Tony rapped his fingers on his knee and leaned back in his chair. He checked his watch again. He'd been waiting for seven minutes. He wasn't used to people making him wait. He was just about to stand and walk out when Fury stormed into the room and slumped down in the chair behind his desk. Tony rocked back on the legs of his chair and raised an eyebrow at Fury.
Fury coughed, eyeing him for a moment. "We have a delicate situation."
"I figured. Considering how cagey Hill was on the phone."
"We need your help with something." Fury folded his arms over the desk and leaned forward. "Your help, not Iron Man's."
Tony quirked his head to the side. "I'm listening."
"You might remember," Fury began, "a project called Rebirth in your father's files."
"... I might." Tony kept still in his chair, blank gaze fixed on Fury.
"Well… our scientists found the missing piece. After a few small-scale tests, we let recruiting know that we were looking for a very special sort of volunteer."
"You -" Tony spluttered for a moment. "Are you telling me you actually did it? You made my father's super soldier? Out of a real person? Jesus, Nick."
"He volunteered. But that's not the point. That's not why I'm telling you this. Your father left his work to SHIELD, I don't have to tell you at all."
Tony remained silent, trying to keep his roiling emotions under control.
"I'm telling you because there was a slight hiccough."
"That's what happens when you fuck with stuff you don't understand," Tony muttered under his breath.
Fury ignored him. "The man who volunteered, Steve Rogers, is a sub. We thought, well, we thought the process would change that."
Tony snorted. "Peak of human perfection…of course you thought that."
"Well, it didn't. He's still a sub. And, uh, the process - we warned him, but - it was very painful. He's…" Fury shrugged with a groan. "Look, there's no easy way to say this. The process was long and painful and it forced him into subspace, only, it's been two days and he hasn't come up yet. And he has no Dom to help him."
Tony laughed, unable to figure out how on earth else he was supposed to react to that. "Are you kidding me? How - you know what, that's - no. I'm speechless. You actually rendered Tony Stark speechless. Who knew that was possible? So if you're not telling me because it was my father's life's work, why are you telling me?"
Fury's lips pursed. He was uncomfortable, and normally that would make Tony more comfortable, but today, it was making him squirm. Fury took a folder out of a drawer in his desk and slid it across the wood surface. "He needs a Dom to bring him up gently. He's out of his mind, right now. His next of kin is a sub and isn't even in the country anyway. We looked through his history, and as far as we can tell, he's never had a contract."
"Why are you asking me?" Tony asked through gritted teeth, ignoring the folder.
"Because you're the only uncontracted Dom we could think of who has security clearance high enough to know about this. Also, you'll understand the science of what he went though. Might help."
"Bullshit." Tony picked up the folder and opened it. It was a temporary contract, Steve's full name filled in with careful, black lettering: Steven Grant Rogers . "You're asking me because you think I'll feel guilty that it was my dad's work that put this poor kid in this horrible situation. You think that'll sway me." Tony glared over the edge of the folder, but Nick didn't shrink back. He just held Tony's gaze. Tony tossed the contract back on the desk. "I won't sign anything. He can't consent."
"He's going to be in big trouble if someone doesn't take care of him soon. I -"
"I know. I'll help him. But I won't sign a contract, even a temporary one, because he can't sign it, and I'm not entering an agreement with SHIELD. Either you trust me to take care of him or you don't."
Fury heaved out a sigh. "Legal says -"
"Legal can suck it. This is between you and me, Nick."
Fury deflated. Tony could see the exhaustion pinching his corners. "Fine. No contract. You help bring him up and that'll be it."
"Alright." Tony stood. Then he leaned forward, bracing one hand on the desk. "Just so you know, I'm not doing this for you, and I'm not doing this because I feel guilty that you were stupid enough to continue my father's cursed project. I'm doing this for the poor idiot that agreed to be your lab rat without possibly understanding what he was getting himself into."
Fury didn't try and stop him when Tony walked out.
Tony demanded that Hill take him to Rogers right away, not wanting to leave the guy in that state any longer than he had to be. He'd heard of subs going down for too long and the mental scars it could leave, but this was unprecedented. They didn't know what effect the serum would have on his subspace. If Tony couldn't get him to come up, he didn't know what other options SHIELD had. Maybe a medically induced coma - but there was no telling what state he'd be in when he woke up.
