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The Trouble with Being a Unicorn

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It was nearly 2 am when the Avengers finally made it back to the tower. Filthy, exhausted, and miraculously uninjured, they dragged themselves out of the quinjet and to their respective rooms to shower.

Then they all gathered in the common room at the top of the tower to eat “whatever the hell is still open/not destroyed and delivers” in takeout. (This time it was Chinese, pizza and Indian.) It was Tradition.

And today, Peter Parker joined in for the very first time.

“Try the pizza with some noodles on top. It’ll change your life,” Bucky said, piling Peter’s plate high with alternating layers of carbs.

“I don’t think udon noodles goes with pepperoni pizza,” Peter said warily.

“Don’t give him that Buck,” Steve complained. “You can’t put udon on pepperoni.”

Peter sighed in relief as the plate was taken from him.

“Everyone knows that you have to put honey chicken on pepperoni,” Steve continued, and shoved a new monstrous plate at Peter.

Peter gave a low groan, but didn’t complain. He was too tired to argue. Steve ignored him anyway.

Clint rolled his eyes. “And I say that curry goes best on pepperoni. Spice on spice. Makes sense. You can’t pair honey with pepperoni-”

“Sweet and spicy is a classic!” Steve protested.

Peter did his best to pick the glazed chicken off his pizza.

“Sure, but the cheese ruins it-” Clint started.

“Ugh- not this again!” Tony groaned, emerging from the elevator. “What did I say about arguing at the dinner table?” he mock scolded, and smacked Clint upside the head as he walked past him.

The beta whined. “It’s Cap’s fault! He was giving the kid honey chicken on pepperoni!” he tattled.

“Only because Bucky gave him udon-”

Tony smacked Steve upside the head, which made Steve give off a grumbly growl of protest.

“You all are a bunch of uncivilized knotheads, you know that? Peter’s a growing omega! Which means he’s got a refined palette and does NOT need heaps of junk like you alphas!” He turned to Peter. “You have the butter chicken yet kid?”

Peter shook his head around his bite of slightly glazed pizza. Which was only mildly inedible. Clint was right. The cheese ruined it.

Clint rolled his eyes. “Not an alpha,” he sang resignedly. Everyone ignored him.

Tony shoved another plate at him, this time filled with rice and chicken and some sort of red sauce.

Behind Tony, Clint made frantic miming motions of dunking the pizza in the sauce at Peter.

Peter ignored him.

“Did anyone remember to order a salad this time?” Natasha asked as she emerged from the elevator.

“I placed an order for three salads Ms. Romanoff,” Jarvis said primly from the ceiling.

“Are you really going to eat salad right now?” Bucky asked, scandalized. “You took out like 4 guys with just your thighs- eat a fucking piece of pizza!”

She snorted. “The Maria Stark gala is in two weeks, and some of us have to fit into our spanx,” she said levelly, grabbed two salads, and pointedly shoved one of them in front of Clint.

“Hey!” he protested.

“You’re not allowed to get scurvy again, remember?” she said archly.

Clint made a face of disgust. “Can’t I just have some orange juice with my pizza?” he whined.

“No.”

Clint sighed, but started on the salad.

Tony started piling naan on Peter’s plate, and gave him the last salad.

Peter choked on a bite of chicken. “Why do I get the salad?” he whined. “I can’t get scurvy!”

“Because you’re still growing. Now eat,” Tony said firmly.

Clint, the eternal bro, tossed Peter a bottle of ranch dressing. Peter caught it without looking. As a protest, he drowned his salad in it.

Everyone ate in silence for a few moments.

“Where’s Bruce?” Peter asked.

“That is an excellent question. Jarvis, where’s Brucie Bear?” Tony asked.

“Doctor Banner is in his labs, sir.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Tell him if he doesn’t get his butt up here I’ll eat his vegetarian meatballs.”

A few seconds later, Bruce’s voice filtered down from the speakers in the ceiling. “You ordered malai kofta?” he asked hopefully.

“Jarvis was in charge of ordering so I’m going with yes,” Tony said.

“I’ll be up in a minute,” Bruce said.

Silence returned as everyone shoveled food into their faces. Bucky and Steve had a quiet competition to see who could shove the most food in their mouth at one time, Peter guessed. He couldn’t really explain the chipmunk cheeks on both of them any other way. He physically winced when he saw Bucky eat the udon/pepperoni pizza abomination he’d tried to pass off on Peter earlier. Bucky at least seemed to enjoy it.

Peter went for heaping seconds. He had a feeling that if he dawdled he’d be left with crumbs.

“So... what are we watching?” Clint asked.

Everyone groaned.

“No arguing at the dinner table,” Steve rumbled between mouthfuls of food.

“Peter’s the newest. He gets to pick,” Natasha said.

“Since when?” Bucky demanded.

“Since he’s new,” she said, and flicked a crouton at him.

“Did you just get ranch dressing in my hair?” Bucky whined. “I just washed that!”

“Peter gets to pick,” Tony said suddenly.

Everyone went quiet and turned to stare at Peter, who looked back wildly with a mouth full of naan. “Wa?” he managed.

“You get to pick a movie for us to watch,” Natasha said. “We always watch a movie together after a fight. It’s Tradition.”

Peter swallowed. “Um...” he looked around the room at the collection of crazy, twitchy, walking PTSD cases before him. “Beauty and the Beast?” he suggested faintly. He was fairly sure there was no explosions in that one. Right?

The suggestion was a hit. Jarvis showed the movie on a nearby wall, and one by one the Avengers relocated from the table to a collection of pillows and blankets and bean bag chairs on the floor in front of the screen.

Sometime around the snowball fight scene, Peter drifted off wedged between Tony and Steve with Bucky somehow draped over all of them. Natasha and Clint were somewhere on the edges of the pile, and Bruce slept on the couch behind him.

It was the best night’s sleep he’d ever had.

Which was why when Steve moved to get up at ass-o'clock in the morning, Peter whined like a dying pup and clung to his shirt. He wasn’t even fully awake yet- all he knew was that his warm, comfortable alpha was leaving the nest, and it was the worst thing ever.

“Shh...” a large hand cupped his face.

Peter whined some more. From behind him, Tony shifted and held him tighter, and rubbed a soothing hand on his back.

Peter didn’t let go.

The alpha sighed, and the large hand moved down to rub Peter’s scent glands- a dirty trick that worked, as Peter instantly went boneless and shivered at the reassuring intimate touch, releasing his grip on the shirt. He whined, needy this time.

“There you go... shhh...”

He felt Steve prod Bucky with his foot hard enough to rock the alpha in his place in the nest. The mass at his feet shifted. “Wha?” a sleepy Bucky said.

“Kid needs cuddles,” Steve whispered.

“Move over then. You were always shit at this,” Bucky grumbled.

Peter whined again as the hand left his scent gland, and the alpha left the nest.

“Shh... I got you kid,” Bucky whispered, and slipped into Steve’s former place. The new alpha moved Peter so that his nose was next Bucky’s scent gland and put out a pleasing gentle 'You’re safe now’ chest rumble.

For an omega raised by betas, it was the best fucking thing that had ever happened to him. For the first time that Peter could remember, he purred.

After a moment, Tony joined him.

Peter could feel Bucky’s smirk, and smell his self satisfaction, buried as he was in the man’s neck.

He drifted off again as Bucky gently rubbed his wrist up and down Peter's side, scent marking him.

It was officially, the best night ever.

Chapter Text

“You missed it,” Bucky declared at breakfast several hours later.

“Missed what?” Steve demanded, sipping a cup of steaming coffee and wiping sweat off his face with a towel from his run.

“He purred,” Bucky declared smugly.

Steve gasped. “What?!”

Peter choked on his cheerios. “I did not!” he protested. Bucky had promised him waffles, the dirty rotten liar, to let him out of the nest. Purring was something pups did. He was NOT a pup.

“I was talking about Stark, but yeah, you did to.”

Peter grumbled, but happily threw Tony under the bus. “You must have heard Tony then,” he lied.

Steve looked devastated. “I missed him purring?” he said forlornly.

“Yep,” Bucky popped the P. “That’s what you get for leaving the nest to go running at stupid-o’clock.”

Steve sighed, and rubbed his face. “I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” he said, still sad. “I always make sure to scent mark his pillows at night for his nest.”

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Jesus Christ, Stevie. You are just absolute shit with omegas, you know that?”

Steve snorted. “Yeah? And what do you suggest?” he snipped back.

“Here. Let me show you,” Bucky said.

Peter was in the middle of lifting a cheerio laden spoon to his mouth when Bucky came up from behind him, and physically lifted him off the bar stool. Peter squawked with indignation, and squirmed, dropping the spoon.

“Settle,” Bucky said gruffly, and manhandled him so that Peter’s face was squished up into Bucky’s neck.

Peter thumped against Bucky’s steel like chest and sputtered. “Let me go!”

“No,” Bucky said, then did that chest rumble thing that only alphas could do.

The fucking CHEATER. Peter felt his eyes flutter shut of their own accord.

“Gah,” Peter said intelligently.

Bucky rubbed Peter’s scent gland, and Peter could damn near taste the scent of “safe, warm, loved” being pumped out of Bucky.

Peter went limp and was purring in two seconds flat.

See? ” Bucky demanded. “It ain’t even that hard. How you always fuck it up is beyond me.”

Peter blinked. Bucky had stopped rumbling. He felt oddly drunk. He whined in protest. Why had he stopped? Stopping should be illegal.

“It’s not like I’ve had a lot of practice Buck,” Steve complained. “Omegas never even so much as looked at me-”

“Oh my god, let it GO already-” Bucky complained. “You’re mated now.”

Peter, feeling neglected, hissed and squirmed. Bucky ignored him.

Steve sighed. “I try but you know how he his- he’s barely in bed, and when he IS, he’s passed out in like five minutes,” he complained.

“Jesus... here,” Bucky said, and shoved Peter at Steve.

Peter squeaked as Steve swore and juggled frantically to put an arm under Peter’s ass and not drop his coffee at the same time. Peter instinctively stuck to Steve’s shirt to avoid being dropped like a sack of potatoes.

Bucky shoved Peter’s face into Steve’s neck. Peter squawked, and batted at Steve’s chest, protesting.

“Now rumble,” he demanded.

“What, now?” Steve protested.

“You can’t rumble on command?” Bucky goaded.

Steve flushed for some reason- “Bucky, I don’t think-”

“Come on! Don’t tell me you don’t know how-”

Peter whined, as he was currently being squished between two super soldier alphas, and couldn’t seem to get his brain online enough to form coherent words to protest this.

Steve swore quietly, took a breath and rumbled.

GODDAMMIT.

Bucky’s rumble had been soothing. Steve... Steve’s rumble was damn near rapturous. He could feel Steve’s rumble in his fucking BONES, how was this even possible???

“Now think about how you’ll always protect him,” Bucky commanded. “And rub his scent gland.”

Peter whimpered. Would he even survive such a thing? He could feel his soul being vibrated out of his body from just the rumble alone.

“Shh...” Steve said, and took a breath, inhaling the scent of Peter’s hair as if to center himself. He rubbed Peter’s scent gland, and ‘safe and warm’ began to radiate from Steve.

Peter purred like an idling mack truck. His eyeballs threatened to roll out of his head. Overcooked spaghetti had more structural integrity than Peter’s limbs at the moment.

“Holy shit,” Steve muttered in awe.

“See? Not hard at all,” Bucky said, and ruffled Peter’s hair affectionately.

They stood there for a moment, watching with fond amusement as Peter was reduced to a drooling purring puddle. Steve, growing more confident, abandoned Peter's scent gland to gently rub his wrist up and down Peter's back, marking him.

Peter felt himself start to tremble. A weird heavy feeling started to grow in his belly.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

Both alphas jumped. The rumbling stopped.

“Are you actually trying to break him?” Natasha hissed, as she shoved Bucky aside and pulled at Peter. “He literally just presented two months ago!” she said sternly. “You’ll break his baby omega brain rumbling like that!”

“Was just showing Steve how to get an omega to purr, that’s all,” Bucky said. “Don’t need to freak out, Nat.”

Nat glared at them.

“What?” Steve said defensively. “He’s purring, he likes it-”

“And he’d like crack cocaine to, but that doesn’t mean we should feed it to him!” she snapped, and pulled harder.

Peter stuck to Steve. “Nno,” he protested, slurring.

“SEE?” she demanded.

“What’s happening?” Clint asked, sounding barely conscious.

“Stupid alphas are BREAKING Peter,” she said.

Peter groaned, and held on tighter.

“Let go of him!” Natasha demanded.

“I’m trying but he’s stuck to my shirt-” Steve said, sounding alarmed.

“Alpha!” Peter cried. Why was his alpha trying to get rid of him? What was happening? He sobbed pitifully. “Alpha please-”

For a moment everyone froze.

“I told you!” Natasha hissed.

Bucky and Steve swore, and everyone kicked into high gear.

“Just lose the fucking shirt already-” Bucky said, exasperated.

“Get his legs-”

“Oh my god, Steve if you would wear shirts that actually fit you-” Clint complained.

“They do fit me-”

“Normal shirts don’t need paint remover to get them off, Steve!”

“Just cut the damn thing off, already!” Natasha snapped.

Clint and Bucky had to cut Steve’s shirt and pants off with kitchen shears to get Peter loose because he was using his spider powers to stick to them. The alphas retreated to the elevator while Natasha hissed at them.

“I’m so sorry-” Steve was saying.

“Get to a different floor already!” Clint shouted at them, as he and Natasha wrestled the blubbering mess that was Peter back to the nest.

Natasha kicked Tony awake.

“I’m up! I’m up- what the fuck happened?” Tony asked, aghast.

Natasha shoved the now sobbing Peter at him. “Your husband,” she spat, “was using him for fucking rumble practice for god knows what-”

Peter sobbed harder.

“And now his brain is broken,” she finished.

Tony swore, and hastily gathered the teenager in his arms. “Wake up Bruce,” he insisted.

“I’m already awake,” Bruce said. “What do you need Tony?” he asked quietly.

“Get down here and rub his feet, would ya?” Tony ordered. “Clint get the blue blanket- we’re gonna swaddle him.”

It took an hour. An hour of whispered reassurances and cuddling and hand and foot massages before Peter stopped being a sobbing blue burrito of complete and utter omega sadness, and was merely a grumpy omega with a headache in a blue blanket.

“Wat...” Peter slurred into Nat’s shoulder as she gently traced his scent gland with her fingers. “What... happened?” he felt like he’d been hit by a semi-truck.

She sighed. “Shhh детка, all is well. It was just some alphas being stupid,” she muttered into his hair.

“Hmmm...”

Behind him Tony sighed. “You feel okay kid?”

“Headache,” Peter bitched.

“Jesus Christ...” Clint muttered. “Thought you might go into a false heat there for a moment.”

Peter made an alarmed noise.

“Shh... nothing to worry about Pete,” Tony said firmly, and kicked Clint hard enough to get a yelp out of the beta. “I’m gonna go get some coffee, okay?”

Peter grumbled, and buried himself further into Natasha. She was surprisingly soft, and made an excellent cuddler.

Tony staggered off into the kitchen. “Jarvis, show me what the fuck happened,” he growled.

5 minutes later a raging Tony was going down the elevator to “Wherever the fuck those knotheads are.”

Peter watched him go. “Is Tony going to kill Steve?” he asked distantly, still feeling a bit concussed.

“If he doesn’t I’ll finish the job,” Natasha said sweetly.

“Good,” Peter said, and fell asleep.

*****

Tony hadn’t foamed at the mouth in years. YEARS.

Okay, there had been that one time at an after party, but that had been the alkaselter’s fault, really. The fact that he’d punched that guy in the face while he was foaming was a coincidence, no matter what the tabloids said.

Ever since the doctors had given him the “Chill or die of a coronary” speech for like, the 100th time, he had taken time to make sure that while yes, he was living off mostly caffeine and inspiration, he wasn’t angry while he was doing it. Manic? Maybe. Angry? No.

Hell, he mediated with Bruce now. He was chill as FUCK. Or, at least, could be.

So when Bucky took one look at his face and scrambled desperately to get out of the way, Steve turned around in confusion, and got a face full of barely warm coffee for his troubles.

Steve stood stock still, while Bucky stared at them, eyes wide as saucers. He started edging towards the elevator.

“Jarvis freeze the elevators,” Tony snarled.

Bucky froze.

Steve spoke first. “Tony- I’m sorry-”

“You.... you stupid ALPHA!” Tony hissed. “Do you even CARE that you nearly triggered a false heat in Peter?”

“What?” Bucky said, confused and alarmed. “It was just rumbling-”

“It wasn’t just any rumbling. That’s the rumble you do to make my heat progress faster. You IDIOT. What the hell were you thinking?! He’s 15! He just presented! He hasn’t even had a second heat yet! You going for ‘how to damage a baby omega the most’ award or something?” Tony ranted.

“My rumbling makes your heat come faster?” Steve said, confused.

“Oh my god,” Bucky breathed. “You stupid son of a bitch.”

“What?” Steve demanded, clearly lost. “You said- YOU SAID to rumble, so I did!” Steve said, pointing a finger accusingly at Bucky.

“There’s a difference between the rumble you do for your mate and the one you do for a pup, ya dumb fuck!” Bucky snarled, and smacked Steve’s shoulder angrily.

“And that’s another thing!” Tony threw his mug at the floor. Both alphas jumped when the mug shattered into a million pieces.

“He’s a goddamned human being, not your fucking care bear! You don’t get to just... pull his string whenever you feel like it! Did it ever occur to you that he might not WANT to purr?”

Both alphas stared in confusion at Tony.

“But... when omegas purr it’s a good thing,” Bucky said, hesitantly. “It means you’re doing a good job of taking care of them,” he said slowly.

“He’s a CHILD! An unmated, recently presented CHILD who was raised by Betas!” Tony ranted. “And you treated him like a stuffed toy! Making him purr on command like that is just...” Tony shook his head. “If I ever, EVER catch you doing that to an omega again, I’ll castrate the both of you,” he growled.

“Tony...” Steve tried.

“He cried. For an hour, Steve. AN HOUR.”

To his immense satisfaction both alphas looked immediately horrified and shamefaced at that.

“It... it won’t happen again,” Bucky said quickly. “We... we didn’t mean to hurt him.”

Tony glared at them. “I just don’t even understand. What on earth even made you two think this was a good idea? Would you have even pulled this stunt if Peter was a girl?”

Both alphas looked confused. “Well, no-” Bucky said. “You can’t do that to an omega-”

“PETER IS AN OMEGA!” Tony roared. “He just happens to have a dick! He’s just as much of an omega as any other omega! Or are you saying that I’M not an omega?”

“What? Tony- Tony, no,” Steve said sweetly. “Baby, you’re a perfect little omega, you know that-”

Tony bristled and snarled a bit. He was not “little” that stupid piece of shit Rodgers... omegas were just generally shorter, that’s all. It’s not HIS fault that he was the second shortest of the group. He was a perfectly normal height THANK YOU VERY MUCH, it was everyone ELSE who was just freakishly tall...

Bucky, the smarter of the two, Tony decided, looked as if Steve had just jumped onto a landmine and took a step backwards. “Steve...” he hissed warningly.

“Um... I mean... I love you?” Steve tried again. “And your ass looks... just amazing today,” he threw in, and tried his best “I’m Captain America and I’m being gosh darn charming right now” smile.

Tony narrowed his eyes but did not allow himself to be sidetracked. He was immune to the smile anyway. Mostly.

“So why did you do that to Peter then?” he demanded.

“I...” Steve said, clearly grasping at straws.

“Because we’re idiots who don’t think, that’s why,” Bucky said, taking the hit.

Tony turned his glare on Bucky and made a decision.

“I’m banning you both from common floors,” Tony snapped. “For a week.”

Steve hunched in on himself. “Tony- you don’t mean that-”

“NO! I’m the pack Omega. It’s my job to protect the pack when we’re at home, and that’s what I’m doing! I’m protecting the pack! So suck it up!”

Steve looked absolutely wrecked when it clicked that Tony was protecting the pack from HIM, the pack’s alpha.

“Tony-” he whined.

“No- no-” Bucky stepped up and grabbed Steve’s arm. “It’s okay. We get it. We’ll camp out on the guest floor,” he said quickly.

“Good,” Tony spat, and stalked back to the elevator. “Back to the common floor Jarvis,” he said.

He glared daggers at the pair until the doors closed.

Stupid fucking alphas...

Chapter Text

Peter woke up at noon, and felt tired. He stumbled out of the nest and into the kitchen and made himself a bowl of cheerios.

He was just... confused. He ate his bowl at the kitchen’s island, and had the strangest sense of deja vu. Where the hell was everyone anyway?

“Jarvis... where is everybody?” he asked.

“Sir is in his workshop. Doctor Banner is in his labs. Clint and Natasha are in the gym. Sergeant Barnes and Captain Rogers are on the guest floor.”

Why the fuck were Steve and Bucky on the guest floor? He wondered.

Not really sure what else to do with himself, he went to Tony’s lab.

The music dimmed as Peter entered, and Tony looked up from whatever the hell he’d been soldering with a “Hey there Underoos! How you feeling?”

Peter grunted, and slumped down in a chair near Tony. “Weird,” he said. “I had like... the weirdest dream...”

Tony stilled. “Oh?” he said innocently. “About what?”

“I... don’t know. I was... sitting and eating my cheerios at like the kitchen island, right? And then... Bucky like... hugged me? And I couldn’t stop purring-” Peter shivered. “And then...” he flushed, stopped, and shrugged. “It was just weird.”

Tony sighed. “Come here. Let me look at you,” he said, and walked over.

Peter held still as Tony felt his forehead with the back of his hand, then propped Peter’s chin up to get a good look at his eyes. “You feel hot at all?” he asked seriously.

“No,” Peter grumbled.

“You take your suppressant this morning?”

Peter flushed. “No,” he confessed.

“You know, suppressants don’t work if you don’t take them, Pete. Even if they’re super fancy and customized just for you,” Tony said with a pointed look.

“I know! I just... I just forgot, alright?”

“Do I need to put a reminder on your phone?” Tony asked, not unkindly.

Peter made a face. “No,” he said sullenly.

“Any side effects from the new formula? You sleeping alright? No mood swings?”

“No. Just... just the dream-”

Tony ruffled Peter’s hair. “Don’t freak out over just a silly dream Pete,” he said.

“Yeah I know,” Peter said.

“Good. Go take your pill, then come back and help me with this, yeah?” Tony asked.

“Sure,” Peter said.

After hours tinkering with Tony in his shop, he felt much better- almost back to normal.

At 6, Jarvis dimmed the music and announced “Sir, it is time for Peter to return home.”

Peter groaned. “Come on Jarvis! It’s only- oh my god it’s 6!”

“Better hurry up or you’ll be late kiddo!” Tony teased as Peter sprinted towards the elevator.

“I know! I KNOW!” Peter called back. “See you next Friday! Jarvis, my room!”

It took forever for him to loot his room and put his homework in his backpack. He looked at the time on the wall- fuck, he was going to be LATE.

“Forget it, I’ll swing there-” he muttered, and shoved his mask on.

“Whoa- where’s the fire, Pete?” Clint demanded as Peter sprinted across the common room and towards the landing pad/balcony. Thankfully Jarvis saw him coming and retracted the glass doors for him. Clint, Nat and Bruce were sitting at the table, eating dinner.

“Late for Aunt May!” he shouted, “Sorry, bye-”

He took a running leap from the balcony, webbed the support beam that Tony had installed just for him, and swung out over Manhattan. Swinging was always his favorite part of the day. The adrenaline rush was amazing, especially when he let his toes brush the sidewalk.

But today he was going for speed, and not fodder for his youtube channel, so he stayed high and worked hard, using his weight and arching his back with pointed toes to get the most out of every swing. It was a full body workout, and by the time he got to Queens, he was sweating.

He collapsed behind a deli and changed. Which meant that he took his mask and gloves off, threw on a hoodie, sweatpants and some tattered Vans before he did his best to slink nonchalantly out from behind the Deli.

He skipped the elevator in the apartment building and instead galloped up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

He put his keys in the lock at exactly 6:25, and he slipped in.

Holy fuck, he was EARLY.

“Aunt May!” he called. “I’m home!”

He bounded happily across the living room to the kitchen. “Aunt-”

The kitchen was empty. No pots were on the stove, and the oven was cold.

“Aunt May?” he asked hesitantly.

The apartment was likewise empty.

He felt a pit grow in his stomach, and hastily dug his phone out of his bag. There was a voicemail on it, dated from two hours ago.

“Sorry Peter! I don’t think I can make it to family dinner tonight,” May’s voice was strained. “They’re doing a surprise drill at the hospital and I don’t know when I’ll be getting home. Say hi to Tony for me! Oh- and tell him I said it was okay for you to spend the night! Love you!”

Peter sighed, and collapsed against a wall. Of course. The one time he was actually early for something...

He had a box of mac’n’cheese for dinner and double decker PB&J sandwich before going to bed in an empty apartment.

He got up to a blaring alarm clock. He could have an alarm on his phone, but he’d accidentally smashed enough cheap alarm clocks in the year or so since the spiderbite to know better.

He hopped into the kitchen, trying to put on pants and shoving things into his book bag at the same time, and failing miserably at all three things. Aunt May was there, making her lunch, and she wordlessly handed Peter a brown paper lunch bag as he flailed past.

“Hey-” Aunt May said.

Peter looked up.

“I’m really sorry about last night-”

“No- no! It’s fine. It’s work. It’s important, I know.”

She sighed and gave him a fond smile.

“You’re such a good kid Peter,” she gushed. Peter flushed.

“Aunt May-” he protested.

She ruffled his hair. “Don’t forget I start working in the surgery rotation today,” she reminded him. “So if you need anything, you’re going to have to call Tony-”

“Because I can’t call you when you’re in theater-” Peter recited. “I know!”

“Good,” she said. “Take your pill.”

Peter rolled his eyes, but he grabbed the pill of the counter and downed it dry.

“And take a shower when you get home, you stink!” she called after him as he ran out the door.

“Good to know,” he grumbled, and smelled a pit. It was a little bit funky, but nothing an extra dose of deodorant wouldn’t fix. He’d spray himself down when he got to school.

He got on the subway and crammed himself into a seat near the end. A few seconds later the lady sitting next to him made a face at him and stood up, and wandered down the aisle to stand.

Peter made a face back. Jesus Christ, he knew he was a bit funky, but he wasn’t nearly as bad as the homeless guy at the other end of the car. Peter could smell the piss even from here.

A few stops later and the train was starting to get full, but no-one sat next to Peter. Which he was grateful for, really as he pulled out his chemistry homework and rechecked the math on his answers.

Two stops later and he was shoving the homework away, and pressing his way out of the car. To his utter astonishment, people actually moved out of the way for him. He was actually able to say “Excuse me” at a normal tone instead of his usual half-shout.

Maybe this morning wouldn’t be complete and utter shit after all, he thought.

The weirdness continued at school. Peter ducked into the beta bathroom. Two girls who were doing their makeup in the mirror frowned at him.

He gave himself a quick spray with the can of axe he kept in his book bag.

“Wrong bathroom asshole,” the taller of the two said.

Peter rolled his eyes. He was an omega, but everyone knew the omega bathroom was for girls only, and the one time he’d tried to use it it had resulted in an argument with two omega girls and a teacher that ended in the principal’s office. In the end, they had agreed not to suspend him so long as he never did it again, and had chalked it up to a “misunderstanding”.

The fact that he was an actual omega didn’t seem to matter to any of them. He was a boy. And boys weren’t allowed in Omega bathrooms.

Thankfully the betas didn’t seem to care who used their bathrooms as long as they weren’t alphas.

“Sorry,” he said, too tired to argue, and slipped back out again.

He went to his locker and shoved things inside. Something was off. He just... couldn’t put his finger on it.

And then Flash shoulder checked him, hard enough to make Peter drop everything in his hands. Peter sighed, and turned to glare at Flash-

“Oh! Sorry.” the tall blonde alpha said, then turned to go.

Peter wasn’t sure who’s brain shorted out first. They both seemed to freeze at the same second, as they both realized what had just come out of Flash’s mouth.

WTF...

2 milliseconds later Peter was pinned against the lockers and Flash was towering over him. Flash took a good long sniff of Peter, which turned Peter scarlet with shame. Flash scowled at him.

“You charging by the hour now, Penis?” he taunted.

“What?”

“How much you charging? 50 cents?”

“Let GO of me Flash!” Peter said, pushing at the larger boy. He couldn’t use his super strength. Not here, where there were witnesses and cameras.

“Whatever it is, you’re overcharging,” Flash sneered down at him.

“Hey- hey- break it up!” A teacher boomed from down the hall. “No alpha fights! Don’t make me get a hose!”

Flash backed off, and purposely spat on Peter’s shoes. “Fucking beta slut-” he rumbled, before going down the hall.

A teacher jogged up. “Hey- no fighting in the hallway-” he scolded.

“I wasn’t-” Peter said weakly, cheeks still red. He looked at his shoes in disgust. Dammit. He tried to wipe it off on the floor, but only managed to smear it over the canvas.

The teacher glared at him. “Get to class then,” he said.

Peter sighed, but obeyed.

Well, that was nice while it lasted, Peter thought disgusted. And his morning had almost been not complete and utter crap.

He slid into his seat at biology next to Ned, who promptly wrinkled his nose at him. “Jesus Christ dude-” Ned complained. “Did you forget to shower this morning?”

