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Stephen is exhausted. Its been a long day at work, and then he had to go to that stupiddinner benefit before returning to the hospital and he just wants to get home so he’s not paying attention to where he’s going when he runs head first into a man. The collision results in him letting out an irritated noise as the person he ran into drops a coat. Stephen looks at it for a moment, then the stranger and he’s struck by his looks. Stunning with dark brown eyes and pale skin, though he’s quite short. He looks away for a moment, down to his dropped coat and Stephen sighs, figuring he’ll engage in those manners Wong claims he doesn’t have and he picks up the coat.

His companion grins, snatching it back enthusiastically. “Fantastic, we’re married. Where do you live?” he asks and Stephen is positive if Christine heard the noise he just made she’d probably get a good laugh.

Excuseme?” he asks, dumbfounded.

“I’m a selkie. We going home or what?” he asks and oh dear godhe’s heard the stories but he never thought he’d be inone.

“Excuse me while I go throw myself off this building,” he tells his companion. Husband, by selkie standards. Fuck sakeshe didn’t even know those were aroundstill.

“You’re at a hospital so pretty sure you’d uh… just be saved. Seriously I’m not that bad, I make good company,” he says and oh surehe’s certain that’s what this guy thinks.

“You just trickeda man into marriage. I’m sure your company is fantastic,” Stephen hisses sarcastically.

His companion looks utterly unrepentant about his actions. “Look, give me a week and I’ll be out of your hair,” he says. “Tony, by the way,” he adds.

“Absolutely not. I don’t drag home every supernatural creature that tricks me into marriage,” he says, nose in the air.

“That’s because no one has tricked you into marriage before and I think that’s offensive. I didn’t trick you so much as give you an opportunity to join me in matrimony,” Tony says.

Stephen turns to give the hospital roof a longing look but he’s sure the drop will do little more than leave him hurt in the hospital for awhile unless he lands just right. And he knows his luck; he just got marriedto a fucking selkie in a parking lot. He doubts fate will be kind enough to kill him. “You are notcoming home with me,” he tells Tony.

*

When he gets in the door Wong frowns at Tony, who fucking makes himself at home in Stephen’s living room. “I appeared to have gotten married,” he tells Wong, who certainly wasn’t expecting that.

Wong looks over to Tony, who grins at them. “I’m sorry, what?”

“He’s a selkie,” Stephen says in way of an explanation.

Of all the responses he could get from that he doesn’t expect Wong to start laughing hysterically. “Oh you’re quite lovely. Want some tea?” he asks Tony.

“I’m more of a coffee person, but thanks,” Tony says and Wong nods.

“Stephen too. I’ll make some,” he says, shuffling off to the kitchen.

Tony smiles at him, “we have something in common!”

“Us and ninety five percent of the adult American public. That’s not a meaningful connection,” Stephen mumbles, walking off so he doesn’t have to deal with this.

Wong clearly anticipates him in the kitchen and Stephen resents that he looks amused. “You know all you have to do is stick him back in his coat and throw him in the ocean to rid yourself of this, right?” he asks and oh come on!

“Should have called you from the parking lot,” he mumbles. “That’s closer to the ocean.” As soon as Wong is done with that tea he’s throwing Tony backwhere he came from.

“This is why you keep me around,” Wong tells him, handing him off a cup of coffee. Wong carries Tony’s coffee and his tea back to the living room where Stephen is fullyprepared to wrestle Tony back into his coat and into the damn ocean again.

Except when they walk in Tony’s fucking coat is in the fireplaceand Stephen is tempted to throw himself off the roof. Except this bungalow is small and he probably won’t die. Tony walks over and pulls the mug of coffee from Wong’s hand. “Thanks,” he says before coming to stand by Stephen, leaning into him like he has a right to be there.

*

Tony knows that trapping someone in a marriage is a dick move, but he’s got his reasons and he’s more than happy to leave Stephen be. He’s got a terribly busy schedule anyway given that he near lives at the hospital he works at. Its admirable, how dedicated he is to helping people though he denies that’s his reason. He claims he finds biology and the human body fascinating, which he does, but that’s not his reason for being a doctor. At the moment Stephen is looking over a case the way he usually does when he’s at home and Tony hands him coffee. He takes it without saying anything for a long moment before he looks up at him.

“Is this your attempt to be more convenient to me?” he asks.

Tony shrugs. “Works for Wong,” he says. As far as he knows Wong has no job though taking care of Stephen should count as a full time job. The man is a messand without Wong Tony is certain he’d die. Wong seems to appreciate the help around the house even if Tony wishes he could do something else with his time. But for now its best to lay low.

“Wong didn’t trick me into his arrangement,” Stephen says and Tony sighs.

