-partner. He tried not to think of how things were before, but now he had a specimen of before standing right next to him unknowingly giving him nuggets of precious information.

“Let’s make a deal”, Steve said after a long moment of silence. “I tell you everything I know about being an Omega, which is rather a lot, and you teach me about science.”

Weighing the pros and cons didn’t take two minutes: Tony looked at Steve and replied “deal”. Not only because he wanted to know for himself, but also because eventually, Peter would need to know those things. He hadn’t asked yet where did babies come from, which Tony was grateful for, but it wouldn’t be long now.

“Mama!” Peter cried out as soon as he saw him, and Tony crouched for his cub to jump into his arms. “Mama, you won’t believe what I did!”
“Tell me, sweetheart. Where did Tetka Natasha take you?”
“To the mu-se-um”, Peter replied excitedly, focusing to pronounce the word well. “I got a plushie, look! Look, it’s Captain America with his shield, he’s so cool!”

And, indeed, in Peter’s hand was a Captain America plushie, the Star-Spangled man. Tony glared at Natasha, who snickered as she greeted Steve.

“Oh yeah, he’s great!” Tony replied vengefully. “So what did you learn?”
“He was really really strong and brave”, Peter replied, his eyes shining. “Like you, mama, but bigger. He fought the bad guys.” He cocked his head aside. “You fight the bad guys too, mama. So you’re like Captain America.”
“If you say so”, Tony agreed, glaring at Natasha once more. Beside him, Steve was holding back his laughter, strangled chuckles coming from him anyway. “Do you remember what his name was?”
“Steeb!” Peter replied, and oh, this was golden, and Tony was going to make sure the nickname stuck. “It’s Steeb!”
“Peter, I’d like you to meet our new friend”, Tony said, turning around so the boy could see Steve. “Captain America. He’ll be staying here for a while.”

Peter’s eyes widened in awe, looking like he’d just arrived at Disney, and Steve smiled. Bright, gentle, with just an edge of pain.

“Steeb”, he whispered.
“Hello, Peter”, the man said. “I’m glad to meet you.”
“Mama”, Peter whispered loud enough for everyone to hear. “Can I hug Steeb?”

Steve gave a slight nod to say he was okay with that, and Tony, reassured by the calming scent coming from him, passed him his little boy.

“Here you go”, he said.

Peter wound his arms around Steve’s neck, hugging him tightly, and the soldier hugged him back, his hand impressively broad on the small back of the kid. He seemed to be a bit close to tears when he closed his eyes, though Tony wasn’t sure. Then, Peter pulled back and whispered something in his ear, to which Steve nodded with a grin.

“Of course you can, Peter”, he said in answer.
“Mama”, Peter said. “Uncle Steeb will eat dinner with us tonight?”

Tony rose an eyebrow at the name.

“Dinner is family time, isn’t it?”
“Yeah!”
“Is Steve family?”

The boy nodded strongly.

“He’s Uncle Steeb, mama. He’s family.”
“Then he’s eating dinner with us”, Tony concluded, staring back at Steve and daring him to say anything contrary.

Whether Steve got the warning or he was genuinely emotional from the display of affection from Peter, and his ready, warm acceptance, he didn’t oppose the idea and simply nodded.

“Yeah, I am.”

Chapter Text

The first few days, Steve was shy and didn’t come out except for lunch and dinner, which Tony could understand. From what he’d gathered, and what Natasha had said, he’d been out of the ice for three days before he got there. So far, he had locked himself up in his apartment and had been studying general history since he went down under. Catching up on seventy years of history was a nightmare in its own right, catching up on it on the internet would have been even worse. Tony had no doubt the Captain would manage to understand it fine, he had become an adept of ‘gentle immersion’ since he got Peter. The old Tony would probably have thrown everything into his face. Mama Tony was… more compassionate. So he’d gotten him books – loads and loads of books, not just history books but also a list of the ‘100 greatest books written after 1945’.

Peter had whined a bit at first, when ‘Steeb’ didn’t show up, but after Tony had explained everything, he waited patiently. His visit to the museum, and Steve’s consequent arrival in their lives had made him completely obsessed with Captain America. As a consequence, the boy now had an array of Captain America plushies, a shirt like his uniform, and a bunch of picture books explaining Captain America to the kids.

Tony had been reading a badly written, but essential information full report on an anomaly for S.H.I.E.L.D, when Peter arrived and climbed into his lap, his eyes full of tears and his hands clenched tightly on a book. He could read well enough and had been reading the books by himself, though at first he had only wanted to learn to read so he could decipher his Meccano instructions – a gift from Tony for his birthday.

“What is it, sweetheart?” Tony asked immediately, putting the report aside to hold him. “Why are you crying? Did you hurt yourself?”
“I’m not crying for me, Mama”, Peter replied, his had tucked against Tony’s neck, where he could smell his mother’s comforting scent. “I’m crying for Steeb.”

Tony was even more confused now, as he brushed back Peter’s hair.

“Tell me what happened.”
“I was reading my book”, Peter explained, “and it says Steeb’s mama died. He’s got no mama anymore. Who will take care of him if he has no mama?”

And oh, there it was. That squeeze in Tony’s chest, The proof that Tony Stark has a heart. He wiped away Peter’s tears, trying very hard not to cry himself. It brought back so many things he had thought he’d buried deep.

“You know, Peter”, he finally said, “my mama died too. And your mama as well.”

That was enough to bring a frown to the boy’s face.

“My mama? Don’t be silly, you are here.”

Tony smiled, and he hadn’t thought it would be so painful, but Peter had the right to know – he wouldn’t let this get between them.

“I’m talking about your birth mama, Peter. I’m your mama too, and I love you so, so much, my Peter. But there was another mama who brought you to this world.”
“But I don’t know that mama”, Peter replied. “You are my mama.”
“Yes”, Tony replied. “Yes, I’m your mama.”

There was a moment of silence as Peter processed the information.

“You became my mama because I didn’t have a mama anymore.”

It was roughly summed up, but it was the truth.

“Yes.”
“And Steeb doesn’t have a mama anymore”, Peter resumed. “Like me.”
“Yes”, Tony said again, starting to wonder where his boy was getting at.
“Can you be Steeb’s mama, then?”

Tony nearly burst out laughing, and only managed not to because really, it was not the moment. He couldn’t keep himself from smiling, though.

“No, sweetheart, I can’t be Steve’s mama.” He paused. “That doesn’t mean we can’t be his family, you know? Remember what I taught you?”
“Family is not in the blood”, Peter replied, and finally grinned brightly. “Steeb is family.” His face fell into a frown once more. “But Steeb doesn’t know it.”
“So what can we do?”
“Make cookies for him”, Peter said with a strong nod. “And hug him. Lots of hugs.”
“I’m sure he would love it”, Tony replied, still remembering the open, shocked expression of Steve when Peter had hugged him the first time. “How about you go see him now?”
“Can I?” Peter asked excitedly.
“Go”, Tony replied with a nod, and Peter scampered away to the elevator, his book forgotten on the couch.

Jarvis opened the elevator’s door for him, delivering him to Steve’s apartment. It took everything Tony had not to follow, but he had a feeling Steve would be more open to Peter’s presence than to his own. With a sigh, he scrubbed his eyes and went to get something hot to drink before he got back to the report.

*

Steve showed up the following morning to the kitchen area, quite early in the morning. Peter was still sleeping, and Tony hadn’t gone to bed yet – tormented by memories of his own last morning with his mother, of finding Peter, and another bunch of things that would easily turn into a nightmare. He knew he looked like shit, because he also felt like it as he stared into his cup of coffee. He’d barely slept, fitfully, when he’d unknowingly fallen asleep on the couch, and had woken up with a start for absolutely no reason.

Without asking, he poured another coffee for Steve, whom he didn’t trust near the coffee maker since he’d managed to drench the entire kitchen in boiling water two days ago.

“Thank you”, Steve replied. “For the coffee and for… sending Peter. I needed it.”
“Don’t worry about it”, Tony replied. “He’s a kid. I know you’ve got no one left, and it must be pretty hard. So… you’ve got us, now. Peter has adopted you into the family so I just have to follow suit and shut up about it.”

Steve chuckled.

“He’s great. You raised him well, Tony, and it can’t have been easy to raise a boy on your own.”
“I wasn’t alone”, Tony pointed out. “I’ve got great friends.”
“And how many of them had kids before? Pepper told me”, Steve said. “How you rescued Peter from the ruins. That you couldn’t let go for three days straight.”
“Yeah, well. He was such a tiny thing. I was afraid if I put him down for a second, I wouldn’t find him again.”
“Still, you did a great job”, Steve retorted. “It’s so obvious how loved he is, how genuinely kind and caring…”
“I was so afraid I’d fuck up somewhere”, Tony replied. “Still am. I mean, I’ve never even been in a steady relationship. How was I supposed to raise a balanced kid?”
“You did everything in your power not to”, Steve said. “There’s no perfect parent, Tony, and Peter will make sure to tell you so when he’s old enough. But so far you’ve done a damn fine job.” He paused for a moment. “And you look like hell. Have you slept at all?”
“A bit”, Tony replied. “A coffee and I’ll be able to see through time.”
“I’m… not sure that’s a good thing”, Steve said, somewhat keeping a straight face. “No coffee for you”, he added as he snatched Tony’s cup, and he wouldn’t have needed super-human powers to do so.

Tony glared back.

“Give that back.”
“Not until you’ve slept at least four hours. Please. Just four.”
“You don’t look like you’ve been sleeping well either.”
“I’ve been sleeping for seventy years”, Steve retorted. “And the nightmares keep me up.” He decided to change his approach, as Tony didn’t look convinced. “What would you do if Peter told you he couldn’t sleep because he had nightmares?”
“Like I did the first months of his life”, Tony replied immediately. “Cuddle with him until he fell asleep, and end up sleeping in the process.”
“A good technique”, Steve approved. “Let’s try it.”
“Wha- Put me back down you big oaf!” Tony protested, weakly slapping Steve’s arms and shoulders as he picked him up easily and carried him off to the living-room.

A minute later, he was laying on the couch, cocooned in a large blanket kept there for movie nights, his head pillowed by Steve’s thigh, the soldier’s hand threading through his hair comfortingly. He couldn’t remember anyone doing that aside from Pepper, when he was dazed and exhausted from his heat.

“I hate you”, he mumbled sleepily, snuggling closer, already feeling himself drift away.
“I’m sure you do”, Steve hummed back.

When Peter woke up two hours later, he found them still on the couch, both sleeping tightly. Steve had slipped in his sleep and was laying on the couch as well, his head on the armrest, Tony’s arms wrapped around his waist. The boy repressed a giggle and, finding Tony’s phone on the counter of the kitchen, he took a photo with Jarvis’s help. He then went back to fetch another blanket in his mama’s bedroom for Steve, dumping it on his chest and doing his best to cover the upper side of the soldier. He retreated silently and hesitated between going to Pepper – who turned out to be absent, as she had a meeting with Agent Coulson to settle some paperwork – and going to Natasha.

He ended up eating cereals while sitting on the floor with Natasha as they watched the cartoons’ network, and then going to the park with her so he could meet with his friends there. Tony was still hesitating to put him in school when he’d turn six, and continue tutoring him. Peter was friendly and could all too easily spill the secret that his mama was Tony Stark, and the Patch Tony had made for him was micro-dosed, only working for two hours at a time. A higher dose could be dangerous for his little boy.

Chapter Text

After that, Steve took the habit of spending time in the living-room, either playing a bit with Peter, talking with Tony or reading a book. Sometimes, he watched a movie, but he was still very jumpy and emotional. Often, he would be found fallen asleep on the fluffy carpet. He also spent time in the gym, despite not being able to use the machines, and after another week, Tony invited him into his lab.

It was then that the package arrived. A sealed, metallic box from S.H.I.E.L.D, which contained all his personal belongings that had been left behind. Tony found him sitting in the kitchen and staring at the still sealed box like it had personally offended him. Peter was with Natasha, who had decided to teach him some self-defence moves for his own safety.

“Steve”, he greeted him. “Are you alright?”
“Peachy”, Steve replied, still glaring at the box.
“What’s that?” Tony asked as he prepared them both some warm drinks – that were not coffee, as Pepper had forbidden both of them from drinking any until Steve had normal sleep schedules again, and Tony indefinitely as the stuff made him cranky.
“S.H.I.E.L.D. sent me a box of my stuff”, Steve replied, “and my health report, that they did when they brought me back. With a notice that I’m scheduled for another health check before my next heat.”
“Do you want some company while you go through this?” Tony asked, his hand clapped on Steve’s shoulder.
“Please”, Steve whispered, nodding.
“Alright”, he said, sitting on a stool on the other side of the counter. “With what do you want to start?”
“I’ve already read the report”, Steve replied. “There’s no effect from cryogenics, when you’ve got a health like mine. It’s just the box left.”

His hands trembling, he thumbed in a code and lifted the lid. His breath caught as he peered into the box, and he reached inside, pulling out a large leather jacket and bringing it to his nose.

“Oh, God”, he moaned, “it still has his scent.”

Lovingly, he stroked the lapel. The jacket, while large, was too tight to be his. He looked up to Tony and smiled.

“This was Bucky’s jacket”, he explained. “He loved it. Wore it all the time.”
“Bucky was your best friend, right?” Tony asked. It was what was written in all the sources he’d read.
“What?” Steve replied with a snort. “Bucky was my mate, Tony. Well, we were until we decided it was better if we broke it off… It was shortly before his death.”
“But there’s nothing about it in the books…”
“Because there’s nothing about me being originally an Omega”, Steve replied. “We were mates. Bucky went off to war, I took the serum and became a Beta. The serum broke our bond”, he explained. “But we decided to… to give it another try. But it just… it didn’t work anymore, especially after Zola’s experiences on him. We were still the greatest friends, but being mates… Anyway, we mutually agreed we were better off separate. And then that idiot went and died and it didn’t matter either way.”

Wordlessly, he handed the jacket to Tony who couldn’t help his curiosity and sniffed at the leather. Underneath the leather polish, he could smell something heavenly. A mix of cinnamon, sawdust and freshly turned earth. Something deep, dark and comforting. He didn’t remember ever meeting someone that smelt this good. Carefully, and wondering what the hell was wrong with him, he put the jacket down.

Steve rummaged through the box, pulling out a pair of mittens that had seen better days. His hand clenched on it before he put it aside. He made a chocked sound when he pulled out a small stack of grainy photos. Slowly, he went through them, and Tony curiously looked over them as he put them aside – the Howling Commandos, smiling cheerfully, Peggy Carter, along with his own father Howard, bracketing Steve who held on his vibranium shield. A photo that had been taken sneakily, of Steve looking at the horizon in a barren, desert land. The last one almost ended up squashed in Steve’s hand, who hastily put it down and flattened it. This was the only one that pre-dated the serum: Steve was scrawny little thing, looking barely well enough to stand, especially as he was held in Bucky’s arms. They were smiling brightly, Steve at the camera – Bucky, well. Bucky was smiling adoringly at his mate, like he was the eighth marvel in the world.

A hand over his mouth, Steve chocked on a sob. Slowly, he breathed, looking fondly at the photo, before he slid it over to Tony.

“This was taken on the happiest moment of our lives”, he said in a soft voice, struggling to get the words out – but he needed to, or they would choke him. “I’d just told Bucky I was expecting when it was taken. He was… God, you would have thought I’d just handed him the world.”

Tony held in his breath. There was nothing about a child in Steve’s file. Absolutely nothing, and he was afraid to understand why.

“He was conscripted two weeks later”, Steve resumed. “I lost the baby the night before he went away.” He shrugged derisively, but his voice talked of untellable pain. “I was too small and sickly to ever have a healthy child… To ever have one, really. The doctor told me the miscarriage had had consequences. That I would never have a child.” He took in a sharp breath. “That’s when I met Erskine and finally got enrolled.”
“I’m… Steve, I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
“You know what the real irony is?” Steve said, wiping tears from his eyes. “The serum boosted my health. It repaired the damage. I had spent so much time certain that I would die young and there would be nothing left of me, and suddenly I had another chance.” Slowly, he started to collapse on the counter, shaking madly with grief. “Tony, can I… can I tell you something that would have to stay between us?” he managed to say through his tears, fingers clenched on his own arms.
“Yes”, Tony replied, putting a comforting hand on his arm. “I’m your friend, Steve. Even if we haven’t known each other for long.”

It took a few minutes before Steve could gather himself enough to talk again. He straightened up, his spine rigid, knuckles white with how tight his fists were clenched.

“When I…” he gulped, eyes darting around like he wasn’t really there. “When I went down under”, he said. “It was the only way.”
“I know that, the files were very clear about that.”

Steve shook his head.

“No, let me finish, Tony. It… It shouldn’t have been me, on that plane. I should have been out of the fight by then.” He breathed in and out slowly once more. “I was expecting.”
“What”, Tony replied, a bit dumbly, because, really, he hadn’t been expecting that.
“I was pregnant with Bucky’s child when I crashed the Valkyrie”, Steve said again.

Tony nearly fell out of his stool from the surprise. Talk about a plot-twist. It took him a few noticeable seconds before he could gather his mind enough to speak.

“You talk to the past”, was the first thing he said, and crap, it wasn’t what he had meant to say.
“I- I don’t know, Tony”, Steve said, his hands twisting in his hair, making a valiant attempt at pulling it out. “It… Since I’ve come out of the ice, it’s been feeling wrong and… I’m pretty sure it won’t survive, if it’s still there.”

It. He was talking of his previous mate’s child like it was just a thing, but on the other hand… it might be too painful to use a more meaningful word.

“Steve”, Tony finally said, breathing in and out deeply and wondering if he was just having a raving mad dream – no more sugary drinks before bed. “You need to see a doctor. Maybe there is a chance all isn’t lost yet. And even if it is… Steve, if you miscarried, you have to make sure there’s nothing left.”

Tony wasn’t a crack at biology, but even he could understand that having something dead inside your body was a bad idea. A really bad idea.

“I don’t want any more doctor prodding at me”, Steve replied, and this time he sounded tired, so tired – for the first time, he sounded like his age.
“I’m not proposing any S.H.I.E.L.D medic”, Tony countered. “I’m talking about my family doctor. The one who’s been following me since I chose her like twenty years ago, and who took care of Peter whenever we needed it. She’s someone we can trust.” He got up. “Listen, I’m calling her, and she’ll come by today, as soon as she can, okay?”
“Yes”, Steve replied with a sigh. “Alright. I- Thank you, Tony.”

Tony walked around the counter and slowly wrapped his arms around his new friend, letting Steve drop his head on his shoulder. Steve and he were similar in that they tried to take on the world by themselves, but Tony had had room for improvement – first in the form of years of experience that Steve didn’t have yet, and second in the form of one Peter Parker. He still did it sometimes, but he’d learnt to rely on Pepper, Natasha and Rhodey. Now, he had to teach a twenty-something World War II soldier with a good amount of PTSD and other kinds of traumas that it was alright to rely on people sometimes. That it was what friends and family were for.

Chapter Text

Dr Helena Palmer arrived at two in the afternoon, greeted directly by Tony as he led her through the building to the examination room he’d made sure they had. He was glad they had it, and that there was more equipment than he thought he would ever need. In a few words, he explained the situation, and said he was going to fetch Steve who had been napping in the living-room while Peter drew next to him.

He then went to sit with his son, worried about Steve but sure that he was in good hands now. He wondered, when an hour had passed, if it was normal. He was boiling and ready to bolt when the clock marked that two hours had passed.

“Sir”, Jarvis’s voice suddenly said, “the doctor and Mr. Rogers are waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Jarvis”, he replied automatically, messing Peter’s hair on his way to the examination room and wondering what they could be needing him for.

Knocking, he went in as soon as the doctor answered. Steve looked tired and pale, but there was a faint smile on his face.

“Jarvis said you were waiting for me”, he said.
“Please take a sit, Tony”, Dr Palmer said. “Mr. Rogers here just informed me he’d like you to be there. I must emphasize that anything we say here is under medical secret.”
“Alright, but… uh, why am I here then? I know I’ve said Steve is family, but by the law, we’re not.”
“Indeed”, the doctor agreed, “but Mr. Rogers insisted for you to be present.”

Steve looked up.

“Things have changed in seventy years. You’re supposed to help me adapt, Tony, and right now I need help to understand everything that’s going on.” He nodded to the doctor. “Go on, Dr Palmer.”
“Right, then. I performed a series of tests, including an echography, to determine whether Mr. Rogers’ foetus was viable or not. You must keep in mind that the serum changed many things, and there are many unknown variables.”
“Foetus”, Tony repeated. “Not embryo?”

The doctor chuckled.

“Not at this point, no. Embryo is, roughly, the first two months. I estimate that Steve is around his sixteenth week. End of fourth month”, she added at Tony’s lost expression. “This is based on observations I was able to make: the foetus is around eighteen centimetres, so either my estimation is a bit off, which it could be as we have no idea how cryogenics stunted its growth, or it will be a big baby, which is just as likely considering the genetics of both parents.” She paused, riffling through an open file. “Ultrasound and echography told us that, as far as we know, the foetus is healthy, if a bit too calm. We should have been able to tell whether it is a boy or a girl, if that little rascal had moved.” She took off her glasses, setting them down. “Now, it is too late to terminate the pregnancy”, she declared. “As both child and mother are healthy, there is no reason to worry. I understand your situation, Mr. Rogers, is a bit complicated, so I will strongly encourage you to reflect on what kind of decisions you’ll want to take.”
“What kind of… Doctor, I was concerned whether my child was dead or dying, not whether I was keeping it or… There’s nothing to consider, it’s my child.”
“I apologize if I sounded insensitive”, she replied, “you wouldn’t be the first one whose situation has changed during pregnancy. You told me yourself you were single, and some people don’t think they can raise a child by themselves. I’m merely reacting to possible events I’ve seen during my career.”
“Your concern is appreciated, but unneeded.”

She gave him a nod, and turned to Tony.

“I will admit there is much I don’t know about male omegas pregnancies”, she said. “Luckily, Steve here seems to have had a good education about those things. Now, it isn’t uncommon for heats to go on during the pregnancy. Unusual, but it happens. They should stop around the fourth or fifth month. They pose no more danger than usual heats.” She paused, looking through her notes once more. “Even without heats, Mr. Rogers, you will likely experience an increased libido, and as I told you earlier, your hormonal rate shows you will go into heat in a few weeks. I strongly recommend you find a heat-partner, willing to help you until term. Studies have proved an Alpha’s close presence help reduce stress on the mother, and balance the child.”

Steve glanced at Tony, who nodded:

“Pepper has been searching for someone”, he replied. “We can see what she’s found when we’re done here.”
“Alright. Is there still something else, doctor?”
“I believe you can explain the things you told me about delivery yourself”, the doctor replied with a smile. “I’m done here, but I will keep tabs on the evolution of your pregnancy. You understand that it is a higher risk, both from your modified and unheard of biology, and your stay in the ice.”
“I understand perfectly, doctor, and thank you for your concern and commitment. We will see you soon, I expect”, Steve said as he rose, shaking her hand.
“You will.”

There was a moment of silence as she gathered her things and left, and then Tony turned to Steve.

“How are you feeling?”
“It feels surreal”, Steve admitted. “I… Tony, I want to keep this a secret from S.H.I.E.L.D. Who knows what they’d try to do if they learnt about it…”
“I understand”, Tony replied, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Can I congratulate you now?”

This time, Steve laughed.

“Yeah”, he said, “you can.”

The hug was brief, but it was enough. Tony stared down with a puzzled expression.

“If you’re close to five months, shouldn’t you like… show more? Baby bump and all? Morning sickness?”
“I’m done with morning sickness already”, Steve replied, “and didn’t have much of it to begin with, though I have to admit it was what warned me about the little squatter. I wouldn’t have known otherwise, as my heats came on regularly. And according to what I know, and what Dr Palmer said, I will probably not show much. Strong core muscles and abdominals and all that.”

Tony nodded and opened the door.

“Are you alright telling the others? Nat, Pepper and Peter?”
“Yeah, it’s alright. They live here either way. Are you sure you want to tell Peter, though? He’s likely to ask how babies are made.”
“And it’s high time I explain that to him too”, Tony groaned. “God, I loathe the perspective of that conversation. I’m not even good at extended metaphors, the birds and bees and all that.”
“Then don’t”, Steve replied. “Use metaphors, I meant, not give the basics of sex ed. Children aren’t dumb, and especially not Peter. Explain it like you would explain a technological thing, you do that well.”

Tony fell silent for a moment, clearly thinking about Steve’s idea and the specific wordings it would entail, and then smiled.

“You know what? That’s a brilliant idea.”

While talking, they’d reached the lower levels of the Tower, where Pepper’s office could be found. She was working there, and after a cursory knock, Tony let himself in, bringing Steve with him.

“Tony”, she greeted him. “Steven. Let me guess, you want to know how the Alpha hunt is going?”
“Why, Miss Potts, you do know me after all”, Tony replied with a grin, propping himself against her desk. “So, what do you have?”
“Steve, you should sit down to consider these seriously.” She paused as she grabbed a thick file while Steve sat, and resumed: “The obvious solution, according to Tony here, would have been to choose me or Rhodes.” She glanced with annoyed fondness at her boss and friend, before going back to Steve. “He didn’t consider that Rhodes isn’t as available as he’d want to believe, nor the amount of work I do have. I couldn’t quite possibly do it while dealing with two, maybe three Omegas' heats.”
“Wait, why three?” Tony intervened, peering at her mischievously.
“Because tomorrow night I have my fifth date with an Omega, it is going well and I’m starting to believe she’ll ask me to be her partner for her next heat. But this is not about me, this is about Steve.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were seeing someone? Who’s she? I bet she’s pretty, you always get the pretty ones.”
“And maybe I could keep a pretty one if my boss didn’t need so much of my attention that they feel neglected”, Pepper countered. “Now, as I was saying, I’ve been doing thorough researches with Natasha’s help. We went through a good number of potential Alphas, but ultimately only three meet our criteria. Amongst these are, of course, their ability to keep everything they might learn a secret, being male as per your request, and a certain… desire for money to coax them.”
“Is it always so complicated?”, Steve couldn’t help but ask. “Also, what will they know before they accept?”
“It isn’t usually so complicated”, Pepper replied. “If anything about this was normal, you could just walk into a bar, flirt your way with any Alpha present, and have a partner. But absolutely nothing about this is normal. So, our picks”, she said again, opening the file. “I hope at least one of them is to your taste.”

Slowly, she laid out stacks of sheets, the first one showing basic information – full name, age, profession, and photos, a portrait one and a natural one. Steve picked up the first one.
“Brock Rumlow”, Pepper said for Tony’s benefit mostly. “Our favourite. A trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and remarkable soldier. He’s part of the counter-terrorism team known as Strike.”

Steve’s eyebrows went up.

“You know I’m searching for an Alpha, not recruiting a team, right?”

She scrunched her nose.

“Us Alphas aren’t very fond of sharing”, she replied with humour in her voice.
“Gross”, Steve muttered as he put the file down. “He’s sexy though.” He picked up the next one, carefully reading out the information laid out for him.
“Okay, we hesitated for this one”, Pepper said, “but he has some arguments in his favour. Wade Wilson”, she declared, “he’s a killer for a secret branch of the CIA, with a weird sense of… I don’t know, ethics? Either way, he’s known for his dirty mouth. Money won’t cut it for him, but I believe ‘Captain America’ will be more than enough of a motive for him.”

By Steve’s expression, it was obvious that Wilson was already out of the competition. Without a word, he closed his file and handed it back to Pepper.

“Not my type”, he simply declared as he picked up the last file.
“Eddie Brock”, Pepper said, leaning forward. “Twenty-two, studying journalism. A good student, if his results are something to go by. He would need the money more than Rumlow, that’s for sure.”
“Steve”, Tony interrupted. “This one could stay here for as long as needed.”
“And I might have had my dose of soldiers for a lifetime”, Steve agreed. “You think he really could stay?”
“The guy is drowning in his student debt and living on instant ramen. There’s no way he’d say no to living here for some time, in exchange of keeping his mouth shut and doing you good.”
“Language”, Steve protested.
“I’m the one with a kid old enough to repeat everything, Steeb. I get to say whatever the fuck I want.”

Steve’s consequent glare was enough to make them all burst out laughing. Once they’d calmed down enough, he went back to Eddie’s file and read through it. It was significantly smaller than Rumlow’s and Wilson’s, and he could feel the appeal of having an Alpha who, for once, had never needed to fight and wouldn’t (probably) need to show ‘who the Alpha is here’. He was confident he could plaster all three Alphas, but he didn’t want to have to prove it. More probably, Eddie would be drooling over him too much to feel very competitive.

“Yeah, okay. We’ll be going with Eddie, then.”
“I’ll schedule an appointment to meet him”, Pepper said, making herself a note. “Anything you want him to know before he meets you?”
“Tell him it’ll be a partnership with a pregnant Omega”, Steve replied. “He ought to know it.”
“Not- What?” Pepper said, looking up, her eyes wide. “How the hell did that happen?”
“I would have thought you knew how those things happened, dear”, Tony replied slyly.
“No, I- Hell, you know what I meant!”
“It seems that I wasn’t the only thing the ice preserved”, Steve replied.
“You know what?” Tony intervened. “We should have a party tonight, to celebrate!”
“And what do you have in mind?” Pepper asked, peering anxiously back at Steve. She knew all about Tony’s previous excesses, but he hadn’t hosted a party since before he got Peter.
“Something pregnant-people and children-safe”, Tony replied. “A good, enormous stack of pancakes, with sugary things to put on top. Orange or apple juices, maybe a bit of Coca… Peter can be exited every once in a while”, he said with a shrug. “The giant screen in the living-room, all of us squashed on the couch with comforters, and maybe hot chocolate with marshmallows after, while we watch old Disney movies.”
“That’s… surprisingly homey”, Steve conceded. “I can already feel the caries.”
“Do you think Rhodes would come?” Tony asked, now excited by the perspective.
“He is in Europe at the moment”, Pepper replied. “Even if he were able to come back in time, he’d be too jet-lagged to appreciate the party. You should ask Natasha about her friend, I can’t remember his name… I know she’s missing him, and he wouldn’t be a problem in the Tower. I’d vouch for him if you want.”
“Barton?” Tony asked with a blink. He had heard many things about the guy from Natasha, and had been looking forward to meeting him one day. He knew that eventually, he would become a welcomed guest at the Tower, given his relationship with Natasha. “Steve, do you mind? He’s S.H.I.E.L.D., but so is Natasha.”
“You think he won’t say a thing? About me, to S.H.I.E.L.D.?”
“The best is to ask Natasha directly”, Tony replied. “Now that your Alpha problem is settled, we can do that and get started on the pancakes.”

He was already exiting the room. Smoothly, Pepper held Steve back.

“Congrats, Steve. I’m sure you’ll be an amazing parent.”
“Thank you”, he replied. “I hope you’ll be right.”

She smiled encouragingly, and he went after Tony. He had had time to wrap his head around the idea of having a child when he first discovered he was expecting, some seventy years ago, though at the time he had thought Bucky would be part of the child’s life, even if they weren’t together as a couple. He’d lost Bucky, and known he’d have to do it on his own. Then, for two awful weeks, he had been waiting for the dreadful confirmation that he’d lost his child. Bucky’s child. While elated that his child was apparently in top health, he also felt like he was falling to pieces. Everything kept on happening and he didn’t have time to process: his emotions were stretching thin and he was waiting for the last ball to drop.

Tony was waiting for him in the elevator, already sending a message to Natasha with his phone. They weren’t even five minutes away, why couldn’t he wait to tell her in person? Tony snickered as Natasha’s answer chimed in, and put the phone back in his pocket.

“Hey”, Tony called softly. “Steve.” Slowly, he turned to him. “You are not alone in this”, Tony said. “We’re here for you and for your child.”
“I… Why?” Steve whispered. “Why would you do that for me?”
“That’s what family is for”, Tony replied.
“You haven’t known me for even a month”, Steve countered.
“And when I picked Peter up, I hadn’t known him for more than two seconds. Yet I knew he was my son. He’s my family, Steve, the one I’ve built for myself. Not exactly a traditional one, but that’s not what counts.” He paused, staring back at Steve. “You became part of my family the moment Peter decided you were. So if you ever feel like you’re falling…” Tony paused, gulping. Oh, how he distinctively remembered his own fall from grace, that feeling of being so completely alone that had threatened to smother him. “If you feel like you’re falling, we’ll be there to catch you and bring you back up.”

He hadn’t exactly expected to find himself squashed against the so-called Captain America, and wheezed a bit as he felt like he was being crushed to death.

“Thank you”, Steve whispered in his ear. “For everything.”

Chapter Text

Barton paused as he arrived in front of the giant building that was Stark Tower. The name itself was written in giant neon letters high above his head. Talk about a diva.

“Impressed?” Natasha asked, walking out of the Tower to meet him.
“Not really”, Clint replied – which was a big lie, okay, he was impressed, but he didn’t want to be impressed – as he crossed the sidewalk to her and dropped a kiss on her cheek. “How are you?”
“Fine, actually. And you? No news from… him?”
“None”, Clint rumbled. “I swear, he’ll take an arrow if I see him again. Leaving like that, without a word.”
“C’mon”, Natasha said, smiling. “It’s time you meet everyone.”
“’Everyone’? What do you mean, ‘everyone’?”

He followed her into the elevator, his eyes darting around as he tried to piece up the layout of Stark Tower.

“The pancakes are about ready, so we’ll probably start soon.”
“You didn’t say what we were celebrating”, Clint told her again.
“Told you it’s because I don’t know”, Natasha replied. “It’s supposed to be a surprise, so it will be a surprise.”

The doors opened soundlessly and Clint nearly jumped back at the sight. A big, beefy blond man was throwing a laughing and shrieking child in the air, catching him above his head before throwing him again.

Encore, Steeb, encore!”
“Please Steve will you stop throwing my child you’ll manage to hang him on the roof light”, a disgruntled Tony said as he passed by with his arms full of food.

The child was in an Iron Man onesie, obviously fresh out of the shower, and when the so-called Steve set him down, he ran to pick up a discarded Captain America plushie. His eyes widened when he noticed Natasha standing there with Clint, and he ran up to them.

“Is that your friend, Tetka Natasha? The one mama said was coming?”
“Yes”, Natasha replied, “this is Clint Barton. Clint, meet Peter Parker.”
“Hello Mr. Barton!” Peter said with a toothy grin, immediately wrapping his arms around his legs.

Natasha quickly snapped a priceless photo of Clint’s confused expression, snickering as she went to show it to Tony. Steve noticed them as well and walked over, extending a hand in welcome.

“Hello, Agent Barton. I’m Steve Rogers, pleased to meet you.”
“Hello”, Clint replied, shaking his hand, “I, uh- wait, are you… are you Captain America?”
“Seems so”, Steve replied with a smile. “But here, it’s just Steve. Or Uncle Steeb but…” he glanced down at Peter who was still koala-clinging to Clint’s legs. “Well.”
“And this boy…?”
“Peter? He’s Tony’s son. Hey, kiddo, how about you go help your mama?”
“Okay”, Peter answered with a nod, running away again.
“I didn’t know Tony Stark had a son”, Clint said, more and more puzzled.
“Like most people”, a blonde Alpha woman answered. “Welcome, Clint. I’m Pepper Potts. Peter is being kept a secret for his own safety. I believe you read the terms of your welcoming here.”
“Thoroughly, but I didn’t expect… any of this. I can understand the concern, though.”
“Please, come to the living-room, I believe they’re setting everything up.”

And indeed, Tony and Natasha, with Peter’s help, were arranging everything for the impromptu movie night. It didn’t take more than five seconds for Clint to register that there was something unusual with the smell of the different people here, and then to track it down and realize Tony Stark and his son were Omegas. He had expected a strange scent from Captain America, given how widely the serum had changed him, and hadn’t been disappointed. He hadn’t expected male Omegas, not since everyone knew they were gone. The more he learnt, the more he understood the extraordinary security measures, and Natasha’s careful silence about her life at the Tower.

“Clint Barton”, Tony said, walking up to him with that ridiculous sway of his hips, “I’m glad to finally meet Natasha’s best friend. Welcome to my humble abode.”
“Humble”, Clint replied with a snort, “right.”
“Relax, soldier. There are only friends here.”

And indeed, they were relaxed. Clint had expected to be a bit underdressed, and it turned out he was a bit overdressed, with his nice jeans and his shirt. Luckily, he was wearing a t-shirt under it. Around him, it was chaos. It would have looked like a Christmas morning, with the right decoration. Pepper was wearing an awful pyjama in flannelette, Steve Rogers nothing else than sweatpants and shirt largely stretched over his shoulders, and Tony… well, Tony was probably the most disastrous of all with his washed-out Black Sabbath t-shirt and red tartan pyjama pants tucked in the most horrendous pair of chicken-yellow socks. Natasha, he realized, had taken off her coat to reveal she was wearing sweatpants as well, and she had already wrapped herself in a thick dressing gown. And they all looked stupidly happy to be together, the scent of warm pancakes making stomachs rumble with hunger.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, he thought as he toed off his shoes and pulled off his shirt, striding over to the large couches. The big coffee table was laden with the pancakes and whatever sugary food you could put on them, and there were glasses, all different, next to bottles of juices. Everyone sat down, and with a little push from Tony, Steve stood up.

“Right”, he said, clearing his throat. “I still haven’t told you what we’re celebrating.” He took a breath. “I’m pregnant.”

Clint barked out a laugh at the joke, before he realized no one else was laughing.

“Wait”, he scrambled, “were you serious?”

Steve looked puzzled, before his expression cleared.

“I tend to forget people now aren’t expecting it”, he replied. “But, yes, I was serious. I am very much pregnant.”
“Shit”, Clint said, turning white all of a sudden.
“Has… Has he fainted?” Steve asked, the hint of a laugh in his voice.
“It seems so”, Natasha replied, peering at him. “I think the concept was a bit too much for him.” She got up and pulled Steve into a hug, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “I’m glad for you”, she whispered in his ear.
“Thank you, Natasha”, Steve replied, his arms wrapped around her. “I… hope you can forgive me.”
“For what?” she said, pulling back.
“For having what you can’t”, he answered, taking her hands in his. “I’ve been in your shoes before, and I know how hard it can be. So, I hope you can forgive me.”

This time, her tears overflowed, and she quickly wiped them up.

“Oh, Steve”, she whispered back. “I’ve made my peace a long time ago. I’ve got Peter, now, and… and if you agree, I can have them too.”
“You have them”, Steve replied immediately – fervently. “We’re family now, aren’t we?”

She didn’t answer but rather, buried her face in his shoulder, shaking slightly from her sobs. She pulled back finally, wiped her tears and sat back on the couch, where Clint was coming back to his senses.

“Alright, Eagle Eye?” Tony asked jokingly, handing him a drink.
“I’m dreaming. That’s it, I’m having a freaky weird dream.” He was met with a meaningful silent, and threw his hands up in the air. “Male Omegas were supposed to be extinct, and there are three of them in this room! The one who dumped me was already one too many, extinct my ass-”

At this point he was forcefully silenced by Natasha’s hand on his mouth.

“Language”, she said. “There are children here”, she added as she nodded down to Peter, who was watching everything with his large brown eyes.
“Uncle Steeb”, the child said as he went up to him, “What does pregnant mean? Are you sick?” His eyes welled up with tears. “Will you die too? Is that why Mr. Barton fainted?”
“Wha- no, baby no”, Steve replied immediately picking him up. “Don’t worry, Peter, I’m alright. It means I’m going to have a baby.”

Peter sniffled and wiped his eyes, tucking his head in the crook of Steve’s neck who really hadn’t expected this reaction.

“I was scared”, he whispered.
“There is nothing to be scared about, Peter”, Steve replied hugging him tightly. “You are going to be a big brother, aren’t you excited?”

Peter took a moment to think, and then nodded, his face slowly morphing back into a smiling one.

“Where is the baby, then? Can I see them?”
“Not yet, sweetheart”, Tony answered as Steve handed him his boy back. “See, the baby is still very very tiny, and they need to grow up some more before we can meet them.”

Peter seemed puzzled at that.

“The baby is here”, Tony added, pointing to Steve’s belly. “It’s growing up.”

This time, Peter scrunched his face in disgust and looked back at Steve.

“Did you eat the baby Uncle Steeb?”

Behind them, Natasha snickered while Pepper held back to the best of her abilities, with Clint still looking a bit pale and wary.

“That’s… That’s not how it works”, Steve replied, holding back a smile.
“How about I explain it to you tomorrow in the lab?” Tony suggested. “I’m hungry and I bet you are too.”
“Yes!” Peter nodded.
“You pick a movie?”

Peter’s eyes shone with delight.

“Treasure Planet!” he answered immediately.

A moment after, they were all settled on the couches, eating steadily through the pancakes while the movie played on the screen. Peter was watching eagerly, oohing and aahing in all the right places, eventually repeating the dialogues with scary accuracy. Clint and Natasha were talking in hushed voices, intermittently watching the movie with the same fascination as Peter. Another movie followed, but Peter, despite his determination to stay awake, fell asleep halfway through and Tony carried him to his bed before he came back to the living-room. When he came back, he realized how snuggled up everyone was, and especially the protective way Clint was draped around Steve, with his head on Natasha’s lap, who was leaning into Pepper’s embrace. They didn’t even seem to realize they’d moved like this – it was purely instinct talking, and all of them, as a… pack – wow, the concept was so ancient and backwards it made him cringe – were protecting the most vulnerable of them all. Namely, Steve and Peter; and with Peter gone, Steve received the brunt of their attention.

“Don’t pout and come here”, Pepper said with a smile, holding out a hand to him.
“Aren’t we a bit old to puppy-pile?” he asked as he slipped in her arms, competing with Natasha for her warmth.
“Pack instinct”, Natasha replied. “No matter how much the government teaches us that it is an animal thing that humans must reject to be truly social, it is part of our nature. Haven’t you noticed, how much more balanced we all are since we started living close by?”
“You have something more than just being a family”, Clint added, looking up to him, “that much is obvious. You are a… well, a pack, as much as this may sound weird.”

Suddenly, Steve pushed out slightly from Clint’s embrace, frowning.

“Are you telling me”, he said, “that losing male Omegas also made you lose the concept of pack?” He sounded shocked. “God, this is awful. I mean, even when I was in the army, they encouraged us to pack-bond. We were more efficient if we had something more than comrades to protect.”
“Jarvis”, Tony called, “find all you can about the concept of pack through the ages and the world.”
“Yes sir”, the AI replied.

They watched the rest of the movie in silence, slightly rearranging themselves when Tony suggested they extend the couch fully to be more comfortable, and wrapping blankets around them. Burrowing there, Tony wondered how he’d never realized how comfortable this was. The feeling of safety was very soothing, their scents mixing into something new. He’d always thought about this as family – but was pack such a different concept?

“Stop thinking”, Clint rumbled, “I can feel your brain overheat from here.”

Natasha chuckled, and was about to reply something when they heard the elevator’s doors open and the soft padding of small foot.

“Mama?” Peter’s voice called, full of sleep. “Mama can I sleep with you?”

Tony immediately sat up, opening his arms to his son.

“Of course, sweetheart, come here.”

In a second, they’d all re-wrapped themselves to include Peter, the boy snuggling into Tony’s chest with a content sigh. His heart close to bursting with joy, Tony buried his face in Peter’s hair, inhaling the warm, comfortable, sleepy scent of his child. He hadn’t paid attention until then – how Peter’s scent was marked so deeply by his, Pepper’s and Natasha’s. Mush fresher, and newer, he could discern Steve’s and even Clint’s. A mark of belonging. He couldn’t remember ever smelling something that smelled like this, like home. One by one, they fell asleep – Clint the last, still wondering how the hell he’d gotten in this situation.

Chapter Text

Morning at Stark Tower the following day was… an interesting thing, to say the least. Even more so when Rhodes, having come back earlier than he thought from his trip, decided to stop by, grab a coffee with Tony (or maybe by himself if Tony was still banned from caffeine), and hug Peter. The sight welcoming him in the common living-room, where Jarvis had informed him “Mr. Stark” was, wasn’t exactly one he expected. There was a… something on the couch. Stepping closer, he noticed that the thing was in fact several bodies all tangled in sleep. There was of course Steve Rogers, whom he’d met briefly when he’d come to see Peter and Tony, Natasha, Pepper, Tony, and even Peter. There was also a man he had never seen before stretched all over the place, Tony using his chest as a pillow, his own head squashed against Natasha’s stomach. Steve was curled up on himself, Pepper spooning him as best as she could, and Peter was starfishing on top of all that. His Captain America plushie wasn’t in his hand anymore, but in Tony’s fist. Rhodes had a moment of confused silence before he picked up his phone, took a photo and sent it immediately to Tony, Natasha and Pepper’s phones.

However, this new presence was enough to wake up Clint and Steve, the ones who knew his scent less. Their eyes snapped open, but Steve relaxed quickly when he realized who was there, unlike Clint. The Alpha, still sleepy but immediately aware of the vulnerability of the Omegas slipping around, and even on, him, started to growl threateningly. The rumbling sound managed to wake up everyone, putting Pepper’s Alpha instincts on high alert immediately until Natasha roughly elbowed Clint in the stomach, making him choke and thus stop.

“What’s happening?” Peter whispered, his eyes wide, not knowing whether to be frightened or not.
“It’s nothing, Peter”, Rhodes replied. “Don’t worry.”
“This is our friend Rhodes”, Tony said for Clint’s benefit. “Not a threat.”

He was about to get up when he saw Steve’s eyes widen, his hands dropping immediately to his stomach as his mouth fell open. He made a soft, surprised noise that drew everyone’s attention to him.

“I… I felt the baby”, he said, completely awed. “I’m sure I felt them! They were… surprised, and afraid, I think.”

He met Natasha’s gaze and, extending his hand, took hers and put her palm flat under his shirt, against his skin. There was a second of silence, and then her eyes widened too.

“Oh my god”, she said, “I definitely felt a kick!”
“You actually felt it?” Steve asked excitedly. “Then it means I’m a bit farther than we thought…” He glanced up at Tony. “Five months along, at least.” His smile softened. “They react to my voice…”

It hadn’t taken Rhodes long to piece everything together, and like Clint the previous day, he looked a bit green, though he didn’t faint. Peter had crept up the bed, and he splayed his little hand next to Natasha’s with a look of concentration on his face. His expression turned into one of disbelieving awe when he felt the baby kick once more.

“Mama”, he called, “why doesn’t your belly do that? It’s so cool!”
“Because unlike Steeb, I’m not pregnant, sweetheart”, Tony replied.

Peter scrunched up his nose.

“If you didn’t eat the baby, how did it get there? Was it the su- sugon? Mama, I can’t remember the word for the doctor at the hospital.”
“The surgeon?” Tony suggested. “That’s not it either, Peter. I told you I would explain in the lab, yeah? That way we can spend some time all together.”
“Mr. Barton”, Peter said, finally realising he was still there. “Did you growl to protect the baby? Because you shouldn’t. It is scary when Alphas growl. I don’t like it, and Tío Rhodes is family.”

Clint blinked. And blinked again. Yes, he’d just been called out on his behaviour by a five years old child – a child who was right. It was bad manners to growl at someone.

“You’re right, Peter”, he said. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have growled. It was rude of me.”

Peter smiled, and for the first time, Steve noticed – he noticed that he had the exact same smile as Tony after he’d delivered a good punchline. That proud little air that could probably be so infuriating. Obviously, in that nature vs nurture, nurture had won.

“I forgive you”, Peter said, hugging him. “Mama, I’m hungry~”
“Hi Hungry, I’m mama”, Tony replied automatically, and Peter started to pout, his bottom lip sticking out, his frown pronounced, his arms crosses overly high on his chest. “How about you get the coffee-maker started? I’ll come prepare something for you, okay?”

Peter nodded and eagerly climbed down, running to push the button on the coffee-maker and skidding on the hard floor. Slowly, the adults started to untangle themselves from each other and the covers. The remains from the party were taken away as they trickled down either to the loo – Steve, already experiencing some of the hardships of pregnancy – or to the kitchen – Pepper, who put more water to boil for tea. It took some time but eventually, everyone was gathered in the kitchen. Natasha had, for some reason, a spare t-shirt of Clint, which she’d given back to him. Breakfast was light and made mostly in comfortable silence. It seemed the night had provided them with a bond they didn’t have before, and Clint seemed reluctant to leave.

In the end, Tony motioned for him to follow, and Clint did. Once behind the walls of his lab, he leaned against a worktable, looking at the Alpha with an air of deep thoughts. Since they’d met the day before, Clint had been wondering if maybe he’d misjudged the man. Sure, he still seemed to be a diva, but the arrogant ass he’d been a few years before seemed to be mostly a public image maintained carefully. Becoming a parent sometimes did that to people. Tony looked… healthy and stable and content, which said a lot about his current life.

“Natasha misses you lots”, he said. “And I know for a fact that you’re a wreck of a human being if left to your own devices.” He rolled his head on his shoulders. “You seem to fit in quite fine with everyone, so my question is: do you want to stay? There’s room enough.”
“Yes”, Clint breathed, before he’d even realized he’d talked. His eyes widened comically in surprise. “Uh. Well. Yes? It’s… It’s nice, here.”
“Welcome to Stark Tower, then”, Tony said with grandiose theatricality. “How should we call you?”
“Hawkeye.”

Chapter Text

Days passed quietly. Clint had become part of their strange family seamlessly, quickly adopted by Peter. Tony met Eddie Brock, the Alpha whom Steve had chosen, and the young man had that hopeless drive of optimism and want for justice that was sure to fit just right in their group. They didn’t see him much, as he was spending most of his time either at Uni or in Steve’s apartment, apparently taking good care of the man, but he would occasionally be found in the common living-room playing hide-and-seek or tag with Peter. The boy had found Tony’s answers on babies and pregnancies satisfying enough, to Tony’s immense relief, and spent as much time as he could with Steve, taking very seriously is role as a big brother.

At the moment, he was out with Hawkeye, who had decided to assist Natasha and take the boy on walks. Or, more precisely, teach him to shoot an arrow accurately. The boy was somewhat clumsy in his daily life, but the training he got first with Natasha, and then with Clint, proved useful when he didn’t fall off as often, and when he did, managed to smooth over the shock. He was far from hitting bull’s eye with his little arrows, but at least he touched the target three times out of five. Those moments were a relief on Tony’s busy schedule and Pepper’s, especially now that he’d taken to study the forms and meanings of packs in different societies and through history, while learning more and more about being an Omega with Steve’s help. Which was how the both of them were locked together in Tony’s lab, poring over books and documents.

Tony was currently a little green from Steve’s explanations about how male Omegas actually conceived – something no one had really bothered to explain in detail to him, aside from a “just use a condom and you’ll be okay” – and the process of delivering a baby.