If he woke up.
Hill led Tony to a suite of rooms on a high-up floor he'd never visited before. She showed her badge to the three guards outside and they stepped aside. She typed in a code, turning her shoulder to block Tony's view of the pad, and Tony shook his head, smiling. Like he wouldn't be able to get in again if he wanted to. That was SHIELD's inevitable problem, focusing all their attention on the showy stuff and not thinking about the consequences of what they were doing.
She opened the door a crack then stepped back. "Do you need anything?"
"I shouldn't. But I'll let you know if I do."
She nodded and moved aside, letting Tony slip through the door. "There's food and water and basic supplies in there," she said. "Just knock if you need to talk to the guards."
"Got it." Tony pulled the door shut behind him.
The room wasn't large, just a simple bedroom with an attached bathroom. A queen bed was tucked against the far wall, next to a large dresser, and a man lay on the bed. He wasn't sleeping - his eyes were half-lidded but open, and fixed shakily on Tony.
"Hi," Tony started with. "Steve, right? I'm Tony."
Steve blinked, smacked his tongue against the roof of his mouth then sighed, sending a shudder right down to his toes. Tony crossed the room quickly, shucking his suit jacket and tossing it over a chair. He rolled his sleeves up then sat on the edge of the bed. Steve blinked at him, and Tony could see how hazy and unfocused he was. He shivered again.
Tony reached out and gently rested his palm flat on Steve's forehead. He was freezing cold. Tony frowned at him. "I don't know what they tried already, but whatever it was, I'm sorry. I'm going to stay here with you until you're up, okay?"
Steve said nothing. Tony took a moment to really look at the man he'd been tasked with Domming. Peak of human perfection wasn't far off; Steve's body looked like it had been chiseled out of marble, muscles easing into more muscles, all tucked under smooth, pale skin. He had a sharp jaw and broad shoulders, should have screamed Dom with every inch of him, but the way he sighed under Tony's hands, the softness of his blue eyes and the gentle curve of his body on the sheets was all sub. Broken sub.
"God, they really fucked you over. Probably had no idea what you were getting into." Tony stroked his hand over Steve's forehead again and the lightest breeze of a smile wafted over Steve's face. "Alright. This is going to be a process. We're going to have to do this backwards." Even though Tony was pretty sure Steve had no idea what he was saying, he still felt the need to talk it though, explain everything. "We'll start with the aftercare you should have had, after a procedure like that, and work our way up from there. I don't know what will work, so you'll have to forgive me, I'm just flailing around in the dark here." Tony opened and closed cupboards until he found a stack of spare blankets. He pulled out two, a bit rough, but thick and warm.
Back on the bed, he let Command lace through his voice for the first time. "Steve. I need you to sit up. I'm going to sit behind you and hold you. Nod to show me you understand."
With visible effort, Steve processed what he was saying then, very slowly, shifted forward until he was almost sitting up. He nodded.
Steve sucked in a sharp breath.
"Can you talk?"
Steve shook his head.
"Okay. You don't have to talk. I'm gonna talk, though, because that's what I do." Tony shook out the blankets and lay both of them over Steve. "My name is Tony Stark, and it's pretty much my dad's fault that you're here. They asked me to sign a temporary contract with you, but I didn't. I know you can't consent to any of this, but I don't really have a choice. I'm going to help you come up, and then I'm going to leave. If you have to be mad about this later, you can be mad at me. I'm tough, I can take it." Tony reached out and brushed a lock of hair out of Steve's eyes and Steve smiled again. "Sit up, Steve."
Steve tried to shift forward, and Tony tucked up behind him, sitting on his pillow with his back against the headboard. He eased Steve down until he was settled between Tony's legs, head on his chest. Tony kept smoothing his hair back. "They didn't even think about this," he muttered, "what this might do to you." He sighed then raised his voice, Command leaking back in. "I'm going to take care of you, Steve. And I'm sorry if it gets more personal than either of us wants with a stranger. I just need you to know that. Do you understand?" Tony eased Steve's head back and leaned over him to meet his eye. He looked confused, his brow creasing, and Tony stroked it smooth with his thumb. "Never mind. Do you feel okay?"
Steve nodded again, but it was more hesitant this time.
