Tony ran the edge of his glass over the railing, rolling it back and forth as he listened to the sounds of the festival below him.
Wakanda was an enchanting nation, a jewel nestled in the African plains. Jade green foliage weaved through the pillars of the balcony he leant against, snowy gardenia flowers nestled within, infusing the area with their ambrosial aroma. Tony knew a lot about flowers, he’d sent them to enough girls over the years. Ignoring where that negative train of thought was leading him, Tony looked out over the crowds of people.
Music from the drums floated up to him, the stamping of feet in the ritual dancing, the laughter of his teammates. Firelight bathed them all in a tawny glow, both from the large bonfire in the middle of the courtyard and from the many sconces erected around the limestone square.
‘My friend, why do you not join in with the celebration?’ A rich voice startled him.
‘Highness,’ Tony bowed his head.
‘No, none of that, we are equals, Tony Stark.’
‘Pretty sure I’m not in charge of an entire nation of people.’
‘Just as well, no one would get anything done,’ T’Challa teased coming to stand beside him on the balcony. ‘You have not answered my question.’
They watched the people in the courtyard below, a mingling of Avengers and Wakandan’s all of them happy to be alive, celebrating their triumph over Thanos, the rebirth of countless lives lost.
‘I…don’t belong with them,’ Tony admitted, tapping his nail against the side of his glass.
‘You have every right to be down there, you are one of them. We all owe you a great debt.’
‘I’m not one of them, T’Challa. Not anymore.’
‘Then… why did you come?’
Because he hoped to bury the hatchet with Steve? Because Peter begged him too? Or maybe… against his will his gaze was drawn to Stephen Strange who was watching the festivities with a smile, chuckling at something Bruce had just told him.
‘Ah, you yearn for him.’
‘Another fruitless endeavour,’ Tony sighed, drawing his gaze back to the man beside him. T’Challa crossed his arms, a thoughtful smile on his face.
‘I do not think so. His gaze has lingered on you just as oft as yours on him.’
Tony felt himself physically perk at that, the tiny prickle of hope he’d buried deep inside himself flaring before he stamped it down again. As if he’d sensed Tony’s thoughts, Stephen looked up, winking at Tony and following it with a seductive smile.
‘It is clear from my observation that your admiration is mutual, why do you delay?’ T’Challa asked after he’d finished laughing at Tony’s splutters from Stephen’s actions.
Tony would like to think it was out of respect for Pepper, but he knows it’s fear. He’d loved Pepper for years, she had been his salvation, the light to his darkness, his guiding force. Tony disappearing to fight Thanos without so much as a backwards glance at her…it had broken them.
Had broken Tony.
Arrogantly, as he often was in such things, Tony had thought she’d take him back, that once everything had been restored, people brought back to life, they’d resume just as they were, planning the wedding, having fights about his insane work habits.
Now Pepper couldn’t stand to be in the same room as him. They spoke on the phone regarding the company and that was it. One mistake too many and the constant in his life had been ripped from him, his life torn asunder. He’d lost his confidence, his assurance that he was doing things for the right reason.
His team had moved on, forged other relationships, Pepper was gone.
Tony was left behind.
He still had Peter and if it hadn’t been for that kid, God knows where he’d be, back in self-destruct mode probably.
Then there was Stephen Strange, an enigma of a man. As much as he’d loved Pepper and despite the shame he felt for even thinking such a thing, she wasn’t a match for Stephen’s intelligence. It was a rare thing indeed that a person could match him on such a level, and the exhilaration he felt not having to filter his thoughts was liberating. Sure, Bruce usually understood him, but he didn’t share the same dark humour Tony and Stephen did, didn’t exchange sarcastic biting quips as a form of foreplay.
‘It isn’t like that between us,’ Tony answered, placing his glass down on the stone balcony, turning so his back was facing the party.
There had been flirting, agonising tension between the both of them that Tony was certain wasn’t just a figment of his imagination and then one night at the Sanctum, Tony had taken a chance, leaning forward to kiss the man as they scrutinized magical texts.
Stephen had turned away, easing the sting of rejection with a smile and a hand to the cheek, but firm in his refusal.
You’re doing this for the wrong reasons.
The wizard’s words still haunted him. He was right, Tony had been hurting, had been desperate to find a place to belong, the excitement of thinking that maybe, just maybe Stephen understood him.
It was for the best. He didn’t want to take a chance, not if it meant losing another person. Besides, it was only recently Tony had felt like he was stable again, the fear of Thanos gone, the pain of Pepper fading.
He was coping.
‘You do not believe that,’ T’Challa spoke, answering Tony’s earlier statement.
‘You can read minds as well as…whatever it is you do?’
‘No, my friend, your doubts are clear on your face.’
Tony made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat, gazing towards the dark statue of the panther in the impressive throne room behind them.
‘You are wise to seek guidance from her, she is wise, our fierce protector, but she has a flirtatious side and is also known as a goddess of passion.’
‘People have believed in Gods for years, the Nordic religion still exists, and I know their God’s to be aliens, one of which eats all the food I have, what’s to say this… cat lady isn’t an alien? Or your powers could be a mutation, the result of having a mound of vibranium in the heart of your city. I’m a man of science, I’ll believe in a Goddess helping me when all else has failed.’
‘My sister’s feet follow the path of science and yet she believes.’
Well, he had Tony there.
‘Your Majesty,’ Tony’s tone became imploring, ‘the universe is far bigger than I could have possibly imagined, with things out there that I couldn’t possibly explain. Just because I can’t explain the…’ Tony gestured at T’Challa, ‘gifts you’ve been given, doesn’t mean that I won’t. I’ll find out all the secrets, learn everything there is to know,’ Tony vowed.
‘A true scholar,’ T’Challa smiled. ‘Still, it cannot hurt to give it a try. Who knows, maybe an alien will help you grow the courage you need to speak to the sorcerer.’
Stephen watched Tony stare up at the statue of Bast. His expressive brown eyes were unfocused, his lower lip caught between his teeth. Stephen felt his mouth twitch, he was used to that expression, it was one Tony wore often while inventing, or attempting to explain to Stephen how his magic couldn’t be magic.
The inventor was dressed in similar Wakandan garb as the rest of them wore, a tunic with a slit in the middle exposing flesh, and loose-fitting pants. Red had always been a good colour on Tony, the hot rod of the suit, but the tunic was a deeper, earthy red, a muted maroon that suited the bronze of his skin.
He had wondered when he’d been dressing in his own indigo tunic if Tony would have received an altered tunic top, one to hide the arc reactor on his chest. Or even the possibility that Tony might have altered the fabric himself in some way. After working with patients through medical school, he knew people had different attitudes regarding scars, some bore them proudly, others as a mark of shame or weakness.
Tony’s scars spread through his chest like cracks in a vase, stemming from where his old imbedded arc reactor would have been, and then a deep gash over his sternum where it’d been fixed. Stephen was fascinated by them, the trauma and the strength of everything Tony had endured, the way he didn’t hide away from them, the pride in which he bore them.
He was an exceptional man, inside and out, and Stephen thought about that night, months ago, more than he cared to admit. It was obvious to Stephen that Tony had begun falling for him, what wasn’t obvious to Tony, however, was that Stephen felt the same, if not stronger. He’d rejected Tony because he had known the man was still working through issues of Pepper, wanting Tony to be in a more emotionally stable place, to be certain it was romance he wanted from Stephen and not a rebound.
You couldn’t build a stable relationship if one of you was only there because he didn’t want to be alone.
Stephen would wait for Tony, for as long as it took, but Tony needed to have recovered from Pepper first, needed to be certain this was what he wanted. Pepper and Tony had split before, had gotten back together also. As the months went on, Stephen felt his longing rise.
When Tony had asked him to come to Wakanda, Stephen had finally seen improvement in Tony. He no longer looked muddled and hung over, he had started investing emotionally in Peter once again, begun inventing. He had asked Stephen as a friend, and not out of desperation not to be alone.