“I think I might be sick”, he finally said, and Steve gave a hearty chuckle.
“Seriously, you need to know this stuff, it’s important!” Steve added, grabbing a sheet of paper. “No knotting is a pretty reliable method. Not a hundred percent, and the biggest risk is… well, an Alpha who doesn’t manage to hold back. But it’s still ninety-seven percent full-proof for male Omegas, and only forty percent for female Omegas. Do you get what I’m saying?”
“That knotting is actually a way of making sure a male Omega will conceive, while it’s not needed for female ones”, Tony replied. “Biology is whacky.”
“Oh it’s not biology, purely a physical mechanism”, Steve replied as he started to do a sectional drawing. “From an external point of view, male Alphas and male Omegas are pretty similar. It’s the inside that’s different. Alphas have knots, Omegas don’t, for instance.” He pointed at his drawing. “Here is the prostate. Both have it. Now, just above it, Omegas have a small channel. It is closed most of the time, except-” he added a few lines that was very obviously a dick with a knot and Tony had a moment where he felt his soul ascend as he wondered why he had agreed to learn that from Captain America “when the knot catches. The pressure of it opens the channel, and when you don’t use a condom, the swimmers will use that channel to join the uterus on the other side.”
“Great. There are holes in my body I didn’t even know the existence of. That’s it, I’m scheduling an hysterectomy.”
“Oh dear, if you care about unknown holes, you’re in for a ride.”
“I do not like the implications of these words”, Tony replied. “There will be no riding whatsoever. Nope. I refuse.”

Steve stared back with a deadpanned expression, but the effect was a bit lessened by the fact that he was beet red.

“Tony, I am mortified. I have never been this embarrassed in my life. Or maybe once, but we are definitely not talking about that. So please, don’t make it any harder.”

At this point, Tony broke into hysteric giggles, which got him a slap on the back of his head from Steve, who had managed to turn a shade redder.

“For the love of God, please focus!” he hissed, his pencil almost snapping in his hand. “You never know what could happen! Don’t you want to know how you’d manage to birth a baby? Because you seem a bit oblivious about that.”
“Oh believe me there will be no birthing anything else than great ideas from me”, Tony replied, finally managing to calm down. “But please, explain. You are concerned, after all.”

This time, Steve sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Sometimes, Tony, you drive me completely mad.” He took a breath and resumed. “Now, maybe you’ve noticed that, maybe you haven’t, male Omegas have a specificity on their perineum, where the sacrum is.”
“The very sensitive place behind the balls, yes. I know that one. Got kicked there once.”

Steve winced in sympathy, but went on with his drawing and explanation.

“Exactly. You haven’t been with many male Alphas, am I mistaken?”
“None”, Tony replied. “I was never very attracted to them.”
“I was just asking to know what you might or might not know”, Steve replied. “I have no wish to know your sexual history.”
“I don’t even know it myself”, Tony replied, and shrugged at Steve’s gaze. “What? It was before I got Peter. I was in some kind of a bad place and trying to maintain an image of a playboy.”
“I wonder how you haven’t been busted yet”, Steve marvelled.
“I thought you didn’t want to know”, Tony retorted, clearly not wanting to talk about those experiences.
“I don’t. Back to the perineum. It is quite sensitive in male Alphas, but it is even more in male Omegas, because the area is packed with nerves.”
“Let me guess… There’s the mystery hole, uh?”
“Exactly”, Steve replied. “Very small, around the width of a match. During pregnancy, starting from the sixth month, it will start to widen slowly, until the actual birth starts.”
“I will throw up”, Tony threatened once more, and it wouldn’t have been so convincing if he still hadn’t been an alarming shade of green. “Hell, it must hurt.”

At that, Steve snorted.

“Like all childbirth”, he replied. “Our bodies can endure that. They are literally made to support a child. In a way, we are way more resistant than Alphas, and I think that’s why the serum didn’t completely erase that part of me. It recognizes its usefulness.”
“Seriously, Steve, I’m going to be sick. I need a pause.”

Steve relented, more than relieved himself to take a pause in his explanations. His eyes fell back on his anatomy drawing, which he had the urge to crumple and throw in the waste-paper basket. He didn’t, though, and put it in a special file. With Jarvis help, he had started to record the things he knew. Tony, Peter, and Clint’s mysterious Omega… that made three born in a world where they should have been none, and he couldn’t help but think that maybe they were more, or there would be more. Either way, accurate and up-to-date scientific explanations on what was going on with their bodies would be needed.

His hand dropped thoughtful to the very slight bump of his belly. It didn’t show much, and with clothes on, it was virtually invisible. And he was already halfway in his second trimester, and waiting eagerly for his monthly check-up with Dr Palmer. It seemed to him his baby had become more active since he met with Eddie, so he wanted confirmation of that, and on the sex, so he could decide on a name. Not that he had any wish to disclose it before it was time – it would be his secret.

Tony came back with drinks for the two of them, his eyes automatically following the path of Steve’s hand.

“How is the little one?” he asked.
“Sleeping, for now”, Steve replied. “But they… they react to voices”, he added in a hushed voice. “Mine, of course, but also yours and Peter’s and Natasha’s and Pepper’s. But especially yours.”

Tony’s eyes widened.

“You mean, your baby can hear us? And recognize our voices?”
“Oh yes”, Steve nodded. “They love your voice.”
“How do you know?”
“They kick every time they hear you”, Steve chuckled. “I can’t wait to meet them.”

Tony snapped his fingers.

“I wanted to ask”, he said. “Do you want to get started on the nursery at your place? We’d have to shop online since S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t given any further instructions yet – I heard from Natasha they got a bit side-tracked.”

Steve’s face fell.

“I’d forgotten I’d have to leave when S.H.I.E.L.D. says so”, he whispered. “I’d gotten so used to being there, I was starting to feel…”
“Oh, Steve”, Tony interrupted him, a hint of sadness in his voice. “I will only let you leave if it is your wish to do so. And even then, it’ll be screaming and kicking. I told you already, you are family. This is your home now.” Very gently, he cradled his face in his palms. “You are pack.”

Steve took a deep breath, fresh tears threatening to spill from his eyes, until they eventually did so.

“I’m sorry”, he mumbled, “it’s the damn hormones, I feel so emotional all the time.”
“You have nothing to feel sorry for”, Tony replied. “You’re growing a tiny human in your body. This is very badass, you know.”
“Weren’t you finding it gross fifteen minutes ago?” Steve chuckled, wiping his face.
“Well it is gross”, Tony retorted. “Why do you think I went towards mechanics and not biology? I could have, but bodies are just so gross”, he shuddered, “but gross doesn’t mean it isn’t badass.”
“You… have a way with inspirational speeches.”
“Oh, shut up”, Tony smiled. “You are the great leader. I’m the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”
“Playboy?” Steve snorted.
“Maybe playboy is a bit overrated these days”, Tony admitted. “It’s gotten hard to keep this image going. I’m not that man anymore. Haven’t been in a while.”
“I think” Steve started, “that Peter was the best thing that could have happened to you. I’ve asked, I know what kind of mess you were before. How much it took you to become a good parent. Maybe you would have gone this way without him too, but…”
“I don’t think so”, Tony replied. “I’m fucked up in ways that can’t be repaired, and I’ve known it for a long time. The thing is… I didn’t care. About any of it. I was just… so desperately alone, nothing could motivate me to make the necessary changes. And then there was Peter, and suddenly I had something to fight for. I had to get over myself and start changing, because no one could have done it for me. And today, I’m so glad I did.”

There was a moment of silence, and Tony cleared his throat.

“I meant to ask, how is it going with Eddie?”
“He’s a good match”, Steve replied. “I’m no longer as nervous as I was at the idea of my upcoming heat. He’s young, of course, but he should be able to, uh… keep up with me.”
“I’m glad”, Tony replied. “Honestly, I’m worrying a bit because as far as I can tell, Pepper’s relationship with the Omega she talked about is going well. And it would seem normal that she’d want to break our arrangement, but I… I’m not sure there would be anyone else I’d be comfortable with.”

Steve nodded in understanding.

“Well, it is a moment where we are more particularly vulnerable, it is only normal to wish for safety. You should talk about this with her, instead of worrying.”
“It’s not fair that we have to deal with heats and Alphas have nothing of that sort. We got the short end of the stick again.”

At that, Steve smirked.

“After Zola’s experiences, Bucky… Bucky changed. It wasn’t very noticeable, but the main one was the apparition of “ruts”. It was the equivalent of heats, but for Alphas.”
“This is not a big comfort, Steve.”
“Your heat is just a bit after mine, isn’t it?” Steve asked.

Tony nodded sheepishly.

“The week just after, yeah. So, we get down to do the nursery after that, okay?”
“Sure.”

Chapter Text

Tony was falling asleep from the gentle petting of his hair, and the soft scratches at his scalp, his body covered in sweat and already cooling off, when the thought that it was maybe the last time he had that flew through his mind again. He tensed instinctively, which spurred a reaction from Pepper.

“Tony? What is it?”

She was warm against him, though slightly cooler than his own body wracked by the heat. They had done that for years and years, but he couldn’t help and wonder how it might be to share that with a mate.

“How is it going with your girlfriend?” he asked finally.
“Oh, Tony”, she sighed in understanding, nuzzling into his neck and holding him tight. “Were you worried I’d stop helping you?”

He turned to look at her.

“Won’t you?”

Gently, she pushed his hair back – it was still damp with sweat, but she was used to seeing him like this by now.

“I will keep on helping you either until you’re too old to have heats, or you find someone you would willingly trust with this. A mate.” She paused. “I talked about this with her”, she added, “and she’s fine with it because it’s not like we’ve ever had sex at any other time. I’m helping with your heats, because it is the sensible thing to do.”
“I don’t want to… destroy whatever you’ve got going on with her”, Tony replied.
“She’s smart, Tony, and we communicate, as weird as it may sound to you. Now, you stop worrying and sleep a bit, okay? You’ve got an appointment with S.H.I.E.L.D. tonight, and I’m pretty sure it’s about Steve.”
“What?! Why didn’t you tell me anything earlier?”
“Because I didn’t want you to worry when I was trying to get you off. So, you sleep, shower, and you’ll be okay.”
“Sleep sounds good”, Tony agreed. “Thank you, Pepper. For everything.”
“Sleep”, she insisted, and he snuggled into her embrace, falling asleep without even trying.

A few hours later, after a shower, dinner and a moment of catching up with his son – who was now able to shoot an arrow and touch the target four times out of five – Tony had gone down to his office with Steve. It was lucky that his pregnancy didn’t show much, because otherwise, it would have been harder to hide.

“Director Fury, to what do we owe the pleasure?”
“Good news, I believe”, Fury replied. “Captain Rogers, it should now be safe for you to go out if you wish to. We can also provide help for finding living accommodations, and-”
“I’ll be remaining here, sir”, Steve interrupted him. “With Tony’s permission, I’m finding myself well here. I’m used to the place already.”
“You have been here barely over a month”, Fury replied, clearly taken aback.
“A month during which I’ve been very distraught and at a complete loss, and Tony proved himself to be trustworthy and understanding. I have no wish to leave, sir, and therefore I won’t. I obeyed your orders out of respect for S.H.I.E.L.D., for my own safety, and because the world I came back to was foreign to me. But the war is over.”
“And we thank you for your service”, Fury replied. “We’ll stay in contact.”

And with that, he was gone.

“You know what”, Steve said, turning to Tony, “I believe we’ll be able to make a trip to stores for the nursery.”

He wasn’t exactly swept up into a hug, but the feeling was there. When they got back to the common-living room, Pepper was gone – she had a date – and Natasha was giving questioning tips to Eddie, who seemed increasingly uncomfortable. Clint was taking care of Peter, which meant a disaster in the making, and they’d already called to have some take-out delivered.

“All hail junk-food”, Tony sighed as he collapsed on the couch.
“Mama!” Peter cried out as he ran up to him, “Mama, Howk-eye taught me something, look!”

Clint had winced at the mispronunciation of his nickname, but he smiled encouragingly at Peter, who started to make hand gestures, his face scrunched up in concentration. It took a moment before Tony realised he was signing to him.

“You taught ASL to Peter?” he asked in surprise.
“Earlier I misplaced my hearing aids”, Clint replied. “Turns out children are pretty instinctive at this, or maybe it’s just Peter. Either way, I’m now teaching him ASL.”
“Your… wait, I didn’t even know you need hearing aids! How come I didn’t know?!”
“You mean, you didn’t notice?” Steve asked, already cracking up. “Oh, Tony… Genius, yes, but a highly unobservant one.”

And now that he knew about them, yes, they were definitely visible. And he was already sure he could make something less visible and just as performant. Clint rolled his eyes at him, clearly taken aback by Tony’s outburst. It was not like he tried to hide it anyway, and he would have thought the mechanic would notice the piece of technology. Obviously, he hadn’t. He couldn’t completely hide his smile. That was Tony Stark for you.

Chapter Text

“No, Tony, we’re not painting dinosaurs on my child’s bedroom”, Steve replied in a tone that said he was hearing this one too many times.
“Why not? Dinosaurs are awesome! What, you want to go with the traditional boring blue?”
“Blue is a soothing colour”, Steve replied, “but no, I’m not. Too much like ice”, he added sheepishly. “I was thinking of a washed-out colour gradient, actually. Orange, of yellow, to white.”
“Picking furniture for that will be a nightmare, you realize? How about this?” Tony countered, pointing to a photo in the magazine they’d been flipping through.
“That’s… That’s not bad at all”, Steve replied. “I like it. That deep blue is really off-set by the white, and the small touches don’t make it so oppressive. Yes, I like that.”

A few hours later, they had paint buckets delivered at the Tower and were putting protections on the floor. Since Pepper was working and Eddie was out for his studies, Barton was on babysitting duties with Peter while Tony, Natasha and Steve were getting started on the paint job. By the end of the day, they were done with the first layer, and had planned a shopping trip for furniture and necessities. Before that, though, Steve had an appointment with Dr Palmer, to which he insisted Tony be present.

“Oh my god”, Tony gasped, his eyes wide as he stared at the screen. “Is that…?”
“Yes”, Dr Palmer chuckled, outlining the baby’s form, “this is the baby. And… oh, here it is! Mr. Rogers, do you want to know the sex?”
“Please”, Steve replied, looking at the screen too.
“Well, look at this here… you’re having a little boy!”

Steve smiled wide, though it changed nothing for him. He wasn’t long to spread the news, the echography tucked in his wallet. His baby boy. Peter, most of all, was delighted to know he was having a little brother. Tony took it as an opportunity to take Peter’s baby things out of the attic – or what he called the attic, anyway – and soon, the wardrobe was full of baby clothes that had barely been worn. Steve, however, had the pleasure of buying neo-natal clothes, and the surprise of having a small baby shower hoisted by his friends. He was especially surprised by Clint’s present – three pairs of knitted slippers in red, white and blue. There was also a onesie of a Captain America costume, which made him burst into laughter, along with an Iron Man one, and a frog beanie.

Days, weeks passed, and though he wasn’t as enormous as he’d seen some be, he definitely sported a belly he could no longer hide – and feet he could no longer shoe, resulting in him spending most of his time in the tower in a pair of sweatpants, since nothing else would fit him, and shirts three sizes too big on his shoulders. Regular exams showed that his baby would be a teeny tiny shrimp instead of the big baby they’d thought it would be at first, but he was healthy, and it was all that mattered. They even had a laugh when Dr Palmer showed them the hair floating around his head like a white halo. And as time went by, Steve got pretty sure there was nowhere else he would have been comfortable having and raising his son.

Chapter Text

It was New Years eve at Stark Tower, and there was a small party going on. Peter had tried to stay awake to see the stroke of midnight, but he’d fallen asleep at nine and a half, and Eddie had carried him off to bed. Pepper was out, celebrating with her girlfriend, whom she didn’t want to bring to the Tower just yet. Rhodes was there, though he had planned to go out drinking afterwards, while Steve and Tony settled in front of the TV. Natasha, Clint and Eddie would be going out too, leaving the two home. At the moment though, Clint and Natasha were dancing in a corner of the room and Rhodes was talking with Tony, while Eddie and Steve talked about something other.

Steve went to bed first, quickly imitated by Tony, and one by one, the others trickled back home. He woke up briefly when Eddie stumbled into bed, slightly drunk and stinking of cheap beer, but oh so endearing, pulling him in his tipsy embrace with a sigh of contentment.

It happened two hours later, around six in the morning, when Steve got up to drink. He hadn’t made it to the kitchen yet, and the crash of water on the floor, with the resulting wetness, were enough to startle him into a scream.

“Oh my god”, he kept on repeating, staring in the dark at his legs, until he regained enough of his senses to scream a hysteric “JARVIS! CALL TONY NOW!” that woke up Eddie, who arrived running with bleary eyes and skidding on the floor.
“What is it? What is it?”
“My water just broke”, he replied, “the baby’s coming!”
“Ooooh fuck I’m too hangover for that” Eddie moaned, stumbling to the kitchen to retrieve supplies and clean up the mess while Steve somewhat managed to make it to the bathroom, cleaning himself up through the shock.

A few stories up, Tony was sleeping peacefully, sprawled over his bed, when Jarvis’s voice startled him awake.

“Sir, Mr. Rogers’s water just broke.”

He instantly felt a lot more awake and started to get dressed, mismatching his socks and giving Jarvis instructions to contact Dr Palmer. He knew the baby wouldn’t be there before several hours still, but the panic was real, and he could only imagine what Steve was going through. Luckily, Peter was still sleeping, like the rest of the Tower. He made it to Steve’s place in record time, finding him sitting on the couch with a glass of water while a frantic Eddie paced around aimlessly. It had been obvious that Steve would give birth at home, and Tony, despite his distaste for bodily functions, had agreed to be there to help. Steve had, somehow, become one of his closest friends, and he had to be there for one of the most important and happiest moments of his life.

“How are you?” he asked immediately, kneeling next to him.
“Fine, I guess”, Steve replied, “the contractions haven’t started yet.”
“It shouldn’t be long now”, Tony assured, “c’mon, let’s get you there.”

Eddie was too much of a hangover mess to be useful, luckily, Steve could still walk just fine and together, they got to the spare room that they’d prepared in prevision of this moment. While Steve started to pace to aid the process, Tony opened the taps to fill the large bathtub with warm water, and started to gather towels and the medical stuff necessary, like a pair of scissors. His phone rang soon after that: it was Dr Palmer.

“Yes… No, his water broke. …No, not yet. Alright, I see. Yes, I’ll make sure to do just that. I’m sorry, Dr, we panicked a bit. Thank you.”
“Let me guess”, Steve laughed, “there’s still time?”
“I’ll call her again when you’ll be having contractions for at least two hours, every ten or five minutes. She says you’ll be fine until then.”

It was at that moment that Steve bent over in two with a scream.

“Oh, fuck”, he breathed once the pain had passed, “that was a contraction. I don’t want to do it anymore.”
“I… think you don’t have much of a choice”, Tony said. “You remember what the doctor said, too.”
“No epidural for me”, Steve replied, resuming his pacing. “Yes, I remember.”

That was a problem of the serum: the epidural would have virtually no effect on him, and he had to do it the hard way. Luckily, the contractions weren’t very close yet and Tony managed to distract him for quite some time. It was eight in the morning when he called the doctor again, after he’d helped Steve to get in the bathtub of warm water when the pain had become unbearable, and the contractions very close. Dr Palmer arrived half and hour later, finding Tony talking soothingly to his friend who was literally crushing an iron bar in his fist from the pain. Gently, he wiped his brow and swept his hair back, following the doctor’s instructions when she explained how to massage his stomach to help. They knew they were in for the long haul now, though Tony managed to take a pause for a sandwich and to reassure a worried Peter.

Tony would never have guessed how much the screams of someone he called friend could be distressing. Steve was in pain, and there was nothing he could do about that. It was a strange feeling of powerlessness, mixed with the elation of the moment. Hours passed, and finally Dr Palmer said it was time. Tony hauled Steve up, steadying him there in a crouch. The birth itself was surprisingly quick, and suddenly Steve was reaching down with a gasp, grasping his baby firmly and pulling him out of the water. There was a little sound, halfway between chocking and a sob, and then – wailing. Powerful, ear-splitting, glass-shattering wailing, and Steve started to laugh and cry at the same time as he looked at his son for the first time.

“Congratulations, Steve”, Dr Palmer said with a smile as he cradled the baby to his chest, breathing in relief.

From where he was, Tony could see the new-born perfectly. He had never expected to be so fascinated with the red, screaming thing that was wrinkled like a prune. To be fair, he was transfixed by those startingly blue eyes – and icy blue that was nothing like Steve’s. He was small and visibly angry at the world, if his cries were anything to go by. Then, Dr Palmer handed him the scissors and he cut the cord, not exactly sure this was an experience he wanted to have. After that, he helped Steve to get out of the water while the doctor checked up with the baby and cleaned him up.

“Forty-eight centimetres, two point seven kilograms. A small, but healthy baby, Mr. Rogers”, she said as she handed him back to him, clean and wrapped in a towel. “Born at 2:15 pm, on January 1st, 2010.” She grinned, and grabbed her pen. “Now, what shall be his name?”
“James”, Steve replied, still admiring his baby. “James Anthony Rogers.” He smiled. “My little Jamie.”

Tony had a moment of stunned silence, staring at his friend, who smiled back.

“And of course, Tony, you are his godfather. Natasha already agreed to be his godmother.”

Tony smiled through his tears and carefully hugged him, soon going back to admiring his godson.

“Here, take him”, Steve said, handing him the baby.
“He’s so tiny”, Tony marvelled. “Peter was never so small. Hello, Jamie. Welcome to the family.”

And for a second, he could have sworn Jamie smiled.

Chapter Text

“He’s got red hair”, Clint noticed. “Where did he get red hair?”
“My mom was a red-head”, Steve replied. “And Bucky’s too.”

He smiled at his friends gathered around them, all admiring Jamie, who was currently sleeping. His eyes, it seemed, would keep their striking blue. It was strange to see so much of Bucky in his child, but he could also tell there were some things that were his – like the nose. God, he had his nose. And, well.

“He’s… He’s neither Alpha nor Omega, am I wrong?” Eddie said, tucked against his side and staring at the baby in awe. “His smell… I don’t know, it seems to me it is closer to yours.”

Steve nodded.

“You’re right. It seems he’s a Beta. We just don’t know yet if it’ll be a regular, sterile Beta, or… more like me.” He grinned. “It doesn’t matter either way. He’s healthy and it’s all that matters.”
“Uncle Steeb”, Peter said, standing at his knees and staring wide eyed, “aren’t you afraid to break him?”
“A bit, yes”, he admitted. “He’s just so… small.”

Tony knelt beside them and hugged Peter to his chest, smiling as he looked over his godson. He was so proud, and Natasha’s hand on his shoulder reminded him that she was, too. She had cried for a long time when she first held Jamie, marvelling over him and afraid she’d do something wrong. It felt like some of the façade she held almost at all times had melted – like some of the hurt she felt had been smoothed over, like a balm to an injury. Pepper and Rhodes were there too, feeling like everything was falling into place.

“You did a good job on this one, Steve”, Pepper finally said, grinning.
“Damn right he did”, Tony laughed, dropping a kiss on Peter’s head. “So, how does being a big brother feel?”
“I will protect him”, Peter said with more strength than what they expected. “From everything.” He grinned, showing a toothy smile. “And teach him many things. Pranks, too.” Surreptitiously, or at least, that was what he thought, he signed to Clint “like you taught me”, and Natasha, being the only one who knew the language other than Clint, bit back a chuckle.

“I feel like we’re not at the end of our surprises, with those two”, she said.
“What could possibly make you think that”, Clint replied like he was completely innocent.

They all burst out laughing, startling Jamie who started to cry – a soft sound at first, that quickly turned into an ear-splitting wail. The sound quickly scattered them all aside from Tony and Steve – one because he was holding the screaming baby like it was a bomb about to go off, the other because he’d dealt with the same cries when he’d first come back with Peter. The first few nights had been a nightmare, until Peter had stopped screaming for the reassuring embrace of his biological mother, tucked into Tony’s soothing one. For a long time, Tony had wondered if the circumstances in which he’d been found would still haunt him, even though he’d been so small.

“What do I do”, Steve breathed, panicked.
“Give him to me and calm down”, Tony replied, taking Jamie in his arms. “If you’re stressed, or angry, or panicked, he’ll feel it and you won’t be able to make him stop crying. That’s why sometimes they calm down as soon as someone else takes them into their arms.” Gently, he moved Jamie to hold him against his torso, holding his head against his shoulder. It fitted in his hand. Slowly, he started to rock, humming nonsensical lullabies he’d first learnt for Peter and had never managed to forget. “Hush, now. It’s alright, little one. It’s alright.”

And, to Steve’s amazement, Jamie soon stopped crying. He yawned, closed his eyes, and just like that, fell asleep.

“Wow. Miracle.”
“How about I keep watch over him while you sleep a bit? You look like hell. Besides, you should rest. Birthing this one has taken its toll on your body, super-soldier or not.”
“Thank you, Tony. I’ll do just that.”

Chapter Text

“No, no, wait, come back, COME BACK!”

Tony looked up from the report he’d been reading in the living-room. He hadn’t intended to study there, it had just happened, and he remembered now why he didn’t study in the common living-room. It was just too lively. He started to laugh when a buck-naked toddler waddled around, red hair fluffing around his ears, laughing and shrieking as he ran faster to escape Steve’s outstretched arms. Toddlers were unexpectedly fast, but Jamie even more so. It seemed the serum had affected him, and he was slightly faster than your usual thirteen months old. Slightly stronger, too – the toy car embedded in the wall of his bedroom was proof of that.

Still, Steve could have easily caught up to him, running as he was with a towel in his hands. But he enjoyed playing with his boy, and it showed. He smiled more and more, and looked a bit more laid back – with longish hair he couldn’t bother to cut, and jeans. Still waist-high jeans, but jeans. And, alright. It complimented his butt.

“Caught you!” Peter said, jumping from behind the couch and grabbing a shrieking Jamie with a laugh.
“Thank you, Peter”, Steve said as he took his son and jostled him slightly just to hear him laugh again.

Peter seemed happier since he had Jamie. He usually saw kids his age at the park, but otherwise he was constantly surrounded by adults. To his dismay, Tony still hadn’t found a way to let him go to school without too much danger. Between all the Tower’s inhabitants, he got a good education, but it soon wouldn’t be enough.

“Uncle Steeb”, Peter called, and though his voice had lost some of its small child’s lull, the nickname remained, “can you help me with my lessons when you’re done?”
“Of course”, Steve replied. “I get this one in his pyjamas and I’m coming. “Tony, are you sure Rhodes can take care of both Peter and Jamie this week-end?”
“Yes”, Tony replied, not for the first time, “don’t worry. I know that with Clint and Natasha on missions, and Eddie and Pepper with us, it’ll be a bit more complicated than usual, but they’ll be fine.”
“I just can’t help but worry, Jamie is still so small and it’s only…”
“It’s only your second heat since you’ve had him, yes, I know. Eddie getting his own place didn’t really help either. But it would be really too weird to ask Pepper’s girlfriend to keep an eye on our children while I am the one with Pepper.”
“I know”, Steve moaned, defeated. “Why did it have to fall on the same week-end?”
“I can take care of Jamie”, Peter said, “and I’ll be extra-good for Tío Rhodes.” He paused, tilting his head. “Do you know when Hawkeye is coming back? He promised he’d take me shooting when he’s back.”
“Not yet, sweetheart”, Tony replied. “I’ll be down to the lab, you can leave Jamie in the play-pen there”, he added for Steve.
“Be careful, I’m pretty sure he bent a bar last time.”
“Count on you to have an extra-strong child, uh.”

Only Steve’s laughter answered him as he went back to the bathroom to get Jamie dressed. The initial plan of the Tower had been changed to accommodate everyone better, and Tony had to admit he liked it way better. The only clean separations were with the lower levels, dedicated to offices and receiving places, and to research. The living grounds had been expended, and Tony could say, in all honesty, that he was happy. There were a few problems that needed to be solved, but other than that, everything was going swimmingly.

Neither Iron man nor Captain America had been on military missions for over a year. Sure, the man in armour sometimes appeared in the sky, or at a reception, but that was all. Slowly, Tony had started to fade into the background… He grinned when he considered the project he’d been working on. Oh, it wouldn’t be for long. Oh, no. Soon, Stark Tower would be the first building with auto-generated green energy. It was only a matter of time…

Chapter Text

Clint was there when the incident happened, and once Fury had been called, he gave another call.

“Tony”, he whispered, pretending to adjust his hearing-aid – Stark fabrication and ultra-performant – “something’s happened. The Tesseract is stirring, and I don’t like what it could mean for us. You should get ready.”
“We will be”, Tony assured him, unusually grave. “Thank you, Hawkeye.”

It wasn’t long afterwards that Fury arrived, wanting answers that no one could give him.

“It’s a door. And it opens both ways”, Clint said, and if the situation hadn’t been so dramatic, the look on Fury’s face would have been priceless.

Suddenly, with an explosion and a flash of light, the Tesseract flared up, and then- then, a man was there, down on one knee and holding onto a sceptre. Slowly, he rose his head – dishevelled, his eyes seriously underlined by dark circles, his face too pale to be healthy. And Clint had a moment of “no, no, it can’t be, it’s been nearly three years, surely it can’t be-”

“My name is Loki, I’m from Asgard, and I am burdened with a glorious purpose.”

And, damn. It was him. It was his Loki, the one he’d held at night and kissed breathless under a starry sky. It was that Loki.

“Loki, brother of Thor?”

Ah, well. This would explain that, then. Why his lover had so suddenly and so mysteriously disappeared, merely two weeks before Thor’s arrival on Earth. Because he was also that Loki, the one who’d sent the Destroyer on his own brother.

“Loki?” he couldn’t stop himself from asking, even though it was so obviously him.

Something passed on Loki’s face, an emotion Clint had no name for, and no desire to identify.

“Clint?”
“You two know each other?” Fury asked, clearly angry at that development.
“We… I… Why the fuck did you leave me without a word?!”
“We’re not talking about that here”, Loki protested in a hiss.
“Like hell we are”, Clint retorted. “Three years, Loki! Three fucking years! I thought you were dead.”
“Well maybe I should have been” Loki replied bitterly. “I’m not talking about this now.”

Things turned to a nightmare really quickly, and suddenly Clint was trying to defend himself against Loki, who was actually a god, but who was also the Omega who’d moaned his name so beautifully, and he was having some trouble processing.

“You have heart”, Loki breathed, “I like that.”

The tip of his sceptre touched Clint’s chest. You do me so good- Oh no, I don’t know much about stars aside from the fact that they’re pretty, but I can see whole constellations in your eyes. That time they actually made love in the platform of the truck, parked in a field miles away from all civilisation, under the starry nightscape. That had been the moment Clint had realized he was in love, and-

“Sir, Director Fury is stalling. This place is about to blow and drop a hundred feet of rock on us. He means to bury us.”

Promises of talking about all of this later, baby, why are your eyes so sad, the brush of a feverish hand on the way, who hurt you so bad. The thought that something was wrong kept nagging at his mind, but he pushed it down to revel in the bliss of Loki’s smile and the knowledge that everything was safe in Loki’s hands. Everything.

Chapter Text

“You think they will recruit us”, Steve said.
“Maybe not me”, Tony abided, “Fury made it clear he thought I was unfit for the Avengers Initiative. But he’ll have his team on the case, if it is as serious as Clint made it out to be.”
“The Tower is the safest place around here, isn’t it?”
“Tony”, Pepper intervened. “I- I can’t stay. I need to find Jane, and it’s not like I’ll be much use here. I’ll be needed in Washington.”
“I’ve already contacted Jane”, Tony reassured her, “and arranged for a safe place. She’ll be fine, and waiting for you. I assumed you’d want to be with her.” He then turned back to Steve. “The Tower is definitely the safest place I know of”, he answered. “Jamie and Peter will stay here. I’ve already called Eddie, he shouldn’t be long now. If Iron Man is needed too, he’ll take care of them.”
“What about Natasha? She’s still out on a mission, isn’t she?”
“I couldn’t contact her”, Tony replied, “but I’m sure she’ll be fine.” He let out a sigh. “And here I was hoping to celebrate the achievement of one of my biggest projects…”
“And that’s what S.H.I.E.L.D. must believe we were doing”, Pepper replied, grabbing the bottle of Champomy and three glasses. “Tony, your Patch.”

A few minutes later, Tony had his Patch on and Eddie was with the kids, keeping them away from S.H.I.E.L.D. They’d done their best not to frighten them, but Tony wasn’t sure about how successful they were in that endeavour. He was in the main living-room, seemingly celebrating with Steve, Pepper and non-alcoholised, kid’s simulacre of champagne.

“Pepper, no more Champomy. This is honestly just sad.”
“I’m sorry”, Pepper replied, staring into her glass, “I thought it would be a good idea.”
“Sir, Agent Coulson is trying to hack into the building”, Jarvis notified after Tony first refused him entry.
“Make him believe he managed to do it”, Tony replied. “Security breach”, he added, playing rather well his ‘I was startled in the midst of celebrating’ part when the elevator’s doors opened on Coulson.
“Phil!” Pepper greeted him.
“Phil? His first name is Agent, Tony replied as they got to their feet.
“Mr. Stark, Mr. Rogers, Miss Potts”, Coulson replied, wasting no time at all.
“Oh is this about the Avengers Initiative”, Pepper chimed in with remarkable talent, “- of which I have heard nothing about.”
“I thought I wasn’t kept on the program”, Tony replied, stepping away to open the file that was for him and for Steve, “which was scrapped either way. Apparently, I’m volatile, self-obsessed, don’t play well with others.”
“That, I did know”, Pepper said with a smile, and Tony shot her a look of plain disbelief.

Everyone who knew the real Tony Stark, and not his public face, also knew that he was none of those things – or, at least, that he no longer was, ever since a certain little boy smashed his way into his life. Public Tony Stark, however, was each and every of those things.

Steve joined Tony to look over the holograms, whispering a soft “damn” when he set eyes on the would-be Avengers team. Aside from Bruce Banner and… Thor? The hell, a Norse god? – they were all members of his family. His gaze fell on the Tesseract.

“Where did you get that?”
“Howard Stark retrieved it while searching for you”, Coulson replied. “Is there anything you can tell us about it?”
“You should have left it in the ocean.”

Gently, Tony laid a hand on his shoulder. They had never really talked about his previous life, but putting back together bits and pieces, Tony had a good idea on what this thing meant to him. He still remembered how deeply shaken Steve had been when he’d finally managed to gather the courage to meet Peggy Carter. The Alpha had almost been his mate after Bucky’s death – they had had something good going on. She’d also been the only one who knew about his pregnancy at the time – and been willing to be with him either way. To see her, so frail, so diminished, her once brilliant mind taken over by memory loss and fraying thoughts, had been a huge blow. And now, one of the very things that had led him to this tremendous loss, had not only been retrieved from the depths of the ocean, but lost to an enemy.

“Doctor Banner…” Steve read next, “he tried to replicate the serum they used on me?”
“Gamma radiation”, Tony added. “This much should have killed him. And yet…”
“Yet it didn’t, but it didn’t exactly go his way either.”

Steve was fascinated by the devastation the Hulk caused, by the raw anger of this huge green bean. He was sure Jamie would love him – since Jamie absolutely adored the colour green, to Steve’s dismay as he looked like a traditional leprechaun whenever he wore green. Pepper approached, staring in awe and concern at the different hologram videos, and said:

“I’m going to DC.”
“We were celebrating!”
“You have homework. Lots of homework.”

Tony shot her a dismayed look, but she was already walking away, leaving them with Agent Coulson. It wasn’t long after that that they took a jet to whatever base the S.H.I.E.L.D. was using for this crisis. It was difficult not to talk about their worries, and especially about their children, so most of the time was spent in complete and absolute silence. The jet landed on an aircraft carrier at the same time as a second one, from which Natasha exited with professor Banner. Natasha wasted no time and speeded up to them. No one else could have noticed, but she was distraught. It was only because Tony had known her for so long, and actually lived with her, that he could see that – in the increased shifting of her eyes, and the very slight pursing of her lips.

“Hawkeye is compromised”, she said, using the exact same words Coulson had used with her a bit earlier.

The blood suddenly drained from Tony’s face at the thought that they could lose one of their own. He exchanged a look with Steve, who seemed just as shaken, and powered on. Clint needed them, and they would be there for him. He was, after all, part of the pack.

“There is more”, Natasha said, “but I’ll tell you later.”
“Doctor Banner”, Steve said as said doctor approached, clearly uneasy. “Word is you can find the Cube?”
“Is that the only word on me?” Bruce asked, looking around and very out of place.
“It’s good to meet you, Doctor Banner. Your work on anti-electronic collisions is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you- lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster”, Tony declared, clapping his hand on his back.

Banner’s bittersweet smile was a sight to see, but Tony’s warm smile and Steve’s attitude where somewhat comforting in their normalcy. They were interrupted by alarms going off and everyone scrambling to anchor the planes and get inside. Stepping closer to the edge, they realized it wasn’t your usual carrier but an helicarrier.

“Oh, this is much worse than a submarine”, Banner said with a nervous laugh.

Natasha guided them inside, and used the moment, with its noise and agitation, to update Tony and Steve on the Clint situation.

“The enemy who stole the Tesseract is a Norse god, Loki of Asgard. He is the brother of Thor… and he’s also Clint’s ex.”

Her declaration was met with a shocked gasp on Tony’s part, but he quickly reigned in his surprise when he met Steve’s and Natasha’s firm gazes. Everything went quite quickly afterwards: Banner started to work on an algorithm to localize the Tesseract, while S.H.I.E.L.D. agents searched for Loki and Clint through facial recognition.

“Stuttgart? This… He’s not hiding”, Steve said when Loki walked decidedly into the city, apparently not caring to be found out.

In the end though, they suited up before going there, only to find a scene they would have never expected: a crowd kneeling to a man in armour with a sceptre in his hand and a horned helmet. He was young, with dark hair and a devilish smirk – young and completely alone. Despite the fight he put up, they managed to win that fight and bring him back to S.H.I.E.L.D., but it didn’t fit right with Steve.

“I don’t like it.”
“What, Rock of Ages giving up so easily?” Tony replied, glancing behind him to Loki, who was strapped down and unable to move.
“Tony, there’s something wrong with this.”
“I don’t like it either, but what can we do?” Tony replied in a hushed voice.

It was merely a few seconds after that, following a flash of lightning and the crack of thunder, something fell on the jet. Heavily. And the look of fear in Loki’s eyes was enough to put them on their guards. Grabbing his helmet, Tony slammed the button commanding the ramp open, and suddenly, a huge silhouette appeared there, dark against the lightnings. Brutally, he pushed Tony, who slammed into Steve, and grabbed Loki before jumping out of the jet. Tony groaned, and he was about to follow when Steve stopped him.

“Wait”, he said. “This guy’s a friendly. We must retrieve Loki because otherwise the Tesseract is lost, but we need a plan of attack.”
“And what do you suggest?”
“We try diplomacy first”, Steve said. “There is something very fishy about all of this.”
“We have to go now”, Tony said, jumping out of the plane, and Steve sighed.
“Be careful”, Natasha said. “They’re living legends, basically gods.”
“There is only one god, Nat’, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like this”, Steve replied with a smile as he shrugged on a parachute, grabbed his shield and jumped after Tony.

He landed in the forest, at the bottom of the cliff Thor and his brother were arguing on. Even from there, he could easily hear Tony’s voice as he hovered about.

“You’re Thor, right? Listen, you can’t just take him yet. We need to find the Tesseract, so he must give it up.”
“I’ve come to put an end to Loki’s schemes”, Thor replied, “I have no time for your games, metal-man.”
“Thor”, Steve intervened when he finally managed to join them. “This is very serious. Loki’s got the Tesseract, and its power is beyond his control. He also has one of us. You can’t just go with him.”

Thor turned to look at the newcomer, eyes widening slightly as he took in Steve’s appearance – and most of all, his very enticing smell. He quickly turned his attention back to Loki, who looked on the scene with amusement clearly written on his face.

“Brother, where is the Cube?”
“I told you already, I don’t know where I sent it”, Loki replied. “I’m afraid you are stuck here with me.”

The look on Thor’s face was very clear: he believed his brother, and he didn’t like what he heard. Not one bit.

“Let’s go back to the helicarrier”, Steve suggested, “we have people working on finding the Cube. I’m sure you can come with us.”

A few minutes later, they were back into the jet, but this time Thor was with them, looking over his brother with a complicated expression. Though, his eyes seemed to wander more than normal to Steve, who seemed completely oblivious to that. Tony, however, despite how unobservant he could be, noticed it quickly, and gently nudged his friend.

“Big, blond and scary is checking you out”, he whispered with a wink.

A blush crept up on Steve’s cheeks, who couldn’t help but turn to see if Tony was having him – but he was not, and Thor’s eyes bore into him. Quite obviously, the god had no intention hiding his interest. And the scent coming from him was – well, divine. He was an Alpha, in the purest sense of the word. A leader, strong and capable, and everything about that made him appealing to Steve.

“Is that interest in a mortal, brother?” Loki intervened, looking intently at Thor. “The soldier, the man out of time…” His eyes shifted to Steve and his smirk widened: “- and the mother of such an interesting child.”

Steve and Tony stiffened, turning to face Loki, while Thor kept on staring, seemingly quite unfazed by the news.

“Oh, did I hit a nerve?” Loki said, tilting his head. “Tell me, how is little Jamie? And Peter?” His smile turned crueller. “Clint told me everything there was to know. Can you imagine my surprise when I learnt that you both have children? Tell me, does S.H.I.E.L.D. know?”
“Where did you get such a curious idea?” Tony lied through his teeth. “Children! As if.”

Loki lifted an eyebrow, staring back at him.

“Really, man of iron? Denying your own child? And here I was thinking he was like the blood of your blood, bone of your bone… Obviously I was quite wrong, if you so readily deny his existence.” His eyes turned to Steve. “And you, soldier, will you deny your child too? The child you bore in the ice? Will you abandon him too?”
“Shut up”, Steve growled, striding close and picking him up by his collar. “If you say one more word about my child, you will eat your teeth.”
“Oooh, scary”, Loki chuckled right in his face. “Look at that, brother of mine.”

And indeed, Thor was looking – right back at Steve, with something akin to awe. Tony had to admit that it wasn’t difficult to know what had provoked that reaction: Steve was downright beautiful and dangerous, looking like some vengeful angel, his upper lip curled in a sneer as his Omega instinctive protective growl as he towered over Loki, obviously determined to nullify the threat to his child.

“Do not talk about that subject any further, Loki”, Thor finally warned. “Do not be afraid, Steve. No harm will come to your cub. I promise.”
“You stay away from my kid”, Steve answered, baring his teeth in threat once more.

Tony gently laid a hand on his shoulder, making him relax his stance slightly.

“It’s alright, Steve. I’m certain Thor means no harm to Jamie.”

Luckily, Thor didn’t seem offended by the reaction, quite the opposite in fact.

“Your child must still be young if you are so protective over him”, he said with a nod and a smile. “I am not offended, Anthony Stark. I know how Omegas with young cubs can be if they feel threatened.”
“I nearly attacked my Alpha friend when I got Peter”, Tony said, remembering this day clearly, “it had never happened to me before.” His eyes fell on Loki. “I may have had more time to reign in my instinct than Steve, but if you touch so much as a hair of Peter or Jamie, you will wish you were dead”, he added, particularly threatening.
“Nothing less than what I expected”, Loki replied with a slight bow of his head.

After that, Loki said nothing else, though Steve didn’t look away from him. Tony and Thor had started to talk in hushed voices so as not to be overheard. Natasha was focused on piloting, and Loki had noticed his brother’s interest in the one he called “soldier”.

“If you were wondering”, Tony said, “he’s single.”
“With a young cub?” Thor replied, obviously surprised.
“Long story, but yes. You might as well try your luck, though maybe not while he’s still… Well. Wait until we’ve had some news about our kids.”
“Your speech is surprising. I thought both cubs were yours. That you would be mates.”

Tony reeled back in surprise.

“Who, Steve and me? Oh no, definitely not. We’re great friends, but that’s it.”
“Is it… I don’t mean to offend. When I came down to Midgard three years ago, my friend Jane Foster told me you no longer had packs, that it was considered an antiquated, out-dated and rude word. But it seems to me you live as a pack.”

This time, Tony stared back openly at him.

“You are the friend she’s been talking about”, he said, gaping. “I wasn’t expecting this. Oh, Jane, so good at keeping secrets…”
“You know Jane?” Thor asked in excited surprise. “She was the first person I met here, with Erik Selvig and Darcy. She was of a great help to me.”
“Jane is dating our friend, Pepper”, Tony replied. “It’s been… well, three years. It was just after your little stunt in New Mexico. I expect she will soon be part of the family.”
“I’m delighted to hear that”, Thor said. “She deserves good friends, and you seem to have a great… family”, he amended, using the same word as Tony.
“You are right”, Tony said after a moment of silence. “We are a pack. I mean, Steve and Jamie are the only ones with a blood link. But pack is too connotated a word for us to use.”
“I see”, Thor nodded. “Us Asgardians still live in packs. There is family, and there is pack. Sometimes, the two are the same, but more often than not, they are distinct. My pack is made out of great Alpha warriors”, he added with pride. “Lady Sif and the Paladin Trio, under my guidance.” He paused. “And Loki, though he made quite clear his desire to no longer be part of our pack.”
“He brainwashed one of my family”, Tony said through gritted teeth, “along with your friend, Selvig.”
“We will find the Cube”, Thor replied confidently. “I have some knowledge of my brother’s plans, which I intend to share with you.”
“The sooner this is over, the sooner we can go home”, Tony declared. “I miss my son already.”

Chapter Text

With Loki in the cage of glass meant for Banner – or rather, the Hulk – the team, so-called Avengers, gathered to discuss the next phase. Thor told them about the impending Chitauri invasion, which was a nightmare they hadn’t expected, and from there, Tony and Bruce deduced it would happen quicker than they’d like. To think that Loki had the means to kick-start a portal through space anywhere on Earth made Tony shiver. At the moment, he wished he’d remained ignorant of this, a civilian who would spend his time with his son, and thus be with him should anything happen in the vicinity.

He’d received a message through Jarvis, sent by Eddie, reassuring them that everything was fine with Jamie and Peter, though the smallest of the two cried after his mama, and the second one was worried, no matter how much he tried to hide it. This anxiety made Jamie even more irritable than usual, and so far, the little boy had embedded three toy cars in the walls of his bedroom, and kicked a hole in the hard floor, splintering the wood. They had known he had some of Steve’s powers, but now, it was becoming obvious it was a more pressing matter than they expected.

Currently, Tony was in the lab with Bruce, tracking the Cube and scanning the sceptre. The more he learnt about the man with a giant anger management problem, the more he appreciated him. It was obvious he was just as lonely as himself had been before Peter, if not more, for he had no Pepper, and no Rhodes.

“You know, you should come by Stark Tower some time. The R and D department is candy land, you’ll love it.”
“Thanks, but last time I was in New York, I kind of… broke Harlem.”
“I promise a stress-free environment”, Tony replied with a smile. “Really, it’s a good place to work.”

Just as he said so, he zapped Bruce’s side, chuckling. Steve entered just at that moment, and sighed heavily.

“I thought you’d stopped courting death, Tony”, he said in a deadpanned voice.
“Jury’s out! Seriously, I’m sure Dr Banner wouldn’t be on board if he couldn’t handle pointy things. Am I wrong?”

Bruce smiled, obviously appeased by the evident friendship between the two.

“No, you’re right”, he answered.
“You’re tip-toeing, big man. You need to strut.”

This time, Steve rolled his eyes, and stepped closer to Tony to speak without being too loud.

“So, what do you have?”
“The algorithm is scanning for Gamma rays”, Tony replied, and he smirked, “and my decryption program is onto S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secure, secret files.”
“Good”, Steve smiled back. “This is all a bit too fishy to my taste.” His gaze fell on Bruce. “What do you think, Doc? Are we going too far?”
“I-I just wanna finish my work here-” Bruce started, but meeting Tony’s disbelieving gaze and Steve’s unyielding one, he modified his answer. “’A warm light for all mankind’, that’s what Loki said to Fury. The man is off his rocker, that much is obvious-” he paused. “But I’m sure that was meant for you, Tony. Your Tower, sustained by green energy. And what I don’t understand is why you weren’t called on the Tesseract project, or even why they are doing in the energy business in the first place.”

Steve nodded and straightened up from where he’d been leaning against the worktop.

“Get on with the decryption, I’ll see what I can find. Thank you for your insight, Doc.”
“Bruce”, he replied. “Call me Bruce. Or should I call you Captain?”

Steve grinned shrewdly.

“Oh hell, what have you asked”, Tony said. “Steve, I forbid you from answering that.”
“Love you too”, Steve called over his shoulder as he exited the room, and Tony sighed heavily.
“Are… you two a thing?” Bruce asked, resuming his work.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that”, Tony said. “No, we’re not. We’re friends.”
“You guys are close”, Bruce replied, “and it’s obvious. You adjust your moves one to the other, and only people who are very close do that.”
“We’ve… lived things together, that got us closer”, Tony said.
“So, now that he’s gone… Should I call him Captain or not? What even was that?”
“Are you sure you want to know?”
“Not exactly but if I don’t know I’ll keep thinking about it so… it’s either be traumatized, or die of curiosity.”
“You asked it”, Tony said, washing his hands from the whole mess. “The guy’s got a giant title kink.”
“Alright I’m sorry I asked”, Bruce replied, turning lobster red.
“Yeah”, Tony said, his gaze lost in some immaterial horror. He shook himself to get out of it. “There are truths better left unknown.” His gaze caught on something on a monitor, and he turned up the sound. “What is Nat doing?” he muttered as Natasha spoke to Loki.
“…made a different call.”
“And what would you do if I vow to spare him?”
“You’d kill a man who shared your bed?”

Loki waved his hand.

“This is past and gone. I have lived for a long time already, when compared to your miserable, pitifully short lives.”
“I would not let you out.”
“Your world in the balance, and your bargain for one man?”
“I told you, I got red in my ledger, I’d like to wipe it out.”
“Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Drakov’s daughter? Sao Paulo? The hospital fire? Barton told me everything. Your ledger is dripping, it’s gushing red, and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child, a prayer. Pathetic. You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are a part of you, and they will never go away.”
“He’s definitely got a serious problem”, Tony said, turning very pale.
“Or maybe it’s Peter? Tony’s child? You raised the boy, after all, didn’t you? You think that redeemed you? Or perhaps young Jamie, the new light of humanity?”

This time, Bruce lifted his eyes from his screen to stare at Tony with his mouth agape.

“Saving one child doesn’t make up for years of lies and killing”, Loki yelled, and he seemed shaken by his own screaming, “it doesn’t compare, not in the slightest!” He paused. “I won’t touch Barton! Not until I make him kill everyone you love, and in the end, you. Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear. And then he’ll wake just long enough to see his good work, and when he screams I’ll split his skull! This is my bargain, you mewling quim!”

Tony’s hand clenched on a screen, effectively breaking it. He had turned an alarming shade of white, his breath coming short. And then – then the growl came out, rabid, furious. Throwing the broken tablet he’d been holding, he ran for the door.

“You’re a monster!”
“Oh, no”, Loki smiled. “You brought the monster.”
“So, Banner. That’s your play.”

At this moment, the intercom opened.

“Natasha GET OUT OF HERE”, Bruce said frantically, “Tony is on the war path and he will rip his head off!”

Natasha blanched too, as Loki’s smile widened.

“Not Bruce… it was Tony!”

Meanwhile, Tony had just ran into Fury, spitting, hissing and growling like a madman as two agents restrained him. Two others had bloody noses, and one a broken finger. He only stopped resisting when one of them knocked him out swiftly.