"I'm going to start by warming you up a bit." Tony ran his hands up and down Steve's arms, tucking the blanket in tighter where he could reach. Steve curled into the touch, snuggled down tight against Tony's chest. He'd never seen anything like this. It wasn't subdrop, not really, it was just deep, inescapable subspace. Tony's past partners had been more prone to the opposite problem - not being able to stay down - and the only times he'd heard of someone getting trapped in subspace, it had been because of drugs, not pain.
He couldn't imagine what Steve must have gone through. He'd seen his dad's plans, and he hoped that a modern SHIELD could do a better job of it, but it seemed, not better enough.
For a long time, Tony just held Steve, sharing his heat under the blankets until the tiny shivers stopped wracking Steve's body, until the tension eased out of Steve's new muscles and he settled his full weight against Tony. "That's better," Tony murmured. "Such a good boy for me."
Steve sucked in another sharp breath at the words.
"Hmm. Can't tell if that's a good gasp or a bad gasp." Tony rearranged Steve to be able to look him in the eyes. They were still barely open, barely present. "Do you like it when I tell you how good you are?"
A smile breezed across Steve's face again, and he dropped his hand from his lap to Tony's thigh where it pressed against his hip. He squeezed gently.
"Oh, good." Tony smiled too. "Because you are so good. So brave to volunteer for this, to survive what they put you through. And right now, you're mine. And I'm going to take care of you." Tony felt a thin thread of possession crawl up his spine and he tried to shake it away.
Steve's mouth opened and a soft hum drifted out, the first noise he'd made since Tony had entered the room. Tony couldn't help it; he bent over and pressed his lips softly to Steve's cheek. This man was plucking something deep inside him that reverberated through his core. He hadn't had a sub go down like this for him in… maybe ever. Tony dabbled in the superficial, didn't trust veracity, honesty, and it showed in his relationships. He could walk the walk, bring a sub to his knees, get them both off, but having Steve in his arms like this, open and trusting, was different. This was real.
Except that it wasn't. Steve wasn't down of his own accord, and Tony hadn't been the one to put him there. He was supposed to be bringing him back up, not wallowing selfishly in his beautiful submission.
"Alright, sweet thing," he murmured against Steve's temple, once Steve's skin no longer felt like ice. "We're going to start working you up now. I need you to sit up. Sit, Steve."
Steve huffed but creaked forward, off Tony's chest. Tony wriggled himself free, but when he moved to step away from the bed, Steve's hand snapped out and caught his. "Don't go," Steve slurred, the fear and desperation in his tone breaking Tony's heart. "Please."
"I'm not going." Tony crouched by the head of the bed and smoothed Steve's hair back again. "Sit up."
Steve sat up, all the way, this time, and Tony tucked pillows behind his back so he couldn't drift down again.
"I'm not going. I'm staying in this room. You have to trust me, okay?"
Tony stood again and waited until Steve's fingers dropped away from his wrist. He went to the table in the corner and rummaged through the supplies left there until he found a bag of chopped fruit, some granola bars, and bottles of sports drink. He tossed them on the bed and sat at Steve's hip, taking him in.
Sitting up had improved his colour a bit, but he was still dramatically pale. His eyes were soft and glassy, still completely out of it, and his arms were limp at his sides. Tony felt a frisson of panic at the thought that he might not be able to do it, he might not be able to bring Steve up - and then what?
But he tamped it down, needing to radiate firm calm if he had any chance at all. "Open your mouth," he commanded.
Steve opened his mouth.
Tony uncapped a drink and poured a little in Steve's mouth, he swallowed, then parted his lips again, silently asking for more, and Tony obliged. They worked their way through the entire bottle, then Tony fed him a granola bar in small, careful bites. A bit of colour had flushed into Steve's cheeks. "There you go," Tony couldn't help but murmur. "Good job."
"Thank you," Steve whispered dopily, smiling again.
"Give me your hand," Tony instructed, holding his own out, palm flat. Steve lay his hand on top of Tony's, brow creasing with the effort. Tony didn't smooth away his consternation this time; Steve needed to start fighting the pull of the tide. "Good boy." He lay a piece of apple in Steve's palm. "Eat."
Steve frowned at the apple, but lifted it to his mouth and started eating. When he was done, Tony put a grape and a square of melon in next, forcing Steve to make a decision about which one to eat next. The choice earned him another, deeper frown, but Steve chewed his way through the melon, then the grape, then offered his hand to Tony again.