“I know it’s not… ideal. But I didn’t have much of a choice.” If he did he wouldn’t have tricked Stephen into taking his coat anyway and he sureas hell never would have burned it.

Stephen considers this for a moment before he sets the X rays aside. “Fine then, explain to me why you had no choice. And why me in particular?”

He shifts uncomfortably, not expecting the conversation to go this way but he supposes he doesowe Stephen an explanation. “My… family situation is complicated. And I chose you because I’ve seen you pet the dogs,” he says. Cats, sometimes too, but its mostly dogs that hang out by the dock. Cats don’t seem to like the water.

“That’s barely an answer on both accounts. Dogs, that’swhy you chose me?” he asks.

“Homeless dogs,” Tony corrects, “that everyone else sees as a nuisance. But you don’t, you treat them nicely and you don’t need to. No one is looking.”

Stephen considers this for a moment before sitting back in his seat. “The family situation, must be some complicated if you eliminated your only way back to the sea. I know you miss it, all selkies do. I’ve read up on them.”

That’s sweet, Tony didn’t know he did that. “I… my father is abusive,” he says quickly, wanting to get it out of the way. “And his best friend is worse. Its not like I want to live here, and I didn’t want to trick anyone into marriage. But that’s better than what I had before, even if I-” his voice unexpectedly cuts out before he can says ‘even if I can never go back.’

“And you chose me because I’m nice to homeless dogs?” Stephen asks, baffled. “Next time you trick someone into marriage pick someone who’s nice to homeless humans. People like dogs; they’re not usually impolite to them. Homeless people on the other hand? Not so much.” He says this like Tony has the ability to repeat this plan and frankly his theory that Stephen being nice to lesser life forms meant he’d probably be nice to him has proved correct. He supports Wong as well, even though he doesn’t need to. Though he supposes Wong supports him too.

“This isn’t a plan I can repeat,” Tony reminds him, unable to keep the sadness from his voice because he doesmiss his home and he doeswish he could go back. But that’s not what’s in the cards for him.

*

Stephen shouldn’t care about the stupid selkie, he trickedStephen into marriage but he’s never really liked to see people upset and Tony spends a lot of time staring at the ocean out the window. He can’t just do nothingso he makes some plans after work and goes home to pick Tony up. Tony seems surprised about this development but follows Stephen along anyway.

“A pool?” he asks, giving a skeptical look to the small body of water.

“Its not the ocean, but its something,” Stephen says, shrugging. He figured Tony wouldn’t appreciate a trip to the beach so this will have to suffice.

Tony considers it for a long moment before grinning and stripping his clothes off before throwing himself into the pool, leaving Stephen quitesurprised by his lack of modesty. He leaves Tony be though, more interested in the spinal surgery he has in two days so he gives Tony time to swim around while he looks things over. Christine tells him he’s obsessive, but he thinks he’s cautious. Not a bad thing to be when you can kill people doing your job.

Tony looks enthused in the water, swimming around happily as he wades in the deeper part of the pool. “How come you’re all the way over there?” Tony asks and Stephen shakes his head.

“Not fond of the water,” he says. Not since his sister drowned, but he doesn’t tell Tony that.

“Come on, come swim with me,” Tony asks, looking adorably enthusiastic by the pool’s edge.

Stephen shakes his head. “I um. Can’t swim,” he says eventually. Its not totally false, its been long enough that he’s not sure he remembers how but he can technically swim.

“That’s okay, I can teach you!” Tony says, eyes bright.

Oh, that’s sweet. He should say no because he hates the water and he knows this won’t go well but he’s never had good sense. So he sets his things down and walks over to the pool, carefully perching at the edge of it. “I can watch you from here,” he says hastily. He doesn’t like being this close to the water as it is.

Tony swims over, pulling himself a little out of the water as he leans almost into Stephen’s space. “Come on, I’ve got you. This is a pool, nothing dangerous here,” he says like the poolisn’t the dangerous thing in itself. “Whatever it is your afraid of it can’t hurt you here,” Tony murmurs.

Of course he’s used to the ocean so he’s right in his own way. And its not like Stephen doesn’tknow how to swim. It’s just been a long time, most of his life by now. A wet hand settles on his thigh and he refocuses on Tony. “Its okay,” Tony tells him.

“That’s not reassuring coming from a man who tricked me into marriage,” Stephen points out and Tony laughs.

“It was one time, promise,” he says, hand over his heart and Stephen rolls his eyes fondly.

“Still quite a big ethical problem,” Stephen tells him.

“Then let me make it up to you,” Tony says. “Come on, let me teach you how to swim. I’ve always wanted to teach your species how to swim. Humans are terrible at it.”