“Bring him back to the lab”, Fury said. “He won’t be out long.” Swiftly, he turned to Hill and Coulson. “What the hell was that? Tony Stark’s got a kid? How come we don’t know about it?”
“Sir”, Agent Hill said, and his face went one degree more into anger when he realized the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret database had been hacked – and he didn’t need to wonder by whom, no.
“What’s Phase Two?” Bruce asked without turning when Fury entered.
“Phase Two is S.H.I.E.L.D. used the Cube to make weapons”, Steve replied, slamming a HYDRA gun on the table. His gaze then fell on Tony, still unconscious. “…What the hell happened to Tony?” he asked as he rushed up to him, checking him for wounds.
“We gathered everything related to the Tesseract, that doesn’t mean we-”
“I’m sorry, what were you lying?” Bruce asked, turning the obvious patron of a missile to them. “Steve, Loki said… things meant to anger us, and it worked. Agents only stopped him before he could seriously injure himself or… try to smash Loki’s teeth in.”
“Rogers, while we’re at it, don’t you think you forgot to tell us about Peter?” Fury asked, before he realized he really shouldn’t have.

In a matter of second, Steve had lifted him by the lapels of his coat, staring straight into his eyes with his lips curled back into a growl.

“Maybe you were the reason”, he replied, “and we were right not to trust any of you!”
“Steve!” Natasha cried out when she entered and saw the scene. “Please, let him go! You’re only playing into Loki’s game!” She then turned to Bruce. “You wanna think about removing yourself from this environment?”
“I was in Calcutta, I was pretty well removed”, Bruce replied. “Besides, I’m not about to lose my marbles like these two, I’ve got no hidden child. I’d like to know why SHIELD is using the Tesseract to build weapons of mass destruction.”

Steve had thrown Fury back, sneering as he helped Tony up just as Thor came into the room.

“Because of him!” Fury cried out, pointing at Thor.
“Me?” the god of thunder asked, clearly wondering what the ever-living hell was going on there. “Asgard wants nothing but peace with your planet. The same cannot be said for others, however, and your work with the Cube is what drew Loki and his allies to it. Don’t you understand it was a sign that Earth was ready for a higher form of war?”
“Nuclear deterrent”, Tony mumbled from Steve’s arms, “that’s what it is about, isn’t it?”
“Let’s get out of here”, Steve complied. “The air is pretty fetid in these parts.”
“Where are you going?” Fury asked.
“We’re not to your boot, Fury”, Steve replied, “I made that clear years ago. We came because of the threat Loki poses, but you are just as much part of that threat.”
“You stay here. Agent Romanoff, would you escort Dr Banner back to his-”
“WHERE? YOU RENTED MY ROOM!” Bruce answered, now heavily stressed and pissed-off. “This is such a mess, I can’t believe I agreed to come!”
“The cell was just-”
“IN CASE YOU NEEDED TO KILL ME. BUT YOU CAN’T, I KNOW, I TRIED.” The declaration had some effect, as all gazes turned to him. “I got low. I didn’t see an end so I put a bullet in my mouth and the other guy spit it out. So I moved on, I focused on helping other people. I was good until you dragged me back into this freak show and put everyone here at risk. You wanna know my secret, Agent Romanoff? You wanna know how I stay calm?”
“Doc, put down the sceptre”, Steve said, holding out his hand to him.

Bruce looked in confusion and surprise to his hand, which was holding the sceptre, and carefully put it down. At that moment, a monitor blinked and he turned his gaze to it.

“Oh my God”, he breathed.

Tony, finally standing, went up to him, Steve following suit.

“Hawkeye”, he whispered. “That’s him. He’s here for Loki.”
“How can you be so sure?” Bruce asked.
“That’s definitively his work” Natasha answered. “I’d recognize it anywhere. We don’t have much ti-”

And, suddenly, the lab exploded, throwing all of them against walls, furniture, or even through the floor for Natasha and Bruce. Steve scrambled to Tony, checking him over quickly.

“Put on the suit”, he said as he helped him up.
“Yep.”

In the matter of a few minutes, everything descended into chaos. An engine was down and Tony had no other choice than to go repair it with Steve’s help. They couldn’t let the hellicarrier crash. Natasha was just trying to keep herself alive against the Hulk, until Thor stepped in and fought him off.

“Once this is over we get out of here”, Steve groaned in his earpiece, and Tony could only agree. “Should we get Banner too?”
“Not while he’s green”, Tony replied. “It’s too dangerous. Thor…”
“Tony, I just saw Thor fall from the carrier in Loki’s cage”, Steve replied. “If he survives the crash, he can join us, but in the meantime it means Loki is out and about.”

Eventually, they managed to get the engine working again and returned into the rubbles of the carrier. Agent Coulson was standing in the room where the glass cage had been, a weapon in hand.

“I didn’t make it in time”, he apologized, “Loki got away.”
“I’ve got Clint”, Natasha said through their earpieces at the same time. “I- I’ve got Clint, and he’s gonna be alright. Loki’s spell on him is broken.”
“We need to find the Tesseract”, Tony replied. “Now that Loki’s free, he’ll get to it as soon as he can.” He paused, dread filling his eyes. “He made it personal. Talking about Jamie and Peter.”
“That’s not the point, Tony.”
“That is the point! That’s Loki’s point. He hit us all right where we live. Why?”
“To tear us a apart”, Steve replied, “which he would probably have achieved if we hadn’t all been so close. We’re more tightly knitted than he expected.”
“Yeah, divide and conquer is great but- he knows he has to take us out to win, right? That’s what he wants. He wants to beat us, he wants to be seen doing it. He wants an audience.”
“Right. I caught his act in Stuttgart.”
Yeah. That’s just previews, this is- this is opening night. And Loki, he’s a full-tail diva. He wants flowers, he wants parades, he wants a monument built to the skies with his name plastered... Son of-a-bitch.”
“The kids”, Steve breathed, and he’d blanched severely.

And, at this exact moment, there was no force on Earth that would have been able to stop them.

Chapter Text

Eddie had gone down to Tony’s lab to answer his call when Loki’s jet arrived. The boys were watching a movie and he was trusting Peter with Jamie for the very few minutes of Tony’s update. Selvig immediately started to assemble the device on the roof, Jarvis turning off the Ark reactor and cutting all power in the Tower, alerting Eddie of the intrusion in the process. It was too late, however: the Tesseract was already self-sustaining. But more importantly, it startled the security system. A metallic, armoured door fell in place, effectively trapping him in the lab – and the boys upstairs, in the wide room that led to the balcony and full of open windows.

“Oh my God”, he breathed, and called Tony back immediately. “Tony, I’m stuck! Jarvis cut the power- Tony? Tony, do you copy?” He pulled his phone down, and saw “no signal” written. Of course, the security system would include a cutting of all systems of communication. OF COURSE. “Shit.”

And, anxiously, he waited for the apocalypse to start.

 

Peter had known something was wrong when Eddie went down to his mama’s lab to answer the call, same as he’d done the whole weekend. He was worried, and he had no idea what was happening. He knew it was bad the moment the security system fell into place and the TV shut down.

“Peetah?” Jamie asked worriedly in a hushed voice.

Peter started to sign to him to keep silent – let’s play hide and seek – and Jamie grinned, jumping down the couch. Swiftly, Peter grabbed his hand, trying to be tall and strong for his little brother, guiding him towards the kitchen. He knew there was a cupboard they could hide in there. Slowly, they started to cross the big, open room to the kitchen – until the elevator’s door, which worked for some reason, opened and a man walked in. Immediately, Peter pushed Jamie behind him and took a defensive stance – the one Tetka Natasha had taught him.

The man was tall, about the same size as Uncle Steeb if not more, with dark hair, and armour of green and gold, and an enormous horned helmet. He held a glowing blue stick in his hand, which made Peter’s skin crawl. There was something wrong with that thing, he could tell it. The man stopped in his tracks when he noticed them, and grinned.

“Well, well, if it ain’t Peter! And you must be Jamie.”
“Who are you?” Peter asked, trembling but staring at him.
“My name is Loki, and I’m from Asgard”, Loki replied regally.

Peter immediately abandoned his stance, smiling now.

“Loki, from Auntie Jane’s stories?” he asked. “The trickster god?”

Loki paused, surprised that this child seemed to know who he was. It was a rare occurrence those days, one he wished to change.

“Exactly”, he replied. “You are a smart kid, aren’t you?”
“That’s what mama says”, Peter replied. “I-”

He was interrupted by Jamie, who let out a wail and ran toward Loki, slamming into his legs and knocking the sceptre out of his hand, as well as sending him crashing down. Peter shuddered at the sound Loki’s head made when it hit the floor, and immediately ran after Jamie to pull him away from the sceptre, which he kicked towards the bar. Jamie was crying now, wails that could have raised the dead, and Peter hugged him tightly.

“It’s alright, I didn’t like that thing either”, Peter said. “Are you alright, Mr. Loki?” he asked when he saw Loki stir and grimace, putting a hand to his head.
“A bit dizzy”, Loki admitted. “It’ll be fine.” Without a moment’s hesitation, he grabbed Jamie and pulled him to his chest to cradle him and soothe him, his face a lot more relaxed now.

Soon though, confusion settled – and then anger, when his gaze fell on the sceptre.

“Please don’t touch that stick”, Peter begged in his childish voice. “It’s bad, it’s bad, really really bad.”
“You are right”, Loki agreed, “I won’t touch it.”
“Thank you”, Peter replied, relieved, and wrapped his small arms around his neck. “Would you like a drink?” he asked when he pulled away.

Jamie had stopped crying, sleeping contentedly against Loki’s chest, his little hand closed around a now crumpled piece of armour.

“Yes please”, Loki agreed, watching the child as he filled a glass of water and brought it to him cautiously.

Now that he was no longer under the sceptre’s influence and that his mind was clear, he couldn’t understand the anger he’d felt towards humanity. Dread settled upon his mind as he thought about all the things he’d done – about his brother, and about Clint. Oh, Clint. There was no repairing that, he’d done something unforgivable. The two boys tucked against him, he could feel the remainders of the sceptre’s chill melt away from their warmth and easily-given love. He knew he had to get up and stick the sceptre into the device to close the portal, which was surely open by now, but he just… couldn’t move. He knew the moment he picked the sceptre back up again, he would turn into the cold, mindless, angry monster it pulled out of him, and it terrified him. Instead, he buried his face in Jamie’s fluffy red hair, Peter wrapped around his back after he’d taken his helmet off and put it down next to him. Just a moment of peace, he begged in his mind. A moment of gentle warmth.

 

Tony was first to arrive, his thrusters down and armour about to fall to pieces. After his initial, fruitless shot at the device – deflected by the energy barrier – he looked around, noticing Jamie’s knitted snail plushie on the floor next to the couch. It was a vivid blue thing, half chewed, that Jamie never left far out of his sight. Hawkeye had offered to knit another one as this one slowly unravelled, but Jamie wanted this very one, no matter how ugly it was becoming. To see it there pulled his stomach into a knot. There was no sign of Eddie, Jamie or Peter. He landed on the platform, where Jarvis informed him that he had already cut the Ark reactor from the tower, but that the Tesseract was already self-sustaining. That the emergency security protocol was in place, and that it had trapped Eddie in the lab. And, lastly, that Loki of Asgard was there with Jamie and Peter.

Tony’s blood boiled at the thought of Loki, murderous, treacherous, alien Loki anywhere near the kids, but the thought that they were probably his hostages kept him from doing anything reckless. Instead, he slowly walked down, pausing in disbelief at the scene he discovered. Loki was sitting on the floor, helmet off, dishevelled and pale, with Peter draped around his back, his little head on top of his, and Jamie sleeping in his arms, holding a crumple metallic piece that was the same exact gold as Loki’s armour. The sceptre was a few meters away, and Loki, his eyes closed, seemed both distraught and deep in thought.

Then, Peter looked up, his eyes widening and face breaking into a smile when he noticed him standing there.

“Mama!” the boy cried out, letting go of Loki to run up to him.

Instinctively, Tony crouched down to grab him and hug him to his chest.

“Your arrival is on point, Tony Stark”, Loki declared, opening his eyes – and had they always been so bright? “Is the portal open?”
“Not ye-”

Just as he answered that and Loki felt relief wash over him, the Tower shook from the power of the Tesseract shooting a beam at the sky and opening a portal there.

“I guess it is now”, Tony replied with a shrug, just to not let the terror win.
“There is a way”, Loki groaned, getting up, “to close it, but I can’t do it myself.” He glanced through the windows, and shuddered as the Chitauri army started to invade New York. “Hurry up.”
“Uh, why should I listen to you?”
“Because there isn’t much time before they send in the Leviathans”, Loki replied, “and you don’t want to deal with that, believe me.” He pointed at the sceptre. “This is the key to the lock. It will go through the barrier, and shut the portal down when thrust into the Tesseract.”
“Sounds dangerous. Why would I believe you? It is your army, out there.”
“It no longer is”, Loki replied with a sly grin, setting Jamie down on the couch and wandering about like he didn’t care Tony was there – truthfully, unarmed-Tony wasn’t much of a threat to him. “Did the Widow tell you how she broke the spell on Clint?”
“She knocked him hard over the head”, Tony said, “what does it have to do with anything?”
“Time is of the essence… I was knocked out too”, Loki replied, pulling out a crumpled bit of his armour that threatened to gore him. “And it broke the sceptre’s spell. I am not your enemy. Your enemy is out there, and he’s very powerful.”
“I don’t trust you.”
“I do”, a third voice answered, and Thor stepped inside the room. “You say the sceptre is the key?”
“Yes” Loki replied. “We must hurry, now, before the Chitauri do more damage to this realm.”
“Little one”, Thor said, crouching to look at Peter who had climbed down from Tony’s arms. “You stay here with your brother, okay?”
“Captain, you copy that?” Tony asked in his earpiece.
“Copying, yes, believing, not so much.” He sighed. “Alright, Natasha is coming to close the portal. You, Thor and I will fight the Chitauri. Hawkeye agreed to take Peter and Jamie to safety, out of the city, with the jet.”
“No”, Loki said, “take Clint with you. I will bring the children to safety. I’m afraid I won’t be of any use in this fight.” As he said that, tendrils of magic stretched between his fingers, immediately dying out. “I have just enough strength to get them out of here.”

Thor stared at him for a moment, before grabbing Peter and handing him to Loki. Surprised at first, Peter complied and grabbed onto his back, while Loki picked Jamie up.

“We will be in New Mexico, if I can make it this far”, he announced, before walking straight to the elevator’s door and, to Tony’s great surprise, disappear.
“Where- How-”
“Teleportation”, Thor replied. “The children are safe with him. We need to focus on the fight.”

Tony was about to protest, lost and angry at having the kids taken from him thus, when Jarvis announced a call from an unknown number. Loki’s voice echoed in the room.

“We arrived safely. Hurry up and finish this.”

And, just as quickly, he hanged up. Without waiting any more, Thor flew out and started to smash his way into the Chitauri army, picking up Natasha on the way and letting her into the Tower so she could retrieve the sceptre. Steve was on the ground, already giving out orders, though it was the only way he could cope with the distress of knowing his son was out of his reach, and Clint on top of a building, keeping the aliens within the defined borders. Putting on his Mark 7, Tony flew after him, just in time to see Banner arrive on an old motorcycle. Through the portal, he could see the enormous shape of a Leviathan closing in. In a matter of minutes, everyone would be able to see it, bringing more chaos and destruction. That was the moment Fury chose to contact him.

“Stark, you hear me? You have a missile headed straight for the city.”
“How long?” Tony asked, pausing mid-air.
“Three minutes. Max. Stay load can wipe out mid-town.”

He didn’t even have the breath to curse, flying up and smashing through some more Chitauri warriors. Three minutes.

Down in the street, Steve and Thor were fighting like demons, smashing with Mjolnir and knocking down with the shield – until Steve got shot to the ribs and dropped to the ground, out of breath and groaning. Thor cleared the area and rushed up to him, helping him up.

“You ready for another bout?”
“What, you getting’ sleepy?” Steve asked with a chuckle, looking up to him.

Thor grinned, fingers brushing his face, and closed in the distance for a kiss. Surprised, Steve let out a whimper, and Thor pulled away.

“For good luck”, he said – the fight was on them again.

Tony was out looking for the missile when he heard Natasha.

“I can close it! Can anybody copy?”
“Do it!” Steve replied from the ground.
“No wait!” Tony cried out.
“Tony, these things are still coming and I can see a Leviathan…”
“I got a nuke coming in, it’s gonna blow in less than a minute. And I know just where to put it”, Tony replied, taking hold of the missile and bringing it up towards the portal.
“Tony, you know this is a one way trip”, Steve said in an anguished voice.

Around him, the Avengers gathered – Hawkeye had joined them and after telling Bruce that no, at this point, the Hulk might do more damage than he would help, the physicist had joined Natasha and Selvig on the roof of the Tower. Gently, Thor put a hand on Steve’s shoulder in support.

“You tell Peter I love him, okay?”
“I…” Steve breathed in, memories rushing in at worst time possible – I gotta put her in the water – Peggy, this is my choice – You know, I still don’t know how to dance – “You will tell him yourself”, he managed to say, his throat closing as he tried not to cry.

Tony disappeared into the portal, and Steve gasped. Not again. Please, not again.

 

Tony watched on as the nuke his the mothership and annihilated all Chitauri, before he closed his eyes. Maybe it wasn’t so bad, after all, to die for something you believed in. At least, he knew Peter would be safe with Steve.

“Close it”, Steve said, and it was so much worse to give the damning order than to do it himself, maybe he was breaking to pieces, maybe- “Son of a gun”, he breathed as he saw him reappear.
“He’s not slowing down”, Thor noticed, and flew up immediately, grabbing him and flying him back down to the ground.
“Tony!” Steve cried out, running up to him as Thor pulled off his faceplate. “Tony”, he said again, skidding to the ground and dropping to his knees in the same move.

On his chest, the Ark reactor wasn’t glowing anymore.

“Step aside”, Thor said, pushing him away.
“What are you-”

A lightning bolt struck out from the perfectly clear sky, straight onto Tony. His armour fell to fuming pieces, and his eyes opened with a startled gasp.

“What the hell? What just happened?”

Steve let out chuckle.

“We won”, he said. “We won!” he repeated, hugging his friend with all his might.
“Oof! Careful, you’ll break me something!” Tony protested, though returning the hug with, if not as much strength, just as much ferocity.
“You never do that again”, Steve mumbled against his skin. “I’m so mad at you right now.”
“Promise”, Tony replied. “How about we get our kids back? I’m not too fond of leaving them with Loki for longer than necessary, and the Tower is in a pretty bad shape…”
“I’m sure we can find a place”, Steve replied, helping him up. “New Mexico?”
“I know the place”, Thor intervened. “It would be where I stayed when I first came down on Midgard. The Observatory. I know Jane isn’t there, and Selvig is here, so unless Darcy remained, there shouldn’t be anyone.”
“I expect we won’t come back for some time”, Tony said. “To let things die down, and the workers make the necessary repairs to the Tower. Let’s get inside and get our things.”

Not long after, he’d disabled the emergency security protocol, and everyone gathered in the living-room to hear about their plan. Eddie, frantic, was finally free from the lab, and more than happy to be.

“Thor, we know you’re coming to see your brother. Bruce, if you want to join us?”
“You know what? Hell yes. I want to.”

The others chuckled at this answer, and Tony turned to Eddie.

“Uh… The thing is, I’ve had a job interview with the Daily Globe and… well, I got the post. I can’t just… go.”
“You do your thing”, Tony said, “I’m glad for you. Will it be a problem?” he asked, turning to Steve.
“We’ve got some time to worry about that”, Steve assured. “Let Eddie go. Everyone! Gather your things, quickly.”

It was an hour later that they were all gathered in the jet taken from S.H.I.E.L.D., with their bags. Tony had retrieved the Tesseract and put it in a special container, taking it with them and planning to entrust it to Thor. For now, there were more important matters – namely, retrieving his son, and finding out what the hell had happened between Steve and Thor that got Steve blushing like that.

Chapter Text

Loki appeared in the middle of Jane’s observatory, holding onto the two children and almost immediately suffering from the intense heat. Letting the kids down, he crumpled to the ground, his breath coming in hard puffs. He’d used the little bit of magic he had still – the little bit he kept at all times to maintain the illusion of his Asgardian appearance. A groan of dismay and terror fell from his lips when he saw his hands, which had turned blue, with distinctive markings.

“Mr. Loki?” a childish voice – Peter – asked, and he could feel the kid moving closer.
“Don’t touch me”, he cried out, with more violence than he meant to, his hands trembling, just like his whole body was shuddering.

With a whimper of fright, Peter stepped away. Great, as if he hadn’t fucked up enough as it was. Breathing deeply, he managed to straighten up just enough to see him.

“I didn’t mean to scare you”, he added, his voice softer. “But right now, I’m dangerous. You could get hurt very badly if you touched me.”

Slowly, Peter nodded. There were unshed tears in his eyes – of course he was scared, after all that had happened. Still, he sniffled and sat down cross-legged beside him. Jamie hadn’t woken up from his nap yet, and Loki knew the floor really wasn’t the place for him to sleep, but he couldn’t touch him. Not now, not while he was… this.

“Are you sick, Mr. Loki?” Peter asked, obviously worried.
“No”, Loki replied, though it wasn’t entirely true. He felt nauseated, but he could handle it. He didn’t need the help of a Midgardian child. “Just… exhausted.”

Peter nodded with a wisdom beyond his age.

“Sometimes, my mama doesn’t sleep well, and then he’s very tired. And after, he often falls asleep in a bad place.” He leant forward, obviously to share a secret, and Loki felt too tired to be cross with him. “Once, he fell asleep in the bathtub. It was Uncle Steeb who got him out, and the water was cold. He got very sick for a week.”

There was the sound of a door opening and closing, and Loki tried to gather his strength to stand up. He’d sworn he would keep the children safe, and dammit, he would do it. If only because the little red-head had broken the spell on him. And such a strength, too – he hadn’t expected to be toppled over by a midget, even one running at full speed.

“What the hell” a voice asked shrilly, and suddenly there was woman there, with a strange, small device in hand. “Who are you?”

Peter got up just as Loki fell forward again with a groan of pain.

“You can’t touch Mr. Loki”, he said, standing in front of him in the same protective stance. “He is a friend.”

The woman assessed the situation – the toddler sleeping on the ground, the child standing up to her even though he looked so scared, and the blue-skinned humanoid that was crouched down and obviously in pain – and deemed it safe.

“Alright”, she declared, putting down her bag. “I can handle this, I know I can.”

Swiftly, she hoisted Jamie up and laid him on a worn-out couch in front of a small, out-of-date TV, before turning back to Peter and Loki.

“I’m Darcy”, she declared, and Peter’s face lit up.
“You are Auntie Jane’s friend!” he said, running up to her and hugging her.
“Oh boy”, she breathed, stumbling. “Jane?”
“I am Loki, brother of Thor”, Loki said, straightening up once more.
“You’re the one who destroyed New Mexico”, Darcy replied almost immediately. “What is going on here?”
“I evacuated the kids from New York”, Loki said, finally managing to get up to his knees. “We will remain here until it is safe again.”
“New York?” Darcy asked, and Loki nodded to the television post.

She switched it on, just as a journalist filmed Iron Man’s ascend into the sky, and through the portal. There was a gasp, a moment of absolute silence, and Peter let out a heart-wrenching cry.

“MAMA!”

This time, the tears flooded out as he bent over, sobbing so hard he was turning an alarming shade of red. Darcy had a moment of absolute confusion, suddenly faced with an alien invasion in New York and a hysterical child, before she actually hugged him, doing her best to whisper soothing words.

“Peter”, Loki rasped, “Peter, look!”

And Peter looked – and there Tony was, a little worse for the wear, but alive and standing.

“Your mama is alright”, he said, and he didn’t realize his skin was gradually returning to his Asgardian look. “Your mama is alright”, he repeated, even as he found himself with an armful of crying, snotty child, and the urge to protect him.

Is that what Tony Stark felt when he found him?

Gently, he laid a hand on Peter’s head. Found in the rubble of a destroyed place, both of them. Taken in secret, both of them. Having a brother with whom they had no blood in common, both of them.

Is that what the All-Father felt when he found me?

Chapter Text

They had abandoned the jet at the airport in favour of Tony’s plane – definitely more comfortable, and less conspicuous than a basically stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. jet. Hawkeye had fallen asleep, still deeply affected by the broken spell. In a corner, Natasha was talking with Bruce, and her smile was soft. Not as soft as when she talked to the kids, but soft anyway. Tony was sleeping, albeit fitfully, after Natasha had slid him a pill to relax a bit. Thor and Steve were sitting in opposite seats, and in his hand, Steve held Jamie’s plushie.

“Is this your son’s?” Thor quietly asked.
“Yeah”, Steve replied with a smile. “He loves his snail.”
“I can’t wait to meet him properly.”

Steve smiled fondly.

“He’s awesome, and I’m not saying that because he’s my son, mind you.” He settled back in his seat, and stared back at Thor.
“Are we gonna talk about it or are you going to keep me waiting indefinitely?”
“What?”
“I firmly believe you kissed me, on the battleground, did you not?”

Thor smiled widely.

“That, I did, though much quicker than I would have liked.” His cheeks had taken a slightly red tinge that Steve couldn’t help but find lovely. “I am confused, though. Tony said you were single, but I can tell you’ve got a bond with that Eddie who remained in New York. I do not mean to intrude, just…”
“No, it’s alright”, Steve replied, shaking his head. “Eddie has been helping me through my heats for the past two years, because none of the regular heat-blocking medicine works on me.” He paused, reminiscing. “I was already expecting Jamie when we met, and he could be there regularly, as he was still studying. He moved out a few months ago.”
“And Jamie’s father?” Thor inquired, curious but knowing it was a dangerous question to ask.
“Dead”, Steve replied soberly.
“I am sorry for your loss. Losing a mate can be…”
“Devastating?” Steve supplied. “I’m sorry, Thor, but I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too painful.”
“Of course”, Thor said, before falling silent, a bit embarrassed now.
“So, were you going somewhere with that kiss?” Steve asked after a moment, with a sheepish smile on his lips. “Or was it just the heat of the moment?”
“I-” Thor paused, at a loss for words. “I do not mean to scare you, but I… find myself incredibly attracted to you. You could even say that it was…”
“Love at first sight?”

Thor nodded, and Steve smiled. Softly, he bit his lip – fun how he had the courage of a lion most of the time, but some things just… freaked him out.

“Care to check again? Just to make sure.”

Thor’s eyes widened but he nodded, though wondering how to manoeuvre that without it being awkward. They were in a plane, after all, and not even sitting next to each other. Steve solved the problem for him when he stood up, planted his knees into his seat on each side of his lap, and hoovered there, watching him with some king of hungry curiosity that gave him goosebumps. He was the god of Thunder and was therefore used to goosebumps, just not those. He couldn’t stop himself from making a choked noise when Steve firmly grabbed his head, tilting it up as himself bent forward to press their lips together. There was a moment of suspended time when Steve pulled away just slightly, and then-

Then, Thor grabbed a handful of Captain America’s skin-tight uniform, and a handful of muscular flesh too, and held him close as he conquered him piece by piece. He was surprised by how soft Steve’s skin was, except for his roughed-up knuckles, and how hard his whole body was under that skin. When he was this close, he was the only thing he could smell – and he gasped into their kiss, wondering where the hell this man had been those past centuries. Steve pulled away again, looking at him with a slightly hazy gaze and flushed cheeks.

“Was that more to your taste?” he breathed, and his scent had spiked a little and all Thor wanted was to nuzzle his neck.
“Perfect”, Thor sighed. “Once this mess is over, would you let me take you out on a…date?”

Steve’s eyes sparkled with mischief, and for the first time he looked younger that Thor had seen him since they met. His heart stuttered at the sight, which Thor wasn’t sure was a good or bad sign, and Steve nodded.

“Sounds good”, he breathed. “It’s been a while since I had a date.”

They realized the place and position weren’t exactly ideal when a turbulence sent Steve backwards, and he was only rescued from the fall by Thor’s reflexes. Laughing, Steve stepped down and settled back into his own seat. He wasn’t exactly sure where this all was going, but hell if he wasn’t rolling with it.

“Tell me more about Jamie”, Thor said after a minute of silence, and Steve’s face lit up with joy and warmth – did he even realize? Thor wasn’t so sure.

And Steve told him about Jamie – about how he was just starting to form words but had incredible strength and speed, about how he loved his big brother. He told him with the delight of someone sharing their passion.

The plane landed roughly two hours later in the middle of the desert but in sight of the small town in New Mexico Thor had accidentally brought destruction upon a few years prior. It was easy, from there, to go to the Observatory. Steve and Tony were, of course, the first ones there, and they were greeted by Darcy Lewis who seemed a bit frazzled but otherwise fine. In the Observatory, though, an interesting sight awaited them: Loki was sleeping deeply, stretched on a couch that had seen better days. Peter was cuddled between his side and the backrest of the couch, and Jamie sprawled over Loki’s chest, drooling contentedly over his singed t-shirt. Loki’s armour was on the ground next to him, and there was a blanket draped over the three of them.

“Someone take a photography”, Thor said as quietly as he could, which was a feat in itself with his booming voice.
“Done.”
“Were they fine?” Tony asked Darcy as he repressed the urge to pick up his boy and hold him tight.
“Loki was blue when I arrived”, she answered, “and Peter had a melt down when you went through the portal, but Loki took care of him and he calmed down. I don’t know what he said to him, but they talked for a long time.”

Tony’s expression was priceless, and he finally gave in to his urge and picked Peter from Loki’s side, groaning under his weight but holding him tightly. He was safe, and it was all that mattered. Swiftly, Steve imitated him and took Jamie, who kept on sleeping and drooled over his shoulder.

“My brother must truly be exhausted, to no awake even with all of us around”, Thor remarked. “He really used up all his magic if his Jotun heritage showed.”
“And it is surprising?” Natasha asked.
“For him? Yes, very much so”, Thor replied as he slowly knelt beside him and slipped an arm under his back and his knees, taking care not to jostle him too much as he picked him up.

Loki stirred, mumbled but didn’t wake up. In Tony’s arms however, Peter’s eyes blinked open and he looked up just enough to recognize him.

“Mama!” he cried out in relief and joy, squeezing his arms around his neck.
“I’m here, sweetheart, I’m here”, Tony whispered, and he could finally relax.
“I was so scared”, Peter said. “I thought you were dead!”
“I’m fine, see? I’m fine, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Clint picked up Loki’s armour, and they all turned to Tony.

“Where are we going now?”
“Well, it’ll be a bit cramped with all of us but…” his smile softened, “we’re going home.”

Chapter Text

Tony was right, it was cramped. He hadn’t returned to his house on the coast since he moved to Stark Tower with Peter, and back then it had just been the two of them, plus Pepper. The house was mostly accommodated for a bachelor and his kid, not for a group of seven (eight, if Pepper decided to come back too) adults and two children. Which meant it would be fine for a small period of time, but not more.

The first week was… well, awkward. Steve and Tony shared Tony’s old bedroom, where they’d set up a bunk bed for Jamie and Peter, and they were probably the most comfortable with these new sleeping arrangements. Clint, after having a long, long conversation with Loki – at least, that was what they all hoped they did – that had lasted a day long, during which they hadn’t come out at all, shared Peter’s old bedroom with him. It became obvious they intended on picking up back where they’d left. That had left Thor, Bruce and Natasha, who shared what had been Tony’s office since Pepper’s old room was off-limit. The bed set up there was weird: it was a bunk bed, but the lower bunk was a double bed and the upper one was a single bed – which had meant two would have to share a bed. It quickly turned out that Thor was a restless sleeper who constantly pushed a way-too-nervous Bruce out of bed, annoying Natasha to no end, as she woke up every single time Bruce hit the floor. Since Thor was clearly the problem there, Natasha told him to take the upper bunk, while she shared the bigger bed with Bruce, their smaller frames making it easier – though she hadn’t counted on Bruce’s nervousness the first few nights. She hadn’t counted either on Thor literally rolling out of bed and dropping on them like a ton of bricks, leading to a few close-calls of Hulking out.

None of them had gone out of the house since the end of the battle: their faces and names were everywhere. And, by the end of the first week, Pepper returned – with Jane in tow. They both settled in Pepper’s bedroom, busy with work, and weren’t home much.

*

Tony sneaked out of his bedroom without waking anyone up, knowing he wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep – not after the nightmares, and he didn’t want to wake Steve up. His friend had them just as bad, though he seldom woke up, preferring to thrash in bed until he nearly knocked Tony out. He padded to the kitchen in the dark, opened the fridge for some milk, and nearly jumped out of his skin when he finally realized Bruce was there, sitting at the counter and munching on some cereals as he stared into the night.

“You can’t sleep either, uh”, Bruce said.
“Seems so”, Tony replied, his voice firmer than he’d expected.
“It’s the Other”, Bruce commented, planting his spoon in his bowl. “Ever since the accident, I’ve had a troubled sleep. What about America’s golden bachelor?”
“You really want to talk about that?” Tony asked, scrunching his nose.
“Not sure”, Bruce replied with a tired smile. “To be perfectly honest, Thor nearly crushed me to death again. It’s a good deterrent to sleep.”
“I’ll think of something”, Tony said, passing a hand over his tired face as he put the milk back in the fridge and started to make his way out.
“Tony?”
“Yeah?”
“Thank you. For letting us stay… all of us.”
“Well, you know what they say”, Tony started to reply, “oana…”
“…means family, and family means no one gets left behind”, Bruce finished with a groan, “God, Tony, it’s been on repeat everyday for nearly ten days, can’t they watch something else?”
“Jamie doesn’t seem to think so”, Tony replied.

Bruce sighed, and Tony started to walk away again, only to be stopped again.

“I also wanted to say that you smell really nice.”
“Uh. Thanks, doc. Now, you should probably go back to sleep.”
“What about you?”
“I will… work out my frustration”, Tony replied, finally walking away to get to his lab.

There, he’d stashed the Tesseract with infinite precautions, and Loki’s sceptre. He had intended to study them, but his body, like every night, automatically started to work on his latest suit. It was the third in just ten days, since he barely slept anymore. He felt worn out, and knew he was only holding on because he had his family with him – because when he woke up breathless in the middle of the night, there was Steve’s comforting warmth next to him, and Peter sleeping a few meters away. Sometimes, he just sat down next to his boy and watched over his mostly untroubled sleep. It made a weird feeling well up in his chest, one that was so powerful it still scared him after all these years.

So, when it became too much, he went down to his lab to pound some metal into shapes. His eyes stung from the lack of sleep and he rubbed them, tears spilling out automatically. Then, he took a good look at the faceplate he’d made. It was too small, way too small, and when he looked around at the flurry of half-finished pieces around him, he realized they all were. Slowly, he assembled them, and gasped at the result. How had he not realized what he was making? In front of him sat a Peter-sized armour, one design to protect its wearer rather than for attack, like his own. He slumped to the ground – what kind of parent was he, if he felt like Peter needed an armour? What kind of parent was he, that he was all so ready to sacrifice when it meant leaving his child an orphan – again? What kind of friend was he, to heap all of this onto Steve, who had already lost so much?

“You should keep away from the sceptre”, a voice said. “And lock it somewhere safer. It doesn’t do any good to dwell on past mistakes.”
“How did you even get in there?” he asked, glaring at Loki who was casually standing there, wrapped in a dressing gown that hang limply on his frame – it clearly wasn’t his size.
Please”, Loki replied with a snort, “it wasn’t even difficult.”

Carefully, he put his hand into an Iron Man gauntlet that had been there for repairs and adjustments, and seized the sceptre that was on display on the worktop, so Tony could study it – before he got side-tracked by the suit, obviously. His face expressed the kind of intense focus Tony had only seen on a few individuals, including himself and Peter, as he set the sceptre down in its safe and locked it away, before he removed the gauntlet.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed with Clint?”
“What about you, Stark?” Loki countered. “Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

There was a flash of something on Loki’s face – like he dropped the illusion for less than a second – and he appeared worn out, his face wan, beads of sweat rolling on his forehead, dark circles stretching under his eyes. Tony blinked, unsure of what he’d just seen, and even more, wondering whether it had been accidental or not.

“Obviously, I’m not”, he finally replied when the silence stretched on for longer than it was comfortable to.
“And obviously I’m not in bed with Clint”, Loki replied, holding out his open hands in demonstration. “Now that we’ve concluded about the obvious, will you tell me what you were doing with that horrific artefact, and what the hell is that thing?” he asked, pointing first to the safe holding the sceptre, and then to the child-sized armour.
“We need to learn more about the Tesseract and the sceptre”, Tony replied. “Both are linked, though I’d dare say the sceptre is more malicious than the Cube.”
“I concur”, Loki said. “However, this can wait for daylight, and the, I firmly believe, helpful input of Banner.”
“You think Bruce would work with you?” Tony snorted. “Buddy, I hate to be the bringer of bad news, but you’re kind of the reason he Hulked out after more than a year without incident. I don’t believe he’s the kind of man to hold a grudge, but he’s wary around you.”
“I noticed”, Loki replied drily, “thank you so much for your analysis, Stark.” He paused. “Do you really think I would put Peter at risk by making the Hulk lash out?”
“You would be in a cell if I believed that”, Tony said, his head rolling against the foot of the worktop. “I don’t know why my kid likes you so much, but he has a knack for knowing who he can trust, and who he cannot.”
“You won’t like what I have to say.”
“Then don’t say it.”
“I have to say it”, Loki countered. “Your son gets along with me because we share similarities and understanding.”
“You were right, I don’t like it”, Tony replied, scrambling to get up.
“But we also have our differences”, Loki went on. “And the main one is you.”
“Me?” Tony said, clearly surprised, his hands flat on the worktop.
“Yes, you. You never hid to Peter that you didn’t bear him. You kept his name, his heritage.” He paused. “I believe my brother told you about my… circumstances.”
“The whole turning blue thing? Yeah.”
“Peter knows you love him from the bottom of your heart, because you never hid the truth from him. And you share something so much more meaningful than a name.”
“Are you telling me all this because we’re having a late-night conversation? Because I’m not a psychologist, I’m a mechanic.”
“I know perfectly well what you are and what you aren’t”, Loki bristled, “and I know how deceivably, disgustingly honest you can be.”
“Was that a compliment? Because it didn’t sound like one.”
“Will you fucking listen?” Loki heaved, clearly annoyed. “Had Odin told me the truth about my birth, this whole mess would have never happened.”

This time, Tony was listening – intently. Thor had given them a rough sketch-up of the situation with his brother the last time he’d seen him, which had ultimately driven him to a particularly botched suicide. No wonder Loki looked like he had problems. But he could also see, albeit reluctantly, where the god was going. He hadn’t hidden that Peter was adopted, but he sometimes worried about the future – if he ever wanted to have information about his birth parents. He’d read about the subject, but he knew he’d be honest with his kid, which was why he had opened a long-term file on Peter’s origins. He couldn’t even imagine what Loki had gone through in the span of, what, a week?

“You said”, Tony started, “you said ‘Saving one child doesn’t make up for years of lies and killing, it doesn’t compare, not in the slightest’. That’s what you told Nat’ on the helicarrier. We all assumed everything you said was driven by the sceptre… But I can see that it wasn’t exactly that.”
“You are surprisingly perceptive”, Loki replied, settling against another worktop. “The sceptre is an amplifier to thoughts and feelings, in its most diluted form. It can also act as a free-will inhibitor, like I did for Clint and Dr Selvig, but this use… shows.” He breathed deeply. “My anger wasn’t small to begin with, and the sceptre made it ten times worse. It turned a simple wound into a festering, bleeding thing. It makes your guilt worse. I expect Dr Banner would also feel more enraged than usual in its presence.”
“You thought what you said.”
“At the moment? Every word”, Loki confirmed. “And I stand by the statement I made: saving one child doesn’t make up for years of lies and killing. I think you, of all people, can understand that.”
“I do”, Tony replied with a sigh. “I do. But I also believe it is a first step to redemption. I’m still paying today for my past mistakes, even my liver is protesting. But every day, I get up with the intent to do something good, starting with taking care of my son. I don’t know if I’ll ever pay back my debt to all those lives I’ve taken, directly or not. I just have to keep on trying.”

There was a long moment of silence before Loki talked again:

“I cannot really believe this is what the All-Father tried to do. Taking me in wasn’t an act of faith into some possible redemption, it was a political move. If he came to care for me afterwards, I don’t know about that, but what I know is that it wasn’t part of his plan.”
“You know, my dad was a dick too”, Tony replied. “And there’s still a part of me that resents the standards he held me to. Or that he couldn’t stop talking about brave Captain America who died for us. But now I know he loved me.” He looked up at Loki, who for once seemed open and frail. “I don’t know your father, and some really aren’t worthy of being called that, but there’s one thing I’m sure of: Thor sees you as his brother and loves you as such. And I doubt the big oaf has even the slightest notion of the things you suffered of. Living in someone’s shadow is… crushing. It leaves you breathless and thinking you’re going to drown, but you don’t, and it just keeps on going.” He locked eyes with Loki, who seemed shaken. “You’re not the only one who grew up in the shadows, but destroying planets isn’t the way to go at it.”
“What did you do? To get out of the shadow?”
“I found Peter and made him my focus. And then, I actually met Captain America, and I learned to know Steve. Not as the man my father saw, but as my friend. I reclaimed what was mine.”

Loki seemed stricken by the thought, and his gaze dropped to his hands – pale and perfect, almost perfectly Asgardian. I reclaim what is mine, his lips formed the words, and he let his hands fall. There was a shift of magic that Tony couldn’t perceive, and suddenly his soft, sugary and citrusy Omega scent disappeared. Completely. It wasn’t like when Tony took of the Patch he so rarely used these days – he was really close to developing an allergy, which wasn’t good news – no, because one scent didn’t get replaced by another. It simply ceased to be.

“So, you are not an Omega”, Tony said, as it was the only thing that came to his tired mind.
“I am not”, Loki replied, and slowly his face broke into a smile. “I have never really been one, but Asgardians are either Alpha or Omega. It would seem Jotuns are neither.” He shrugged. “Being a shape-shifter is something I have that neither Asgardians nor Jotuns have. It is mine, has always been, and will always be.” He pushed away from the worktop. “You should try to get some sleep.”
“What about you?” Tony couldn’t stop himself from asking, even though he already agreed with Loki – he needed to try again.

Loki turned his back to him and started to walk away, before he sent him a smirk over his shoulders.

“I think I’m going to wake Clint and get a passively-angry fuck out of that”, he replied, and immediately walked through the door after sending tendrils of magic to the opening pad.
“I didn’t want to know that”, Tony groaned, dragging his hands over his face.

He took a few minutes to gather his thoughts, knowing he’d need to think about this conversation when he was in possession of more of his capacities, before he exited the lab. Bruce was nowhere to be seen, so he had probably gone back to bed, but Steve was in the kitchen. With Thor.

Steve was sucking-face with Thor in the middle of the kitchen, sitting on the counter-top with his legs wrapped around the god’s waist, and Tony groaned loudly.

“Please not in the kitchen”, he said, startling them out of it so much Steve scrambled down and almost knocked Thor aside. “We really must do something for privacy”, he added, screwing his eyes shut.

Steve had turned an endearing shade of red, but Thor didn’t seem abashed in the slightest – no, he went as far as to wink at Steve who made the most embarrassing sound Tony had ever heard.

“Sorry”, Steve said sheepishly when he passed by him.

Thor had already gone back from where he’d come, leaving them alone.

“I know you’ve got the hots for Thor, but if you both could please not do anything where the kids could find you, I’d love that.”
“I don’t-” Steve started, and Tony stared back at him. “Alright, I do have the hots for him.” His eyes widened comically. “The kids! I hadn’t thought about that!”
“Well, obviously”, Tony snorted. “I know it’s complicated, but…”
“No, you’re right” Steve said, shaking his head. “This is going a bit fast, we just got… caught up in the moment.”
“Steve, you do whatever you want, just not where I or the kids can see you. I already know way too much of your sexual life than I’m comfortable with.”

This time, it was Steve who snorted.

“You love hearing about my sexual life”, he said, “admit it already.”
“It’s much kinkier than I’d thought, and I revel in the fact that my dear old father hadn’t a clue about that.”
“Or… you’re simply a voyeur.”
“We already talked about that”, Tony grumbled, “I’m not.”

Steve chuckled, patting his shoulder.

“I know, but your reaction is always so priceless. Now, did you want something from the kitchen?”
“No, I was just checking if Bruce was still there”, Tony replied, shaking his head. “I was going back to bed to try and get some sleep.”
“I’ll join you in a moment”, Steve nodded.

And he was true to his word – Tony had barely settled into their bed after checking in on Peter and Jamie when he felt the mattress dip as Steve came in. Comforted by his warm presence, Tony closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

“What about that?” Steve asked as he picked yet another shirt.
“Steve, we talked about this”, Tony sighed. “Flashy purple is just not your colour. This is hideous, and we’re no longer in the seventies.”
“But-”
“Let me pick your outfit.”
“Last time you did, you gave me skinny jeans. I couldn’t feel my junk anymore afterwards. So no, you’re not picking anything.”
“You are not putting bell-bottoms!” Tony cried out, jumping from the bed where he’d been sitting.
“It’s comfortable”, Steve protested, holding the jeans close to his chest.
“You are a fashion disaster, you know that?” Tony replied, trying to take the jeans from him. “Here, look-” he added, scrambling for other clothes when he saw Steve wouldn’t relent. “Those trousers, this t-shirt and a suit jacket! Thor will love it!”
“…You planned this, didn’t you?” Steve said, picking up the t-shirt and observing it.
“To be fair, it was Peter’s idea”, Tony replied. “Now, get ready.”

Steve was smiling a bit goofily when he stepped out of the bathroom, clad in black jeans, a garishly red shirt that claimed “I AM THOR!” and the suit jacket to top it off.

“There, casual chic”, Tony said once he’d made sure everything was where it was supposed to be. “Enjoy your date.”
“I will”, Steve promised.

Thor was waiting for him in the lobby, his long hair tied in a ponytail, sporting the tightest, whitest jeans Steve had ever seen along with a t-shirt that read “I am from otter space”, and a plain black shirt with rolled up sleeves. Steve couldn’t stop himself from chuckling, which brought a smile to Thor’s lips. He was also holding an umbrella, which Steve knew was actually Mjolnir under a disguising spell of Loki.

“Let us go”, Thor said, offering his hand.
“I’m driving”, Steve countered, grabbing the keys left on the counter for them before he took his hand. “Not that you aren’t capable of driving, but you don’t have a license.”
“Fair point. Also, I don’t know how to drive.”

A few minutes later, Steve was pulling the 1945 Cadillac Convertible from the parking, Thor sitting close – closer than he would have been able to in a more recent car – with his arm on the backrest, against Steve’s shoulders. The radio blasted some pop-song that had been on repeat for the past few weeks – some pop-song they both knew the lyrics by heart now, though it wasn’t on purpose, and they shared a look as Steve started to sing in tune. Your stare was holding, Ripped jeans, skin was showin' Hot night, wind was blowin', Where you think you're going baby?

Thor’s laughter boomed out in response, but he started to sing too. Hey, I just met you and this is crazy But here's my number, so call me maybe. The song lasted long enough to leave them breathless with laughter by the time Steve pulled into the parking. They had a reservation – to the name of “Potts”, since they were trying for anonymity. It had turned out that, when they dressed as civilians, no one glanced at them twice, something they all took advantage of. The restaurant wasn’t high-end, but it was still nice enough for first date. Chic, but not formal. Thor was a true gentleman, though, pulling out Steve’s chair so he might sit before he settled down himself.

“I feel like we’ve done things a bit backward”, Steve said after a moment with a laugh. “I mean, I already know all about your horrible habits of dropping on people when you sleep or pushing them out of bed…”
“And I know exactly how you look like when you just got out of bed, tousled hair and all”, Thor countered. “I know how you fight”, he added, fingers brushing gently over his hardened knuckles. “And how you react when Jamie is threatened.”
“I saw you play with him the other day”, Steve said softly. “He likes you.”
“I’ve always loved children”, Thor confessed, “but I didn’t get to play with them much back in Asgard… I was too focused on fighting and being what I thought was a warrior worthy of the Valhalla.”
“Did your definition change? Of what makes one worthy of the Valhalla?”
“Yes”, Thor replied. “I learnt to respect peace, and how fragile it is to maintain it, when I first came to Earth.” He paused. “It was a hard lesson. ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’”
“That’s the engraving’s meaning? I thought it was just decorative.”
“Oh no”, Thor shook his head, “it is a reminder of what I lost once because of my arrogance. I was… foolish, hard-headed and always ready to fight. I know better now, but there’s always room to improve.”
“It’s not always the easiest path, to be… to be a good man”, Steve replied. “But it’s a promise I made long ago, and one I intend to keep.”
“And so far, you’ve been successful”, Thor said with a charming smile. “You’re a good parent. Seeing you with Jamie reminded me of my mother… She too is fierce and loving, though she’d never pass us a mistake.”
“I’m sure your mother can only be an exceptional woman, to have a son like you.”
“Flattery will get you anywhere.”
“I know”, Steve replied with a smirk as he took a sip from his glass.

The amount of food they consumed was enough to scare the staff of the restaurant, who quickly recognized them. More than the food, their conversation was great and varied – from training tips, to offers to spar once the Tower would be habitable again, and Steve’s offer to ride his bike on their next date, because there would be a next date, that much was obvious. It was dark and quite late when they finally exited, Steve leaning into Thor’s shoulder as he laughed at the awful joke he’d just made. They climbed back into the car, which roared to life once more, and were on their way home – though they weren’t too hasty about that and decidedly set out for a longer route. They were on a pretty much desert part of the road when Thor leaned aside and pecked Steve’s cheek. Steve grinned and turned his head, meeting him for a real kiss this time, which they’d both longed for. The car swerved to the left and Steve righted it just in time with a laugh, pulling away from Thor.

“That was needlessly dangerous”, he said as he turned off the road and into the sand, parking the car in the middle of nowhere. “Kiss me?”
“With greatest pleasure”, Thor replied, pulling him into another kiss, deeper and gently prodding, figuring out what he liked – having his lower lip gently bitten and slightly pulled apparently, because Steve growled, shivering, and almost turned feral as he slipped from his seat into Thor’s lap.

The god let out a gasp when he felt Steve settle above him, spine bent to avoid hitting the roof of the convertible, but didn’t have much time to reflect about that as Steve dove down once more for a hungry kiss. Thor smirked against his lips, hands trailing from his knees to the top of his thighs and tugging there briefly so Steve would sit down in his lap. Steve broke away from the kiss, taking in sharp breaths that were very telling of his arousal – in his defence, Thor’s smell was particularly heady in the confines of the car, and he was nothing like Eddie. It’d been a while since he’d found himself with an Alpha who could all too easily overpower him, and he relished in the sensation.

Thor took this opportunity to trail kisses up his jaw, and then down his neck, nuzzling there and taking in Steve’s unique smell – like chilli pepper flavoured cotton candy. It shouldn’t have been enticing, strange as it was, but it was, and Thor wasn’t sure he could keep his mind sane. Even more so when arousal made the scent stronger, overpowering everything in the vicinity. There was just Steve, taking over his senses. Taking in one last whiff, Thor growled low and pulled away.