Peter rolled his eyes. “I took one last night!” he complained. “And I put on extra deodorant. It cannot be that bad.”

“Are you due for a heat or something?” Ned said, concerned. “You take your suppressant this morning?”

“What? No!” Peter flushed. “And yes-” he hissed, “I took my fucking pill, alright?”

Ned rolled his eyes. “I’m just telling you dude. Bro code, remember?”

Peter grumbled. “Everyone’s acting weird,” he complained. “Flash shoulder checked me and then apologized.”

Ned stared at him with eyes as wide as dinner plates. “Are you serious?”

“Yes! And then- then he shoved me up against the lockers and asked if I was charging by the hour.”

Ned’s face morphed into confusion. “What? What does that even mean?”

“I know, right? He even called me a slut! I’d suspect additional brain damage, but there wasn’t a football game this weekend-”

“Maybe he got another concussion at a practice?” Ned offered.

Peter rolled his eyes. “That can’t be right. If he gets another one they’re gonna kick him off the team, you know that-”

“Mr. Parker, I’d like to start class now if you don’t mind,” Mr. Hastings, an ancient beta said dryly from the front of the class.

Peter flushed. “Sorry Mr. Hastings,” he said, and sank a bit in his seat.

“Now to recap what we were talking about last Friday- secondary genders,” Mr. Hastings said, and started writing on the board. “There are three of them, I won’t insult you by asking what they are-” he flashed a tired smile at the class. “Alpha, Beta, and Omega.”

Peter sighed. Didn’t they cover this in health class last year? He doodled in his notebook.

“Now Betas can be male or female, and they make up about 50% of the population. Alphas are almost all male, but occasionally female alphas do happen. This is opposed to Omegas, who are exclusively female.”

Peter froze in mid-doodle, and sank a little in his chair. Jesus christ, did his teacher really just say he didn’t exist? He looked over, and saw that Ned was staring at him, horrified.

Someone raised their hand. “Why is that Mr. Hastings? The textbook doesn’t say.”

Mr. Hastings paused. “I’m sorry?”

“Why aren’t there any male omegas?” the girl continued.

Mr. Hastings considered for a moment. “Well, I don’t really know. If I were to guess, I would say it’s to do with genetics, and the fact that Alpha and Omega designations are unique genetically recessive traits... “

The teacher thought for a moment. “If people are interested, I can do some research and we’ll cover it when we go over Punnett Squares in two weeks. I think there we’ll find an answer as to why it’s impossible for there to be a male omega.”

“Mr. Hastings-” Ned spoke up, and Peter could FEEL his life flash before his eyes-

“Ned-” he hissed, willing the boy to shut the fuck up.

“Peter is an omega,” Ned, ever the oblivious, finished.

Peter wondered if throwing himself out the window would get him a suspension or just a detention.

Mr. Hastings blinked owlishly at them. Several of the students snickered.

Peter could feel his cheeks burning, and couldn’t bring himself to meet Mr. Hasting’s eyes.

“Very mature, Mr. Leeds,” Mr. Hastings said, sarcastically. “But I think in the future, if you want to embarrass your friend, you should refrain from doing so in my class,” he said firmly, his eyes narrowing. “We have a zero tolerance policy for bullying in this building.”

Ned squirmed in his seat. “Sorry Mr. Hastings,” he muttered.

After a tense moment, Mr Hastings sighed. “Anyway- to get us back on track, what evolutionary advantages does having a secondary gender give humans over, say, apes?”

Peter kicked Ned’s ankle, and hard.

“I can’t believe you just did that!” Peter hissed.

“Ow- shit, I’m sorry-” Ned whispered. “You know I don’t have a good filter-”

Mr. Hastings shot them a glare.

Peter kicked Ned again, and settled for being grouchy in his chair.

Goddamn it. Why did school have to always suck??

He didn’t see Ned again until lunch time. Which was a good thing because it took that long for him to go from murderous to merely outraged with his best friend. Ned looked up with delighted relief when Peter plonked down in the seat next to him at the lunch table.

“Oh my god, Peter- I am so sorry-” Ned blurted. “I was an ass-”

“Why don’t you just tell everyone that I like to take it up the ass, while you’re at it?” Peter hissed, seething. “You can make a poster about it and put it up over the main entrance. Save everyone the trouble of wondering.”

“I’m sorry! I wasn’t- I wasn’t thinking!”

“Flash had better not hear about it,” Peter grumbled. “I’ll probably get lacy panties or dildos or something put in my locker. Again . And this time I’ll make YOU deal with them!”

Ned winced. “What did you do with those panties from last year, anyway?”

Peter sighed. “I threw them out in a dumpster.”

“I thought you were going to donate them?”

Peter gave him a Look. “Oh yes. Of course. What a good idea. Just show up at an Omega Shelter with an armful of lacy, crotchless panties for donation. I’m sure they’d really appreciate it.”

Ned’s wince increased. “Yeah. That does sound like a bad idea.”

Peter rolled his eyes.

Ned looked dejectedly at his rectangular pizza. Peter dug his sandwiches out of his lunch bag. They sat in brittle silence for a few minutes.

“It’s just that I fucked up, but like, I’m here for you, you know?” Ned blurted. “And I’m sorry, I really am!”

Peter sighed. “Ned. It’s okay. We’re... we’re still cool. But you’re dealing with any locker stuff, you got it?”

Ned sagged with relief. “Yeah. I will,” he agreed. He paused. “You gonna eat your raisins?” he asked hopefully.

Peter wordlessly handed his mini box of raisins over.

“So, what did you do this weekend?” Ned asked cautiously, seeking safe conversational ground.

“I went out with-” Peter stopped, and waited for the security guard to walk past them. “I went out with them ,” Peter said quietly. “On Saturday.”

Ned’s eyes widened. “REALLY? I didn’t see it on the news-”

Peter shrugged. “It wasn’t a big thing really. There was supposed to be like super smart killer robots or something, but it was basically a bunch of like... super villain roombas with like... spikes and stuff welded on. It was totally lame. I spent most of my time on the ceiling taking out sensors while Cap and Tony and Bucky just beat the crap out of anything that moved.”

Ned sighed. “But you were there, right? That had to count for something-”

Peter shrugged. “I guess? The best part was when we got back-” Peter hesitated. That security guard was walking past again. He waited until he was gone.

“Yeah?” Ned prompted.

“We ate together and then we watched Beauty and the Beast in the common room and fell asleep there.”

“You watched Beauty and the Beast with freaking Iron Man?” Ned asked, awed.

“Yep.”

Ned stared at his pizza. “That is so cool.”

After a minute, he asked “Why Beauty and the Beast though?” clearly confused.

Peter sighed. “They made me pick and I... I panicked!”

“You picked Beauty and the Beast? Dude!”

“They all have like crazy PTSD! I was afraid that if I picked like John Wick they’d either all freak out or spend the whole time complaining about his stance or something-”

“Why would they-” Ned paused as the security guard went past, yet AGAIN. Peter frowned at the man, who was now passing ridiculously close to them.

They both froze as the man stopped behind them, and... sniffed? Then glared at them. Peter and Ned looked back. Peter was sure his face had “WTF” written all over it.

The guard stalked off.

“What the hell?” Peter asked quietly, seriously skeeved.

“Is it just me, or did he just scent us?” Ned said quietly.

Peter blinked. “What? Why would he do that?”

“I mean... you are an omega...” Ned started.

Peter groaned.

“And you do... well... I said you need to take a shower man,” Ned continued.

“For the last time, Ned,” Peter hissed furiously, “I’m not going into heat!”

Ned threw up his hands. “I didn’t say that-” he sighed. “You were saying that they’d complain about his stance?” he said, changing subjects. “That’s impossible. Keanu Reeves is like a master at shooting a gun.”

“It’s what Clint did when I watched Die Hard with Tony. He just wandered in and started complaining about how McClane was doing everything wrong,”

Ned looked scandalized. “Hawkeye dissed John McClane?” he gasped. “That’s...”

“Like blasphemy or something, I know! I thought he’d be a fan because they both spend like half their lives in vents-”

“Hawkeye goes in the air vents?”

“Dude, I think he sleeps in them,” Peter said. “I’m fairly sure the last time he slid out of one he had to shove a blanket back in.”

Ned shuddered. “Sounds claustrophobic.”

Peter opened his mouth to reply, but security dude was back, this time with another security dude friend. Peter and Ned watched them suspiciously as they walked past, this time almost close enough for the new guy to brush past their backs. Which was stupid, because while they were sitting at the table nearest the wall, they were a good 4 feet from it. No physical contact should be needed to get past.

The men walked into a nearby hallway.

“Dude...” Ned said. “Do you think they’re doing it on purpose?”

Peter stared after them. “I have no idea,” he said faintly.

This was such a weird fucking day.

An hour later Peter was sitting in his history class, when the PA system whined into life, and said “Ms. Hudson? Please send Peter Parker to the counselor's office.”

Everyone looked at Peter.

“Well? You heard ‘em. Off you go, Parker,” Ms. Hudson said.

“Okay-” Peter said slowly, and gathered his things. Why the hell did he need to go see the counselor?

He sighed, and walked out of the classroom. This day just kept getting worse and worse. When he’d sat down in History class, the seats next to his had been the last to fill. Which, ya know, wasn’t new. He wasn’t exactly Mr. Popular or whatever. But then people had sat next to him, and then when he’d looked up 10 minutes later he’d discovered that every last one of them had quietly scooted their chairs as far away from his as possible. So that he had like... an invisible bubble surrounding his chair.

Jesus Christ, he was going to spend like 2 hours with a scrub brush from the kitchen in the shower when he got home today.

He walked down the hallway. A tiny omega carrying a load of books squeaked and plastered herself to the wall as he passed, dropping everything. He stopped. “You alright?” he asked earnestly.

“I’m sorry-” she babbled. “I just...” she inhaled, and went a little cross eyed. “I’m fine,” she said, her voice high and strained, obviously lying.

“Let me help-”

“NO!” she shouted, then looked like she’d rather sink into the floor just now. Peter knew the feeling, so he backed off both literally and metaphorically.

“Um...” he said, feeling awkward. “I’ll just... go then?”

“Yes! Um, yeah. No I’m fine, thanks for asking.” she said nervously.

Peter walked down the hall, feeling like the biggest jerk in existence. Seriously, what the hell?

Thankfully he made it to the office without further incident. He knocked.

“Come in!”

Peter opened the door and hesitated. Sitting behind a desk was a man Peter had never seen before. Peter frowned. What had happened to Ms. Farfield? She’d given Peter like 20 pamphlets when Uncle Ben had died to give to his Aunt. Some of them had actually been useful. And she’d helped him collect his homework and get extensions on a couple of exams. He’d liked her.

“Don’t be shy, come on in Peter,” the man said with saccharine smile. “Just want to talk that’s all.”

Peter stepped inside, and it wasn’t until the door closed behind him that he was aware of the two alpha security guards standing in the corners where he couldn’t see them when he first entered. Clint was going to skin him alive for his lack of situational awareness.

“Um... hi?” he managed.

The counselor- another alpha, Peter realized with growing horror, waved at the chair in front of his desk. “Take a seat Peter.”

After a long moment, Peter sat. He felt oddly like he’d just walked into a firing squad. Behind him, the alpha guards shifted. Peter swallowed his panic.

Jesus Christ get it together, he thought desperately. The man is a teacher . Not a supervillain. He was Spider-Man for crying out loud. He could handle a bit of alpha posturing.

He would be FINE.

“What do you want to talk about?” Peter asked.

Chapter Text

Tony was in the workshop when the call came in. His music turned off, and Jarvis said, “Sir, Peter is calling.”

Tony was flat on his back under a vintage car on a rolly thing, up to his elbows in an engine. “Patch him through J,” he grunted, as the nut he’d been cursing at finally accepted its fate and popped loose. He swore a bit as he banged his knuckles in the process.

Was school out already?

“Tony?” the hesitant shaking voice coming from the ceiling hardly sounded like Peter at all.

Tony froze. Was the kid crying? He slid out from under the car.

“Peter?” he said, as calmly as possible, and sat up. “Peter what’s wrong?”

“I...” there was broken sob. “I... I need you to come get me. Please.”

Somewhere on Peter’s side of the line there was a loud banging noise and some sort of shouting.

Tony felt his blood run cold. “Where are you?” he demanded.

“I’m at school. I’m... I’m in an omega room,” Peter said, sounding as if he was trying very hard to be quiet.

“Are you going into heat Peter?” Tony asked, horrified.

“I... I don’t know!” More banging. “Everyone’s been acting so weird today- I can’t... I can’t breathe- I think - I think I’m dying-” Peter sobbed.

“Calm down. You are not dying. I know it might feel like it, but you’re not, I promise you. Can you breathe for me?” Tony said urgently, and began the hunt for his shoes. Why the fuck did he always have to work barefoot?

He could hear Peter trying. He found his elusive shoes.

“Did you take your pill this morning Peter?” Tony asked, running scenarios in his head. This should NOT be happening. Even without suppressants the kid should have another month at least before his next heat. But Jesus- if it WAS the kid’s second heat... the poor kid. The second and third heats were just the worst if he remembered right. No way in hell was he going to let Peter go through that in some stupid emergency heat room.

“I did!” Peter said, only slightly hysterically. “I swear!”

“It’s okay sweetheart. There must be something off about the formula or something,” Tony said, throwing a shirt on. “Jarvis, tell Clint to get the quinjet airborne five minutes ago!” he yelled.

“As you wish sir,” Jarvis said.

There was more banging on Peter’s end.

“Peter what on earth is that noise?”

“It’s alphas. They’re... they’re trying to get in,” Peter said weakly.

Tony froze. “They’re... trying to get in?” he repeated carefully. Normally when alphas were confronted with a locked door between themselves and an omega in heat they turned sweet and coaxing, trying to get the omega to come out.

“Yes!” Peter’s voice broke.

But if alphas were actively trying to break down the door-

“Hey, hey. That is not your fault. Some teachers will by soon and scare them off, okay?” Tony said, beating back panic. Maybe some of the students were just that inexperienced? “But you’re safe, alright?”

“Tony...”

“Yeah kid?”

“They ARE my teachers,” Peter said in a tortured whisper. “They... they chased me in here. I don’t... I can’t...” he sobbed.

“I’m sorry- did... did you just say that you have grown alphas trying to break down the door to your heat room? And that they chased you there?” Tony was incredulous.

“I’m scared, Tony,” Peter whimpered. “They... they’re so angry -”

Tony’s heart froze. He remembered all too well the first heat he’d had at MIT. He’d been on his own for the first time, and had lost track of his heat cycle. He’d ended up having to walk past an alpha frat house in near full heat on his way to the Omega Center on campus, praying that he’d make it in time to a heat room before his body gave out.

The cat calls had turned violent when they realized that the heat smell was coming from a male. A few of them had chased him with baseball bats, screaming about how he was a “freak.” Rhodey had saved him then - he’d been walking past, heard the shouting, and not only defended Tony, but carried him the rest of the way to the Center. They’d been friends ever since.

Some nights he still wondered what would have happened to him if Rhodey hadn’t been out walking that day.

But it was 2019. Things were different now. There were laws protecting omegas from job discrimination and everything. It’d been a different time all those years ago.

....

They were going to tear his pup apart limb from limb.

He moved faster.

“Sir, Clint wants to know what the emergency is,” Jarvis said.

“Call everyone. Dress for a riot. Peter’s in trouble,” he babbled, and went for one of his Iron Man suits.

“We’re coming Peter!” he shouted. “Jarvis end the call,” he said, and activated his helmet.

“I thought Peter was at school,” Natasha said as Tony clanked his way onto the jet several minutes later.

“He is,” Tony said.

A second later, Steve and Bucky jogged on, dressed in dark tactical gear.

“What’s happening?” Steve asked.

“Something’s wrong with Peter’s suppressants. He’s going into heat at school.”

“Do we really need tactical gear for that?” Bucky asked.

“There’s a group of alpha teachers trying to break down the door to the heat room,” Tony said tersely. “Apparently they chased him there.”

There was a stunned silence. A grown, sexually mature alpha did not chase omegas down, heat or no heat, unless they were in full blown rut. And even then, other alphas would corral and take the rutting alpha down. For there to be multiple males in rut at the same time... Something was wrong. Very very wrong.

Clint started to take off.

“What the hell?” Bucky said, clearly disturbed. “They work at a fucking SCHOOL. You can’t go to work at a school when you’re in fucking rut! Please tell me they don’t let rutting alphas into schools in the future?” he asked plaintively.

“They don’t,” Natasha said shortly. “He’s a mutant. Do you think his heat pheromones might be triggering them to go into ruts?” Natasha asked.

“It might be because he’s male,” Tony said bitterly. “Did I ever mention the time I went into heat and got chased by a group of alphas with baseball bats when I was 15?”

There was a beat of silence.

“No. You never told me that,” Steve said, looking pissed.

Tony shrugged.

“Okay... so... worst case scenario: Peter’s heat is triggering full blown ruts,” Natasha said.

“I have a horrible thought,” Clint said.

“Yeah Clint?” Steve asked warily.

“If it’s affecting the teachers that badly, what is it going to do to the kids who just recently presented?”

There was a moment of silence as they all thought about that. The entire immature alpha population of a school... going into rut at the same time.

“How big is Peter’s school again?” Steve asked distantly.

“Peter attends Midtown High, which has an enrollment of 3,321 students,” Jarvis said. “And with alphas making up a little under one forth of the population, there would be around 720 alphas in attendance.”

“I’m getting the tranq guns,” Bucky said, and started rifling through storage compartments.

“No,” Steve said, slipping on his Game Face. He thought for a moment. “No guns.”

“You’re crazy! Going into a school full of rutting alphas and you don’t want to take tranq guns?” Bucky protested.

“We don’t know that it’s that bad yet. So far we have a few teachers acting oddly. We can’t just storm a school armed with military weapons. The panic could hurt more kids than rutting alphas,” Steve said sternly.

“It doesn’t matter what we go in like. We’re going to cause a panic,” Natasha pointed out.

“So fuck it. I’m bringing a tranq gun then,” Bucky rumbled.

“You wanna be the one to explain to Coulson that the reason you took a gun into a school full of children is ‘fuck it’?” Steve said archly.

Bucky froze. “I ain’t scared of Coulson,” he hissed. But he looked at the gun rack like he was having second thoughts.

“Stun batons are in a bottom drawer!” Clint called from the cockpit.

“Great. So now we’re beating rutting children instead of shooting them,” Tony muttered. “That’s SO much better.”

“You’re not beating anyone, Tony. You’re gonna have to lose the suit,” Steve said firmly.

Tony snorted. “Like hell-”

“If Peter isn’t lucid I’m gonna need you and Nat to get him out. He’ll freak out if a giant metal machine gets near him. We need Tony Stark for this, not Iron Man. Bucky and I can take on any alphas on site.” Steve said. “Nat can too, if need be,” he added hastily after she gave him a mild death glare.

“Fine,” Tony hissed. He hated it when his mate made so much sense. “I’m keeping the gauntlets though,” he insisted.

“I have a concern,” Natasha said.

“Go.”

“Are we gonna have to worry about you boys being affected?”

“Are you saying we can’t control ourselves?” Bucky said defensively.

“I’m saying that you’re alphas. In fact, you’re super alphas. If anything, don’t hormones hit you harder than normal?” Natasha asked.

Steve and Bucky shared a confused look. “I... don’t think so?” Steve said hesitantly. “They never really affected me before the serum... I was always so sick...” he mused. “And... I think I do okay now...”

Bucky shrugged. “I have no idea. It’s never come up before. And most people wear scent blockers these days,” Bucky complained. “Can’t even tell an omega from a beta anymore,” he said with a wrinkled nose of disgust.

“That’s exactly why omegas wear them you know,” Tony said darkly.

“If you’re looking to filter pheromones, the gas masks under the floor should work,” Bruce’s voice came from a speaker.

“You listening in, Brucie Bear?” Tony asked.

“You said it was about Peter. I’m worried,” Bruce said.

“Sorry about leaving you behind Doc,” Steve said.

“Don’t worry about it. You didn’t say code green so...”

“I found the masks,” Bucky said. “Or at least I think I did. I thought all my old masks were destroyed?”

“We don’t destroy what works,” Tony said, and started the process of getting himself out of suit. “Can someone pull the tab on my legs, please?”

Nat knelt to help him.

“I’ll set up the heat room,” Bruce said.

“Do you have a floor plan for the school Jarvis?” Steve asked.

A map appeared on the floor.

“I have taken the liberty of tracking Mr. Parker’s phone and marking his location,” Jarvis said. “He is in an emergency heat room.” A blinking red dot appeared, right in the middle of the school.

Tony sighed. Of course.

7 minutes later Clint executed a perfect combat landing on a soccer field. Bucky and Steve were jumping off even before Clint had turned the thrusters off. Tony and Natasha were close behind.

They ignored the stares of some teenagers on the track next to the field, and Tony jogged forward to cut a hole through the 6 foot chain link fence with the laser on his gauntlets. Bucky pulled the section free, and they proceeded in silence across the parking lot to the school itself.

The double doors were locked, but that was no trouble for a super soldier foot, and Steve kicked it open almost absently before stalking down the hallway. Bucky followed close behind him.

Somewhere a bell rang. Doors started to swing open.

“GET BACK INSIDE!” Steve shouted. It was loud. Steve could be heard across battlefields without comms if he wanted to.

“You heard him! Back inside!” Natasha barked, and shoved a few kids back into a classroom. “Lock your doors!”

A few people poked their heads out before teachers started hastily pulling them back inside, and slamming the doors shut again. Tony heard some locks going in place.

“Sir, I am detecting several 911 calls from this location,” Jarvis said in Tony’s earpiece.

“Steve we’ve got maybe 5 minutes before the cops show up,” Tony said.

“Copy,” Steve said calmly, and turned right at a junction.

It wasn’t hard to see their destination. A group of 4 alphas were trying to force the door open with a crowbar. 2 of them were armed.

“Oh my god, Steve -,” Tony breathed.

“I see it,” Steve said with his “I’m super pissed right now” calm voice, and walked faster. The alphas were so busy messing with the door that they didn’t even notice their approach.

“BACK AWAY FROM THE HEAT ROOM,” Steve roared, putting the full force of his alpha command behind it.

Jesus Christ, Steve was the hottest thing on the planet, Tony thought. He was totally going to get a blow job when they got back...

To the left of Steve, Bucky put up an impressive snarl/rumble of Challenge. He sounded like a rabid bear with chainsaws for legs.

Somewhere, someone had gotten a hold of the office. An alarm started going off. “Code Red. I repeat. Code Red. This is not a drill. CODE RED,” someone was saying over the PA system.

The alphas froze, and stared at them.

The boys were an impressive sight, even Tony had to admit. Full combat gear with those stupidly intimidating masks from Bucky’s Winter Soldier days, and armed with batons. If Tony didn’t know them, he’d be running for the hills already.

Tony, by contrast, was wearing flip flops, a greasy black wife beater, and sweatpants. Which, ya know, wouldn’t normally be a problem because you can’t see what he’s wearing when he’s in his suit. He’s worn less before. He’s even gone naked once. (But never again. The chaffing had been awful.)

At least Nat looked nice in her catsuit. Tony has never figured out how the hell she gets into the thing so fast. Baby oil maybe?

An alpha by the door made a move for his side-arm and Tony moved to be more behind Steve. Dear god, they were putting a set of body armor on the jet for him when this was over.

Steve moved his left arm just so and a mini black shield appeared. It was more oval than the red and blue vibranium disc he normally carried, but it still got the job done. And the point across.

Two of the alphas started to back away. The two armed ones held their ground.

“You are trespassing in a school-” one of them said. It was impressive that his voice only wavered slightly.

“I said back away from the heat room!” Steve shouted. “Move or you will be moved!”

“Cooops,” Tony sang out, just to be obnoxious because he was antsy like that. They weren’t exactly decked out in their recognizable Avenger’s gear right now, and Tony was in no mood to try to soothe the ruffled feathers of the NYPD when they responded to the the “armed intruders at a school” call that was no doubt going out right now. Not when Peter needed to be home. Like now.

That seemed to spur Steve and Bucky into action. They both moved together towards the armed guards.

One of the guards got a shot off, but it bounced off Steve’s shield and the boys had them on their backs and hog tied in less than a minute. The other two alphas made a run for it, dropping the crowbar to the floor as they went. Steve took off after them.

Tony and Nat went to the door. “Sweetheart, open up!” Natasha said.

“We’re here Peter. Open the door,” Tony said loudly.

Silence. Tony laid his head against it, and heard only muffled sobs.

“Stand back,” he said to Nat, and she scooted away immediately. Tony used his laser to cut through the lock. He tried the door. It was jammed on something.

“Bucky?” Tony said.

Bucky punched through the door, and bent it backwards with his metal arm. The metal folding chair that had been wedged behind it screamed as it came along for the ride. Bucky thoughtfully kicked it down the hall, and out of the way.

“Thank you,” Tony said automatically, and slid inside. The first thing he noticed was the smell. It was sickly sweet with a metallic under taste. He wrinkled his nose. That was... wrong. He’d heard of heat scent being likened to apples or maybe roses. Nat’s smelled like oranges (or so she'd told him). But this was... burned white sugar. And he’d never heard of metal in a heat scent.

Also, the room was empty.

“What the fuck-”

Nat touched his arm and pointed upwards.

Peter was curled up into a whimpering ball in a corner of the ceiling.

Natasha sighed, staring up at the boy that was very much out of their reach. “This just got hard,” she said.

“Tony?” Steve called from outside.

“He’s on the ceiling and I forgot the damn broom at home!” Tony snapped back.

Beside him, Natasha huffed.

Tony took a breath. “Okay... okay... Peter? I need you to come down now, okay?” Tony said as softly as possible.

Peter whimpered, but did not move.

“I have chocolate chip ice cream for you at home,” he offered, “You want some ice cream?” The boy was a sucker for sweets.

The whimpering stopped, and was replaced by a guarded noise of interest.

“Steve will make you some waffles,” Natasha added. “You can have waffles and ice cream for dinner,” she offered softly.

“Tony?” Peter asked, sounding drunk.

“I told you I’d come. I need you to get down, okay? Can you do that?” Tony asked.

Peter seemed unsure. “Alphas,” he whispered hoarsely.

“Steve beat them all up for you, sweet pea,” Tony cooed. “Hit them with his shield and everything.”

Peter considered this, but didn’t move.

“We don’t have time for this,” Natasha muttered. “Steve get in here and tell him to get down!” she called into the hallway.

Steve didn’t even pop his head in. “Peter. Get down,” he said, using a bit of his alpha voice from the hallway.

Peter dropped off the ceiling. Tony, not expecting this at all, lunged forward to try to catch the teenager, and missed completely. The boy fell with all the grace of a sack of potatoes, and the sound Peter’s body made when it hit the floor was one that would haunt Tony’s nightmares for years to come.

“Oh god. Nonononono,” Tony whispered, and rushed forward. “Peter?” he yelled.

The boy on the floor didn’t move.

Tony hovered anxiously, at once wanting to pick the boy up and never let him go again, and also deathly afraid that the kid had broken his neck, and moving him would paralyze him forever.

Natasha didn’t seem to share his fear, and all but shoved Tony out of the way as she checked on the boy.

“He’s out of it. Head wound,” she said, in that calm detached voice that meant that she was actually freaking out.

“I KNOW that-” Tony hissed. “I watched him fucking LAND on it! Aren’t you supposed to not move people when they fall like that?”

Nat pressed her lips together.

Now Steve popped his head in. “What the hell- SHIT,” he cursed when he saw Peter. “What happened?”

“SOMEONE TOLD HIM TO GET DOWN!” Tony yelled, scared and angry.

Steve looked like he’d been stabbed. “Oh god,” he muttered.

“Steve, we need to move-” Bucky said. “If we don’t do it now it’ll be hours before we can sort it out with the cops.”

“I agree with Bucky,” Nat said.

“We could paralyze him!”

“He’s a super, Tony. He’ll be fine,” Natasha said. “And we’ll be really fucking careful, okay?”

Tony swore. Then swore some more.

He took a breath. “Fine. But Steve’s not carrying him.”

Steve blinked at him. “What- why?”

“Because at this rate you’ll sneeze on him and give him the fucking bubanic plague or something, that’s why!” Tony yelled.

Steve sighed. “I won’t give him the plague, Tony-” he said wearily.

“SARS then-” Tony snapped.

“I’ll carry him,” Bucky said, shoving Steve out of the doorway. “He’ll be fine, Stark. Cool it.”

Tony hovered, feeling like a useless, anxious mess while Bucky and Natasha worked together to get the kid off the ground without moving his neck too much.

“Ready?” Steve asked.

“Move out, Stevie,” Bucky said.

They hustled.

It was odd, moving through the full, yet eerily quiet school. The hallways were empty. Everyone must have found a shelter.

They didn’t slow down.

It was none too soon. As they were crossing the parking lot, Tony could hear police sirens getting closer.

The second Bucky put Peter down on the emergency cot built into the quinjet’s wall, Clint took off.

“Nat get me the emergency suppressant,” Tony said. They should have taken it with them. Why the fuck were they so stupid sometimes?

She slapped it into his hand a few seconds later, and Tony injected Peter’s thigh with it, while she fitted a neck brace and an oxygen mask to the boy.

The kid groaned, and started panting.

