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Prince Steven’s expression was cold and calculated as he gazed upon the people of the kingdom.

His people, he corrected. One day.

The thought may seem cruel and selfish, but Prince Steven was anything but a ruthless man. Those who knew him knew he was a kind-hearted soul, and that he carried a warmth akin to the hearth of a fire—not only due to his friendly and welcoming nature, but also literally in sense of his draconic heritage.

His bloodline came from generations upon generations of purebred dragon shifters. It was a royal family secret, however. Centuries prior to his father’s ruling, a war had broken out between the king and other kingdoms who believed the ability to shapeshift into a dragon was a great, but unfair advantage. They believed the only reason the Rogers family had power was because of their kind. This painted a rather large target on their backs.

There were years of battles and death, and hope was dwindling, until a relative far in Steven’s past decided they would go into hiding for some time. A new king came in place once the current king and queen at the time’s child had grown to an adult. The kingdom had not known the child was the son of these previous leaders.

Their son had declared from now on, no more dragon shifters shall rule. This was a lie, of course. That son went on to marry another dragon shifter in private.

But it was not Prince Steven’s concern. It was merely his secret to keep.

His father, King Joseph, was making an announcement of sorts. About what, Steven couldn’t tell. While he did have the kingdom’s best interests at heart, his father had a tendency to be repetitive. The kingdom didn’t seem to mind, though. As long as they were safe, happy, and treated equally—which Steven’s parents ensured.

Clearly, their family wasn’t powerful because of their kind, but rather their kindness. Steven couldn’t understand why this was so difficult to see, but he had to live with it.

Finally, his father’s message comes to a close. The people are dismissed. Steven clenches his jaw as he watches them file out, off to continue their work and trade.

“Steven?”

“Hm?”

“Something on your mind?” His father asks gently. The prince shakes his head.

“Nothing much. The usual.” The corners of his lips quirk upwards, but he bites back his ‘portrait smile,’ as his mother would call it. “Just wondering how you pull it off so well.”

“Ah,” his father acknowledges with a well-intentioned nod. “Well, you see, son, it is nothing a little patience and a good ear cannot accomplish. I have no doubt you will get here one day, too.”

One day. The words echo in Steven’s head.

“I would hope,” Steven quips. The king laughs, and pats his son’s shoulder before walking off, presumably to go do more of his kingly duties for the day.

Steven finally relaxes his shoulders, and takes a deep breath. As much as he shouldn’t, he felt a need to head out and stretch his wings.

 

-=-

 

Tony laughs as the hatchling dragons hop and prance around him, finding their feet and expending energy. They hadn’t yet learned to fly, but Tony had to watch his extremities as they still had bite and a baby flame.

He feels a tug at his shirt, and sees that one of the hatchlings has latched its jaw onto the material. He swats at the small dragon, shaking his head exasperatedly.

“You can’t keep eating my shirts, you know. It’s not good for you,” Tony tuts the hatchling. The dragon blinks up at him before finding interest in a butterfly floating about just a few feet away. Tony snorts. Hatchlings and their short attention spans. It never failed to both amuse and intrigue Tony.

Tony hears footsteps approach from behind. “I think you need to find friends that won’t eat your clothes, Tony.”

Tony tilts his head back to find Pepper hovering over him. “I have you and Rhodey, don’t I?”

“Sure. But that leaves you with what? Two human friends and a bunch of pets?”

“They’re not pets, Pepper,” Tony grumbles.

“I know,” she grins. “Just thought I’d get a rise out of you. I’m serious about the friend thing, though. I think you need to spend some time with someone who doesn’t know what you do for a living.”

“And why does my occupation matter?”

“Because unlike me and Rhodey, many people think pretty lowly of these creatures.”

“Why would I want to spend time with someone who doesn’t like these cuties?” Tony coos at the hatchling trying to climb into his lap. He scratches the underside of the dragon’s chin, the animal in turn emitting a low growling noise similar to a cat’s purr.

Pepper sighs. “That wasn’t my point. I know how much you love these guys, but you have to go out sometimes, y’know?”

Tony utters a few expletives as he stands, shooing the hatchlings away. He dusts off his pants, and levels with Pepper.

“Fine. You want me to go out, I’ll go out. That just means you’ll have to feed everyone when dinner comes around.”

Pepper shrugs. “Fine by me. I know the drill.”

“’Course you do. I’ll see you, then.”