‘Never picked you for a cat person,’ Stephen teased, stepping out from his secluded spot.
‘I’m not really an animal person,’ Tony answered, not turning his head from where he was looking.
‘What are you trying to understand?’ Stephen stood beside him, gazing at where Tony was.
‘If Bast is an alien or a dimensional being.’
‘Oh, I see.’
‘There’s got to be a reason T’Challa can do what he does, and I refuse to believe it’s because of some…cat goddess,’ Tony glowered, offended by the very thought.
‘Not everything has an answer, Tony.’
‘Of course it does, I just need to know why.’
As he often did when watching Tony, Stephen could feel nothing but fondness at Tony’s thirst for knowledge, his quest to understand. One of the many things made him endearing.
‘You’ve got to admit, she’s gorgeous,’ Stephen gestured at the statue.
‘Cats are the epitome of grace, sophistication, sensual curves. This one isn’t just your typical tabby, there’s strength in those shoulders, those muscles.’
‘Shall I leave you two alone?’ Tony grumped.
‘I’m just saying, I love cats.’
‘I suppose there’s a…beauty to them.’
‘Why aren’t you with everyone else?’ Stephen pressed gently, knowing the reason but wanting to see if Tony would speak to him.
‘You know why, Doc.’
He did. It wasn’t because Tony was sulking, he was avoiding them because he didn’t want to start a confrontation, didn’t want a tense atmosphere. Tony was trying to be understanding, to accommodate everyone.
‘Peter would appreciate you being down there.’
‘He’s got Shuri and he’s preening under the attention, he doesn’t need me down there.’
‘I would appreciate you being down there.’
They’d never discussed their kiss. They both knew why Stephen had stopped it, yet Stephen would be lying if he said he hadn’t been selfishly hoping for another. His yearning for the other man had never waned and standing there secluded with only firelight playing across the walls, the tight tunic revealing the lines of Tony’s muscles, the tease of his skin made the want burn through his veins.
‘Why?’ Tony asked, his attention turning to Stephen.
‘I was under the impression you asked me here as something more than just a professional courtesy.’ Stephen stepped closer, their toes touching, making Tony tilt his head back so their gazes could remain locked.
Stephen’s fingers throbbed with the urge to take Tony into his arms, to cradle his head in his hands, to whisk Tony away to his rooms and promise him everything. His devotion, his understanding, his trust…his love.
Only when Tony was ready.
I can make you happy. He thought in his mind, staring down into those doe eyes. I will never abandon you, hurt you or force you to be anything other than what you are. Stephen tried to force those words into his eyes, for Tony to understand through sheer force of Stephen’s will.
Hesitant, Tony’s hand reached up, stretching forward to grasp Stephen’s forearm.
Stephen held his breath, his hand coming up to rest over Tony’s one on his forearm, rubbing over his knuckles.
Neither said anything, their attention turning back to Bast looking over them.
‘I think if you were an animal, you’d be a cat,’ Stephen teased.
‘Powerful and regal?’ Tony sniggered, turning a little to lean on Stephen. ‘Why, Doc, you sure know how to sweet talk a man.’
‘No, aloof, not needing anyone, prone to neuroticism,’ Stephen chuckled.
Tony stiffened beside him, his hand slipping from his arm.
Stephen wanted to rip his tongue out. Why would he say something like that?
‘Nah, I think you’ve banged the nail on the head Doc, that’s me, aloof, riddled with psychological hang-ups. If you’ll excuse me.’
Tony ignored Stephen calling his name and Stephen was forced to watch him walk away.
He looked up at the panther, it’s gleaming black skin, snarling teeth. ‘I hurt him,’ Stephen’s voice shook a little at the realisation.
Despite the covers being thick and plush, the mattress being the squashiest, heavenliest thing he’d ever laid on, it had taken Tony hours to fall asleep. Stephen’s last words buzzed in his head, gnawing at his brain, feeding the insecurities he’d only just seemed to get control over. He knew Stephen hadn’t meant to hurt him, but there was no denying the wizard had said them without thinking, his brutal honesty of Tony’s character wounding him.
He had fallen asleep in the early hours of the morning, thinking of an excuse so he could leave first thing. He couldn’t do it anymore, couldn’t chase after a man who thought that of him. He’d survived Pepper, he’d survive this, he had friends, Bruce, Rhodey, he’d cope.
Holding that as a comfort to him, he opened his eyes, groaning at the loudness of the people outside his rooms. He hadn’t drunk anything last night so there was no reason for the hungover pain in his ears at the noise, he shoved his head under the pillow, snuggling back down into the bed and sighing.
He was Tony Stark, he could face them all with his head held high.
There was a brush against his leg.
Body freezing, he stretched his hand out across the mattress, praying he was still alone. Empty. It was empty. Breath held, he inched his hand down the mattress, the nanobots shifting in response to his agitation. His fingers brushed against something warm, furry.
Did T’Challa have a pet?
Stroking it harder, Tony swore at the tingle of sensation shooting up his spine.
He ripped the covers back, staring down at the intruder.
Which was attached to his ass.
‘Oh, you have got to be…’ his hands trailed up the appendage, feeling it blend into the smooth skin of his back, where he tugged it just to be sure.
‘Right.’ Getting out of bed, Tony walked over to the mirror, his horrified yells bringing knocking to his door.
‘Mr Stark? Is something wrong?’
‘Peter?’ Tony croaked, clapping his hands over his head. Nice to know even in his hallucinations Peter was still consistent.
‘Wait, wait, I’ll get help!’
Tony pinched the furred ears on the top of his head, crying out in pain and swearing loudly.
There was a thud on his door and then it swung open, Peter and Stephen rushing through.
‘What the hell-’
‘Great, so not a dream then.’
Shuri walked around Tony sat on the examination table, tugging at his new ears and tail, mumbling under her breath as Tony winced in pain. Stephen couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. Tony Stark, Iron Man, sat before them all with cat ears and a tail.
They were the same coffee brown as his hair, currently flat back against his head. His tail was thick, luxurious looking, and despite his initial concern for any potential harm or curse that had befallen Tony, Stephen thought the man looked adorable.
‘The biological scans are similar to what this one has.’ Shuri nodded her head to Peter, who’d been circling the table, getting underfoot with his panicking, and was now perching on a chair, eyes wide and terrified. ‘It is a mutation like the animal properties he is named for. In your case, Stark, your physical biology has taken on…feline attributes.’
‘The tail and ears.’ Said tail lashed on the table making Tony jump.
‘Not just that,’ she gripped his jaw, making him open his mouth, ‘you have barbs on your tongue just as a cat would, to aid in their grooming.’
That led Stephen’s mind down a… dangerous path. A rasping tongue. Tony’s rasping tongue… he coughed to hide his body’s reaction, ignoring the way they all turned to look at him.
‘Not just physical attributes, your body might respond differently in situations, to stimuli. My brother for example, has heightened senses, smell, sight, hearing and the grace and strength of a panther to protect his people.’
‘Is there anything you can do to fix this?’ Tony asked, his tone taking on an unusual pitiful whine.
Shuri crossed her arms. ‘The mutation is quite new, I might be able to counteract the cells, I will need a sample of your blood.’
Stephen knew Tony wasn’t squeamish, but the man still flinched at her request, rolling up his sleeve without comment. With that Stephen couldn’t remain still any longer. He wasn’t sure what prompted him to do it, but the image of Tony looking smaller than usual, his dejected posture, his now drooping ears and limp tail made him move.
‘Giving blood excite the doctor in you?’ Tony asked, turning his head a little to see who had walked behind him.
‘No, you look scared,’ Stephen answered. He wanted to pat Tony on the head, to stroke his new ears, to hold him close to his chest in reassurance. They were all urges he’d felt before, yet for some reason they bubbled under his skin, threatening to burst out.
It had to be because of the cat ears.
Tony said nothing, turning away to watch Shuri and T’Challa talk in rapid, hushed undertones.