Tony slipped an oxygen and pulse sensor on Peter’s finger. He frowned at the numbers. “Up the O2 J,” he ordered, as Peter’s scent spiked in just... wrongness. The kid was sick. And not just with whatever the fuck was going on with his heat and a possible concussion.

“104.7,” Nat reported, again in that super calm voice of hers.

Tony sighed. That was high. Too high, even for a heat.

“Tony...” Steve said hesitantly.

Tony ignored him.

“Tony, this doesn’t feel right-”

“I know that!” Tony snapped. “I don’t know what’s wrong. Jarvis, call Bruce and tell him to start making phone calls. We can get him stable when we get back, but we’re going to need some specialists.”

“Right away sir,” Jarvis said. “I will also forward his pulse and oxygen numbers.”

Tony rubbed his face. “Steve, keep your mask on until we get back. I have no idea what set those idiots off,” he said.

“Copy that,” Bucky said, and retreated to the back, tugging Steve after him. “Give the Os some space, Stevie,” he murmured.

It was a very long and tense 10 minutes to get back to the tower.

Chapter Text

They landed on the helipad on the top of the Tower. Bruce was there to meet them, as were a large portion of the doctors from the medbay.

“I’ve got an omega specialist coming in from Metro-General-” Bruce said.

“That’s wonderful. In the meantime, we need to clear any and all alphas out of the MedBay-”

Bruce looked horrified. “Tony- I... I don’t know if I can do that- the anti-discrimination laws cut both ways, you know that-”

“Bruce, Peter’s scent is WEIRD. Like, off the scales weird. And those alphas at his school didn’t just roll out of bed and say ‘I’m gonna beat up an omega today’,” Tony countered. “His mutation could be affecting his hormones, and until we know what’s going on, I don’t want to risk him being beaten to death because some alpha has a bad reaction.”

Bruce still looked pained. “I’ll see what I can do,” he said finally, and went to follow the rest of the doctors.

“I can afford the lawsuits!” Tony shouted after him. “I don’t care who you offend! Just fucking bill me!”

“Tony- hey. Hey-” Steve was saying, soft and low. He caught Tony by an arm and drew him in for a hug. “It’s gonna be okay baby,” he murmured.

Tony melted into his alpha’s embrace, and let out a stressed sigh as Steve ran fingers through his hair. God that felt good. He was right of course. Peter would be fine. He was a super, and Steve-

Steve.

He was pissed at Steve right now. And not just normal pissed, but super pissed. That blow job Tony had been planning on giving him had been downgraded into no blowjobs ever again after that stunt Steve had pulled with his alpha voice.

He pushed himself free of the embrace. “Don’t...” he managed, and shook his head. Stupid stupid omega brain, making him think his alpha was awesome when he was really an idiot.

“I need to go check on Peter,” he said. He could hear the stress in his own voice. “No alphas in the medbay until we figure this out. So if you stab yourself or something, feel free to bleed out in a bathroom,” he said dismissively, then instantly hid a wince.

That was harsh. Maybe too harsh. But he needed to see Peter. Needed to call the Aunt. Needed to meet with the specialist and run some tests to make sure Peter hadn’t mutated even more due to puberty or a growth spurt like the X-Men did. (God, did he have Xavier’s number? Could he just google it? Maybe Pepper would know. She knew everything. Oh god, he needed to call her and let her know what was happening and call his lawyers- SOMEONE was going to be sued over this, and he had a horrible feeling it would be him... )

He was muttering a list of things to do by the time he hit the elevators, and thus completely missed the heart broken look on Steve’s face.

40 minutes later, Tony was ready to spit nails. He couldn’t get a hold of the freakin’ Aunt- he’d explained that it was a family emergency, but the receptionist had promised that she’d “do the best she could,” and then apparently dropped off the face of the earth. He was five seconds away from just sending Happy to go camp out in the damn hospital, and kick down doors if need be.

Pepper was in another freaking state- he thought it was maybe Missouri? (God knows why. All he knew that it was in the middle of BumFuckNowhereVille). Anyway, she wasn’t HERE. And so she was having to fly back, but there was a storm and it might be another hour or so before her plane would be allowed to even take off...

And now- FUCKING NOW- the “omega specialist” that Bruce had called had finally, finally wandered in. How the hell did it take over 40 minutes to get from Metro-General to the Tower? Tony was sure it was more like 15. What was the POINT of being a billionaire if people didn’t come running when you called?

And... of course the dude was a fucking alpha. Tony could smell him well before he saw him, and was immediately turned off. How the hell did he keep omega clients smelling like that? Tony wondered as he shook the man’s hand.

“Doctor- umm...” Tony trailed off. He somehow missed the guy’s name.

“Doctor Angelo,” the guy said. He was old, with graying hair, and had a firm handshake and reassuring, but obviously fake smile. He also looked like he should be toddering around a nursing home somewhere. “Don’t worry Mr. Stark. She’s in good hands now.”

Tony blinked. “I’m sorry?”

Angelo blinked, his confidence wavering for a split second. “Your omega? I understand she was in some sort of accident?”

Tony took a breath. “Okay. So. He is an omega,” Tony said. “And yes there was an incident... also not mine. Doesn’t matter. What matters-” Tony said, and grabbed a hastily modified gas mask off a nearby desk, “is that you’re going to need to wear this when you see him.”

He held out the mask. It had been a compromise. Dr. Connors, the lead doctor of the Med Bay, was a beta as were the rest of the doctors, but several of the nurses were alphas. The agreement was that the alpha nurses would stay away as much as possible, but would wear masks if they had to come check on Peter.

The doctor looked baffled. “I’m sorry? Did you just say... he?”

“Yes. He’s a he.”

The doctor considered. “Is she... transgender?” he asked, his expression struggling to stay neutral, and only mildly failing. He sounded like he was asking if Peter was secretly a cockroach or something. Tony frowned. There were so many layers of just... wrong with that question that he was thrown off as to what to address first...

“Giving her male hormones would certainly cause complications-”

“No,” Tony said. “HE is not transgender.”

Now the doctor looked confused. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand- is the omega on male hormones or not?”

“They were born male. And they happen to be an omega. So. He. ” Tony was struggling to stay civil. How was this in any way hard to understand? “Also his name is Peter. And you have to wear the mask.”

You’d think the mask would be the sticking point, seriously.

The doctor considered this. He seemed to be struggling with the concept. Dr. Asswipe finally spotted the mask in Tony’s hands. “Is she... sorry. They contagious?”

Tony sighed and told himself to be fucking reasonable. This one time. He would be reasonable. For Peter. He would not throw him off the tower. At least, not off the top floor.

“Peter is... very special. He’s a mutant. We think it may be possible that his mutation is making his hormones extra potent. So. Until we figure it out, I’m going to have to ask you to wear the mask. As a precaution.”

The doctor looked amused. “I can assure you Mr. Stark, I’ve worked with omegas for over 40 years, and I’ve never taken advantage of a patient-”

Tony sighed again. “That... is not what I’m worried about. We’re worried that his hormones are making alphas violent. Four fully grown alphas tried to break down the door to his heat room.”

The doctor blinked, and looked appalled. “Are you serious?”

“Very.”

The doctor shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t wear the mask, Mr. Stark. A lot of diagnosing omegas all happens here,” the man tapped his nose.

It was Tony’s turn to blink. “Are you serious?” Tony asked. “It’s 2019. Don’t you do... blood tests or something? Scans?”

The man snorted. “Don’t need to. And don’t worry, Mr. Stark. I have very good control of myself. I’m not offended. It’s always the first thing the alpha husbands bring up,” the doctor said, with another smarmy knowing smile.

Wow.

Just... wow. The balls on this dude. Tony was more annoyed than impressed, to be truthful. People only usually talked to him with this much confidence because they had their own stash of nuclear missiles somewhere in the country they owned. Sorry- the country that they’d been “fairly elected to lead”.

“And where is the omega?” the doctor asked. “Sh- I’m sorry. They are in distress?”

Patience Stark, he told himself. Taser him and toss him off the building later. Remember Peter? We’re being reasonable for Peter.

“I’ll take you to him,” Tony said, after a moment's hesitation. Alpha or not, he WAS an old man and Tony could take him if had to. He'd lifted weights for most of his life. One ancient alpha should be okay.

Right.

Oh god, he hated this. Everything in his gut was screaming at him, saying this was the WORST idea ever. What if the old man went feral or some nonsense?

He flicked his wrist, and a tiny taser appeared out his watchband. He palmed it, and opened the door to Peter’s room with his free hand. He watched as the doctor walked past him and into the room. If he so much as sneezed wrong that old man was going down.

The man frowned when he saw Peter laid out unconscious on the hospital bed. The kid was naked, with a small towel thrown over his pelvis for modesty. Large clear hefty bags dripping with condensation had been shoved into the kid’s armpits, one side of his neck, and his groin. He had an IV going with liquid suppressants and saline, and more sticky pads with wires on his chest than was probably necessary. A cannula delivering O2 rested under his nose. Around him a group of monitors beeped regularly.

The doctor felt one of the bags, and his frown deepened. “Ice?” he asked.

“He was running a serious fever and it kept going up. The highest was 105.1 before we put the ice on him. As of five minutes ago, he was back down to 104.6. So, it’s working.”

Working, but ridiculous. They’d literally raided the cafeteria kitchens for both the bags and the ice from the ice maker. It was so primitive it was practically disgusting.

The next time he had a spare five minutes he’d have to invent something better. It was 2019, for god's sake. And the best they could do was a shit load of ice in trash bags? Unacceptable.

“He’s in heat. But he shouldn’t be. He was on suppressants and he literally only presented two months ago. Even if they weren’t working he shouldn’t be due for another month at the latest-” he babbled.

The doctor carefully picked up a slender arm and inhaled deeply at the scent gland there in the wrist. Tony tensed and gritted his teeth. The doctor put the arm down then leaned over and inhaled deeply again an inch from Peter’s throat. Tony had to physically keep himself from tasering the old man there and then. Scenting on the throat was something only mates and pack members did. And he was decidedly neither.

The doctor hummed thoughtfully, and Tony watched him like a hawk. He probably should have asked a couple of masked alpha nurses to be with him, he realized. God. What was with him and making bad decisions today?

He held the taser tighter in his hand and tried to calm himself. Going crazy and tasering a doctor for being an ass would help no one, even if would probably make him feel better. Even if the dick clearly deserved it.

He at the very least could wait until he got a diagnosis out of the old geezer.

The doctor picked up the modesty hand towel, and picked up the ice - and yes, he was staring at Peter’s junk.

Don’t taser the doctor. Don’t taser the doctor. Don’t taser the doctor.

Thankfully he replaced the ice without actually touching anything, and replaced the towel.

“Who told you he was an omega?” Dr. Stupid said, frowning down at Peter.

“He presented two months ago,” Tony repeated.

“And you know this because-” the doctor trailed off.

“Because he told me?” Tony lied, wondering where the hell this was going.

What had actually happened was the kid had collapsed while out in his Spidersuit. The suit’s AI had called Tony, who’d then left his dinner party to haul the kid back to the tower. It wasn’t until he’d stripped the suit off the teen and literally hosed the vomit off him in the penthouse’s shower that Tony had smelled traces of slick and the faint sweet stink of a First Heat. Combine that with a raised temperature, and the fact that he could FEEL Peter’s organs moving around in his stomach when Tony pressed on it- the kid was in his first ever heat.

He’d had spent the rest of the night stripped down to his boxers in a tub filled with cool water, cuddling the mostly incoherent teenager, trying to keep him comfortable and to keep him from drowning in the process, as Peter’s organs literally rearranged themselves.

It had not been a fun night, especially considering that he’d initially assumed that the kid was black out drunk, and had yelled at him accordingly. He didn’t think he’d ever quite forgive himself for that. Thankfully, like most omegas, Peter had very little memory of his First Heat other than falling over and being completely miserable.

“And have you knotted him?”

Tony’s brain went offline for a moment. There was literally a million things wrong with that sentence. First of all, officially to the public, he was a beta with an alpha mate. He wore scent blockers religiously just to fool people into thinking he was a beta. So, even in the public lie, he had no knot to... knot with.

Secondly... was the fucking doctor insane? He’d just told him the kid had presented 2 months ago! You can’t safely knot an omega until at least their 3rd heat! The first two were... warms ups if you will. Stuff to get the body into shape or some nonsense. Knotting an omega after their first heat would hurt them just the same as knotting a beta or alpha would.

“He’s 15! This would literally be his second heat!”

The doctor gave him a blank “I officially won’t judge you but I’m totally judging you” look.

“No,” Tony snarled through gritted teeth. Fuck this doctor. “He’s untouched.”

The doctor sighed. “Well, I’m very sorry to break it to you, Mr. Stark-”

Oh god... what was it?

“But he’s not an omega.”

“What?” Tony’s voice was flat.

“I don’t know what he told you,” the man said calmly. “But he just isn’t.”

“What?” Tony asked. “He’s in heat! I know what fucking heat smells like-”

The doctor gave him a sad “but do you really though?” smug smile that made Tony want to punch him in the face. “To be frank, ‘omega in heat’ scent is available readily at any sex shop. It can actually be quite beneficial for older alphas who struggle in the bedroom. I’m afraid you’ve been fooled, Mr. Stark. If anything, I’d say he’s an underdeveloped alpha who got into some bad cocaine. Thus the fever, and... the strange smell.”

“What?” Was he on earth? Was the doctor high? Was Tony high? He didn’t remember doing well, anything in... god. Several years. Did someone spike his coffee?

“You should really get your nose checked, Mr. Stark. You can smell the alpha on him quite intensely.” He pursed his lips. “He really is shockingly underdeveloped, considering his scent. His scent blockers probably have worn off since this morning...”

Underdeveloped....? Tony blinked, and he felt his brain reboot again. Was the old man... making a comment on Peter’s dick size right now? Seriously? He was god damned omega with a literal ice pack on his junk! What the fucking HELL? Even Steve- well. Bad example. But. Even normal alphas would be... small with literal ice on their literal junk.

The doctor shrugged. “I’ve been working with omegas for over 40 years,” he said with a patronizing smile. “Never seen a male omega. But I do, sadly, know what a drug binge smells like. I know it’s hard to hear- I don’t really know what he told you to convince you-”

“Get out,” the words are cold.

“Mr. Stark-” the patronizing factor went up a millionfold. “I’m not really sure what’s going on here, but I’m telling you- he’s not an omega-”

“You have about 30 seconds to get out of this room before I throw you through that fucking door-” Tony snarled, getting up into the Doctor’s personal space.

“Mr. Stark-”

“25. 24. 23.” Tony counted. He puffed out his chest and crowded the doctor. He wasn’t an alpha himself, but he knew a few tricks. It wasn’t for nothing that his mate was the strongest and most grandstanding alpha in existence. The idiot.

The doctor gave a displeased frown and a “rich people are so stupid” shake of his head, and left.

Jesus fucking Christ. On a stick.

He collapsed in a chair and took a moment to collect himself. Right. Doctor was a bust. Move onward and upwards. Only option.

“Jarvis?” he asked tiredly.

“Yes sir?”

“Those genetic tests come back yet?”

“I estimate that I will have results in another hour. May I point out sir that it has been approximately 32 hours since you last slept-"

Tony rolled his eyes. “No,” he said. “And call Happy, tell him to go get the Aunt, and to not take no for an answer. Kidnap her if he has to.”

“Yes sir,” Jarvis said.

“And Pepper,” he recited. “What’s her ETA?”

“She is currently in the air sir. ETA to the tower is approximately 3 hours.”

“And Natasha?”

“She is sitting out in the hallway,” Jarvis said.

Thank fuck. At least someone was right where he needed them. He poked his head out the door of the private room. “Hey,” he said. He wondered when she got here.

Natasha looked up from her magazine. “How’d it go?”

Tony sighed. “Terrible. He tried to tell me that the kid was a quote ‘underdeveloped alpha with a cocaine problem’.”

Natasha blinked at him. “What?” It was so rare to see her truly shocked. Normally he’d treasure such moments, but today he was just too tired.

“That’s what I said. Repeatedly.”

“Are we sure he had a medical license?” she asked seriously.

“I... I don’t even know. The good news is that at least we know know that smelling him doesn’t send alphas into a blind rage,” Tony said, rubbing his face tiredly. “So-”

Behind him, the monitors started beeping like crazy.

Chapter Text

Steve was sulking. The super soldier beefcake, and otherwise prime piece of alpha ass draped himself over the breakfast bar in the guest suite and heaved a long, pitiful sigh and whined like a pup.

The two alphas had showered and changed into civvies, and were raiding the kitchen looking for something to eat.

Bucky graced Steve with some serious side-eye but otherwise ignored him as he dug through the cabinets.

“Jeez Stevie. Let me know how you really feel,” Bucky said sarcastically.

“He said I should bleed out in a bathroom, Buck,” Steve whined. “He hates me.”

“Calm down. You’re overreacting,” Bucky said.

Steve gave a small growl and flopped over to face Bucky. “He said I was going to give Peter the plague, Buck. I don’t think that even exists anymore,” he whined.

“You’re takin’ it too personal. He’s an omega, Steve. Omegas are always super dramatic when it comes to hurt pups. Remember your Ma? She’d nearly lose her shit whenever you’d come home with a bloody nose, and that was near every other day-”

“I was half dead with pneumonia for nearly my entire life Buck,” Steve countered. “Of course she lost her shit over everything.”

“Yeah and my Ma was a beta. She never lost her shit, even when you was taking last rites-”

Steve frowned slightly. “Which time?” he asked.

“All of them. She’d come over and sit with your Ma through the night while we watched you.”

“I don’t remember that,” Steve said slowly.

Bucky rolled his eyes. “You don’t remember because you were almost dead, punk. That’s why they’re called ‘last rites’.”

Steve snorted. “Jerk,” he said, but only out of fond reflex.

Bucky found a box of pop tarts and made an excited noise. “Strawberry! Yes!”

Steve looked at him with wide eyes. “Where did you get those?” he said urgently.

Bucky frowned, but didn’t stop mauling them open. “In the cabinet.”

“And before that?”

Bucky shrugged.

“If those are Thor’s, I’ve never met you before in my life,” Steve said firmly.

Bucky rolled his eyes. “I’ll buy him a new box when he gets back,” he said, mouth already half full of poptart. “Don’t freak out.”

Steve sighed, and resumed his dramatic moping.

“Oh stop being so dramatic. It’s not like he’s kicked you out of the bedroom-”

“But he has -”

Bucky frowned, and ripped open another packet of pop tarts. “Since when? I know you crashed here last night to give him time to cool off-”

“He banned me from the common FLOORS Bucky. That’s where our bedroom is.”

“What are you talking about?” Bucky asked, his face wrinkled in confusion.

Steve sighed miserably. “You know the penthouse that's above the common floor? That's supposed to be ours?"

Bucky made a noise of agreement.

"He never goes there outside of his heats! He sleeps either on a futon in the lab or in a nest in a little room off the common room. He says the penthouse is ‘too quiet’.”

Bucky’s frown deepened. “Wait. Wait. He sleeps in a nest on the common floor?”

“Yes.”

“So you... sleep there with him?”

“Yes.”

Bucky considered this. “Is that room sound proof or something because I’ve never heard -” he stopped. He slowly and dramatically turned to stare at Steve properly.

“What?” Steve demanded, alarmed.

“You guys sleep in a basically a nap room on the common floor?”

“Yeah?” Steve said, confused.

“And not once have I ever heard anyone complain about you guys being too loud. EVER.”

Steve frowned, his confusion clearly intensified. “Why would we be loud?” he asked.

Bucky stared at him as if Steve’s forehead contained the mysteries of the universe. “You are such a fucking virgin, Stevie.”

“What?!” Steve looked lost.

Bucky gave Steve a pointed look. “Are you knotting him outside of his heats?” he asked seriously.

Steve choked on air. “What?”

Please tell me you are at least fucking him outside his heats,” Bucky continued desperately.

Steve sputtered into silence and suddenly could not look Bucky in the eye.

“None of your business, jerk,” Steve muttered.

“Holy shit. HOLY SHIT. Are you serious right now?”

Steve tried to hide a wince, and squirmed. “There’s more to life than sex, Bucky,” he said with approximately zero conviction. Steve had always been a shit liar.

“Jesus Christ Stevie!” Bucky shouted, upset on his behalf. He stared at Steve in horror for almost a full minute.

“What?” Steve demanded.

“You wanna know what it’s called when you only have sex when an omega’s in heat?”

Steve looked like he’d rather sink into the floor than know the answer to that. “No. But you’re gonna tell me anyway, aren’t you?”

“Heat Buddies,” Bucky said with feeling.

Steve flinched, then scowled. “I ain’t a fucking Heat Buddy,” he grumbled. “I marked him and everythin’. He’s my MATE.”

Bucky raised his eyebrows and gave Steve a Look. “Uh huh.”

“I did!” Steve protested, a little too forcefully.

“And your last rut-” Bucky prompted.

“He was in Japan. It was important,” Steve protested.

"And the one before that...?" Bucky questioned.

Steve squirmed. "Australia," he said, his voice small.

“Your ruts are like clockwork, you moron!”

“It was an emergency!” Steve shouted, louder than strictly necessary.

“What, both times? Why didn’t Pepper take care of it?”

“She was... elsewhere.”

“Uh huh.”

“She was! Fuck, Bucky! You know my memory goes to shit around my ruts. What does it matter anyway-” Steve protested.

Bucky gave him a Look. “He ain’t some beta, Steve.”

Steve wrinkled his nose with confusion. “I... I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean,” he complained.

“He’s an omega- right?”

“Yeess...”

“And he’s mated to an alpha, right?”

Steve rolled his eyes. “And?”

“He sure don’t act like it unless it’s convenient for him,” Bucky said, “like for example- when he’s in heat.”

Steve groaned. “Now you’re being dramatic,” he complained. “I don’t need an omega to get through my ruts.”

“And he don’t need an alpha neither. So why are you stuck taking care of him-”

“In case you’ve forgotten Buck, taking care of an omega in heat ain’t exactly hell,” Steve snapped, then stopped cold.

Bucky’s lack of ... “game” (for lack of a better word) had become one of those quiet unspoken forbidden topics they had. Like how Bucky’s sister Becca had died not long after Steve had- or how she might have lived if Steve had pulled his head out of his ass to live long enough to go home after the war ended to take care of her. Like he’d promised.

Or why they both hated the cold.

Steve sucked in a breath, and braced for... he didn’t know.

Bucky likewise, tensed. For a second, in the sudden screaming silence, Bucky’s arm whirred as it calibrated. A sure sign of him being agitated.

“Sorry,” Steve said quietly. “I... you know I didn’t-”

“It’s fine,” Bucky lied. “But it don’t mean that it’s alright, what he’s doing to you.”

“And what is he doing, Bucky?” Steve asked quietly, carefully.

Using you. Like his father did. They took advantage of you Stevie. You know they did. Filling your head with all that patriotic nonsense, then pumping you full of that crap-” Bucky said tiredly. It was not the first time they’d been down this road- so much so it might as well have ruts in it from frequent use.

Steve sighed. Sometimes he wondered if Buck would ever get over it. Ever forgive him. He always seemed to forget Steve had been full of righteous patriotism well before he’d ever met Erskine.

“Yeah, well. I’m here with you so- it all can’t have been too bad.” Steve said, and tried a smile. It was a tired smile, but it asked silently: ‘Truce?’

Bucky glared at him for a moment before sighing, and giving in. Like he always did.

“Fucking punk,” Bucky grumbled. “And you know if it weren’t for me you’d have given away all your kidneys by now-”

Steve snorted, and rolled his eyes. “My kidneys, Buck? Really?”

“They would have sold you this lie about how they’d grow back and shoved some crying kid at you and boom- no more kidneys,” Bucky rambled. “Never could save nothin’ cuz of your soft heart-” he continued.

Steve sighed. Another road with ruts in. When Buck got this way it was best to change the subject, otherwise he’d talk in circles and start to spiral into a funk.

“Jarvis?” Steve asked the ceiling.

“Yes, Captain?”

Bucky snorted, knowing full well what Steve was doing.

“How’s the kid?”

“They're treating him with ice.”

Steve and Bucky shared a look.

“Ice?” Bucky asked, confused.

“Mr. Parker is currently suffering from a high fever. The doctors packed him with ice to reduce it.”

Bucky made a face. “What? They still do that?” he asked incredulously. “I thought this was the future.”

“Sir feels the same way, Sergeant Barnes.”

“How bad is it Jarvis?” Steve asked.

“The doctor was more concerned at how fast his fever was rising than his current temperature. The ice has already proven to be effective. It is believed he should be within a more reasonable temperature in a few hours.”

As one, both men shuddered.

“I think that’s enough about ice, Building,” Bucky said dryly.

“Of course sir. I shall inform you if anything changes.”

“Thank you Jarvis,” Steve said, because he was raised to be polite.

“My pleasure.”

Steve raised an eyebrow at Bucky. “Building? Still?”

“What? He don’t mind.”

Steve shook his head. “He has a name Bucky.”

Bucky sighed. “And he don’t mind. I don’t know why you always get all upset about it.”

“Because it makes you sound like an asshole.”

“I didn’t know me being an asshole was news,” Bucky snarked back. “It’s what I’ve always called him. You don’t mind, do you Building?”

“No I do not,” Jarvis said from the ceiling.

“See?”

“Still an asshole Buck.”

Bucky pointedly took a gigantic bite of a poptart.

“Gentlemen,” a voice called out from the doorway. “I trust there’s a reason why I had to find out about the Avengers storming a high school from Twitter?”

Steve slid off the breakfast bar and sat up straight. “Coulson,” he said tiredly, and idly cracked his knuckles.

Bucky froze for a split second, and gave Coulson a nod of acknowledgement as he chewed his pop tart.

Their signal for “keep your fucking mouth shut” was as old as time itself.

Coulson stepped into the kitchen area, impeccable as always in his suit, and surveyed them. “Well?” he asked.

Steve shrugged. “Not much to tell,” he said slowly. “Kid called for an emergency evac. So we went.”

Coulson stared right through him for a moment. Steve pointedly did not squirm. Coulson was a Beta and Steve would eat Bucky’s tact vest before he’d willingly let on just how much the unassuming man... intimidated him.

“He needed an emergency evac from his high school?” Coulson asked skeptically.

“He’s in the Med Bay right now,” Bucky said. It was an easily verifiable fact that told nothing. It was allowed.

Coulson considered this. Stared at them. Then at the room around them. Steve could practically see the gears in his head turning.

“So he’s injured enough for an emergency evac, but you two aren’t in Med Bay, because...”

Bucky and Steve doubled down their “I’m just a big dumb alpha” looks.

Bucky shrugged. “Didn’t want to get in the way,” he said simply.

“And it has nothing to do with the Alpha ban Stark tried to implement in the Med Bay earlier?”

“Didn’t know you could do that,” Steve said amicably. “Did you Buck?”

“No I didn’t. Thought there were laws against such things now a days. Since we’re in the future now and all,” Bucky agreed amicably, his face carefully blank. “Must be some kind of misunderstanding.”

Coulson eyed them. His gaze landed on the mangled pop tart box.

Bucky and Steve stared back blankly.

Coulson’s eyes didn’t quite narrow.

“Was Agent Romanoff injured during this... ‘evac’?” Coulson asked.

“No,” Steve said.

“Was anyone injured?” Coulson pressed.

“I stubbed my toe on a folding chair,” Bucky said. “You wanna see?”

Coulson gave his best, most polite “I see your shit and I’m onto you” smile.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” he said. “I think I’m going to go check in on Peter. See how he’s doing,” Coulson said, and turned to leave.

Steve made the mistake of relaxing slightly.

Coulson stopped midway out the door.

“By the way- just out of curiosity- why are you two here? I’d think the common floor would be more comfortable.”

Buck came to the rescue, as always. “No reason. Just airing it out,” he said.

Steve picked up Buck’s thread, and nodded. “A change of scenery is nice sometimes,” he said.

“A change of scenery.” Coulson said, and pointedly looked around the very bare, very sparse guest suite and the couch that looked like someone had been camping on it. “Of course.”

His “I’m onto you” smile changed into his more subtle “I’m totally going to figure this out and nail you for it just because I’m tired of dealing with this shit” smile. It was a smile he wore surprisingly often. Usually it was directed at other people, though.

Steve and Bucky held firm to their “I’m just a stupid alpha” positions and carefully blank smiles.

“Gentlemen,” Coulson said, and left.

Steve and Bucky waited for a beat- just in case he lingered.

“Wanna tell me why we’re lying to Coulson now?” Bucky asked.

Steve considered. “SHIELD doesn’t know he’s an omega.”

Bucky wrinkled his nose. “What- the kid?”

“And Tony,” Steve said calmly.

“Really? You really think Fury don’t know? Stark takes a week long ‘vacation’ every three months like clockwork. You really think he’s not noticed?”

“Male omegas don’t exist. Tony’s eccentric. Everyone knows this,” Steve said carefully. “We gain nothing by them knowing.”

Bucky stared at him for a moment. “And if they knew?” he asked pointedly.

Steve considered. “There are some... rules that ban omegas from being in combat,” he said slowly.

Bucky blinked. “What about Nat?” he asked, baffled.

“She doesn’t have heats anymore. She doesn’t... they don’t consider her a ‘real omega’,” Steve said.

Bucky snarled. “Well, that’s some bullshit. You really think Fury would ground Tony and Peter?”

Steve shrugged. “Fuck if I know, Buck. That’s why it’s safer to play it close to our chest. Fury doesn’t need to know, so we won’t tell him.”