And without another word, Tony sets off down the trodden path through the forest, the path that connected his home to the outside world.

Tony couldn’t care less that Pepper was concerned for his social life, but the fact she insisted he needed new friends was irritating. It wasn’t like he needed friends. Not to mention, with the steady addition of new creatures he has taken to caring for, he couldn’t spare much time for people when he had such a responsibility on his hands.

He’s about midway through his walk when he sees a flash of blue amongst the trees, and a disturbance of birds fleeing from the same area he’d seen the pop of colour. There’s movement and rustling, and Tony can’t help but feel the urge to investigate.

He creeps closer, using the trees to his advantage. What he sees leaves him beyond amazed.

A large—much larger than he had ever seen—dragon, dark blue scales glinting in the light as it lay, sunning itself. What such a fantastical, magnificent creature was doing out here, Tony had no idea, but it sure as hell beat going out to town.

Not wanting to startle the beast, Tony quietly sneaks around to where the dragon’s snout it, but keeps a safe distance in case of, well. Fire.

Tony itched to write down his observations, but alas, he had left his notebook at the house. Whether or not he’d have thought to take it, Pepper would have snatched it from his grasp and tell him about not needing to cart around a journal when visiting with people.

Tony becomes too encased by his own thoughts while running through possible ways of getting information down in his head to notice the dragon was looking at him with a curious, reptilian gaze. It puffs some smoke to catch his attention.

Tony jumps, and suddenly being on this end of the dragon seemed ten times scarier. He offers out a hand as a sign of peace, stepping closer to (hopefully) pet the dragon. The creature eyes his hand, almost amused. At least, as amused as a dragon could seem.

His eyes are closed tight when he comes within touching distance of the dragon, afraid he’d have to witness his own hand being chomped clean off. Normally, when interacting with bigger dragons, Tony had no issue since he had essentially parented those dragons since they were still in eggs. This wild encounter, however, had him undoubtedly nervous.

But then a smooth, deep voice interrupts his thinking.

“You can put the hand down. I won’t eat you, I swear.”

Tony cracks an eye open to see a rather handsome blond smiling at him, head tilted endearingly. Wow, he had a nice face, but he was also—

“Christ Almighty you’re naked!” Tony screeches.

The man simply laughs as if this were a regular occurrence. He then stalks over to a nearby tree where a pile of clothes Tony hadn’t noticed earlier were laying. He dresses quickly, and Tony tries not to ogle him as he does so.

Only after a few minutes of caveman-thoughts does Tony finally register, “Wait. Wait! You’re a—are you a dragon shifter?”

“Mm hm,” the man nods. Why he seems so cheery, Tony can’t quite decide. But holy shit. Tony had never met a dragon shifter before. They seemed rare, nowadays, since the war of kingdoms once upon a time.

“That’s—wow,” Tony was embarrassingly speechless in front of this beautiful man. He holds out a hand in offer of a handshake this time. “I’m Tony.”

“I’m—“ The man hesitates as he takes Tony’s hand. “Grant.”

“Grant,” Tony parrots, and he decides he likes the name, but still has a weird feeling about it. “It’s nice to meet you. But what brought you all the way out here?”

Grant shrugs. “Wind carried me. Just needed some time away.”

“Huh. Well, funnily enough, that’s exactly what my friend is making me do.”

“Time away?”

“Mm hm, except,” Tony clicks his tongue, “you actually want to get away. I was perfectly content at home. Is it work stuff? Family stuff?”

“Honestly?” Grant huffs. “A little bit of both.”

Tony hums. He knew what that was like—it was the reason he started working with the creatures he did. The family business was too much to handle, and there was far too much pressure he didn’t need resting on his shoulders. So, he had up and left, and moved out to the forest where he built himself a nice cottage, and started caring for creatures of all kinds he managed to stumble upon in his walk of life.

“Uh. Grant?”

“Hm?”

“Would you, um,” Tony’s cheeks heated, “would you mind if I asked some questions? I just—I’ve never met a dragon shifter before, and I—I’m curious.”

Grant giggles, and it’s adorable, quite frankly. “I don’t mind. Ask away.”

Tony does, in fact, ask away. The two spend a better part of the day chatting, not only to have Tony learn about dragon shifters, but for them to learn about each other.

“Okay, but if you broke your arm, what would that translate to in your dragon form? Like, would your arm be broken or would a wing be broken?”