"Do you want more fruit?" Tony didn't move towards it.
"Uh." Steve blinked at him.
"Answer me," Tony commanded. "Do you want more fruit?"
"Okay." Tony set it aside. "What do you want?" That might be too broad.
Steve chewed his lip for a moment, opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. "I want to please you," he slurred. He smiled, that open, trusting, happy smile, and something in Tony's chest knotted up tight. He mentally shook himself. This was no different than any other sub at his feet. Tony was just… thrown off, because he hadn't been the one to bring Steve down. It was unusual, to say the least, to be handed a sub that deep down without being responsible for it. Tony also dealt in one-night-stands; he'd rarely seen a sub down this far at all. It took a lot of work to earn that level of submission.
Or a lot of pain…apparently.
Tony leaned forward and couldn't stop his hand from cupping Steve's jaw. "It would please me if you got up. You're not safe to shower, but we could clean you up a little and then maybe you'll be ready to sleep?" If Tony could get him up just a little higher, he'd probably conk right out if given the opportunity, and more often than not, a few hours sleep was enough to reset the sub hormones and bring him up safely. And besides, SHIELD had only asked Tony to bring him up, if he dropped after, it was hardly Tony's problem. He'd be long gone by then. It was hard to imagine Steve wouldn't drop, after what he'd been through. They were surely expecting it; probably had shrinks and Xanax on standby.
"Okay," Steve agreed, leaning into the touch.
Tony stood and guided Steve up to his feet with him, wrapping a firm arm around his waist. He lifted Steve's hand to his mouth and kissed his knuckles gently. Steve seemed like the kind of sub who responded well to gentle touch, and sure enough his smiled his dopey, endearing smile and leaned into Tony's side.
"Good job. Bathroom. Come on."
They crossed the room in a slow, careful shuffle, but Steve was putting weight on his own legs and his eyes were a bit more focused. Tony leaned him against the counter and used a warm washcloth to wipe his face. When he tugged on the hem of Steve's shirt, he lifted his arms obediently, and Tony pulled it off. Steve's chest was even more staggering than his arms, a glistening twelve-pack straining his skin with every breath, hairless and shiny with sweat.
Tony swallowed heavily and tamped down his own arousal, ignored the throb of claim that pumped with his heart. This wasn't about him, not in the slightest.
He cleaned Steve's chest, earning himself several happy sighs from the super soldier whose eyes had drifted shut again. Tony mentally crossed his fingers that Steve would go to sleep if given the opportunity.
He was wearing stiff khakis, and Tony unbuttoned them without hesitation. Steve let them be pulled off, standing in the bathroom in fitted, white boxer-briefs with a total stranger and zero modesty. He was starting to chill again, the air cooling his damp skin, and Tony took a soft towel and rubbed it over him then left it wrapped over his shoulders. "Here. Brush your teeth."
While Steve dopily scrubbed the brush over his teeth. Tony idly dug his fingers into his back, trying to work out the last of the tension that hid there. Steve spit, dropped his toothbrush then leaned back into Tony's touch, settling against his chest. Tony pressed his lips softly behind Steve's ear, and Steve's responding sigh settled low in Tony's stomach.
"Come on, sweet thing. Let's get you to sleep."
Back in the bedroom, Tony stripped off his own button-down, leaving himself in nothing but his undershirt, barely hiding the glow of the arc reactor. He tugged his belt free of the loops then eased Steve into bed. "I'm going to hold you and you're going to go to sleep, okay?"
Steve nodded. "Alright."
"So good for me," Tony murmured, checking his phone over Steve's shoulder. It really was getting late. He settled down in the centre of the bed and tucked Steve against his side, manhandling him until he was curled up, head on Tony's chest, just above the reactor, one arm slung over Tony's waist, knee hitched up to Tony's thigh. Tony scratched gentle fingers through his hair and closed his own eyes. A good sub would model breathing in a moment like this and Steve had proven himself a very good sub.
Tony focused carefully on his breathing, counting four in, four hold, four out, four hold. It was hard not to let his mind wander, but it wasn't long before he was rewarded by Steve copying the pattern, his chest expanding next to Tony's as they breathed in together. Tony kept whispering soft praise as Steve's muscles went lax, and he finally slipped off to sleep.