“Won’t the doctors tell him?”

Steve shook his head. “The head doctor works for Stark Industries, not SHIELD. Tony made sure of that. He won’t tell the others anything they don’t need to know, and apparently there’s laws against looking at charts or something... Tony said something about a Hippo*? I don’t know. Anyway, he has it covered.”

Their eyes met.

“Well, ain't this some shit,” Bucky grumbled. “Can’t even trust our backup to have our backs.”

Steve sighed, and rubbed his face. “Some days I wonder if Fury has ever had our backs,” he said tiredly. “Or if we’re just... attack dogs that he thinks are useful. We have to protect Tony and Bruce,” he said doggedly. “And now- Peter. Especially Peter.”

Bucky arched an eyebrow. “So Clint, Nat, and Sam are on their own then?”

“They’ll outlive us all,” Steve said, with a faint smile. “Plus they know how to run away from danger. Unlike the rest of us. It’s the Omegas and Bruce we have to worry about really. They’re the civilians.”

Bucky snorted. “Ain’t that the truth,” he said. He offered Steve a pop tart. “Pack comes first,” he said.

“Pack comes first,” Steve agreed. But he didn’t take the pop tart. Only fools ate Thor’s pop tarts. He’d been foolish enough today already.

It was time to get off his ass and start moving pieces on the board. Moping over Tony wasn’t helping anyone, and he needed to get ahead of SHIELD. He needed to sic Clint on that school and find out what happened.

And he needed to call in Sam from D.C. If this thing with Peter turned out to be some sort of attack, Sam might be next. Combine that with Coulson sticking his nose in places he shouldn’t... it was time to start circling the wagons.

Just in case.

Chapter Text

Coulson had been having a pretty good day. He didn’t snooze his alarm. There hadn’t been much of a line at Starbucks. Hell, he’d even taken his lunch outside today, and sat in the sunny courtyard. He’d taken the time to really enjoy his bologna sandwich that had just the right amount of mustard.

He wasn’t surprised when the Twitter alerts started coming in. In his experience, there was nothing that attracted aliens or disasters more than a perfect blue sky.

So when it turned out to be some incident in a high school in Queens, he actually relaxed a little. Armed men storming a high school was just the right amount of weird to pique his interest, and he’d take it over portals to Cthulhu or god knows where any day of the week.

It might even be his lucky day and be every day terrorists. They at least made predictable, if unreasonable demands, and no one really minded when the snipers eventually took them out.

Not to mention there were also at least 3 other agencies he could dump it on. He might even get to go home on time today. He had a new episode of the Great British Bake Off waiting for him on his DVR at home. He might even watch it.

And then 15 minutes later the first shaky cell phone footage broke on Twitter. It clearly showed the quinjet landing on a soccer field. Then two men in head to toe body armor jumped out- (Steve and Bucky. He’d seen hundreds of versions of shaky/bad/incomplete footage of them to know their pixelated swagger anywhere) followed by... Tony in sweatpants? And what had to be Natasha. But no Clint. Which meant he was flying the plane.

Coulson sighed. There went the rest of the day.

He checked his phone. Maybe he missed a call.... Nope.

He narrowed his eyes. The Avengers were Up to Something. And Tony practically had a PHD in hanging up on people.

He went to his car. It seemed he’d have to make a house call.

He checked the time. They should be back by now. He called the Med Bay from the car while he was stuck in traffic. “What’s the status of the team?” he asked. The man on the other end was a mid level doctor, who answered on the first ring. So things weren’t completely on fire over there, which was reassuring.

“Spider-Man is down. Stark wants to clear alphas from the Med Bay; he’s arguing with Dr. Connors now.”

Phil blinked. What the hell was going on? “Spider-Man?” he asked. It seemed like the simplest place to start.

“He’s unconscious with a possible head wound. Banner has called in a specialist, Dr. Angelo from Metro-General.”

Phil’s confusion increased. The Avenger’s Med Bay was staffed by some of the most experienced ER doctors money could buy, with SHIELD trauma surgeons on call. Why the hell were they calling in someone from Metro-General?

“Is he stable?”

There was a teeth sucking sound. “For now. He’s got a fever we’re trying to get under control.”

“I thought he had a head wound,” Phil said.

“He does.”

“So the fever?”

“Stark and Dr. Connors know,” his source said.

Which was code for: “I’m not cleared to know.”

“You using biohazard suits?”

“No.”

So not contagious then. Or at least, it wasn’t a plague. Okay...

“And the alphas?”

“Hell if I know. It’s probably Stark being Stark. You know how he is.”

Yes, Coulson knew how Stark was. He also knew that Stark wasn’t crazy. Manic sometimes, but he always had his reasons. And if Stark was trying to clear out alphas... There had to be a reason.

His mind went blank. He could think of no reason why you’d clear alphas out in a medical setting.

“Thanks,” he said, and the doctor on the other end hung up.

“Okay google,” he said, “Doctor Angelo at Metro General.”

“Doctor Francis Angelo is a Omegatrician at Metro-General,” his phone said. “He is best known for his work with Doctor Alexander Deirre in developing the first non-toxic suppressants suitable for long term use for Omegas in 1983.”

Well that made no sense. The only omega on the team was Agent Romanov. And the doctor only mentioned Parker. Maybe there was a different Dr. Angelo at Metro-General?

Some horrible traffic later, he finally arrived at the Tower. He was unlikely to get answers from Stark, so...

“Jarvis, take me to the common floor,” he said.

“Of course.”

The floor was empty. He even peeked into the nap room. Nothing. No Avengers.

“Jarvis, is everyone in the MedBay?” he asked.

“No,” Jarvis said.

Phil sighed. Sometimes he wondered if Stark had programmed Jarvis to answer exactly what he asked. Or if it was possible that the computer simply didn’t like him. It was probably both.

“Where is Captain Rogers?”

“Captain Rogers is on the 79th floor.”

“He’s where?”

“He is on the 79th floor,” the computer repeated.

Phil racked his brain. What the hell was on the 79th floor? He couldn’t remember.

“Take me to Captain Rogers, please,” he said.

“As you wish, Agent.”

The elevator spat him out in what at first glance looked like a high end hotel room. He frowned at it. A couch that looked more fashionable than comfortable had blankets and a pillow on it, suggesting someone had been sleeping on it. Various bits of weapons and body armor were neatly laid out on flat surfaces, or leaned against walls.

And two people were having a conversation in the kitchen area behind a wall.

“See?!” that was Bucky.

“Still an asshole Buck,” Captain America said.

Phil walked around to the kitchen entrance.

“Gentlemen,” he said calmly, “I trust there’s a reason why I had to find out about the Avengers storming a high school from Twitter?”

Steve slid off the breakfast bar and sat up straight. “Coulson,” he said tiredly, cracking his knuckles.

Bucky froze for a split second, before he gave Phil a nod of acknowledgement. He was chewing on something, and he wasn’t going to win any awards for manners today. Phil carefully did not frown or narrow his eyes. There was no reason for Bucky to freeze at him. He made a note of it in his brain as yet more weirdness.

“Well?” he asked, stepping further into the kitchen.

Steve shrugged. “Not much to tell,” he said slowly. “Kid called for an emergency evac. So we went.”

Coulson stared right through him for a moment. There was only one “kid” on the team, and that matched with Parker being the one in the MedBay. But there was something off about how Steve answered him. Steve was... distant. Cool.

But why?

“He needed an emergency evac from his high school?” Coulson asked, probing.

“He’s in the Med Bay right now,” Bucky said.

Another exact answer that was true, but told him nothing. Which was odd. Rogers and Barnes did not like to play head games with him like Stark did.

Coulson considered this. Stared at them. Then at the room around them. This was a guest floor, he realized. The team’s top alpha and his second in command were camping out on a guest floor.

Rogers shared a floor with Tony. Bucky likewise had his own quarters on a different floor that he split with Sam when he was in town. So why...?

A cold feeling formed in the pit of his stomach.

Rogers wasn’t just the team lead. He was the pack’s alpha. It was sort of an open secret that the Avengers were an honest to god old fashioned Pack. The press so far had either stayed away from it, or ignored the rumors. Packs were for things like organized crime or gangs. It was... uncivilized to be part of a pack. People were supposed to be better than their instincts, blah blah blah.

And if he remembered his history right, the only person who could kick a pack alpha out the pack’s “nest” was the pack’s omega.

That position was held by Tony, who held the honorary title of “pack omega” by virtue of being mated to Rogers, despite his Beta status.

Tony, who was currently banning alphas from the MedBay...

The mystery twisted into a shape Coulson did not like the shape of.

“So he’s injured enough for an emergency evac, but you two aren’t in Med Bay, because...”

Bucky and Steve doubled down their blank “I’m stupid” looks. Which was just insulting really. He KNEW they weren’t big dumb alphas.

Bucky shrugged. “Didn’t want to get in the way,” he said simply.

“And it has nothing to do with the Alpha ban Stark tried to implement in the Med Bay earlier?” Coulson prodded, watching their reactions.

“Didn’t know you could do that,” Steve said amicably. “Did you Buck?”

“No I didn’t. Thought there were laws against such things now a days. Since we’re in the future now and all,” Bucky agreed amicably. “Must be some kind of misunderstanding.”

Coulson eyed them, then spotted the mangled pop tart box.

They’d been eating Thor’s pop tarts.

The last time Thor’s pop tarts had been raided was that horrible weekend nearly 8 months ago when Steve had found Tony on the floor of his workshop in a pool of his own vomit, black out drunk.

Coulson had watched Bucky and Steve eat Thor’s pop tarts while they dismantled both the workshop and Tony’s private floor, pouring out every bottle that they found. Nat and Clint had tackled the common floor. Bruce had taken the labs while Rhodey had sat with Tony in the MedBay.

There had been a lot of bottles. Tony had (reluctantly and with a lot of shouting) agreed to stop drinking. Steve had quietly banned alcohol from the Tower. It was now a fireable offense to have alcohol on the Tower’s premises.

Had Tony relapsed?

Bucky and Steve stared back blankly.

So there was definitely something wrong with Tony. Something that they didn’t want Coulson to know.

He wondered just how long something had been wrong with Tony. Maybe a day or two judging from the mess...

“Was Agent Romanov injured during this... ‘evac’?” Coulson asked. Maybe that was the reason for the omega doctor.

“No,” Steve said.

“Was anyone injured?” Coulson pressed.

“I stubbed my toe on a folding chair,” Bucky said. “You wanna see?”

Coulson gave his best, most polite “I see your shit and I’m onto you” smile.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” he said. “I think I’m going to go check in on Peter. See how he’s doing,” Coulson said, and turned to leave, then stopped.

“By the way- just out of curiosity- why are you two here? I’d think the common floor would be more comfortable,” sometimes a direct approach actually got you answers.

“No reason. Just airing it out,” Bucky said, full of shit.

Steve nodded. “A change of scenery is nice sometimes,” he said, also full of shit.

“A change of scenery.” Coulson said, and pointedly looked around the very bare, very sparse guest suite and the couch. “Of course.”

He smiled at the pair. World governments couldn’t keep their secrets from him. He would figure this out and if need be, drag them before Fury just so that they wouldn’t play games like this with him again.

They stuck to their “Who me?” blank smiles

“Gentlemen,” Coulson said, and left.

“MedBay please,” he said when he was in the elevator.

Now to see just how drunk Tony was.

*******

Sam was doing paperwork at his desk when his cell phone went off. He answered it absently without even checking to see who it was. It was probably his brother. Again. Who knew throwing a simple barbecue for his Great Auntie’s 80th birthday would be so freaking hard? You’d think the man had never organized a party before.

“Tell your wife to chill man. No one’s going to care what color the napkins are,” he said. “Just go to Costco, and buy a freakin’ box of frozen hamburger patties already. And stop calling me at work,” he groused.

“I didn’t know I had a wife,” a voice that was definitely NOT his brother Jim said, sounding amused. It took Sam a moment to place it.

“Steve?!” he said. “What- is everything alright?” He instinctively swiveled to his computer and brought up CNN. There were no screaming headlines, and the top story of the day was about some sort of shooting at a high school in Queens. Which, while sad, wasn’t an Avenger’s level event.

“I can’t just call a good friend just to chat?” Steve teased.

“You could, but you never do,” Sam said. “It’s always somethin’.”

Steve huffed, but Sam waited.

“Alright, you got me,” Steve said. “I do want something.”

“And?”

“We’re going to be having a family movie night tonight. Thought you might want to join us.”

Sam frowned. A family movie night....?

“You remember that I’m still in D.C. right? And it’s a Monday, man,” Sam complained. “I still have to work tomorrow.”

“I’m thinking we might watch Swiss Family Robinson. Haven’t seen that one in a while,” Steve said.

Sam stilled, and he could feel his heart rate increase. The code was an old one from the days of hunting down Hydra. Swiss Family Robinson meant they’d barricade themselves in wherever they were, and wait for the enemy to come to them.

“Really? Swiss Family Robinson?” he said, managing to keep his tone light. “I’m more of a ‘The Sound of Music’ man myself.” Meaning they’d nope the fuck out and head for the mountains.

“No. You know how Bucky feels about musicals,” Steve said.

“So then ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ is right out then?” Sam tried. Clint’s farm was supposedly a nice place. He’d never been.

“Definitely not,” Steve said. “Tony hates that movie.”

Sam considered. Tony would probably lose his mind being stuck on a farm in the middle of nowhere.

“Who’s going to be there?” he asked.

“Everyone but Peter. He’s got mono.”

Sam frowned. What the fuck could incapacitate a super powered teenager that could dodge literal bullets?

“He gonna be alright?”

“He’s in bed right now.”

Sam wanted to swear. That meant that Steve didn’t know.

“Who’d he kiss?” he demanded.

“Don’t know. You know how it is sometimes.”

Yeah. Bad guys were downright rude these days- always insisting on covering their tracks instead of announcing themselves properly.

“How are you on snacks?”

“I think we’ve got it covered. You could bring the M&Ms though,” Steve said.

Sam tried to remember where he left his wings. Was it the guest room closet, or under his bed?

“You know what? I think I’ll join you. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

“Thanks Sam. And be careful on the drive up. I heard it might storm.”

Great. Wonderful. Checking his car for bombs in the parking lot at work was exactly how he wanted to start his afternoon.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said dryly. “Do I need to pick up anything on the way?”

“No. We’re good. Just waiting on you,” Steve said.

Sam pressed his lips together. Steve was calling the Pack home, and he was the last one out in the cold.

“I’ll be there,” Sam said. “Don’t start the movie without me.”

“I think we can manage that,” Steve said.

Good. He wouldn’t have to break traffic laws to get there before things went down.

Sam hung up and sighed. He’d been planning on using those vacation days for an actual vacation. But like a lot of his life, it would have to go on hold.

He just hoped that this all got solved within a week. If he missed his Auntie’s 80th he’d never hear the end of it.

Chapter Text

“Explain it to me again,” Tony said, his voice eerily calm. He was well past hysteria now, a wave of that had passed over him several minutes ago. He was now adrift on a tiny little boat on the other side.

“It’s called ventricular fibrillation. What happens is the heart beats so fast that it loses its rhythm and instead of pumping, it just... flutters,” Dr. Connors explained calmly. “It means that for a little while, Peter’s heart was not moving blood. We administered CPR and we were able to shock him back into a normal rhythm using a defibrillator, so for now... his heart is beating like it should.”

Tony focused on breathing. That was something he needed to do. The kid’s heart had stopped, but it was beating again. That’s what was important here. He was alive.

“What caused it?”

The doctor hesitated. “It’s possible he was born with a heart defect and recent events triggered an episode,” the doctor said slowly, “But I don’t think that’s it. I’m fairly sure that we would have caught a defect during his last physical. We’ll be checking again, just in case.”

“So, what is it then?”

The doctor sighed, and pointedly looked directly at Tony. “He has a fever,” the doctor said, ticking off his fingers. “He has a significantly raised heart rate to the point of nearly killing him. And he is unconscious.” More fingers. “He also has a distinct scent.” Another finger.

“And?” Tony demanded.

“It all points to an overdose of cocaine,” Dr. Connors said wearily.

“HE DOES NOT DO COCAINE!” Tony roared. “He doesn’t!”

The doctor gave him a Look. “The scent alone-”

“Its a fucking scent! Do a fucking blood test!”

“Anything he might have taken would be metabolized already due his enhancements-”

“I mean, can he even GET high?” Tony demanded. “What’s the point of doing blow if you can’t get high?”

The doctor shook his head. “Peer pressure can be very strong in young adults-”

Tony rolled his eyes. “What peer pressure!? The kid has literally one friend! ONE! They build legos together and eat cookies and get crumbs and those stupid one by one blocks all over my fucking workshop-”

A hand touched his shoulder, and for a second, Tony reeled before he remembered- Natasha.

“You think it’s cocaine?” she asked.

“Oh my god- not you too!” Tony said, his voice rising in volume. “How many times do I have to say it? HE DOES NOT DO FUCKING COCAINE!” he was yelling now, and he didn’t care.

“Who doesn’t do cocaine?” a calm measured voice asked.

Tony looked up, and there was Coulson. Exactly who he did NOT want to see right now. He could feel a protective snarl forming. Over his dead body was Coulson even getting near his fucking pup-

The hand squeezed his shoulder, and Tony forced himself to take a breath.

“Now’s not a good time Coulson,” Natasha said firmly. “Take a lap.”

Coulson arched an eyebrow.

Both Natasha and Tony glared at him.

“Okay- I’ll go visit Peter then-”

Tony snarled. An actual visceral snarl.

He wasn’t sure who was more shocked, Coulson or himself.

Natasha was there in a split second, standing between them. Tony didn’t remember standing up, but he was on his feet and suddenly a lot closer to Coulson than he was a moment ago.

“Hey, hey-” Natasha said, her voice calm and soothing. It sounded a lot like when she was trying to convince the Hulk to do something. Her hand almost but not quite touched his shoulder. “It’s okay Tony. How about we go get you a cot and you can go lay down next to Peter, yeah? You want that?”

Oh god, he wanted that. But... he eyed Coulson. He wasn’t pack. He was Fury’s, not theirs. He could be a threat-

“Hey, it’s okay. Coulson was just going to go downstairs? Right, Coulson?”

“Of course,” Coulson said, as if he was agreeing that yes, Pepsi was okay.

Tony didn’t move, glaring at Coulson, until the man started to slowly back off towards the elevator.

“See? He’s going. Come on,” Natasha said, still soft, and crowded near him, trying to get him to move without actually touching him.

He let himself be herded. He was going closer to Peter. That’s all that mattered.

“I want Doctor Connors fired,” he complained. “Peter doesn’t do fucking cocaine,” he snarled.

“Of course Tony,” Natasha said, lying. She was just saying that to placate him.

“I mean it!” Tony said, and even he could hear the tired pup-like bratty tone he’d somehow adopted. Like a toddler demanding more cookies, or he’d hold his breath god damn it! He growled a bit at that thought.

Natasha wisely ignored him.

When they got to the room, a cot was waiting for them, complete with a blanket and a pillow. Tony checked the boy’s monitors first, but they all made the right reassuring regular toned beeps or had green colors on them. He fussed with Peter’s blanket a bit, making sure the ice was properly wedged where it was supposed to go and the boy was covered, and his pillow was aligned properly.

“Tony?” Nat asked. She was holding the blanket, waiting for him to lay down.

“Don’t have to tuck me in,” he bitched, but he laid down and let her anyway. “Not a pup,” he groused.

Nat ignored him. “I’m going to go talk to the doctors-”

“Connor’s fired,” Tony grumbled, reminding her.

Nat continued to ignore him. “I’ll be back in a little bit, okay?”

Tony grunted. The pillow smelled like hospital when it was supposed to smell like Steve. The blanket wasn’t much better. And he could smell Peter’s “sick, wrong, heat” smell even from here.

But he was so tired. When had someone replaced his eyelids with lead?

It must have been Dr. Connors he decided, before he passed right the fuck out.

********

Natasha hovered for a minute, making sure that Stark would STAY in bed, but it only took a minute for him to pass out.

“Jarvis, when is Tony’s next vacation?” she asked quietly.

“Sir’s next vacation is scheduled to start a week from today.”

She sighed, and rubbed her face. Of course. Tony pretended to be laid back, but he was the most high-maintenance omega she’d ever met. And he was even worse when he was close to his heat.

So he was PHSing*, then he’d had to ban his alpha from the nest. And now Peter was sick...

It was a miracle the man hadn’t died of an aneurysm already. With Steve out the picture, it looked like she’d be on full time Tony Duty. At least until...

“Jarvis, did he call Pepper?” she asked.

“Ms. Potts is due to arrive in approximately 3 hours,” Jarvis said calmly.

Okay. So. Survive Tony Duty for 3 hours. And talk to the doctor about this cocaine thing. And find Clint and sic him on the school. And talk to Coulson, and find a way to spin this so that he wouldn’t go running to Fury. And talk to Steve. He needed to know that Peter’s status had changed.

Right.

Jesus Christ they needed another Omega for the pack, she thought, not for the first time. A real, proper omega. She seriously sucked at omega stuff. If they got another one she could be dumping “check on the boys” and “making sure that the boys ate more than take out” and “babysitting Clint” on her. Maybe even “Tony Duty,” if she could trust her not to strangle him within the first 24 hours.

Oh, and she needed to check on Bruce. See how he was doing with the Science, and make sure he had enough candy to last through this crisis.

UGH. She’d rather be laying in full sun on a tar roof somewhere waiting for a target than this shit, seriously.

Doctor first.

She found him sitting at a desk, looking at paperwork.

“Cocaine?” she asked.

He jumped a little. “Oh! Ms. Romanov, I didn’t see you-”

Most people didn’t.

“Cocaine?” she asked again.

The doctor sighed. “I’m sorry, but the symptoms-”

She waved a hand, cutting him off. “Let’s say that it is cocaine. How much cocaine are we talking about?”

The doctor blinked. “I’m... I’m sorry?”

“Are we talking a line? A mountain? A snow storm? How much would it take to affect him with his metabolism?”

More blinking. “I... can’t really say. There aren’t any studies on enhanced individuals...”

No studies. Which meant that he had looked for some sometime before this conversation.

Interesting.

“Could it have been small enough to slip into his drink? Could he have been fed something?” she asked.

The doctor looked pained. “Ms. Romanov. I’ve been the team doctor for a while-”

Which was the only reason he wasn’t currently being thrown off the roof, she thought icily.

“And I like the boy. I really do. But I don’t think the amount needed would fit into his drink-”

“So... more than a line,” she said coldly.

“It would be more than a line, yes.”

She considered the nearby wall. “Is there a reason you’re so convinced he got himself high on cocaine?” she asked idly.

More pained looks. Finally, after several seconds of strained silence, “Have you spent more than 5 minutes with him?”

She considered him. Considered the wall again. Considered Peter.

She remembered the ride out last Saturday to the stupid robot fight. How he’d been bouncing off the walls talking a mile a minute about all the buttons and dials in the cockpit until Clint had kicked him out. How he’d then gone and bounced around the cargo bay until Tony had distracted him with some science thing on a StarkPad. Rather like a toddler being given a smart phone at a restaurant, she’d thought at the time.

How the kid couldn’t sit for more than 2 seconds without bouncing his right leg so hard it shook the couch or whatever he was sitting on. Bucky joked he’d have to check the screws on all the bar stools to make sure the kid wasn’t quietly vibrating them apart from just sitting on them.

The only time he was still was when he was fresh back from patrol, or a fight. And even then Saturday night when they’d been nesting, Bucky had had to physically lay on the kid’s legs to keep Peter’s right foot from vibrating through the floor.

“Are you saying... you think he’s high on cocaine... all the time?” she asked, her voice slipping a bit from her usual “carefully neutral”.

“He is... very manic,” the doctor said, painfully neutral.

Of course he’s manic, he’s a male omega.

The thought caught her off guard. She remembered the team dinner when Tony had announced that the kid had presented. How surprised, (but not really) everyone had been. The kid was like a little Tony clone, and Tony had once said the kid reminded him of what he’d been like when he was a teenager.

Apparently Tony, in his current “3 days without sleeping and doing science”, and occasionally “needing Steve to physically sit on him” form, was mellower than his teenage years. Which was hard to believe, but still. Hopefully one day the kid would also be able to sit quietly for more than two seconds. A feat that Tony still sometimes bragged about. (Tony's record so far was 3 minutes. Jarvis had timed it.)

Out of idle curiosity, she’d done the barest of google searches, and walked away with the fact that it was widely believed that Leonardo di Vinci had been a male omega.

Which just explained everything really. The million projects. The endless tinkering. She truly felt sorry for whomever had had to wrangle Leo in a time before suppressants, Xanax, or tranq guns.

“What does his blood work say?” she asked.

The doctor sighed. “Whatever he’s taken, it’s been metabolized-”

“You didn’t take a sample when he first came in?”

“Whatever he’s taken, he would have already-” the doctor repeated.

“Have you done ANY blood work?” she snapped. She eyed the big glass windows. She wondered if she could open them. Not that she’d throw him out or anything. That would be too much paperwork. But a good dangle over 70+ stories would probably get his priorities back in order...

“We checked his electrolytes-”

“Do a full work up. Tox screen. Everything,” she said, and fixed him with a level glare.

“As you wish,” Ex-team doctor, Doctor Connors said reluctantly. Tony was right. Doctor Connors was going to be fired after this. Maybe even during this.

She stalked off to an empty exam room, and dialed Clint on her phone.

“I’m at the school,” he said without prompting. “The NYPD, SHIELD, and the FBI are having a three way pissing match over jurisdiction.”

“They know anything?” she asked.

“They can’t find their asses with maps,” Clint grunted. “If the grunts on the ground at SHIELD know it’s us, they’re keeping their mouths shut,” Clint said, clearly pissed.

“And?” she asked.

“The fuckers don’t even know which student was taken,” he huffed, fuming. “They’re still doing roll calls in the classrooms. And they’re not following protocol either. Any significant incident at Peter’s school is supposed to be reported to us, but I haven’t gotten so much as a ‘fuck you’ from anyone, including Coulson.”

Natasha felt her eyebrows meet her hairline. “Coulson's here so that might be why. But it’s been over an HOUR, what have they been doing?”

“Securing the perimeter,” he sneered. “Or some stupid shit. Apparently it took them over 10 minutes after we LEFT for them to even try to enter the building.”

Natasha’s horror intensified. “Well, Peter’s never going back there,” she said firmly.

“Fuck no, he’s not,” Clint agreed. “Not unless he agrees to a tracker or something. If we were bad guys he’d be halfway to Belize by now.”

“So what are you doing?” she asked.

“I found the servers connected to the security cameras and I’m downloading the footage now. Once that’s done, I’ll wipe it. I’m also writing some sort of ransom note with a crayon. I’m gonna leave it in the Omega room. See how long it takes for the grunts to get their heads out of their asses and contact us like they were supposed to from the beginning.”

“Don’t do that,” she scolded. “Have some class. At least do it with a sharpie.”

“All I have is this red crayon,” he grumbled. “Besides it’ll throw them off. What the hell kind of terrorist lands a jet thing on a soccer field, abducts a kid, then leaves a ransom note written in crayon?”

“They think it’s terrorists?”

“A duck farts in the wind and it’s terrorism,” Clint complained. “It’s always terrorism.”

Natasha didn’t quite snort.

“How’s the kid?”

“His heart stopped for a bit. But he’s back now.”

Silence.

“No shit?” Clint asked, incredulous.

“No shit,” she said calmly.

“What the fuck happened?”

“According to the doc, a mountain of cocaine,” Nat said flatly.

“WHAT?” Clint squawked. “Are you kidding me?”

“No.”

“Did you dangle that fucker out the window yet?”

“I will if he doesn’t figure out which way is up soon.”

“Am I going to have your help to kidnap one of the fuckers who had the crowbar?” he asked. “Because if those assholes slipped him something-”

“I’m on Tony Duty. He’s going on vacation next week,” she said. “Pepper is 3 hours out.”

“Seriously?” Clint sighed.

“You good?”

“Yeah, I’ll manage. It’s just one more fucking thing, ya know?”

She knew, and hummed in agreement.

“Clint?”

“Yeah?”

“Keep SHIELD out of it.”

“Figured. I’ll check back in an hour.”

“Copy that,” Natasha said, and hung up.

Now to figure just what the hell she was going to tell Coulson.

Chapter Text

Clint hung up and absently fiddled with his hearing aid. Whenever this mess was over he’d ask him to fix it. It was getting pops and cracks in the higher registers again.

Probably because he’d forgotten to take it off before he got into the shower last week.

Or maybe it was that drink that chick had thrown in his face three days ago.

Whatever. He prodded his cell phone and double checked to see if the magic USB stick Stark had given him ages ago was done yet. It didn’t do much. It just copied everything and did some fancy tech stuff to make it go to Stark’s private servers. Then it deleted everything and left an encrypted video behind. Something to let the techs chase their tails for a while anyway.

75%. Jesus. The resolution on the security cameras must be just straight up garbage if it was transferring that quickly. He’d only started the transfer 15 minutes ago. That or high schools had amazing wifi.

He went back to his “ransom” note. He was writing it on the back of CVS receipt he’d dug out of his wallet. He’d only bought a chapstick, but it was long enough to hold his magnum opus no problem. The crayon came from a corner behind the servers, and was only slightly melty. It would also be nice if the only flat surface wasn’t the vertical side of the server he was currently dumping, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Lets see... Children are the future... the world will see in time my greatness... he tried to remember what that one guy with the glue gun had said last month. Was it “Behold the glory of what you can’t understand?” Or had that been the guy with the enhanced sewer rats?