Grant peers at Tony strangely. “What kind of—my arm, obviously.”

“Does it heal faster when you’re a dragon?”

Grant shakes his head. “I would have to walk on it, which would make it worse. Flying would get too tiring after a while.”

“Fair enough,” Tony flops back into the soft grass, Grant perched on a tree stump overlooking him.

The sun had set minutes before, the stars beginning to dot the night sky. Pepper might start getting worried about his whereabouts, but he himself was in no hurry. Talking to Grant all afternoon had been enjoyable and interesting. The man was pretty open to answering Tony’s questions about dragon shifters, and in turn Tony would tell him stories about the creatures in his care. Grant listened to him with awe as he described the animals—both magical and non-magical. Tony felt pleased and a little bit prideful, but an unfamiliar, unidentifiable feeling had also been nagging at him.

“I should probably head home soon,” Tony eventually sighs. Grant chuckles.

“Got a curfew? Or better yet, a bedtime?” Grant teases.

Tony sits up, pouting. “No. I just don’t want my friend to be worried about me. Too bad the walk is so long...” Tony trails off wistfully.

Grant raises an eyebrow, but plays along anyway. “I mean. I suppose I could give you a ride home if you really need one.”

“Would you really?” Tony perks up. He hadn’t expected the man to actually offer. But who would he be to turn it down? To soar above the treetops, and feel wind rushing past as graceful wings glide along? No way would Tony decline.

“Of course,” Grant smiles gently. “I have to get home soon, too, but I’m sure the ride isn’t too out of the way.”

“If it’s an inconvenience—“

“It’s no problem,” Grant assures. “Come on.”

To say the flight home was incredible would be an understatement, but Tony had no other way to even remotely describe it.

Pepper’s reaction to Tony arriving on the back of a dragon, however, was pretty incredible. Seeing her face as he clambered off of Grant had been priceless.

“Tony, when I said hang out with someone, you know I meant a person. Not a dragon,” she tells him tiredly.

“Well, yeah, I know, but Grant h—where’d he go?” The moment Tony turns to gesture to Grant, he sees the dragon is gone.

“You were saying?”

“Nothing. I was... nothing,” Tony huffs. He begins trudging towards the house, but not before asking, “How are the hatchlings doing?”

 

-=-

 

“Steven, my goodness where have you been? We’ve been looking for you everywhere,” Steven’s mother scolds. “And oh my, look at your hair! Your clothes! You are absolutely filthy, Steven!”

Steven leans away from his mother’s poking and prodding as she inspects his outfit. “I was in the forest, Ma. Sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“The forest?” His mother pauses, furrowing her brows. “Don’t tell me you were—“

“I was getting restless, mother. Besides, no one saw me,” he lies. Though, even despite the fact Tony had seen him, he didn’t seem to have recognized the prince.

She sighs. “Steven, you know better than to shift around here. We cannot have anyone find out.”

“I know, Ma, but no one did. I’ll go get washed up. If anyone asks—I was in the private stables, yes?”

She nods, the ghost of a smile on her lips. “Of course.”

Steven returns a quick smile before stalking off to his chambers. He requests a bath be drawn for him, simply to busy the servants. Sometimes they could be rather nosy, and Steven would rather not word of his mini-adventure get out.

It was nice, and Steve was thankful to have talked to Tony. As the time for the prince to become king grew nearer and nearer, he became less and less unrecognizable over time. To find someone with no clue who he was had been a breath of fresh air. He had recognized the woman at Tony’s home, however—she was Virginia “Pepper” Potts, a royal advisor. Steven had not realized that that was where she would be staying on her time off. It was one of the reasons he was off so quickly.

Steven couldn’t stop thinking about Tony as he went about his nightly routine. There was something about his genuine questions, and the way he spoke so passionately and kindly about the creatures he took care of—it was fascinating, but most of all—it was endearing.

Steven wanted to see Tony again, but he knew it was too soon. He thought he should at least wait until Miss Potts had returned from her time away. He could wait that long, he had plenty of patience, but Steven knew he wouldn’t be sleeping that night without a distraction.

That was how Steven ended up in the knights’ quarters, hoping his friend Sam wasn’t quite asleep yet.

The door creaks open, and Steven hears, “Man, I swear, there better not be—oh. Hey, Steve. What’s up?”