‘I’m gonna be stuck like this forever,’ Tony grumbled, folding his arms.
‘I doubt it, I can feel a magical presence on your skin, this is the work of a spell.’
‘Then fix it!’ Tony whirled to face him.
‘As soon as you’re done here, I’ll start searching for a way to undo it. Let’s see what Shuri can do first. You’re making the kid worry about you.’
Tony grew upset at that, glancing over to where Peter was biting at his thumb, ripping the skin from the nail.
‘Hey, spiderling, how about when I’m through giving blood for the nurse here, me and you go look around Wakanda? Who knows, maybe you can teach me a few things about embracing my new inner animal?’
‘Oh, erm sure thing Mr Stark, if you’re feeling up to it of course.’
‘I’ve got pointy ears, I’m not dying,’ Tony mumbled under his breath.
Stephen chuckled at their chatter, moving to sit next to Tony on the table.
‘You started wearing a new cologne or something?’ Tony leant his head forward, rubbing it across Stephen’s chest. ‘Oh, god, sorry! Where the fuck did that come from?’ His face flared crimson, his tail bristling.
‘I haven’t showered in a day or two if anything it should be the opposite. I should be repugnant to your heightened smell.’
‘You are reacting to his pheromones, it seems the feline in you desires him for a mate,’ Shuri said in a deadpan voice, ‘not like we hadn’t noticed you both staring at the other with longing in your eyes.’ She yelped at her brother’s elbow to her ribs. ‘What?’ she demanded.
‘You cannot just be blunt like that, my apologies friends.’
‘A mate?’ Stephen asked his tone blank.
‘Shuri is correct, cats can…detect potential mates through their pheromones.’
‘Mates, as in plural?’ Tony asked.
‘It is not unknown for a feline to have multiple partners, to ensure the best chance of survival for her litter. No, you cannot procreate, you are still male, but you are prone to the same impulses-’
‘Right and with that I’m out of here, come on Pete. I’ll be back later for your needle,’ Tony rushed to his feet, dragging Peter behind him.
The siblings looked over at Stephen who was still trying to process what Shuri had let slip.
‘Tony is drawn…to me? No, the cat mutation in him is drawn to me?’
‘Bast is renowned for being mischievous. I would not be surprised if this was her doing. You were speaking in front of her statue correct? Tell me, of what did you speak?’ T’Challa asked.
Stephen swallowed, heat washing through his body, chased by shame, sick mortification.
‘I said something I did not mean, something that possibly destroyed my chances of being with him.’
‘Bast has blessed Stark, but why such an extreme reaction?’ Shuri wondered aloud.
‘To help him with finding his heart’s mate. Bast is sympathetic, kind, she felt Tony’s pain and wished to aid him, giving him the tools she thinks will help him.’
‘How is giving him ears and a tail going to help?’ Stephen scoffed, crossing his arms.
‘The Tony Stark I met long ago is not the same man I know now. He is plagued by doubts, haunted by his misgivings. He does not trust his instincts any longer.’
‘Bast has allowed him to smell pheromones, a biological certainty to combat his mental fears, to seek out mates who are worthy of him. That’s right, I said mates. If you don’t move fast wizard someone else might snatch up the cat boy, someone who finds his ears and tail adorable.’ Shuri’s words were ominous.
‘But I-’ Stephen blurted, fear of losing Tony and a flair of jealousy making him think without speaking.
‘I have it on good authority that certain felines like having their ears stroked. Why don’t you try it?’ T’Challa rumbled with a low laugh.
Stretching his muscles, Tony grinned across at Peter doing the same, the kid practically vibrating in place with unrestrained excitement to be sparring with Mr Stark. They’d only been out exploring for an hour or two, both too curious to see the changes to his body in action. They’d made their way back here to the courtyard, reminding Tony of the sparring grounds of Kumar-Taj, except this had four huge posts carved into panthers in each corner.
That led him to think about Stephen again, the way he’d smelt, the way he’d gone to comfort him. Not that Tony feared needles, but he still found it sweet Stephen had tried.
Pheromones. More specifically, mating or sex pheromones. With these new…changes some part of his basic or animal instinct believed Stephen was a worthy mate. Tony had been chewing on that fact for most of his walk with Peter, uncertain if it was relief he felt or sadness.
Relief that a part of him recognised Stephen as a good choice, that he was, in fact, capable of making them, and sadness that despite that, Stephen didn’t want him. He’d been thinking about their conversation in front of Bast a great deal, wondering at which point he uttered the words, ‘please alien goddess or whatever you are, mutate me into a cat boy,’ and on reflection he realised something.
I was under the impression you asked me here as something more than just a professional courtesy.
Tony had interpreted that as Stephen knew he was interested, that the man himself was giving Tony permission to take a step forward. It could mean a wealth of things. I want to be friends, I want to be more than teammates. In Tony’s longing for the other man, his heart had leapt straight to the idea that Stephen had been implying he felt the same.
In reality, he’d changed the subject and then inadvertently insulted him.
Time to move on.
‘Come on then, kid, teach me. What do I need to do? Become one with the cat?’ Tony clapped his padded gloved hands together, wanting to lose himself in his time with his pseudo child. They didn’t often fight together at the compound, Tony preferring to keep Peter away from that life as much as possible, but as the only other person bar T’Challa that had physical attributes of an animal, Peter was the best person.
He ducked at the webbing that shot at his head, stomach pressed to the ground in a sort of press up, his limbs moving with flexibility he didn’t know his middle-aged body possessed.
‘Holy shit that’s cool! Again!’ Tony called.
‘If come from inside you, always right one,’ Peter quoted. ‘Fight with your instincts, Mr Stark.’ With that as his warning, he hurled himself up into the air with the use of his webs stuck onto one of the cat statues, swinging towards Tony.
‘No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do,’ Tony quoted back, running and jumping to meet Peter head on.
He rotated his arms comically through the air as his launch propelled him much further than expected. He heard Peter’s stifled laugh as he soared straight past him, hurtling towards the ground.
‘Oh shit,’ he shouted, putting his hands and feet forward, landing as a cat would, the shock of the impact jarring his bones. He could feel his tail sticking straight out, helping him maintain his balance.
‘You alright there, kitty cat?’ Peter called, coming towards him again.
Tony’s reflexes were incredible, he sprang to the side, narrowly missing Peter’s foot, laughing at the sheer exhilaration. To pull off these kinds of moves he would have needed a suit and FRIDAY warning him of incoming hostiles. Now, he could keep toe to toe with Peter, his body lithe, powerful. Even better were his senses, he could keep his attention on the fight and his sense of smell told him people were coming to watch.
His old teammates, a few of the guards, T’Challa and…Steve.
Tony didn’t stop what he was doing, falling into proper sparring with Peter now, kicks, punches, both dancing around the other
It was exhilarating.
He needed to find a way to implement these changes long term, or at the very least make his suit better.
When they paused for breath, panting as they looked at each other with huge beaming grins there was a slow clap, which made them turn.
‘We heard what happened to you,’ Steve nodded towards his new ears. ‘I haven’t seen you fight like that since I first started training you, Tony,’ Steve gushed, looking over him with a thoughtful nod. ‘How about it?’
Tony scanned the crowd for an ally, a way out of the situation. His gaze fell on Bruce, the one member of his old team who he still trusted. Bruce gazed back, giving a little shrug of his shoulder.
Right. Even though he knew about the events that tore the team apart, Bruce hadn’t been there, hadn’t witnessed the pain, the cruel bite of betrayal.
Tony didn’t want to do this.
‘Sure, bring it, Cap.’
It was never sparing between them, it was always teaching and condescending. No human could take Steve Rogers in a fight, even Tony’s suit had struggled. As Steve walked towards him, stretching his shoulders out, Tony knew what he needed to do.
Just as the motivating speech was about to come out, Tony darted forward, punching Steve across the jaw with his gloves.
Steve’s head fell to the side, disbelief washed all over his face.