Clint couldn’t remember. He added it anyway.

Oh, and a whole fucking paragraph about how the Avengers “would pay for their crimes.”

If that didn’t make the FBI or SHIELD or even the fucking NYPD to officially contact SOMEONE at the tower he’d personally sic Coulson on them.

A noise from outside the door to the server closet made him freeze. The place apparently doubled as a janitor’s closet (as was often the case with government sites) and so a mop was currently wedging the door shut.

He waited, hand on one of his many throwing knives.

The door rattled. The mop held.

Keys were jangled next, his hearing aid making the sound pop in his ears.

89%.

The lock was tried, and the door jiggled again.

The mop handle was a nice one. Solid wood. It was hard to find good mops these days.

Voices now. Arguing.

“Are you sure these are the right keys?” Man 1 said.

“Yes, these are the right keys. The kids might have put gum in the lock again,” Man 2 said tiredly.

“Let me try-”

More of the lock turning. More jiggling. The mop held.

“The lock feels fine. It’s almost like it’s jammed from the inside,” Man 1 said.

“Jesus. The mops must have fell over again,” Man 2 grumbled.

“Mops?”

“We keep the mops in there. Sometimes they fall over.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“What? This is a high school. The other janitor’s closet we turned into a classroom. We have to keep the mops somewhere .” Man 2 was indignant.

“What do you when the mops fall over?”

“We have to take the door off the hinges. I’ll call Manuel.”

“Forget it. I’ll have some guys do it-”

“You can’t do that! It’s in his contract.”

“What?”

“The contract says Manuel does all repairs and maintenance. We can’t call someone else,” the man whined.

Clint smirked. Gotta love government contracts. God bless bureaucracy.

95%. Ah. It was at the “leaving garbage behind” stage. If the techs were very very good at what they did, they’d get an interesting video of some people who looked very much like Steve, Bucky, and Tony in an all alpha three-way. The cosplay/porn community was a freaking weird place, man.

And Tony had an even weirder sense of humor.

“A kid was kidnapped. Your contracts can wait-” Man 1 snapped, the irritated voice of reason.

“He’s got a crazy high penalty fee- I can’t approve this-” Man 2 whined.

Clint’s cell phone booped. He pulled the USB.

“Wait. Did you hear that?” Man 1 asked.

Clint didn’t hear what Man 2 said. He was already in the air ducts and crawling away.

He slipped out of the ducts in the boy’s locker room. In the gym, groups of kids were sitting on the floor. Some of them were crying. Most of them were on their phones, either talking or texting. Probably with their parents, he realized. Two FBI agents and some teachers were in a corner, helping a couple of sobbing and hysterical omegas.

One of the FBI agents had left their windbreaker draped over a folding chair. He swiped it, and put it on. From his cargo pants he pulled out a selection of lanyards, then picked the FBI one, and looped it around his neck. The rest went back into his pocket.

Disguise complete, he ducked out into a hallway before anyone spotted him.

His khaki cargo pants weren’t quite right, but his dress shirt was, and his lanyard said he was a tech. Historically techs got more slack. He put the note he’d written into an evidence bag he pulled from another cargo pants pocket. He bought them in bulk on Ebay, and they were the same that the FBI and SHIELD used.

You’d be amazed at all the weird crap he came across that he had to bring back. Plus, you could put tacos in them and then put said tacos in your pockets so you could have tacos for later without getting taco juice all over your pants.

He felt he deserved an award of some kind for that discovery. Not a Nobel, but at least a Teen's Choice or something.

He dropped the bagged note near the evidence box in the hallway outside the omega room as he strolled by at a brisk walk. The techs would take care of the rest- they’d assume someone had fucked up, so they’d label it, log it in, and try their best to cover their ass.

It was sad how predictable people were sometimes.

He grabbed a clipboard off a pile of random FBI crap in a hallway, slapped some blank copy paper on it and took a lap of the school. No one stopped him. That was spy lesson #2. No one stops people who are carrying something and look like they know where they are going.

He quickly found that they had made the teachers lounge into an interview room. He opened the door, leaned inside, and touched the inside wall leaving a very tiny electronic bug behind.

The FBI guys turned in their seats to glare at him. The harried guy in the chair opposite them looked like a teacher of some sort.

"Sorry- I'm looking for Rodriguez?" Clint asked, waving the clipboard vaguely.

"Try outside near the van," one of the FBI guys snapped, clearly irritated at being interrupted by a greenhorn.

Clint nodded amicably. "Thanks," he said and left.

He ducked into the nearest bathroom and poked at his cellphone. The bug he'd planted went straight to his hearing aid.

“Why don’t we take it from the top?"

"Why?! I've already told you like three times!"

"Because I'm still confused. Maybe you can explain it better."

A noise of frustration.

"Look. I don't get why it's confusing. There was some alpha kid in the omega room. I was asked to help open the door."

“Okay. So, you were in your classroom, and-” FBI guy 1 said.

The teacher sighed heavily.

“I was in my classroom,” he said, as if reciting something from rote memory. “Then Mr. Garland came in-”

“And Mr. Garland is the counselor, right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, so Mr. Garland came in, and said- what exactly?”

More sighing. “Um... he said that there was an alpha who’d locked himself in the omega room, and if they could have my key.”

“So you have a key to the omega room?”

“My classroom is right opposite the room. I’m the head of my department. So yes, I have a key.”

“I thought you had to have a code to get in?”

“You do, at first. All omegas are given the code at the start of the school year in case of... incidents. But once you use the code the only way to get in is to use the key.”

“Is it unusual for alphas to have the code to get in?”

“Omegas get boyfriends... they want a quiet place to make out or whatever during lunch... it’s happened.”

“So you weren’t alarmed when they said there was an alpha in there?”

“I’ve been a high school teacher for 10 years. Not much surprises me anymore.”

“Did they say how they knew that there was alpha in there? The place doesn’t have windows.”

Silence. “I... I don’t know. You’d have to ask Mr. Garland. He was there from the beginning. I was just there when they came and ripped the door off the hinges.”

Clint poked his cellphone again to turn off the bug. They guy was useless for what he wanted to know. But this Garland guy...

A quick look at the official high school web page revealed a staff list with pictures. They were in alphabetical order. God, he loved it when the world made his job easier.

Mr. Garland was a school counselor alright. From the look of it he was a textbook “I peaked in high school alpha”, right down to his horrible cheap suit. And whoever let him buy that toupee should be taken out back and shot, along with the fucking toupee.

Another five minutes on Facebook revealed that he was divorced, and he had a teenage omega daughter that looked quite nice in her bikini on a boat on a lake. Her post was tagged #Summer and the guy driving the boat was tagged as Ash Simmons- her stepfather. Who apparently was an anesthesiologist.

Interesting.

Her name was Cathy, but her friends all called her Cat in the comments section.

Now to find Mr. Garland. One alpha douchebag coming right up.

God, he loved easy missions.

10 minutes later he was cursing for jinxing himself. He wanted Mr. Douchebag, and apparently so did everyone else- to the point where an FBI agent, a SHIELD agent and a freaking NYPD detective were questioning him. Outside the room where this tomfuckery was happening, someone had rigged a TV to link to a phone camera so the “interview” was both being recorded and watched by a gaggle of agents from all three agencies.

It was soon very clear why.

“Look, I’m not saying anything more until I have a lawyer,” Mr. Douchecanoe snapped.

“A kid’s been kidnapped. You were knocked over and tied up with zip ties, Mr. Garland. That makes you a victim.”

“Lawyer. Now.” Mr. Garland snarled.

OOOooo Clint wanted him. But there were so many freaking people wearing Alphabet Agency windbreakers it was crazy...

He got an idea.

He ducked into the nearest bathroom, and dialed a number.

“Wade? You in New York right now?”

“Sure. What you need Merida?” the higher voice never failed to surprise him. Most alphas did their best to pitch their voice lower. Wade had never bothered.

“I need a favor.”

The man on the other end considered. “A favor that pays, or a favor that I can cash in from Mr. Tin Man and his chorus girls?”

“It’d be Star Spangled Man and his chorus girls, but no. I can pay this time.”

The man snorted. “Don’t fool yourself, Merida. The Pack Omega is always the one who calls the shots. Us alphas are just there to do as we’re told and look sexy as hell while moving the heavy stuff.”

Clint wouldn’t disagree. But then again, he was a Beta, so what the hell did he know?

“How do you feel about explosions?” Clint said.

“Oh, Merida, I love it when you talk dirty to me,” Wade cooed.

20 minutes later, Clint was out in the parking lot eating a chili dog from an opportunistic and frankly, genius, cart vendor when an explosion big enough to rattle the windows behind him went off a block or two to the north of the school.

Car alarms quickly filled the silence, and as if following some primal lemming like instinct, most of the men around the school started running towards the source of the explosion, leaving a reluctant skeleton crew behind.

Clint took a minute to finish his chili dog and strolled into the building. He didn’t have to go far- Mr. Douchecanoe was being interviewed in the principal’s office. As he predicted, the windbreaker club had all but disappeared.

He poked his head into the office, and found the SHIELD guy was the only one left. “There’s been an explosion,” he said. “We’re supposed to report to the parking lot for new orders.”

“I’m not supposed to leave him,” the SHIELD drone complained.

“I can babysit,” Clint volunteered, and flashed his brand new FBI lanyard at him. “I just started last week. They’re not having me do much more than coffee runs at the moment.”

The SHIELD guy hesitated. Clint waited patiently. Everyone always went for the opportunity to be a hero, doubly so if they were a SHIELD drone.

And like always, people never disappointed.

“Do NOT let him leave,” SHIELD guy said.

“Sure,” Clint said.

He stood there and smiled as the SHIELD guy ran off to play hero.

“I’m not talking to you,” Mr. Douchebag said. “I asked for a lawyer. You have to leave me alone until I get a lawyer.”

“Of course,” Clint said, still smiling. It didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Let’s go for a walk.”

Mr. Douchebag glared at him in confusion. “I thought you were babysitting me?”

“What? You don’t want to take a bathroom break?” Clint offered.

“I don’t need to go,” the guy snapped.

Clint sighed. The cell phone propped on the table was there. It was still probably recording. He very carefully picked it up and turned it off.

“How about this,” Clint said, his voice steely. “You come with me, and maybe- just maybe, you’ll get to see Cathy again.”

The man’s eyes grew wide.

There we go, Clint thought. Nailed it on the first try.

Chapter Text

Natasha hung up on Clint and stashed her phone in her back pocket.

Task one done. Now to talk to Coulson.

She walked out of the exam room and saw the door to Peter’s room swing shut.

She hustled, and got there just in time to see the nurse preparing a syringe.

“Stop,” she said, her voice low and firm. “What are you giving him?”

The nurse, a thin brown haired beta woman, looked spooked for a moment, then smiled nervously.

“It’s just some lorazepam, honey. It’ll make him feel better.”

Nat frowned. “What is it, and what is it for?”

More frazzled smiling from the nurse. “It’s a sort of sedative,” she said. “It’s a very safe and standard treatment for a cocaine overdose. It’ll help his heart settle down.”

Natasha stilled.

“Who ordered you to give it?”

The smile turned into a frown. “Dr. Connors, of course,” she said.

“Put that back and get out,” she said coldly.

The nurse frowned at her. “This is what the doctor thinks is best-”

“If you don’t put that thing down I’ll throw you right out that door,” Natasha said, meaning every word of it. No one was going to inject Peter with anything until they figured out what was actually wrong with him. Whatever the fuck lorazepam was, it might make things worse.

The nurse pressed her lips together in agitation. “I’ll go get the doctor,” she said, and beat a tactical retreat.

Nat watched her leave, then huffed a sigh.

Was the world fucking serious right now? There were a million things she had to do right now, and she had no time for babysitting-

Babysitting.

She needed a babysitter.

She could HIRE a babysitter.

Why the fuck did she not think of this ages ago?

She pulled out her phone and considered her list of contacts.

She needed an omega because Tony would absolutely stab any non-pack alpha she found to sit with him. It couldn’t be the boys. Tony was still pissed about the whole making Peter purr thing, and he’d stab both the alpha and herself he woke up to find one of them in the MedBay, nevermind in Peter’s room.

A beta wouldn’t cut it- they were usually too clueless when it came to hormonal omegas. They needed to be sensitive enough to read the room, but ruthless enough to not bow down to any passing alpha. Pepper, thankfully, fit this bill. But she was three hours out.

They also needed to not strangle Tony within 5 minutes of him waking up cranky, because from the way her day was going, he would not only wake up hungry but PHSing as well.

And not work for SHIELD, but still trustworthy...

Oh, and available at the last minute and also currently in New York. She didn’t have time for any “I’ll be there in a couple of hours” shit.

Her eyes settled on a name. She would be perfect, if only they were in New York... wait a minute. Didn’t she hear something about a conference?

She double checked facebook.

They were in New York right now. At a hotel not 15 minutes away.

Perfect.

She ducked into the hallway and dialed the number.

“Hello?” the omega sounded bored.

“I need a babysitter,” Natasha said.

“Natasha... you don’t have any kids,” the omega protested.

“No but I have a cranky scientist. I need you to sit with them for a while,” she said. “Make sure that they stay asleep, and undisturbed.”

“Is Bruce okay?” she sounded concerned.

“It’s Tony. Things have gone to shit and I have a million fires to put out. I don’t have time for this.”

“I’m at a conference with Jane right now,” the omega grumbled. “I already had to separate her from Reed Richards like twice today-”

“Your beta can live without you for 2 hours. I need you to sit with him until Pepper comes. She can take over for you.”

The woman hesitated.

“Darcy, if you get here in the next 20 minutes I’ll get you an official SHIELD taser, a pint of ice cream, and Jerry from Accounting's number.” Natasha said. She wasn’t above bribery. And Jerry was single.

"Is he cute?"

"He's an alpha with a steady job, a cat and he likes Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He also showers regularly." Once you reached a certain age, you discovered that there were more important things to look for in a boyfriend than just “how hot is he?”

“And he’s kinda cute,” Nat added for good measure.

“How the fuck is he still single?” Darcy sounded baffled.

“Mystery of the universe,” Natasha said. Jerry also had a thing for feet, and still lived with his mother, but who knows- Darcy might not mind that.

"Sold.”

“Done. We’re in the Medbay at the Tower. I’ll see you in 20 minutes,” Natasha said, and hung up. It would piss Darcy off and make her move faster.

Two seconds later there was a knock at the door, and Dr. Connors came in. “Ms. Romanov? I heard you had some questions about Peter’s medication?” he said.

“Why are you giving him something for a cocaine overdose?” Natasha asked.

The doctor very carefully did not make a face at her. “It’s not just for that. Regardless of what caused it, Peter’s heart is beating a little faster than I’d like. Lorazepam will help bring it down to a more acceptable level-”

“Peter’s a super. What is his heart rate supposed to be?” she asked, checking the monitors. They were beeping a bit on the quick side, but they weren’t screaming like they’d done when his heart had fluttered.

“Normal range for someone his age is somewhere between 70 and 85-”

Natasha stared at the monitor that said his heart rate was 90.

“Someone his age?” she repeated. “He’s a mutant. What is his normal resting heart rate?”

“70 to 85 is a perfectly good range-”

“Don’t you have a file somewhere?” Natasha demanded, shocked. “He complained for a week about all the tests Bruce did to him-”

“He’s a human,” the doctor snapped back. “And 75 should be his resting heart rate-”

“You just said that 85 was okay. So 90 isn’t that bad. He’s sick. People’s heart rates go up when they’re sick,” she interrupted him.

“I think it’s best that a small dose-”

“Have you cleared this drug with Bruce yet?” she asked.

Dr. Connors stopped short. “I’m sorry?”

“Did Bruce clear this medication for Peter?” she said very slowly and clearly.

Dr. Connors looked offended. “We don’t need to clear every medication-”

“Get out. You’re not giving him anything,” Natasha said coldly. “Peter’s sick enough. I’m not letting you inject him with gods knows what because you’re too stupid and conceited to follow procedure.”

“Ms. Romanov, I assure you that I graduated top of my class-”

“I DON’T CARE,” Natasha growled. “Out.”

Dr. Stupid frowned at her. “Coulson will be hearing about this-” he said. As if he thought threatening her was a good idea.

“Coulson is not your boss. Tony Stark is,” she said evenly. “And you won’t be telling him anything-”

“It is my job to report on the team’s status and readiness to Coulson,” he said. “And in light of recent events, I think it’s high time I inform him of Parker’s second gender-”

He didn’t get to finish the sentence. Natasha had him pinned to the wall with a knife to his throat before the horrible man could blink.

“You will go home. You will send in your resignation by mail. You will go find another job somewhere and keep your mouth shut. Do you understand?”

“Are you threatening me?” demanded the man who had apparently graduated top of his class from medical school and who, at this very second, had a knife at his throat.

Natasha was less than impressed. “You can always take option B,” she said coldly.

“And what is that?” he demanded.

“Muggings happen all the time these days. Peter’s always complaining about it. It’d be a shame if you got mugged on your way home and killed. But what can you do, right? It’s New York City, and you’re walking around with that fancy watch of yours in a bad neighborhood. You were just asking for it really,” Natasha purred.

The man stared at her. His eyes slowly going wide. “You’re serious,” he gasped.

“When it comes to my pack, I am always serious,” Natasha said coldly.

He licked his lips and seemed to do some mental math.

“I’ll go home,” he spat. “Now get your hands off me-”

Natasha let him go. It was a shame really. If he’d been a few inches shorter he would have slid down the wall a little. Instead he just irritably smoothed out his clothes and then stalked out of the room.

“Jarvis?”

“Yes Ms. Romanov?”

“Disable Dr. Connors' Tower access. I don’t want him to come back.”

“At once, Ms. Romanov. Shall I have security escort him out?”

She debated for a minute. “If he starts to head towards Coulson, yes. Otherwise let him go.”

She sighed and sat in a chair. Jesus Christ, this was going to be a long day.

22 minutes and 5 seconds later a breathless Darcy flounced into the main MedBay. As usual, she had her Bag with her. The thing was as big as it was hideous, and Natasha knew from first hand experience you could fit a 25 pound rabbit in it and still have a bit of room to spare. It was also “white” in the same way that a fifty year old wedding dress hung in a smoking room was white. Darcy insisted she washed the canvas bag (especially after the rabbit peed in it) but Natasha thought the only real way to clean the thing would be to burn it.

Not that she would do that. It would probably explode, what with all the weird crap Darcy had carted around since Jane hit Thor with her car.

The Bag, at least, was normal. Normal for Darcy anyway. What wasn’t normal was her outfit. The buxom brunette was wearing a red tea dress with white polka dots that looked like something right out of the 1950s. Natasha could even see the white lacy petticoat peeking out from under the skirt. Darcy wore matching red flats and her hair done up in some sort of hair do that Nat would swear she’d seen on some eye candy omegas on Steve’s old recruitment posters.

“Fuck you I’m still getting that taser,” Darcy said, before Natasha could open her mouth. “I got stopped by an idiot security guard in the lobby. He tried to take my knitting needles,” she complained as she collapsed into a chair.

“But not your taser?” Nat asked, eyebrow raised. Darcy always had a taser on her. And chapstick. And maybe some Tylenol and her knitting and maybe even a Geiger counter made of mostly duct tape if she had her Bag with her. Sometimes Natasha wondered if Darcy had knocked Mary Poppins over for her magic carpet bag, then blackmailed Dr. Strange into making it look like canvas.

She’d once told Clint her theory about Darcy’s Bag. He thought it was more likely that she was a straight up witch, and had just enchanted the Bag herself. He’d seen it in action in New Mexico, and always swore she’d pulled a first aid kit and the “best fucking sandwich I’ve ever had and a family sized bag of my favorite chips” out of the Bag after he’d complained he was hungry and bleeding.

Darcy rolled her eyes. “The taser is in my garter belt. He only searched my bag. The idiot thought my circular needles were a freaking garrote or something. You guys seriously have shit security for a building full of super heroes,” she complained. “Thankfully, my man Jarvis had my back.”

“Anytime, Ms. Lewis,” Jarvis said.

Natasha sighed. “Jarvis, schedule the security guard who screened Darcy for retraining,” she said.

“Of course, Ms. Romanov,” Jarvis said amicably from the ceiling.

This fucking day...

“You can still have SHIELD taser if you explain...” Natasha said and waved a hand at Darcy. “This. Whatever is happening here.”

Darcy rolled her eyes. “First of all, I am fucking snack right now, okay? And second of all, it’s called class. And third of all, it’s 1950s mad scientist themed day at the conference and I’m not mad, or a scientist, so...”

“Any luck with cute scientist guys?” Natasha asked.

Darcy groaned. “I wish. They’re all... so... old,” she complained. “And the ones that aren’t old have all the personality of an empty toothpaste box.”

Natasha held back a pitying sigh. The curvy omega had been looking for a mate for as long as Nat had known her. But it was hard to date when you had Thor wandering in and out of your life, dragging you into random, nonsensical adventures. The last time Nat had seen Darcy it was because Loki had turned one of Thor’s friends into a rabbit and Darcy had gotten stuck with things like “getting hay from a pet store” then rabbit sitting while Thor hunted Loki down to undo the spell.

Natasha had been called in to help Jane and Darcy sneak an incredibly large and pissed off rabbit from England into France. Apparently the EU was very particular about things like vaccination records and “pet passports” and quarantines when it came to giant freaking rabbits coming from the UK. (Who knew?) And of course there had been no time because something about a natural spring and a full moon...

She’d stopped asking questions right around the time Darcy tied sleigh bells to her wrists.

It wasn’t the weirdest thing she’d ever done, but it was up there.

“So... where’s Tony?” Darcy asked, pulling Natasha away from her thoughts.

Nat paused for a moment. “It’s not just Tony that I need you to watch,” she said. “There’s a kid to, but...” she shook her head. “Come and see.”

Intrigued, Darcy followed her. As soon as they entered the private room, Darcy’s hands flew to her nose.

“Holy shit-” she whispered shouted. “It smells like a dying hooker in here. What the hell? And why is that kid naked?”

Nat held in a sigh. Darcy was loyal, and smart, but she had about as much tact as a hundred year old grandma with no fucks left to give. Thankfully Tony was a deep sleeper and slept through Darcy being... Darcy.

“That would be Peter. He’s sick. He has a fever so they’re using ice to keep it down.”

“HE smells like that?” Darcy demanded. “Jesus Christ...”

“Yes, and we don’t know what’s wrong with him. Everyone is stupid today, and everything is on fire. I need you to sit here and keep an eye on both of them. If the kid wakes up, call me. If Tony wakes up, have Jarvis deliver some food and feed Tony, then call me. Don’t let anyone give the kid anything. And I mean, anything.”

Darcy eyed the kid. “Doesn’t he need medicine or something?”

“I’ll let you know when we find a doctor who’s not an idiot with his head up his ass,” Natasha said angrily. “The last one thought-” she cut herself off. “It doesn’t matter. No drugs.”

Darcy nodded. “I can do that.”

“Jarvis?” Natasha said.

“Yes, Ms. Romanov?”

“Darcy Lewis is now in charge of Peter and Tony. Back her up with the medical staff.”

“Of course Ms. Romanov.”

Natasha took one last look around the room. She felt like she was forgetting something...

“Natasha?” Darcy asked. She was sitting in a chair digging her knitting out of her Bag.

Natasha met her gaze. “Yeah?”

“It’ll be okay,” Darcy gave her a sincere smile. “I got my taser, and the babies are sleeping. Go kick some ass and they’ll be here when you get back.”

Natasha took a breath. Right. Trust her backup. “I owe you some ice cream,” she said.

“You owe me Blue Bell ice cream,” Darcy clarified. “And some dark chocolate. And that taser.”

“Tell Jarvis where you want it delivered,” Natasha said, and left to finally go deal with Coulson.

Chapter Text

Coulson brooded in the elevator.

The Avengers were falling apart. Or, at the very least, they were so close to falling apart that it made no real difference. Parker was down, for who knows how long- Stark was the very definition of unstable, with Natasha stuck playing the role of babysitter. And Rogers and Barnes had been exiled to the guest rooms. And Clint was not in the Tower, which meant that he was busy . (Which also meant Coulson was in for a headache and a mountain of paperwork sometime in the very near future, but he’d cross that bridge when it fell on him) And Banner- well. They really tried not to use him that much. And never on his own. That would be... no.

So if aliens invaded in the next couple of days, it was very possible that they were screwed.

Well, maybe not totally screwed. Rogers and Barnes were a wrecking crew unto themselves. They should still be in commission, and if the world was on fire enough they’d come through and save the day, even if they hated him. They were blindingly noble like that.

But the pack falling apart wasn’t the worst thing.

No.

The worst thing was that the team had apparently fallen to pieces while he wasn’t looking. Possibly it had happened while he’d blinked.

Packs, especially war packs like the Avengers, were fragile things if history had taught humanity anything. Take out the top alphas, leave the pack omega on their own without a clear alpha heir to act as an anchor, then give the tiniest little nudge... and the whole thing would spin out of control until it tore itself apart under nothing more than its own weight and momentum.

He’d KNOWN that. And yet... he’d let himself blink. To wander off, even. To do paperwork, of all things.

And it hadn’t even been two whole days since he saw them last.

That’s how fast things had fallen apart. He’d sent them on a mission Saturday night, they’d succeeded, done a quick after-action report, then hit the showers. There had been a quiet Sunday, and then by 1pm the next day, the team was raiding a high school and 10 minutes after they landed everything was in pieces.

It was possible things had been in pieces before that, but that they’d come together for Peter. Which wouldn’t surprise him. They all obviously adored him. Coulson still wasn’t quite sure where the boy fit in the pack’s hierarchy. Due to his age and his beta status, he’d expected him to be under Clint, and therefore at the bottom. Perhaps after he got experience under his belt he’d be equal to Clint.

And yet when Coulson had suggested going to visit Peter, Stark had straight up charged him, like a territorial bear. A pack omega- let alone a beta filling the role of an omega, would not do that for the lowest member of the pack. Even if said pack member was sick.

Unless...

Rogers and Barnes were icing him out. Worse, they were not quite lying to him.

Did... did they see him as a threat?

It was mind boggling. He was a middle aged Beta, who was also their handler for SHIELD. He might not be pack, but he at least was supposed to be an ally. But if they viewed him as a threat...

The realization almost hurt his feelings.

But his feelings weren’t important. It was obvious he’d fucked up. Somehow, somewhere, he had totally, utterly, and completely fucked things up. What had he done? Not done? What had he missed?

He wasn’t used to not knowing how’d he fucked something up. That was what rookies did. And he was no rookie. It was... irritating.

So it was time to retrace his steps. To look for missed signs. It was possible that the pack had collapsed in less than a day, but unlikely. Hadn’t Carthage collapsed in 12 hours after that one Alpha King had died? He couldn’t remember.

What was important was checking to see if they were falling apart before their mission on Saturday, and he’d somehow missed the warning signs, or disaster had struck sometime after, and it had just happened that fast.

He wasn’t really sure which option was worse.

He got off at the cafeteria level and headed for the kitchens. Lesson #209- dishwashers/servers knew far more than they should about gossip at their workplace. And they were underpaid enough that a reasonable bribe was more than enough to loosen lips.

It was a weird in between time for the cooks right now. The lunch rush was just petering out and the few latecomers were wandering in and making interested noises at the menus. The sous chefs were just starting to prepare for the dinner rush.

He tackled the servers first. “What did the Upstairs eat on Saturday?” he asked.

The server shrugged. “They didn’t order anything from us. They usually order delivery after they get back from a mission.”

“Sunday then?”

“Spaghetti with meatballs on the side and garlic bread.”

“How much came back?”

“Almost all of it,” the man shrugged. “Barely touched the bread, too. Had to toss it, since it went stale.”

“And the rest?”

“I think Johnathon, Taylor and Cassie split it and took it home.”

“And they came into work today?”

“Johnathon and Cassie did.”

“And Taylor?”

“It’s his day off today,” he said.

“Did anyone deliver anything to the guest floors anytime this week?”

“Yesterday,” the server said.

“What time?”

The man considered. “The Captain and the Sergeant had like two whole chickens and some mashed potatoes for lunch.”

“Anything for dinner?”

“Not from us.”

“What time did you take lunch up?”

More considering. “It was early. Like 10:30. I remember I almost told him we couldn’t do it because we were still serving breakfast, but...” the beta hesitated.

Coulson smiled knowingly. “But if the Captain wants roasted chicken for breakfast, then he gets roasted chicken for breakfast.”

“Exactly.” The waiter said with feeling. “The last time someone told Stark no-”

“They get fired?” Coulson asked.

“No. They got ‘promoted’,” the man said grimly, complete with finger quotes.

“Why’s that a bad thing?”

“He got promoted to the kitchens in Antarctica,” the man- Coulson couldn’t remember his name (John maybe?)- said, and shuddered.

Coulson frowned. “Stark Industries has kitchens in Antarctica?” he asked curiously.

“There’s a research station there. Something about ice? Or penguins? I don’t even want to know. All I know is that there’s more penguins than girls there.”

“How long before he quit?” Coulson asked.

The guy shrugged. “They say he’s still there. Got married to a scientist or something. Apparently he likes it there now.” The server indicated with a pointed tilt of his head and raised eyebrows that this was a clear sign of unchecked madness.