“I, uh. Needed some company?” He tries, but Sam remains expressionless. Steven adds, “Thought we might be able to grab something from the kitchen and sneak out to the gardens. You know. For old times’ sake.”

Sam sighs, looks Steven up and down, and shrugs. “Whatever. But you’re telling me what this is all about when we’re in the gardens and full of food. I’m not dealing with any of your shit on an empty stomach.”

They had gone to the kitchen but unfortunately had forgo the snacks as they had stopped making a habit out of stealing food a night long ago when they had been caught by the king, and the chefs were no longer leaving out food they knew would be “stolen.” Thankfully Sam had been joking about it.

They strode through the gardens, where it was peaceful and calm due to a lack of activity—a lack only accompanied by the night.

“So what’s the matter?” Sam asks him once they’re far from the castle and engulfed in darkness, the only light being the moon shining down from a clear sky.

Steven sighs. “Met someone today.”

Sam nudges him. “Why do you say it like it’s a bad thing?”

“Well, it’s not, but—“

“But?”

“But he knows what I am. Doesn’t know who, though,” Steven explains sheepishly. Sam laughs.

“How does—“ Sam is nearly doubled over in laughter. “You know what, I want to meet this guy. Anyone who doesn’t know who the prince is and still sticks around? A miracle!”

Steven rolls his eyes. “Oh, you shut up.”

Sam wipes nonexistent tears from his eyes as his laughing calms, and Steven frowns. The only reason he was consulting with Sam was because, not only did he know Steven was a dragon shifter, but he was also one of his closest friends and trustees—Sam wouldn’t tell anyone about the family secret nor his encounter that day. 

“You should become the court jester with those jokes,” Sam teases. Steven punches Sam.

“It’s not that funny. And he was really nice, alright? He told me these stories about all these creatures he took care off—his most recent additions were these hatchlings he named DUM-E, Butterfingers, and U, and I want to meet them, I really do, but I couldn’t stay because apparently he’s also friends with the royal advisor,” Steven rambles, unable to stop himself.

“Sounds like Stevie’s got a crush,” Sam singsongs. “Did you say he was friends with Pepper, though?”

Steven hums. “She was at his house when we got there. I left as soon as I dropped him off, though. I’m not that stupid.”

“Maybe. You can be pretty dumb sometimes,” Sam nods sagely.

Steven looks to Sam, annoyed. “Why do I even bother with you?”

“Because I’m the only one that can stand you.”

“You, my friend, are an absolute ass. I should have you beheaded.”

Sam gasps, moving a hand over his heart. “You wouldn’t dare behead your best knight! A tyrant prince, you are.”

The two continue their walk in the gardens late into the night, laughing and gibing with one another.  Steven doesn’t mind too much when his father catches him sneaking back into his chambers—all he had really cared about was getting Tony off his mind, at least for now.

 

-=-

 

Tony doesn’t actively seek Grant out per se, but he does, on occasion, venture back into the forest to maybe see if he can find the dragon shifter lurking around.

Pepper doesn’t ask any more questions about Grant for the rest of her stay, and he doesn’t mention anything further. Rhodey visits a few days after Pepper leaves for the kingdom, what with being royal advisor to the king and all. She always insists she could get him a job and place at the castle, but he always tells her he’s more than content to be where he is.  Even if that was in the middle of the forest, away from everyone.

Rhodey tells him the same thing about getting out and making friends, to which Tony rolls his eyes. He didn’t see why needed more friends—he was functioning just fine. Tony doesn’t mention Grant to Rhodey.

It’s the day after Rhodey leaves to return to his knightly duties, back to the kingdom similar to Pepper, when Tony sees Grant again.

Tony walks out his front door to see Grant laying in the grass getting “attacked” by the hatchlings. He’s laughing, obviously unbothered by their nips and fire breathing as they climb over him. Tony watches on fondly—the sight was quite adorable.

“Hey trespasser!” Tony calls.

Grant props himself up, grinning. “Oh, hey there. Didn’t realize you’d be home!”

Tony snorts. “I’m rarely anywhere else. Might have to get off my property soon, though. I wouldn’t want to have to take this to the king.”

Grant smirks with something hidden Tony couldn’t identify. “I don’t think I’d have too much of an issue with that.”

“Hm. An outlaw. I see,” Tony chaffs, walking over to where the blond was still being trampled by the hatchlings. Tony is mildly surprised when the small dragons opt to ignore him in favour of biting at Grant and his clothing. He isn’t bothered by it, though.