Tony danced rings around Steve. Despite the bigger man’s speed, Tony was faster, his acrobatic ability rivalling Peter’s. That didn’t mean Cap wasn’t able to get a few jabs in, but he wasn’t able to grab him into a hold, couldn’t get enough strength in his punches to pin Tony down.
As the sparring continued, they descended into scrapping and then the lines between friendly scrapping and fighting began to blur. Aggression, hurt, pain from the past few years spilling over, clouding their rational minds. Tony knew he should tap out, should call time on it. But he didn’t. He felt a primal urge to dominate the man, to make him feel the hurt he’d felt at the betrayal.
There was a ripple through the crowd, a few calls to stop as blood was drawn from both sides.
The scent caught him like a blow to the stomach, his feet gluing to the concrete beneath him.
It couldn’t be.
Stars exploded in his eyes as Steve’s fist caught with his cheekbone. Eyes watering, he fell to the ground. Tony was flat on his face, hands outstretched to bare his weight and before he could even flip back around a hand gripped the back of his neck.
‘Cats go limp when you grab them here, I wonder if it works for you too?’ Steve wasn’t even taking this seriously, he was messing about as they had done in the past while training.
Tony’s entire body went limp, his limbs hanging loose at his front.
It didn’t mean anything, it wasn’t done out of malice and yet Tony couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stop the terror from flooding him. Steven pulled him around to look at him, and the smile slid from his face as he saw Tony’s fear. He let go immediately, placing him down gently on his feet, taking a step back and placing his hands in front of him.
‘Tony? I’m sorry, I was only teasing.’
Tony wasn’t there, he was back in Siberia, Steve’s face above his, the shield coming down on his chest, the fear that he wasn’t going to stop, that it was going to go straight through his head.
He couldn’t stop him.
He was vulnerable.
Returning through a portal from the Sanctum, his arms filled with scrolls and books regarding biological enchantments and animal curses, Stephen felt the beginnings of a headache prickling behind his eyes. He’d been reading for hours, Wong helping him and he’d yet to find anything relating to Tony’s problem.
He worked better at the Sanctum, yet he couldn’t leave Tony in Wakanda alone. He knew the man would be well looked after, that some of the Avengers had also extended their stay in order to keep an eye on their comrade in case anything sinister transpired, but Stephen needed to be close by, didn’t trust Tony’s safety to anyone.
When Stephen returned to his rooms, he felt a tingle wash over him. The protection spell he’d placed around it had been breached.
The presence wasn’t hostile, he recognised it as Tony’s biological energy hence the spell hadn’t stopped him. Curious, he placed the books he was carrying down on the table he’d been using as a desk, moving through his rooms, searching out the man.
The guest rooms they’d all been given to stay in were lavish, the floors a creamy type of sandstone, the walls a golden cream, apart from the one behind the fireplace with was the umber of dry earth, the colour broken by a black zigzag pattern running through it. Masks depicting different facial expressions adorned the walls, and Stephen had been rather taken with an elephant mask, the intricate carving, the slender trunk.
Opening the door to the bedroom, the lump under his thick bedcovers made him hesitate, leaning against the doorframe to watch.
The idea of Tony in his bed…even just placing the words Tony and bed together in the same sentence made him hot under the collar, the idea of said man having adorable furry ears made him re-evaluate his kinks.
Silent, he padded towards the bed, pulling off his outer robe as he did, leaving him in a sleeveless tunic and soft pants as he gently sat beside Tony on the bed. He pried back the nest of covers the man had made, not reacting as a tail shot out and wound around his wrist.
Simmering fury seized him.
Tony looked drugged, half asleep, clutching at Stephen’s sleep shirt in his hands, kneading it as he looked up at Stephen. He was too pale, his pupils wide in their brown as he looked up. That was all in Stephen’s peripheral though. What he focused on was the dried blood caking Tony’s split lip, deep purple of a bruise blossoming across this cheekbone.
‘What happened?’ His voice thundered.
The tail on his wrist slid away, ears flattening against his head, brown eyes averting their gaze.
‘Safe here,’ Tony’s voice sounded slurred, drunk.
Tony’s words made ice flash through his veins, strangling the breath from his chest.
What the hell happened while he was gone?
He cringed away when Stephen reached out again. Taking a deep breath to calm himself and making a conscious effort to draw his temper back in, he schooled his face into a neutral expression, reaching out to stroke Tony’s head.
Tony was barely keeping himself conscious, overwhelmed and fighting sleep.
‘Why won’t you be mine?’ Tony asked, voice thick with sleepy delirium, his blinks getting longer. ‘Don’t want Steve.’
Steve? Steve Rogers? Captain America?
He’d get no sense out of Tony in this state, and despite his body screaming at him to shake Tony awake and demand answers, common sense prevailed. He shifted back on the bed, leaning back against the headboard, encouraging Tony’s head into his lap, keeping his strokes rhythmic across Tony’s head, dragging the man into slumber.
Tony nuzzled against his stomach, taking a deep lungful of scent and then surrendering to sleep, his tail wrapped around Stephen’s wrist again. Stephen looked up at the ceiling, reaching for his sleeping shirt with his free hand and draping it over Tony.
Steve Rogers. Shuri’s warning about other mates floated into his mind, needling at him. Tony hadn’t been attacked otherwise they would have called for him, yet something had happened to scare the man half to death, to flood his body with enough adrenaline to make him appear in this burnt out state.
He’d come to Stephen because he felt safe.
Stephen rubbed his thumb over Tony’s tail, touched Tony had come to him even in his addled state.
These were all questions and demands for later.
Bringing his head down, he gazed at Tony sleeping, his cheek pillowed against his thigh, eyelashes fluttering, as he dreamed fitfully. One of Tony’s hands squeezed his thigh in sporadic motions, twitching.
‘What are you dreaming about hmm? Chasing mice?’ Stephen brought his fingers up to trail over one of the new furry appendages, rubbing a fingertip across it, scratching it with his nail.
Nails dug into his thigh, a breathy moan escaping parted lips.
Stephen stopped what he was doing immediately, feeling his face flame.
I have it on good authority that certain felines like having their ears stroked.
‘Stephen,’ Tony groaned out, nudging his head into Stephen’s crotch and rubbing against it.
Stephen liked to think he had a strong moral compass, but with his name being moaned by Tony, warm breaths now against the fabric of his suddenly interested cock, they began to crumble.
Tony’s tongue darted out, and Stephen heard the rasp of fabric.
You have barbs on your tongue just as a cat would.
This needed to stop!
Inching his hips away, he manoeuvred Tony so he was laying closer to his knees. It was agonising, and he beyond tempted to let Tony carry on, but he needed to remain strong.
He heard his name whispered again before Tony settled back into regular sleep. Stephen kept his hand on the back of Tony’s neck, both to reassure the man in sleep and encourage him to stay down there.
It was only when he let his mind wander over that might have happened in his absence that Stephen felt horror dawn.
Didn’t he and Captain America share the same name?
Tony woke with a gasp, not from his fears of nightmares holding him in their sharp talons, this was something else entirely. Limbs trembling, he rolled over, whimpering at a gentle hand on his forehead, a fuzzy murmured reassurance.
He breathed in and out a few times, focusing on the cool weight on his head, the comforting familiar scent curling around him. He shifted over to the side, opening his eyes to stare at endless legs stretching out before him.
Remembrance slammed into him.
Steve. Tony being powerless. Wanting Stephen.
Startling, he sat up, scrambling back on the bed.
‘Hey, hey easy. Sorry, did I wake you?’
‘No, I…what am I doing here?’ Tony rubbed his hands over his face, avoiding looking at Stephen.
‘I came in to find you half asleep in my bed covers. I’d thought it was best to let you sleep.’
He could feel his heart start to beat faster in recollection, his disgust at himself rising. Shit, he needed to get out of here.