Coulson’s smile widened, and gave the kid a fifty. “Thanks,” he said.

“No problem,” the server said, slipping the note into a pocket, then paused.

“What is it?” Coulson asked.

“Do you know what Stark is using the ice for?” the man asked.

“Ice?” Coulson blinked.

“Yeah. He and like 3 other people came down here and filled some hefty bags with ice and left like something was on fire. We’ve got some bets going on as to what he’s up to this time.”

“How long ago was that?”

The man shrugged. “An hour or so?”

That would have been right around the time the team got back from the high school.

Interesting.

“No. I don’t know. But if I can, I’ll get back to you on that.”

The beta nodded. “Thanks,” he said, and went back to his side work.

“Just out of curiosity,” Coulson said, “What’s the leading theory?”

The server snorted. “Matilda thinks one of his machines is overheating or something. But the real money is on weird sex stuff.”

Coulson’s eyebrows hit his hairline. “Sex stuff?”

“Hey, if I was mated to Captain America I’d be doing totally weird sex stuff with him too-” a mousy omega wrapping knives in napkins commented. “And it makes more sense than cooling down one of his machines-” she continued loudly and pointedly at a sous chef chopping lettuce.

“It could happen!” the sous chef shot back.

“It’ll run on electricity, Matilda! You can’t put ICE on one of his suits! All the magic smoke will come out!”

“Now I know you’re full of shit-”

“You’ve never dropped a hairdryer in a bathtub before? It screams then this smoke comes out-” the omega retorted, clearly ramping up for some sort of rant. “And then it doesn’t work anymore-”

“You dropped a hairdryer in a bathtub? Did you not see the warning label on the damn thing?” the beta server asked, horrified.

Coulson beat a hasty retreat before he got dragged anymore into it.

Well, now he had some new things. A clue, a mystery and a tidbit. First- whatever had happened had happened either very early in the morning, or right after they got back that night.

And second- Stark and Fury had more in common than he thought. “Promoting” someone in a way that made it look like a punishment while actually being a reward? He was one sneaky Beta bastard, that’s for sure.

And third... what the hell did Stark need ice for?

Coulson held in a sigh and added it to his mental “WTF” pile.

************

No one paid any mind to the two FBI agents that walked quickly out of the school. The FBI guys were all busy this day. One was older and wearing a bad toupee, and wearing a windbreaker. He looked nervous. The second one was a new techie judging from his cargo pants and his shiny new lanyard. Someone would have to have a word with him about how far one could press the dress code.

A gaggle of agents gathered by some sort of trailer that had removable sides and was crammed full of both computers and people. Letters on the side declared it to be “Command Center #2”. But the two agents paid no attention and walked purposefully right by it.

The younger one helped the older one into a car, then walked around and got into the driver’s seat- which was an odd bit of chivalry, Agent Lopez thought absently. It almost looked like the procedure followed when you were putting a suspect into a car. But that was silly. They were both Agents. He must have imagined something.

A few seconds later Lopez completely forgot all about the odd behavior of the two unknown agents when someone from SHIELD came running up with a printout from a surveillance camera that showed someone in a Santa suit putting a bomb next to a trash can.

Great. Costumed perps meant only one thing- SHEILD was going to be taking over this one. Which was good news. With luck, he’d be home in time for his wife’s pot roast today.

Chapter Text

“Hello, and welcome back to Mate Watch!” a blonde omega gushed. She wore a shirt that was almost too low cut to be allowed on YouTube to show off her obviously fake breasts. She and two other women- a fashionable androgynous beta and a butch alpha with an undercut and a nose ring, sat round table style in front of a giant red heart. The heart was bordered with white lace and the heart itself glittered under the stage lights, like some sort of Valentine’s offering from a first grader to their mother. There were plushie swans on the middle of the table.

It was hideous and tacky, and Darcy lived for it. She put her knitting down long enough to nudge her phone into a slightly better viewing position and turned the volume up a notch.

“In case you’re new, I’m Kayleigh,” the omega simpered, “This is the ever fabulous Rhea-” the omega gestured, and the beta on her right gave a curt nod. “And last, but not least, the awesome Kate!”

The alpha to her left jutted her chin out and grunted a “Wassup?” with extra attitude.

“Oooh! Kate is upset today!” Kayleigh squealed, oozing fake concern. “Tell us why Kate!”

“Tony Stark was sighted last Thursday at a Gala for the MacArthur Foundation... mateless!” the alpha woman growled. The other two gasped exaggeratedly, clearly fake scandalized. “And it’s not the first time either. This will be the third time in a month that Rogers is nowhere to be seen.”

Helpfully, a picture of Tony taken on the red carpet entrance to the gala appeared in the middle of the heart behind the women. They all turned to look at it. In the image, Tony’s trademark paparazzi smile looked uncharacteristically weak, while he looked otherwise fetching in a dark blue suit.

“Aww... he looks so sad!” Kayleigh cooed. “Does anyone know where Rogers was? Maybe he was saving children or something?”

“He was at Starbucks,” Kate sneered. Another picture appeared next to Tony’s showing a clear paparazzi shot of Steve Rogers coming out of a Starbucks, cup in hand, and a baseball cap shoved down over his face. But there was no mistaking those shoulders.

Even Darcy winced.

“Now that’s just downright criminal,” Rhea said, upset. “Do you see that man’s eyelashes? He clearly went all out and Rogers still stood him up,” she said, shaking her head. “That poor Beta. Alpha men are just so clueless.”

Kate nodded. “He always has the most amazing eyelashes,” she agreed. “Does anyone know where he goes to get them done, Kayleigh?”

“According to my sources... they’re natural!” Kayleigh squealed, like she was sharing a shocking truth bomb.

Tony’s picture switched to a close up of his face, to reveal that yes- the man’s eyelashes were incredibly dark and full.

Darcy frowned, and peered down at the sleeping man next to her. Tony was not quite snoring, but he was adorable even when he clearly drooling into his pillow. And yes- his eyelashes were just as lush when he was passed out on a random Monday as they were on a full out Gala night.

Life wasn’t fair, Darcy grumped. Maybe if she was extra sneaky, and a little bit lucky, she could do some snooping and figure out what mascara he used.

That is, if he used any. The bastard.

Rhea tsked and shook her head. “He is way too adorable to be a Beta, honestly. It’s really not fair to all the rest of us! How are we supposed to meet that sort of standard?”

“You can’t even try-” Kate agreed. “The man is blessed .”

“His suit is super flattering! Is it new? I don’t remember him being in that shade of blue before.” Kayleigh asked.

Rhea consulted some notes on the table in front of her. “According to his publicist, he was wearing a Tom Ford suit from the new spring collection that should be out later this month.”

“This is just so sad!” Keyleigh said, outraged. “Rogers should be ashamed of himself- letting his mate get all dolled up and not going with him!”

“Do you think Rogers is losing interest already?” Rhea asked. “I was surprised when I heard they mated. Stark doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to relationships. He’s super fickle for a Beta.”

“Pepper Potts was around for a while-” Kate pointed out.

“Officially, or unofficially?” Kayleigh interjected. “They’ve been on and off for years . Everyone else didn’t last more than two months. Which means that either Potts is a saint, or he just couldn’t find anyone else who could compare to her.”

“You know, I also thought that Rogers and Stark got mated super fast. Like you said, Pepper and Tony were together for years, and there wasn’t even so much as a rumor of a mating ceremony. But it was what- a month?! After they broke up, and suddenly- BAM! The man’s mated without so much as a flower girl.” Rhea said, snapping her fingers for effect.

Kayleigh shook her head. “Makes you wonder. Was Rogers sniffing around while Pepper was still in play? I know he’s Captain America... but he’s an alpha from the 40s. And his friend Barnes was quite a player. Do you think he’s making up for lost time?”

“Or, was Stark stringing her along while he went for Rogers?” Kate offered. “He does have a track record, and Rogers is his first alpha. Maybe things got out of hand? A whirlwind romance that’s cooling off sort of thing?”

“It’s only been, what- 7 months since they mated?” Rhea asked. “The whirlwind thing sounds more likely than anything.”

“You know, I was surprised Rogers even went for Stark,” Kate said thoughtfully.

“Oh?” Rhea asked. “Why?”

“It’s just... he has that super tragic backstory, and he’s- I mean- look at him- he’s definitely one of God’s gifts, obviously-” Kate said.

“Obviously,” Kayleigh sighed in agreement, and made heart eyes at the publicity photo of Rogers in his Captain America suit that now filled the heart behind them. She fanned herself a bit with her hand.

“I always thought that if anyone had a Fated Mate- it would be Rogers,” Kate said. “But he went for what? A beta ?” Kate said, with the same tone one would use to describe a type of shit. “No offense Rhea,” she said quickly. “But he has such a fairy tale story so far, and he’s settled for a Beta instead of waiting for his Fated Omega? Seriously?”

Rhea shook her head. “None taken. You alphas are just too much drama, to be honest,” she said. “I’ll gladly let the omegas have you,” she said with a snort.

“It is a proven fact that most alpha and beta romances generally don’t last that long,” Kayleigh said sadly. The other girls nodded knowingly. “And I have to say I agree with you there, Kate. It’s obvious he’s got a Fated Mate out there somewhere. Maybe that’s why this relationship clearly isn’t going so well. It was doomed from the start,” she said sadly.

“Has anyone seen Stark’s bite mark lately?” Rhea interjected. “If it’s fading already-”

“Kayleigh? Do we have any clear shots of Tony’s neck?” Kate asked.

“None since the press conference when they announced they’d mated...” Kayleigh said thoughtfully.

“Tommy? Do we have a picture of that?” Kate asked someone off camera. After a couple of seconds, the image behind them faded and was replaced with a clear picture of Tony Stark in a low cut top standing behind a podium, with a clear and still-healing mating bite on his neck.

“So it definitely happened... right?” Rhea asked. “I’m not just imagining it? Maybe it was a stunt to get back at Pepper?”

“You know... they CAN do makeup to make it look like a mating bite... they do it for the movies all the time-” Kate offered.

“Do you always watch tv shows about people you sit next to, or am I just that lucky today?” Tony bitched, his eyes still closed.

Darcy dropped her knitting and scrambled to turn her phone off. “Holy shit, dude- I’m sorry!” she whisper shouted. She fumbled a few times before she got the app to close.

“You hungry?” Darcy asked, breathless.

Tony glared at her. “Who the fuck even are you?” he demanded, his eyes now open and glaring.

“Darcy Lewis. Babysitter. Natasha called me,” Darcy word vomited before she could stop herself.

Tony just looked even more pissed than before. “Well, congratulations, you’re fired,” he snapped.

“Well, first of all,” Darcy said, recovering from her surprise and flat out ignoring his lazer death eyes, “You didn’t hire me dude. Second of all- when was the last time you ate?”

Tony blinked, then scowled even harder before looking away. “I’m fine-” he spat.

Darcy tried and failed to hold in an indulgent smile. That was crazy genius scientist talk for “more than a day ago, but I’m not admitting shit”. She dug into her bag, and produced a bag of Twizzlers and some freeze dried blueberries.

“Here. This should get your blood sugar up until some real food arrives. Jarvis?”

“I have already placed an order from the cafe on the third floor,” Jarvis said calmly from the ceiling. “The food should arrive momentarily.”

“There’s my main man!” Darcy said, smiling widely. “Has anyone told you that you’re awesome today, J?” she cooed.

“That is not necessary Ms. Lewis,” Jarvis said cooly, but he sounded a bit smug about it. “It is always a pleasure to be of service.”

Tony narrowed his eyes at Darcy. “Hey! No flirting with my AI- he’s not programmed for that,” he demanded, then sat up. Or rather- tried to sit up. He quickly fell back onto the bed with a pained grunt.

Darcy rolled her eyes. “Eat your Twizzlers,” she said, and moved her phone so that she could text Natasha. The man grumbled, and tore the bag open with his teeth before grudgingly eating one. His eyes grew wide. “Holy shit. What are these things?”

“Twizzlers, duh?” Darcy said, and fired off a quick “Scientist baby is awake. Feeding now,” text.

“These are amazing-” Tony said, and started shoving them into his mouth.

“Whoa, slow down! They’re like 50% plastic so you have to chew them, ya know?”

“What?” Tony stopped, and flipped the bag over to inspect the ingredients. “Why would they have plastic- that’s not food safe-”

Darcy sighed. Great. He really was a “Crazy Genius Scientist”- right down to the “It takes me a minute to not take what you’re saying literally” gene.

“It’s a joke man. Go ahead and keep the bag, but don’t eat all of them. You need to save room for some real food.”

Tony looked up scowling, and was clearly about to rip her a new one when as if by magic, the door to the room opened, and a young man with a tray full of food stepped inside. “Mr. Stark?” he said. He wore a cute little apron that said “Cafe Ole” on it.

Darcy beamed at him. “OOOOooooo are those tacos ?!”

“Tacos al Pastor,” the man said with a dazzling smile at Darcy. “With extra rice and two sides of pineapple salsa.”

“That is for me. Get your own... 50s girl.” Tony muttered, and then when the cafe boy didn’t move fast enough snapped, “Come on. Put it down over there,” he said, and gestured at a nearby wheelie table that was probably meant to be used by the kid in the bed.

The boy from the cafe scrambled to comply, and Darcy frowned pointedly at Stark, who ignored her. She waited until he said “Will that be all, Mr. Stark?”

“Yes-” Stark started, but Darcy cut him off.

Thank you ,” she said pointedly. “Jarvis give this man some sort of amazing tip, yeah?”

“Of course Ms. Lewis,” Jarvis said from the ceiling. The cafe’s boy’s smile regained it’s sunny nature. “Um...” the boy looked at the kid in the bed-

“Don’t worry about him. He’ll be fine,” Darcy said breezily. “Just a cold turned into pneumonia type of thing,” she lied, and all but shoved him out the door. “We’ll send the tray down later, thanks!”

She closed the door firmly before the guy could even frame another sentence.

“That was sad. He was looking like a promising minion and everything,” she said sadly.

Stark raised an eyebrow at her, mouth already half full of taco. She snagged one off the plate to his choked protest, that she also ignored.

“That- that is my taco-” he whined when he didn’t have a mouth full.

“So. Order more,” Darcy said blithely, shrugging. “Rule #1 of minions dude- you have to feed us.”

Tony gave her look of complete and utter confusion. “I’m sorry. What is happening...? Why... why are you dressed like that? Who ARE you? And stop eating my fucking tacos!”

“I have placed another order with the cafe,” Jarvis said from above.

“Great! These are freaking delicious man!”

“Omega!” There was a warning snarl.

Darcy sighed. She despised explaining things.

“So. I was at this convention with my friend Jane. You might know her- she’s with Thor? Up for a nobel prize? No?”

Tony just stared at her.

“Okay, so it’s ‘1950’s mad scientist day’ and I thought I’d dress up a little, ya know? Except almost no one else did, and...” she sighed. “Anyway, so I was looking cute as hell and keeping Jane from punching Reed Richards right in his stupid smug little face, when Nat called me and asked me to come in. So I did.”

“Let me get this straight. Nat. Natasha. Called... you .”

Darcy made a face. “Jesus man, you don’t need to have such a freaking... tone about it. I’m an omega not a doorstop. Plus, I’m used to weird. Did Nat ever tell you about the rabbit thing?”

“Rabbit thing.”

“Yeah. Loki turned Sif into this rabbit, and we had to smuggle her across the english channel. Nat’s going to get me a SHIELD taser and I’m gonna upgrade it so that I can take that pointy eared bastard DOWN next time.” She took a drink from her water bottle. “My old one wasn’t powerful enough.”

More staring. “You... you hit Loki with a taser?”

She made a face. “It worked on Thor! How was I supposed to know that being all... green magic stuff made him extra taser resistant?”

Stark regarded the tacos suspiciously.

“I’m sorry... Jarvis? Am... am I awake right now?”

“Unfortunately, yes sir.” Jarvis said reproachfully. “You have only slept for 1 and a half hours over the past 2 days. May I suggest you finish your snack and go back to bed?”

“Dude!” Darcy gasped, shocked. “What the fuck? Where the hell is your wrangler?”

Tony looked at her, and apparently gave up.

“I...” he sighed and rubbed a weary hand over his face. “I am just so done with today...” he muttered.

“Eat your tacos,” Darcy said, suddenly feeling protective. He was a Crazy Genius Scientist and he didn’t have a freakin wrangler? That was crazy scientist 101. You needed a wrangler to make sure that they ate and slept and didn’t try to plug the doohickey and the doodad into the same circuit breaker as the toaster. 90% of blown circuits were because Jane was always forgetting and just randomly plugging things in.

Darcy’s phone buzzed.

Chapter Text

“Let me get this straight,” Tony said slowly. “There was a ‘mad scientist’ day at a conference... for actual scientists.”

“Yes,” said Darcy, miserably.

“And in the spirit of said day, they had a ‘dooms-day machine’ build off,” Tony said wearily.

“It was supposed to be fun! Even Jane and I sent one in! It was cardboard, yeah, but it had lots of ominous dials on it and did this little countdown thing- I mean, I made it and put Jane’s name on it-”

Tony held up a finger and Darcy stopped talking.

“And now... Reed Richards and some guy...”

“Victor Something,” Darcy supplied helpfully.

“Are in some sort of scientist feud, so they both sent in real, working dooms-day devices.”

“Jane says that Richards says that his was supposed to be harmless-”

The finger shook, so Darcy shut up again.

“And so now... Jarvis?”

“There does appear to be a storm system forming over the Sheraton. The weather monitoring system on the roof is reporting wind gusts of up to 75 miles an hour and rising. A number of guests have complained on twitter about the sprinklers going off.”

Tony sighed, and rubbed his face again. “But that’s not the sprinklers. Is it Darcy?”

“Jane says no,” Darcy said miserably, and fiddled with her phone.

“Right. Rain storm-”

“Actually... a hurricane? From... space... interacting with... cosmic...” Darcy said, consulting her text messages.

“A STORM. Inside. .. the Sheraton,” Tony cut her off.

“Yes. The main ballroom actually.”

Tony groaned. Of COURSE. This... this fucking goddamn day...

“Can’t they... hit the machine with something?” Tony complained.

“Jane already tried that. I got her nice solid wood baseball bat after the aluminum one dented during the whole rabbit thing-”

Tony waved a hand. He could feel the migraine coming.

“So..... I’m gonna go-” the woman said, reaching for her bag.

Tony’s eyes snapped to the omega in the ridiculous red pin up dress. “You?” he said, accusingly. “What the hell would you do?”

“Stop it, of course. Jane probably didn’t hit it right,” she said matter of factly, and started shoving things into her giant bag.

He stared at her. Had he gone mad sometime in the last few hours? He’d always known that it was a matter of when, not if, of him going mad. He’d just assumed that he would... you know... notice it happening.

Wasn’t that something you were supposed to notice? Surely villains (or at the very least their friends/minions) noticed the increase in evil chuckling? The sudden adoption of white and/or hairless cats? Was the lair on an island with a volcano the last straw or just a warning sign? For god’s sake, he owned several islands, one of which had an extinct volcano on it... Did a beach house count towards “a lair”?

He blinked. Right. Mad scientists. Stopping them. Focus, damnit.

“No,” he snapped. “You,” he pointed a finger accusing, “Will stay here. Stay with my pup,” he said slowly and clearly.

She blinked at him, eyes wide. “He’s your pup?”

And of course she latched onto the one thing he didn’t want her to care about. He snarled warningly. “Hey! Cool! It’s fine!” she said, and threw her hands up. “If you’re going, that’d be great! Save my hair, you know?” she babbled. “Just leave me behind again , and all that-”

He growled, ignoring her little rant, and stormed out of the hospital room. He was going to repulser blast the shit out of that stupid machine and then he was going to knock some heads together.

Mad scientist day. Seriously?

The elevator ride to get to his suit took longer than the flight to the Sheraton. He really had to hand it to them. The location really was conveniently located. Which meant that if whatever the fuck machine was causing this blew, it would take both the hotel and several tourist destinations with it. And if they were really really unlucky, maybe a major subway line as well.

Fuck.

Nothing in his years of flying quite prepared him for the sudden wind shear he hit a few hundred feet out from the hotel. One moment he was flying normally, and the next he in serious danger of being slammed into a building that HAD been a comfortable distance away to on his left.

He skidded to a screaming and concrete destroying halt, stopping mere inches from a hot dog cart. Which, in the scheme of things, was a small miracle. He really didn’t want to have to spend hours scrubbing hot dog water out of the joints in his suit. For some reason the wind wasn’t nearly as bad on the ground as it was higher up.

“Okay... never doing that again,” he muttered.

“Iron Man!” the vendor shouted. “What’s going on?” the man had to hold his hat on.

“Evacuate!” he shouted, and turned around to look at the small crowd that had gathered to stare at the hotel. He walked up the sidewalk and to the top of the steps in front of the hotel.

“EVERYONE EVACUATE. MOVE!” the speakers built into his suit rattled with pure decibels. Thankfully, the native New Yorkers didn’t have to be told twice, and quickly skedaddled, leaving the stupid tourists behind. There wasn’t much Tony could do for them right now. Well, there was- but he was in no mood to shepherd whole lemming clans away from cliffs right now.

“Jarvis, call NYPD, tell them to set up a cordon,” Tony said. “Tell them I’m on it, but I want everyone out.”

“Yes sir.”

That would have to be good enough.

He approached the front doors. A bellhop stared at him wide eyed until Tony snarked, “I don’t carry cash in my suit. And also- are you deaf? I very clearly just told everyone to evacuate.”

The beta hurried to open the door for him. “Good. And run away as far as you can!” he called as he went into the building. He flipped up his helmet and instantly regretted it as his face was pelted with... did one call it rain when water fell in drop form a few inches from below a ceiling? Whatever. He flipped it back down and approached the woman at the front desk. Marble tiles slick with water crunched and broke under his weight.

“What are you idiots waiting for? Evacuate the building already!”

“We’re working on it- the water is shorting out the-”

The lights went off.

“The speakers,” the drenched woman finished, sounding defeated.

The emergency lights flickered on. Tony would take it.

“What’s your protocol?” he asked. Thankfully, the worst of the wind was outside. They didn’t have to shout to be heard. Just speak loudly.

“The porters and housekeepers are going door to door. The northwest stairs don’t seem to be affected. We’re sending them out into the back parking garage.”

“They need to go out further. I don’t want the building to collapse on them. And how long until you’re clear?”

“Another 10 minutes?”

“You have 5. If anyone’s stupid enough to stay, that’s on them. I want you and all the workers out of here in the next 5 minutes, you hear me?”

The woman looked near to tears. “Yes sir,” she said, and started talking into a walkie talkie in rapid Spanish.

“Jarvis?” he asked.

“The Metropolitan Ballroom is located on the second floor,” Jarvis said, and a building layout appeared in his HUD.

Tony sighed. Of course. And between the power outage and him not trusting elevators in general with his suits, it looked like he was hoofing it.

Thank god he’d practiced going up stairs in the suit. He would make a point of not mentioning this fact to Natasha ever. She’d be way to smug that she was right to ever let him forget it.

The stairs were, of course, in the back of the enormous hotel lobby tucked away in a corner. And the marble floors were becoming slicker by the minute as the water puddled, poured, or ran as it saw fit beneath his feet. It was like walking on an ice rink. The ceilings were high enough to hover... but he couldn’t guarantee he’d not fall over at the end of a mini-flight and turtle himself (It was on his to-do list to fix, okay?).

So careful boring plodding it was.

God, he was donating so many freaking rugs to this place when they remodeled.

He made it without falling embarrassingly on his ass, and contemplated the tiny, made for un-armored people, emergency stairs. He sighed.

Right. It was just one flight. One flight of small stairs that currently had a small river going down them.

And they weren’t carpeted.

FUCK.

There were little plastic grippy stripes on the edge of each stair- he’d hand it to the public building codes for that. But he highly doubted that it would make up for the water.

For a brief moment he considered just blasting his way up- but stairwell walls were almost always load bearing walls. And there were still some staff around... somewhere. So no blasting. For now.

He started up.

It was quiet here. Just the running of the water, his breathing, and the whir of his armored joints working. And of course his brain, always in overdrive, took this time to look over just how fucked up his life was.

He hummed, trying to stave off the inevitable, to not think about those vapid girls on that girl’s phone that had somehow managed to find some of his worst insecurities and hit them with a battle axe.

Like, he knew that Steve was too good for him. He knew that. But now that they mentioned a fated mate... it made sense. Fated Mates were things you found in fairy tales and rumors of how your second cousin’s best friend’s roommate's mom was a fated mate. They went on talk shows sometimes, talking about how “magical” their first meeting had been. How’d they’d just... known.

If anyone deserved a fated mate, it would definitely be Steve.

And Steve and Tony’s first meeting had been anything but “magical”. It was more like a collision of two icebergs of egos. Both unstoppable, both huge behemoths, both very very fragile when you got down to it.

But Steve was fragile... in how do you put it? The Right Ways. By friends being dead. By being thrust into a strange new land. Steve could outgrow this- adapt, overcome, and was already well on his way.

Tony? Tony was... Not That. He had secrets to protect. Being a male omega was just scratching the surface there. Like, how he had a real honest to god heart condition that if Fury knew about, he would most definitely bench him for. Everyone knew about the shrapnel, and how the reactor kept them from his heart. But so far, no one had guessed that it also served as a very glowy pacemaker. If he had surgery to remove it (like Steve had been hinting at lately), he’d have to have an actual pacemaker installed. And that would involve surgeons. And records. And Fury with his god damned nosiness and sticky fingers for files would find out.

Steve would find out. And Steve would...

Steve would...

He didn’t know what Steve would do. Leave him? Kick him off the team? Both at the same time? Probably both.

Definitely both.

Anyway, there was no outgrowing that. So far he’d managed to keep Steve hooked (did he? He still wasn’t sure what the fuck the alpha saw in him anyway) without giving too much away... but the cracks were starting to show.

And lets be real here. He was, after all, a very MALE omega. With all the bits and so on that that implied. And he’d seen the way Steve looked.... Well. Definitely glanced at female omegas. (Steve was a god damned boy scout and had probably never ogled anyone in his life. But Tony knew that sort of glance when he saw it.) Steve, he’d noticed, was a bit of an ass man. And Tony... well. He had an ass. But it wasn’t good for much more than sitting on. There was, to be clear, no twerking career in his future.

Maybe he should do some lunges? You did lunges to get a bigger ass, right?

Not to mention he was just... a garbage human being. Right now, for instance, if willpower were able to summon things into existence, he’d have at least 2 bottles of whiskey in his hands right now. And the back of his mind was already screaming things about hotels and minibars.

He paused for a moment. Later. He’d get drunk... later. It’d be a reward. If he stopped this thing and didn’t collapse the building, he was totally going to strip several floors of their mini bars. The kitchens would have wine, right? Isn’t that where these fancy hotels kept the bottles for room service, right?

He’d get black out drunk, and maybe he’d be able to sleep for a while. That would be nice. He missed sleep.

He’d actually slept pretty well when he’d cuddled Peter after the robot shenanigans. But Peter wasn’t a stuffed animal. And there was no socially acceptable way to say “Hey, please come share a bed with me and snuggle” to a 15 year old when you were a fucking old man.

God, he was getting too old for this.

He was already pushing 40. And his right knee had this... click in it that it didn’t use to. And his left elbow. And his ankles. And... fuck it. Most of his joints were just probably just absolute trash anymore.

He reached a landing. A fucking, god damned landing. He sighed. It was probably because of the stupid high ceilings in the lobby. He checked the clock on his HUD. The front desk chick should have evacuated by now if she followed his instructions.

Right. Stairs. Just a few more, and he could shoot things and get stupidly drunk. It shouldn’t take much. It had been at least 8 months since he’d had so much as a sip. His tolerance should be lower now- maybe a handful of those tiny vodka bottles would be enough...

“Sir, you have a call from the Tower,” Jarvis said.

PETER.

“Take it, J,” he babbled. Had something happened while he was gone? Fuck, if it had, he wasn’t busting heads together he was just going to straight up shoot these idiots, fuck the paperwork-

“Tony?” Steve’s voice was concerned.

“Is Peter okay?” Tony asked hurriedly.

“Last I heard he was sleeping-”

Tony let out a breath. Thank god.

“But, Jarvis says you’re not in the Tower?”

....

Oh. Right. Doomsday machine. He’d just... flown off. Without telling anyone. Like his pack-leader. Or his alpha. Who were in fact the same person.

“Um...” Tony said. “I’m... I’m at the Sheraton,” he said truthfully. But he’d hesitated slightly, damn him.

Silence. “Tony... why does it sound like you’re in your suit?”

Fuck, he was in trouble.

“I dunno. Maybe the acoustics are weird or something-” When in doubt, double down. “I heard they do a good brunch-”

A loud clap of thunder came from the floor above him, and made Tony wince.

“Tony, where are you?”

“I told you I’m at the Sheraton,” Tony snapped, edgy now that he was backed into a corner.

There was some talking in the background on Steve’s end.

“Is this the same Sheraton that is being evacuated and has some weird weather thing going on?” Steve demanded, now clearly angry.

“I have it under control,” Tony flat out lied. “It’s fine-”

Another crack of thunder. Somewhere upstairs someone was shouting.

He tried to hurry up.

“Tony-” Steve started.

“I have it under control,” Tony hissed. “I’m FINE-” He reached the top of the stairs, and saw a small huddle of people who were shouting at each other over the noise of the wind in the lee of a fancy elevator bank. “Sorry babe, gotta go.”