“Not at all. I just happen to have some... connections... within the kingdom,” Grant answers rather vaguely. Tony decides not to question it.

Tony decides to change the topic instead. “So I see the hatchlings have taken quite the liking to you.”

Grant smiles up at him. “Yes, they have. Maybe they can sense I’m kind of like them.”

Tony scoffs. “Yeah, right. Those three are the dumbest little bastards I’ve had the opportunity to ever take care of. You sure you didn’t sneak them some food or anything? There’s no way they’d become so attached without food.”

“Careful, Tony, you keep making excuses and I might think you’re a bit jealous,” Grant teases. He pushes DUM-E out of his lap before standing to full height.

“’M not jealous,” Tony pouts.

Grant lifts a skeptical brow. “You sure about that?”

“I’m sure,” Tony scrunches his nose. “You wanna go inside?”

“I’d love to.”

Tony leads Grant to the house, the latter looking around in awe. Tony finds it somewhat odd, as his homey little cottage wasn’t really much to look at, but to each their own, he supposed.

“What? Like something you see?”

Tony doesn’t think about how Grant is looking right at him when he responds with, “I think I do, yes.”

“It’s not much to look at. The house is just as standard as any other might be,” Tony shrugs.

“Yeah, I know, I’ve just never...” Grant trails off as his gaze rakes over the interior.

“Never been in anything like it? What, are you a noble or something?”

There’s a playful, hidden smile like the one from earlier on Grant’s face. “Something like that.”

“Of what house?” Tony asks. He himself had been a noble once, but alas. Tony Stark just had to be a disappointment.

“Doesn’t matter,” Grant tells him. Perhaps the topic would be left for a conversation another day.

Tony brings Grant to the kitchen and sits him at the table. Tony busies himself around the kitchen, making tea and gathering an assortment of other snacks—other snacks being cheese and bread. Grant sits quietly, a polite guest. He attempts to offer help, but Tony refuses to let him.

He sets a steaming cup of tea in front of Grant, the plate of food in the centre of the table, and sits with his own cup and saucer. Grant thanks him, lifting the cup to his lips with the elegance and manners of someone who had most definitely been trained to drink tea that way. Tony watches—stares, more like it—and Grant smiles shyly at him when he catches Tony’s eye.

Tony blinks, and Grant chuckles. “What?”

“Nothing, nothing. I just—“ Tony sighs. “You’re... you’re really, um. Pretty? Or, or handsome if you don’t—“

Grant giggles this time, and it is nothing short of adorable. “Well, thank you. And for the record, I think you’re pretty too, Tony.”

Tony blushes and tries to hide his growing smile by stuffing his face with bread. Grant shakes his head, clearly amused.

“You think so?”

“I do,” Grant says matter-of-factly.

Tension Tony hadn’t quite realized existed was building, both Tony and Grant waiting for it to snap. Tony taps an anxious finger on the table as silence settles.

Tony inhales sharply. “Do you wanna... maybe...?”

“God,” Grant breathes out, “I thought you’d never ask.”

The tea and food is immediately abandoned as the two men push away from the table and gravitate towards each other. Lips crash together and desperate hands run through hair and under clothing. Tony directs them towards his bedroom in messy, misguided steps, the two laughing when they accidentally bump into the wall next to the door. Clothes are discarded and strung along their path, and their breaths are hot and heavy and intermingled.

They fall into bed and spend most of the day pleasured and sated and tangled together.

 

-=-

 

“You have to come to the kingdom for this, Tony. It’s important,” Pepper insists. She’s delivering him her patented “Come on, Tony. You can’t keep bailing on everything” face.

Tony couldn’t care less that the prince—Steven, or something like that—was finally being crowned king. Tony was just upset that he wouldn’t be seeing Grant for the next while because he was, well. Busy. Grant hadn’t elaborated, but the dragon shifter was rather elusive when it came to what he did for a living. Tony couldn’t blame him, though, as Tony had his own things he wouldn’t talk about.

“It’s important for the kingdom, sure, but I don’t see how the prince being crowned has any importance or relevance to me,” Tony tells her pointedly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Pepper huffs exasperatedly. “Okay, maybe it doesn’t have any relevance to you, but this is a very big event, Tony. Besides, I need a date for the ball afterwards, and James is on guard duty all night, so he’s unavailable. Please, Tony. Just this once.”