‘Sorry, I must have come into the wrong rooms. Exhaustion and all that, ask Bruce, he’ll tell you I’m constantly falling asleep everywhere. So, sorry again and I’ll see you later.’
‘Wait a moment,’ Stephen snatched his wrist, halting any motions of him leaving. ‘What happened?’
Tony didn’t get scared. He’d taken on Thanos in hand to hand combat. Had taken a nuke into a wormhole on a suicide mission. He’s survived the ten rings and managed to defy death with nothing but scrap metal and a battery.
He did not have panic attacks because Steve fucking Rogers scruffed him.
‘Nothing, Doc. I just needed to sleep, and I thought this was my bed, nothing more than that,’ Tony chuckled, trying to ease his wrist from Stephen’s hold, ignoring the way the pads of Stephen’s fingers branded his skin.
‘See you later for food? Come by and see me and Pete in action later? This new feline body definitely has more perks than my middle-aged one.’
‘Stop it.’ Stephen’s voice went low. ‘You were scar-’
‘There’s nothing to say!’ Tony spat, refusing to let Stephen finish his sentence.
He was better than this. Steve wouldn’t do this to him again.
‘You’re bruised, Tony.’ Stephen’s tender tone of voice made him look up, flinching as the man reached out to his face, swiping his thumbs under his eyes.
They came away wet.
‘Let me heal you?’ he asked in a soft, rumbly voice, fingers brushing against Tony’s eye, his lip.
Not trusting himself to speak, Tony nodded.
‘I’m sorry, I would have never left if I’d known…’
I wouldn’t have let you get hurt.
Tony desperately wanted to believe that’s what he could hear, the unspoken words burning in Stephen’s eyes as he gazed down at him, amber light flowing from his fingers.
Stephen’s thumb traced over the ridge of his eyebrow, around the edge of his eye, his bottom lip, checking he’d healed everything. They sat there, watching each other, Tony holding himself perfectly still as Stephen moved closer, the tip of nose beside his.
A pained whimper bubbled in his throat, an aching, desperate, fucking pathetic noise, and Tony pulled away, mad at himself.
‘Come here,’ Stephen asked, not moving any closer, or tugging Tony over to him. He waited, hands outstretched, patient.
‘It’s so stupid,’ Tony growled, smacking his fists on his knees. ‘We were sparring…what happened in Siberia… You know how cats go limp when you pick them up by the scruff of their neck, well the baby ones do…I know Steve wasn’t going to kill me, at least I think he wasn’t, who knows if I’d actually got to Bucky...’ Tony’s thoughts jumped from place to place.
‘He was messing around…I think…no he wouldn’t hurt me, he wouldn’t. Steve grabbed me and I just went…limp. I couldn’t move…and then I could smell him... I was back there…in Siberia and his shield was coming down and I couldn’t…I couldn’t.’
‘Tony, breathe, listen to me, in and out…slowly now.’
When had breathing gotten painful?
Tony felt a hand fan over his sternum, encouraging Tony to focus, to take deep breaths.
‘I was powerless,’ he wheezed out.
‘You are many things, Tony Stark, and powerless isn’t one of them. That’s it, keep breathing, slow and steady.’
‘I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking about it. I wanted to hide, to feel safe, to regroup in a sense and your room was the first place I thought of.’
A hand threaded into the hair at the back of his head, bringing him closer to Stephen.
Why the hell did the man smell so good!
‘The way you smell or whatever, I can feel a similar pull with Steve.’
The kiss Stephen had been pressing against his forehead stopped, Stephen’s hands grabbing Tony’s shoulder to hold him back, physically forcing distance between them.
‘I see,’ Stephen’s tone gave nothing away, but his gaze slid away. ‘He is physically strong, a trait cats would find beneficial in potential suitors.’
‘Wait…what?’ Tony was referring more to the sudden tone shift rather than what Stephen was saying.
‘The enchantment on you might be potentially making you act different, not just physical changes but mental ones too.’
‘You think I’m acting different? That I’m not myself?’ Tony pushed his luck, his tail sweeping around to brush against Stephen’s thigh.
‘Tony,’ Stephen warned.
‘I don’t want Steve,’ Tony swore, injecting all the revulsion he could in his voice at that. ‘Doesn’t my choice count for anything? Or has my brain been so muddled by whatever this is that I’ve now become an idiot?’
Take your chance. Take your chance! His instincts screamed at him. He pushed himself forward, crawling into Stephen’s lap, straddling his hips, the potency of Stephen’s scent making his head swim, his body swaying in fogged lust.
This wasn’t all Tony. It was Stephen’s pheromones he could smell, not his own.
Stephen wanted him too.
‘I hate being scared, it’s a weakness and I was taught never to show weakness. I know I’m useless with feelings, showing my emotions, but when Steve grabbed me, I was terrified.’ Tony hid his smile as hands held his waist, settling between hip and rib. ‘Strength might have something to do with genetics and whatever fucked up my sense of smell has become. I, however, want someone with a razor-sharp mind to keep up with mine, who laughs at my dark humour and shares it, someone who gets me, who doesn’t want me to change.’
It was the closest he could come to a confession, a feeble attempt made by a man terrified of the answer.
‘I…see,’ Stephen squeezed his hands once, and then withdrew them.
Tony let out a frustrated hiss, shuffling back away from Stephen.
‘Stop doing this,’ he growled, hearing his tail thump on the bed in frustration. ‘I’m trying to tell you it's you I want, Strange.’
‘Damn you, Tony,’ Stephen swore, chasing after him, fisting his hand in Tony’s top and dragging him forward, locking their lips together. Stephen kissed like he wanted to possess Tony, want, aggression, lust and he could only cling on. He toppled over on the bed, Stephen chasing after him, covering Tony with his body, mouth still against his, demanding Tony open his mouth.
Tony eagerly joined in, thrusting his tongue beside Stephen’s, moaning as Stephen deepened it, his blood singing at Stephen’s own moans in the back of his throat. He’d never been kissed like this, pent up passion, desire exploding around them, both chasing the others mouth when they had to part for air.
‘It isn’t that I don’t want you,’ Stephen whispered as he pulled back, lips still teasing his. ‘I don’t want to do something you’ll regret later. Once this…’ he gestured with his hand, ‘enchantment wears off, I don’t want you to regret it.’
‘Stephen. You’ve got to know this is me, that I’ve wanted you for months,’ Tony hated the begging lilt to his voice.
‘Tony, you’ve just admitted your body recognises Steve Rogers as a potential partner. A man who in your own words, scares you. You aren’t thinking straight.’
‘What are you doing then? If this isn’t me, why are you kissing me?’
‘I’m sorry.’ Stephen closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against Tony’s neck. ‘I’m only a man, and I’m weak, Tony. When this is over, we’ll talk.’
Tony closed his eyes. He understood, thought it was commendable even. He wriggled from underneath Stephen, standing up with shaky legs.
‘Can you at least try and understand where I’m coming from?’ Stephen’s voice cracked, and Tony could hear fabric being squeezed between fingers.
‘Yeah, I understand. You’ve got a good moral compass,’ Tony paused looking over his shoulder with a smile. ‘I’m still me though.’
Stephen rubbed his temples as he pushed away from the microscope, resisting the urge to slam his forehead down on the table. They’d been working for days to find a way to fix Tony and so far, there was nothing. No biological miracle, no magic he could perform.
Tony had seemed to come to terms with it, enjoying having a mini-break in Wakanda. Stephen had seen him running around the courtyard, having a blast with his new flexibility, his amazing senses. All the Avengers had returned home, only Peter and Stephen remaining to support Tony, or keep him company in Peter’s case. Stephen had to admit it was rather sweet to watch the two perform acrobatics together.
‘What’s wrong?’ Shuri asked in a sing-song voice.
‘I want to fix this, I want Tony to get back to normal.’
‘Another tomcat sniffing around your mate?’ she teased, pushing her tablet away.