“I hate to say this, but shouldn’t we take it a bit slower?” he asked, voice raspier than he’d thought it would be.
“Probably”, Steve replied, voice breathy, “but I want you.”

Having centuries of experience were an advantage: Thor could see that if they lost control now, Steve would probably regret it. And if there was one thing Thor didn’t want, it was Steve regretting their involvement – so, he was ready to give him the time and space he needed, even if it wasn’t the one he wanted. There was also his mother’s voice nagging at his mind, telling him that this wasn’t how one behaved with the Omega they courted.

“I want you too”, he admitted, taking Steve’s face between his palms, “but I don’t want us to be hasty. I want to court you properly.”

Steve rose an eyebrow, amused.

“‘Court’ me?”
“That is how we call the relationship of two prospective mates”, Thor replied, slightly confused. “I believed Midgardians used that term too?”
“Two centuries ago, maybe”, Steve chuckled, “you would have been my intended, but today we call it dating.”
“Dating, courting, it doesn’t matter: I want to get to know you and prove that I’m worthy of being called yours.”

That made Steve lean back, his eyes gleaming.

“That’s… very sweet of you, Thor. I’m honoured, really.”
“But?” said Thor, who could already read the word in his demeanour – not that Steve was very subtle about it.
“But your scent is driving me mad and I…” he gulped, his cheeks turning red, “well, to put it mildly, I’m bothered.”

Thor snorted – Steve was more than ‘bothered’ and it didn’t take a divine sense of smell to know it.

“You can say you’re horny, Steve”, he said, hands now settled on his hips. He paused. “I must confess I do not know Midgardians protocols when it comes to cour- to dating”, he corrected himself, “but in Asgard, we have this custom that courting Alphas should provide relief to their Omega, should they wish so.”
“Meaning?”
“I could blow you?” Thor suggested more crudely, staring back to him.

He missed nothing of the way Steve’s eyes and pupils widened to almost complete dark, occulting the blue ring of his irises, nor of the flaring of his nostrils, the clenching of his jaw and the shifting of his arms and thighs. He didn’t miss his tongue running over his lips either, and revelled in the open, confident body-language of his date. He had expected him to be more guarded, as parent Omegas often were, or widowers. Mainly, he’d expected him to behave like an Omega, forgetting he was so much more – but the way he rolled his shoulders as he thought over his words was so Alpha, it reminded him of what had attracted him in the first place. This duality of frail and strong.

“I’d like that”, he finally said slowly, “especially now that thinking about it, I have absolutely no condom here.”
“It would be a bit early in our relationship for spawns”, Thor agreed, “now, how about you lie down? I believe those seats are wide enough.”

They were – but barely, and Steve let out a breathless chuckle. It wasn’t the first time he got naughty in a car, far from it, but his sense of self-preservation also told him it wouldn’t do to be seen, unlikely as it was. Soon though, he forgot all about it, because Thor had somehow managed to fold his body down on to the floor of the car, his torso level with the seat as he fondled him. A noise that wasn’t exactly a keen, a not exactly a moan, echoed in the car, and Steve hastily slapped his hand over his mouth. This was oh so different from the burning desire of heats, and he had come close to forget what it really was like.

His jeans slid down his thighs to his knees without problem, though Thor did gasp as the scent of slick and arousal was even stronger now, and keeping his self-control asked for all his strength. Slowly, he slid a finger against the inner part of Steve’s thighs, where the skin was glistening with how wet he’d gotten in so little time.

“I think you have ruined your jeans”, he said slowly, eyeing the mess before looking back at Steve who was turning incredibly red. He was about to pull down his boxers when Steve caught his wrist in a bruising grip.
“W-Wait”, he stammered huskily.

Thor froze, taking in his dishevelled appearance and flushed face, the heat of his skin and his mouth-watering smell, along with the improbable amount of slick already on his skin.

“Steve?” he asked cautiously.
“I- I think I’m about to go into heat”, Steve said, fingers clenched tightly on the seat and on Thor’s wrist.
“I thought you weren’t scheduled for one before at least two weeks?” he asked, remembering his words after the battle.
“Yeah I thought so too”, Steve replied, taking in deep breaths, “it should have been in three weeks.” He paused. “I’m not fully into it yet, so if you stop touching me now and we go home, maybe it can be prevented.”
“Is that what you want?”
“Yes”, Steve replied with a gulp, staring back at him. “I’m sorry, Thor, but it is too early for you to share my heat.”
“Don’t be”, Thor shushed him, “it’s not your fault. I… I will pull away now, so you can get dressed again, and I will drive us home.”
“You said you don’t know how to drive”, Steve squawked as he grabbed his jeans and yanked them back on.
“It can’t be more complicated than horse-riding”, Thor replied confidently. “Maybe you should also call Tony to warn him?”

Steve was still taking deep breaths as he sat up and against the door on Thor’s opposite, but he nodded and grabbed his phone, thumbing in a quick message to his friend.

“Done”, he said. “Get settled, I’ll teach you.”

The ride back home was slow and bumpy, but when they pulled in the drive-way, Thor had mostly understood the crankshaft, pedals and steering wheel. Tony was already there, Bruce at his side. Without waiting, they pulled Steve out of the car and took him to the bedroom he shared with Tony. The kids had been settled in the living-room exceptionally, and Thor followed into the house once he was sure Steve was far away enough. This was not exactly how he had hoped the evening to go, but knowing his presence had almost triggered Steve’s heat was… encouraging. He was almost tempted to believe in fate. Taking a breath, he snatched his mind away from the image of Steve writhing in pleasure for him, and decided it was time to go on a run outside – and a long one.

“Take this”, Loki said, slipping him a device – he recognized a simple flip-phone. “In case we need to join you.” He looked up to him. “You know that if he goes into heat, Eddie won’t be able to come here quickly enough. As his intended, it’d be your responsibility to help him through it.”

Thor clenched his jaw, fingers closing around the phone. He knew Loki was right, of course, but that didn’t make it pleasant to hear. Steve wasn’t ready to share his heat with him, which was understandable. He would hate for their relationship to start off like this.

“I’ll watch over him for you”, Loki added, rolling his eyes, “now, go!”

And he did.

Chapter Text

Tony, holding a slumbering Jamie, watched as Steve’s Camaro pulled away, taking the two men on their date. He was worried, of course – Steve had only dated back in the 40s, and now he was gone with a god from a different culture, and though he had no reason to distrust Thor, he wasn’t exactly calm. The evening passed quietly, and he tucked the kids in bed, first Jamie and then Peter, before going down to his lab. Two days ago, he had wanted to go outside for a walk, but his Patch had itched almost as soon as he’d put it on, and he didn’t like his hypothesis to what it could possibly mean. With Dr Palmer’s help, he’d gone through a few tests of both himself and his Patch, and today he could finally get the results.

His heart sank as he reached the terrifying conclusion he’d hoped to avoid: he was now dreadfully allergic to his Patch, and could no longer wear it, not even five minutes. Slowly, he set the results down and stared up to the ceiling. Developing another Patch wouldn’t work, since he was allergic to the pheromones he used to mask his scent and create a new, Alpha one. He could either become a hermit – not likely – or out himself as an Omega. And he was nowhere near ready for that either. Maybe, as Steve had pointed out, there were or would be others like him. But the rumours, and people – journalists – sinking their teeth into his private life were making him bristle.

He felt like tearing his hair out, his head thumping down on his desk as he let out a groan of frustration. He would have to be outed, or out himself – there was no other way, now.

“Tony?” a voice he knew all too well asked, and fingers sank into his hair, gently petting him as they always did when he was distressed. “What happened?”

Without a word, without even looking up, he pushed the papers towards Pepper, who took them without pulling her hand away from his head, and read them silently. He heard her gasp softly when she realized what is was and what it meant, and she set them down before pulling him into a hug.

“I’m sorry, Tony”, she whispered. “I know how much this scares you.”
“I hate not having a choice”, he mumbled against her shoulders, his face mashed in there because he knew if he looked up he would probably cry – his nerves were that raw, and the not-sleeping thing really didn’t help.
“I know”, she hushed, holding him tighter. “But what you can do is choose how you will let people know. Do you want them to find out because of rumours and have them go wild?”
“What do you suggest?” he asked tiredly, really he didn’t want to deal with this but Pepper always had good advice, and he didn’t know where he would be without her.
“Give an exclusive interview to Eddie”, she said. “You will power-boost his carrier, be with someone you know and are comfortable with, who already knows you are an Omega, and you will have some amount of control on what you’ll be asked.”

This time, he looked up.

“Had you planned for this?”
“Yes”, she replied. “I talked with Steve about the problems you’ve been having with the Patch, we feared this might happen.” Gently, she stroked his cheek with her thumb. “You are not alone in this, Tony. You’ve got your whole family with you, and you know Steve would rather turn feral than let you suffer. You two share something we can hardly understand, and I’m glad you have him in your life.”

He let out a sigh, resting his head against her chest once more as she held him. After all these years, she was the constant he needed, and he felt comforted by the thought that even now, when she was seriously thinking about proposing to Jane, she was also there for him.

“You should try to sleep a bit”, she suggested, still petting his hair.
“Not before Steve is home”, he grumbled, and he could almost feel her smile.
“Alright”, she replied. “Then I’m getting Bruce and Loki down here so you can work together. I don’t want you alone in there one more night.”

She pulled away, letting him secure his files before she let Loki and Bruce know to come down to the lab. There was no significant breakthrough during the two hours they worked, but they forwarded their work nonetheless. A strange synergy had grown between the three of them, but it seemed to only exist there, in the lab – three remarkable minds set to the same task, and with different understandings of the phenomena they could observe. They were wary of the sceptre – or rather, of the glowing blue gem they had extracted, setting the staff aside to work on later – but the Tesseract was… radiating some sort of friendliness they weren’t exactly sure you could trust either.

Bruce was about to call it a night and go to bed when Tony got Steve’s message – am probably going into spontaneous heat, trying to stop it. Coming home – and let out a loud swearword that got him a wince from Bruce. Loki didn’t wait; he simply took Tony’s phone from his hand to read the message.

“Let’s get the kids in the living-room”, he said, “even if he doesn’t go into heat, he’ll need the space.”
“I’ll help you get him safely”, Bruce added with a nod.
“Thank you”, Tony replied as they exited the lab and went straight to his bedroom.

Gently, he picked Jamie up, leaving Peter to Loki – his boy was getting heavier as he grew older, and himself wasn’t getting any younger – as they made their way to the living-room and settled them there.

“I’ll talk to Clint”, Loki said, “Peter can sleep with us for a night or two.”
“We’ll take Jamie”, Jane added as she entered the living-room, having obviously listened in on the conversation. “I’m sure Pepper will not disagree.”
“Let Steve see him”, Tony warned as she was about to pick the boy up. “He’ll panic otherwise.”

They heard the car drive in at the same moment, and Tony immediately went to meet them, Bruce in tow. They got Steve out of the car and half-dragged, half-carried him to the house. It was lucky none of the other Alphas were around, because his smell was ten time stronger than usual and it was mind-boggling. Once he was in the bedroom, Bruce left to shower immediately before he dragged the scent anywhere else with him. Tony had helped Steve to the bed, where the man was sitting prostrate and trembling.

Tony hadn’t known much about spontaneous heats before they met, it had been one of those things almost exclusively specific to male Omegas – definitely rarer with the female ones, and so it was very rarely taught about. Steve had been scandalized to learn he knew next to nothing about them: that sometimes, Omegas went into heat outside of their schedule and it was always provoked by physical closeness with their ‘ideal’ Alpha. ‘Ideal’ meaning the one most likely to give strong offspring rapidly, which wasn’t really Tony’s definition or ‘ideal’ mate. This information was, at best, inexact and incomplete.

And so, Tony had learnt that spontaneous heats were a not-so-common phenomenon, but not exactly rare either. More often than not, it was indeed provoked by physical closeness with an ‘ideal’ Alpha, but it could also occur when mates were having a moment of emotional closeness. But sometimes, they were also triggered by an adrenaline backlash, which was an incredibly important information when you quite often put your life in danger. There had been stories of Omegas who, after experiencing a very traumatizing life-and-death occurrence, went into spontaneous heat as soon as they felt safe again. And just as important: these heats, if taken early enough with the appropriate support, could be stopped naturally.

Steve had taught everyone in their household, minus the kids, how to deal with those: stop all physical contact with an Alpha and, as soon as possible, remove oneself from their presence. Get in a secluded and secure area, should the heat kick in anyway, with one or two trusted Omega pack-members. Cuddle with them and do your best to calm down. If, after fifteen minutes of calm, it hadn’t passed, then it was a sign it wouldn’t be stopped. The heat would fully kick in, and an Alpha – or, in the 40s, a heat suppressant – would be required.

So, Tony lost no time: taking off his shoes, he draped himself over Steve’s back, holding him close – and admittedly, leeching off his warmth. He hadn’t realized his lab was so cold: Loki was a Frost Giant and wouldn’t be the one to complain, and the Hulk made Bruce run on a high temperature most of the time. Himself was just very inattentive when engrossed in a project, but his hands were freezing, and Steve shuddered when they pressed against his sides.

“Why the hell are you so cold?” he complained, pulling away so he could lay on the bed and bringing Tony against him, trapping his cold hands between them to warm them up.
“To make idiots speak”, Tony replied with a sigh, burying his just as cold nose into his shoulder – to warm himself up, but also to provide a distraction to Steve.
“You realize you’re not actually made of metal, right?” Steve huffed, taking slow breaths that carried Tony’s sweet Omega scent to him, providing comfort and a sense of belonging, of home he could find nowhere else.

“I won’t listen to a word from a man who wears spandex and bell-bottoms”, Tony retorted, and Steve chuckled.
“You really won’t let me live this down, will you?”
“Never”, he promised with a smirk.

Slowly, Steve’s temperature went down and the strength of his scent receded, his beating heart calming back down to a normal level. Before long, both men were sleeping deeply – one exhausted from nights of insomnias, the other from a narrowly-avoided heat. They were, however, some of the rare who got to sleep so well and so early.

Jane had taken Jamie to the bedroom she shared with Pepper and they’d settled the sleeping boy between them, his fluffy red hair spread on the pillow and honeyed, milky scent making them both drowsy. But Jamie didn’t always sleep peacefully, and they found out the hard way he had one hell of a punch for a toddler – and an impressive propensity to star-fish, no matter where he slept.

Clint’s expression when Loki had explained the situation to the archer, who had been sitting in bed with only his boxers on and a handful of arrows in his lap, was priceless. He agreed though, but it was easy to tell he was reluctant. Loki rolled his eyes and kneeled over him, staring back to him as he promised an array of realized fantasies if he was patient. That was enough to persuade him, apparently, because Clint put his arrows back where they belonged and went to put on some pyjamas – something Loki quickly imitated before he went to get Peter. The boy woke up briefly when he picked him up, but he went back to sleep as soon as he recognized him and didn’t protest when the god settled him in their bed, protectively bracketing him.

Natasha and Bruce had, unsurprisingly, easily fallen asleep without Thor snoring like a locomotive above them. The god of thunder was still out and about, running with the hope it might tire him enough to let him sleep – even when he knew Steve was on the verge of going into heat because of him. There was also the problem of Loki – he had to go back and settle things in Asgard on his behalf, and probably bring the Tesseract along as it turned out to be one of the lost pieces of Odin’s treasure. Maybe the sceptre, too, though he wasn’t sure about that one. It was the early hours of the morning when he came back, drenched in sweat and dragging his feet – when no one had called and he’d concluded Steve had managed to keep his heat at bay.

Chapter Text

It was two days later that they discovered the Mind Stone.

Steve had recovered quickly from his heat-scare, and spent time with Thor, learning to know him, while also keeping his distances so as not to trigger another scare. Natasha and Clint were back to training, working and taking care of the kids, while Loki, Bruce and Tony worked in the lab. Peter missed his friends from New York, which wasn’t that surprising, and would come down to the lab too, where he worked on his own little project under Tony’s watchful eye. Jamie, too fast, too strong and too reckless, wasn’t allowed there, but he threw tantrum after tantrum every single time Peter disappeared behind the glass wall. It didn’t help either that he was reaching the terrible twos: he’d learnt a few words so far, including “Peetah”, “Mama” and “Tony”, but his favourite one was “no”. Do you want to eat? No. Shall we take a bath? No. No, no, no, no, Steve was going spare with it, and Tony winced sympathetically every time. Peter had been just as stubborn – okay, maybe not so stubborn – but at least he couldn’t crush the metallic bars of his bed, or send plates flying like frisbees with so much force they were embedded in the walls, almost decapitating Bruce once.

And so, Jamie had made his desire to come down to the lab very clear, but Tony really hadn’t expected the toddler to escape the surveillance of his guardians, wobble downstairs and run headfirst into bullet-proof glass walls, shattering it instantly. The sound was enough to put them all on alert, until Jarvis announced there had been an intrusion into the lab. Peter immediately took cover under a worktop, like Natasha had instructed him to, and the three men looked around, searching for the intruder. But Jamie was, alas, too small to be seen. And as they all looked around for an intruder, they didn’t notice the small hand grabbing the shining blue stone that had been part of Loki’s sceptre until it was too late.

It was Loki who noticed him first, and lunged at him to retrieve the dangerous item before anything could happen, but even a god wasn’t swift enough. Jamie closed both his hands over the stone, shattering it without a moments’ glance, giggling as he revealed a yellow gem he held in his open palms with childish fascination.

“Pretty!” he said, smiling and showing off his treasure.

Tony immediately went to take the stone, as he knew Loki couldn’t do it and he wouldn’t let the child close to something that controlled minds. However, Loki promptly stopped him from getting any closer.

“Don’t”, he said in a hushed voice. “Touch that thing and you die.”

The commotion had brought everyone else down, safe from Jane, Pepper, Clint and Natasha, who were all working out of the house. The look on distress Steve had was enough to make Thor react. He walked over to the boy and knelt by him. Loki nodded when his brother looked up to him, and Thor looked back at Jamie who was happily admiring his treasure.

“Jamie”, he said, “can you give me the stone?”
“Pretty!” Jamie said once more. “Mama”, he added joyfully, waving the stone around, “mama, pretty!”
“Yes darling”, Steve replied, his hands trembling as he chocked back on frightened tears, “this is very pretty. Can you give it to Thor?”

Jamie looked back at Thor, then shook his head.

No. Mama.”

He took a first step towards Steve, but Thor grabbed him, easily overpowering the child, however strong he may be for a Midgardian. Jamie’s angry and anguished cries were enough to make Steve see red, reacting instinctively at the thought that someone was hurting his child. Baring his teeth, he let out a menacing growl and prepared to jump at the offender. Thor quickly plucked the stone from Jamie’s hand, clenching his teeth at its burning, and set it down in the open container they had for the blue stone it had been. He wasn’t quick enough to escape Steve.

The resulting scuffle would have been hilarious if Steve hadn’t seemed so angry: Thor instinctively threw Jamie to Loki’s open arms, discharging himself from his wiggling weight, to tackle Steve more effectively. They hadn’t had a chance to spar yet, as Steve feared it might be too intimate, but he could already tell the Omega was a force to be reckoned with. The lab wasn’t ideal for a fight, and even dangerous: grabbing Steve’s unprotected throat, Thor bodily slammed him to the ground, slightly choking him when Steve didn’t relent, but instead snapped his teeth at him threateningly.

Everyone had stepped back, but Peter had crawled out of his hiding place, his eyes wide as his Uncle Steeb wrestled the god of thunder – and lost spectacularly. Without weapons and on uneven footing, his mind dulled by the protective instincts Thor had unwillingly triggered, Steve didn’t stand a chance. It was even worse now that Jamie’s cries of anger had subsided for cries of fear as he called his mama with all his might. Peter made it to Tony’s side, holding onto his legs for dear life, and Tony crouched to heave him up, whispering into his ear that it was alright, Steeb would be fine, and there was no need to be scared.

“WILL YOU STOP, STEVEN ROGERS”, the god finally roared, and that made Steve snap out of his rage.

His eyes widened as he realized what had happened, his body going limp under Thor’s, and Thor huffed, finally letting go of his neck. The skin was red there, and the little scent gland, where his finger had unwittingly rubbed, was swollen and raw.

“I’m sorry, Thor”, Steve whispered. “I lost control.”
“I know, Steve”, Thor replied with a smile. “Don’t you worry about it.”
“Oh, my baby”, Steve cooed as he took Jamie from Loki’s arms, the child crying soundlessly now, fat tears rolling down his plump cheeks. “It’s alright, baby, mama’s there, mama’s there.”
“What is this?” Thor asked, pointing to the yellow stone that still seemed to glow maliciously.
“And Infinity Stone”, Loki replied, and all eyes went to him. With a sigh, he cast an illusion: “There are six Infinity Stones, each of unmatchable power. Only people with remarkable power can wield one without turning to ashes”, he explained. “I suspected the Tesseract might be one, since Thanos wanted it. I didn’t know this was another.” He looked at them: “Thor is powerful enough to briefly wield one, and I may be able to do just as much, but it would be foolish of mortals to try.”
“But… Jamie”, Steve stuttered, holding his child even tighter.
“I have no idea how he managed to wield it”, Loki admit it, “but we must assume he has power beyond what we thought, and if that is the case, maybe we should consider… it might be best if it was bound until he is old enough to understand it.”
“How would we even do that?” Steve whispered once more, obviously scared at the perspective.
“Magic”, Loki replied. “I should be able to seal his capacities for a few years at least, if you would allow me to do so.” He paused. “Other than me, I believe the All-Father would be able to do it… able, but I doubt he’d be willing. Mother may agree, however”, he added, looking at Thor.
“Would it hurt him?” Steve asked, still deeply troubled.
“No”, Loki reassured him, “it wouldn’t. He would just find himself unable to tap into whatever superhuman forces he has, so he’ll probably be frustrated and angry at first, but he is small enough that he would forget quickly.”
“Alright then”, Steve said. “How soon can you do it?”
“Give me three days”, Loki replied, “just to be sure.” His eyes fell on Thor. “Brother, we must talk.”
“I figured as much”, Thor replied sombrely.

He followed Loki out of the lab, where everyone else was still frozen in shock. Finally, Tony snapped out of it.

“Alright, everyone out while the robots clean up”, he said, shooing Bruce, Peter and Steve out. Swiftly, he closed the box over the Infinity Stone and put it back into the safe with the Tesseract.

Chapter Text

He found Steve on the couch, huddled with Jamie and Peter, looking both scared and pensive. Swiftly, he pulled Steve’s feet up to sit down next to him, putting them back in his lap before he dug his thumb into the sole of his right foot, dragging it up and down. Steve slowly let go of some of his tension, sighing heavily. Jamie had fallen asleep on his chest, and Steve smiled at Tony.

“You know, it reminds me of when I was pregnant.”
“Me too”, Tony chuckled, because what else could he do? “I’ve spent hours just giving you foot-rubs.”
“In my defence, my feet were all swollen and sore”, Steve replied. “God, it was a nightmare.”

Not long after that, Thor and Loki reappeared. The Trickster made a sign and Peter grinned, jumping down the couch to run up to him and grab his extended hand. Tony looked at Loki, one eyebrow going up, and Loki simply said “we’re going to McDonalds”.

“And how?”
“Well, unlike my brother, I’ve got illusions on my side, and I know how to drive”, Loki replied, instantly changing his obviously Asgardian clothes to smart Midgardian ones, along with Peter’s, who seemed delighted to be wearing a black tux mirroring Loki’s.

Tony nodded. Loki wasn’t wrong: Peter needed to get out of the house after the events of the afternoon, and he trusted Loki. That was still a big mystery to him, but the two were growing incredibly close. Swiftly, the two left the building, and Tony brought his attention back to Steve. Jamie had fallen asleep in his arms, and Steve was carding his fingers through the auburn locks that were, strangely enough, not as straight as his or Bucky’s were. Part of him knew he should probably cut them, as they were getting long now, but another couldn’t get to do it. The baby soft hair slid between his fingers, and he wondered how so much time had already passed.

“Tony”, he finally said after a long moment of silence, “when was the last time you went out of the house?”
“Just this morning”, Tony replied.
“I meant out as in, out of the garden, to the big wide world?”

Tony didn’t answer, and Steve sighed.

“It’s your Patch, isn’t it? It doesn’t work anymore.”
“I’m allergic”, Tony admitted. “My body has come to saturation.”
“And when were you planning to tell me?”
“I was!” Tony retorted, holding his hands up. “I got the results two days ago, I just-” He let out a sigh and rubbed his hands over his face. “I’m tired, I’m stressed and I feel like I’m going spare and only keeping it together because I’ve got no other choice. Its been years since I last felt the need for a drink, and my fingers have been itching for one for days.”
“Oh, Tony”, he whispered, rising slowly to pull him down against him, “why didn’t you tell me?”
“You’ve been so happy since Thor”, Tony replied, reclining against his torso with his head on his chest. “I want you to have that, Steeb.”
“I handle things with Thor”, Steve said, “don’t worry about that. I want you to tell me when you’re not feeling well, Tony. I want to help you.”
“Do they ever stop?” Tony whispered frightfully, his fingers gripping Steve’s t-shirt tightly. “The nightmares.”

Under him, Steve stilled.

“I don’t know”, he replied after a moment. “I was doing better before… before New York”, he said, gulping. “Only had them once in a while.” He paused. “It’s been a shitshow since then.”
“Don’t I know it”, Tony sighed. “I wish I could just close my eyes and… rest”, he said, “but they just keep on coming and I can’t… I can’t handle it.”
“How about taking a nap now? I’m not going anywhere, promise.”

Tony smiled gratefully, seriously doubting he could sleep, but he would try anyway. In a matter of seconds, Steve heard his breath getting slower and steadier, as well as his heartbeat. He had fallen asleep in record time, and it just spoke of how exhausted he was. He slept deeply for an hour, and Steve was dozing off himself, though not actually sleeping, when he felt him tense. In a matter of seconds, he went from relaxed to incredibly tensed and started to move hieratically, his lips moving to form words that never became sounds, his brow furrowed first in worry, then in anger, and finally in distress. Steve was wondering whether to wake him up or not when he sat up suddenly with a startled gasp, his eyes wide and filled with unspoken horrors.

Steve put Jamie on his side, hoping the child would keep on sleeping blissfully, and pulled Tony into a hug. It took several minutes before he started to really relax, and Steve held him through them without a word. Thor wandered in just about that time, holding a steaming mug. He stopped when he spotted them, though, and silently pointed a thumb back to where he’d come from. Steve hesitated and Tony looked up.

“I think Point Break has something to tell you”, he said, getting out of Steve’s embrace and picking up Jamie at the same time. “I’ll change this one to his pyjamas and get both of us to sleep.” He whispered something into Steve’s ear, something Thor couldn’t hear but that turned the soldier a bright red.

A moment after, he was gone and Thor sat down next to Steve, putting his mug down.

“Am I wrong in assuming that you need to go back to Asgard?” Steve asked.
“You are not”, Thor replied darkly. “The Infinity Stones are too dangerous to be kept on Midgard, and even more, so close to Jamie, Peter and you. I do not doubt that Heimdall told the All-Father everything there was to know about my brother’s predicament, but… it is still something that needs to be settled.”
“So I guess… we’re not dating anymore, right? I mean, traveling back from Asgard to here will be complicated, and my heat is due in merely a few weeks…”
“Is that what you want?” Thor asked seriously turning to stare back into his eyes. “To end our courtship now?”
“Of course not”, Steve replied with more bite than he meant to, “but it’s the sensible thing to do!” Slowly, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sorry, there’s a lot on my mind.”
“It’s alright”, Thor soothed, hesitating to touch him. “You were worried about Jamie earlier, and new relationships are always a factor of stress. I just… Steve, you are taking the decision to end our courtship like that, without even asking if what you think is true.”

Steve glared at him, but he seemed a bit rattled by the insinuation.

“Thor, you know I’m not ready to share my heat with you yet, and if you’re not here, it’ll be a lot of a hell harder to get to know you enough. I don’t see any way out of this that wouldn’t make things incredibly complicated. Even if I were ready, there’s no guaranty you could make it back for each of my heats. I’m not a cheater, but there are no suppressants that work on me, so I need someone on my heats.”
“I know that already, Steve”, Thor replied, and Steve wondered how the hell he could be so calm and patient. He felt angry most of the time – at everything. He handled it better now that his body actually cooperated with his wishes, but it wasn’t enough. Not for him.
“Then what do you suggest?”
“Hear me out”, Thor asked, almost begging. “Asgardians are different from mortals”, he started, and Steve couldn’t help his snort – thank you, Captain Obvious. “Given our long life-span, and the distances between the worlds, we have a way of ensuring mates are able to remain faithful without taking whatever it is you’re calling a suppressant.” He paused, gauging Steve’s reaction. “It is mostly used when warriors are sent to the front and can’t come back home for their lovers.”
“Alright”, Steve replied carefully. “So how does it work, what does it do? Is it permanent?”
“It isn’t permanent, no”, Thor replied, shaking his head. “We call it a bond. It allows mate to share strong feelings to know if one of them is in distress, but mostly it stops Omega heats from happening until… well, either until the Alpha returns, or until he dies.”
“Charming.”
“It disappears as soon as the mates are reunited”, Thor added helpfully. “The barest contact of skin-to-skin is enough to remove it.” His face fell slightly into a frown. “Making the bond, however, is more…”
“Complicated?” Steve provided, seriously considering the option.

He had a huge crush on Thor, and so far the god had been nothing but perfect to him. He held no illusion: no one was perfect, but it was a very good start.

“Oh no”, Thor shook his head, “the process itself is very simple. However, it requires sex as a bonding act.”
“It could startle a new heat out of me”, Steve whispered thoughtfully. “But given that I have attacked you earlier and haven’t gone into one, it is unlikely, isn’t it?”

He wasn’t expecting an answer, and Thor didn’t give him one. Instead, he replied:

“I seems unlikely, but I would not push you to such a decision when there is a risk.”

Bruce chose this moment to walk into the room, looking like he had tried to sleep and hadn’t been able to.

“Sorry”, he said, backtracking when he saw them, “I didn’t mean to interrupt-”
“Wait!” Steve called. “Bruce, I believe Natasha isn’t coming home tonight, is she?”
“She sent a message this afternoon, she won’t be back before tomorrow evening”, Bruce replied, curious. “Why?”
“I need to check with Tony but… would you mind rooming with him, just for tonight?”
“No”, Bruce replied, more and more perplex. “Do you need the room? ‘Cause I can just stay here, you know.”
“Wait a second”, Steve said, scrambling to his feet and running to the bedroom he shared with Tony, Jamie and Peter. The latter still wasn’t back, but Tony wasn’t sleeping yet and he readily agreed to share with Bruce. In himself, the man was completely harmless, and without a dropping Thor, it was unlikely the Other would stir. A moment later, the scientist was there, holding his pillow and looking a bit frazzled. Tony grinned.
“It looks like we’re having a sleepover”, he declared.
“Are we twelve years old?” Bruce retorted, arching an inquisitive eyebrow.
“Why, you want to put on nail polish?”
“You have nail polish?” Bruce asked, teasing as he put his pillow down.

Tony’s lamp, on the nightstand, provided enough light to read without waking up Jamie. Tony held up a finger, got up, dug around a drawer and came back with a small set of brightly-coloured nail polish. Bruce couldn’t stop himself from chuckling.

“What the hell is that?”
“Nail polish”, Tony deadpanned.
“I can see that, why do you have nail polish? You’re a mechanic, not the type to wear that.”
“I’ll have you know that nail polish is a damn fine way to spend some time with a pregnant super-soldier without having him whine he can’t move”, Tony replied. “Also, this one glows in the dark and Peter loves it.” He picked a bottle and held it up. “So, you want some nail polish?”
“You know what? Yes.”

 

In the living-room, Steve had taken to ask more precisions about the bonding ritual before he actually agreed to it – and Thor was nothing if not helpful and patient. The thought that they didn’t have to break up, that he could allow himself to fall for Thor, was making him giddy. And he couldn’t lie to himself: in retrospective, the sheer skill and strength Thor had deployed to pin him to the ground were… arousing. It had been a long time since anyone was a real challenge for him, and the perspective made him even more restless.

“Take me”, he breathed after a long moment of silence, during which he’d lost himself into Thor’s eyes.

There was a sharp intake of air from the god and suddenly, Steve found himself picked up and carried away. Chuckling, he wrapped his arms around Thor, carefully taking in his scent. Sure, it still had its effect on him, but he didn’t feel like he did on their first date. He felt more in control, and the warmth on his body was different – not something he could put words on, but he knew a sudden heat was unlikely.

“Wait a sec” he said, putting his hand on his chest, and Thor stopped altogether. “Do you have any condoms?”

From the shadows that fell on his face, Thor didn’t, in fact, have condoms. Steve shook his head with a smile and wiggled.

“Let me down, I’ll go get some.”
“I can fetch them”, Thor protested.
“There are more chances you’ll make a mess of the bathroom”, Steve retorted, “the stash is not exactly easy to find, when you don’t know where to search.”
“Why would you hide them?”
“Not me, Tony”, he replied with a sigh. “Do you really want to discuss that?”
“Not right now”, Thor admitted, dropping a kiss on his jaw. “Alright, go on, I’ll be waiting for you. Impatiently.
“Don’t you dare start without me”, Steve warned jokingly, and really, would he manage to go to the bathroom before they died of old age?

Thor let him down and he half-jogged to the bathroom, almost crashing into the door in his hurry. Necessities were stored in a ‘hidden’ cupboard, and he snatched a box of condoms before hurrying back to Thor. Thor, who was waiting for him, and willing to provide a solution instead of just breaking up – Thor who, it seemed, had fallen in love at first sight, and was just falling deeper and deeper as time passed by.

“Found ‘em”, he said as he closed the door behind him without looking into the room.
“Good”, Thor growled low into his ear, arms wrapping around him, and – was that flesh? Oh god, Thor was shirtless already – “I was starting to wonder if I shouldn’t just join you there.”
“Impatient, much?” Steve tried to joke, but his voice was a bit choked from the sudden feel of Thor’s warmth against him, wrapping around him, really.
“For you? Starved.”

He would have rolled his eyes if Thor hadn’t seized that opportunity to catch his lips into a bruising kiss, fingernails scraping gently against his scalp just the way he liked and discussing it before had been a damn good idea. He gasped when Thor pulled away, only to let out a moan when his teeth grazed the shell of his ear, pulling the lobe between his lips.

“Tell me, Captain, what should I do to you?”

Steve shivered, flushing red and wondering how Thor managed to sound so filthy calling his title, but he wasn’t about to complain.

“You could make those hands of yours useful, for a start”, he replied with more confidence than he really felt, and he felt Thor smirk against the soft skin of his cheek just before his oh so warm hands slid under his t-shirt, mapping out his torso as if they’d never been there.
“You smell so good”, the god groaned against his neck, his face tucked there and taking in his scent, “do you have any idea what you do to me?”

His “no” came out as a squeak when Thor splayed his hand over his heart, pulling him close to press their bodies together and oh –

“Now I do”, he replied in a hushed voice, desire pooling low in his body when he felt Thor’s length, already hard through his jeans, against his ass.

Thor started to pull off his shirt, grunting when it caught on his shoulders from how tight it was, and Steve flailed around, almost losing his balance – no, definitely losing it, he realised when his knees hit the bed. He sprawled there face first and burst out laughing.

“That was definitely not graceful”, he said once he’d pulled his head up from the mattress.

He could hear Thor laughing as well, and felt the bed dip when he climbed above him.

“Here, let me”, he said, pushing a hand between his shoulderblades while the other finally pulled off the offending top. “You’ve made enough of a mess of yourself.”
“Hey!” Steve protested, bucking lightly and giving him a kick, or at least, trying.

Thor would not budge, it seemed, his knees encasing his waist and his weight pinning him down, and suddenly the mood shifted back from silly to hot when he felt his hard-on against his back.

“Were you saying something?” the god asked, slightly rolling his hips into him, and Steve’s breath caught.
“Yeah”, he managed to get out, “weren’t you taking off my clothes?”

Thor chuckled, finally letting up to let him roll on his back, flushed and perfect, his eyes gleaming mischievously. Slowly, biting his lips, Steve flicked off the button above his flies, and Thor let out a growl. Grabbing his ankles, he pulled him to him until his knees dug into his ass, bending forward to nip at the taught skin of his stomach. His thumbs brushed reverently over the few stretch marks left by the pregnancy – there weren’t many, but Steve had been surprised to keep them at all. He gazed up and met Steve’s eyes, now quite bashful even though he had no reason to be. Smirking, he hooked his fingers under the waist-band of his jeans and pulled them off in one motion, dropping them to the ground.

“Tell me this is not what I’m thinking it is”, Thor deadpanned, obviously holding in his laughter.
“Oh it very much is”, Steve replied breezily, looking down at himself. “What, don’t like ‘em?”
“You wear Captain America underwear.”
“In case you missed the news, I am Captain America.”
“You are committed to your uniform, I see.”
“I was sick of plain boxers”, Steve admitted, “what’s the fun in that?”

Thor snorted at how ridiculous his lover was – not that he didn’t know it, and he found it incredibly endearing. Still, he wasn’t sure Steve would be so relaxed if his best friend hadn’t happened to be a happy-go-lucky billionaire.

“Do you think your government would arrest me for defiling government property?” he asked as he slid a hand up Steve’s thigh to fondle him through his boxers.

Steve’s breath hitched.

“I don’t know”, he replied, “but I always had a thing for bad boys.”
“There’s a lie if I know one”, Thor smirked, not waiting any more to pull off the bright blue boxers emblazoned with the famous shield.

He would have kept on talking if his brain hadn’t abruptly slowed from all his blood going south once he took in Steve’s appearance, flushed and naked, golden blond hair trailing from his navel to his crotch, laying confident and open beneath him. There was also the incredible scent that kept on growing stronger, and the tip of his cock already glistening. Slowly, he trailed his fingers on the inside of his thighs, pulling them back covered in slick.

“Thor”, Steve called, and there was something in his voice that didn’t belong there, immediately catching his attention. “Your nose. You’re bleeding.”
“Crap”, he replied, pinching his nose and looking around for some tissues that he found easily. “Don’t worry”, he said once he’d got them, “it’s nothing.”
“You are a god. I am worried.”
“No, seriously, it’s nothing”, Thor insisted. “It’s… Okay this is embarrassing”, he said, red creeping up his neck and his cheeks. “Sometimes, when I get too excited too quickly, my nose starts bleeding. It’ll stop in a few seconds.”
“Seriously?” Steve asked arching an eyebrow as he sat up, gently pushing one of Thor blond strands of hair behind his ear. “Horny nosebleed”, he chuckled, kissing his cheek.

Thor glared and Steve let out a laugh. Like Thor had said, his nose stopped bleeding after a moment, and Steve snuggled up to him. The god wrapped his arms around him, his fingers sliding up and down his back, learning him and committing him to memory. Then, swiftly, he undid his own pants, and Steve glanced down curiously – and admittedly, thirstily.

“You laugh at me for my underwear, but you go commando”, he chided, though his pupils had widened, nearly swallowing his irises now, at the sight of his sizeable cock.
“Midgardian underclothes aren’t comfortable”, Thor protested. “You know, you should stop talking, unless it is to call my name.”

Steve made a sound of protest that was muffled by Thor’s kiss, but he let himself be pushed down back to the mattress, bringing the god with him and letting out a moan at his weight settled between his thighs, and the rough fabric of Thor’s jeans against the sensitive skin of his thighs. Skilfully, he drew his legs back and pushed the pants down with his feet, pulling Thor closer once they were around his knees.

“This is not ideal”, Thor remarked when he almost lost balance, stuck in the jeans.

He took the time to pull them off before laying back, kissing Steve deeply and feeling like he could never get enough of him. His fingers closed around his cock, jerking him off slowly and drinking in his expressions and the small sounds falling from his lips. He felt Steve’s wrist against his own and expected him to reach for him – but he didn’t, and instead, he fingered himself slowly, wishing Thor would hurry up already because he was definitely making a mess on the bed.

“Thor”, he gasped, arching, when the god tightened his fist around him. “Take me”, he breathed, “take me or I’ll ride you myself.”
“As much as I find the idea pleasant”, Thor growled, “I’d rather ravish you myself.”

Steve was about to protest once more when Thor bent over the side of the bed and grabbed the packet of condoms. It exploded when he tried to pull it open with a bit too much force, showering them in silver squares and leaving both of them dumbfounded for a few seconds. Then, Steve was grabbing one, tearing it open and rolling said condom down Thor’s length. Thor shivered and Steve urged him on, digging his heels into the small of his back.

“I need your cock in me”, he rasped, fingers digging into his shoulders, “gimme your knot, Thor.”
“My, aren’t you needy”, Thor replied, kissing him softly just as he pushed inside of him.

Steve tensed for a second before relaxing completely, letting him in, welcoming him, even, the both of them resting their foreheads together while Thor gathered his bearings, seated deeply into his lover. It was overwhelming and he wondered for a second if Steve had gone into heat – but he hadn’t. He just happened to be completely head over heels for the Midgardian super-soldier, even though he had never been one to believe in love at first sight. Steve was panting lightly under him, muscles rippling as he adjusted to him with soft moans that Thor was sure would turn him crazy.

“Beautiful”, he gasped, “you look so beautiful like this, my Captain.”

The whimper he received in response made him feel like his heart had stopped – or maybe like he would just come on the spot. Breathing deeply, he pulled back slightly, and thrusted back in again. The arousal and pleasure he could see in Steve’s blue eyes was enough to make him strengthen his pace – long, slow, deep rolls of his hips that made Steve’s breath hitch every single time he thrusted in.

“There’s a worship if I know one”, he murmured, mouthing against Steve’s neck and collarbones, driving into him always stronger.

Steve had wrapped his arms around him, fingers digging into the skin of his back and holding onto him like to a lifeline, his ankles crossed over the small of his back. He wouldn’t trust his voice to speak – if he tried, he might just start to moan loudly – nor his mind to form coherent sentences. The deep pressure, the stretch and the lewd sounds echoing were making him into a puddle of need, want and pleasure. Then, just as he expected a faster pace, Thor slowed down until he stopped completely, in to the hilt and shivering with the effort it took him to hold back from pounding him into the mattress.

“Why did ya stop”, Steve slurred, about to reclaim more and more, until he couldn’t take it anymore.
“Because I’m close”, Thor breathed, shoulder hunched as he did his best to remain still. “Steve, may I bond with you?”
“Yes”, Steve nodded, “anything, please, just…”
“Remember, it will hurt at first but it won’t for long”, Thor whispered, and yes, Steve remembered he’d told him that minutes ago – it felt like hours, days, already.
“Just do it”, he breathed.

He let out a disappointed growl when the god pulled out, a growl that turned into a whimper when he manhandled him to his hands and knees, hooking an arm around him to grab his chin and pull him back against him. Steve let out a moan when he saw the mess he’d made of himself already, thighs and stomach glistening with slick and knowing there’d be even more when he’d come. His moan became a strangled scream when Thor pushed back into him, deeper than before, and now fucking him in earnest, obviously approaching his release. His position wasn’t exactly comfortable, especially with Thor’s hand curled under his chin, but it all faded into pain and pleasure when the Alpha clasped his teeth over his nape, hard enough to break the skin and draw blood. However, the pain didn’t last long, soon replaced by an unbearable pleasure as he felt the god’s cock swell into a knot, coming with a growl. He didn’t see the magic knitting his skin back together in golden sparks, nor noticed how it left teeth-shaped scars – he knew that because Thor had told him, but at the moment, nothing else mattered than the feeling of being taken so completely, and the secure hold of Thor’s arms.

“Come for me, Captain”, Thor growled in his ear, fingers letting go of his chin to wrap around his cock and stroke him to orgasm.

Two slides later, Thor’s hand was covered in slick as Steve shivered against him, gasping in pleasure. He waited a few moments before moving them to lie on their sides, still deeply seated into him. Being more used to magic, he could already feel their tendrils reaching into his mind and body, making him aware of Steve’s presence – of his bone deep satisfaction that made him smile.

“Are you alright?” he finally asked, rubbing his arms gently.
“Yeah” Steve answered in a soft voice, “yeah, I’m alright.” He turned his head to kiss him slowly. “Did it work?”
“Perfectly”, Thor replied, sliding his fingers up to brush against the raised scars over his nape. “We will be bonded until I can return to you.” He closed his eyes, feeling around for the bond, getting acquainted with it, and made a noise of disbelief.
“What is it?”
“Nothing, love”, he said soothingly. “It seems bonds include pups as part of your well-being. I will be informed if Jamie ever is in danger, just as I will be if you are.”

Steve smiled, burrowing against him, and closed his eyes sleepily.

“I’m not surprised.” He paused, yawning. “After all, he’s my baby. He’s part of me, and I could never be complete without him.”
“Sleep, love. I’ll fetch washing items as soon as I can.”

He didn’t know if Steve heard him: he was already sleeping. In the sudden silence and calm, Thor thought about how lucky he was to have him – him and Jamie. As far as he was concerned, Jamie was his for as long as Steve would have him as a mate. They were his, mate and cub, though he had never expected to gain both at once. They were – consort and heir to the future king of Asgard. Both sleeping tightly, for now, their presence a warm, soft comfort in his soul and in his mind. Yes, he was lucky man indeed.

Chapter Text

Tony woke up well-rested, for once, and he couldn’t remember having a nightmare. Someone was wrapped around his back, and he cradled a small body against his chest, another one settled next to this one. There were too many people in his bed, but he only felt warmth and comfort. Slowly, he opened his eyes to assess the situation: Bruce was the one wrapped around him, and he held Jamie in his arms. Peter was on Jamie’s other side, encasing him between them. He managed to disentangle himself from everyone and go to the kitchen, where Loki and Thor were talking in hushed voices as the whole house slept. They were using a form or another of Asgardian dialect instead of their usual AllSpeak, the language strangely musical to Tony’s hears. They looked up when he entered, greeted him with nods and went back to their whispered conversation.

“Tony”, Thor said once they were done, “I shall be going before noon. Could you please give me the Tesseract and the Mind Stone?”
“Will do”, Tony replied with a nod, “the sooner they’re out, the better it’ll be.”
“I can only agree”, the god replied, “two Infinity stones on one planet, and even more, in one house, it is too much for Midgardians.”
“Is Steve still sleeping?”
“Yes”, Thor replied, “there is no need to worry.”

And indeed, soon everyone was up and about. Thor and Steve said their goodbyes, the god holding Jamie against him and making him promise to obey his mama. Jamie seemed to be fascinated with Thor’s golden hair and pulled at the locks with enough force that another one would have been bald by then. They shared one last kiss before making their way to the garden, where Thor used the Tesseract in its confinement to go back to Asgard in a flash of light.

“Mama”, Peter asked from where he was holding Tony’s hand, “Thor will come back, won’t he?”
“Yes sweetheart, he will”, Tony replied.
“Good.”
“What’s the matter, Peter? You look thoughtful.”
“Why don’t we have a papa?” Peter asked, leaving Tony speechless. “Now Uncle Steeb has Thor, Hawkeye has Setä Loki” – Tony twitched at the nickname, obviously affective even though he didn’t know the language – “and Pepa has Jane. Tetka Natasha makes eyes with Doctor Bruce” – said Bruce turned bright red as Natasha held back a chuckle – “and Tío Rhodes doesn’t have time, but we don’t have anyone.”

Tony crouched to peer at him, gently petting his hair.

“Do you miss having a papa?” he asked softly, his heart breaking at the idea that maybe he should have tried harder, for Peter’s sake.
“I don’t know”, Peter replied, casting his eyes down, “I’ve never had one.”
“Oh, sweetheart”, Tony said, hugging him tightly, “I’m sorry, I never thought you might miss having a dad.” He pulled away slightly to look at him, brushing his hair back. “But you know, not anyone can be a dad. Not anyone can be your dad, sweetheart, and I have never met anyone I would have liked enough to be your dad.”
“It’s alright, mama”, Peter said, shaking his head. “I don’t need a dad when I have you.”

Tony smiled, his heart beating like crazy.

“I love you, sweetheart, you know that?”
“I love you too, mama.”

*

Steve was just as obstinate as usual and Tony had finally called Eddie to make an appointment for an interview the following day, while Loki studied all he could to make sure he could seal Jamie’s powers without any problem. Clint had agreed to drive him there, dropping Natasha and Bruce to the airport on their way: apparently, they’d decided the house was too crowded and they needed some air, so they’d fly to Colorado together – why Colorado, it was a mystery, but the blooming romance between the two was a secret to no one. Steve would be taking care of Peter and Jamie in the meantime, while Jane went back to the Observatory to prepare a conference and Pepper had more work than ever.

Tony was a nervous mess by the time they arrived in New York. They picked Eddie up at the point of rendez-vous, the young man obviously glad to see them again. Once he’d asked after everyone’s well-being, he pulled his phone out to register their conversation, along with a small notebook to take his notes.

“You said you wanted to make an interview”, Eddie said, “but I don’t even know what you want to talk about.”
“I want to disclose my Omega status”, Tony said, the words rehearsed but tasting like ash in his mouth.
“Uh… what?” Eddie said, dumfounded. “Isn’t it like, one of your biggest secrets?”
“Yes”, Tony agreed bitterly, “but I’m allergic to my Patch now, so it’s moot either way. People will know, and I’d rather it’d be on my terms than rash speculations.”
“Understandable”, Eddie agreed, tapping his pen against his lips. “So, you want to disclose that you are an Omega. I’ll guess I’ll write a small reminder on why there are no longer any Omega, or were, rather, until you.” He took some notes, and paused. “Why hide your status, Mr. Stark?”
“‘Deviation from the norm will be punished unless it is exploitable’”, Tony quoted clearly. “As a genius, it is something I know well. I didn’t want to be a subject of experiments, nor be subjected to the social bias against Omegas. I hid my status for my own security and well-being.”
“Given your status as Iron Man, it is doubly understandable. Why, then, disclose it now?”
“Because I can no longer hide it”, Tony replied once more. “It is not by choice.”

The interview went on, leaving Tony with a lump in his throat once Eddie was out of the car, and the feeling that he’d just done something incredibly stupid and dangerous. Luckily, Clint distracted him with updates on Peter’s ability with his bow on the drive back, asking for the latest news about the Tower – until they got stuck into the traffic without knowing why. Two hours later, they learnt it was because there had been a terrorist attack claimed by a man called The Mandarin. They were back home much later than they’d thought, and the kids were already sleeping. Steve was still up, though, his brow creased as he watched news reports about the Mandarin’s attack. Loki, it seemed, hadn’t left the cleaned-up lab where he was doing his research. Tony ended up settled against Steve, like he often did, twirling his phone in his hands.

*

Loki sealed off most of Jamie’s power, after admitting that he couldn’t seal them completely. Instead, he’s taken to teach small magic tricks to the boy so he would use up what power he had left, and surprisingly enough, Jamie was much calmer after that. Steve would often find him sitting on the floor in the living-room, surrounded by a carpet of conjured flowers. He didn’t embed toy cars or plates in the walls, though he still wouldn’t relent on his nos. That was fine, really – Steve knew he was hard-headed, and Bucky hadn’t been much better. It only made sense for Jamie to be so stubborn.