“I don’t even have a nice suit.”

“You’re a liar.”

“Fine,” Tony frowns. “I guess I’ll go, but only because I don’t want you to look lonely at the ball.”

“Right,” Pepper nods. However, she seems satisfied enough with his answer. “I’ll be back tomorrow to fetch you. Have your horse ready for noon.”

“My horse? Can’t we just walk?”

“It’s too long. We’ll miss the crowning if we do.”

“Fine by me if we do.”

“Well a lot more is at stake for me, so you will do what I ask,” Pepper chides. “It’s one day, then you can return to your lonely life in the forest.”

“It’s not lonely,” Tony pouts. “Grant visits me sometimes.”

“”Grant” is a dragon that you named. I don’t know if you forgot, but dragons can’t talk. Grant doesn’t count,” Pepper sighs. “Tomorrow. Noon. Be ready.”

With that, Pepper turns and leaves, and Tony slumps into a dining chair. Why her expectations for him were so high, he wasn’t sure. All he could do was listen, attend a crowning of some high-and-mighty prince, then attend the ball following. One day, then he would not have to travel back into the kingdom against his wishes for the next while. Not to mention, he doubted he would reach the crowning of the king after Prince Steven, so that issue was already eliminated.

Tony goes about the rest of his day making sure his “nice outfit” is still in decent condition and laying it out, tending to the hatchlings and other creatures milling about his property, and daydreaming about the day he would see Grant again.

He goes to sleep picturing Grant’s smile and kind blue eyes. Several hours later, after his much-needed rest, he begrudgingly gets up thinking about the same thing. He continues to think of Grant on the way to the kingdom, and all the way to the castle.

The villagers have all congregated, waiting for the king and queen to make an appearance before their son, who would then become king himself—additionally, the responsibility of finding a nice wife to produce heirs with was also to be placed on the prince’s shoulders. Tony couldn’t find it in himself to care. Royalty was weird.

King Joseph makes an appearance and a speech before his son appears. And his son look... awfully familiar, even from far away. Stoic and not very lively, but familiar all the same.

The colour drains from Tony’s cheeks as a moment of realization dons on him, and he lets slip a quiet, “Oh God.”

Pepper hears this and turns to glare at him, lips downturned into a frown. “What is it now, Tony?”

Tony gulps, eyes wide as he looks to her. “I’m sleeping with the prince,” he rasps.

“Sleeping with the...” Pepper is puzzled, brows drawn as she tries to think of a logical reason for this answer. “What are you talking about, Tony?”

“Grant was... Grant is Steven. He’s been—oh jeez. That means—oh boy.”

“Grant? The drag—oh. Oh. You were—oh.” Pepper seems to be in the same state of stupor as Tony over Grant being Steven, and Steven being a dragon shifter. But if he were a dragon shifter, that would have to mean that—

“The royal family still consists of dragon shifters,” Tony concludes in a whisper. Pepper is just as shocked as he is, despite having worked so close with the family for so long.

“That’s... huh,” Pepper’s shoulders drop. The crowning no longer mattered to the both of them. “I thought—“

“I did too.”

They watch the ceremony in silence, and by the time either of them come to some semblance of their senses, Prince Steven—Grant—is now king. The ball would begin shortly, and Tony had a newly-crowned king to confront.

Tony wasn’t quite overwhelmed walking into the ballroom, as it most certainly wasn’t his first time, but he still felt out of place. Though it wasn’t his first time, it had still been awhile.

He surveys the room for Steven. As much as he wanted to march up to the man and slap him, Tony knew that would be the worst thing to do in a room full of knights guarding the room and king himself. Slapping Steven would probably end up in decapitation. Unless, of course, Steven intervened. However, Tony was not chancing this.

Tony spots Steven, smiling along to some meaningless flirts from a few pretty, young ladies. Tony approaches with determination, only to be stopped by a knight standing nearby. Tony rolls his eyes.

“I need to talk to the king.”

“Have any better reason than that?” The knight questions.

Tony huffs. “It’s a personal matter.”

“Then care to identify yourself?”

Tony was on the verge of losing his patience with this man. He just wanted to talk with Steven, once known to him as Grant. “Anthony Stark of the Stark House. Son of Howard Stark. Ring any bells?”