Stephen felt like he could choke on the jealousy he felt watching the way Tony looked at Steve. Captain America had also chosen to stay out of some sort of delayed loyalty to Tony, obvious to all around him that he wanted to fix the broken friendship they had. Tony wouldn’t allow himself to be alone in a room with the man, but he couldn’t stop his eyes from following him, his ears swivelling around to listen to his conversations.
I don’t want to lose him to another.
He knew it had to be whatever magic infecting him. Stephen knew how Tony felt about the man, he knew bits and pieces of Tony’s fears, told enough fragments to assemble a basic outline of what had happened in Siberia, why the team had broken. What Stephen he hadn’t realised, however, was that Tony still feared Steve Rogers.
Iron man was more than just a name, it was the essence of Tony. Iron wouldn’t yield, wouldn’t show any vulnerabilities. The fact he’d trusted Stephen enough to seek him out, had crumbled his resolve, kissing the man despite knowing Tony wasn’t himself.
He couldn’t forget the roundabout way Tony had told him that he wanted him over Steve. The sleepy agonised question of why Stephen didn’t want him in return. Those words haunted his steps, his dreams, his waking thoughts as he watched Tony.
‘I want Tony fixed so he can be himself again, without being confused with these afflictions.’
I want him back to normal so I can ask him outright.
‘Tony Stark is still the same person he’s always been.’ Shuri scoffed, turning back to her tablet.
‘I think his ears and tail beg to differ.’
She shrugged, ‘his physical biology might be different, but the enchantment hasn’t affected his brain, do you want to see the scans? He’s still the same person, just with Bast’s power. Same as T’Challa.’
‘T’Challa isn’t different…before Bast touched him?’ Unease stirred in Stephen’s chest.
‘Not in the slightest, he might not have…’ Shuri brought her hands to her head, making ears with her fingers, ‘but he is no different, still the stubborn big brother.’
‘What about the pheromones? The biology of attracting mates?’
‘I don’t see Spider-boy dancing in front of every attractive female he sees desperate to copulate. He is gifted with some of the animal’s abilities, he has not become the animal itself.’ Shuri put down the tablet in frustration.
If Tony is no different, if it hasn’t altered the way he thinks.
‘Even humans can smell each other’s pheromones, what Stark is doing is not out of the ordinary, the smell is just heightened for him, it hasn’t turned him into a sex crazed beast…at least I hope it hasn’t.’ Shuri looked over him with vague disgust.
‘Nothing’s changed…’ Stephen whispered to himself.
Tony had confessed to him, twice, and Stephen had insulted him the first and ignored him the second.
‘Honestly, why would you think he had?’ Shuri shook her head. ‘There’s no evidence to suggest his mental state has been compromised. You are seeing make believe, looking for reasons to give yourself an excuse.’
‘I need to go,’ Stephen scrambled to feet, ignoring her bewildered look.
‘Crazy white boys,’ Shuri muttered with a smile.
He’d known it was coming, there was only a certain amount of time that Tony could pretend to be busy. His new cat-like ninja reflexes had helped him escape a lot of the time, and now he was cornered.
Here it came.
Grabbing his courage in both hands, listening to his conscience, which coincidently sounded a lot like Pepper, Tony turned to look at Steve.
‘Can you sit for a minute? I’d like to talk to you.’
There were a thousand other things Tony would rather do than speak to Steve, to address all the bad blood between them. He felt his tail thumping the back of his knees in agitation, his calf muscles tensing as his body subconsciously went to fight mode.
This needed to end.
‘Yeah, I can spare a minute.’
They faced each other on the balcony Tony had first stood on the night of the party, the statue of Bast at their backs as they looked over Wakanda, its breathtaking sunset.
‘I’m sorry, for what happened in Siberia,’ Steve spoke first, one hand gripping the stone balcony, head hung in shame, his eyes closed.
Tony felt wrong-footed for a moment, not anticipating Steve’s apology. He’d been ready to combat anger, passive-aggressive accusations, refusal of guilt.
‘I’m sorry too.’
‘I don’t think I can ever understand what you felt…about everything. Howard…he was a good man, and someone I called a friend. I never knew your mother, but I meant it when I told you I was happy your dad had settled down.’
‘No, you can’t understand. The Howard Stark you knew wasn’t the same man I did. I can’t say I’m surprised he’d made enemies, that he was targeted…but mom, she didn’t deserve that. I understand that Bucky was your friend, and I know that even T’Challa has been able to forgive him… I can’t Steve.’ He held up a hand as Steve opened his mouth. ‘I know it wasn’t him, that it was Hydra, I know it’s irrational, but I can’t be friends with him. I can’t imagine what he’s having to go through, living with all that guilt, but I can’t Steve, I’m not strong enough.’
Tony could feel the pain pierce his heart as he spoke the words. Tony wished he could say things would change, that maybe over time they could return to how things were, but that was life, it ebbed, and it flowed carrying people down its path. The days of parties in the Avengers tower, living with his fellow superheroes were gone.
‘Listen, I wish I could tell you I’ll work through it, that I can join the team again, go back to the way things were, but sometimes you just can’t. I respect you as a fellow Avenger, as a teammate and I’ll stand beside you in battle, but I can’t be your friend anymore.’
They couldn’t ever fix the relationship, there was too much hurt, too much water under the bridge on both sides. Tony could be civil, could put his arrogance to one side, but he could never go back to the way things were. The fight between them had only shown Tony the truth, they couldn’t be friends, the old team belonged to him.
‘Yeah…yeah, I understand, Tony.’ Steve clasped his hands in front of him, at a loss what to say.
As one they turned back to the sunset, Tony’s tail sweeping the floor, back and forth.
‘Those days, they were some of the best of my life,’ Tony admitted.
‘Yeah, mine too.’
‘I don’t envy Barnes with the guilt he has to go through, he needs you. I’m sorry it had to be this way.’
‘I know, Tony. It was and always will be an honour fighting with you.’
He mourned the past, his team, the loss of Pepper. However, things weren’t bad now. He was doing what he loved, inventing, he still had his company and the glitz and glam of that, Bruce wanted to stay behind the scenes with him, he had Peter, as close to as a son as he was ever going to get, he had Rhodey and Strange’s friendship and his Sanctum.
One part of your life closed, another opened.
They both turned at that, watching as Stephen approached them.
‘Everything alright?’ His tone was light, friendly, but both Avengers knew what he was asking.
‘I’ve got to be going, see you on the field, Tony.’
‘Everything alright?’ Tony echoed Stephen’s words back at him as Steve left.
‘That was handled rather…maturely.’
‘Really I think I’d be more mature if I could just sweep it all under the rug,’ Tony grumbled, reaching a hand up to scratch the back of his neck, looking out over the sky again.
‘It takes courage to accept that a relationship isn’t working, that it’s for the best to let it go and move on. You’re allowed to not accept things that have hurt you. You’re not going to let it stop you working together if needed, I’d say that’s plenty mature.’ Stephen leant his hip against the balcony, folding his arms and smiling down at him.
‘It still hurt though,’ Tony admitted.
‘I better get going, Shuri wanted to see me for some more scans, see you later, Doc.’
‘Wait a minute!’ Stephen blurted, grasping Tony’s wrist. ‘I mean…can you come with me for a minute? I want to talk to you.’
‘Yeah sure, go ahead,’ Tony gestured around with his free hand, showing the lack of audience.
Stephen looked anxious, almost pleading, the shaking in his hand more pronounced than usual.
‘Come to my room?’
Tony could honestly say he didn’t expect to be back in here so soon, he turned in a circle checking out the décor of the living quarters, walking towards one of the wooden masks on the wall, frowning at it.
‘T’Challa had an interesting theory as to why you were turned into this.’
‘You mean the cat hybrid?’
‘He believes by allowing you to smell pheromones it will help you find a partner.’
‘A panther match maker.’ Tony plucked the mask from the wall, tossing Stephen a look over his shoulder. ‘You’re not going to stop me?’
‘They’re not Sanctum relics, you’ll have to answer to T’Challa if you break them.’