Tony reclaimed his lab, where he spent most of his nights working on armours increasingly elaborated. He’d designed one for Steve, in his beloved red, white and blue and that was much better than the so-called “Iron Patriot” – really, why hadn’t they kept ‘War Machine’? That was a fitted name. Peter was there with him during the day, once he’d worked on his lessons and trained with Clint, since Natasha was still in Colorado, so Tony had made him try on the armour he’d made for him. The child was delighted to spend time working with him, and ended up making most of the blasters of his armour, which he quickly understood how to use efficiently, and Tony wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about that.

There was no news from Thor, to Steve’s understanding disappointment, but he could feel their bond now and it settled him, somehow. There were, however, news from the Mandarin, which they weren’t exactly happy about. And then, Eddie’s article came out, making front-page with a huge photo of Tony at a charity event the preceding year. It made the titles for close to a month, a month of absolute nightmare during which Tony mostly didn’t come out of the house. Fury made a visit, that Tony insisted was uncalled for, and discovered more than Peter – of whom he already knew about – or Tony’s status as an Omega – surprising, yes, but he dealt with weird things on a daily basis: he discovered Jamie. The face he made when he found himself staring into the startling blue-eyes of a toddler who was casually sprouting flowers in his every step was more than priceless: it was a gem. Steve’s reaction, not so much.

Another month passed: it’d been three months since the Battle of New York, and the Tower was mostly rebuilt already. The same couldn’t be said of Tony, who barely slept and collapsed of exhaustion for a few hours, sometimes an entire night, before waking up in a cold sweat from the nightmares. Pepper and Jane were back at the mansion, as were Natasha and Bruce, crowding the house. That the Mandarin kept on making successful terrorist attacks that the authorities were unable to stop was just the cherry on top of everything. Rhodes was doing his best to find the terrorist, but apparently even his best wasn’t enough.

Chapter Text

Everything went to shit on a Thursday – the 6th of December, to be precise. Pepper had gone out shopping for Christmas with Peter, the two of them spending the day together, and they had stopped at a café for hot chocolate. Powdered cocoa stirred in warm milk, with a handful of mini-marshmallows that Peter giggled about as he squished them. The day was cold – so cold, in fact, that vapor rose when you breathed – but the sky was clear, a chilly cloudless blue, and the sun shone, though seemingly far away. Peter had drunk his chocolate, finding himself with a moustache, and Pepper had wiped it with a laugh, the child crossing over to sit in her lap and hug her. They hadn’t noticed the two men talking together a few tables away – Pepper was not a super-hero, nor an Agent, and Peter was merely a child, still giggling over soggy marshmallows. They were leaving when the explosion happened.

From the corner of her eye, Pepper saw the huge wall of flame. She had just enough time to react, grabbing Peter and wrapping herself around him to shield him from harm: the blow threw her through the place, landing hard on her side – Peter still tucked safely against her. Her vision fuzzy, she noticed he seemed uninjured, before she passed out.

*

Tony was working on a new type of armour with Loki when Jarvis told him about the explosion, way too close to the sector Pepper was going to with Peter. The tools fell from his hands when reports started arriving before anyone could contact him, a single word falling from his lips.

“Peter.”

In a matter of seconds, he was tearing through the sky, wearing nothing but fuzzy sweatpants and one of Steve’s t-shirts under the armour. There was only white noise in his head as he ran into the hospital, gasping when he saw his baby boy wheeled away on a stretcher.

“PETER!” he yelled, running through the corridor and pushing people out of his way. He was stopped, however, by a bulky nurse.
“Sir, please step back. This is the emergency aisle.”
“Let me through”, he growled, “it’s my kid in there, let me through! LET ME SEE MY CHILD”, he roared, pushing at him and wishing he’d kept the armour on.

His scent of Omega distress was rapidly clogging the corridor, attracting a doctor who walked over.

“What is it, what’s the commotion for?”

Tony was near hysterical by then, and he grabbed the doctor’s collar.

“My child is in there I MUST see him”, he started, and the doctor – an Alpha – loosened his grip.
“Mr. Stark”, he said, and of course he had recognized him, “we are dealing with the fallout of the explosion in town, we don’t have time for your-”

Tony saw red. Baring his teeth, he growled so loudly he startled several persons and forced his way through the doors, skidding on the ground as he searched for Peter. The doctor and the nurse were running after him, yelling in outrage, but he didn’t care. His top priority was Peter, and he would leave nothing unturned until he’d found him.

He didn’t have to, though: another doctor exited the room, startled at his frazzled appearance but regaining their bearings rapidly.

“Mr. Stark”, he said, “we were about to contact you. Miss. Potts is being taken care of, as well as the boy who was with her.”
“Peter, how is he? Let me see him”, Tony asked again, feeling like a scratched record disc.
“Peter, that’s his name?” the doctor asked. “Are you related to him?”
“He’s my boy”, Tony breathed, “please let tell me he’s okay, I can’t- Not my boy.”

The doctor’s expression softened at that.

“He isn’t in danger, Mr. Stark”, he said. “Miss Potts shielded him from most of the explosion. His left wrist is broken, but so far this is the only injury we’ve detected. He is under sedative for now.”

Tony deflated and stumbled in relief. Peter was alright.

“W-What about Pepper?” he asked when the words finally processed. “You said she shielded him?”
“She was wrapped around him when the medics found them on the scene”, the doctor explained. “Her condition is… more serious.”
“What do you mean, more serious?”
“Her vital prognosis is-”

Tony blanched.

“Oh God”, he moaned, “what happened to her?”

Gently, the doctor led him to a chair where he made him sit down.

“She was severely injured in the bombing”, he resumed. “For now, we cannot say whether she will live or not. Our medical team is doing its best to keep her alive.”

Another doctor strode in, followed by a petite nurse who was rattling information at him that Tony didn’t register. He nodded at the doctor before passing a door.

“That was the doctor Strange”, the doctor said to Tony, “he is the best neurosurgeon we know. Now, while they work, maybe you could-”
“Can I see Peter?” Tony asked, his voice broken. “I need to see him, to see he’s alright.”
“You may have a moment”, the doctor agreed, “we’ll be taking him to a room later, once he has woken up. He should be back on his feet in no time.”

He led him to a room, and Tony’s heart broke at the sight of his child laying there in a bed too big for him, IV’s strapped to his little body. He was pale, and a nurse was cleaning his face from the blood and dirt on it. His left arm was in a cast, but otherwise he looked fine, though he was scraped a bit all over.

“Oh, sweetheart”, Tony breathed, crossing over to him and hesitating to touch him.

Tears poured, then – unstoppable. He reached for his face, brushing the brown hair from his forehead. Whoever had done this, they would pay, and they would pay dearly. Gently, he kissed his forehead, barely resisting when the doctor pulled him away and out from the room.

“Tony!” he heard as he went back to the reception area to rattle all the information he could to the medics.
“Steve”, he whispered when he spotted his friend pushing through the crowd to get to him.
“I came as soon as I heard”, Steve said, pulling him into his arms with a bit too much strength. “Did you get any news?” he asked as Tony dissolved into broken sobs, face hidden into the crook of his neck.

They didn’t notice Loki, hidden under a doctor’s guise, stepping through the doors and to the emergency aisle. Jamie was at home with Clint while Natasha gathered intel through S.H.I.E.L.D. No one had managed to contact Jane, who had been out of town for the week, so Bruce had gone directly to get her with the Quinjet. Gently, Steve coaxed Tony to one of the waiting rooms where he finally managed to tell him what he’d learnt from the doctor. Steve’s fingers kept on clenching into fists, until he finally said:

“We’ll get him, and he’ll pay for that.”

A nurse approached him then.

“Mr. Stark, Peter is being transferred to a room, he should wake up soon.”
“Thank you”, Steve replied when it became clear Tony wasn’t in any state to do so. “Any news about Pepper Potts?”
“I am not authorized to tell you, I’m sorry”, the nurse replied regretfully, “only family or authorized persons, like Mr. Stark.”
“Of course, I understand”, Steve replied, though his eyes were blazing with anger. “C’mon, Tony, let’s see Peter.”

It took close to an hour before Peter woke up, and Tony was relieved he had nothing more serious than his broken wrist.

“Ma…ma?” the child slurred, opening his eyes.
“Shh, it’s alright, sweetheart, I’m here”, Tony hushed, fingers brushing gently over the uninjured patches of skin over his face. “You’ll be alright, baby.”

Peter nodded sluggishly, and went back to sleep right away. Tony clenched his jaw.

“I’m taking him back home”, he said. “It’s too dangerous here, and now people will know we’re related.”

Steve nodded.

“I’ll stay with him while you settle it with the doctor”, he offered.

Jane arrived just as Tony finished signing the papers, and she was distraught, trembling like a leaf. The scent of a fellow Omega slightly calmed her down when he hugged her tightly, and he went with her to get some news about Pepper’s condition. They learnt with relief that thanks to Doctor Strange and the rest of the team, she was out of harm’s way – but still badly hurt and unconscious. She had been put in an artificial coma while she healed, which would take time. Jane and Tony were authorized to see her for a few minutes, both very shaken at her state: she had burns on her back, several fractures that included her spine, and a cerebral commotion - but the doctor was optimistic. She had been taken in charge immediately after the incident, and was likely to recover completely – in fact, she was already showing significant improvement, which was miraculous. Bruce offered to stay with Jane while Tony and Steve took Peter back home.

They had expected to make a swift, unnoticed exit: they didn’t. Steve held Peter, safely cradled in his arms, since the boy was becoming too heavy for Tony, while he would take the armour back home. But outside the hospital, a swarm of journalists was waiting, ravenous.

“Mr. Stark! Mr. Stark, do you have something to say about the attack today?”
“What is Miss Potts state?”
“Who is this boy with you?”
“Do you have a message for the Mandarin?”

Tony stopped, and Steve hissed his name when he noticed his expression.

“I do, in fact, have a message for the Mandarin.” He stared directly into the camera, face wan and eyes red-rimmed. “So far, Iron Patriot has been in charge with stopping you”, he said, “and we kept out of his way. But today”, he took a breath, “today you nearly killed one of my closest friends. That was serious enough that I would have come after you.” His mouth twisted into a growl, threatening – threatening enough that several journalists stepped back in fear. “You injured my child, Mandarin. So be ready, because I will track you down and I will make you pay. I can assure you, you will wish you had never laid an eye on my boy. You will wish for death, and it won’t come quickly enough.”

Despite his promise, though, he spent the night sleeplessly, Peter cradled to his chest. Steve was already tracking the Mandarin with Jarvis’ help. Steve barged not long after dawn, sitting next to him on the bed.

“You have to see the news”, he said, and Jarvis displayed it on the opposite wall.

A journalist appeared on some news channel.

“Yes, as you said Dolores, a lot of things have happened since yesterday’s bombing in California”, they said, “so we’ll go back over everything for the audience joining us now. Yesterday afternoon, at 6:54 pm, a café in a small town of California was bombed. The attack was reclaimed by the terrorist known as the Mandarin. The count, this morning, is of ten dead and thirty-five injured. Amongst them were Pepper Potts, well known right-hand woman of billionaire Tony Stark, and Peter Stark, secret child of said billionaire. The man himself issued a threat to the Mandarin when he exited Metro-General Hospital with his son and Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, at 9 pm. At 3 am this morning, Trevor Slattery, an actor, was arrested by Iron Patriot: he was embodying the Mandarin, but wasn’t actually behind the attacks, acting under someone else’s orders. It is still unclear who is behind the Mandarin, but- Wait, something is-”

The screen changed and, to Steve and Tony’s surprise, Loki, in grand “world-conqueror” regalia, appeared. He was standing on a large place and keeping a man on his knees with his hand on his nape. The camera zoomed in, capturing the man’s face, and Loki grinned manically.

“Didn’t I tell you, Midgardians, that you need a ruler?”
“That’s… That’s Killian. Aldrich Killian”, Tony said, dumbfounded. “Why would Loki do that? He was doing fine, and-”
“You don’t see them?” Steve asked, surprised.
“See what?”
“The tendrils of magic. Maybe a serum-thing”, he muttered, “or a being-bonded-to-an-Asgardian thing. I can see the tendrils of magic from Loki’s body. This man, this Killian, he’s no ordinary human, if Loki has to use magic to subdue him.”

On the screen, Loki bent to whisper something in Killian’s ear. The next instant, Killian was exploding in green light, and Loki was nowhere to be found. The screen glitched again, and the journalist re-appeared.

“- it seems Aldrich Killian, a scientist, was behind the Mandarin. Complete files and videos have been uploaded to the internet, including a list of all people involved in the project known as ‘Extremis’. ‘Extremis’ seems to be an experimental treatment for limb loss, and at the core of the terrorist attacks. Questions keep on coming in – wasn’t Loki subdued by the Avengers? What happened really during the Battle of New York? How is he involved in Extremis, and why did he execute Aldrich Killian?”

Tony muted the video and turned to stare at Steve.

“Do you think Loki lost his mind?”

There was a long moment of silence, before the man answered.

“I don’t think so”, he finally said. “Loki has grown very attached to Peter, and from what Thor told me about him… He isn’t one to let a wrong done to him or those he loves go unpunished.” He paused, breathing. “I think he avenged Peter in his own way, and more effectively than we could have ever done.” He scrolled on his phone, reading about Extremis and frowning. “Yeah, definitely. That Extremis shit is clearly dangerous, you could have been killed trying to defeat him.”

Tony looked down at Peter, who was still sleeping, tucked against him. He had meant to exact vengeance himself, but he also knew he would never have left Peter when he was injured and probably traumatized. And he had to admit that since New York, he was even more reluctant to go on missions than ever.

“I have to admit Loki is confusing”, he finally said.
“I think there is always a sense and a purpose to his actions… we simply don’t see them”, Steve replied. “Have you noticed how friendly he’s become since he started living here with us?”

Tony couldn’t deny that, as he had been working on a magic-laden armour with the god; something he would have never thought possible two months ago. Loki was, for lack of a better word, healing – and Peter was huge part of that. The Omega let out a sigh.

“Now the whole world knows about Peter”, he said. “He’ll be in danger.”
“Tony”, Steve said softly, “you’re no longer the only one with capacities. There a whole bunch of us, who’d rather die than let anything happen to him. I understand your worries, but there is nothing to be done.”

Tony tugged on his hair, breathing heavily, until he let out a defeated sigh.

“You’re right, of course”, he replied. “At least now, I’ll be able to go out in public with him.”

Steve smiled and patted his knee.

“We’ll go see Pepper as soon as you’re ready. Maybe sleep a bit, if you can?”
“I’ll try”, Tony amended, laying back down on the bed. “Wait for me.”

Chapter Text

Tony knew something was wrong when Peter shook him awake, an air of wild panic on his face. That woke him up immediately, especially as Peter, trembling, made figures with his uninjured hand.

“What is it, baby?” he asked. “What’s the matter?”

But Peter didn’t say a word, tears pouring from his eyes as his moves grew frantic, jostling his broken wrist and making himself wince.

“Sir”, Jarvis intervened – bless him – “it appears that Young Peter is signing.”
“I don’t know ASL, sweetheart”, Tony said, wanting to hug him but also feeling it was just the thing he shouldn’t do. “Jarvis?”
“Young Peter is signing I can’t hear, Sir”, Jarvis replied.

Tony blanched, but kept his face straight. Peter was panicking, and he had to do something about it.

“Show me how to sign It’s alright, Jarvis.”

Clumsily, he imitated the video Jarvis pulled up and picked Peter up, striding to Clint’s room. Loki hadn’t come back yet, but the archer didn’t seem to be worried. Peter seemed to have understood what this was about because he started to sign rapidly when Hawkeye opened his door, still bleary eyed. Slowly, he signed back – in a controlled way design to calm down the child. Tony had no idea what they were saying in their silent and slightly complicated conversation – though Peter managed to borrow his left arm to make up for the one he couldn’t use – but Peter was calmer now, merely sniffing.

“You should get him back to the hospital”, Clint said, turning to Tony, “so they can check on his ears.”

Steve drove them to the hospital and went to visit Pepper – Jane was still by her side, and Bruce was with her – while Tony took Peter to the doctor he’d seen the previous day. The doctor performed a series of tests, before motioning to Tony to sit down.

“His ear-drums were slightly damaged by the explosion, but it should merely hinder his earring, not cut it off so completely. That will heal, there is nothing to worry about.”
“Why doesn’t he hear, then?” Tony asked, Peter tucked against him.
“It appears to be a post-traumatic syndrome... It's psychosomatic. In other words, his brain decided the best way to deal with the trauma of yesterday’s explosion was to cut off his hearing.” He paused. “There is nothing we can do. His hearing will come back, but there is no way to tell when.”

It was a new blow to Tony’s crumbling psyche, and he nodded wearily.

“He would probably benefit from psychological aid”, the doctor suggested. “To help deal with everything.”
“Y-Yes, of course”, Tony replied, choking up. “Is there anyone you can recommend?”
“Here”, he said, sliding a business card to him.

They went to Pepper’s room, checking in on her – she was loads better, which was surprising. Steve exited when he noticed them, listening intently and nodding in approval at the idea of psychological help. Back home, Clint translated the explanations to Peter, who watched him sign intently. If he was in pain from his broken wrist, he didn’t show it – and Tony decided he had to learn ASL too, just like Jamie had.

 

Loki didn’t come back that day.
He didn’t come back the day after that either.

There was no news of him, but Clint didn’t seem overly worried. “He’ll come back when he’s ready to”, he repeated every single time someone asked if he’d come home. Natasha, on the other hand, came back and admitted being the one who uploaded the Extremis files on the internet. A week passed and Pepper woke up. Her health improvements were spectacular – miraculous, even, and it wasn’t hard to guess there probably was some kind of godly power behind this. She was able to breathe without assistance, which was a huge step, though her burns were far from being healed yet. Jane spent most of her time by her side and the other Avengers visited often.

A month had gone by, there was still no news of Loki, and Stark Tower – renamed Avengers Tower – was ready to be reinvested. The medical bay was just as it had been before, with accommodation to host Pepper so she could finish her long recovery at home instead of being in the hospital. The floors and apartments had been completely remodelled to better fit their group – their pack, their family – and the day they had planned to move back was approaching quickly.

Peter’s wrist was healing well, and his skin had regrown without any problem. The same couldn’t be said for his mind. His hearing still hadn’t come back, and everyone had learnt bits and pieces of ASL to talk to him. The child was quiet and withdrawn, which was unusual for him, though it seemed the psychiatrist really helped. He’d had nightmares the first week, and Tony hadn’t been able to sleep – not when there was nothing he could do to ease his child, not when the same nightmares plagued his sleep. It was not difficult to see the situation was wearing him down. He barely had a full night of sleep since the Battle of New York, his skin way too white and his eyes with dark circles very panda-like. It was nothing, though, to his dramatic weight loss. He hadn’t even known he could be skin and bones like this, and though he did his best to eat, it seemed his body wasn’t keeping up – it probably wasn’t, given how exhausted he was.

His friends, and Steve especially, were worried. They knew that if Peter managed to regain his hearing, Tony would probably get better – but for now, he was just smelling more and more sickly, his sweet scent turning bitter.

Chapter Text

He woke up feeling nauseated and feverish, letting out a moan of pain at the burning flames in his muscles and entire body. He had felt this bad only once, and thinking about that time made him even more nauseated. Stumbling out of bed, he saw that it wasn’t even six in the morning. Steve was still sleeping deeply next to him, and he painstakingly made his way to the loo, just in time to empty his stomach in the bowl. Great. Just, fucking great.

“Tony? Are you alright?”
“Just a mom-”

He heaved again, the pain and burn spreading to his fingertips and making it painful to hang onto the seat, to stand on his knees. Everything was painful, like each and every nerve in his body was on fire. A hand – small, thin fingers – brushed his damp hair back, pleasingly cool against his skin.

“You’re burning”, Natasha noticed, a hint of worry in her voice.
“No shit”, he managed to grit out, heaving again – but there was nothing left to throw up and his muscles just clenched painfully, intensifying the burn.
“Hang on.”

She grabbed a rag and poured cold water over it before applying it to his nape. A sigh of relief escaped him as the pain seemed to recede for a moment. Her fingers brushed against his scent gland and his seized up, vision going white with pain, a ragged scream falling from his lips.

“Tony?!” Steve’s voice asked, frantic. “Natasha, what’s happened?”
“Don’t know, I found him puking his guts out just a moment ago. I think he’s running a fever, wouldn’t be surprised if he’s caught something, but his scent gland is very swollen, red and painful, so I don’t know?”
“Let me check something quickly”, Steve said, and Tony heard the quick tap-tap of his bare feet as he ran somewhere. He came back not a moment after, with rustling paper. “Just as I thought”, he said.
“What’s that? A paper calendar?”
“Yeah”, Steve sighed. “I like using it better, and Tony’s taken to using it too so I can access it. His heat was scheduled for today.”
“I could’ve told you that”, Tony slurred, blinking his eyes against the sting of his sweat there. “It’d never felt this bad since my first heat”, he groaned.
“Tony”, Steve said softly, “this is not just a heat, this is your body shutting down because it’s supposed to go into heat, but it also knows you are not fit to go through one, or God forbid, an actual pregnancy, safely.”
“Can you two let me die in peace”, he moaned again, sliding down to sit on the floor.
“You’re not gonna die”, Steve replied. “Just feel really, really bad.”
“What can we do?” Natasha asked. “I don’t know much about those.”
“I’ll deal with it, if you can take care of the kids for a few days.”

She nodded.

“Do you need anything?”
“As many towels as you can find”, Steve replied, hauling Tony up. “And uh… something with an Alpha’s scent on it, it might help.” He looked at Tony, whose head had lolled down on his shoulder. “You weight less than a soggy cat, Stark”, he chided.

Natasha nodded and went, and Steve directed his attention back to his friend who was currently digging his fingers almost painfully into his arm.

“It hurts”, Tony whined feebly.
“I know”, Steve shushed him, “I know. Here, take off your clothes.”

He knew it was bad when Tony made no crude joke and simply started to struggle out of his shirt and pants. Gently, he helped him out of them, throwing them in the laundry and guiding Tony into the shower. He turned the water to twenty degrees – cold, but not too cold and held the showerhead over him, first his shoulders and back, letting it cool him down before he passed it over his head. Tony had hissed at first, standing only because Steve was holding him up and getting drenched with him, but he’d relaxed as the cold lessened the pain.

“God, look at you”, Steve breathed, “you look like me before I took the serum.”

In other words – overly thin and sickly, like any wind blow would knock him over. His clothes hid it most of the time, but now that he was naked it was pretty obvious. Now, Steve understood what Colonel Phillips meant when he had said looking at him made him want to cry. He very much wanted to cry right now.

Natasha set a stack of towels on a nearby piece of furniture and Steve pretty much mummified Tony with them, before he took him back to their room. Silently, he moved the kids out of the room – Peter with Clint, and Jamie with Natasha and Bruce – before going back to Tony. He had passed out, which was just as well. Now, the trick was to maintain a normal body temperature thanks to cold towels. He remembered well all the times he had been in Tony’s place and Bucky had had to do this for him.

Natasha knocked around half and hour after, bringing a small stack of clothes that she handed to him.

“These are Clint’s shirts, it was all I could find. All of Pepper’s clothes have been washed, same with Thor’s, and there’s nothing of Eddie.”
“Thank you, Nat”, Steve replied, taking the worn shirts and taking a whiff of the strong scent clinging to them.
“Will he be alright?” she asked worriedly.
“He will”, Steve affirmed, gently brushing a damp strand of hair out of his face. “It’ll weaken him, but he’ll be fine.”
“How can you know?”
“Because I did.”

 

When Tony woke up again, his throat was parched but the burning and the pain had died down. Steve was sitting on the bed next to him, reading, but he closed his book as soon as he saw him open his eyes. In a swift movement, he was holding a glass filled with water mixed with lemon juice and just a bit of sugar, a straw sticking out.

“Drink slowly”, he advised, helping Tony raise his head just enough to drink without problem. “You were out for a long time, how are you feeling?”
“Better”, Tony rasped. “Not so much in pain anymore.”
“Good”, Steve said with a nod. “You should go into a weak heat soon, it’ll be uncomfortable, but you can manage it without an Alpha. I’ll give you some soup in an hour, if you can stomach it.”
“What do you mean, ‘without an Alpha’? You know just as much as I do that once you’ve gotten knotted once, you can’t deal with a heat alone.”
“You’re awfully chatty for someone who just woke up”, Steve smirked. “Your body is in no state to go into a full heat, so it won’t be as strong. You can manage it with toys and an Alpha’s scent. In fact, it’s better if you do. An Alpha would probably exhaust you too much… And we both know you’re not comfortable with the idea of having another Alpha than Pepper.”

Tony closed his eyes for a moment. Yes, even now that people knew he was an Omega – even now that the tabloids had run dry on the subject of how he had managed to bear Peter without anyone noticing, and who had sired him – he couldn’t think of any Alpha he could trust with his heats. The very thought made his skin crawl, and though Steve had said it was only natural, he still wondered if there was another Alpha out there, another Alpha whose scent wouldn’t make him want to crawl into a ditch if he smelled it while in heat.

“I’ll sleep a bit, then”, he breathed. “I feel like shit.”
“And you look like shit”, Steve provided helpfully.

 

When he woke up again, he was feeling a lot better, though he could already feel the slow, deep burning of an approaching heat. But Steve was right, even that wasn’t as strong as it usually was.

“Here’s for you”, Steve said, handing him a steaming mug once he’d sat up. “Feeling better?”
“Definitely”, Tony hummed, taking the cup and sniffing its content. He started to drink carefully and didn’t finish the mug, weary of his upset stomach. Steve covered it, saying he would heat it again when he would be hungry.

Tony noticed how wired his sense of smell was, something that hadn’t happened in years for a simple reason: Pepper had been by his side already when his heat started, so he hadn’t needed his sense of smell to track down a capable Alpha. But now, he could almost map out the room with just the smell of things. There was Steve’s scent – appealing, but not nearly enough – and the stack of laundry with the pungent smell next to the bed. It smelled of an Alpha, but he could also tell from the sweet-sour fragrance mixed to it that it was a taken Alpha. It took him a surprisingly long time to pinpoint the scent as Clint’s.

And then, he caught the scent. He remembered smelling it a long time ago, and he remembered it had stirred something inside of him, just like it was doing now. Cinnamon, sawdust and freshly turned earth – the scent was engraved in his memory and he hadn’t even realized until now. He couldn’t remember exactly where he had smelled it, but he let the scent guide him to the wardrobe. It came from Steve’s side, and though Steve cocked his head curiously, he motioned him to go ahead and rummage there. He was now on a mission, tracking down the enticing, enchanting scent. In a daze of instinctive focus, he pulled the metallic box sitting at the bottom of the wardrobe, under many pairs of shoes, and opened it. The scent whiffed up to him, and he inhaled deeply to get more – until he heard Steve’s noise of shocked disbelief.

Looking down, he quickly realized what, exactly, he was holding in his hands. It was a leather jacket, well-worn but cherished, still deeply marked by its owner’s scent. It was Bucky Barnes’ jacket, and its smell was driving him crazy. Slowly, he pressed it to his face, taking in the scent. It was a shame the Alpha was long dead because his mere scent did things to him, things he had only read about in those tacky erotic novels (and no, he wasn’t going to think about those).

“Well that sucks”, he finally said, looking up at Steve, who was cringing sympathetically.
“Take it”, he said softly, “if it soothes you, I want you to have it.”
“Thank you, Steve.”
“You should finish your soup before you’re too gone to care”, Steve pointed out, and Tony nodded, eyes already darting around – where did he keep his toys? Dammit, he couldn’t remember.

Steve came back with the now-steaming-again mug of soup, and Tony drained it. His stomach wasn’t rolling anymore, which he counted as an improvement. Steve took back the mug and helped him back to the bed when he stumbled, before he handed him the jacket and exited the room. Tony laid there for a moment, contemplating the mess that his life had become since the Battle of New York. He had been doing quite good before that, he thought. Not perfect, but it had been good enough for him. He knew there was no going back to a better past – just trying to make something good with what he had. That was the harsh truth he had learnt when he found Peter.

Rolling over, he opened a few drawers before remembering that Jarvis could actually help with that. The AI helpfully told him his toys were still in the hidden drawer under the bed, locked with his fingerprint. Rolling his eyes, he pressed the pad of his thumb to a specific spot under the bed and with a soft whirr, a drawer rolled out. Bending over the edge of the mattress to rummage in it, he was quick to pull the dildo he had designed and made in a fit of horniness years ago. In retrospective, it had also been one of his best ideas. THERE was a money-making idea! StarX Industries – For Your Pleasure. He couldn’t stop himself from chuckling at his – ridiculous, he knew – idea, but his brain was getting really muddled from the increasing heat. Groaning, he kicked off his sweatpants, his hand sliding down to check on the slickness and yes, there it was, sliding down the back of his thighs.

He tried to get on his knees, wobbled but managed to do it anyway, the leather jacket spread out on his pillow like an invitation from the Alpha whose smell had survived the years. He was definitely too unsteady for it to be just the heat, and he managed to balance just enough to press a hand to his forehead – almost poking his eye out with the plastic dick, and wouldn’t that be ironic. Yes, he was running a fever – again. But also he was now definitely too horny to care, aching to be filled and wasn’t that perfect?

“My, look at you, all bothered, ma jolie”, a voice crooned in his ear, and he almost flinched in surprise. Talk about a vivid fantasy.

He knew whose voice that was, even though he had never heard it. Not really, anyway – but he knew it, rich and deep and a little raspy, with that Brooklyn accent he’d come to love as he learnt to know Steve. That voice made a whole with the intoxicating scent from the jacket, and he could have sworn there were warm, strong, callused hands running up and down his butt. Slowly, he held out the toy to get it exactly where he needed it.

“Already? Didn’t you want me to take my time spreading you on my fingers?” A hum. “Well, you’re wet enough, babydoll, ain’t you?”

Lost in his fantasy – hallucination? – he could feel the hands sliding over his ribs, tutting disapprovingly at how apparent they were, which, okay, was a bit weird for a fantasy but now was not the moment to care. They were both well-known and unfamiliar, like an old, almost forgotten but deeply cherished memory. The toy slid in place without any problem and he inhaled sharply as it bottomed out. He could make out the weight and warmth of a strong, sturdy body settled over his back, encompassing him, which just made him groan in pleasure.

“There, ma jolie, taking me so well…”
“J-James” he gasped, the scent still very present around him.

The Alpha tutted again, jostling his hips just enough to make him see stars, his hand – why was it suddenly so cold and smooth, almost metallic and alright maybe he’d had a wet dream or two about his armours but seriously – cupping his chin gently.

“What did I tell you, babydoll, about calling me that?”

A nip at his ear, and a moaned “Bucky” fell out of his lips, and the lips against his ear smirked and wow really vivid fantasy, he was never going to live this down. He moved his wrist, twisting the toy and backing down into it just to soothe the burning in his belly to a simmer.

“That’s it, babydoll”, Bucky rasped again, “you doing good… You want my knot?”

A gasp of pleasure escaped him, followed by a hushed “please”, but he also knew better than to press the button while he was still on his hands and knees. It would be a pain to move to his back with the knot pressed into him. Slowly, he flopped to his side, and then rolled on his back, pleasure tingling in his veins as it made the toy move and it was oh so good. He pulled the toy out just a bit, just to thrust it back inside and push the button and satisfy this deep craving to be filled and bred – but he opened his eyes, and blue eyes framed by long dark hair were staring back at him, pupils wide with pleasure, and his hand slipped, pushing the toy back as deep as possible and accidentally pushing the button. The artificial knot started to expand, filling him just as good as a real one – and this hallucination was…

He didn’t finish his thought, coming on the spot with a long, low cry of wrung out pleasure, and when he opened his eyes again, there was no trace of the hallucination – no trace of this strange “Bucky” he’d seen, and wow, as great as it had been, he should probably stop using the jacket for a scent to wank to. Its owner had been far too potent for him, mere Omega that he was.

At least now, his mind was clear again. He probably still had a bit of a fever, but nothing to worry about. However, his stomach was covered in his own slick and that was gross. Scrunching his nose, he reached out for a piece of cloth in the drawer to wipe it off, wrapped the toy in it to clean it later, and promptly fell asleep. When in doubt, sleep it off.

Chapter Text

He opened his eyes to the safe warmth of covers on his body and a gentle hand petting his hair. He knew that hand, it was always very gentle with him.

“Steeeeeve”, he groaned, rolling aside to bury his face in his pillow, “lemme sleep.”

Steve chuckled.

“You can go back to sleep once you’ve eaten a bit and showered, you big baby”, he murmured.
“Nooo.”
“Tony, you’ve been sleeping for two whole days. Aren’t you hungry?”

As if to prove his point, his stomach growled loudly. Yes, he was so hungry he was almost nauseated. Then, the words registered.

“Two days?”

He bolted up, sitting upright.

“Yeah, we were really worried at first so Dr. Palmer came, but she said it was good news and to let you sleep some more.” Turning, he grabbed something and produced a robe. “Put this on, Nat’ made an awesome curry, you don’t want to miss that.”

Tony hummed, he knew Nat’s cooking better than anyone else (except Clint, of course) and it was always worth killing for. He took the robe from Steve’s hands and shrugged it on, noticing that both pain and heat were gone. He felt a bit weak, but it wasn’t surprising since he hadn’t eaten and had slept for so long – nor was it strange after a heat. He paused in front of the mirror, taking in his rumpled appearance and grimacing at the pillow marks on his cheek.

“Can the curry wait while I take a shower? I need like, five minutes top.”
“Yeah, obviously” Steve nodded.

He wasn’t long to get to the bathroom and shower, scrubbing at the dried sweat on his skin until he was lobster red before he exited, pulling on a pair of sweatpants Steve had let there for him, and a sweatshirt that was too wide to be his. It smelled clean, but even like this he could smell Steve’s underlying, faint scent embedded in the fabric. He felt way better now that he was clean and dressed, and he casually strolled into the dining-room where the table was set.

“Mama!” Peter called as soon as he saw him, and he heard the pitter-patter of naked feet running to him.

Smiling, he crouched and opened his arms wide for his boy.

“Hello sweetheart”, he said pressing a kiss to his temple, and Peter grinned.
“Are you better now mama?”
“Yes, sweethe- You can hear me?!” he gasped as he realized Peter was talking.
“Yes!” Peter squealed happily, throwing his arms around his neck, “are you proud, mama?”
“So proud, sweetheart. I never doubted you could do it.”
“Bucky Bear and Loki helped”, Peter supplied, and Tony nodded and looked up.

Indeed, Loki was there, reading a novel at the table, clad in smart dress pants and a wide, sleeveless hoodie that certainly belonged to Clint. Green eyes looked up when he heard his name, and he gave a nod at Tony.

“Getting rid of everyone involved in Extremis was long and tedious”, the god drawled when he felt the question in his eyes. “Luckily, frightening mortals made up for it.”
“How did you help Peter?” Tony asked, straightening up and groaning as his back protested.
“I merely dulled the feelings of fear, horror and powerlessness associated to the accident”, Loki replied. “They will strengthen again gradually, so Peter can learn to live with them.”
“Thank you.”
“I barely did anything”, Loki pointed out, “Peter was already starting to hear again when I came back yesterday in the early morning.” His eyes locked with Tony’s, examining him as if searching for something.
“And who’s Bucky Bear?” Tony asked belatedly.

He knew about the comfort bears made after Barnes, but he doubted it had anything in common.

“Our best guess is that Bucky Bear is an imaginary friend Peter made up to deal with the trauma”, Steve answered, carrying Jamie who was grinning happily. “Dr. Palmer said it’s not uncommon and there is nothing to worry about.”

Peter tugged on his sleeve to attract his attention, and he crouched again so his boy could whisper in his ear.

“Uncle Steeb doesn’t believe Bucky Bear is real because he didn’t see him”, he whispered. “I know better.”
“Oh?” Tony whispered back. “Tell me more about Bucky Bear.”
“He’s very kind”, Peter replied. “He has a cool metal arm too! He knows ASL so we could talk, and he asked me…” Peter bit his lips, pulled away, frowned and started to sign: “he asked me about the explosion. He asked about what I saw and how I felt, like the mind doctor did but kinder.”

Tony wasn’t exactly surprised that Peter couldn’t speak of the attack, the psychiatrist had warned it could happen, but he was glad he had another way of expressing his thoughts and feelings. He was more surprised by Jamie, who started to sign too from Steve’s arms.

“I like Bucky Bear.”

A shiver ran up Tony’s spine. Talk about weird. He straightened up and found himself staring back at Loki, who was studying him from afar.

“Yes”, he replied, “there is something weird about that Bucky Bear”, he confirmed. “Time magic, actually, and it appears I have sealed under secrecy whatever will happen to provoke this.”

Tony very much didn’t like anything that had the words “time” and “magic” together in one sentence.

“And you trust yourself about this?”

Loki’s eyebrow shot up in a silent “really?” and Tony had to remind himself that though he’d been manipulated by Thanos – whoever that was, it wasn’t important – he was also very much a megalomaniac who had almost destroyed his birth planet. But he also knew Loki would never hurt Peter or Jamie, and that was enough to trust him.

Natasha arrived then, wiping her hands down, and she grinned widely when she saw that Tony was up and about. She hugged him gently, as if afraid he might break, and guided him to the table so he would sit down. Bruce arrived in following, immediately helping Peter to climb into his chair after he’d set down the basket of fresh bread. He waved at Tony without a word, and Clint appeared, carrying the food with obvious concentration. Jane was following with the water – she was pale, her features drawn with worry and lack of sleep, but she also seemed hopeful. Tony couldn’t help his snort when Clint draped himself over Loki’s chair, nuzzling into his hair with delight, before he pecked his cheek and sat down as well. Steve had been strapping Jamie into his baby chair, mussing the boy’s hair before he grabbed the ladle and started to serve everyone.

As expected, Natasha’s cooking was delicious and there was nothing left of it by the end of lunch. Tony caught up with Peter while Jamie napped with Bruce, who hadn’t slept at all that night. Steve was going over something with Natasha and Clint, while Loki studied… something. He had a notebook open and kept on writing down into it, but when Tony sneaked a glance at it, it was all runes. Which was why everyone jumped when he suddenly went to his feet, his notes and everything clattering to the ground and eyes wide, like he’d just had an epiphany.

“The Sorcerer!” he simply said before he bolted out of the house.

A minute later, they heard the roar of Tony’s Ferrari as he exited the place. Clint merely resumed his conversation, apparently completely unfazed by his lover’s whims and moods. Loki came back late in the evening, and Tony had already gone back to bed, like most of the house. Only Clint noticed the almost giddy skip to his steps.

Chapter Text

“Finally, home sweet home!” Tony said, his arms wide open, as he walked into the common space in the brand-new Avengers Tower.
“I have to admit, it’s good to be back. We were a bit cramped back there”, Steve said, holding Jamie on one arm and his bag of nappies in the other.
“Mama”, Jamie said, pulling on his shirt, “Jamie wanna go down!”
“In a moment, baby”, Steve replied.

Jamie had really improved his talking in the last three months since the Battle of New York, though he still used the third person when he talked about himself.

“Clint, Loki, you’re all the way up”, Tony said, pointing to the wooden stairs. “Natasha, you’re under them. Bruce, on the half-level between Natasha’s place and the one for Thor. There a guest apartment there, and then Pepper and Jane. Steve, you’re under with Jamie, and I’m at half-level with Peter.”
“This place seems to be just as labyrinthic as Calcutta”, Bruce noticed, craning his neck to look at everything.
“The labs are downstairs, only accessible through the super-secure elevator”, Tony added, pointing to said elevator hidden under a huge painting Steve had made a month ago without really knowing why.
“Oh my God, you put that here?” Steve said in shock as he stared at the splash of colours meant to represent the sight he had of the sea from the residence.
“What did you think it was for?” Tony replied, puzzled.
“There’s a poll”, Clint noticed with delight.
“And vents for you to crawl into, along with perches, yes. Hurry up everyone, there’s still a lot to do.”

The place was a lot more different now: each apartment could be isolated simply by locking a door, but otherwise it was open as if it were just another room in a gigantic house. Stairs and corridors went up and down in every way possible, and there was indeed a poll going from the “Nest”, as Tony had dubbed Clint and Loki’s place, down to the common rooms, through all places. The kitchen, large enough that all of them could fit around the central island, opened seamlessly on the living-room already settled with a huge screen and games. Stairs went down to the gym on one side, and to the infirmary on the other side.

Adjusting his grip on Jamie, Steve went to his own place, and found himself shock-still on the threshold. It replicated his apartment back in Brooklyn, but better. There was dark wooden flooring and large windows south-exposed, from which he had an incredible sight of New York. The living-room was large and there was a plush, wine-red carpet in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows. An easel was propped up in a corner, and there was a large black leather couch facing the windows. Pieces of furniture were scattered about, and there was a small pantry for his squirrel-like food-stashes. A door led to his bedroom: it had a large double bed and was completely heat-proof, even though there were large windows there too, along with his wardrobe. A small corridor led to four other rooms: Jamie’s bedroom – with the same decoration as it had been when he’d first made it – and a guest bedroom. There was also the loo and the bathroom. He set down Jamie’s bag in his bedroom and let his kid sprawl joyfully on the living-room’s carpet.

During dinner, it appeared that everyone loved their place, and Peter didn’t wait to show his Uncle Steeb his new bedroom. The walls were a dark blue and there were phosphorescent stars on his ceiling, along with a double-bed definitely too big for him. There was a desk too, for his homework and lessons, and Steve understood why the double bed when Jamie climbed there and fell asleep. He also noticed that the room was heat-proofed too, in prevision of Peter’s fast approaching teenage years.

Pepper would be able to come home on the following day: she was now able to walk small distances, and her health had significantly improved. They threw her a small party to welcome her home, to her delight, and days finally seemed to go back to normal. Peter no longer made the nightmares he did before, and Tony had finally agreed to meet with a psychiatrist, as well as do something about his stress-levels. He put some of his lost weight back on, sparring with Clint in the gym when they could – and losing spectacularly every single time. With their lives gone back to normal, Steve decided it was time he talked to Tony about the idea he’d been nursing since the Battle of New York and the bombing.

“Tony”, he said one afternoon when Tony took a pause from his lab, while Peter studied with Natasha and Jamie napped blissfully. “I’ve been thinking, ever since the Battle… and now that Jamie is older. I’ve been considering going back to S.H.I.E.L.D., to help, especially now that I don’t have to fear an unexpected heat.”

Tony put down the milk he’d been pouring into a glass.

“Actually, Steve, I’m not surprised. I was kind of expecting it by now.” He looked up to stare back at Steve. “Are you asking for permission? Because I’m not your mama, and you’re a big guy now.”
“You don’t like it”, Steve replied carefully, painfully aware that Tony’s tone was biting, and not in the playful way.
“I know you’re a super-soldier and everything, but Steve, you’re not immortal. No, I don’t like it that you’re deciding to throw yourself back to danger, but I never entertained the illusion that you might stop. I know you only did because you had Jamie to think about, and now you just want to… go back to work, I guess.” He let out a sigh and scrubbed his face. “Just tell me you’re not leaving, because I’m not sure I can handle that. Not now, after everything…”
“I’m not leaving”, Steve promised. “I’ll get a place to crash to in Washington, near the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters just in case, but that’s all.”
“Good”, Tony breathed, “good.”
“Tony”, he said softly. “I assure you, I’ll be careful. I won’t let myself be killed or otherwise maimed, it’s a promise.”
“You’d better, because I won’t be the one telling your boyfriend you decided to play the good soldier and got killed in the process.”
“Ever so gentle”, Steve snorted. “It’ll be fine”, he insisted, pulling him in for a hug and letting Tony just hang onto him.
“You send me a text”, Tony said, voice muffled by his shoulder, “or vocal message, or you call me, I don’t care, you just tell me you’re fine, okay? Otherwise I’ll come blazing in.”
“I have Nat and Clint to watch over me”, Steve replied with a smile. “There is nothing to worry about.”
“You plunged an aircraft into the ice while pregnant, jumped from a plane without a parachute, kicked a god in the face, and you dare to tell me there is nothing to worry about?”
“When did you turn into a nagging grandma?” Steve chuckled.
“Is it so awful to hear that you are loved?” Tony asked without pulling away. “I know I never said it, but I love you, Steve, and it’d kill me if I were to lose you.”

Steve inhaled sharply. He knew, of course, that Tony had been trying to be more expressive lately, but he still hadn’t been prepared to hear it.

“And I love you too, I never questioned it.” He paused for a moment. “Was that one of the exercises your therapist gave you as homework?”
“He’s being mean to me”, Tony whined.
“I’m sure he is”, Steve replied, hiding his chuckle.

A few days later, to Steve’s amused surprise, he met with the STRIKE team, led by none other than Rumlow, who had been a prospective Alpha for him nearly three years ago. And, alright. He worked well with the guy.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed, and Steve was called regularly but rarely more than four times a month. Everything was going well, Pepper was now walking again and she had gone back to work, taking most of Tony’s load so he could focus back on inventing things and being there for Peter. Tony was a lot better too, but still too thin to look really healthy. He was having trouble putting more weight on again after the first few pounds, despite training everyday and eating well. Half a year had gone by since the Battle of New York, and life had mostly gone back to normal since the end of the Mandarin’s attack.

Steve had been on a mission the preceding day with Natasha, and they had stayed in Washington for the night. So Steve found himself doing his morning jog there, and he quickly noticed the other soldier jogging there too, though much slower than him.

“On your left”, he said with all the seriousness he could muster as he passed him. “On your left”, he repeated as he passed him again barely two minutes later.
“Uh-uh, on my left, got it”, the guy replied, a bit disgruntled. “Don’t say it! Don’t you say it!” he cried out when he noticed him coming back around behind him, and Steve repressed the urge to cackle madly, instead repeating once more:
“On your left.”
“Come on!”
“Need a medic?” he asked once they’d both finished jogging, finding the soldier sitting down a tree.
“I need a new set of lungs”, the guy answered with a laugh. “Dude, you just ran like 13 miles in 30 minutes.”
“I guess I got a late start”, Steve replied, and okay, riling him up was proving to be very funny, but also it was kind of true.
“Oh, really? You should be ashamed of yourself”, the soldier answered. “You should take another lap.” He paused. “Did you just take it? I assumed you just took it.”
“What unit you with?”
“58, Pararescue. But now I'm working down at the VA. Sam Wilson”, the man answered, and Steve was glad he could put a name on that face.
“Steve Rogers”, he replied, offering his hand.
“I kind of put that together”, and oh, no, Sam was snarky. Why did he always attract the snarky types?
“What betrayed me, the sass or the good looks?” Steve replied with a grin, knowing he was pushing it and not able to stop from doing it anyway.

Sam laughed wholeheartedly.

“Man, they never said you make jokes”, he said once he’d calmed down. “Though now if anyone asks me how I identified Captain America, I will definitely answer ‘His sass, of course’.” He paused. “What brought you to DC?”
“Work”, Steve replied. “I was on a mission yesterday, I should be going back home soon.”
“Still on the job, I see. You must miss the good old days, huh?”

Steve smiled.

“Well, things aren’t so bad. Food’s the lot better, we used to boil everything. No polio is good, I’m glad my k- People don’t have to deal with that anymore. Internet is great once you get used to it.”
“It’s been what, two years, since you returned?”, Sam asked, and Steve wondered if he’d noticed his slip of the tongue – I’m glad my kid won’t get it, he’d almost said.
“Closer to three, now”, Steve replied with a nod. “The beginning was really rough, get used to everything… Couldn’t sleep, I’m sure you know what that’s like. But Tony was great and I’m really glad I got to know him.”

For a moment, Sam looked thoughtful.

“You know, it’s really strange how much the guy changed since he came out and disclosed he had a child. Before, it felt like there was something forced about him, and now it’s like everything makes sense.” He paused. “You knew before anyone else, uh?”
“It would have been hard not too, being flatmates”, Steve said with a grin. “Believe it or not, but Pete adopted me before anyone else did.” His phone beeped and he checked it - Mission alert. Extraction imminent. Meet at the curb. :) – before looking up. “Alright, Sam, duty calls. Thanks for the run. If that's what you wanna call running.”

They shook hands and Sam’s eyebrow went up.

“Oh, that’s how it is?”
“Oh, that’s how it is”, Steve replied with a grin.
“Okay”, Sam said, laughing. “Any time you wanna stop by the VA, make me look awesome in front of the girl at the front desk, just let me know.”
“I'll keep it in mind.”
“Okay”, Sam said again, and he pulled that face – the face people make when they realize they’ve used the same word over and over again in a too short conversation.

That was the moment Natasha chose to pull up and roll down the window with a shit-eating grin that usually indicated trouble.

“Hey, fellas. Either one of you know where the Smithsonian is? I'm here to pick up a fossil.”
“You know, you’re supposed to be nice and gentle with your elderly”, Steve replied as he got into the car. “And careful with fossils, they’re precious.”
“I’ll keep that in mind”, she grinned.
“Are you done? I wanna go home”, Clint said from the backseat. “Oh, hey. Hadn’t noticed you”, he said when he finally saw Sam.
“Wouldn’t expect you to when you’ve got these two just in front of you”, Sam replied with a nod.
“Can’t run everywhere”, Steve said matter-of-factly.
“No you can’t.”

Sam half waved at them, watching as the sports car drove away speedily. Talk about an unexpected meeting, uh.

*

Steve was listening to Rumlow’s briefing as they got ready. The STRIKE team was behind them, doing the same, and he had Natasha with him. Clint was at the place they rented in Washington, sleeping and waiting for them to return.

“Twenty-five, top mercs, led by this guy”, Rumlow said in reply to his question about the pirates. “Georges Batroc. Ex-DGSE, Action Division. He's at the top of Interpol's Red Notice. Before the French demobilized him, he had thirty-six kill missions. This guy's got a rep for maximum casualties.”

Rumlow was an amazingly good leader and fighter, but Steve was experienced enough to read the tension in his body. Batroc was going to be a problem, it seemed. Maybe there was also the fact that, as Natasha had pointed out a few weeks ago, Rumlow seemed to have a thing for him. Steve wasn’t too sure, he’d never been good at picking up on flirting, but Natasha assured him Rumlow was definitely interested. He sincerely hoped, if it was true, that it wouldn’t be a problem.

“What did Tony say when you called home?”
“That there wouldn’t be any kebab left for us”, Steve replied. “He knows how to make his displeasure known.”
“That’s a shame, I was looking forward to it”, Natasha said.
“Me too”, Steve shouted over his shoulder just before he dove from the plane.
“Was he wearing a parachute?” a STRIKE agent asked with slight worry in his voice.
“No”, Rumlow replied, smiling, his eyes ablaze. “No, he wasn’t.”

Steve had wiped the deck and a pirate was pointing his gun at him when Rumlow parachuted down and shot the guy dead.

“Thanks.”
“Yeah, you seemed pretty helpless without me”, Rumlow replied, and okay maybe there was a little something in his scent that hinted towards his interest, but it would be rude and unprofessional to point it out.

They went on with the mission, until Steve found himself fighting toe-to-toe with Batroc, his blood pounding hard in his veins. There weren’t many would could fight with him on a quasi-equal footing – Rumlow would put up a fight, but in the end he just wasn’t strong enough. Steve didn’t know whether he was pleasantly surprised from the challenge, or worried because of it. In such a fight, there was no room for mistakes.

“Je croyais que tu étais plus qu’un bouclier ! » Batroc roared.

Steve hung his shield on his back and took off his cowl to face the pirate.