The knight eyes him skeptically, but steps aside without another word. Tony could sense the question that was likely on the man’s mind, but Tony doesn’t wait to hear it aloud. He stomps up to Steven, shoving aside the maidens. The king looks surprised to see him.

“Tony! I, um—“ he coughs. “I didn’t, uh. Expect you to be here.”

“Really, Grant? Or should I say Steven?” Tony snaps. “Then where did you expect me to be when you were being crowned king? Huh?”

“I didn’t think—“

“Didn’t think my ass! Did you expect me to just be your mistress or something? Because that. Is. Low,” Tony growls.

“No, no, I would never,” Steven pleads. His eyes are sad. “I would never do that to you, Tony. I just can’t be with you because—“

Tony crosses his arms over his chest and narrows his eyes at the king. “Because I’m not a dragon shifter?”

“No! Well, yes and no,” Steven worries his bottom lip—he seems rather anxious to be discussing this so out in the open. “You’re not royalty, and on top of that, you can’t produce an heir.”

“I may not be royalty, but I’m still technically nobility,” Tony defends. “Besides, who says I wouldn’t let you get it on with someone like you to have a kid? Keeping the bloodline and all that. I understand that. But the rest of it?”

“We’re not even together, Tony—“

“I know, but—“ Tony shakes his head. “Why keep it from me?”

Steven’s mouth bobs open and shut like a fish out of water, obviously uncomfortable and unsure of what to say. Seeing as Steven didn’t know the answer himself yet, Tony walks away, out of the castle, off to his horse, and he goes home.

Tony’s night is sleepless, and he feels cold. Cold, and tired, and sad.

 

-=-

 

Becoming king couldn’t have felt worse after his talk with Tony.

Steven felt dejected as he completed his own kingly duties, trying hard to find a reason for Tony’s why. He wanted to know as well. At first, sure, he kept his identity secret because he wanted a relationship without preconception, but after gaining trust over so long—why hadn’t Steven told Tony sooner?

He had no valid reason or explanation. He had simply been selfish.

And after realizing this, Steven found himself flying with speed he rarely used towards Tony’s home. Being king gave him less of a chance to get away from the kingdom, so he would take this opportunity as is.

Steven stumbles across the grass in front of the house as he shifts midair to keep his momentum as he ran towards the house—never mind that he was nude as the day he was born.

He pounds on the door, praying Tony would answer. He had known Pepper—who was just as upset with him as Tony was, now that she knew the truth too—would not be at the house, and Rhodes, who he found out was also Tony’s friend, was travelling to another kingdom.

Steven is afraid Tony isn’t going to answer after he waits for what felt like an eternity, but then the door swings open to reveal Tony, who looked plain awful. There were dark bags under his eyes, and it appeared as if his hair hadn’t been brushed for days.

Tony does a onceover of Steven, before gesturing for him to come in.

“Let’s get you some clothes, first. I won’t be able to concentrate otherwise,” Tony says tiredly. Steven isn’t quite sure if he’s joking.

Steven does get clothing—stuff he had left at the house on previous visits—and sits at the dining table with Tony.

“I would start with an “I’m sorry,” but I’m sure you don’t want to hear it,” Steven begins warily, trying to predict what action Tony might take next. The man stays silent, a wordless prompting for Steven to continue.

Steven takes a deep breath. “Alright, then. I won’t say that I’m sorry, and I won’t try to tell you any excuses as to why I didn’t tell you. I don’t have any excuse. I just... I never told you because I liked getting to know someone without my status being in the way. I thought—I thought if I told you, you might see me differently, and I didn’t want that because I like you a lot, Tony. And this is without the whole dragon shifter thing, because that’s a completely different can of worms.”

Tony snorts. “No shit. I thought the royal family were all supposed to be human as of several hundred years ago.”

Steven shrugs helplessly. Tony barks out a laugh.

“Well,” he sighs, “I have to agree with you about not making excuses. Right move, mister-king-sir. But why you didn’t tell me? Dumb as fuck. I cannot believe you’re a king. There’s no way you have the brains for it.”

Steven pouts. “That’s mean.”

“I wasn’t trying to be nice,” Tony says, plain and simple.

“I can see that,” Steven nods. Then, tentatively, he asks, “So do you... do you forgive me?”

Tony hums. “I’ll think about it. It’s a big secret to have kept from me, your lover.”

“Lover?”

“Mm hm,” Tony smiles. “Lover. And hopefully, one day, your future husband as well.”

 

One day.