‘So, by allowing me to smell people, I’ll be able to find someone, huh. Well, she messed up big time.’
‘What?’ Stephen sounded confused. ‘How so?’
‘The two people I can smell aren’t acceptable partner material. Would be pretty funny to see the look on Steve’s face though, probably too feisty for him, he’d want someone meek, docile, I’d eat him alive,’ Tony laughed to himself for a minute, amusing himself with the image of him coming on to Steve. ‘Still, he’s got pretty impressive muscle though. Maybe that’d be enough to tame me?’
He heard heavy footsteps across the room, and he turned, taking a step back as hands reached up to cup his face. Lips were scalding against his, and instinctively Tony dragged the man down, his back arching as Stephen loomed over him, dominating him. Their mouths crashed together, again and again, over and over as they sought to quench the desire building between them. Stephen’s hands felt like they were everywhere, stroking his face, tangling in his hair, gripping the side of his neck in heated possession.
He grabbed Tony’s shoulders, using his strength to encourage Tony back, chasing after him as he stumbled, one arm curling around his waist to steady him as Stephen walked them across the room, pressing Tony against the wall.
‘Is that what you want, someone with impressive muscle? You’re too beautiful to be tamed. I want you as you are, a fiery spitting wildcat.’ Tony’s legs felt like they were going to buckle, but Stephen’s body against his kept him upright.
‘But you don’t want…I thought…’ Tony’s thoughts struggled to keep up, Stephen’s scent so rich in its intensity that it transmuted into taste, thick on his tongue. It was like a shroud settling over him, ensnaring Tony in its beguiling aroma.
‘I have wanted you…for an age, Tony.’ Stephen panted against his lips, hand against his face once again. ‘Never have I not wanted you.’ He swore against his mouth, the words he was speaking making their lips brush together.
Tony placed his palms on Stephen’s chest, gripping the fabric as he leant his head back against the wall, letting Stephen cage him in, relishing the feel of Stephen around him, pressing against him, holding him, desperate for him.
‘Then why?’ Tony shook his head in a feeble attempt to clear his head.
‘I was an idiot the night of the celebrations, I said something without thinking and I hurt you.’ A tender touch to Tony’s face had him looking up, wanting to believe. ‘I wanted you to be certain, that it was me you wanted. I couldn’t bear to be a rebound from Pepper.’ Stephen pressed his lips to Tony’s as though he couldn’t hold himself back anymore, and Tony found himself responding with the same eagerness, disbelief that this was happening.
‘What about after?’ Tony pulled back to ask.
‘I was afraid that your new abilities were something you couldn’t control, that it wasn’t you speaking. Seeing you in my bed, seeking comfort from me, it nearly broke me, Tony. The idea you were so close and yet unobtainable, damn my fucking morals.’
‘I think it’s part of the reason I’m so attracted to you,’ Tony reassured.
‘I thought I was going to lose you to Steve. I thought it wasn’t you speaking.’
‘I already told you, I’m still me and I want you, Stephen Strange. Pheromones damned, it’s always been you.’
Stephen surged forward, grabbing Tony’s hips and tugging him upwards. Tony’s legs locked around that trim waist, their mouths finding each other again. Tony’s hands scrabbled against Stephen’s chest, attempting to rip aside his tunic, wanting to feel Stephen’s skin.
The tunic peeled away to Stephen’s waist without the sorcerer moving, groaning into Tony’s mouth as Tony splayed his hands over the firm pectorals, his hips thrusting up into Stephen’s stomach.
‘Don’t make me wait any longer. Don’t shove me away again,’ he panted out over Stephen’s lips, tongue darting out to stroke against them. He felt delirious with his want, his body burning with the desire that Stephen fuck him. His craving for Stephen over the last few months was a mere fragment of fire and now, with Stephen’s lips against his neck, it stoked the embers, viscous gasoline which left Tony trembling under the inferno.
Hands in his hair coaxed his head back, exposing his throat, bestowing further attention. The heat scorching through his body left his limbs weak, his body beginning to slide from Stephen’s and away from the wall. His thighs were yanked back around Stephen’s waist, a quick squeeze under the knees to remind Tony he needed to hold himself up.
He couldn’t think straight, his thoughts hazy, slippery and difficult to grasp hold of, but he attempted to follow instruction, holding onto Stephen’s shoulders for added support.
The fingers returned to his scalp, bringing his head down. Tony opened his eyes, bringing his mouth to Stephen’s clavicle, running his tongue over the ridge.
‘Let me take you here, please sweetheart,’ Stephen begged against Tony’s ear, his voice broken.
He opened his mouth to answer and all that came out was a garbled moan, his forehead against Stephen’s chest. Hips thrust against Tony’s ass in fierce longing, trembling fingers reaching up to take the tip of a furred ear, rubbing it gently between finger and thumb.
The force of Tony’s yowl scared them both, his back arching, ass grinding into Stephen’s crotch shamelessly. The grip of his legs hurt his own muscles, so who knew what it was doing to Stephen’s hips. With a wave of Stephen’s hand, they were both naked, and Tony could feel pressure on his thighs, invisible bands holding his weight.
Stephen was using magic to pin him to the wall.
His broken gasps turned into yells as Stephen took an ear between his lips.
The taller man made a pained, strangled noise, thrusting his cock against Tony’s ass, dragging along his balls and perineum, the friction maddening.
Tony split the skin on his lip as he bit down, trying to stifle his noise, crying out as Stephen freed his bottom lip with his thumb, pushing it in Tony’s mouth to rest on his tongue. Tony lapped at it eagerly, tongue rasping, catching on all the tiny ridges of fingerprint.
Stephen pressed harder against Tony, sucking his ear, eliciting cries from Tony as his thumb thrust into Tony’s mouth. He could feel Stephen falling apart, could feel the slickness of precome rubbing between his cheeks, teasing against where Tony wanted him.
Despite how it looked in porn, it was near impossible for Stephen to prepare Tony. Thank God for magic. It allowed Stephen to hold Tony against the wall, orange ribbons supporting his thighs, extra wrapped around his calves to press his legs up and sideways. Tony pressed the soles of his feet flat against the cold wall, arching his hips, presenting himself in a carnal display.
There must have been other magic holding him as Tony felt no fatigue in his muscles, no discomfort as he hung there.
Stephen dropped to his knees, rubbing a hand over Tony’s foot in comfort as he whimpered in distress.
Where was Stephen going?
‘Hush, you’re alright, I’m not going anywhere,’ he promised, nuzzling his nose over Tony’s inner thigh, the hairs raising in response, his hips shifting against the wall. ‘Fuck, I’m so glad I have a photographic memory,’ Stephen whispered against the crease of his leg and groin, sucking a mark into the tender skin. Tony’s tail slinked forward, curling around the back of Stephen’s head, holding him in a loose embrace.
He jolted at the warm tongue trailing over the head of his cock, lapping up the precome, the tip of his tongue trailing down leaving a thin stripe of saliva down the shaft, teasing over his balls. Tony’s tail tightened, groaning as he felt Stephen shudder in pleasure.
Tony’s nails dug into the walls as the talented tongue breached him, swirling as he persuaded his muscles into relaxing for him. His mouth went dry as Stephen moaned in filthy ecstasy, fanning the flames of his pleasure, tears welling in his eyes from the exquisite bliss.
‘Do you want me to stop?’ Stephen moved away, eyes wide in concern as he noticed Tony’s bleary eyes, the flush to his cheeks and trembling mouth.
‘No!’ Tony hissed, struggling against the binds. ‘Intense…but good,’ he all but purred, the rumbling sound in his chest surprising him.
Stephen spent what felt like an age preparing him with fingers wet with lube. Tony wasn’t sure how that’d happened, concentrating only on breathing through the initial burning pain of the stretch of fingers. Stephen was gentle, unbearably so, a harsh comparison to the maddening frenzy they’d been in caught in only moments before.