“On va voir”, he replied, perhaps a bit more cheekily than necessary.

He finally managed to knock Batroc down, grimacing when he realized the pirate’s scent had rubbed off on his clothes. He hated having his enemies’ scent on his clothes, and it was worse since the serum strengthened his sense of smell. It was not even that Batroc smelled bad, no – he smelled like any particularly strong Alpha should, spiced and fiery. But it meant he’d been close enough for that.

“You got what you need?” he asked Natasha as she backed up SHIELD’s intel.
“Yes”, she replied. “Remember to yell at Fury some, I wasn’t supposed to warn you.”
“Don’t worry, I yell alright”, he assured her – just before Batroc rose and threw a grenade that Steve had to deflect before he dashed through a window with Natasha. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah”, Natasha replied. “Let’s go meet Rumlow.”
“Are you injured, Cap?” Rumlow asked as soon as he noticed where they’d come from and the dust they were covered in.
“I’m alright”, Steve replied.
“Gosh, you stink of Batroc”, Rumlow added, pursing his nose. “What the hell happened?”
“Batroc can handle himself in a fight, that’s when his scent rubbed off”, Steve grimaced.

Rumlow didn’t seem too happy about that, his scent spiking threateningly, and Steve mentally put another mark in the “Nat’ is right” tally he’d been keeping. That Natasha gave him a “told you so” look at the same time really didn’t help.

*

Steve hadn’t expected his little stunt of “Fury, you’re a fucking liar” to get him something, but now he was glad he did. “Project Insight”, what a load of bullshit. He couldn’t believe he’d spent all this time fighting for freedom and here SHIELD was, about to throw everything out for “protection”. A rule of fear.

Looking at his phone, he saw that Natasha was already back to the apartment, and Clint had ordered take-out. It was too late now to go home, they would just have to stay one night more. Sighing, he thought for a second whether to take his shower here, at SHIELD headquarters, or back at the apartment. The decision was quickly taken: at this hour, there was probably no more hot water at the apartment. Not enough for him to shower, anyway. He strode to the changing rooms, pulling a change of clothes and a towel from his locker as the last soldiers exited. His phone rang just as the door closed and he picked it up when he saw that it was Tony. A video call, which meant it would be Jamie on the other side. Of course, at this hour he was about to go to bed.

“Hello mama!” Jamie said immediately with a toothy grin, way too close to the camera.
“Hello baby”, he grinned back. “How was your day?”
“We did modelling-clay!” Jamie replied excitedly. “Look, mama, look! Pretty flowers for you!”

He held out a misshapen, bright pink clay-made pot, from which sprouted a bunch of orchids.

“That’s very pretty, Jamie”, Steve replied. “Were you nice?”
“Yes”, Jamie nodded. “Loki made the water green”, he added with a grin, “in the bath!”
“Wow, that’s awesome! Are you going to bed now?”
“Tony said he’d read Jamie a story”, he replied. “Mama, when are you coming home?”
“Tomorrow, baby. I’ll be there tomorrow.” Jamie only looked confused, so Steve amended: “You sleep tonight, and then I will see you, okay?”
“Okay. I miss you, mama.”
“I miss you too, baby. Sweet dreams.”

Jamie had already hung up. Steve put his phone down, and only then did he notice Rumlow standing there, shock-still.

“Is there a problem?”
“I didn’t know you had a child”, he drawled.

Steve froze, and stared back at him.

“It’s not exactly common knowledge”, he pointed out.
“Sorry, I just… I wasn’t expecting it. You never said you were in a relationship, and didn’t seem interested in any Omega, so I just…”
“You seem to be a bit mistaken there”, Steve said, putting his phone in his bag. “I was already pregnant when they pulled me out of the ice.”

Understanding downed on Rumlow’s face.

“Must have been tough, especially being by yourself.”
“Well, I managed”, Steve shrugged. “Did you need something?”
“I was just going to grab a shower before heading out”, Rumlow replied shaking his head. “Didn’t mean to listen in on your call, I’m sorry.”
“No, I should have been more careful. If you could just… you know, not talk about it?”
“Yeah, of course.” Rumlow grabbed his own things while Steve started to pull off his uniform. “…I’m curious though, who’s the father? I mean, I never heard about you being in a relationship, even back in the days.”
“Barnes”, Steve replied, showing his uniform in his bag to get it washed. “Bucky Barnes. He was my Alpha, but history decided to just… scrap that, I guess.”

Rumlow stilled completely, though Steve didn’t notice, busy as he was pulling of his tight uniform. Slowly, he turned around, letting his eyes rake over Steve’s now mostly naked body, noticing only now the slight, quite faded stretch marks over his abdomen on otherwise unmarked skin… and the bite that, in all the weeks they’d known each other, had yet to fade. It was still the same mark, Rumlow was sure of that. No one could bite in exactly the same place several times, with exactly the same pressure and angle. Perhaps Barnes mark. Maybe super-soldiers bites remained for a long, long time – it wasn’t something HYDRA had tested.

“It sucks, that they erased that”, he finally said. “Must have been difficult to see your relationship downplayed to a mere friendship.”

Steve made a complicated expression that Rumlow wasn’t exactly sure how to interpret.

“I… I don’t want to talk about it, Rumlow. He’s dead, has been dead for seventy fucking years, and isn’t coming back the way I did.”

I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you, Rumlow thought for a second before catching himself. Steve’s uniform did a very good job at mostly concealing his scent, especially the Omega part of it, but now that he was without it, Rumlow was catching the brunt of it – sugary sweet and soft, and it made him want to sink his teeth into that unmarred flesh to hold him down as he made him his. Not for long, he knew – HYDRA had projects, and Captain America was to be eliminated. But just a bit was fine, he could make do with just a bit.

He took a step forward, and Steve didn’t turn back to face him, busy as he was peeling his pants off from where the sweat had stuck it to his flesh. His eyes flashed at the sight of those muscles playing smoothly under his skin – truly, this was Erskine’s chef-d’oeuvre. Softly, he ran his fingers over the buzzed hair at the back of Steve’s head, pressing slightly before he rolled then over his nape. The Soldier stilled under his hand, probably caught off-guard.

“You should relax a bit”, he said, voice lower and infused with Alpha intent, the one that usually made Omegas’ knees wobble. “I could help you with that.”

He knew, from his looks into Steve’s files, that the man wasn’t immune to this. He had expected his shoulders to drop in relief, in a submissive stance that would make him look downright sinful.

“Take your hand off of me”, Steve said, voice even and low. “If you wished to court me, this is absolutely not the way to go at it. Your behaviour is unacceptable.”

Rumlow stilled, but didn’t remove his hand. Maybe he had under-estimated how the serum affected him. Maybe there was more Alpha in him than he’d previously thought. He filed the information away for a report, and stared at Steve.

“Rumlow”, Steve repeated, and there was a slight growl in his voice – the same growl he used when he talked to his enemies, and it went straight to Rumlow’s groin. “If you don’t take you hand off of me immediately, I will do it myself and you won’t like it.”

He couldn’t antagonize him now. Not yet. No matter how much he wanted to – how much he wanted to make him submit and grovel, and whisper a “hail Hydra” in his ear just to watch the desperation in his eyes. He pulled his fingers away, swallowing the possessive growl mounting from his chest.

“Sorry”, he said. “I lost myself there for a moment. Didn’t expect your scent to be so strong.”

And damn, there was understanding in Steve’s eyes, Captain Righteous believed that.

“We’re alright”, Steve assured him, “as long as you keep your hands to yourself. I’ll have you know I’m taken already, and I’m pretty sure my Alpha wouldn’t take kindly if you bypassed that again. I’m more lenient than he is.”

A veiled threat. Steve could take him down, they both knew that, but he was willing to forgive one trespassing. But no Alpha would forgive another for touching their Omega, they all knew that – and yet Rumlow ached to possess him, Alpha or not.

“Understood”, he replied before purposefully turning his back on him.

Steve finally disentangled himself from his uniform and went for a quick shower, letting the hot water wash the grime and Alpha scents from his skin. He was nearly finished when Rumlow arrived, and lost no time drying himself and getting dressed in loose, anonymous clothes.

Chapter Text

“It could be risky”, Tony pointed out.
“I know, don’t think I didn’t think of that”, Steve replied, “but I feel… I feel the need to do this. I still haven’t seen the Smithsonian and there isn’t this much I’ve got left of Bucky. Jamie should know who his father was, and I- I get this lump in my throat every time I try to talk about him.”
“I know where you come from”, Tony replied. “Everyone who knew Bucky is either dead or… well. But are you sure a museum is the best place for that?”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while”, Steve sighed. “I pass in front of the Smithsonian every single time I go to the HQ.” He paused. “Peter, Jamie, stop eavesdropping and come here”, he added sternly.

There was a hushed scuttle, and finally Peter appeared, holding Jamie’s hand tightly. The toddler didn’t look too happy to be caught like this, if his frown was anything to go by. Steve resolved to take him to the hair-dresser as well, his red locks were now falling past his shoulders and in good need of a cut.

“Sorry, Uncle Steeb. Sorry, mama”, Peter said, his eyes on the floor.

Tony nodded his approval, and Jamie frowned even harder, his blue eyes steel-like.

“Jamie?” Steve repeated.
“No”, Jamie grumbled. “Jamie is not sorry.”
“Well at least that was clear”, Tony said, holding back a chuckle at the child’s temper.
“Jamie, I already told you, it’s not pretty to eavesdrop. You owe me an apology because you were very rude.”
“No”, Jamie cried, louder, “no, Jamie don’t want to!”
“Alright, then. You’re grounded until you decide to apologize.”

Jamie only crossed his arms and stomped his foot in anger, staring back at Steve with fury. Part of Steve wanted to burst out laughing because he remembered Bucky’s little sister making the exact same face when she’d had a temper tantrum, the other knew not to let anything slide. Ultimately though, Jamie turned away sulkily and went to stand in his designed grounded corner in the nearby living-room. That way, Steve could keep an eye on him. He had tried telling him to go to his bedroom, knowing Jarvis would tell him if there was anything wrong, but Jamie would just get his toys out and play like everything was normal.

“Uncle Steeb”, Peter asked in a small voice. “I want to go to the mu-se-um too.”

Steve glanced at Tony.

“I’ll think about it, sweetheart”, Tony promised. “There are many museums we can go to, you know?”

Peter nodded, and trudged upstairs to vent to Clint and Loki. Steve scrubbed his hands over his face.

“Don’t you worry about it”, Tony told him. “I’ll take Peter there some other time.” He paused. “You really need to do this, uh?”
“Yes”, Steve sighed. “I feel like I’ve been running from this for far too long. It’s time I face the truth.”
“Do you want… someone to come with you?”

Steve shook his head.

“It’s about Jamie and me.”
“Okay then.”

 

Two days later, Steve had taken the jet to Washington with Jamie, dropped some groceries and their change of clothes at the apartment, and dressed with a hoodie and a fake pair of glasses with a huge, dark plastic frame. He first took Jamie to a hair-dresser, before he set the boy on his shoulders to walk to the Smithsonian. Jamie was ecstatic to be out and about with his mama, and he pointed excitedly at everything. People smiled at the sight of them, and absolutely no one recognized Steve.

They went into the Smithsonian, and Jamie stared in awe at everything, before he suddenly let go of Steve’s hand to run to a changing picture of him that showed how the serum changed him.

“Wait, Jamie!” Steve cried out before he ran after him. “Don’t go running off like that, baby”, he chided him.
“Mama”, Jamie said in awe, “that you!”

Jamie was completely fascinated with the exposition, though Steve avoided every footing of the Howling Commandos in action. Finally, he noticed a room dedicated to the Howling Commandos, and a display about Bucky. His heart caught in his chest and he picked Jamie up.

“Remember what I told you? That we were going to see things about your papa?”

Jamie nodded attentively. The narrator went on:

“Best friends since childhood, Bucky Barnes and Steven Rogers were inseparable on both schoolyard and battlefield. Barnes is the only Howling Commando to give his life in service of his country.”
“Look, Jamie”, Steve murmured as he stopped in front of a video of Bucky and him – and really, how could people not see they were mates? Bucky was looking at him like he was the eighth marvel of the world, even once they’d broken up. He bit his lip, looking at the footage date, and noticed he was likely already pregnant when it had been taken. “This man here was your papa.”

Jamie giggled.

“You’re silly, mama! That’s Bucky Bear, not papa!”

Steve found himself dumfounded. Of all reactions, this was the least expected.

“No, Jamie, this is James Buchanan Barnes. Your father.”

Jamie cocked his head aside.

“So Bucky Bear is Jamie’s papa?”

Steve let out a sigh, and nodded.

“If you want, yes. Bucky Bear is your papa.”
“Jamie likes papa”, Jamie replied with a strong nod. “And mama too.”
“I love you too, baby”, Steve said with a smile. “Now, we should get going. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

*

“Oh, Steve”, Peggy breathed. “He is gorgeous.”

Steve smiled proudly, Jamie propped up on his knee as he sat at Peggy’s bedside.

“Yeah I think Bucky and I did alright there”, he breathed, gently mussing Jamie’s hair. “But you know, you should be proud of yourself too.”
“Mmh. I have lived a life. My only regret is that I won’t get to see yours. But I’m glad you brought Jamie… He was always on my mind, every time I thought about you, I thought of that small life you’d taken with you. I am finally at peace.” She looked at Jamie. “Young man, make your mama proud, okay?”

Jamie nodded solemnly.

“Yes Mrs. Carter”, he replied, adding in a military salute that got him two raised eyebrows.
“Where did you pick that up?” Steve asked.
“At the museum!” Jamie replied excitedly. “You did that for Mrs. Carter, mama.”
“Call me Peggy, dear”, Peggy breathed, her hand lightly held by Steve’s. She chuckled and started to cough, so Steve served her a glass of water.

Her gaze had drifted back, unfocused, but then she looked at him again and her eyes sparkled with joy.

“Steve?”
“Yeah.”
“You’re alive! You came, you came back…”

Steve swallowed the lump in his throat.

“Yeah, Peggy.”
“It’s been so long. So long”, she cried. Her gaze then fell on Jamie, and she gasped.
“Hello Mrs. Carter”, Jamie said with a grin, and Steve had never been so glad he’d briefed the kid on what to expect and what to say. “I am James Anthony Rogers, at your service!”
“Oh, let me look at you, my boy… Oh, you’re really gorgeous.” Gently, her weak, wrinkled fingers stroke his plump cheek. “You have your father’s eyes.”

Steve held Jamie just a little bit tighter.

*

Steve had planned to spend a few days in DC with Jamie, so they had stopped at the apartment. He was in his bed, Jamie tucked against him, relaxed but not yet sleeping, his little hand against his heart.

“Mama”, he asked softly. “Jamie wants no more hiding. Jamie wants to go to the park with you, and to the museum.”
“It’s dangerous outside, baby. There are bad people, who do bad things. There are people who don’t like me, and they could try to hurt you.”
“Jamie trusts you, mama”, Jamie replied stubbornly. “And Uncle Tony, Tetka Natasha, Tio Rhodes, Hawkeye, Peppa, Loki, and Aunt Jane. Jamie likes Bruce and Thor.”

Steve couldn’t stop himself from grinning and he kissed the top of his head.

“You know what? You’re right, baby. I shouldn’t have to hide you.”
“Mama, can you sing a song? Please?”
“Of course, baby”, Steve whispered. “What song would you like?”
“La nuit!”

There was a second of silence as Steve reached into his mind for the lyrics and music. Les Choristes was one of the very first movies he’d watched after getting out of the ice, and he hadn’t been able to stop himself from listening to all the songs on repeat until he knew them by heart. He had kept on singing them as lullabies for Jamie once Tony had showed him how much it calmed him, and Jamie absolutely loved them.

“Oh nuit viens apporter à la terre
Le calme enchantement de ton mystère
L'ombre qui t'escorte est si douce
Si doux est le concert de tes doigts
chantant l'espérance
Si grand est ton pouvoir transformant
tout en rêve heureux…”

Jamie was sleeping peacefully already, his lips quirking up into a smile – exactly as Bucky’s did when he slept. He nuzzled his baby gently and whispered an “I love you” into the night, before closing his eyes and drifting off to sleep.

*

Jamie was delighted to spend the day out with his mama, though they went back to the apartment for his nap. It turned out having a baby was the best disguise ever: absolutely no one expected Captain America to stroll by with a toddler, and so no one looked at him twice. Instead, Jamie got the brunt of the attention with his cheery smiles and charming waves, and there was no wonder where he’d gotten that too. Bucky really hadn’t failed that one, that was for sure. In the end of the afternoon, after hesitating for a long time, Steve decided to drop by to see Sam. The trip to the zoo had exhausted Jamie, who was sleeping against his shoulder contentedly, his baby scent soft and comforting.
The PTSD meeting was ending when Steve arrived, as a woman talked.

“The thing is I think it's getting worse. A cop pulled me over last week, he thought I was drunk. I swerved to miss a plastic bag. I thought it was an IED.”
“Some stuff you leave there, other stuff you bring back. It's our job to figure out how to carry it. Is it gonna be in a big suitcase or in a little man-purse? It's up to you.” Sam said goodbye and then walked over to him, smirking. “Look who it is. The running man.”
“Caught the last few minutes. It’s pretty intense.”
“Yeah, brother, we all got the same problems. Guilt, regret.” Sam glanced at Jamie, but didn’t say a word.
“You lose someone?” Steve asked, adjusting his grip on Jamie.
“My wingman, Riley. Flying a night mission. Standard PJ rescue op, nothing we hadn't done a thousand times before, till RPG knock Riley's dumb ass out of the sky. Nothing I could do. It's like I was up there just to watch.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Enough about that, I’m dying of curiosity here. Who’s the little guy? I didn’t expect Captain America to babysit, of all people. I thought Peter was older?”
“Peter is closing on eight now”, Steve replied with a nod, and he grinned. “That’s my son, Jamie.”

Sam’s jaw dropped in shock as he stared at Steve, then at Jamie’s back, and back to Steve. He was completely speechless, and Steve couldn’t stop from laughing.

“I know, it’s a shock, right?”
“Damn man, you lost no time there. I know jack shit about kids but this one is older than two, isn’t he?”
“He’ll turn three in January”, Steve nodded.

Jamie chose this moment to wake up. He sat up wearily and rubbed his eyes with a yawn.

“Mama? Where are we?”
“Still in DC, baby”, Steve replied, pecking his nose. “You slept well?”
“Mmh-mmh”, Jamie nodded, and turned around, meeting Sam’s gaze. “Who’s that, mama?”
“This is Sam. Say hello.”
“Hello Mr. Sam”, Jamie said, and he started to grin.

Sam turned to Steve, wide-eyed.

“’Mama’?” he repeated, his voice slightly tinged with hysteria. “What’s the story there?”
“I was pregnant with this one when I crashed the plane”, Steve replied simply. “Please don’t faint.”

Sam pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes with a groan.

“Ah, cursed image! Please tell me you’re pulling my leg.”
“Nope”, Steve grinned, popping the ‘p’. “I was born an Omega. I bore and birthed this one in the twenty-first century.”
“Jamie, is your mama pulling my leg?” Sam asked without pulling his hands away from his eyes.

Jamie stared at him, confused, but ultimately replied:

“Papa is in the museum! Mama brought Jamie to see him yesterday.” He then looked at Steve: “Your friend is funny, mama.”
“Right, baby?” Steve chuckled. “Alright there, Sam?”
“I’m trying very hard no to freak out right now. I can’t believe it’s not some sick joke.”

Steve let out a sigh, pulled out his phone and scrolled through it for one of the very first photos he had in it: Natasha had taken it so he would have a memory. He was standing aside, shirtless, sweatpants low on his hips, both of his hands cupping his belly. For most Omegas, this would have been a mid-pregnancy photo, but he’d actually been eight months along already.

“Is that proof enough?” he asked, holding out his phone for Sam.
“This is probably the wildest thing I’ve ever seen”, Sam replied, staring at the photo in awe. “Wow.”

He passed the phone back to Steve, who showed the photo to Jamie when he made grabby hands at it.

“You’re very pretty, mama.” He then reached up to whisper into Steve’s ear, who nodded and whispered “well, ask”, so he turned to Sam, stared back at him and held out his arms to him. “Carry Jamie, Sam, please?”
“U-Uh, alright”, Sam agreed, close to panic, and Jamie looped his arms around his neck, holding on tightly. “Wow, you’re heavy!”

Jamie grinned and ran his fingertips over Sam’s hair, flowers sprouting from his hands and weaving themselves into an enormous flower crown, making Steve laugh out loud. Sam looked up, not too sure about this new ornament, and now completely freaked out by Jamie’s abilities.

“Can you do that too?”, he asked worriedly.
“No. I’m sorry, Sam, but I can’t weave flower crowns out of nothing.” He then looked at Jamie. “Jamie, we talked about this already. You can’t use magic in public.”

Jamie pouted.

“We were about to go grab dinner”, Steve added, “you wanna join us?”
“I have lots of questions.”
“And I’ll answer them as best as I can”, Steve grinned. “C’mon, let’s go. Jamie?”

Jamie smiled and let go of Sam to get back into Steve’s arms. Sam reached out to lightly touch the flower crown.

“I feel like I lost all dignity since I met you.”
“You no longer care about dignity once you have children, believe me”, Steve laughed. “You just… do what you can.”

*

It was quite late already when Steve made it back to the apartment, Jamie long asleep in his arms, wrapped in his jacket like in a blanket. Their neighbour, Kate, was just exiting, on the phone. She hung up and looked at Jamie.

“Well it seems to me someone is in need of a bed.”
“It would seem so, yeah”, Steve smiled. “The day exhausted him, he’s been out cold for a while now.”
“Are you babysitting for Natalia and Clint? They probably needed a break, with a little one it’s always harder to have time together.”

Steve smiled. Natasha and Clint had been posing as a couple ever since they’d gotten the apartment, years ago, and the neighbours were used to this couple – a pilot and a flight-attendant – dropping by unexpectedly for either a night or a few days.

“Actually, this little one is mine’s”, he replied. “Spending a few days alone with my kid. We needed that.”
“Single dad, then?” she replied, smiling and adjusting her grip on her laundry-basket.
“You could say that, yes”, Steve replied. “My family has been helping out so I’ve never really been alone in this.”

She nodded and he took a few steps to his door.

“Oh, I think you left your stereo on”, she called as he was about to open the door.
“Right. Thank you.”

He paused, his heart pounding. He hadn’t switched on the stereo, he was sure of that. He would have come in without hesitation if he hadn’t had Jamie in his arms.

“Do you mind keeping an eye on him? I’ll be right back”, he said, turning to Kate who hadn’t left yet.

He saw a flicker of worry in her eyes, but she put her basket down and reached out for Jamie anyway. He entered cautiously, cursing himself for not having his shield until he found Fury sitting in the dark. He held up his finger, stepped back out and took Jamie back.

“Thank you, Kate.”
“It was no problem. Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, I thought I’d left the gas on but I’d switched it off alright”, he replied with a smile.

She nodded, not quite won over by his lie, and retreated to her apartment while he went back inside with Jamie held tight against him.

“I didn’t know Natalia had given you a key.”
“You really think I'd need one? My wife kicked me out.”
“Didn’t know you were married”, Steve answered, walking to his bedroom to settle Jamie on the bed. Something was wrong, very wrong. He could smell blood.
“A lot of things you don’t know about me.”
“I know, Nick. That’s the problem.” He turned on the light, and just as he’d thought, Nick was injured. Nick held a finger up, and he switched the light off again.
“I’m sorry to have to do this, but I had no place else to crash”, Nick said as he held his phone out with the text “ears everywhere”, quickly deleted to show “SHIELD compromised”.

Steve felt his heart pound. Jamie was just a door away, blissfully asleep. Nick was injured and SHIELD being compromised…

“Who else knows about your wife?”
“Just… my friends”, Nick replied while showing him a curt “you and me”.

And then, the world shattered to pieces. Three bullets tore through the window, hitting Fury dead on. As quickly as he could, he dragged him out of the way, glancing up to see the shooter. A piercing wail rose, a frightened sound that made his blood boil.

“Ma-ma!”
“Don’t… trust anyone”, Fury said at the same time, slipping him the flash drive Natasha had retrieved from their previous mission on the Lemurian Star before he passed out.

Quickly, he slipped it in his pocket before he ran for Jamie, who was wailing loudly now, completely frightened by the shot. A glance through the window told him something unexpected: the shooter was still there, standing undecisive on the rooftop.

“Captain Rogers? Captain, I’m Agent 13 of SHIELD Special Service. I’m assigned to protect you.”
“Kate?” He called. “Stand down, the shooter is still out there.”

But she had noticed Fury and was already calling for reinforcement. In Steve’s arms, Jamie had stopped wailing to stare through the window, right back at the shooter. Something crackled and electricity shot up Steve’s arms, jolting him, and he almost dropped Jamie from the sudden and unexpected pain. Something hard hit him square in the chest, with enough force to send him to the ground and slightly knock him out. The lights flickered, but he still noticed that whatever had sprawled him, had also sent the assassin flying back.

His ears ringing, he managed to sit up enough to see that Jamie was alright, though there were green tendrils rising from his skin. Then, the air shimmered around him and suddenly Loki was there, clad in his armour.

“Loki?” he winced. “What…”
“Jamie just broke my seal”, Loki replied urgently. “He’s back to full capacity.”
“What? Seal them again!”
“I can’t”, Loki hissed. “Not right now, anyway.” But he gently held Jamie head between his hands, and the child’s eyes fluttered as he fell asleep. “There, he should sleep for a while. What happened? The seal was designed to be only broken if he was in danger, it shouldn’t…” But then, he turned around and noticed the bullet-holes in the wall and the flurry of activity as medics arrived to rescue Fury. “I see”, he said, lips pinched. “Captain, hang onto me. We’re going.”

Steve looked at Nick, then at Jamie, the flash drive weighing heavily in his pocket. He gulped, nodded and grabbed Loki’s extended arm as the god gathered Jamie against his chest.

Chapter Text

“He’s dead”, Natasha said, her jaw clenched.
“What?” Steve replied in shock.
“Nick. He’s dead. So now, you need to tell us exactly what happened.”

Steve looked around the living-room where they were gathered. Tony, white as a sheet. Bruce, obviously shaken, and Natasha so clearly angry. Clint was leaning against Loki, who had his fingers sunken into his hair, grounding him. Only Pepper and Jane were asleep – they were neither Agents nor Avengers. Peter was sleeping too, Jamie tucked safely in his bed so he wouldn’t wake up alone.

Fury wanted him to trust no one, because he trusted no one. But this was his family, and he had trusted them with his own child’s life more than once. So – he took the flash-drive out of his pocket and put it on the table in front of him, before telling them everything. His phone chimed in just as he finished, a convocation from SHIELD, for interrogation. He should have expected it, of course.

“I’m wanted at SHIELD”, he declared.
“The jet is still in DC”, Tony pointed out. “And Loki should definitely keep out of SHIELD, it was lucky enough that no one saw you in the apartment.”
“Please”, Loki snorted, “I could stroll through their corridors without anyone noticing me.”
“Either way”, Tony cut in. “Steve, you should be careful. This stinks badly.”
“I know”, Steve replied. “I should just suit up already.”
“Come with me”, Tony said, shaking his head. “Your armour is ready. I say this is the moment for a field try. At least, it should get you there quickly.”
“Wait”, Natasha said, and everyone froze. She had her phone in her hand and didn’t look happy about what she was seeing. “I just got Agent 13’s report about the shooter – metal arm, and he picked himself up quickly after Jamie’s blast. Hints are that he’s strong, all agents were down for two minutes afterwards. Used soviet-slugs.” She looked up. “It’s bad. I know who that is.”

Clint perked up, worrying his lower lip.

“Nat’, you don’t think…?”
“It’s him”, she said with certainty. “Most of the intelligence community doesn't believe he exists, the ones who do call him the Winter Soldier. He's credited with over two dozen assassinations in the last fifty years.”
“A ghost story?” Steve replied, raising an eyebrow.
“Five years ago I was escorting a nuclear engineer out of Iran, somebody shot out my tires near Odessa. We lost control, went straight over a cliff, I pulled us out, but the Winter Soldier was there. I was covering my engineer, so he shot him straight through me.” She paused, obviously still shaken by the whole ordeal. “Going after him is a dead-end, I should know, I tried.”
“Nat’, we can’t just sit on our asses and do nothing”, Steve replied, frustrated. “And I still have this convocation to go to, and there’s this damn flash-drive that seems to be a whole load of problems, along with SHIELD being compromised. We’re not gonna stop because of a solider, Winter or not.”
“I wasn’t suggesting we do”, Natasha retorted. “Just saying, someone opened a can of worms and now we’re the ones dealing with it.” She nodded at the flash-drive. “That thing has a Level Six homing program. SHIELD will know where it is as soon as we’ll boot it up. We’ll have, like, nine minutes before they show up.”
“Then we’re not doing this here”, Tony said. “Natasha, you seem to know a lot about all of this. But I’ll be the fastest to pirate it.”
“Alright then”, Steve said. “Loki…”
“I’m staying with the kids”, Loki replied, shaking his head. “Unless you don’t want Jamie’s power to be sealed again ASAP.” Seeing their confused look, he sighed and explained: “Sealing someone’s power takes up a lot of power and energy, and Jamie’s doubly so because he has a lot of them. I’ve already used a lot to retrieve the both of you from DC, I need time to charge up again.”
“I trust you to know what’s best”, Steve nodded. “Clint, we’ll need someone on the inside. You should report to SHIELD. Bruce…”
“This mission doesn’t ask for either of my skills, as scientist or as… the Other. I’ll just be a distraction.”
“Bruce”, Steve said again, smiling faintly. “You get Jane and Pepper out of here, in a safe-house. You tell only Loki where, so he can send you the kids if anything should happen. I trust you to know how to disappear.”
“…Anywhere?”
“Anywhere”, Steve approved. “Maybe not Calcutta”, he added with a smile, “I don’t think any of them has the necessary vaccines.”
“I’m on it”, Bruce said, obviously relieved to not be in the probably up-coming melee.

Bruce and Loki left the room, grabbing the survival bags Bruce and Tony had made after the Battle of New York. There was a bag for each and every one of them, within easy reach so they could just grab them and run. It was probably one of the most useful things Tony had done with his PTSD, and Bruce knew a lot about survival. Steve turned to Natasha and Tony.

“You two take the armours to get to DC, and then you go as civilians”, he said, “I’ll meet up with you to see what the disk as to offers. We keep low. If SHIELD is compromised, anyone could be after us.”
“The apartment is compromised too”, Natasha pointed out. “We need another place.”
“There”, Steve said, scribbling an address. “Say you come on my behalf.”

Natasha memorized the address before she burnt the paper away, vanishing all evidence. Minutes later, the three of them were in Iron Armours and flying towards DC. They left them in the dilapidated shed of an abandoned house halfway to SHIELD HQ before Steve went back to the apartment to get his motorcycle. The appearance of normalcy, he thought as an agent guided him to the office he was expected in to give his report.

His little talk with Alexander Pierce left him with a weird taste in his mouth, like something just didn’t sit right. Fury had said to trust no one – and Pierce’s threat felt very real. He had to reign in his instinct at the thought that he was indirectly threatening his baby. If he succumbed to this instinct, he knew he would go on a destructive rampage until there was nothing left to threaten Jamie.
Rumlow stepped in the elevator with members of his team just as the doors closed.

“Cap”, he said with a nod.
“Rumlow”, Steve greeted him back, and there was this sick feeling in his stomach at the idea that Rumlow knew about Jamie, had probably seen his face on his screen, and maybe he was worrying for no reason at all, but he didn’t like it one bit.
“Evidence Response found some fibres on the roof they want us to see. You want me to get the tac-team ready ? »
“Not, let’s wait and see what it is first”, Steve replied, shaking his head.”

More agents got in when the doors opened, and Steve found himself uncomfortably close to the Alpha.

“I'm sorry about what happened with Fury. Messed up, what happened to him”, Rumlow said after a moment. “There was… Is your…” He lolled his head, trying to communicate without using actual words “…alright?”

Jamie, Steve’s mind easily supplied, and for a second warmth flooded his heart at the thought that Rumlow genuinely cared about his cub, enough to ask if he was alright.

“Got a hell of a fright”, he replied. “Nothing unexpected.”
“That’s really messed up”, Rumlow said, shaking his head.

Steve couldn’t quite quench the feeling that there was something wrong – an agent next to him was sweating heavily, his scent overpowering, and another had his twitchy hand to the cross of his handgun. The doors opened again, and more agents stepped in. They closed – and Steve realized, his stomach sinking, that he was surrounded by agents.

So that was what betrayal felt like? It tasted really bitter.

“Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”

The fight turned really messy really quickly, and Steve fought tooth and nail to get out of it in one piece. They weren’t trying to kill him, otherwise it would have been easier to simply shoot him – no, they were trying to arrest him. Rumlow didn’t look that confident once his team was down and he was the only one facing a close-to-feral Captain America.

“Whoa, big guy. Step down, and Jamie will be left untouched.”

Steve crouched and bared his teeth in a snarl.

“Leave him out of this”, he said before he lunged and knocked out Rumlow.

He felt the powerful urge to stomp over him, but took a deep breath and managed to calm down. He needed a way out. When getting out of the elevator through the doors proved to be impossible, since apparently all SHIELD was now after him, he ran through the glass, holding his shield tightly and regretting that he only had his uniform on, and not the armour. The drop to ground level cut his breath for a moment, leaving him gasping in pain. He had no broken bone, miraculously, but it still felt like being punched by a troll.

He got his motorcycle running, and finally made it out of SHIELD HQ. He abandoned his bike once he was far enough and ditched his uniform in case it was bugged – very likely – before he went to the point of rendez-vous. Tony and Natasha were waiting for him in the mall, playing the part of a couple all over each other and if he hadn’t known, he really would have been fooled.

“We live you alone for an hour, and you manage to become a Level One priority for SHIELD?” Natasha whispered, staring at him. “You shouldn’t have come. Not now that you’re on the run.”
“And where am I supposed to go?” he hissed.
“It doesn’t matter, you’re here now. Tony and I will go see what’s up with this flash-drive. You get us a way out, because SHIELD will definitely be after our asses.”
“Meet me in the parking lot”, Steve said with a nod.
“Here”, Tony added, sliding him a pre-paid phone. “There are two numbers, Nat’s and mine. We keep in contact.”

Steve was out in a minute, while Tony and Natasha walked hand in hand in the closest Mac store. Without waiting anymore, Natasha popped the drive into a MacBook, frowning as she tried to get in.

“Fury was right about that ship, somebody's trying to hide something. This drive is protected by some sort of AI, it keeps rewriting itself to counter my commands.”
“Let me see, AIs are my domain”, Tony said, and Natasha stepped away to let him work his magic. Tony whistled. “Damn, I’m not even sure I could override it even with Jarvis’ help. But… Yes, I’ve got something…” He blanched. “Oh, that’s. That’s not good. Not good at all.”
“Definitely not good”, Natasha replied, her jaw clenched as she took his place. “No time. I'm gonna try running a tracer. This is a program that SHIELD developed to track hostile malware, so if we can't read the file, maybe we can find out where it came from.”
“Can I help you guys with anything?” an employee asked.
“Oh, no. My fiancé was just helping me with some honeymoon destinations”, Natasha replied with a smile as the program progressed.

Tony smiled, his fingers clenching minutely on Natasha’s waist.

“We’re getting married”, he declared with the obvious joy of people in love.
“Congratulations! Where do you guys think about going?”

Tony glanced at the screen, wishing for the guy to be gone already.

“Uh, New Jersey?”
“Oh. Well, if you guys need anything, I’ve been Aaron.”
“Thank you”, Natasha replied, before they turned back to the screen.

The source of the signal appeared and Tony quickly sent it – Wheaton, NJ – to Steve’s phone along with the warning “HYDRA”. They walked out of the store, still playing the charade of the happy couple, and quickly noticed the STRIKE agents coming towards them.

“Put your arm around me, laugh at something I said”, Natasha hissed, and Tony complied, watching the agents walk by without noticing them. They made it to the elevator, and were sliding down when she noticed Rumlow coming opposite to them. “Kiss me.”
“Uh, what?”
“Public displays of affection make people very uncomfortable.”
“Yes, they do”, Tony concurred, quite accustomed to the idea. He was, however, not ready for Natasha to pull him down into a kiss and stood frozen for a second.
“Still uncomfortable?”
“Well, mark me down as scared and horny”, Tony replied, his gaze slightly confused.

Natasha snorted and playfully hit him, before they made their way out of the mall and to the parking lot. Steve was already waiting for them. Natasha rode shotgun while Tony slid into the backseats, and they were off.

“Do you know where we’re going?” Tony asked as Steve drove away.
“Yeah”, Steve replied curtly, his fingers clenched on the steering wheel. “It’s probably a trap.”
“I don’t think so”, Tony replied. “They had no way of knowing I would be there to try and decrypt it. HYDRA is somewhat linked to whatever’s going on, and I don’t like it one bit.”
“Well, we’ll see once we’re there.”

They had been riding in silence for a moment when Natasha finally asked:

“Where did Captain America learn how to steal a car?”
“Nazi Germany”, Steve replied. “And we’re borrowing. Take your feet off the dash.”
“Tony is literally sprawled in the backseat”, Natasha protested outrageously.
“We all know I’m Steve’s favourite, and he plays favourites”, Tony called out with a grin.
“And count yourself as lucky that I do”, Steve replied, smirking at his antics.
“You guys are terrible friends”, Natasha said, but there was a hint of a smile on her lips. “Tony, tell me, was this your first kiss since you got Peter?”
“Are you telling me I sucked?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Wait wait wait” Steve intervened. “You two kissed?!”
“PDA to keep Rumlow off of us”, Natasha replied. “Terrible”, she mouthed at him with a smirk, and Steve couldn’t stop himself from snorting.
“You are so mean, Natasha”, Tony said, pouting in the backseat.
“I just wondered how much practice you had!”
“Plenty enough”, Tony protested. Then, quieter, he added: “It was.”
“Maybe you should try to go out more”, Natasha suggested. “You know that’s how you meet new people, right?”
“Who tells you I want to meet new people?”
“Oh, please, Tony”, she rolled her eyes. “We've known each other for what, close to five years? You’re a people’s person, Tony. I know you’ve been feeling bad and had a lot on your mind, but really. For your sake, and maybe for Peter’s. He wants to see you happy, you know.”
“I can play matchmakers”, Steve added with a grin.
“I don’t need you two meddling” Tony shrieked.
“Promise once this is over, you will go on a date. Just one.”
Alright. I promise”, Tony sighed.

The sun was close to setting when they arrived at the coordinates: an abandoned military base. Steve shivered – he had an eerily feeling about the place.

“This is it”, Natasha said as they walked into the base. “The file came from these coordinates.”
“So did I”, Steve replied. “This camp is where I trained.”

Gently, Tony laid a hand on his shoulder.

“This is a dead end. Zero heat signature, zero waves, not even radio. Whoever wrote the file must have used a router to throw people off”, Natasha said after a moment.

Steve started to walk towards a building.

“Army regulations forbid storing ammunition within five hundred yards of the barracks. This building is in the wrong place.”

He got them in and they found themselves in what had probably been SHIELD headquarters decades ago. In a room, they found old, framed portraits of Howard Stark, Peggy Carter and Colonel Chester Philips. Tony stared back at his father, rattled.

“I hate it”, he said. “I hate it, when I’m reminded of how much we look alike.”
“Tony, you’re not your father”, Steve said softly. He paused at Peggy’s photo.
“I had no idea Peggy was so beautiful”, Natasha breathed. “You two must have looked perfect together.”
“I doubt we ever were together”, Steve replied, brushing against the portrait. “A few nights. Promises of after the war. Promises of a date. She said she’d teach me to dance. She promised she’d be a good Alpha for Jamie and me.”
“Promises are tricky things”, Tony said. “Especially promises we don’t know we can keep.”

Steve paused once more at a massive bookshelf.

“If you’re already working in a secret office, why do you need to hide the elevator?” he asked as he pushed the bookshelf out of the way.
“I think the ‘why’ goes hand in hand with ‘who’, Steve”, Tony intervened. “If HYDRA is behind this…”
“We’d better be careful”, Steve replied. “I thought HYDRA died with Red Skull, it seems I was wrong. But how could they survive?”
“Vermin is always very resistant”, Tony said as they walked into the elevator. “What the hell is this antiquity? Surely this can’t be the data-point.” He then noticed the USB-port, surprisingly modern, and plugged the flash-drive in, activating the computers around the room. “Oh. I don’t like this.”
“Initiate system?” the computer asked.
“No”, Tony typed immediately. At Steve’s frown, he replied: “We don’t know what this is, but we do know it encrypted something with HYDRA intel. I’ll try to override it first.”

In a few seconds, he was so focused on his coding it was no use talking to him.

“Steve, does the name Arnim Zola ring a bell?”
“He was a German scientist who worked for Red Skull. He’s been dead for years, why?”
“He might not be so dead”, Tony replied, his expression both marvelled and queasy. “It appears we are standing in… well, in his brain.”
“Operation Paperclip?” Steve asked with an expression of disgust.
“Yeah, it… Oh God”, Tony moaned. “This is… their thoughts.” He cleared his throat and started to read a document that had just opened: “HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom. What we did not realize, was that if you try to take that freedom, they resist. The war taught us much. Humanity needed to surrender its freedom willingly. After the war, SHIELD was founded and I was recruited. The new HYDRA grew. A beautiful parasite inside SHIELD. For seventy years HYDRA has been secretly feeding crisis, reaping war. And when history did not cooperate, history was changed.”

The three of them were pale, now.

“That’s impossible, SHIELD would have stopped them”, Natasha retorted, slightly desperate.
“Accidents”, Tony replied. “16 december 1991”, he whispered, his eyes widening. “N-No, it can’t be-”

A video – from a surveillance camera feed – distinctly showed how Howard and Maria’s death had been staged, with the so-called Winter Soldier as a main figure. Steve tensed as the Soldier moved: there was a familiarity to that body, to that prowl, a familiarity that knotted his stomach. Howard looked at the Soldier and said a few words. There was no sound, but Natasha gasped and clapped her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide with horror. Steve was about sure he had never seen this expression on her face. She lunged forward and paused the video, her eyes full of tears.

“Please don’t watch this”, she whispered. “For both of your sakes, don’t.”
“I need to know”, Tony replied, his jaw clenched, and shoulders squared as he started the video again.

When the video ended with a clear vision of the Soldier’s emotionless face, Steve wished Tony hadn’t played that video. He was feeling so nauseous it was painful, and Tony’s complexion and expression were worth worrying.

“That’s impossible”, Steve breathed, wishing he could believe it. “Bucky would never do that, even if he had somehow survived his fall.”
“The Winter Soldier”, Tony’s voice broke, and he felt overwhelmed but there was nothing he could do, so he did the next best thing: he searched again. He plugged another flash-drive and uploaded all he could find on the Winter Soldier on it, before he opened another file about Project Insight. That was what they were here for. “HYDRA created a world so chaotic that humanity is finally ready to sacrifice its freedom to gain its security. Once the purification process is complete, HYDRA's new world order will arise”, he read, his voice emotionless – even though he felt like he was breaking inside, but he had to hold the pieces together, he had to, there was no other way. “Zola wrote an algorithm”, he said, piecing together the information. “An algorithm to eradicate all threats to HYDRA. Project Insight will…” he gulped. “It will eliminate all those who are a threat. A million at a time.”
“Uh, guys. We got a bogey. Short range ballistic. Thirty seconds tops.”

Steve ripped the flash-drives from the computer, grabbed the both of them and threw them bodily into a small opening in the ground before covering them, his shield their only protection – along with a metal door. Luckily, they weren’t harmed more than a few scratches and small cuts, and they managed to make their escape before the STRIKE team started to roam, looking for them.

They weren’t there to see Rumlow sneering at Tony’s footprint and call a chilling “Call in the Asset”.

Chapter Text

They made their way back to DC, the drive very long and silent. Tony had slept fitfully in the backseat, and though she held a while longer, Natasha soon did the same. Steve was thankful that the serum meant he could work well on a minimum of sleep so he could drive them safely, but he also knew he’d need some time to recharge. He had his limits too, and the hardcore day they’d had along with a sleepless night were seriously pulling at them.

They had gotten the armours back, regretting that those couldn’t be miniaturized as they made their way to the address Steve had indicated before they departed the day before. They waited for Sam to have come back from his morning run before Steve knocked, Tony still half asleep and haggard against him and Natasha doing her best not to show how much her bruises hurt. Steve longed for a shower, but also for his brain to stop for a second so he could process. He kept on going back to what he’d seen – kept thinking it shouldn’t have been possible. And yet… yet, he was sure he’d recognize Bucky’s face anywhere.

Part of him was still amazed by how much it hurt, the other was very busy dissociating. Luckily, Sam opened the door quickly, his brows arching as he took in their rumpled appearance.

“Hey, man.”
“I’m sorry about this. We need a place to stay low”, Steve said, and he was exhausted. His body held on, yes, but his mind needed the rest so much more.
“Everyone we know is trying to kill us”, Natasha added.
“Not everyone”, Sam replied, opening the door wider to let them in and checking the street for anyone before he closed it again. “The bathroom’s this way”, he said, showing the way and grabbing towels on his way. “I’m afraid I don’t have any spare clothes that would fit you, though.”
“Thank you, Sam. We owe you.”
“Nothing. You three look awful.”
“Gee, thanks”, Steve replied, valiantly trying to smile.
“Please, stop this. It’s painful to watch.”

His smile faded away just as quickly as it had appeared, and he looked at Tony. He hadn’t said a word since they had exited the compound, looking dazed. Steve gently jostled him.

“You gotta clean up, Tony”, he said softly.

Tony shivered, taking a deep breath, seemingly coming back to life. His eyes fell on Steve, full of pain, just as his hand clenched on Steve’s arm.

“He killed my mother”, he whispered. “He killed her!”

And just like that, Tony crumbled to pieces, collapsing completely against Steve who just held him, letting him cry into his shoulder. His own thoughts were too muddled up for crying, but he could hold his best friend through this. Great sobs wracked Tony’s body, making him look even frailer than he really was, until he finally calmed down and pulled away.

“Take a shower and try to get some sleep”, Natasha said to Steve. “I’ll handle him.”

She sat down on the couch in the living-room and pulled Tony against her, holding him while he started to sort through his feelings. And if Steve had a complete meltdown in the shower, well. There wasn’t much they could do about that. On Natasha’s insistence, Steve took a nap on the couch while she showered. Tony had borrowed Sam’s laptop and plugged in the flash-drive he’d made with all the information he had managed to copy about the Winter Soldier. He steeled himself to read through it: he needed to know, both for himself and for their mission. If it really was the Winter Soldier who had killed Fury, they needed to know what they were up against.

But as he read, his heart dropped and he felt sicker and sicker – barbaric procedures, brainwash, mind manipulations, mission parameters. The Winter Soldier was merely the shell of the man he once was. HYDRA had dehumanized him, turned him into something he wasn’t – a weapon, a cold-blooded murderer, an asset. The tortures made him shiver, though he merely read about them, and as he read, one question came up, slowly made its way to the forefront of his mind, until it was all he could think about – and all that mattered: could Bucky Barnes still be rescued from the monstrous persona of the Winter Soldier?

Ultimately, it was all that mattered. Killing Bucky would not bring his mother back, and it would hurt Steve. It was, in a way, an unexpected chance to bring back a piece of his past – but would he be able to still think that once he’d be confronted to the cold Winter Soldier? Would he be able to see that metal arm without disgust, when it had crushed his mother’s neck until she suffocated? He had no reason to resent Bucky Barnes, and every to hate the Winter Soldier. That they inhabited the same body was the core of the problem.

Natasha came out of the bathroom, letting him go and take a shower as she started to talk with Sam in hushed voices. The warm water washed the grime away, and he wished it could wash away his worries and his pain. They had to find how to stop the helicarriers from being launched, lest they wanted a massive slaughter on the scale of the planet. He let out a sigh.

“Dammit, I liked it better when it was a power-hungry god we had to fight!”

Nevertheless, the shower made him feel a bit better and helped his thoughts get back in place. Steve had woken up when he came out, and Sam was serving breakfast. Tony pulled out a chair and sat down.

“Steve.” He paused, waiting for his friend to look at him. “Steve, I read the files. The Winter Soldier files.”

Steve’s whole frame tensed brutally, getting ready for the blow.

“He’s not himself, Steve. The things they did to him, it… They broke his mind. I don’t know if he’s still in there, somewhere. Maybe there’s nothing left, and death would be mercy. I don’t know. What I do know, is… We have to try.”

Steve’s eyes widened in surprise.

“I would have thought you’d want to eliminate him to avenge your mother.”

Tony clenched his fist on the mug of coffee Sam had given him.

“I won’t deny that a huge part of me wants to make him pay for that.” He paused. “But I read the files, Steve, and he already paid for it. And I know who he is to you. I can guess you cannot fathom to kill him, and I would never…” His voice broke. “I would never ask this of you. I cannot ask you to choose between him and me, because it wouldn’t be fair.”

Steve took a shaking breath, his eyes shining with tears that soon spilled on his cheeks.

“God, Tony. I don’t deserve you.”

Beside him, Natasha gently rubbed his back before she glanced at Sam, who nodded and handed her a box of tissues. Sam was a bit wide-eyed and confused, but who wouldn’t, in this situation. He had gathered bits and pieces of information, but not enough to really understand what was going on.

“So what do we do now? The launching is in twenty-four hours, and we can’t let that happen”, Natasha said. She paused. “I wouldn’t be so worried if I didn’t think we’ll find the Winter Soldier on our way. He’s HYDRA’s, and the Project Insight… it’s their ultimate goal. They’ll have him ensure the launching goes perfectly.” She glanced at Tony. “What did you learn?”

Tony took a breath and looked at Steve. His eyes were red-rimmed, and his jaw clenched, but he nodded anyway. It was not like they had another choice.

“He’s a super-soldier. Zola managed to pinch together some form or another of Erskine’s serum. The initial dose he gave Bucky was what allowed him to survive his fall, but there were others, of improved serum. He’s fast, strong, and won’t let pain stop him. The metal arm is his main weapon, it’s ultra-resistant.” He closed his eyes for a second, pinching the bridge of his nose. “The maintenance on this prosthetic was… basic at best. HYDRA only made sure it functioned, and his brain is wired to ignore the pain, so he can use it, but it’s… extremely painful.” He paused for second – Steve had turned a bit grey and ashen – and resumed: “He’s an amazing marksman, and skilled in hand-to-hand combat. They wired his brain specifically to make him obedient to one person, the one who gives him the mission, using a series of specific words. His memories are erased after every mission, before he’s put in cryogenics again.”

This time, Steve lost it. His chair clattered to the ground and he made it to the loo just in time to throw up the little he had eaten. Tony closed his eyes, gulping. This was such a mess. Such an awful mess. Even Sam looked a bit green. None of them moved for a few minutes, leaving some time so Steve could gather himself, but when he showed no sign of coming back, Tony went to find him. His heart broke at the sight of his best friend sitting haphazardly on the ground, crying his heart out in heaving gasps. He knelt by his side and coaxed him into an embrace, shuddering at the tears he could feel against his neck.