Stephen smiles, just a little. “Actually, I’m a witch. But we’re still not very good in the water.” And Stephen tends to work with eldritch magic so its not like his abilities help him out any.

Tony holds out his hand. “Well come on, then. Let me help you.”

He’s a moron for doing it, but Tony isnaturally quite good in the water and he looks so sweet, hand extended to him so he reaches out and lets Tony pull him into the water. He clings to the side of the pool and Tony’s shoulder, panicking when his feet don’t land on anything solid. “Its okay,” Tony says fast. “I’ve got you.”

Stephen remembers too late he’s nakedin the water though he supposes he’s still fully clothed. This was an awful idea and it only gets worse as Tony slowly pulls him away from the side of the pool and into the deeper water. He can’t help the way his breath hitches up as he clings harder to Tony, who doesn’t seem to have a problem supporting them both.

“Its okay,” Tony repeats. “I’m literally a sea creature and this little body of water is pitifully shallow. There’s no wayyou could end up hurt in here.”

That’s what hethinks. Stephen shakes his head and pulls away, quickly paddling back to the side of the pool and pulling himself out. Tony frowns from where he is. “Well, you’re not goodat it but it does appear that you can swim. Good news!” he says excitedly.

Its notgood news. Stephen curls his legs up to his chest and presses his face into them as Tony swims back over. “Hey,” he murmurs. “What’s wrong?”

Stephen lets his breathing even out before he answers, slowly prying his face from his knees. “I… can technically swim. But I haven’t done it for most of my life, not since my sister drowned. I tried to save her but-” his voice unexpectedly gives out and he looks away. Its been a long, longtime since he’s brought Donna up. Probably the better part of the last two decades. He’s certain Wong was the last to hear about her. Even Christine doesn’t know she exists.

“Oh,” Tony murmurs. “That’s… accidents happen Stephen. Even selkies drown sometimes.”

Stephen frowns, “how’s a sea creaturedrown?” he asks, incredulous.

“Well, we need to come up for air sometimes so if we do drown its usually because we’ve done something stupid and locked ourselves into a place we can’t escape without help and that’s how we drown,” Tony says.

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Stephen mumbles.

Tony laughs softly. “Yeah, stupid.”

“You’ve nearly drowned on multiple occasions, haven’t you?” Stephen asks and Tony sighs.

“I have a good friend, Rhodey, who usually saves me from these things.”

“He should have saved you from your dumb marriage plan,” Stephen tells him.

“He tried, but I hid his coat so he was more concerned with not ending up married to some random human that found it first,” Tony says and of course.

“You’re ridiculous. I am marriedto a sea creature who has nearly drownedon multiple occasions. Utterly absurd,” he mumbles and Tony grins wide, looking happier than he should given that he’s been insulted. “What?” he asks.

“You said we’re married,” he says and oh please, that means nothing.

*

When they get home Stephen tells Tony to shower first, a concept he finds absurd given that he used to live in the ocean. He keeps comparing humans to birds walking around in bird baths but showers are not optional so Stephen gets him into the damn thing anyway.

He mostly ignores Tony when he gets out, more concerned with getting the chlorine smell off himself. When he gets out Tony is asleep in his bed and Stephen considers sleeping on the couch but this is hisbed and if Tony complains he’ll remind Tony which one of them has a problem with ethics given that Stephendidn’t start this marriage unexpectedly.

*

Wong gives him a lookwhen he shuffles into the kitchen the next morning. “You’re attached to the selkie,” he says.

“Am not,” he mumbles.

“What’s he take in his coffee?” Wong asks.

“Nothing because he’s a freak,” Stephen mumbles, reaching for the cup Wong has already prepared.

“You’re attached to the selkie,” Wong repeats.

“Am not,” Stephen says.

“You don’t even know what Itake in my coffee and we’ve lived together for fifteen years. You’re attached.”

Stephen rolls his eyes. “You don’t even drink coffee Wong, you’re a tea snob.”

*

Tony is curled in Stephen’s lap trying to help him win at poker but Wong is shockingly good. Good enough that Tony’s starting to think this game is rigged because he’s good at math and he looked up how to count cards. Math is off and his math is neveroff.

The doorbell ringing saves Wong from his suspicions though and Tony goes to open the door, shocked to find Rhodey and some random human behind it. “Um. Hey?” he asks more than states.

“Hi, this is Sam, my husband. He found my coat, but he’s pretty cool,” Rhodey says.

Oh shit. He was certain no human would find that! “You need to get your coat and go back to the ocean!” Tony tells him.

Behind him Stephen looks baffled. “You burnedyour coat, what right do you have to judge?” he asks.

Rhodey’s eyes all but pop out of his head. “You what? Oh my god,” he mumbles, pinching the bridge of his nose.