Tony worked on his phone for a few hours while Steve napped on his chest, but eventually, his eyes burned in the dark and the words started to blur together. He set his phone aside and shut his own eyes. He didn't sleep much these days, but it was also rare to have a night with a happy sub sprawled on his chest. Tony breathed deeply and turned his face into Steve's hair. He'd just take a short nap.
Tony woke when the weight against his chest shifted and moved away. He blinked his eyes open and propped himself up on one elbow to find Steve sitting up near the foot of the bed, staring down at his own hands, resting in his lap. "Steve… are you okay?"
Steve worked his mouth open and closed for a moment, licking his lips. "Maybe…"
He was a hundred times more lucid than Tony had ever seen him. Perhaps not all the way up, but back in control. Tony slipped out of bed and pulled his shirt back on, buttoning it over the soft glow of the reactor. He opened his mouth to speak, but Steve beat him to it.
"I look completely different."
And, oh, of course. This was the first time Steve was really seeing himself since the serum processed. "Congratulations," Tony muttered, a hot flash of unexpected anger making him flinch back from himself. "I mean… it worked. You got what you wanted."
Steve rustled on the sheets, and Tony turned to see him watching Tony carefully. "Who are you?"
"I'm the Dom they called in to help you. The process put you deep down and you couldn't come up. They didn't have anyone listed on your forms so they asked me. I know that's a violation and I'm sorry, but there really wasn't a choice."
"Oh. No, no, I understand." Steve shifted where he sat, something like resignation weighing his shoulders down. "I mean, I signed my body over to you, figured that would include everything, so, no, I don't really think it is. A violation, I mean. SHIELD owns me." His voice was flat.
Tony swallowed heavily. "I'm not with SHIELD."
Steve's eyes snapped back up to him. "What?"
"I mean, I'm only sort of tangentially with SHIELD… that came out weird. I'm a contractor. I'm not a professional Dom, or something, if that's what you thought. My father created the super serum. Project Rebirth was his idea."
Steve blinked. "Oh. You're Tony Stark."
"Why on earth did they ask you?"
Tony couldn't tell if that had come out accusatory or just confused. "I'm an uncontracted Dom with very high security clearance." He paused. "But that's not why. They asked for two reasons, because they thought I'd feel guilty that it was my father's work that did this to you, and because they didn't want it getting out that they're experimenting like this on a person. They couldn't bring in a professional Dom for that, no one would agree to work under these circumstances."
"But you did…"
Tony started weaving his belt back through the loops. "Yes. Because I was afraid of what would happen to you if I didn't. Fury was desperate, asking me. I couldn't let a sub suffer like that, knowing I could help." He latched his belt and turned, examining Steve carefully. "Are you safe?"
"Are you safe now? If I leave, are you going to be okay? I've never seen someone down so hard. We've been here for about seven hours."
"Oh. Wow." Steve uncurled and stepped off the bed, apparently unbothered by his near-nudity. He stretched and looked down at himself. "I'm taller."
Tony couldn't stop the small smile that curled up the corners of his lips. "Apparently."
Steve stroked flat palms down his rippling stomach. "Huh." His cheeks pinked, and Tony wondered at the oddity of suddenly being in a body you found attractive. Steve turned and found his sweatpants on the floor, he pulled them on then looked down at his feet, wiggling his toes. "Okay."
"Are you safe?" Tony asked again, softer.
"Oh. Sorry. Yes, I guess so. I feel... " he flexed his fingers. "With it. Mostly."
"Alright. Good. I'm going to go." Tony tugged on his suit jacket and made sure he had his phone and wallet in his pocket. He paused by the door. "Steve? They don't own you. They want to make it feel like that, but they don't. You can still say no. They're going to want to poke and prod and make you run on a treadmill and turn and cough and all that. You can say no, if you're not ready. All their precious answers are in your body, now. You have all the power."
Tension rippled across Steve's shoulders, wide eyes glued to Tony's. "Okay," he said slowly.
"Okay," Tony echoed, firmer. "Goodbye."
Steve didn't say anything as Tony slipped out the door and closed it behind him. Something in Tony's chest twisted and pulled, yearning back towards the other room, but he marched away, stretching it until it snapped. He'd done his duty, and now it was time to go.
It wasn't like Steve was actually his.