“I could’ve saved him”, Steve finally stuttered through his sobs, “I could’ve saved him if I’d searched for him. It’s my fault, all this mess.”
“Oh, Steve”, Tony breathed, hugging him tighter, fingers threading gently though his hair. “It was war, you had no time to search for someone whom everyone thought was dead. You couldn’t have known he would survive. And even if you had searched for him, there’s no guarantee you would have found him before HYDRA.” He pressed his lips to his temple in an erzat of a kiss. “This is not your fault, none of this is. It’s HYDRA, and HYDRA only.”
“If I’d… If I’d only…”
“Steve. There was nothing you could do. It is not. Your. Fault.” He waited for him to calm down a bit more before he pulled away just enough to cup his cheeks and look at him in the eyes. “I don’t know if Bucky is still there, but we have to try. I’m not giving up, Steve. Not on you, and not on him. If he can be saved, we will find a way.”
“Tony… I don’t think… even if he cannot, I don’t think I could…”
“You won’t have to”, Tony replied, fingers clenching over his nape. “I promise, you won’t have to. If it turns out Bucky is completely gone, then it’ll be mercy to put him to rest, but you won’t have to do it.”
“Thank you”, Steve whispered, so low that Tony only knew he’d spoken because he felt his breath against his skin.
“Remember what I told you, when you learnt Jamie would live? ‘If you feel like you’re falling, we’ll be there to catch you and bring you back up.’ I meant it, Steve. We’ll be here for you, we’ll always be there for you, no matter what.”

They stayed like this, in silence, a moment more before getting back up. Steve went to get some cold water on his face and wash his mouth before he made it back to them, steeling himself. If he wanted this to work, he had to be strong. He couldn’t afford to break down.

“So, the question is: who in SHIELD could launch a domestic missile strike?” Natasha asked. “Who is HYDRA?”
“Pierce”, Steve replied. “He’s too well protected, but we can have the next best thing.”
“Jasper Sitwell”, Natasha breathed.
“So, the real question is: how do the three most wanted people in Washington kidnap a SHIELD officer in broad daylight?” Tony asked.
“The answer is: you don’t”, Sam replied as he dropped a file on the table they had cleared in the meantime.
“What’s this?”
“Call it a resume.”

A minute later, he was pulling out another file, handing it to Steve, who opened it.

“I thought you said you were a pilot.”
“I never said pilot”, Sam replied.

Tony immediately took the file to riffle through it, his eyes alight with joy when he discovered its contents.

“I can't ask you to do this, Sam. You got out for a good reason.”
“Dude, Captain America needs my help. There's no better reason to get back in.”

Tony looked at Steve and nodded.

“We need help, Steve. Even with the suits, he’ll have more flexibility than us. And its always one trained soldier more. I’m merely a tin-man, if you recall.”
“Will you stop with the references?” Steve sighed. “I’ve seen more movies than the Wizard of Oz, and you know it damn well.”
“I like his references”, Natasha intervened. “The tin-man who only wanted to have a heart. It fits well, after all.”
“Thank you”, Tony replied. “Captain, you’re out voted.”

This time, Steve smiled – a genuine smile.

“It seems so, yes. Where can we get our hands on one of these things?”
“The last one is at Fort Meade, behind three guarded gates and a twelve-inch steel wall.”

They exchanged glances.

“Shouldn’t be a problem.”

Chapter Text

Abducting Sitwell was not a problem, and they still had twenty hours before the launching as Sam drove them to the SHIELD headquarters. Steve was riding shotgun, with Natasha and Tony bracketing Sitwell in the backseat. The armours were in pieces in the thankfully large trunk of the car, along with Sam’s wings.

“So how do we do that?” Natasha asked.
“We'll use Sitwell to bypass the DNA scans and access the Helicarriers directly”, Steve replied. “Easy-peasy.”
“And about SHIELD?”
“It must be completely destroyed”, Steve said. “There is no other choice. HYDRA’s rooted too deeply.”

Jasper didn’t seem to like the idea too much, because he cried out immediately:

“What?! Are you crazy? That is a terrible, terrible idea!”

He didn’t protest much more, however: the roof collapsed suddenly with the heavy thunk of something falling on it and a metallic fist smashed the window on Tony’s side, provoking a shrill shriek of terror from said tin-man. The hand closed itself on Sitwell and promptly pulled him out through the window, throwing him into the oncoming traffic.

“STEVE”, Tony yelled, “YOUR EX JUST KILLED OUR PASS!”

The Winter Soldier was reaching for his guns when Steve pulled the break handle, dropping him on the road.

“Oh well”, Steve said.

Another car hit them from behind, pushing them towards the Soldier who seemed to be in a murderous mood. The protective goggles and the muzzle he wore were completely hiding his face, and he had long, dark hair falling past his jaw: Steve knew, deep down, that if he hadn’t known this was Bucky, he couldn’t have guessed.

“We must get out of the car”, Steve said, and Sam swerved off the road, the metal of the car shrieking as it dragged against the bridge, slowing them enough that they managed to jump out of it.

The Winter Soldier was already striding towards them, cocking his gun, as HYDRA agents arrived from behind them. Sam lost no time, already putting on his wings, Steve covering them with his shield.

“We’re kind of surrounded”, Tony pointed out.
“No shit, Sherlock!” Steve gritted out. “Natasha, take Tony out of the way with your grapnel. I can hold Bucky off.”
“Hold on, I can put on my suit”, Tony protested as the Winter Soldier started to shoot, Steve deflecting the bullets with his shield.

Natasha had pulled out her gun and started to shoot at the Winter Soldier, hitting his goggles. He pulled them off, revealing shockingly blue eyes, while Tony suited up. Sam started to shoot just in time to send the upcoming car full of HYDRA agents swerving into the nearest wall. Another of Natasha’s bullets hit the Winter Soldier, tearing off the muzzle and revealing Bucky’s snarl. Tony flew off and blasted off what remained of the HYDRA car, though he hadn’t been quick enough to eliminate them. Rumlow was already striding towards them.

That was the moment the scent hit them. To Steve, it felt like a punch in the gut – the scent was familiar, and yet different. Cinnamon, sawdust, freshly turned earth, and now there was the sharp smell of gunpowder added to it, with something tangy he couldn’t identify but definitely didn’t like. It smelled like… pain. They were getting ready for trouble, but the Winter Soldier was no longer paying any attention to them: he had crouched down with a growl, his eyes fixated to the sky. Steve looked up, gulping. There was only one thing in his line of sight. He took the opportunity, still, and put his earpiece in so he could communicate with Tony.

The Winter Soldier still hadn’t moved, but his scent was getting stronger, and from Rumlow’s yells, it wasn’t a normal behaviour. The fight moved on with HYDRA’s agents, and Steve, Natasha and Sam needed all their focus to fight them off while avoiding the traffic that was rapidly slowing down. There was the sound of something crashing, but none of them could afford to look for what it was: the HYDRA agents were on them already, and they were very well trained. Steve’s earpiece crackled, and he heard laboured breathing.

“Steve”, Tony said, voice breathy. “Steve I’ve got a problem.”
“I can’t really talk right now”, Steve grunted, smashing his shield into an agent and sending him over the bridge’s wall.

His earpiece crackled again, and he punched another agent as he turned around to assess Tony’s situation. He immediately saw that there was, indeed, a problem: Tony wasn’t flying right, and the Winter Soldier was ready to try to lunge at him – again. He wanted to run to his help, tackle Bucky down and talk to him, but the remaining agents were numerous enough to pose a real threat.

“Hang on, Tony”, he breathed, “I’m doing my best.”

*

Tony didn’t realize what exactly was wrong at first. Or rather, his thoughts got too muddled up to let him realize something was wrong. The scent that had haunted his fantasies since his last heat, nearly three months ago, had hit him full force. The helmet didn’t filter smells and this one was… divine. He blinked, pushing back the feeling of comforting heaviness that had started to settle on him: he was on a mission, he had something important to do. The dizziness surprised him and his flight wobbled as he looked down: the Winter Soldier – Bucky – was staring right at him, his blue eyes darkened by something that made him shiver.

“Sir”, Jarvis intervened. “I’m detecting a rapid increase in your heartbeats, as well as in your body temperature.”
“Yeah I feel that”, Tony replied, and he managed to swerve just in time to escape the Winter Soldier as he lunged at him.
“Sir”, Jarvis said again, “your increase of mating pheromones suggests you are going into heat.”

Tony froze.

“But it’s not yet”, he replied, struggling to focus – had his suit always felt so hot and stifling?
“It is scheduled for July the 10th”, Jarvis supplied helpfully. “Sir, your body-functions data is quickly increasing. The revert to instinctive heat brain-functions is imminent.”
“Are you fucking telling me I’ll be in full heat in a moment?” Tony practically yelled at Jarvis.
“Estimation: two minutes before conscious thoughts shut-down.”
“Shit. Steve”, he called, “Steve I’ve got a problem.”
“I can’t really talk right now”, Steve replied, and yes Tony could see him fighting, but he could also feel how his body was rapidly heating and how his heart was hammering in his chest and he couldn’t remember a heat ever being this scary.

Suddenly, he plummeted to the ground, hitting it hard. His vision went white for a moment, before he managed to mumble a “Jarvis, update Steve”. Blue eyes stared right back at him just before his face-plate was pulled away forcibly and clattered to the ground. He tried to move, found himself pinned to the ground by the weight of the Soldier, and the smell, god. It went straight to his crotch, making his mouth water. His last conscious thought was that the irony of the Winter Soldier’s metal arm pressing on his chest to keep him down wasn’t lost on him.

*

“Mr. Rogers”, Jarvis’s artificial voice said in his ear, and Steve immediately thought “shit”, because when Jarvis talked in lieu of Tony, it was never good. “Sir requires assistance immediately.”
“I’m doing”, he grunted, sending another agent down, “what I can!”

A red piece of metal flew through the air and embedded itself in the car next to him, and he turned his head wildly: Tony was no longer in the air, but smashed on the ground, and Bucky was tearing the armour off with sheer force, destroying it with a scary efficacity.

“Mr. Rogers”, Jarvis said again, “Sir has now entered heat basic-consciousness.”

And indeed, Tony was limp instead of trying to fight off the Winter Soldier, and Steve felt a shudder of horror when he realized he knew that savage expression Bucky had. He hadn’t seen it much, but it had been enough to be engraved in his mind: it was the pure instinct-drive of a rut. He looked around: the HYDRA agents were too numerous to be fought off rapidly.

“WE SURRENDER!” he called, and slowly rose his arms.
“What?!” Natasha and Sam yelled, staring at him in confusion.
“Drop the shield, Cap! On your knees! Get on your knees! Now! Get down! Get down!”, Rumlow cried out stepping closer, and Steve dropped his shield.

Sam and Natasha looked at him, then farther, at the Winter Soldier still meticulously peeling his pray from its metal shell, before they lowered their weapons.

“Get on your knees! Down!” Rumlow growled, kicking his leg and sending him to his knees.
“Rumlow”, Steve said, “Tony needs a heat suppressant ASAP. There’s one in my pocket.”
“Steve”, Natasha hissed.
“Please”, Steve added, looking up to meet Rumlow’s gaze.

Rumlow didn’t say a word, but he immediately started to pat his pockets for the little tablet.

“I’m not doing it for you”, he breathed in his ear, “but only because I need my men operational and not lusting after an Omega.” He rose up. “Rollins”, he called, “you neutralize the asset with R-21 and feed this to the Omega.”

A minute later, Rollins was back after he managed to sedate the Winter Soldier, knocking him out, and gave the heat suppressant to Tony. Agents immediately made sure he was disarmed and handcuffed before they brought him over.

“Steve”, Natasha hissed again, “it could kill him!”
“I know”, Steve replied. “I’m taking the risk.”

Tony was dazed and motionless, letting himself be manhandled. There was little left from his suit, and his scent was cloying now. He collapsed against Steve’s shoulder, breath rapid and shallow, his forehead already covered in sweat and his skin burning. His pupils were blown wide, eyes unseeing, and Steve felt a shiver of fear.

“Hang on there”, Steve breathed. “Please, Tony.”

Suddenly, Tony twitched and made sound of pain, wrenching forward and heaving, though nothing came out. His clothes were drenched in sweat and he radiated heat, but there was a bitterness to his usually sweet scent that suggested the suppressant was taking effect. Steve was glad he always kept one on himself – not for his personal use, because it had absolutely no effect on him, even the strongest ones, but for an emergency. Like this one.

“Alpha”, Tony moaned raggedly, twitching once more, before his eyes closed.
“Tony?” Steve asked worriedly, and he couldn’t pull him up, not with his hands tied like this. “Tony, please, don’t do this to me!”

HYDRA had taken Bucky away – once more – and the remaining agents made them climb into the back of a van, one of them throwing Tony over his shoulder before he dropped him down heavily on the floor of the van, his head hitting it hard.

“Careful”, Steve growled, and the agent sneered at him.
“Captain”, Rumlow drawled. “You seem to be deluded. We have no use for any of you alive. Well, Zola would probably have wanted Stark for his researches, but Zola is no more and we have no use for… that.” He climbed inside, staring right back at Steve. “I am very displeased that I couldn’t get to you before now”, he added. “But, well. Duty calls, I’m sure you know how it is.” He kicked into Tony’s prone form, his legs jerking before he stilled again, and Rumlow hummed. “Well, without the armour, he’s not much of anything. If he survives, maybe we could keep him as a pet for our Soldier. What do you think? I’m sure you know all about an Alpha super-soldier’s specific needs. It’d be less of a hassle to handle if we had a disposable Omega. Maybe his body even holds the solution to make those needs disappear.”

Steve clenched his teeth, snarling and struggling against his bonds, but it was useless and Rumlow laughed.

“I will leave you with one last thought to mull over while we take you to your graves”, he said in a low voice. “After we’re done with you, we’ll pay a visit to little Jamie. The son of two super-soldiers… The Winter Soldier might prove himself a bit obsolete once we’ve got a more performant weapon in hand.”

Steve felt his blood boil and he cried out, struggling even harder against his bonds, but it was useless. The sound of the doors closing was disquietingly close to that of a casket. Tony was still breathing, thankfully, but it was quick and shallow, and he had grown sickly pale, the shine of sweat on his skin not boding well. Steve felt close to crying a vengeful “what have I done”, but before he could, one of the guards pulled out an electric rod and, without warning, neutralized the second guard.

“That thing was squeezing my brain”, Agent Hill said as she pulled off her helmet. She knelt by Tony’s side and took his pulse. “He needs to be stabilized quickly.”

Steve had never felt so grateful to see her. Minutes later, she was taking them into a secret facility, Steve carrying Tony’s limp body like it was made of glass. When medics arrived with a stretcher, he laid him on it, gulping as they wheeled him away. Beside him, Natasha gently squeezed his arm in reassurance, before they entered another room – only to stop immediately, frozen in shock.

“About damn time”, Fury said from the bed he was resting on.

An hour later, the medics told them Tony was stabilized but under sedative while his body burnt off both the heat and the suppressant. And Fury actually had a plan to take down Project Insight’s helicarriers. For the first time in several days, Steve started to think that, maybe, maybe, everything would turn out alright.

*

“So, what do you say?” Bucky asked, and he seemed confident, but Steve knew better than to believe that.
“I say”, he replied with a laugh, “it’s about damn time, you jerk!”

*

Steve laughed, letting Bucky pull him along to the photographer, and tucked himself against him – safe and sound, against the broad form of his Alpha. The photographer was adjusting his stuff, and Steve’s smiled brightened as he got an idea.

“Hey, Buck?” he called, and Bucky looked at him, his smile soft and eyes loving.
“We are taking this photo, Steve, no matter how much you don’t want to”, Bucky said, grinning joyously.
“That’s not it”, Steve said, “I’ve got something to say.” He paused, breathing. “I’m pregnant.”
“You’re- What?”

There was the flash of the photo being taken just as Bucky’s expression morphed from one of surprise to the deepest joy.

*

“I’m so sorry baby”, Bucky hushed, Steve’s prone form cradled against him, and there was blood, oh so much blood, on their tiny bathroom’s floor. “I’m sorry.”
“W-Why?” Steve stammered, bloody fingers clenched on Bucky’s formerly pristine shirt. “Why our baby?”
“I’m sorry”, Bucky said again, tears flowing uninterrupted down his face and into Steve’s hair, and he hadn’t known real pain before, but now it felt as if his heart had been carved out.

*

“Look at you”, Bucky breathed, his trembling hands cupping Steve’s face as they stood just outside of HYDRA’s blown off base. “Tall and strong and magnificent.”
“Flatterer”, Steve blushed, and Bucky’s kiss was painfully soft and tender.

It was later, at night, as they laid side by side, still panting and sweaty from their love-making, that Bucky really spoke, his lips pressed to Steve’s knuckle.

“Now that you’re finally tall and strong enough to take on the world”, he whispered, “do you think I’ll be enough for you?”
“Of course you will”, Steve replied. “I love you, Bucky.”
“I love you too, midget”, Bucky said, burrowing into Steve’s new-found shoulders. “I’m with you to the end of the line.”

*

“No- Bucky, I-”
“Please, Steve. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be”, Bucky said, his voice pained. “You feel it, too, I know you do. We don’t… Fit together anymore. Not the way we did.”
“I- I don’t want to lose you”, Steve whispered.
“I’m not going anywhere”, Bucky promised. “I’ll just be with you in a different way. Your friend, your best friend, rather than the Alpha who swore to protect you. I’ll be watching your back, instead of keeping you away from the fight. Isn’t that what you always desired?”
“Not like this”, Steve whispered again. “Not like this.”
“With time”, Bucky said with a tired smile. “With time, you’ll see that I was right.”

*

“Steve”, Peggy said, staring right back at him, “you know what those results mean.”

Steve stumbled and caught himself on the table.

“Yes”, he breathed. “Yes, I know.”
“It’ll be alright”, she soothed, her hand warm on his shoulder. “Tell him. He ought to know.”
“After the mission”, Steve replied, inhaling deeply. “After. I cannot let him be distracted. Not when Zola’s capture is at stake.”
“Promise me you’ll tell him, Steve. Promise, or I will tell him myself.”
“Yes, Peggy. I promise.”

*

“He’s gonna be there, you know?” Sam said, pulling Steve out of his thoughts – out of the painful memories from a longed for past.
“I know”, Steve replied, his voice deceptively soft. “He was the one who broke things off, you know”, he added after a silence. “I didn’t want to, even though I saw how our relationship was slipping. He always knew what was best for me, even when it was something that hurt him. I know I only made it this far because he was there for me, every step of the way.” He paused again. “I always thought it was my taking the serum and changing so drastically that made things go haywire”, he resumed. “That… I don’t know, that he couldn’t bear not to be with a proper Omega, to always be standing in my shadow. To not always be needing to protect me anymore.”
“And now you think that it’s not what it was?” Sam asked, settling beside him.
“I think… I think I wasn’t exactly wrong, and my changing made him feel inadequate as my Alpha. But I also think… I also think we started to drift apart the day I lost our baby.” He let out a broken breath. “It- Losing a child, it’s something that either knits you closer or pulls you apart. I’m starting to think, maybe… maybe he couldn’t look at me anymore without seeing the child we didn’t have.” His wounded his fingers into his hair, pulling at his scalp. “I don’t know”, he breathed. “I don’t know what pulled us apart, why it felt so wrong to be together afterwards. It was like… When you have a favourite outfit, and you love it so much because it suits you perfectly. It’s tailor-made, the perfect pattern, perfect fabric, and you’ve taken to wearing it most of the time. And then for a reason you have to take it off for a little while, and when you try to put it on again… it’s too tight. You don’t know if it shrunk or if you put on weight, the fabric and pattern are still perfect, but it doesn’t fit anymore. And you feel naked without it, but when you have it on, it’s stifling.”

Sam remained silent for a long time, before he asked:

“And now? Do you still… want to try and see if it’d fit?”
“No”, Steve murmured. “No, I don’t want to. Not anymore. I’ve done my grieving, and as much as it pained me, I have acknowledged that what was once perfect for me doesn’t fit me anymore. I’ve moved on, started over.” A soft smile graced his face. “Besides”, he added, “it might take time, but I think I know exactly who this peculiar suit might fit.”

Sam’s expression from confusion to disbelief.

“No!”
“Yes”, Steve chuckled. “I’m gonna play matchmakers if that’s what it takes.”
“I definitely want to see that”, Sam smirked, nodding.

*

Tony was still unconscious when they went, but he was safe in the base, and would be sent back to the Tower once the Helicarriers were down – keeping Tony safe would probably not be a concern anymore if HYDRA managed to launch Project Insight. They made it to the Triskelion, and Steve delivered his speech to all of SHIELD Agents – and HYDRA, though to them, it was a warning.

“Attention, all SHIELD agents. This is Steve Rogers. You've heard a lot about me over the last few days, some of you were even ordered to hunt me down. But I think it's time you know the truth. SHIELD is not what we thought it was, it's been taken over by HYDRA. Alexander Pierce is their leader. The STRIKE and Insight crew are HYDRA as well. I don't know how many more, but I know they're in the building. They could be standing right next to you. They almost have what they want: absolute control. They shot Nick Fury and it won't end there. If you launch those Helicarriers today, HYDRA will be able to kill anyone that stands in their way, unless we stop them. I know I'm asking a lot, but the price of freedom is high, it always has been, and it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not.”

They didn’t have a lot of time, but Steve was confident they would make it work – if simply because he didn’t know what they would do if they didn’t. He was glad Fury’s remaining Agents had managed to take his armour from the trunk, so he could make it to the Helicarriers more easily. Up there, Natasha was working on dumping all of SHIELD and HYDRA’s dirty secrets over the internet. He still felt a shiver of fear at that thought: Fury had admitted that Jamie’s existence was part of those secrets. The world would know – but then, Rumlow, HYDRA knew already. It could hardly fall in worse hands. He was the first one to step on an Helicarrier, Sam flying to another, and was quick to engage the little plastic card in.

“Alpha locked”, he called out to Natasha.
“Bravo locked”, Sam added not long after, whooping as he flew down.
“Sam, disengage from the fight”, Steve called. “I’m heading over to Charlie.”

He was thankful for the armour: thought he definitely didn’t like to fight with it, it was perfectly bullet-proof and it could fly. In his current endeavour, it was the best thing he could ask for.

“I’ll try to find Rumlow”, Sam called. “That bastard is too dangerous… and no one threatens Jamie”, he added with a growl.

Steve couldn’t help his chuckle at Sam’s hearty devotion to his son, even though he’d only seen him once. Swiftly, he landed on the third and last helicarrier, but Bucky landed at the same time, pushing him off the edge. He flew back up again, only for Bucky to target his thrusters and ground him into a bulletproof armour, but one that lacked flexibility. Slowly, he stepped out of it – being swift would be better for this, and he couldn’t help but think if Bucky saw him bare-faced, in his usual uniform, maybe it would trigger a memory, maybe…

“People are gonna die, Buck. I can't let that happen. Please, don't make me do this”, he begged, but Bucky only stared back coldly.

He steeled himself and threw his shield, engaging the fight with the Winter Soldier. There was one thing, one person he would sacrifice everything, everyone for – and it was not Bucky. Yes, he was doing this for the world, yes, he wanted to have Bucky back – but ultimately, this was all for Jamie. And for that reason, he couldn’t lose.

He had forgotten how jarring being stabbed was, and even more so by someone he had trusted with his life. As quickly and as precisely as he could, he managed to lock Bucky’s arms, but the mule wouldn’t let go of the chip, no matter of much Steve told him to drop it. He did the next best thing and choked him until he lost consciousness, though he did so reluctantly and guiltily, before rushing up the bridge to the central command. He barely registered the first bullet in his thigh. The second, in his shoulder, threw him off his rhythm, but he managed to put the chip in with a victorious sigh.

“Charlie locked”, he said – just before the third bullet hit him in the stomach, punching the air out of his lungs. “Fire now”, he croaked at Agent Hill, and god Tony would chew him out for that.

He turned slowly to face Bucky, a hand pressed to the wound of his stomach. Suddenly, the world burst into flames, throwing him down. He groaned – the name of the world was pain, apparently, but he’d made it out of birthing his son, he could tough out a few bullets, dammit. Bucky was stuck under the rubble of the Helicarrier and he hurried to help him, only to be savagely attacked. Quickly, he grasped for the new muzzle covering his face, watching as Bucky gasped at scents rushing him, his pupils blowing wide.

“Bucky”, he breathed, “you’ve known me your whole life. Your name is James Buchanan Barnes.”

Bucky struck him across the face, a wild look on his face.

“Shut up!”
“No, I won’t, and I won’t fight you”, Steve bit back. “You once were my mate, Bucky”, he added. “I bore your child. I know you can smell him on me, why do you think they made you wear this muzzle?”
“You’re my mission!” Bucky growled, punching him, again, and again. “You’re my mission!”
“Then finish it”, Steve said. “’Cause I’m with you to the end of the line.”

Something wavered in Bucky’s expression, and he opened his mouth to speak.

“I can smell him on you”, he breathed. “The child, the child with my scent. I can smell him on you.”

And the bottom of the Helicarrier fell down, Steve plummeting down to the river underneath. He closed his eyes. Everything would be fine. Yes, everything would be fine.

*

“Shh, Jamie”, Tony whispered, his voice hoarse. “Don’t wake your mama up, he needs the sleep to heal.” He grunted, the sheets rustling, and Steve opened his eyes.

They were in the Tower’s infirmary, lying on twin beds. Steve felt the twinges of pain from the bullet-holes – already mending – in his body, and the swells of his face where Bucky had struck him.

“Gimme my baby you ass”, Steve mumbled, and Tony startled to look at him.
“Ass! Ass!” Jamie repeated gleefully, sliding down from Tony’s bed where he’d been settled with Peter, it seemed, to run to Steve’s. “Mama! You better now, Mama?”
“Yes, baby”, Steve replied, painstakingly extending a hand to stroke his son’s cheek. “How long have I been sleeping?”
“Close to twenty-four hours”, Tony replied. “It’s July 4th today. I woke up a bit before you. Happy Birthday, by the way.”
“I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Thanks to you”, Tony breathed. “I’m waiting for Dr Palmer to come and tell me I’m all fine and ready to go.”

The doctor came, not long after, and first told Tony he was good to go as long as he did nothing too strenuous, and then she took a look at Steve’s wounds, which were healing rapidly now.

“You should be good to go in a few hours”, she told him, “same recommendations as Mr. Stark: you keep it cool, rest a lot and don’t do anything stupid.”
“When have I ever done something stupid?” Steve replied with a smile, and the doctor did not grace him with an answer.

It was snack time for Peter and Jamie when he finally made it out of the infirmary, held up by Clint and Banner. His heart warmed at the sight of his family: Jane and Pepper cuddled together on one end of the couch, Natasha bringing over a plate with warm drinks for everyone. Tony was wrapped in many blankets, cocooned on the other end of the couch, and Loki had elected to peel Jamie’s oranges, since the child had a propension to just squeeze out their juice in his small fists. Clint and Bruce lowered Steve to the couch next to Tony, letting them settle in a comfortable snuggle, almost drifting off to sleep already, before they went to sit with their respective lovers. Bruce curled up against Natasha while Loki draped over Clint’s lap as soon as he sat down into the armchair. Sitting on some pillows made for this, Jamie and Peter were eating happily.

Everything was fine, until- There was the sound of something huge crumbling not so far away, and they all froze.

“Sir”, Jarvis called, “I’m afraid my protocols have been-”

The AI cut off abruptly as one Bucky Barnes smashed his way into the living-room, wild eyed and dangerous. Jamie’s face lit up.

“Bucky Bear!” he cried out, lunging from his pillow to run at the intruder.

A collective “no!” rose, but his powers still unsealed, he was faster than most of them – most, but not all. Loki had casted a spell. Quick, but not fast enough. As Jamie wrapped his little arms around a startled Bucky’s leg, the spell hit them in a dash of green light. It quickly spread, engulfing everything around them, bathing everything in greenish white, before everything faded to black. Silently.

Chapter Text

Tony opened his eyes, startling awake, and immediately sat up in his bed.

“Jarvis”, he called. “What happened?”
“I’m afraid I do not understand your question, Sir”, the AI answered. “You appear to have suddenly woken up from a nightmare.”
“A night-” Tony breathed noticing how painless and effortless it was. He grabbed for his phone, and gasped at his notifications.

July 30th – Steve and Jamie’s trip to DC.

He allowed himself a moment of panic before he focused on his breathing, and then on what was happening. Loki’s words, from a few weeks ago, came back to his mind. Specifically, that there was time magic involved in “Bucky Bear”’s apparition.

“Well, I guess we know now.”

He quickly pulled on some clothes and made it to the kitchen, where everyone was gathered – why did people always fight, have serious talks or generally gather in time of trouble in the kitchen? He knew that, thought, which was why the kitchen was so large. Steve had a teary-eyed Jamie in his arms, and Peter seemed a bit frightened too, held safely in Clint’s arms. Tony focused on the emergency: preparing breakfast for the kids. They weren’t about to have a serious discussion with Jamie and Peter there. Once that was done, they settled the two in the living-room with a movie, and Tony looked at Loki.

“Do you know what happened?”

Loki nodded once.

“Since Jamie’s powers were unsealed and Barnes vulnerable, it formed a powerful spell, that collided with mine, meant to protect Jamie”, he said, pulling a stack of paper to himself and drawing diagrams and schemas as he talked. “Jamie doesn’t control his magic, and he affected time. It seems he sent the world back to five days ago, and from what I got from the spells… only the people who were in the Tower when it happened are aware of that. For the rest of the world, the past five days just never happened.”

Clint stared hard at Loki, who let out a sigh.

“What is it that you’re not telling us?” Steve asked, peering at him curiously.
“It appears that the spell didn’t simply rewind time”, Loki answered reluctantly. “He trapped Barnes in a time-loop.”
“What, like Groundhog Day?” Steve said, his eyebrows shooting up in disbelief.
“Yes”, Loki drawled. “Except it was a loop of five days, and it was set for a fixed number of loops.” He dragged a hand through his dishevelled hair – clearly, he’d been pulled out of bed. “A good sorcerer would have had a purpose, needing to be fulfilled, to stop the loop, no one to remember it and no effect whatsoever, but Jamie’s spell was too chaotic.”
“Speak clearly”, Tony said, “please”, he added belatedly. “How long was Barnes stuck?”

Loki pinched his lips.

“The equivalent of fifteen years”, he said after a moment. “And… some of the things he did, during the loops, have some sort of echo. Sorcerers call it a resonance phenomenon. Déjà-vu, or really strong impressions, are often due to them. The memory of the consequences of an important action. Those are the less, ah, problematic manifestations.”

Tony stilled when Loki’s eyes glided over him. Slowly, he licked his lips, not exactly sure he wanted to know the answer to his question.

“Could it, maybe, provoke hallucinations?”

Loki closed his eyes briefly.

Yes. Jamie and Peter have really met and talked with Barnes, just not in this reality.”

Tony felt his face go up in flames as he remembered the extremely vivid fantasy of Barnes sharing his heat. So much for the fantasy.

“Will it have other consequences?” Steve asked worriedly.
“Others than the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. is up again, along with HYDRA?” Loki replied. “No. It seems my… loop-self, for lack of a better word, sided with the Sorcerer Supreme to harness this absolute mess of time magic and make sure it wouldn’t get worse.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, and huffed. “I’m going back to bed because this massive headache isn’t gonna cure itself”, he mumbled, before he did just that.

Steve sat down, looking a bit shell-shocked, whispering a “fifteen years” before he looked at Tony.

“You alright? You look a bit green.”
“Yeah I’m not overly fond of time-magic”, Tony grouched, “especially now that we have to start all over again.”
“Except now we stand a real chance to stop HYDRA before it goes too far”, Natasha intervened. “Think about it: we know about Zola, and about Project Insight. We know Rumlow is HYDRA, as is STRIKE. Fury is still alive, and already doubting Pierce.”

Clint nodded.

“Nat is right. We should see this as an opportunity to do better.” He paused, perching on a stool in a crouch. “But we shouldn’t act too fast either. We don’t know what Barnes will do, what he’ll remember, or even where he is at the moment.”

Steve licked his lips.

“Loki didn’t say… do you think… do you think Jamie remembers? He was pretty shaken up, this morning, but I assumed it was the magic thing. His powers are sealed again, by the way. You don’t have to fear decapitation by flying plate.”
“He doesn’t know”, Clint replied for Loki. “I asked, but he said Jamie is too young and his power too chaotic. Even if he remembers, he’s still very young. Likely, he’ll forget about it.”
“Alright”, Steve breathed, “alright. Give me a minute to think.”

They fell silent while Tony updated Jarvis about everything, and especially the protocols regarding Barnes. About ten minutes later, Steve looked up.

“Natasha, Clint, if you could go to Fury. He’ll listen to you two. Bucky is likely to search for me or for Jamie, after all, he came to the Tower by himself last time… So I should stay here. Pepper, Jane, go about your day like usual. There’s nothing to worry about. Bruce…”
“The Other didn’t exactly like this little display”, Bruce replied, arms crossed tightly over his chest, “so Bruce will be taking himself out of town to a remote place for some meditation.”
“You do just that”, Steve said. “Make sure we can contact you, though.”

Bruce looked at Natasha.

“I’ll be at the cabin”, he said with a nod, departing immediately.
“And we’ll be on our way too”, Natasha said, looking at Clint. “The faster we act, the better it’ll be. Be careful, Steve.”
“I’ll be looking out for him”, Tony intervened with a smile.

Natasha’s eyebrow quirked up.

“You?” she asked. “Remember how you immediately went into heat when you saw him?”
“I’ll think of something”, Tony replied, sounding more confident than he really was.

Natasha snorted, but went out, followed by Clint. Jane and Pepper weren’t long to finish their breakfast and get on to get ready for work. They were worried, but they also knew there was very little, if not nothing, that they could do. Steve slumped from his stool over the table, and Tony sat beside him.

“I can hear you thinking”, Tony said, bumping him lightly. “What’s on your mind?”
“Fifteen fucking years”, Steve breathed. “Fifteen years, Tony. What did he do? How… how is he? He didn’t remember me the last time I saw him, and he was… when he barged in here, he scared me.” He paused. “I’d never been scared of him before”, he whispered. “And I don’t like that feeling.”

Tony couldn’t blame him. He’d seen Barnes once, and he still got shivers when he thought of that heated, icy blue gaze. He remembered how scared he had been at sensation of his mind shutting down as the heat took over. His heats had always been… somewhat safe. For a long time, he’d endured them by himself – damning the fact that, like any other Omega, he’d be doomed to need an Alpha the moment he’d get knotted for the first time. It was painful, or at best really uncomfortable, but he’d only been really sick once – the first time he went into heat. And then, there’d been Pepper. Pepper, who was his first and only Alpha, and whom he trusted with his life. Pepper, who was always there when he needed her, because she knew he would need her.

Except this time, his heat had been most unexpected, and Pepper hadn’t been there – and the nightmare he lived with since he’d first understood, as teen, what it meant to be an Omega, had come true. He’d gone into heat in a public space. He’d gone into heat, and there had been an Alpha all too ready to claim him – and he would have let him, in spite of who he was. More than the pain or anything else, it was the knowledge that he wouldn’t resist, and even beg for relief, that made him nauseated. It was the reason gone from those blue eyes, replaced by something primal that made his blood thrum and yet screamed danger.

“Well”, he said after a moment, “we can hope he used that time to work on his mind, and-”

Steve’s phone chimed in with a string of texts and he grabbed it with a frown. The first one was from an unknown number, and it was laconic but explicit: Stay where you are, I’m coming – Bucky. He was about to look at the others, to see from whom they were, when he received another from the same number. It was a photo, obviously taken sneakily, of Bucky tying his hair up into a tight bun, along with the photobomb of someone with a red mask. Bucky-Buck is stressed to be finally coming home! read the accompanying text, and Steve felt warmth flood his chest. Bucky was better, that much was obvious.

The other texts were from Natasha – or rather, they were from Nick Fury, transferred by Natasha. S.H.I.E.L.D compromised – Project Insight helicarriers blown up – Wheaton base, NJ, blown up by S.H.I.E.L.D. missile – All S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA intel uploaded to the internet. He stared at his phone, holding his breath. It was hard to believe it. Remaining agents of S.H.I.E.L.D assisting in clean-up, Clint and I will not be able to update you. Stay safe. He released the breath he’d been holding, wondering what the hell had happened to precipitate things that way. When Tony looked at him questioningly, he simply slid his phone to him.

“Well, at least that answers that”, Tony said, and the phone chimed once more. “It’s from Bucky”, he informed Steve. “Or, well, from the masked-dude’s phone. He tells you not to expect him before tomorrow morning.” Another text, and Tony’s jaw fell open. “And he asks you to kiss Jamie for him.”

Steve stilled completely, focused on his breathing so he wouldn’t hyperventilate. It was not the moment to panic.

“So the chances he came here during his loops are…”
“Gone through the roof”, confirmed Tony. “Steve”, he added after a moment. “Maybe it’s better that way. Think about it… he had fifteen years to adjust. Given where he’s coming from, I think it was necessary.”
“To adjust?” Steve frowned. “Yeah… I see what you mean. Between how much the world has changed, Jamie and the fact that I’m… no longer available, along with the number HYDRA did on him…” He took a deep breath. “Yeah, it was probably a good thing.”

They sat in silence for a while, mulling over things, before Peter and Jamie came back to the kitchen with their dishes. Steve smiled at his son and picked him up, propping him on his thigh, just as Tony hugged Peter tight.

“Jamie”, Steve said, “you remember when I showed you your papa at the museum?”

Jamie nodded.

“Papa is Bucky Bear!”
“Yeah”, Steve agreed. “Well, your papa will be coming here tomorrow. And he asked me to kiss you for him.”
“Bucky Bear is coming back?” Peter asked, beaming.
“It seems so, sweetheart”, Tony answered.
“I will draw for him, then!” he said with so much enthusiasm that Tony could only smile fondly. “You coming, Jamie?”
“Jamie will make pretty flowers for Papa!” Jamie replied, wiggling down from Steve’s down and running after Peter.

Steve huffed a laugh and glanced at Tony:

“My apartment is drowning in flowers”, he explained. “I don’t know if you’ve been to the inside garden recently, but it’s thriving. He made a wall of greenery there.”
“I’m just wondering… why flowers?”
“A Bucky-gene, more likely”, Steve answered, turning his mug in his hands. “He’s always loved plants.”

His phone chimed again: it was another photo of Bucky. He wore his muzzle around his neck, hair pulled back in a tight bun, his gaze set on the horizon, lips turned up in a soft smile that threw Steve back seventy years ago. He was leaning on a bike, and Steve would have thought he was posing for the camera if there hadn’t been some hints of another sneaky photo there. Tony leaned over his shoulder to look at it, and frowned.

“Is that… dried blood? On his clothes?”

Steve zoomed in and pursed his lips.

“Seems so, yeah… Probably HYDRA”, he added after a thought. “It’s strange, he’s dressed the same, but his face is…”
“Completely different”, Tony completed. “He looks peaceful, almost. This is the guy I imagined whenever I heard ‘Bucky’.”
“Aside from the long hair and some wrinkles more… Yes, he looks exactly the same as the Bucky I knew.” Steve smiled softly. “I can’t believe it’s… I mean, that whole Winter Soldier business had me prepared for the worst.”
“What I’d like to know is who our paparazzi is”, Tony pointed out.
“You can ask?”
“What if I scare him and he stops sending photos? Nah, I’ll wait.” He nudged him. “I’ll go get dressed, you should do the same.”

The day passed very slowly. They had no news from either Clint or Natasha before the evening, when they came back home, looking tired and bewildered. The mysterious masked-guy had stopped posting photos after he’d sent one of Bucky in a dressing room, half-naked – they could only hope he hadn’t signed his death warrant with this very good photo.

“Tony”, Steve laughed, “you’re drooling.”
“I’m not!” Tony protested. “He’s eye-candy, that’s all.”

Steve rolled his eyes.

“Like you wouldn’t suck the damn lollipop.”

Tony gasped in outrage at the barely covered inuendo and slapped his arm playfully.

“Steven Grant Rogers, watch your damn mouth!”
“Using my whole name?” Steve replied with a whistle. “Twitchy, twitchy…”

Though Tony knew Steve was only joking, his face was on flames, making him feel like a school-boy called out on his crush. It was no his fault that he remembered his so-called hallucination and the drawl of Bucky calling him babydoll. It all felt like a mess – knowing the Winter Soldier was the one who had killed his parents, knowing Bucky had nothing to do with that, knowing he was Steve’s ex, knowing he probably wouldn’t mind and still worrying that he would, and being scared of the memory of those hazy blue eyes staring at him.

Clint and Natasha came back with news – disturbing, but good news: a single man dressed entirely in red lycra had made his way into the Triskelion, taking a few dozen bullets doing so, and somehow found an access to a hidden HYDRA facility, from where he’d busted out the ghost known as the Winter Soldier. The two men had fought in perfect synchronicity, leaving death and destruction in their wake. They’d proceeded to eliminate Alexander Pierce – the guy had been pinned to a wall, the words HYDRA’S LEADER written above him with his own blood – and coaxed Fury – they didn’t know how – into letting them access all of HYDRA and SHIELD’s files to release them on the internet. Chaos had ensued, but the two men hadn’t let that deter them: they’d launched a missile on former SHIELD headquarters, destroying what remained of Zola, eliminated the whole STRIKE team – apparently Rumlow had learnt to fly without a parachute, which hadn’t exactly agreed with him – and blown the Project Insight helicarriers to pieces. All of this in a few hours and with a lot of casualties, most of them being HYDRA agents.

After that, the two had gone MIA, reappearing at a road station when they’d used Pierce’s debit card to get food and fuel, and then later, mid-afternoon, in NYC. There, using a combination of Pierce’s debit card and several HYDRA agents, they had made expenses in a hotel, in a pharmacy, for take-out and a set of clothes. They were currently in a suite of the Williamsburg Hotel, but given that they weren’t using their own money, they had no reason not to go big. Nothing was in Bucky’s name, though – Natasha had managed to wriggle out the information that the reservation had been made in the name of one Wade Wilson.

Once they’d told everything they knew, and been updated by Steve on said Wade Wilson’s messages, they weren’t long to go get some rest – or maybe think about a new secret identity, Natasha had hinted, now that her cover had been busted. Clint wanted to see Loki, who hadn’t emerged the whole day, apparently nursing his nasty headache. Pepper and Jane had bailed out early once it had turned out everything was probably going to be fine, and Bruce was still gone, doing his best to contain the Hulk. Steve and Tony had been busy as long as the kids had been up – there were Peter’s lessons to care for, and Jamie who had been adamant on his shaping a misshapen vase of clay, which he had painted in green and filled with a bunch of conjured wild flowers for his Papa. But Jamie had gone to sleep first, just after dinner, soon followed by Peter, and now the two men were finding themselves restless.

They tried watching a movie, but it wasn’t engaging enough and they both could still feel their minds milling furiously. Usually, Tony would tinker in his lab, but today, Steve needed company – and to be completely honest, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be left alone with his thoughts. In the end, they settled for video games. Steve’s talent was abysmal, for lack of practice, and he cursed every single time his Koopa went off the Rainbow Road, while Tony pulled ahead with Toad, only to lose to Jarvis after a blue shell hit him. They played for a while, finally unwinding, until it was late enough for Tony to feel his eyes prickle. Steve noticed and they decided it was time to try to get some sleep.

“I don’t want to be alone tonight”, Tony offered. “Sleep with me?”

Steve nodded, relief washing over his worries at the familiarity of it all. A quick check-up in Peter’s room told them what they had easily guessed: Jamie had sneaked there, and the two boys were sprawled, sleeping soundly. It was a routine easy to fall back into – Tony pulling the covers back while Steve brushed his teeth, getting in the bed and Jarvis turning off the lights at a word. There was comfort in the moves, and in the scent. There was comfort in the shared warmth and in the easiness at facing each other in the dark to talk in hushed voices.

“Tony?” Steve whispered. “Are you sleeping yet?”
“No”, Tony replied. “What is it?”
“I know I said it jokingly, but seriously… I know you’re attracted to Bucky, in a way you cannot control.”
“Did you discover that before or after his scent alone sent me in heat?” Tony snorted.
“I’m trying to be serious here”, Steve protested.
“I know”, Tony replied softly, sounding slightly frightened. “Yes, I’m attracted to him, and it’s scary.”
“I can guess, yeah. I just wanted you to know… I wanted to be sure you know it doesn’t bother me. What we had is in the past, even if we had a child together. And for what it’s worth… the Bucky I knew would love you.”
“Thank you”, Tony whispered back. “Everything is a bit weird and overwhelming at the moment.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean”, Steve huffed, “but actually, I’ve been thinking about it ever since your last heat. You and Bucky, I mean. My two best friends together… It’s a nice idea.” He paused. “Mostly though, I just want you to be happy, and I’ll hold you on that promise you made to go on a date.”
“You’re always looking out for me”, Tony smiled. “Thanks.”
“Now come on you big sap, let me cuddle the hell out of you.”

There was something soothing about being there, being held and holding on tight, something even the wildness of Bucky’s blue eyes couldn’t take away. There was the promise that everything would be alright – and Tony was tempted to believe it.

*

To say that Steve was nervous was… an understatement. The guy was a wreck, but Tony had to admit he wasn’t much better. Steve had put on his nicest jeans, a t-shirt and a shirt, and tried to get Jamie to dress nicely for his father – but Jamie had been adamant on wearing his Hulk t-shirt, the green and white clashing with his red hair. Clint, Natasha and Loki had settled on the perches after breakfast, keeping an eye on everything while leaving some kind of intimacy to Steve’s reunion with Bucky. Tony had settled on the couch, Peter tucked against him, and was reading him the adventure book they’d started together. Steve, though, was pacing around the room while Jamie coloured on the coffee table.

It was nine and a half when the call from the front door was redirected to them – and then Bucky was in the elevator, along with his red-clad acolyte. Steve had stopped pacing to stare at the elevator doors, standing completely still. Peter had looked up from the book, just as Tony, and they were looking too: how could they not? Jamie alone kept on colouring, his tongue poking out of his mouth as he focused on his art. The few minutes the elevator ride lasted seemed to be centuries, and Steve’s mouth was suddenly parched from the stress, and he wasn’t sure anything more than a croak would come out. The doors open with the soft chime that announced non-residents of the Tower, and his heart stopped for a moment.

Bucky was standing there, and he had donned a WWII officer uniform, exactly like the one he’d worn before he left for the 107th. His long hair was tied up and hidden under the cap, but it was his only concession to the style. Slowly, he took a few steps in, his eyes on Steve.

“Hello, Stevie”, he said. “I’m home.”
“Bucky”, Steve whispered, and he was right, his voice hadn’t been more than a croak, but he didn’t care.

He stumbled up to him, pulling him into a tight hug, and he was so real and surely, he was dreaming, because it couldn’t be possible and-

“Breathe”, Bucky said softly in his ear. “Slowly. Don’t hyperventilate.”

Steve focused on doing just that, tears streaming down his face as he held onto Bucky – and Bucky’s arms were just as strong and firm as in his memories. His fingers were holding on so tight he was probably creasing the uniform, his tears wetting his shoulders, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

“I can’t believe you’re here”, he finally said.
“I’m home”, Bucky repeated, a hand cupped around his cheek as he pulled away, looking behind Steve.
“Papa!” Jamie cried out, grinning broadly as he ran up to him.
“That’s my boy!” Bucky said proudly, crouching to receive Jamie’s firm tackle and rising again, the little boy giggling in his arms. “My wonderful little boy”, he added, softer, laying kisses all over Jamie’s face.
“Gross, Papa!” Jamie shrieked, pushing his face away, “you slobber all over Jamie!”

Bucky’s laughter boomed out, loud and joyous, and Steve felt his heart soar. He was here, and he was real, and now, now, maybe he could believe it.

“Call me a slimy git while you’re at it, won’t you?” he said, kissing him once more. “He really took after you”, he added for Steve’s benefit, and Steve squawked indignantly.

Slowly, everyone relaxed. Jamie wiggled, so Bucky let him go back to his drawing – except Jamie came back with his present: the vase full of wildflowers.

“Thank you, trésor”, Bucky said, and Jamie beamed.

Unbeknownst to everyone except Natasha, the red-clad man had moved aside and was making gestures at Peter, who started to cackle madly on the couch and went to him, staring up with a smile.

“You’re a funny one Mr. Pool”, he said, and finally they noticed that there was a stranger standing there, a stranger with katanas strapped to his back.
“Who the hell are you?” Tony intervened, rising from the couch, ready to fly to Peter’s rescue.
“Deadpool, at your service”, Deadpool answered with a twirl and a bow, and the children laughed loudly at his antics.

The look on Steve’s face at the name was priceless, and Bucky only grinned mischievously at his glare.

“Wade broke me out of the base”, he explained. “He’s fine.”
“Bucky, darling, I think you haven’t really gotten the concept of an alias.”
“Mr. Pool”, Peter asked, staring at him with stars in his eyes, “may I see your katanas?”
“Sure, Petey”, Wade Wilson said, sitting cross-legged on the floor and taking his katanas from their sheaths, to Peter’s awe. “Don’t you worry Mama Stark, I know what I’m doing.”
“You got stuck in the shower at the hotel”, Bucky deadpanned, “so I seriously doubt that. Sheaths those katanas back or so help me.” He turned to Tony, who had seriously blanched, while Jamie gushed about his Papa to Steve. “James Buchanan Barnes”, he said as a greeting, “but you can call me Bucky.”
“Tony Stark”, Tony replied slightly bewildered but more comfortable now that Wade’s swords were sheathed again. He extended a hand to shake Bucky’s.
“Thank you for taking care of Steve while I was out”, Bucky said, taking his hand and, instead of shaking it, bringing his knuckles to his lips.

He barely brushed them but Tony was electrised, his face flushing red at the gentlemanly gesture. Bucky grinned, noticing his entertaining reaction, and pulled back. He frowned slightly, and looked at Wade.

“Wade”, he called, “my mask.”
“Here”, Wade replied, throwing him the black muzzle he’d worn as the Winter Soldier.

Bucky quickly secured it tight over his face, Tony and Steve staring in confusion.

“Sorry about that”, he said, and his voice was only slightly muffled. “But, Tony, you smell too good and it wouldn’t do for me to go into a rut. I can put this back on now that I’ve kissed my son hello.” He paused, looking around. “Needless to say, I’m glad to be back. I’m sure there are many things you want to talk about.” He looked up. “Natasha, Clint, Loki, you may come down instead of watching over us like gargoyles. It’ll be more entertaining.”
“I resent that, Barnes!” Clint called coolly, coming down from his perch.

Bucky grinned and turned, his gaze settling back on Tony, who still stood frozen next to him.

“Move along, babydoll”, Bucky drawled, brushing a knuckle against his jaw. “I’ve got a lot to say.”

And oh, did Tony believe him.

Chapter Text

To everyone’s momentary surprise, except Wade’s, Bucky went to the kitchen and made tea for all of them, moving around as if he lived there – which, well. Fifteen years. He probably had been in that kitchen a lot. Steve had gotten up to help him, only to be sent back with a firm “no, you only break the cups, Steve. Every. Single. Time.” Which, okay. Steve was a nervous mess and the only reason his hands weren’t shaking was that they were clenched into fists in his lap.