“Tony!”

Tony hung up. For a futurist, he had absolute garbage long term decision making skills. Steve was going to lose his goddamn mind when he got back.

But for now... Steve wasn’t yelling at him.

Well. He probably was. But Tony couldn’t hear him. So... win?

But now- now people. Idiots.

“Why haven’t you evacuated?” he demanded. “You should get out of here!”

“It’s his fault!” a brunette beta woman insisted, shoving a blue eyed alpha roughly. Or at least, tried to. She was 90 pounds soaking wet, and she barely came to his shoulders. The man hardly moved. “He won’t turn it off!” she protested.

She also had a wooden baseball bat in her hands. It had dents in it.

Interesting.

“I assure you I did turn it off!” the man shouted. “And it’s all your fault!” the alpha lunged towards the other alpha, but stopped just short of overturning the beta woman. “You ruin EVERYTHING!”

“How is it my fault!? My machine is passive and measures cosmic radiation-”

“How is it passive when it causes a feedback loop AND a cascading failure- it shouldn’t even be possible -”

“STOP FIGHTING!” a blonde omega looked close to tears. “Why? Why can’t you just work together this one time-”

“Because it’s his fault! It’s always his fault!” the blue eyed alpha roared.

A 20% power repulsor blast to a nearby innocent potted plant quickly brought back order.

“Hi. I’m Iron Man. There’s a literal doomsday device in the other room that’s causing some sort of indoor hurricane. Lets just say we accept that all men suck and move on, shall we?”

He turned to the “It was just a passive thing” alpha. “What happened?”

The other alpha snarled at being ignored, but Tony chose to ignore that.

“It was Victor’s turn to present, his... ‘device’-” Tony could hear the air quotes there, “and I turned mine on to see if his was working like he said it was-”

“But then it went crazy,” the beta interrupted. “I hit it with my bat when he wouldn’t turn it off-”

“Why the bat? Who the hell brings a bat to a conference?” the omega protested. “You only made it worse!”

“It’s worked just fine before!” the beta protested. “I’ve taken down stupid magic outer space elves with a bat before-

Tony narrowed his eyes. What had that girl back at the tower babbled about-

“You’re Jane.... Fossy?” Tony demanded, pointing.

“Foster actually.”

“Any chance you have a panic button for Thor?”

She sighed heavily. “No. I don’t.”

There was a lot packed into that sentence. Most of it negative. Tony could sympathize. Aside from Steve and Pepper, he’d had a lot of horrible dates. Two of which had actually thrown him towards people trying to kidnap him in their attempts to save themselves. So yeah. He could relate.

“Has anyone tried to hit the other device yet? The ‘passive’ one?”

“It’s not the one going crazy-” the omega protested. “Reed’s doesn’t actually DO anything-”

“Where is it?”

“It’s on the stage on top of the other one.” Reed spoke up. “It’s physically attracted to Victor’s- I couldn’t pry it off-”

“Right. This should be easy enough. You guys should go though. I don’t know how much it’ll explode when I shoot it.”

“That’s probably not-”

“You can’t just shoot it-”

“You’ll give more energy to the feedback loop-”

Everyone started talking over each other.

Tony shot another plant. Silence again.

“Who’s the superhero in a giant fucking scientific marvel? Oh, yeah. That’s me.” he said. “I’m shooting the fucking thing. Now get out of here.”

Without looking back, he angrily stomped into the conference room.

Chapter Text

Tony stomped into the ballroom.

The second he crossed the doorway it felt like someone had flipped a switch on one of those stupid wind machines they used for making it look like a hurricane was happening in movies. Thankfully, due to the weight of his suit, it barely budged him.

The rain- if you could call it rain- was mostly sideways here. It was a bit like trying to walk while someone sprayed you with a hose. He was in his suit so he was still dry, but the sound of the rain hitting his suit was... annoying.

But what held his attention was the raised stage. Or at least, what was left of it. The back wall had blown out, and bits of sunshine were petering through despite the clouds. But that was nothing compared to what was on the stage.

A ball of... power?? Floated on the stage. If he looked closely he could see ripples and waves in it. It reminded him of the surface of the sun. From far away it would look flat, but close up it swirled with storms and barely chained chaos. It was white... blue... no. So white it became blue. Or was it the other way around?

It was beautiful.

“Sir, I recommend you do something before it interacts with the surrounding structures-” Jarvis offered, knocking Tony from his thoughts.

Right. He had to turn the damn thing off. Below the... orb, thing, whatever- there was a small wooden box about the size of a carry on suitcase sitting on a wood paneled stage. On top of it was another device that looked like a highly modified geiger counter.

He sighed. Took a few steps closer, and aimed at the box. Powered up... and fired..

He watched as the blast flew towards the stage, then curved upwards, and was eaten by the glowing ball.

He frowned, and tried again, this time with more power.

It happened again. And was that his imagination, or did the ball... grow ever so slightly?

Shit. He was too far away.

He tried again, this time halfway between the stage and the door. Failure.

Fuck it. He’d just punch the fucking thing. It was made of wood. One good hit would stop this nonsense.

It was a solid plan, right up until he crossed the last row of metal banquet chairs closest to the stage and started to slide towards the damn thing.

“Sir, I am detecting an unexplained power drain,” Jarvis said. Various graphs and gauges appeared in his HUD. Something was draining his reactor.

He’d last changed the core something like two weeks ago, so he’d already started out the day at around 50%. With his power armor usage so far today, he’d expect to be around 45%.

It was down to 38% and falling.

Shit.

And he was still sliding. In fact, the closer he got, the faster he slid.

He caught himself on the edge of the stage and held himself there.

“Sir- the drain has increased-” Jarvis said, and the graphs turned red.

“I can see that,” Tony snapped.

33%. How the fuck was it draining so godamn fast ?

“Engage thrusters. Get me out of here, Jarvis!”

“Engaging emergency thrusters. I am also sending an alert to your alpha as per emergency protocols-”

Tony struggled as the thrusters threw him to the ground. “When the fuck did I add that protocol?!” he demanded, breathless. He wasn’t moving towards it anymore, which was a good thing. But now he was turtled.

Damnit.

“Captain Rogers asked me to. He is your alpha and pack leader-”

“So that means he gets to add new protocols?!” Tony demanded indignantly, and started to push with feet. Sure, he could use his feet thrusters, but that would probably set things on fire. He didn’t want to be roasted on top of everything else.

“There is no rule that says he cannot,” Jarvis pointed out.

“Yeah, well, new rule. He can’t do that anymore,” Tony snarled, and pushed harder. He inched backwards. “The only one who can reprogram you is ME, you got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

Tony felt like he was making progress. He was almost to the first row of chairs.

“Power is now at 20%”

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Tony chanted under his breath. He wasn’t making progress. The chairs were just sliding closer. One slid past him, and halted at the edge of the stage. As he watched, it started to climb the tiny half wall vertically.

He panted. Fuck. This was so godamn stupid! This was NOT how he was going to die! He was not going to be eaten by something that two freakin’ alpha scientists made for a “dooms-day device” build off for fucking “mad scientist” day. For one thing, it would totally ruin his biography.

“15%” Jarvis said.

“Shut up and put it on the screen,” he snapped. “Double the thrusters!”

“Thrusters are at maximum-”

“Turn on the foot thrusters!” They were going to have to remodel anyway.

He slid backwards about two feet before he started inching towards the stage again. The carpet around him started to catch fire, in spite of the rain.

None of this made sense- something was seriously wrong. The stage’s surface hadn’t even so much as buckled, but the chairs...

The chairs.

The METAL chairs, and the WOOD stage-

FUCK. How could he be so stupid ??

It was magnetic.

“Eject, eject, eject!” he shouted.

Tiny explosive charges built into the seams of the suit went off, and various pieces flew off him and instantly started their flight towards the ball of death on stage. He rolled out of the suit, frantically shedding his gauntlets and scrabbling at the floor. The suit made horrible scraping noises as it skidded, tumbled upwards, and then vanished into the stupid ball without so much as a ripple.

He held his breath, and waited to be horrifically wrong.

And for a just a moment when he didn’t start to slide... he thought he was safe.

Then the glowing hunk of metal in his chest flickered. He didn’t even have to see it to know that it was flickering. He could taste it.

SHIT.

His chest burned. Was the damn thing trying to pull the whole thing, housing and all, out? Or was he just running out of power?

He didn’t have time to find out. He army crawled back towards safety. Once he was within a foot of the door, hands reached out and dragged him the rest of the way out.

“It’s magnetic! You fucking bastards could have mentioned that!” he spat.

“We didn’t know!” Victor, protested. Of course, no one had followed his god damned instructions, and the little crowd of scientists were all still there. They propped him up against a wall.

Tony panted, trying to catch his breath. He wondered what percentage he was at. He couldn’t remember what the read out had said before he bailed. It was possible that he was still too close to the damn thing and his reactor was still being drained.

Oh god, he wanted Steve.

“Anyone have a phone?” he demanded.

“Sorry, mine died like ages ago,” Foster said.

The others agreed.

Fuck, he was still too close.

“TONY!?”

Oh god, he knew that bellow anywhere. Thank fuck.

“Here!” he called back. “Second floor!” he didn’t even have to yell that loud. Steve with his stupid super hearing would hear him.

He was right. Approximately two seconds later the drenched alpha was up the stairs and charging over to Tony, ignoring the rain. Bucky only a step behind him.

“Oh my god- Tony-” Steve said, sounding bereft. He started running hands down Tony’s body, probably checking for injuries.

“What happened?” Bucky demanded.

“There’s a machine on the stage. Stark went to shoot it- but it’s magnetic. I think it ate his suit-” Foster started.

“Is just one machine causing all of this?” Steve demanded.

“There’s a second one on top of it. They’re interacting and feeding off each other-” Victor said. “I turned mine off, but Reed-”

“I didn’t get a chance!” Reed protested. “There was a giant ball of death forming! I ran for it!”

Bucky ducked into the doorway to peek.

“Holy shit,” he muttered. “How is he Stevie?”

“I’m... I’m not hurt,” Tony said, and shivered. He was wet and was getting cold far faster than he’d like. The reactor flickered again. “You have to shut it down-”

“I’m on it-” Bucky said.

“NO!” at least 3 people all shouted at the same time. Startled, Bucky froze. “What?”

“It’s magnetic! It ATE my suit! You think you’re going to get far with that arm of yours?” Tony demanded.

Bucky blinked. “Fair point...” he muttered.

“I’ll take care of it,” Steve said grimly.

Tony reached out and snatched at a strap on Steve’s chest. Steve stilled, and waited.

“Lose the shield,” he said. “And the guns. And the belts. It’s getting bigger. It... it’s feeding off my reactor-” a horrible rattling cough shook him. He suspected he was breaking out in cold sweat. Was it his imagination or did he just feel something... shift inside him? Wonderful. FUCK. The stupid thing might have affected the shrapnel...

He seriously needed a drink. Maybe he could grab one on the way out?

He looked up to see Steve and Bucky both looking stricken.

“Tony...” Steve was hesitating. He looked worried. Why was he hesitating?

“It’s... nothing. I’m fine. What are you waiting for? Hurry up and kill it!”

God his chest burned. He let go of Steve to clutch his reactor and whined in pain.

Steve and Bucky shared an unreadable look, having a rapid fire silent conversation that consisted mainly of minute head tilts, lifted eyebrows, and varying degrees of pursed lips.

Bucky eventually snorted, but nodded. “Right,” he said, but he didn’t sound happy about it.

Steve hastily shucked off the offending items, down to his belt buckle.

Bucky sat down next to Tony and gathering him close. “Shh... Stevie’s gonna kill it for you, yeah?” he murmured. Tony didn’t miss how the man took his gloves off and felt Tony’s forehead and back with his flesh hand- checking his temperature no doubt.

Sneaky bastard.

“Hit the device on top first-” Victor was saying. “Susan, please. You need to leave-”

“Not without Reed!” she protested.

Victor glared at Reed. “What are you waiting for- take her to safety!”

“We’re fine! And I need to see this- the scientific discovery alone-”

“We stay here,” Bucky said. “Steve- take the baseball bat.”

“Good idea,” Steve said, “Ma’am?”

Foster handed over her bat reluctantly. “Thor gave me that. Don’t break it.”

“I can’t make any promises,” Steve said shortly, and strode into the ballroom.

Tony closed his eyes and leaned against the wall. God, he was tired. Part of him wanted to watch, but the other, larger part of him wanted a shot of something. Anything.

“Anyone have a drink?” he said, before he could stop himself. “Vodka maybe?”

“Tony-” Bucky said, clearly disappointed.

“I’m sorry, I meant seltzer water.” Tony waited a beat. “With some whiskey in it. Or Everclear. I gotta be honest, I’ll take tequila at this point I’m not picky.”

Bucky sighed. “You know you don’t mean that Tony,” he said sadly.

Tony sighed, and leaned against him. “Don’t tell Steve,” he muttered after a moment.

Bucky hummed. “How’s it going?” he asked the peanut gallery. The scientists were all gathered around the door to the ballroom, looking like children in a movie trying to catch a peak of Santa Claus without being caught.

“He doesn’t seem to be affected by it.” Reed reported. “He’s made it to the stage no problem.”

“Get over here. I want you folks behind cover when it goes,” Bucky ordered, then shifted Tony so that Bucky was between him and the wall. Like that would help with something if the thing went nuclear.

Tony shivered. He needed to get back to his lab- needed to replace the core- but would it matter if he only had minutes left?

“Where’s your phone?” he demanded. Bucky shouldn’t have been near the damn thing long enough to drain it already- hopefully. “I need it!”

Bucky leaned a bit, and produced a flip phone from a pouch.

“Oh my god, do they even still sell these?” he demanded. “I’m making you something better when we get back,” he grumbled automatically.

“It’s harder to destroy and gets signal in the middle of nowhere,” Bucky retorted. “And there’s nothing wrong with it.”

Tony snorted, flipped it open. Apparently they made modern flip phones with bluetooth in them. Who knew?

He reached into his shirt, and after a moment, found a tiny switch on the housing unit by feel. He clicked it on with a fingernail. Then he turned the bluetooth on the phone on, and dialed a number. It was the only one he had memorized.

“You have reached the Stark Personal Secure Server-” Jarvis’ voice was like heaven.

“Jarvis! Connect to my core through this freaking phone and give me a readout, would you?”

There was a moment as Jarvis worked his magic.

“Sir, I would highly recommend that you return to your workshop immediately-” Jarvis sounded worried.

“Yeah, I know, I know. How much time do I have?”

“At current energy usage, you have 20 minutes before emergency backup power is fully depleted.”

Tony hurriedly reached to unpress the button on the housing. Bluetooth was an energy hog. He didn’t want it to steal precious seconds from him. After the reactor went off, he had maybe another 5 minutes before his heart went into full arrhythmia. And another 5 after that before the shrapnel started to work loose.

Actually scratch that, after his adventure with the worlds’ largest magnet, he probably only had the first 5.

So.

25 minutes before he actively started to die. Steve could probably power walk his way back to the tower in... 10? 15 maybe? Add in the elevator to his workshop that was damn near the top floor... of a nearly hundred floor building...

FUCK

“Tell Steve to smash the damn thing already!” he shouted at the peanut gallery. He didn’t dare move just yet. Didn’t want to be downstairs if the floor went- Steve could haul him out the side of the building, yeah? He’d seen him leap off... well, really tall stuff before no problem.

Bucky, reacting to some sort of signal known only to him, pushed Tony into the floor and laid on top of him.

Light- brighter than anything he’d ever seen before flashed, and the rain and the wind just... stopped. Like someone had thrown a switch.

Tony had his eyes closed from the flash when the BOOM came. It rattled his bones and for a moment, stole his breath away. Dust went flying, and somewhere from the peanut gallery there was a shout of pain.

Then... silence.

“Steve?” Tony called. It had never even occurred to him before that he might survive and not Steve until that very second.

“Steve?” Tony was a bit hysterical now.

“Shh... I’ll get him,” Bucky said, and got off him to go investigate.

Tony sat up, wincing, and tried not to hyperventilate.

Steve, of course, would be fine. He couldn’t be not fine. He was a super soldier. He’s lived through all sorts of explosions-

Victor, however, was not fine. He held a hand to his face while blood leaked out around it.

“Susan? Are you alright?” he demanded, as Foster tried to pry his hand off to get a look at the damage.

“I’m... I’m okay,” she said, sounding rattled from her place on the floor. “Where’s Reed?”

“He went into the ballroom already,” Foster said grimly, clearly unimpressed.

“I’m fine!” Victor snapped at Foster, batting her hands away and rushed over to kneel by Susan.

“Susan-”

“I’m okay,” she repeated, but she sounded sad about it.

“WHY?” Victor demanded. “Why are you with him? He... he ignores you! Abandons you! He has no regard for anyone’s safety! If you stay with him, he’s going to get you KILLED!”

Susan sat up. Tony couldn’t see her facial expression from here, but from Victor’s reaction, it wasn’t what he was hoping for.

“He’s my alpha,” she said firmly.

Victor whined. “I was your alpha-”

“He is my alpha now, Victor. You have to accept that-”

“BUT WHY? Everything was going so well! What the hell happened? What did I do?”

She sighed, and stood.

“You didn’t do anything, Victor. Reed and I are Fated. That’s all.”

Victor was not the only one who froze at that while Susan calmly started to walk into the ballroom.

Shit.

SHIT.

SHIT.

If she'd left Victor for fucking Richards...

What fucking chance did Tony have when Steve found his Fated Mate?

Oh god. Steve... Steve would never speak to him again. That's what would happen.

The panic attack that had been waiting quietly in the wings all day slammed into him full force.

Chapter Text

Tony lost precious minutes as he struggled for breath. Somewhere, someone - Foster probably, she was the only competent one of lot - was shouting.

All Tony knew was that suddenly, there was Steve.

One minute he was gone and leaving Tony forever and ever to die miserable and alone and the next he was kneeling next to him, and holding him.

Tony latched onto him like a drowning man would a hunk of driftwood, and gasped.

“Shh.... it’s okay baby. I’m here. I’m here,” Steve said into his hair while Tony tried to remember how to breathe again.

Tony blinked. He was forgetting something. Something important. He shuddered as his reactor blinked, and the ever present faint aftertaste of coconut faltered. It was amazing how quickly you never really noticed something until it started to not be there anymore.

“Steve...” he whined.

The man unhelpfully pressed tiny gentle kisses to his forehead and cheeks and rubbed Tony’s scent glands. Tony shivered as he felt the panic attack abate.

“STEVE-”

“I’m here baby- it’s okay.”

But it wasn’t okay. It was FAR from okay. And this fucking alpha was to busy trying to turn Tony’s legs to jelly to hear him. He swatted weakly at Steve’s chest, making him stop his ministrations.

“Steve- I need-”

“Need what honey? I’m right here-”

This man was going to be the death of him. Literally.

“My lab. Need my lab-”

“I think you need to go to Medical first, honey-”

“Steve-” the man never interrupted. And now he was the goddamn interrupting cow.

“Steve, I have 20 minutes before my reactor fails-” Tony complained. Or tried to. It came out as more of a whine.

“It’ll be okay. You have more at the Tower, right?” Steve said, apparently both getting it and missing the point entirely. Only Steve could manage that, Tony thought, thoroughly irritated now.

“YES-”

“Well then we’ll go. But Medical first.” Steve’s voice was calm. Gentle. Not nearly as panicked as Tony needed him to be. He even gave Tony another gentle kiss to his forehead.

“Steve-” Tony found the will to regain proper control of his limbs, grabbed onto Steve’s collar and hauled him close. “When the reactor stops I start to die ,” he said urgently into his ear, willing him to understand. “I need to get to my lab-”

Steve stiffened. “What?”

There was the fear Tony was looking for. “Get me to my lab, NOW-” Tony hissed, wishing desperately he had the strength to literally shake some sense into his mate.

“Are you serious?” Steve asked, frozen.

“YES! Help me!”

It turned out that Steve could run it in 6 minutes. Tony wasn’t entirely sure how Steve had managed the stairs- he seemed to go down them at least 4 at a time, and Tony hadn’t even known that was possible (the long legged tall bastard). AND he’d not smacked Tony’s head against anything at all during the whole “running full tilt down semi-crowded city streets” while also carrying Tony princess-style.

It would have been downright impressive if Tony wasn’t in the process of doing his best to not lose his shit again.

The man barely slowed down for the fucking door to the lobby. Tony had a feeling that had that automatic door been just a tiny bit less responsive, Steve would have just kicked the damn thing down without even stopping.

He tucked his head into the crook of Steve’s neck and tried to get his heart to slow down. Maybe then he’d use less power?

“Lab, Jarvis- as fast as possible,” Steve snapped when they reached the private elevator.

“Yes sir,” Jarvis said. Even he sounded strained.

As they waited, (Steve not even out of breath- how was that FAIR?) Steve kissed his forehead, and breathed in the scent of Tony’s soaking hair. “Shhhh.... It’s okay,” he murmured. “I’ve got you.”

Tony wasn’t sure who Steve was trying to convince. He held on anyway.

It was the second longest elevator ride of Tony’s life.

When they finally arrived, the door to the safe holding extra cores was open, and even had a spot light on it.

“Captain, he needs a new core,” Jarvis said politely.

When the fuck had Tony installed a spotlight in his lab? He couldn’t remember. But it wasn’t important. Steve was intelligent enough to know a fucking clue when he saw it, and headed right for it.

Steve carefully put Tony down on the floor and raided the safe.

Tony stripped his shirt off tried to unscrew the damn cylinder thing... but his hands were shaking. He tried twice, his hands slipping each time. He wiped his hands off on his pants but they were equally soaked and did nothing to help him. He whined in panicked frustration.

“I’ve got it-” Steve said, and twisted.

“Careful- don’t-” Tony protested. “You have to-”

“I know,” Steve said through gritted teeth. “Hold still.”

“You have two minutes, Captain,” Jarvis said.

Tony watched in confusion as Steve skillfully twisted, AND clicked the hidden release button at the same time, freeing a small cylinder from his chest. The depleted core popped out, and Steve deftly removed it, and replaced it with a new one. Then he carefully put it back in with just a quarter turn. The housing unit in Tony’s chest recognized it, and spun it in the rest of the way.

“How- how did you know how to do that?” Tony asked when he felt like he could speak again over the sudden strong taste of coconut. His voice was shaking, he noted.

“I practiced,” Steve said simply. He was back to holding Tony and smelling his hair again.

Tony almost absently bared his neck. Steve, thankfully, was quick to take the hint, and instantly pressed a kiss to Tony’s bond mark. Tony shivered. He could feel his heart rate slowing. He was going to be okay.

They’d made it.

They sat on the floor together for entirely too long. Steve seemed content to simply hold him and do his best to inhale Tony like he was some sort of cocaine- breathing deeply at Tony’s hair, and running light fingers over Tony’s bare skin. Tony, deeply exhausted on just about every possible level, was content to let the alpha do whatever the hell he wanted- just so long as he didn’t have to move.

Eventually, Steve’s words trickled through the sludge that was Tony’s brain.

“You practiced?” he asked quietly, skeptically.

Steve hummed an affirmative.

“On what?” Tony asked, audibly confused.

“On a prototype. I thought it prudent that someone know how to change the cores in case sir was somehow incapaticated,” Jarvis said.

Tony blinked. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. It was either a deep betrayal or his greatest pride that his fucking AI was somehow conspiring - against him? For him? Both, somehow at the same time? Regardless, it was clearly behind his back.

“Remind me to reprogram you later,” he said. But the saying was almost a reflex now, and they both knew it was a vacant threat at best.

“Of course sir,” Jarvis said, with only the slightest trace of smugness.

Steve took one last inhale. “Okay. Lets go get dry, okay?”

Tony hummed in agreement and wordlessly wound his arms around Steve’s neck. Steve, on a roll with interpreting hints, picked him up and carried him to the elevator.

“You want a shower, sweetheart?” Steve asked as he stepped out of the elevator and into the penthouse.

Tony probably badly needed a shower, but he just didn’t have the energy for that right now. And while showering with Steve held a certain... attractiveness, Tony didn’t want to deal with Steve if Steve got... handsy. He didn’t think he could up with a pouting Steve right now- because Tony would tell him no.

“Hmm. I think I’m gonna get changed and go to bed,” Tony said. “Jarvis? Can you call Bucky and tell him that the crisis was averted?” he asked as Steve set him down on an immaculate white couch.

“Already done sir. The Sergeant has instructed me to tell you that the next time you want to skip out on your SHIELD debriefing you needn’t be so dramatic.”

Both Steve and Tony snorted.

“Tell him that I owe him one,” Steve said, and gave Tony another small forehead kiss.

“Go shower,” Tony said, gently and fondly smacking Steve’s chest. “You smell like bad science.”

Steve rolled his eyes good humoredly but obeyed, and disappeared into the bathroom.

Tony winced and got up, checking- and yes, there was now a wet spot on the couch.

Muttering curses, he stumbled into his walk in closet, and dropped his wet stuff on the floor. He’d deal with it later. He managed some boxer shorts and a pair of soft sleep pants that had various curse words written in comic sans on them (thank you Clint!), and went back to the couch.

After a few moments of making faces at the spot, he threw a tiny and scratchy throw pillow on it.

If Pepper were here, she’d have a fit. She’d spent ages looking for the perfect white couch. This was probably the third time he’d ever sat on the damn thing. It was about as uncomfortable as it was extremely fashionable. Which was a lot.

He smacked some pillows and tried to make it work. He didn’t have the energy to go the common room where the good couches were.

The decorative throw that lived tastefully and artfully tossed over a corner of the couch wasn’t very warm or comfortable, but beggars can’t be choosers. He made due.

At least the TV was decent. He made sure of that when they built the place.

“Jarvis, TV,” he said. Who the hell knew where the remote was.

“Of course sir,” Jarvis said.

Something played, but he wasn’t paying attention. He’d need to track his phone down. Had it gone down with the suit? Was it in a wet pocket on his floor? Who knew?

He was tired down to his bones. But he knew that if laid down he wouldn’t be able to sleep. He was too tired to sleep. He’d just have to suffer until sleep caught him, and he passed out or fell over or whatever it was he did when he was functioning at -10% battery.

So he zoned out in front of the TV, and tried not to think about how, if he looked hard enough, he might find a bottle of Springbank 1919. Didn’t he hide one under the floorboards as joke for future builders/remodels? He couldn’t remember. It’d been ages since he’d had decent whiskey. Did he even still have the fancy large ice spheres delivered anymore?

“Hey-”

Tony snapped back to attention to find a mildly damp Steve Rogers in front of him, wearing a full set of matching pajamas. When had that happened? Did he take a shower already?”

“Hmmm? Yeah- what?”

“Thought you were going to bed?”

Tony shrugged listlessly.

“Tony-” there was something about that tone. He couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was exactly, but it made every single one of his brain cells switch to battle stations.

“We need to talk.” Steve’s tone was gentle. Firm.

Tony stared at him blank terror. “Okay,” he managed.

“About today.”

For a moment, Tony couldn’t breathe. So. He’d knew it’d happen eventually. Did it have to be today? Right fucking now? He knew he was a fuckup, damnit...

“I’m sorry-” he tried, trying to wriggle his way out of this. It was clear from his tone, though, that he didn’t really feel sorry. He winced.

Steve opened his mouth.

“I know. I know- I’m sorry, I really am,” now he just sounded miserable and annoyed. Why the fuck did he suck at communicating like this?

“Tony,” Steve said. And there was that fucking god damned TONE again. But stronger this time.

Tony’s mouth snapped shut out of reflex.

“You cannot just go off like that. You left without telling anyone-”

He found his eyes latched onto Steve’s knees, and let the words wash over him. The hands, he knew, he had to keep in his peripheral vision. You never could tell from tone or scent when the hit was going to come. But the hands- the hands never lied.

He focused on breathing. And watching the hands.

They clenched, and moved to Steve’s waist as he put them on his hips. Words kept happening. Tony couldn’t tell you what they were, except that they basically boiled down to “I did not know that a human being was capable of fucking up this much, and yet here we are.” He’d know- he had sat through countless of such lectures with his Dad.

And now, it seemed, Steve had taken up the mantle.

Not that he didn’t deserve it. Someone had to keep him in line. Without his Dad around, Tony had fallen into drink and... well. Many things. Everything that it was possible to fall into, probably. And Steve- Steve had made it clear that those days were over.

Which wasn’t the worst thing. You can only party and pass out so many times a week for so many years before it becomes more of a chore than a hobby for escape.

And then it happened. “Tony- are you listening to me?” There went that tone again.

FUCK.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I won’t do it again,” he said, voice flat, eyes still downcast. He felt oddly detached.

Steve sighed. It was one of those long, “I’m so disappointed and done with you” sighs.

The hands came off the hips.

Tony tried to brace himself without being obvious about it, and thanked whatever god that was listening that he wore scent blockers, otherwise the room would be stinking of pure Omegan terror right now, otherwise.

He wondered if Steve would go for his face or his gut. The gut would be easier to cover. He hoped he wouldn’t get a cracked rib out of this. Cracked ribs sucked.

“Tony-”

don’tflinchdon’tflinchdon’tflinch

A hand moved towards his face.

Tony flinched.

The hand froze an inch from his face.

“Tony?” he didn’t recognize the tone there. But he knew he’d fucked up.

He was in for it now. Moving away from the hit always meant the next one would be worse. He had to take his lesson like man, after all.