‘Please,’ Tony begged, tugging against whatever held him against the wall, pleading.
‘Patience,’ Stephen whispered, mouthing at Tony’s cock again. ‘I’m not willing to hurt you.’
‘Won’t…. now…please,’ Tony demanded, tail tightening involuntarily, making Stephen grunt in pain.
‘So wanton,’ Stephen growled, spreading his hands over Tony’s thighs, gripping the muscle.
‘Waited too long,’ Tony brought his head down, meeting Stephen’s heated stare with an intense one of his own. ‘Fuck me, or I’ll go find another mate,’ Tony teased darkly, gasping as Stephen’s weight slammed against him, tongue shoved into his mouth.
‘You’ll do no such thing, Tony Stark. You’re mine.’ It was the closest thing Tony had to a warning before Stephen thrust into him, his magic bringing Tony’s legs back around to clutch Stephen’s waist, before disappearing, only Stephen holding him now. With one hand pressing against the wall beside Tony’s head, the other gripping the underside of his thigh, Stephen begun to move, small, rocking movements at first, getting Tony used to the sensation.
Gasping, Tony wrapped his arms around Stephen’s neck, one hand pressed to the sorcerer’s nape, fingers tangling in the whisper soft hair at the back of his head, the other gripped onto Stephen’s shoulder, overwhelmed by the sensations. As though he’d sensed the friction wasn’t enough for Tony, Stephen thrusted harder, the hand on Tony’s thigh now biting into the muscle, leaving crescent-shaped indents.
‘Fuck!’ Tony wailed as Stephen hit something inside him that made stars shoot up his spine, leaving sparkles of lightning behind them, seeping into his muscles, forcing Tony’s pleasure higher.
‘That’s it,’ Stephen murmured into his ear, nipping the furry edge.
‘I’m gonna…I can’t,’ Tony begged, shoving his head into Stephen’s neck, gasping against the skin, simply holding on for dear life as his body began to rub against the wall harder, the rubbing of stone across his back bordering on painful, only adding to the sensation, a knife’s edge of rough pleasure and dominance, of Stephen showcasing his strength, possessing Tony, consuming him.
Stephen didn’t falter in his thrusts, but he leant his head back, gazing into Tony’s eyes. Tony’s stomach knotted at the sight, the sensation reaching up to grip his heart. His bangs were sticking to his forehead, pale skin flushed pink, aqua eyes nearly swallowed by deep, dark pupils.
‘Mine too?’ Tony whispered, feeling his tail move to wrap around Stephen’s wrist of the hand against the wall, feeling Stephen’s pulse racing in the delicate underside. Stephen smiled at that, pressing his lips to Tony’s in a tender kiss.
‘I love you, Tony,’ he swore, closing his eyes, savouring the sound of Tony climaxing, his body unable to fight the tide any longer, the pledge shattering him into splinters. He was barely aware of Stephen thrusting a few times more, before the man was roaring into Tony’s neck, his climax just as strong.
Tony’s body felt wrung out, like a wet rag twisted in the middle, pleasured exhaustion setting into his muscles. He could only cling to the man before him, his legs shaking with the effort of holding on, hands spasming from where they’d been tightened into claws on Stephen’s neck. He felt gentle pressure against his temple, the corner of his eye, he could feel the scratchiness of Stephen’s goatee as he peppered his face with butterfly kisses, his mouth shaping words, but Tony was deaf to them.
‘Stephen,’ he muttered, in prayer, in a plea he wasn’t sure, but his back was pulled from the wall, Stephen’s cock leaving his body making Tony wince as the head caught on his rim.
‘Shhh, I’ve got you.’
Tony’s body bobbed up and down as Stephen walked to the bedroom, supporting Tony with a hand pressed against his lower back and one under his thigh. He gasped as Stephen lay him back against the soft bedding he’d come to love, hissing as it rubbed against the abrasions on his back.
Stephen swore under his breath, turning Tony onto his front with tender hands. Smushing his face into the soft pillows, Tony groaned in relief when he felt warmth seeping into his back, trembling fingers trailing after it. Drifting on the edge of sleep, he was roused a little by a damp cloth cleaning him, and he lifted his head to drowsily peer at Stephen. The wizard stretched out beside him, propping himself up by his elbow, his free hand trailing idle patterns into Tony’s back.
‘Welcome back,’ he teased with a small smile, leaning down to kiss the bridge of Tony’s nose.
‘Where did I go?’ Tony slurred, arching his body in a luxurious stretch as Stephen grasped his tail gently, stroking down the length of it.
‘I’m not sure, you blissed out after your orgasm,’ Stephen told him smugly, wrapping Tony’s tail around his palm. ‘I healed your back with magic,’ he spoke with hesitation, leaving off the I hope that’s ok.
‘Thanks,’ Tony yawned, not disturbed by it in the slightest. ‘Did you mean it?’
Stephen didn’t even need to think about it, laying himself down and bringing Tony into the cradle of his arms.
‘I did, I have done for a long time.’
Tony listened to Stephen’s heartbeat under his ear, inhaling Stephen’s scent, sharper now with sweat and musk.
‘Me too,’ his words were cautious, still crippled by his insecurities. ‘I mean I don’t understand why you’d want someone as broken as me, or with all my issues, and I know I’m not the best-’
‘Tony,’ Stephen interrupted with a chuckle, ‘we all have issues, me included. You’re not broken, I promise. Rest, go to sleep.’
Stephen woke first, his arm protesting the weight on it. Lifting his arm carefully, he slid Tony onto the mattress, pressing his body beside the smaller man’s. He’d had a suspicion whilst watching Tony sleeping, and now in the cold light of day, it was confirmed.
Tony was back to normal.
Bending his head down to rub his nose across the skin of Tony’s neck, dropping a kiss to one tanned shoulder, Stephen got up, tugging the blankets to cover Tony. With a quick hand gesture, he was clad in his boxers, a piece of paper and pen flying towards him.
Tony is back to normal. It seems Bast is fulfilled by Tony’s choice of mate. We’ll see you at dinner tonight, Stephen.
Opening a portal, Stephen let the letter flutter onto Shuri’s desk, ignoring the sequel of shock he heard as it was closing.
Movement from the bed made him wander back, sitting on the side of it, his hand on Tony’s side.
‘How long you been-’
‘Only a few minutes,’ Stephen reassured.
Stephen watched as Tony came to the realisation, his hands flying up to feel his normal, human ears on the side of his head. He breathed out a sigh and Stephen wasn’t sure if it was one of happiness or disappointment.
‘Bast’s work is done, you found what she wanted you to.’
‘You haven’t changed your mind now that…’ Tony trailed off, gesturing to his head.
‘I was under the impression that despite your changes it was still you, that hasn’t changed with the lack of appendages.’ Stephen cupped the side of Tony’s head, leaning in for a morning kiss. ‘How about a date? Want to show me Wakanda?’
‘I’m rather tempted just to stay here with you all day,’ Tony smiled, tugging Stephen down on top of him, wrapping his legs around his waist.
‘That is an option, but I think Peter might object if he doesn’t see you all day.’ Stephen ground down into Tony’s hips anyway, grinning at the morning erection he found.
‘Hmm,’ Tony’s fingers gripped his ass, encouraging his rutting. ‘There’s something I’d like to do first, and then we can go out.’ Tony flipped them over, laughing down at Stephen’s obvious arousal at Tony’s words.
‘Maybe you can look up a spell to change me into a cat again?’
‘I might be able to find something.’
‘I know there’s something you wanted me to do with my cat tongue,’ Tony teased.
‘Mmm, what did you want to do first?’
‘Tell you I love you. You told me last night, and I never said it back. I do, love you I mean, have done for a long time now,’ Tony rambled, his gaze drifting off to the side, cheeks burning.
‘And here I thought you were adorable as a cat. I love you too, Tony. I think we ought to give an offering to Bast in thanks.’
‘Will do, right after I show you how good I am with my tongue... even without the raspy bit.’
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