Bucky came back with two trays balanced on his hands, smiling and ruffling Jamie’s hair once he’d set one down. Peter had apparently taken to Deadpool, to Loki’s apparent disgust, and was seated in his lap as the red-clad man recounted a hair-pulled story about aliens.

“You seem… well”, Tony started, peering at Bucky, who flashed him a grin.
“Why, thank you! I’m glad to finally be out of this loop. It was great, but after a while you want to start living again, you know?”
“It must have been… long.”

Bucky shrugged.

“Only the last three years, honestly. I was ready to move on. Before that, I was… very busy.” He peered at him. “May I speak with you? Privately?”

Tony was taken aback, but he nodded anyway and followed Bucky to the kitchen, wondering what he might want with him.

“I wanted to apologize”, Bucky said after a moment. “For hurting you. For losing control last time we met, and for your parents. I know nothing I say or do can bring them back to you, or… But I need you to know I’m deeply sorry for all the wrongs I’ve done to you. And if you don’t want to forgive me, that’s okay. You don’t have to, I understand. What I did was horrible, and you have every right to hate me.”

Tony was silent for a long time. He hadn’t expected it – hadn’t even dared to hope for it. Bucky said nothing more, letting him shuffle through his thoughts and feelings. He was remarkably patient, though there was something raw in his expression. Finally, Tony licked his lips.

“I’ll forgive you, eventually”, he said. “I know I will, because none of it was… you. It was either HYDRA or biology, but it was never you. But not now. I’ll need… some time to process.”

Bucky smiled, seeming relieved, and nodded.

“It’s more than good enough for me”, he breathed. “Thank you, Tony.”

And with that, he exited the kitchen to go back to everyone, leaving Tony to his jumbled thoughts. When he came back, Bucky was explaining how he’d found out about Jamie, and Steve seemed to be relieved that his own emotions had been a perfect reflection of Bucky’s. Bucky was only so composed and charming because he’d had time to get used to it, time to live and relive again his reunion with Steve. It was strange to observe, the way he fit in their group seamlessly. He knew exactly how Natasha took her tea, and expected Clint’s sarcasm, welcomed it, even. He kept a respectful, yet friendly distance from Loki, which the god seemed to appreciate, and Tony couldn’t help but wonder how many trials and errors he’d gone through before he got to this point.

Clint, Loki and Natasha agreed to take care of the meal while Steve and Bucky had a discussion in private. Tony went to his lab while Peter and Jamie played in the living-room. There, in the privacy of his tech toys, he let out a long breath. Bucky, the real Bucky, was very different from the Winter Soldier he’d met. He had noticed how the man had no scent to speak of, and it wasn’t hard to guess what he’d done: scent blockers were commonly found in pharmacies, for a whole range of uses. He vaguely wondered how many a super-soldier had to take for it to affect him.

Nonetheless, the charming personality, thoughtful gestures and easy flirting were attracting him. There was no point denying it. He wondered, once more, how long he’d taken him to figure out how to act around him.

“Five years”, a voice said, and he startled brutally.
“How did you even get in there?” he asked once he’d calmed down enough, peering at Bucky who was leaning against the door.
“You gave me the code”, Bucky replied. “Several times. So, I was answering the question I know is gnawing at you: it took me five long years to know how I should act around you. First for your safety and mine, then for your comfort.” He took a small metallic box from his pocket, opened it and picked a tablet inside, which he swallowed dry. “Forty loops of testing which scent blockers would work on me, and how many times I had to take it so the effects wouldn’t wear off.” He chuckled. “Being stubborn has its good.”
“Why… Why would you even go that far?” Tony breathed. “You didn’t even know me.”
“Except I did, to some extent”, Bucky replied, strolling closer and settling down on a stool that creaked under his weight. “The first few years, I always met you as the Winter Soldier”, he said. “Do you know what he’d labelled you?”
“I’m not sure I want to know.”
“Dangerous, do not approach. You and Steve were so only ones whose mere presence could override HYDRA’s hold on me. And I must say, Steve and I have got some history.”
“I’m fairly certain you were the dangerous one to me”, Tony retorted.
“Matter of point of view”, Bucky shrugged. “Meeting you without my muzzle always sent me into a rut, and that never played out well.”

There was something, in the tone of his voice, that made Tony doubt it. That, and the so-called hallucination he’d had on his last heat. He squinted his eyes at him.

“You’re lying.”
“Man, you got me again”, Bucky grimaced, uncrossing his arms. “Alright. I wasn’t exactly lying but there was that one time…” His cheeks had taken a soft pink tinge, but he didn’t seem all that embarrassed. “I had my muzzle figured out, and my scent-blockers. We got talking and I forgot to take my tablet.”
“Let me guess”, Tony breathed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I went into heat.”

He could feel his face flame red again.

“You did”, Bucky confirmed, stepping closer. “There’s no need to hide, Tony”, he said softly, pinching his chin and angling his head to look into his eyes. “It was wonderful. You’re gorgeous, Tony, and I’m grateful I got to experience your heat.”

Tony gulped, mesmerized by those blue eyes staring into his soul, and averted his gaze.

“Are you coming onto me, Sergeant?” he said, keeping his voice even despite everything.
“I believe I made myself quite clear, yes”, Bucky replied. “I know it seems very sudden to you.”
“Because for you, it’s not?” Tony said, huffing a laugh.
“Nope”, Bucky said, popping the p. “I’ve spent these last two years wooing you, and I’m not stopping on such a good start.” He paused, peering at him. “But I’m not expecting any kind of answer soon. Would you let me give you something to think about?”

Tony tried to think for a few seconds, but he was having a hard time processing everything. He could feel a headache coming on, and that it wasn’t likely to abate quickly. Eventually, though, he just nodded.

He hadn’t expected Bucky’s lips on his, warm, dry and crackled from years of mistreatments at the hands of HYDRA. He made a noise at the feeling of a tongue gently tracing the seam of his lips, asking to be let in as a metallic hand cradled his head, and complied, parting his lips. Bucky’s kiss was warm, gentle and tender at first, slowly taking possession of his mouth, until Tony was relaxed and pliant enough against him – and when had he stepped this close? That was the moment Bucky chose to deepen the kiss, nipping playfully at his bottom lip before he licked along his lips, setting every nerve on fire.

Tony had tried to think at first, but it quickly proved impossible and he could feel his train of thought come to a stop, relaxing for the first time in days. It was all too easy to let Bucky have his way, to grant him access and gasp at his firmness and confidence. Bucky finally drew away, too soon and too late, parting for a few seconds before he surged forward again, pressing one last kiss to his lips. Then, he retreated, looking slightly flushed, pupils wide and dark, and seemingly pleased with Tony’s hazed gaze and parted lips.

“Think about it”, Bucky said with a grin before he strode away, leaving Tony even more lost than before.

Tony looked down at his semi, embarrassed at how quickly he’d gotten aroused, and yet knowing he wanted more. He wanted the promises he’d felt in Bucky’s kiss. He brought his fingers to his lips, which were raw, puffy and sensitive from Bucky’s plundering, not knowing whether he wanted to punch him or kiss him again.

*

Tony didn’t leave his lab the whole afternoon. He needed the calm and the quiet, soundproof headphones jammed onto his ears and an antalgic for his headache. Natasha had brought him a mug of steaming tea and left without a word while he struggled through all the news and feelings he’d had lately. There was a barely started Mark 43, which was meant to be a stealth armour. He had tons of notes on that one, but hadn’t gotten down to making it yet. He thought for a moment about doing just that, but ended up thinking about his last meeting with the one Bucky called the “Winter Soldier”. It could have been avoided if he just found a way to build scent blockers in his armour – both to keep his scent in the armour even now that he couldn’t use his Patch, and to filtrate scents from the outside. So far, he had thought stopping the scents from coming to him would just make him down one sense – same as being blind or deaf, he got tons of intel from his scent alone. But it also made him more vulnerable, so he ought to at least have the option.

Something prickled at his back and he turned around violently, pointing his blowtorch forward as an improvised weapon. Deadpool jumped back, holding his hands up, and Tony slammed the blowtorch down before he pulled off his headphones, obviously pissed.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” he cried out.
“Hey, I called when I walked in but you didn’t hear me. Not my fault.”
“How did you even get in? My lab is not a mill!”
“Your friend Clint let me in”, Deadpool replied, sitting on the worktop. “Peter was worried when you didn’t come back, and I was to tell you to send a text with what kind of take-out you want.”

Tony took off his protective gloves and glasses, quickly thumbing in a text to Natasha – it was either her or Clint who would be dealing with the orders, but his bet was on her. That done, he put his phone aside and looked at Deadpool. The man was strangely expressive behind his mask, though Tony would have betted his whole fortune it hid a shit-ton of problems.

“How do you know Bucky?” he finally asked.
“Long story short, he spared my life a few years ago, I saved his yesterday. And apparently a whole bunch of yesterdays before that, but I can’t remember it. It’s really weird, uh, to have someone you just met knowing you like you’ve known each other for years.”
“Are you a hero? Because I can’t remember seeing you anywhere.”
“Oh no, none of that, darling”, Deadpool replied, crossing his legs seductively.
“Why the costume, then? Don’t tell me you’re a super-villain because I’d hate to have to imprison you in the Tower, now that SHIELD is down.”

Deadpool hopped down and started to look at a hammer like it talked to him, which... well, Tony thought that was a cause of worry. Deadpool didn’t seem exactly sane, to put it mildly.

“No, I’m just searching for someone and trying not to make everyone throw up at the sight of my ugly mug”, Deadpool replied. “Would you, per chance, know Francis?”

Tony’s eyebrows went up to his hairline.

“From accountability?”
“Uh, I doubt that the same guy”, Deadpool said, setting the hammer down.
“Unless the one you’re searching for is an accountant in his mid-forties with no hair to speak of, yeah, it’s probably not your guy”, Tony replied, slightly weirded out.
“Your lab is awesome, by the way. Can I try an armour on? Pretty please”, he added with his hands joined just under his chin.

Tony let out a long sigh and pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose.

“Alright”, he huffed. “Come here.”

Deadpool squealed and skipped after him to the back of the lab, where Tony kept his finished and mostly-finished armours. It took him a few minutes to find one that would accommodate for Deadpool’s bulk and height, because the Alpha was actually looming over him and his shoulders were probably twice as large as his. He hadn’t realized the guy was so tall when he’d walked in – then again, his attention had been on Bucky. Still, he should have noticed a huge, red-clad Alpha with katanas. It was worrying that he hadn’t.

“Jarvis will assist you”, he said as the armour seamlessly wrapped itself around Deadpool after he’d taken off a couple of guns and his katanas, which wouldn’t have fit into the armour. “Try not to break anything.”

A hatch opened to let Deadpool fly out, screaming with glee as the thrusters propelled him into New York’s sky. Tony put on an earpiece connected to the suit – which Deadpool had apparently not realized because he was babbling to himself.

“How’re you doing?” he asked after a moment of gross, crude nonsense, looking out the window and seeing Deadpool loop into the sky.

The guy made a startled noise, the suit somersaulting into the air, and Tony wondered how the hell he’d done that because the stabilizers were there to prevent exactly that.

“Man, I’d never take it off if I were you!” Deadpool replied, and Tony could hear his grin. “This is so cool!”

Tony’s phone chimed, and he hummed.

“Alright, come back, dinner’s here.”

Deadpool whooped, twirling and making Tony wonder where the hell had Bucky found him, before he flew back in through the hatch. Robotic assistants immediately started to take the armour off, and Deadpool sauntered out, over to Tony.

“Had fun?” the mechanic asked with a raised eyebrow.

Deadpool nodded and Tony had the strange feeling that his eyes were sparkling. Tony locked the lab on his way out as the elevator took them back to the living-room storey. Dinner was, indeed, there. All the Tower inhabitants were scattered around the living-room, some already holding their box of noodles, others still trying to pick out their own. Bruce had come back sometime in the afternoon. Bucky was sitting cross-legged on a pillow, Jamie in his lap. The little boy was already in his pyjamas, and Steve looked completely exhausted. Peter was sitting nearby, poking at his food with a frown, but Loki said something in his ear and he nodded, bringing the noodles and vegetables to his mouth.

“You know what?” Deadpool said. “Whenever I imagined Avengers Tower, I never imagined something like this.”
“Let me guess, you imagined a bunch of heroes awkwardly sharing a Tower?” Tony grinned.
“Yeah”, Deadpool nodded, “or something like Professor X’s school. Deeply unsettling.”

The day had been tiring, and even more for Steve and Tony, who had a personal stack in Bucky’s return. Steve said goodnight and, Jamie in his arms, went to sleep. Tony wasn’t long to send Peter to bed, once he’d made sure Bucky and Deadpool would settle in the remaining apartment for the night, and quickly followed suite. His brain kept on going over the day’s events – on every weird interaction he’d had with Bucky, from his heartfelt apology to his brazen kiss. That sole memory still made his skin buzz and he shivered under the too warm water of his shower.

This was such a mess, but for once, it was one he was happy to have, and happy to solve. He had no doubt Bucky would settle in the Tower – first because he had nowhere else to go, and second because everything he had was there. The question was: how would he deal with that new factor?

He wasn’t any nearer to an answer when he spilled over his hand, the memory of Bucky’s kiss still warm on his lips. He needed time. Time, and a good night of sleep.

Chapter Text

Tony woke up earlier when usual, but refreshed. Considering he’d slept early, it wasn’t that surprising, but most of the Tower would still be sleeping, or already out. He groaned, rolling on his bed to look at his clock: 8 am. Pepper and Jane were probably already gone, as would be Clint and Natasha. Loki was likely still sleeping – the guy was a night owl and was rarely up before eleven. Bruce would be waking up and serving Jamie and Peter breakfast, since the little rascals wouldn’t wait for Tony to wake up, and Steve would already be out running, like he did every day.

Tony stumbled out of bed, rubbing his eyes, shrugged on a shirt – this one was way too large, it was probably one he’d stolen from Steve. Again. – and a pair of sweatpants before he made his way to the kitchen. The smell of warm coffee and cooking pancakes made his stomach grumble and he followed the scent. The sight that greeted him wasn’t one he expected in his half-awake state, but it sure was one he liked. Jamie and Peter were sitting at the table, eating through thick pancakes covered in jam, a glass of juice each. There was a mug of coffee beside them, and one Bucky Barnes, in sweatpants and a t-shirt Tony recognized as Steve’s, making breakfast like everything was normal, his dark hair pulled up in a loose bun.

“Hello babydoll”, Bucky drawled without even turning, flipping a pancake and then reaching for the muzzle he’d set on the worktop beside him. “Slept well?”

The muzzle barely muffled his voice, but it did set out his blue eyes, heat pooling low in Tony’s body before he realized what was happening. He gulped and stepped forward, kissing Jamie’s unruly mop of hair and Peter’s brow before he turned to Bucky.

“Fine”, he replied, voice still heavy with sleep. “Bruce is…?”
“Enjoying his morning tea in the inside garden”, Bucky replied, pointing upstairs with his spatula. “I said I’d be taking care of breakfast today. And Wade had to go back home. Sit, the water is about ready for your tea.”

Tony sat in a daze, taken aback by how… domestic this was. Not that it was bad, but it was unexpected. A minute later, he had a plate with a pancake in front of him, with his favourite raspberry jelly and a steaming cup of Earl Grey.

“Thank you”, he said once he managed to talk.

Bucky’s eyes crinkled up, the only sign that he was smiling under his muzzle, and he set out to help Jamie with his pancake.

“Thank you Papa”, the boy grinned, and Bucky ruffled his hair.
“Bucky Bear”, Peter then asked, holding out his empty glass, “can I have another one please?”
“Here you go”, Bucky said, serving him before he finally sat down opposite to Tony.

The tea had started to get his neurons to work, and the pancakes were really good. Steve would have breakfast-cooking competition, now. Bucky carefully pulled off his muzzle, took a breath and grabbed for his coffee, which he started to sip. He didn’t linger, though, and as soon as he was done, he put the muzzle back on, his features instantly relaxing. Tony wanted to ask, but not while the children were there. Luckily, they didn’t take too long to finish up their food, Peter stacking their plates and forks while Jamie took their glasses, putting everything in the dishwasher. Jamie paused to briefly hug his father’s leg before he ran away, and Tony noticed his bottoms were getting too short again: the boy was on a growth spurt, and already taller and broader than most children his age. He’d taken after both his parents, that was for sure. Peter went after him, laughing when he managed to tackle Jamie to the ground for a sparring session before he had to get dressed and study.

Tony pulled his eyes away from them and nearly jumped when he felt something against his shin, his eyes going wide when he realized it was Bucky’s foot gliding up his leg. That was a first. And Bucky had a strange concept of “taking his time” and “going slow”. Then again, if he’d spent the last two years seducing Tony over and over, it was a reason to his hurry.

“What happened to ‘taking it slow’ and ‘waiting for me’?” Tony couldn’t stop himself from asking, and Bucky chuckled.
“I am going slow”, the Alpha answered, getting up and circling the table to get to Tony. Carefully and leaving him plenty of time to get away, he wrapped his arms around him, chest flush against his shoulder-blades. God, he was warm, in a way that made Tony want to curl up into him. He didn’t, though, going still and waiting for his next move. “If we were going to my pace”, he rumbled in his ear, “you’d me moaning my name by now.”

This time, Tony couldn’t help his full body shiver at the proposition, taking a careful breath out so as not to betray anything – or at least, not how much he liked the sound of that, despite how utterly terrified he was of his own over-powering desire.

“You could at least take me out to dinner first”, he retorted, glancing aside to meet Bucky’s blue eyes.
“I was thinking, an arcade date, actually”, Bucky hummed. “Dinner might be a bit difficult with that”, he added, tapping his muzzle. “I’m able to resist your call long enough to drink my coffee or kiss you breathless, but that’s seriously testing my limits.”

Tony closed his eyes for a second, afraid he might hyperventilate from the sudden rush of desire. To hear, to know Bucky desired him enough to make him lose control was a huge turn on. But he wasn’t looking for a shag, no matter how attractive, and especially if said shag was his best-friend’s ex. That was looking for trouble. Omega one-night stands he would never meet again were a thing – though that number had dwindled to 0 after he got Peter – but he’d never been with another Alpha than Pepper and the thought was scary. Thinking about it, his lack of a sexual life these past few years was… something he ought to think about changing. But even then, no, not Bucky. There were too many ways this could go bad.

“I doubt it would be a good idea”, he finally breathed. “Having sex with your flatmate sounds like a recipe to disaster.”
“Who’s talking about sex?” Bucky asked, pulling away and staring at him.
“Uh, you were? Just now?”
“Babydoll”, Bucky breathed, his flesh fingers gently gliding against Tony’s cheek, “I was telling you that I desire you, that’s true, but you seem to have misunderstood me. I have no interest in a quick fuck, not with you.”
“What do you want, then?” Tony asked, turning around on his stool to stare at him.
“That you give me a real chance to be your Alpha”, Bucky replied steadily. “There’s no doubt on my side, babydoll. I’m already head over heels for you, and I want to be able to say you’re my mate one day.” He paused. “I also know you don’t know me at all, which is why I asked you out on a date. If you choose to reject me, I want to be sure you know why.”

Tony blinked, owlish. His mate. His Alpha. James Buchanan Barnes wanted nothing more than to share his life. Slowly, he pushed himself off his stool and took a step away.

“I’m going to walk away to freak out, now”, he said, his voice steady. “Once I’ve freaked out and talked myself out of all the reasons why I shouldn’t accept, I’ll come back and tell you yes to that date because I’m definitely too curious for my own good.”

Bucky chuckled and pulled back, letting him pass.

“That works for me. Should I give you another kiss to think about?”
“Unless you want to be kneed in the balls, you will refrain from doing that.”
“I’ll hold on to that kiss, then”, Bucky nodded. “Go have your freak out.”

Tony started to walk away, only to sprint up the stairs and pound frantically at Steve’s door, praying that he hadn’t gone to jog for once. The door opened on an alarmed Steve, apparently just out of bed: his hair was sticking up in odd ways, he had pillow wrinkle marks on his cheek and was half-naked.

“What is it?”
“I’m freaking out”, Tony said, holding up his trembling hands, “Steve, I’m freaking out”, he added with a mad chuckle.

Steve pulled a face but let him in, guiding him to the couch.

“Sit”, he said.
“Gosh I need a drink”, Tony blurted out, and this was enough to get the alarmed look back on Steve’s face.
“Tony, you’ve been sober for close to eight years now”, he said softly. “Whatever it is, I’m sure you can deal with it without alcohol.”

He came back quickly with a glass of water and one of the little pills Pepper kept on hand for Tony. It wasn’t much but hopefully, it would be enough. Tony took both frantically, still quite shaky. Steve sat beside him and rubbed his back.

“It’ll be okay”, he said. “Whatever it is, it’ll be okay.”

He waited for Tony to calm down enough to talk clearly, quickly throwing on a sweatshirt when he started to shiver.

“Bucky is, uhm”, Tony started, his thoughts clearly a mess.
“Messing with you?” Steve said with a smirk.
“Yes!” Tony answered shrilly. “He fucks with my nerves, I swear he does it on purpose!”
“Buck has always been a flirt, but he’s also a gentleman”, Steve pointed out. “So, tell me what happened.”
“He was… He said…” His eyes widened. “He said he wants to be my mate?”

Steve didn’t seem all that surprised, and Tony frowned.

“You knew.”
“He told me”, Steve replied. “He may be a flirt, but he doesn’t lead people on, Tony. If he said that, he meant it.”
“But I don’t know him! I don’t know him at all, and I can’t seem to keep my head straight when he’s concerned!”
“Tony”, Steve said slowly, “that’s what dates are for. I doubt he expected you to go ‘hell yeah, I’ll oath to love you forever’ when you just met him.”

Tony licked his lips, seemingly calmer – or at least, his thoughts weren’t as jumbled up together.

“What if I fuck it up? What if we don’t get along, or if we’re not compatible, or…”
“You won’t fuck it up, Tony” Steve smiled. “Get to know him, and give him a chance to know you, if that’s what you want. If you don’t get along, that’s fine. But if you do… I only want your happiness. Yours and his.” He paused. “The question is: are you interested in him? Enough to go to a date?”

Tony made a noise.

“I don’t know! My body wants him to fuck me senseless and my mind can’t seem to catch up.”

Steve snorted.

“Well that’s something.”
“And I’m curious, but I don’t want to do something I’d regret but I’m curious.”
“Do you think I’d tell you to go on a date with him if I weren’t sure he’s a good Alpha?” Steve replied. “Take it slow and I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah. Did he ask you out on a date already?”

Tony nodded.

“An arcade date”, he replied, “which sounds really good, actually. I already agreed… though I do need to confirm, now that I think about it.”

Steve cocked his head, curious, but didn’t ask.

“Do you know when?”
“No, I was busy panicking”, Tony replied sarcastically.
“Just be careful, I know it doesn’t feel like it but this time around, your heat is soon.”
“But I was-”

Then it hit him. If the last five days had not happened, then he hadn’t gone into a sudden heat. He hadn’t taken a suppressant and almost died from it. Which meant he was still on his regular cycle.

“Fuck”, he breathed, immediately going to the electronical calendar he shared with Steve, and now Jane, to check. “July 10th.”

A little more than a week, then. His little Iron Man logo shone brightly, Steve’s nowhere to be found since Thor had last been around, and Jane’s, luckily, close to a month apart from his.

“This is the most fucked up timing ever”, Tony groaned. “I mean, it’s four times a year. He could have arrived just after and we’d have had three months without worrying about it. But no.”

Steve snapped his fingers.

“That’s what I meant to ask him, and completely forgot”, he said. “You think you can make another logo for him?”
“Why- The ruts”, he said, his eyes widening. “I had somehow managed to forget about that.” He nodded. “I’ll make him his own logo, yeah.” He peered at Steve. “What do I need to know about that?”

Steve shrugged.

“You’d be better off asking him, honestly. It could have changed, who knows.” He got up. “Now if you’re done having your existential crisis, I’d like to go shower and get dressed.”

Tony glared but he had his bearings once more, and Steve shooed him off with a smirk.
Jerk.

Chapter Text

Tony went back to his own place, showered and dressed, before heading out once more. Bruce had gotten Peter started on his maths and Jamie was colouring next to him. The two boys were hardly ever apart, and Tony didn’t need to worry about them. He went in search of Bucky, not really knowing where to expect the Alpha, finding him nowhere.

“Sir”, Jarvis interrupted, “Mr. Barnes appears to be in trouble.”
“Where?” Tony breathed.
“In the upcoming elevator.”

The doors opened and Bucky stumbled out, hissing and clutching at his metal arm, the muzzle wrapped loosely around his neck. Alarmed, Tony went to him immediately, flinching when a feral blue gaze glazed by pain settled on him. Still, he moved the muzzle up to cover Bucky’s nose and mouth before he did anything else.

“What happened?” he asked, peering at him, and then at the metal arm whirring ominously.
“Went for a jog, just got back. Something’s wrong with my arm, it hurts like a bitch”, Bucky gritted out, sweat shining on his brow.
“Did it happen before?”

Bucky jerked his head.

“Once or twice, but I was already dying every time so I didn’t exactly worry about it. They used some sort of device to try to fry the system, I don’t know more.”
“That’s a concerning sentence to hear”, Tony said, apparently keeping his calm – internally, he was screaming, but right now the soldier needed help. “I suppose antalgics don’t do anything for you?”
“Nothing at all”, Bucky replied. “I can deal with it, I just need-”
“James Buchanan Barnes”, Tony snapped, and wow, the name did roll nicely on his tongue, “you will not just deal with it. Come with me. If it’s a tech problem, I can fix it.”
“So confident”, Bucky said with a faint smile. “Lead the way, ma jolie.”

Tony took him to his lab, pulling a stool from him to sit on while he worked on his arm.

“Is it really necessary?” Bucky frowned when Tony strapped his arm down on the worktop.
“If you accidentally punch me with that arm, I’m dead”, Tony replied, “so yes, it’s necessary. Now shut up and let me work my magic.”

He was apparently in too much pain for another witty comment, and Tony opened the control panel, gasping at the sight of the inner working of his arm. Whatever they had used had fried most of the system, and the nerves were so corroded it was no wonder he was in pain. The system was obsolete, so even if he made it work again, Bucky would constantly be in pain. To be fair, it was all so badly done there was no way it could work painlessly. The phantom limb was already enough to bear without adding HYDRA’s botched work to the mix. But doing something better would take time – days, at best.

The emergency was the pain, so he did the best thing he could and started to disconnect each man-made nerve from the flesh endings in Bucky’s shoulder. His features relaxed for a moment.

“I can’t feel my arm”, he said, his voice slightly concerned now.
“I disconnected your nerves”, Tony answered.
“Now I’m worried.”
“Your arm is a mess, Barnes”, he chided.
“I could have guessed that part. So, what?”
“Let me take a longer look, and I’ll tell you where we go from there”, Tony replied.

His conclusion was rapidly made: the best he could do was to scrape the whole inner system and replace it. It was meticulous work, but he was confident in his skills to make it. He straightened up.

“Alright. I’ll take everything out and replace it”, he simply said. “It’ll take a few days at best, to design it, make it and install it, and your arm will be pretty much a dead weight in the meantime.” He smiled. “The good news is, once I’ll be done, you won’t be in pain because of it anymore, and I’ll update the sensory captors to make them more precise.”

Bucky blinked, silent, and Tony took it as consent to go on. He gathered his tools and started to work.

“So, about that date”, he said after a moment of silence. “I’ll go, but after my heat, which is in roughly ten days.”

Bucky nodded, though Tony couldn’t see it, focused as he was on taking his arm apart.

“And I’ll make you a logo, so you can add in your rut cycle to the calendar”, he added, his ears going red. “It’s our way of caring and making sure everyone is safe.”
“It’s a good idea, actually”, Bucky hummed, distracted by the conversation. “Though I have no idea when my next rut is. I couldn’t find any intel on that, and I don’t remember when my last one was.”
“Is it really like heats?” Tony blurted out, more curious than anything.
“Yeah”, Bucky replied. “Makes me lose my reason, and it’s painful. Enough that HYDRA once tried to stop me and I went on a rampage for an Omega. They never tried again.”
“Is it as often?” Tony asked again. He could understand the rampage – he remembered the heats he spent alone before he met Pepper, when he still could do that and it had been nightmarish. Now it was impossible.

Bucky hummed.

“Every three months, yeah”, he answered. “Lasts for three days, as far as I know.”

He eyed warily the components Tony was steadily taking out of his arm, shuddering at the sight: between the grime, the rust and the melted plastics, it really was an awful mess. Tony made numeric models of the different parts for reference before chucking everything in the waste bin, taking a look at the arm’s structure as a whole. If anything was good, it was that, though it needed some cleaning and maintenance. He sprayed a product that foamed thickly in before shutting the arm down again.

“You let that work on the grime and rust until tomorrow”, he said to Bucky, “so I’ll be able to start working on it again.”

He then put a sling for Bucky’s arm beside them on the worktop, so it would not hang heavy and useless at his side. Bucky didn’t exactly seem to be happy of that development, but he didn’t complain, at least, looking at the sling like it had personally offended him.

“So I come back here tomorrow?” Bucky asked wearily as Tony cleaned his worktop and put away his tools.
“Tomorrow morning, yeah”, Tony answered without looking at him, typing away on his keyboard as he took notes on the updates he had thought of. It took a moment, but eventually Tony looked up. “You are awfully silent.”
“Come here, babydoll”, Bucky said with a soft grin, holding out his flesh hand, and Tony swore he felt a shiver crawl up his spine.

Gingerly, he took Bucky’s hand, squawking when he pulled him into his lap, sprawling gracelessly against his torso. Bucky didn’t seem to mind, though, if his grin was telling.

“I hate you”, Tony mumbled around a mouthful of shirt, and Bucky snorted.
“No you don’t”, he retorted, helping him up, though his hand remained on his waist, steadying him up.

From up close, his blue eyes were even more dizzying, and he radiated a comforting warmth. Tony felt his heart speed up and his skin flush from the unexpected contact, feeling like a teenager once more.

“Thank you”, Bucky breathed, and Tony gulped.
“You could have said that without… all that.”
“I could”, Bucky agreed. “But I find you fit nicely in my lap, and I rather like feeling you so close to me.”

Tony wanted to be distracted by the curl of his lips or the shape of his nose of the shade of a five-o’clock shadow but as telling as the muzzle was, it wasn’t that precise, and he only had those blue eyes to anchor him to reality. And what those eyes told him was a bit too much for him to handle – there was a softness there, and adoration he’d never seen elsewhere. There was a twinkle that made it difficult to doubt Bucky’s feelings.

“God I wish you’d kiss me again”, he blurted out, and only realized he had said it out loud when Bucky chuckled low in his throat.
“Your threat was rather effective”, he pointed out, fingers curling on his waist before relaxing again. “Though, if you call my name I might reconsider.”

Tony stared at him in confusion.

“Why should I do that?”
“Because you have only called me Barnes ever since we met and I feel rather put out by that fact”, Bucky grinned.

His fingers casually slipped under the seam of his shirt, the warm flesh feeling even warmer against his naked skin, and for a second Tony thought he was going to burst in flames at the contact. He didn’t, though, and only took in a shaky inhale.

“What do you want me to call you, then?” he replied more steadily than he thought he would. “James?”
“Only if you’re cross with me.”
“What about ‘sir’?” he asked mischievously.
“That sounds incredibly filthy in your mouth for some reason”, Bucky deadpanned, and his hand had moved on to tracing shapeless patterns on his back, through the very thin layer of his t-shirt.
“Probably because it was”, Tony admitted, gaining in confidence as he realized Bucky was playing that same game of seduction. “How about… Alpha?” he suggested, shifting his weight forward knowingly and wow, that was playing with fire but like most of the time he couldn’t help himself.

Bucky let out a low growl before he managed to reign it in, his breath hitching for a second and fingers stopping as his fingers curled tightly into the fabric of his t-shirt.

“Only if you wish to be fucked into the nearest flat surface”, he answered in a drawl, his voice pitching a lot lower and that sent a new shiver up Tony’s spine.
“I’ll consider myself warned, then”, Tony whispered, holding one of his hands up and carefully letting his fingers brush against Bucky’s lips through the muzzle.
“Bucky will be just fine for now, babydoll”, the Alpha replied against his fingers, not yet daring to move.

Tony’s hand dropped to his chest, incidentally feeling the strong heartbeat there and slowly sliding lower, his breath quickening at the feeling of rock-hard abs just under his fingers. Hell, he’d never thought he would find muscles arousing but there he was. He flinched in surprise when Bucky’s flesh hand suddenly grabbed his wrist, stilling his hand.

“You might want to think before you go any farther”, Bucky said, his grip strong and yet not painful, his eyes serious and tone warning.

Tony’s gaze dropped down and he – finally – noticed the sizeable bulge in the Alpha’s jeans. His face turned completely red when he felt a rush of slick just ruin his boxers, further convincing him that yeah, Bucky was right on that. He wanted to think instead of letting his desire rule. He couldn’t help but admire Bucky’s self-control at the moment, because he clearly had none.

“What the fuck are you doing to me”, he finally whispered, slowly pulling his hand away.
“Believe me, if I thought it was a good idea, I’d have nailed you to that worktop by now”, Bucky replied, “but I know better than to cede to temptation. To simply think about how you must smell right now is seriously undermining my determination, though.” Gently, he caught Tony chin and stared into his eyes. “Do something for me, ma jolie. Think about me when you’ll fuck yourself on those pretty nimble fingers of yours, okay?”

Tony shivered, nearly coming right then and there, and further establishing that Bucky Barnes was a public menace. Still, he gulped and nodded, flushing pure red when he realize he’d just pretty much admitted he would jerk off to the thought of Bucky. Bucky grinned under his muzzle.

“Good. I’d say send me a pic but I have yet to acquire a phone.”
“That can easily be arranged”, Tony replied. “Jarvis?”
“Here is the latest model of super-resistant Stark-phones”, the AI said, opening a nearby drawer with an array of phones at various stages of construction. “I have downloaded the phone numbers of all inhabitants of the Tower.”
“Perfect”, Tony breathed, stretching backwards and apparently trusting Bucky not to let him fall to grab the phone. “Here, big guy.”

Bucky gingerly picked up the phone with his one good hand, and deftly opened the camera. Before Tony had time to react, he’d taken a picture of his flushed face and heated gaze, quickly setting it up as his background.

“Yes, perfect, indeed”, he replied.

Tony clambered down, slightly unsteady and grimacing briefly at the feeling of his damp underwear, before he helped Bucky with the sling. The soldier brought his fingers to his lips, before he grabbed his phone and left as though nothing had happened. Tony was still reeling from the whole encounter, his thoughts muddled from the arousal and cock achingly hard. Oh, this was bad.

Chapter Text

He had tried to resist, really he had, but his thoughts kept on coming back to Bucky and he had realized he had to take it out of his system if he wanted to be able to focus again on something that wasn’t the Sergeant. So he had Jarvis lock the doors to absolutely everyone and leant back into his chair with his feet propped on his desk and jeans halfway to his thighs, which hadn’t happened in a good decade at least. And it was disturbingly easy to imagine all the filthy things Bucky would purr in his ear while fingers-deep into him, and he still wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about that.

Still, after he’d come twice in a row with Bucky’s name on his lips, his mind was clear again. And he wasn’t even in heat, for fuck’s sake, just horny as though he were a teen again. Biting his lip, he hesitated for a whole two seconds before texting Bucky – a grand total of three words: kept my promise. Then, he’d turned down his phone and set down to work.

It was three in the afternoon when he finally stretched and realized he was really hungry and that his bladder was really hurting now. Grabbing his phone to see how long he’d worked, he saw first the hour – shit, Steve is gonna kill me! – and then the long string of messages from basically everyone in the Tower because he had goddamn forgotten to unlock his lab’s door. He was so dead.

As quickly as he could, he made his way back to the living quarters, stopping by the loo and hoping there would be something to eat in the kitchen. He almost walked right into Steve as he stepped out of the elevator, his friends immediately scrunching his nose.

“God, Tony, don’t walk around like that!”
“Wh- What did I do?”

Steve stared at him like he’d grown a third head.

“Have you smelled yourself?”

Ah, right. He smelled like sex. He definitely shouldn’t walk around like that. Steve shook his head.

“Go change your clothes, I’ll heat up your meal.”
“You’re a life-saver, Steve.”
“Stop stinking up the hallway and we can talk about it”, Steve retorted, pushing him towards the stairs.

He realized he hadn’t read Bucky’s response to his text once he was in the shower and blindly grabbed for his phone, finally opening the text. It was nothing like he expected. Just remembered I’m left-handed, Bucky had written, along with a string of sad emojis, and Tony couldn’t stop himself from bursting into laughter. He typed “Want me to lend a hand?”, but deleted it before he could send it. That was too risky – too soon. Well, that sucks, he answered after a moment of thought, and quickly showered, putting on fresh clothes before he went back to the kitchen. His plate was waiting – green beans and a piece of meat – along with Steve, seated on a nearby stool.

“So, what was that about?” Steve asked as he sat down and started to eat.
“Forgot to unlock the lab”, Tony replied. “I had cut my phone to focus, didn’t see time pass.”
“Bucky said you were working on his arm.”
“Yeah”, Tony nodded. “It looks like HYDRA didn’t do any maintenance on it and it’s seriously obsolete. There wasn’t much of a choice.”
“I was hoping to take him and Jamie to see Peggy”, Steve explained, “think you can spare a day?”
“Not tomorrow”, Tony replied, stuffing his mouth, “but the day after, yeah, you can kidnap him.”

Steve grinned, and leaned forward.

“So, tell me everything. Did you say yes to the date?”
“After my heat”, Tony nodded. “I want to be sure to have a clear mind. It’s difficult enough as it is.”

Steve chuckled.

“You two seem to have hit it off strong.”
“I feel like I’m fifteen again”, Tony groaned, “ready to climb up the wall at a moment’s notice.”
“Well I mean nothing’s stopping you”, Steve pointed out. “I’m sure Buck would be delighted to help you during your heat.”
“He would”, Tony approved. “I’m not ready, though.”

Steve hummed, and Tony knew he understood exactly what he meant. Some Omegas could find a different Alpha for every heat, but for most it was a moment of great vulnerability and they needed to be with an Alpha they trusted. By now, Tony had no doubt Bucky was a good, attentive lover – still, he’d never been with another Alpha than Pepper, never with a male Alpha, who were usually bigger and he wasn’t sure he could handle that. To be fair, he wasn’t sure he could handle Bucky Barnes. The guy was a lot, probably too much for him. A big part of him nagged him to try and see for himself, but so far it had always yielded to the part that argued he was too weak. The part that argued he was too masculine for an Omega – too tall, too muscular, too many sharp edges instead of soft curves. It had quieted down after he’d met Steve, but hadn’t completely disappeared. He didn’t doubt Bucky’s desire for him, but he couldn’t stop wondering about it.

And then, there was the matter of dating. Bucky was good-looking, especially for a guy closing in on the hundred years bar, and charming. In spite of his past as HYDRA’s fist, Tony had no doubt he could have anyone he wanted. And yet he’d chosen him – broken in so many ways he didn’t count them anymore, with a list of related problems, and already raising a child.

“You know”, Tony mused, “I wonder how many times I talked about that with Bucky. The way he acts… It’s like he knows I’d freak out if we went too far.”
“That, and the fact that his smell alone sends you into a heat, and yours triggers his rut. You both know that”, Steve said. “I’m still not sure about having my heat with Thor, but sex was never a problem.”
“That’s fucked up. I’m missing on some heavy make-out just because my body can’t behave properly.”
“I’m sure you’ll think about something”, Steve said, clapping his shoulders after he’d set down his fork and knife. “Jamie should be up, I’ll go get him. You are forbidden from going back to the lab for at least two hours, got it?”

Tony glared and flipped him off, to which Steve answered with a grin.

“Love you too!”

*

At Tony’s demand, Bucky had made it to the lab mid-morning. Tony was wrist-deep in his upper arm, struggling to unscrew and clean the nerve connections, when Bucky finally decided to talk.

“I’m going to see Peggy tomorrow”, he said. “She’ll be happy to see us, even if it’s not for long.”
“It’s not the first time you go to see her, is it?” Tony asked, straining and ready to curse.
“I saw her in the loop”, Bucky replied. “You know what she always tells me?”
“Go to hell?”

Bucky snorted.

“Yeah, that, but it’s not what I was thinking about. She always tells me that dancing makes for an amazing date.”
“Sorry bud, I don’t dance.”
“Oh you do”, Bucky grinned, “you just don’t know it yet.”

Tony glanced up, meeting his eyes – ever so blue above his muzzle. He was amused, but also very much serious, and Tony felt his stomach twist at the prospect of dancing. Slowly, Bucky rose his flesh fingers to Tony’s face, gently brushing the brown curls away from his eyes. The gesture was incredibly tender, and for a second, his heart beating fast, Tony thought he would kiss him. But he didn’t, just gazing at him like he hung the stars in the sky.

“Tell me about the loop”, Tony said after a moment. “Tell me about the things we did.”
“Are you sure?” Bucky replied, scrunching his nose. “I made tons of mistakes.”
“I find it kind of unfair that you got to know me, and I don’t know you”, Tony replied. “I understand that you want to appear kind of ideal right now, but it’s unnerving.”

Bucky sighed and looked away as Tony focused on his arm again.

“I was not… when we met for the first time and you weren’t in your armour, I wasn’t a good man. I wasn’t even trying to be one, I just wanted answers. I don’t like thinking about it, about the man I was before.”
“Is that how you know I’m uncomfortable with the idea of sharing my heat? Trial and error?”
“Yes”, Bucky replied. “I won’t sugar-coat reality, Tony. I did a lot of things I should never have done, and you are one of the few who most suffered from my choices.” He paused. “I know, even if you were to go in heat right now, that I have to call Pepper and let her take care of you. The thought that you could hate me… I can’t bear it.”
“I don’t want to hate you”, Tony whispered, setting down his tools. “I really don’t want to, even though I know I have reasons to.”

Bucky jerked slightly, but didn’t answer.

“I taught you to dance”, he said finally. “You are absolutely terrible at it, by the way”, he added with a chuckle. “We went out for dinner, looked at the stars, hung out in your lab. You taught me how to use the Internet and we binge-watched Star Wars, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings. I took you to Paris, and on a road-trip through the States.” Bucky was smiling, now, and Tony was entranced. “Sometimes, you knew who I was when I got here, other times you didn’t.”

Gently, Bucky took one of his hands in his, flesh fingers brushing against his palm.

“We went to a fair and an old fraud told you I was written in the lines of your hand. I kissed you on the Ferris wheel and you gave me a bloody nose. You told me about Peter and how much you loved your boy. You told me about being held hostage and the realization that came with it. You told me about the Chitauri, and the immense ship you saw on the other side of the universe.”
“I told you all that?” Tony replied, suspicious.
“Bits and pieces here and there”, Bucky replied, “I put the puzzle back together. To be fair, I got you drunk once, when I didn’t know better. You babbled a bit about the Chitauri invasion before you tried to jump me.”

Tony grimaced, his heart beating hard. He felt naked under Bucky’s gaze, vulnerable and fragile.

“At first, I was just trying to get over Steve”, Bucky admitted. “I took it… badly, that he’d moved on without me, even though I was the one who dumped him. But the more I got to know you, the more I was attracted.”
“He mourned you”, Tony replied. “You were everything to him.”
“I know”, Bucky said softly. “It doesn’t make it any easier, especially when I discovered Jamie. Some part of me thought… we could just pick up where we left, without accounting for all the wrongs between us.” He looked up, straight into Tony’s eyes. “Make no mistakes: the war messed me up way before HYDRA did.”
“Sometimes I wonder whether you’re trying to push me away or to pull me close”, Tony mused.
“A bit of both, actually”, Bucky smiled. “I can’t imagine not having you, and I want you with everything I am, but deep down, I also know I’m not good enough for you, and I never will be. Of all the prospective partners you could have…”
“Are you sure we’re still talking about me? The first male Omega to be born in thirty years? Because I was under the impression I’m not the kind Alphas run after. You, on the other hand, are every Omega’s wet dream, along with a gentleman the way we don’t do them anymore.”

Bucky squeezed his fingers.

“Stop it, Tony. I wish I could tell you just how wonderful you are and you’d believe me.”
“You can still try, I like ego-stroking”, Tony grinned.

He was merely joking, but Bucky took it as a challenge.

“You are kind”, he said, “no matter what you say against it, I know you are. And I’m not the only one who knows that Tony Stark has a heart. You are compassionate, and a brilliant mind. You raised a boy and you did your best, and completely turned your life around.” He smiled. “You’re handsome, too. I love your smile, and the way your eyes twinkle when you talk about things you like. I love how you gesticulate when you get excited about something, and how you can focus for hours.”

Tony was standing there, mouth half-open in protest and slightly dizzy from the onslaught of compliments. Bucky brushed one of his locks back once more with a fond smile.

“I love your smile when you just woke up, and I love your scent. I even love how much of a little shit you can be.”

His fingers trembling, Tony grabbed his muzzle and unclasped it, pulling it away. Bucky narrowed his eyes but didn’t stop him, staring straight back at him as Tony crawled into his lap and cupped his chin for a slow, languorous kiss that left his skin buzzing. He let out a gasp as Bucky’s hand cradled the back of his head as he deepened the kiss, feeling like he was kindling the embers in his body to stir the fire.

He gasped again when Bucky stood up, picking him up way too easily with only one hand, and laid him on the worktop, never pulling away from the kiss. A moan tore out of his throat when Bucky threaded his fingers in his hair, keeping his head in place as he kissed him thoroughly and nipped at his chin and throat. Bucky’s mind was getting foggy with desire and arousal as Tony’s sweet scent filled up his nose and his mouth, begging to be drunk to satiation, begging for more and he could-

He snapped out of it with a growl, grabbing his muzzle and quickly, even brutally, putting it back on his face. He was uncomfortably hard and way too close to go into his rut, and Tony wasn’t much better – face flushed red, lips shiny and clothes askew. Just a second more and things would have gone south. He realized it, but so close to his heat, Tony seemed oblivious to that.

“Bucky?” Tony asked, his voice uncertain as he sat up, and it tore him apart to hear the hurt in his voice.

He knew exactly where Tony’s thoughts were going – not good enough, too brash, too strong, too demanding. And he desperately wanted to prove him that no, no, it wasn’t like that – but he couldn’t, not like this.

“I’m not doing this to you”, he replied, voice low and rough, and Tony shivered. “You deserve much better, so much more than that.”

Tony deflated, curling on himself, and Bucky couldn’t bear it. He pushed him back down on the worktop, staring into his eyes.

“I want you, babydoll, I want you so much it hurts, but you don’t want that. Not like this, not now. I know you don’t, and I’m not doing that to you.”

Deftly, especially considering he only had one hand as the other dangled uselessly at his side, he opened Tony’s jeans and pulled them down mid-thighs, promptly curling his fingers around his shaft. Tony keened, back arching off the worktop, his face flush with arousal and pupils wide with desire. Bucky wanted him, and it took all his willpower, all his strength not to break – how easy it’d be to push into him, mark him, claim him – he growled, pushing the thoughts away, twisting his wrist as he pulled up, Tony’s gasps a symphony in his ears, a sirens’ song he couldn’t cede to.

“Need you”, Tony gasped, his eyes hazy, “need you in me, Alpha!”

Bucky snarled, jacking him off furiously, before he pulled his hand away and pressed two fingers between his thighs, faltering slightly – hot and drenched and amazing, want, want, WANT – before he focussed on curling and thrusting his fingers in a way that made the Omega writhe wantonly. Tony cried out, wrapping his own hand around his length, and he was close, so close, Bucky could see it and feel it, and he just needed-

“Come for me”, he whispered in his ear, “come for me, babydoll.”

That was all it took for Tony to unravel, slick coating his t-shirt as his cock twitched in his hand and running down Bucky’s fingers and over his hand – and he watched it hungrily, his blood thrumming, wanting more, always more. Slowly, he pulled his fingers out as Tony laid there, gasping for breath, and grabbed a rag to wipe his hand down, and then Tony’s crotch and thighs. His top was ruined either way, stained with slick all the way up to the collar, and Bucky knew his scent must have been cloying the lab. Gently, he pulled his pants up, his fingers trembling, needing to sate his need and yet refusing to. Tony sat up, still looking a bit dizzy, and Bucky helped him down the worktop.

“That was amazing”, he breathed against his cheek. “I should go now if I don’t want to snap.” His hand brushed away the sweat-damp bangs from his forehead and he smirked. “I’ll be thinking about you”, he promised, putting his arm back in its sling and leaving the lab once he was sure Tony was seated in his lab chair.

It took Tony a while to compose himself, his face buried in his hands and cheeks aflame at how he’d so easily lost control. He knew that with his heat so close, he was bound to be more sensitive and easily aroused, but it didn’t make it easier. He wished it would be over already.

Nonetheless, Bucky’s show of self-control had struck a chord within him: the knowledge that he wasn’t all talk, but that he really did want them to work. He could have taken him right then and there with Tony’s enthusiastic consent, but it would probably have damaged his chances to ever win Tony’s affection. It was strange, that a man he’d met barely a few days before already knew that about him.

Yes, he would give him a chance. Maybe even two, who knows.

*

Tony had made sure Peter was in the lab, working on his project of a bow with Clint’s advice, when he asked Bucky to come so he could work on his arm, later in the afternoon. It had left both of them time to calm down, though he was still nervous at the idea of being so close to the Alpha.

This time, Bucky opted to talk about the book he’d been reading. It was in Russian and not famous enough to be translated, but Bucky liked it. It helped him relax, and Tony couldn’t help but find his calm, deep voice soothing as he explained it in great details. He chuckled when Bucky stumbled over a word, frowning when he realized there was no English equivalent, and eventually said it in Russian at Tony’s request. His eyes widened comically when Tony answered in Russian too.

“I didn’t know you could speak Russian!” he said with awe in his voice.
“You’re not the only one who can speak multiple languages here, Bucky”, Tony laughed. “Especially since we all learnt ASL for Peter’s sake.”
“So you speak Japanese, French, Russian and you know ASL”, Bucky hummed. “Impressive.”
“And a bit of Urdu”, Tony added with a smirk, “though I’m not exactly fluent.”
“I know you taught some of them to Peter.”
“Oh not me, no”, Tony said, shaking his head. “Peter? Have you heard?”

Peter looked up from his bow and nodded, smiling.

Tetka Natasha taught me Russian as a baby, and Tio Rhodes taught me Spanish. Mama speaks to me in English, and Hawkeye taught me ASL. Steeb is teaching me some French but his words are a bit old.”
“We both learnt French from Dernier, so yeah our slang is a bit old”, Bucky amended. “Tony, are you training your child to be a spy?” he asked with a smile.

Tony laughed.

“That wasn’t supposed to happen, you know, but he has a knack for languages and he learnt them as a toddler mostly so”, he shrugged.

He finished wiping some of the maintenance products he’d used on Bucky’s arm before he closed the control panel.

“Here you go”, he said, patting his arm. “I’ll be designing your new system so I shouldn’t need you in the lab before a few days. Can’t promise I’ll have it ready before my heat, though.”
“I can manage”, Bucky replied, though his smile was a bit tense at the idea of going several days more with a useless arm. “Look after your Mama, Pete, okay?” he called as he exited the lab.
“Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” Peter quipped, and Tony lost it.
“You got me there”, Bucky admitted with a laugh.