“Sorry. Sorry,” he squeaked, and made an effort to sit more upright. One solid hit was better than 5 frustrated awkward angle ones. Plus it’d be over faster. It took an act of will not to hunch his shoulders. He kept his eyes on the ground. Watching the wind up was one of the parts he hated the most.

He took a breath. When had he started shaking? He couldn’t remember.

“Baby?”

The fucking hand moved again, and Tony squeezed his eyes shut, and ground his teeth together bracing for impact.

Only instead the fingers gently touched Tony’s face.

“Shhh... oh god, Tony- sweetheart. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

And then Steve was hugging him. Why was Steve hugging him? Steve still smelled upset. It was confusing.

Even more aggravating was the high pitched horrible whining sound that seemed to be everywhere. It took him a moment to realize that it was coming from him. He tried to stop.

He hiccuped. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe - then blackness took him.

He woke up on his back with some sort of heavy weight on top of him. He tried to open his eyes, but they were just so heavy, and he was so so tired. So he kept them shut. He tried to move an arm to rub at an itchy nose and found he was restrained by something.

He whined.

“Shhh....” Steve was there. Somewhere. “I’m here. You’re safe. We’re in the tower.”

Tony made a special effort, and cracked open a very confused eye. He was on the bed, swaddled in a blanket. Steve was laying on top of, crushing him ever so expertly into the mattress. It was a comforting weight. It meant he was safe.

He whined again. He wasn’t sure why. Steve gently kissed different parts of Tony’s face, murmuring something about how Tony was “my perfect, good omega.”

He huffed, but allowed Steve to do as he pleased. He didn’t have to be so patronizing. Still... it was nice. He laid there for a bit, and just enjoyed the moment.

Eventually his brain caught up with him.

“Wait... why am I in bed?” he fussed. Tony didn’t remember going to bed. He certainly wouldn’t have swaddled himself like this. You were supposed to swaddle omegas who were in distress. And Tony wasn’t in distress. He was Tony fucking Stark. He hadn’t been in distress since his parents died.

“Shhh... go back to sleep baby,” Steve had moved on to trailing his nose over random bits of Tony’s skin, mainly the bits just under Tony’s right ear.

Tony sighed, and lazily bared his neck to give the alpha better access.

For some reason, Steve seemed really happy about that, and murmured sweet things about Tony as he took complete advantage, and pressed careful kisses to Tony’s scent gland.

He blinked. It was hard to think, swaddled and, well - compressed like this. The tiny nibbles Steve was doing to his neck weren’t helping much either. He felt like he was forgetting something.

“Steve?” he asked.

“Shh... sleep baby. It’s okay,” Steve whispered. “I got you.”

Well. If Steve said so.

He closed his eyes and drifted back off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Steve was in the armory with Bucky doing a long overdue inspection of the weapons there when he noticed the clock on the wall.

He frowned at it, and checked his watch. It was almost 5 pm. Where had the time gone?

“Jarvis, has Tony eaten lunch yet?” the omega always forgot to eat.

“Sir has eaten 3 tacos within the last 20 minutes,” Jarvis said. “As well as several Twizzlers.”

Steve sighed. “Where is he?” he asked. It looked like he was going to have to drag the man to the cafeteria, and get some proper food into him.

“Sir is not currently in the Tower,” Jarvis replied primly.

Even Bucky stilled at that. “What?” Steve said. “Where is he?”

“He is not in the Tower.”

Steve narrowed his eyes. That was exactly the kind of bullshit answer Jarvis gave when Tony was Up to Something. There was never a moment when Jarvis didn’t know EXACTLY where Tony was.

He pulled out his phone, and dialed Tony’s number. Tony answered on the first ring.

“Tony?” Steve’s voice was concerned.

“Is Peter okay?” Tony asked hurriedly, sounding a bit out of breath.

“Last I heard he was sleeping- but, Jarvis says you’re not in the Tower?” Steve asked, doing his best to not sound accusing. It was possible that Tony wasn’t up to some sort of tomfoolery.

Not very possible. But Steve could always hope, right?

“Um...” Tony said. “I’m... I’m at the Sheraton.”

Steve frowned at Tony’s hesitation. He could have sworn he heard the familiar sound of Tony’s suit joints moving in the background. And where the hell was it raining?

“Tony... why does it sound like you’re in your suit?” Again - there was always hope that Steve was wrong.

“I dunno. Maybe the acoustics are weird or something- I heard they do a good brunch-”

Steve double checked the clock. Yeah. Brunch was definitely not happening right now. Tony had lost track of time again. The last straw was the sound of some sort of... explosion? Happening in the background. Steve could feel his heart skip a beat at that.

“Tony, where are you?” he demanded.

“What’s going on?” Bucky asked.

“I told you I’m at the Sheraton,” Tony snapped.

Steve covered the phone. “He says he’s at the Sheraton,” he hissed, clearly pissed. “But he’s in his suit-”

Bucky frowned, and snatched a tablet off a nearby table. Steve watched for a moment as he pulled up the lastest SHIELD alerts. Bucky winced, and turned it so that Steve could see the screen.

“Is this the same Sheraton that is being evacuated and has some weird weather thing going on?” Steve demanded, now pissed. Of all the irresponsible, stupid things-

“I have it under control,” Tony said. “It’s fine-”

Another explosion. This time with shouting in the background.

“Tony-” Steve started.

“I have it under control,” Tony hissed. “I’m FINE- Sorry babe, gotta go.”

“Tony!”

Tony hung up.

Steve stared at the phone for a moment, unable to believe what he’d just experienced.

“Stevie?”

“He hung up on me-” Steve hissed, all but vibrating with outrage.

Bucky growled. “That idiot’s gonna get himself killed, one of these days,” he said, already gearing up.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” Steve snapped.

They were two blocks away when his phone beeped that special beep. It was the one he prayed he’d never hear. It meant that Tony was in serious trouble.

Steve went from jogging to sprinting in a second flat. Bucky, as always, just a step behind him.

He didn’t stop for the glass door. He just brought his shield up and busted right through it.

“TONY!?” he bellowed into the lobby, ignoring the weirdness that was rain falling from the ceiling.

“Here!” Tony called back. “Second floor!”

Steve took the steps two at a time. His heart just about fell out of his chest when he saw his omega sitting against a wall, looking like death warmed over. He rushed over.

“Oh my god- Tony-” Steve said, sounding bereft. He started running hands down Tony’s body, looking for injuries.

“What happened?” Bucky demanded.

“There’s a machine on the stage. Stark went to shoot it- but it’s magnetic. I think it ate his suit-” a beta woman started.

“Is just one machine causing all of this?” Steve demanded, still inspecting his omega. He couldn’t find any obvious injuries-

“There’s a second one on top of it. They’re interacting and feeding off each other-” a blonde alpha said. “I turned mine off, but Reed-”

“I didn’t get a chance!” a second alpha protested. “There was a giant ball of death forming! I ran for it!”

Bucky ducked into the doorway to peek.

“Holy shit,” he muttered. “How is he Stevie?”

“I’m... I’m not hurt,” Tony said, and shivered. Steve did not like his current color AT ALL. “You have to shut it down-”

“I’m on it-” Bucky said.

“NO!” at least 3 people all shouted at the same time. Startled, Bucky froze. “What?”

“It’s magnetic! It ATE my suit! You think you’re going to get far with that arm of yours?” Tony shouted.

Bucky blinked. “Fair point...” he muttered.

“I’ll take care of it,” Steve said grimly.

Tony reached out and snatched at a strap on Steve’s chest. Steve stilled, and waited.

“Lose the shield,” he said. “And the guns. And the belts. It’s getting bigger. It... it’s feeding off my reactor-” Steve watched in horror as his beautiful, wonderful, fragile omega coughed like he was dying of tuberculosis.

“Tony...” Steve hesitated. He could feel his heart breaking. He needed to get his omega to safety. But that fucking machine...

“It’s... nothing. I’m fine. What are you waiting for? Hurry up and kill it!” Tony shouted, then clutched at his chest and whined in pain.

Steve looked at Bucky.

“Take him home?” he asked silently with an eyebrow lift.

“Fuck that,” Bucky replied with a scowl and a head tilt. “I’m not leaving you.”

Steve showed his unhappiness with pursed lips.

Bucky stared stubbornly back.

Steve narrowed his eyes. “Babysit?” he asked with a head tilt towards Tony.

Bucky stared back, but eventually broke. He snorted, but nodded. “Right,” he said, but he didn’t sound happy about it.

Steve let out a small sigh of relief and hastily shucked off the offending items, down to his belt buckle.

Bucky sat down next to Tony and gathered him close. . “Shh... Stevie’s gonna kill it for you, yeah?” he murmured.

“Hit the device on top first-” the blonde alpha was saying. “Susan, please. You need to leave-”

“Not without Reed!” the tiny omega protested.

The strange alphas glared at each other. “What are you waiting for- take her to safety!”

“We’re fine! And I need to see this- the scientific discovery alone-”

“We stay here,” Bucky said. “Steve- take the baseball bat.”

Steve blinked, and finally noticed what the beta was carrying.

“Good idea,” Steve said, “Ma’am?”

She handed over her bat reluctantly. “Thor gave me that. Don’t break it.”

“I can’t make any promises,” Steve said shortly, and strode into the ballroom.

He paused for a second, taking in the scene before him. On a raised wooden stage, a large ball of... light(?) glowed and pulsed. He watched as a chair climbed the vertical side of the stage, took flight for half a second, and promptly vanished into the ball.

He looked for a machine. The small wooden boxes below it looked promising.

He strode forward, an arm raised to protect his face from the lashing wind and rain. He’d been in worse weather, but not often. And it was definitely a first that it was happening while the roof above him was still intact.

As he got closer, he slowed down a bit and approached the machine warily. The carpet here was scorched and torn- Steve had a grim feeling that this was from Tony’s suit.

He studied it for a moment, examining angles. He wanted to smash it, but didn’t want to get caught with a blast to the face... The ball was further back, but the machine was near the lip of the stage. Maybe if he crouched and swung blindly?

“Tell Steve to smash the damn thing already!” Tony shouted from the hallway, sounding desperate and afraid. Steve didn’t need any further prompting.

Steve knelt and closed his eyes. “Bucky!” he called in warning, and swung the bat.

It was a good thing he’d closed his eyes- the flash that come a second later was blinding, even with his eyes squeezed shut.

Steve waited for the boom. There was always a boom with these damn things.

His patience was rewarded with a concussive wall of force that made his ears pop. If he wasn’t a supersoldier and in the lee of something, his ears would be bleeding probably.

He waited for a secondary blast, just in case. When nothing happened he cautiously opened his eyes. All the chairs had been knocked over, and random bits of what looked like ceiling was on the floor. And the rain and wind had stopped. So that was a plus.

Grimly he got up on stage and wailed on the boxes with the bat until there were just splinters left. If he didn’t some idiot would undoubtedly try to cobble it back together and next time it might take more than a bat to destroy the damn things.

Plus it made him feel better.

“Steve?”

Steve hit it some more, probably harder than he strictly needed to.

“Hey- hey. I think you got it, man.”

Steve looked up, to find Bucky standing at the foot of the stage, looking distressed. “Give me the bat, Stevie,” he said gently. Like he was talking to some deranged person instead of Steve.

Steve took a breath, and after a second, reluctantly handed the bat over.

“Go see your omega, yeah? He’s upset. I’ll take care of this.”

Steve nodded, and took another centering breath. Right. Tony needed him.

When he got to the hallway, Tony was in the middle of a panic attack while the beta tried to minister to an injured alpha. Steve ignored them.

“Tony? Baby?”

Tony didn’t seem to hear him.

“Focus on me, honey. I’ve got you.” Steve said, and head his mate close. “Shhh... breathe with me honey. In and out.” He kept talking and stroking Tony’s hair until he felt the omega start to breathe properly again.

“Steve...” he whined.

Steve pressed kisses to Tony’s forehead and rubbed his scent glands. He still wasn’t as calm as Steve would like.

“STEVE-” the voice was high and stressed.

“I’m here baby- it’s okay.”

Tony swatted weakly at Steve’s chest, and Steve paused, trying to give his omega some space if he needed it.

“Steve- I need-”

“Need what honey? I’m right here-” he murmured.

“My lab. Need my lab-”

Seriously? The lab? Steve held in a frustrated sigh. Why, yes, that had been a rather interesting scientific thing that just happened, but Tony looked like death warmed over. Looking at data or whatever could fucking wait.

“I think you need to go to Medical first, honey-” he tried to be gentle.

“Steve-” Tony protested. “Steve, I have 20 minutes before my reactor fails-” Tony whined.

“It’ll be okay. You have more at the Tower, right?” Steve calmly. Tony was not getting out of going to medical that easily. Judging from his color and demeanor Steve had good money on some sort of bruised ribs at the minimum.

“YES-”

“Well then we’ll go. But Medical first.” Steve’s said firmly. His omega was in shock, that’s all. He couldn’t be blamed for not thinking clearly. He gave Tony a gentle kiss to the forehead.

“Steve-” Tony grabbed his collar and hauled him close “When the reactor stops I start to die ,” he said urgently into Steve’s ear. “I need to get to my lab-”

Steve froze, and felt his stomach and heart drop right out of him and onto the floor. “What?” He couldn’t have heard that right.

“Get me to my lab, NOW-” Tony hissed.

“Are you serious?” Steve asked, frozen, willing him to be wrong. For this to be a misunderstanding.

“YES! Help me!

It was his omega’s tone that got through in the end. His mate was possibly dying, and he needed to move- needed to move NOW.

“BUCKY! CODE BLUE!” he shouted. He didn’t even wait for his response. He just gathered Tony up and took off.

Never in his life had he run so fast. He dodged around both people and traffic as he ran- all he could think was that he had to get his omega to safety. He didn’t stop until they reached the private elevator.

“Lab, Jarvis- as fast as possible,” Steve snapped when they reached the private elevator.

“Yes sir,” Jarvis said. The AI sounded strained.

“Shhhh.... It’s okay,” Steve murmured. “I’ve got you.” He desperately want to pace with anxiety but there wasn’t room, and he didn’t want to panic Tony.

He focused on breathing, and making sure he wasn’t crushing Tony with his grip. The last thing he needed right now was to hurt his omega by accident.

Finally, FINALLY, the elevator door opened to reveal Tony’s lab. It was a mess, as usual, and Steve had to step artfully around a few things while he headed for the back wall where the cores were.

“Captain, he needs a new core,” Jarvis said politely.

Jarvis seemed to think he needed some help finding the safe, as it was open and had a spotlight on it. Any other time it would have been funny. Now he was just grateful that Tony had an AI that clearly cared so much for him.

Steve carefully put Tony down so he could sit against the wall while he got a new core out of the safe.

He watched as Tony struggled with his chest, trying and failing to get the cylinder out with shaking fingers. Steve knelt next to him.

“I’ve got it-” Steve said, gently moving Tony’s fingers out of the way to get at it the mechanism himself.

“Careful- don’t-” Tony protested. “You have to-”

“I know,” Steve said through gritted teeth. “Hold still.”

“You have two minutes, Captain,” Jarvis said.

Thankfully Steve’s fingers weren’t shaking. He thanked the serum for that. It took more than just pure adrenaline and fear for his hands to shake. He skillfully popped the core out and replaced it with a new one. He replaced the cylinder and gave it a gentle quarter turn- it spun the rest of the way in.

As soon as he was sure it was in, he held Tony in his arms. Tony, thankfully, didn’t fight it or protest like he usually did, and just went limp against Steve’s chest.

“How- how did you know how to do that?” Tony asked asked eventually, his voice shaking a bit, Steve noticed.

“I practiced,” Steve said simply, and rubbed his nose into Tony’s hair. The omega was a stubborn one and took scent blockers religiously. The closest thing to a scent the man had was his shampoo. It wasn’t flowery or even herbal, but somehow smelled like a meadow after a rain. Steve inhaled it like a dying man going for one last scent of home.

They were safe.

Tony bared his neck, and Steve instantly pressed kisses to his mate’s bond mark, the omega sighing and relaxing under his attention.

They sat for a while on the cold floor. Steve knew it couldn’t be good for Tony’s back but right at the moment he couldn’t bring himself to move long enough to let the omega go.

“You practiced?” Tony asked quietly after a while.

Steve hummed an affirmative.

“On what?” Tony asked, audibly confused.

“On a prototype. I thought it prudent that someone know how to change the cores in case sir was somehow incapaticated,” Jarvis said.

“Remind me to reprogram you later,” Tony said without any heat.

“Of course sir,” Jarvis said, with only the slightest trace of smugness.

Steve took one last inhale. “Okay. Lets go get dry, okay?”

Tony hummed in agreement and wordlessly wound his arms around Steve’s neck. It was a small gesture but it made Steve ridiculously happy. He easily lifted him into his arms and carried him to the elevator.

“You want a shower, sweetheart?” Steve asked as he stepped out of the elevator and into the penthouse.

“Hmm. I think I’m gonna get changed and go to bed,” Tony said. “Jarvis? Can you call Bucky and tell him that the crisis was averted?” he asked as Steve set him down on an immaculate white couch.

“Already done sir. The Sergeant has instructed me to tell you that the next time you want to skip out on your SHIELD debriefing you needn’t be so dramatic.”

Both Steve and Tony snorted.

“Tell him that I owe him one,” Steve said, and gave Tony another small forehead kiss.

“Go shower,” Tony said, gently and fondly smacking Steve’s chest. “You smell like bad science.”

Steve rolled his eyes good humoredly but obeyed, and disappeared into the bathroom.

Once he was away from his omega Steve felt every single one of his 90 some-odd years. (He tried not to think about that to hard)

He stripped, tossing his things into the laundry hamper and all but crawled into the shower, and let the blessedly hot water wash over him. He took a breath. He should have insisted on Tony joining him. The ritual of cleaning and caring for him would have been comforting for both of them.

Next time.

Maybe next mission he could talk him into it.

But in the meantime... Tony had totally stepped over the line. He’d managed to get himself in a situation where he could have been killed.

The only reason he was alive right now was because Steve had thought to check up on him.

The thought was bone chilling. If he hadn’t stopped and noticed the time... if he’d assumed that Nat was on top of things, if he hadn’t called- if if if....

He took a moment to get his emotions under control. Right now the only thing he was doing was stinking up the bathroom with alpha hormones.

He washed up, and turned the vent fan on high.

He got dressed and was walking towards the bedroom when he spotted Tony sitting on the couch watching TV. He had wrapped himself up in that hideous blanket that lived on the corner of the couch.

Looking back, Steve should have taken that as a warning sign and backed off.

But Steve was an idiot. And had a history of making stupid choices when it came to people that he loved.

He decided it was time to Talk to Tony.

“Hey-”

Tony blinked, and focused on him.

“Hmmm? Yeah- what?”

“Thought you were going to bed?”

Tony shrugged listlessly.

“Tony-” Steve started. He hated having to have this talk. It always made him feel like some sort of shrewish parent. But you sometimes had to call people out on their dumb ass decisions. Doubly so when those decisions almost killed someone. Triply so when they did things like withhold information about their health. He’d had no idea the reactor was that critical to Tony’s health.

“We need to talk,” Steve said, making sure his tone was gentle, but firm, and not exhausted.

Tony blinked at him. “Okay,” he said flatly.

“About today.”

“I’m sorry-” Tony said, clearly anything but. He winced. Apparently even he heard it.

Steve opened his mouth.

“I know. I know- I’m sorry, I really am,” Tony whined.

But he wasn’t getting off the hook that easily.

“Tony,” Steve said, warningly.

Tony’s mouth snapped shut, thankfully. Maybe he could get through this without Tony butting in every two seconds.

“You cannot just go off like that. You left without telling anyone- you scared me half to death- scared Bucky to. You think I make everyone take backup because I think they’re incompetent? No. I do it because it’s safer to have someone-”

The speech was an old one. The Howlies had grown to hate it before they’d even gotten halfway through France. It had gotten to the point where he didn’t even have to give it anymore. They’d just say “So... I’m getting the speech, Cap?” and he’d glare at them and threaten to make them write essays on “How I Fucked Up” on the back of their toilet paper. (He wouldn’t have made them use good paper. That was to be saved for letters home.) God knows he’d hated having to do that when he was in school.

But he wouldn’t make Tony do that.

He paused. Tony was staring dutifully at a point somewhere on the floor. He frowned.

“Tony- are you listening to me?” God, he hated it when Tony tuned him out.

“I’m sorry,” Tony said, flatly. “I won’t do it again.” He sounded like some sort of scolded child who was just waiting for the parent to finally stop talking so they could leave.

Steve sighed. Maybe he shouldn’t be doing this. He felt like crap. Tony probably felt worse. They should do this later. Maybe never.

“Tony-” Steve started, fully intending on suggesting they just go to bed.

But Tony didn’t look at him. He frowned, and reached out to grab his chin, and get his omega’s attention-

Tony flinched.

Steve froze. He felt like he’d been stabbed in the gut then dumped into a vat of ice water. Tony... had just flinched away from him.

“Tony?” Steve tried to keep the hurt confusion from his voice and failed utterly.

“Sorry. Sorry,” Tony squeaked, and sat more upright. He wouldn’t look at Steve.

Oh god. Tony was shaking. Was it because of him? Was he going into shock?

“Baby?” Steve asked, as gently as possible, panicking on the inside.

He reached out again and Tony squeezed his eyes shut, and ground his teeth together- clearly bracing for impact.

He thinks I’m going to hit him.

The realization hit him harder than when he’d realized Bucky had fallen from that damn train, and wasn’t going to make it.

No. Nononono.

As gently as possible, he touched Tony.

“Shhh... oh god, Tony- sweetheart. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he murmured as he gathered Tony in for a hug.

Tony started to whine. It was a broken one that spoke of deep omega distress.

And it was his fault.

He couldn’t have waited until fucking tomorrow. He hadn’t even checked to see if Tony was OKAY before he laid into him.

Jesus Christ forgive him. Because he certainly never was going to forgive himself for this.

He held Tony through the panic attack, waiting for him to calm down, gently stroking his back and hair, scent marking him. Murmuring sweet things in his ear.

He wasn’t prepared for Tony to pass out on him.

He freaked, and started hyperventilating.

Thankfully, Jarvis was there.

“It is recommended that you swaddle omegas in distress,” Jarvis said calmly from the ceiling.

Right. He could do that. And he needed something soft. Not this awful blanket Tony currently had on him. He wrestled it off him, then carried him to bed. He used the duvet cover to wrap his omega up.

And when he couldn’t think of anything else to do- he physically laid on top of him. He had no idea if this would help Tony or not, but it made him feel like he was at least doing something.

He buried his face in Tony’s hair, and waited for his omega to wake up.

Half an hour later, Tony whined with a trace of fear.

“Shhh....” Steve said gently. “I’m here. You’re safe. We’re in the tower.” It was a chant he’d often had to use with Bucky in the Bad Days when he’d first been defrosted and got confused easily.

Tony whined again, but this time instead of sounding upset it sound questioning.

Steve gently kissed different parts of Tony’s face, murmuring how Tony was “my perfect, good omega.”

Tony huffed, but offered no further protests. He let Steve literally smother him with affection for at least another 5 minutes.

“Wait... why am I in bed?” he fussed.

“Shhh... go back to sleep baby,” Steve nuzzled him gently. Tony was in no way coherent right now. It was better for him to sleep.

Tony sighed, and bared his neck without hesitation or fear.

Steve thought his heart would burst with happiness. He hadn’t totally fucked up. Tony wasn’t afraid of him. He pressed careful kisses to Tony’s scent gland, and gently nibbled his neck.

“Steve?” Tony asked. He sounded drugged.

“Shh... sleep baby. It’s okay,” Steve whispered. “I got you.”

Two minutes later Tony was snoring.

He almost cried with relief. Tony was going to be okay.

Time passed. He couldn’t get himself to leave the bed, but after a while he managed to convince himself that laying next Tony was just as good as laying on top of him after his knees and elbows started to protest.

God, he had no idea what he was doing. Did they make books about how to be a good alpha? Bucky had always told him that it would come naturally.

He’d also told him that Steve would “grow out” of his terrible slight frame to. But that hadn’t happened either.

He sighed. He hated that he couldn’t talk about this with Bucky. But he’d been sensitive about even being around omegas ever since they defrosted him from that horrible canister thing they found in the basement of a Hydra base. Steve hadn’t even found him. It’d been the clean up team. The assholes had actually stacked boxes on top of the canister as if the man was nothing more than an old pile of books.

He inhaled the scent of Tony’s hair. He needed to calm down. Ruminating over past awfulness would only make him stink up the room and cause Tony even more distress.

He didn’t deserve that.

What he deserved was a halfway decent alpha who could fucking take care of him properly.

Honestly, he had no idea why Tony even chose him some days. He could have literally anyone in the world- and yet he’d chosen a stupid roided up alpha with more testosterone than sense.

God knew he couldn’t keep up with him whenever he rambled on about whatever he was working on these days. Nano... Nenu... something. It was small. And apparently the Next Big Thing. He was always so excited when he did it though. Reminded him of a bit of a rambunctious puppy. Always running full tilt and landing face first into whatever new science that caught his attention.

Why hadn’t he gone for someone who was smart?

Steve idly traced the contours of Tony’s face with a gentle finger.

He really didn’t understand this man at all sometimes.

Most of the time.

He was just ruminating on “God, why haven’t I noticed how pronounced Tony’s cheekbones are... have they always been that way? Was he eating enough? Was it possible for a man to lose weight in just the two day since Tony had banned him from the common areas?” when Jarvis carefully and quietly announced, “Captain, Mr. Wilson has arrived.”

Steve blinked. “Sam’s here?” he asked, also quietly, so as not to disturb Tony.

“Yes sir. He’s just arrived in the parking garage.”

“Tell him to put his stuff on the guest floor then meet me here.”

“Of course sir. I’ll let you know when he arrives,” Jarvis whispered.

Steve hummed softly in acknowledgement, and tried to find the strength to leave the bed.

Eventually he managed, and as he left the bedroom he carefully closed the door.

“Let me know if he wakes up, Jarvis,” he asked.

“Of course Captain.”

He sat on the couch and waited.

He didn’t have to wait long. Sam rolled in just a few minutes later.

“Cap!” Sam said.

Steve hurriedly shushed him. “Tony’s sleeping. Keep it down.”

Sam blinked. “It’s almost dinner time man. What’s going on?” he asked, but softly this time.

Steve motioned at the couch. “Sit. We need to talk.”

Sam frowned, but obeyed.

Steve sighed, and warily rubbed his face. “It’s all gone to shit Sam. I just... these last two days have been literal hell.”

“What happened?” Sam asked softly, clearly concerned.

Steve gave Sam a long look. “I know I said that we didn’t need you. That we could manage. And you chose to go and work in DC. I don’t blame you for that. Your family is there. I understand.”

Sam frowned. “I feel a but coming.”

Steve nodded. “The pack needs you. I need you. Here. In New York.”

Sam considered. “You still haven’t told me what’s wrong.”

Steve rubbed his face again, hesitating. “You’ve been out of the pack for a while Sam,” he said neutrally.

Sam cocked an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I can’t tell you unless you give me a firm yes or a no here. Either you’re here, with us in New York, and you know all the ins and outs, or you’re not, and you do some blind grunt work for me before you go back to DC and we’ll call you when the world’s on fire.”

Sam blinked. “There’s secrets now? Since when?” he demanded.

Steve gave him a long look. “Since always.”

“Steve-”

“Look, I’m not asking you to put on the wings and go out with us on missions all the time. I need someone who can stay home, keep an eye on things. Someone I can trust and who won’t automatically side with me on things.”

Now it was Sam’s turn to give him a long look. “You want me to be a house alpha now?” he demanded with a disbelieving smirk.

Steve blinked, and choked back a laugh. “Yeah. Something like that,” he said with a small smile. His face turned serious quickly. “But I’m serious. I need you here. To help me guard the Nest.”

Sam’s smile vanished. That was a serious request, to guard a nest. He sighed.

“I always said that if you needed me, I’d answer,” Sam said finally. “I’m in.”

Steve graced him with a relieved smile. “Thank you Sam,” he said.

“Now tell me what ridiculous situation you’ve gotten yourself into now,” Sam demanded.

Steve’s smile turned brittle. “What do you know about male omegas?” he asked.

Chapter Text

Sam stared at the wall in the elevator. 4 hours ago his biggest problem had been what he was going to have for dinner. And now he needed to regroup the freakin’ Avengers.

He still wasn’t quite sure how he felt about the fact that “hey male omegas exist, and we have two on the team. And both are out of commission right now, and one of them may possibly be very slowly dying, but who knows, there was a weather thing. And hey, both Bucky and I are banned from Medbay. And the common areas. And no I don’t know where anyone’s at...”

Sweet Baby Jesus. You leave a pack for a year, and everything just freaking falls apart, and your pack leader gets mated before losing his goddamn mind.

He stepped out onto the MedBay when the elevator doors opened. There was no frantic activity. No yelling. Just people in white lab coats doing paperwork at their desks or quietly chatting to each other. So that was a good sign.

He poked his head into random rooms until he found one with a mostly naked boy in a bed.

The first thing that hit him was the smell. Heat, sick, wrong, hurt. It had a weird almost metallic after taste to it. And the heat scent was just... weird. Sam had been with several omegas in his time, and they all smelled, well... sweet during their heats. But this... this was like being waterboarded with burnt icing. It was sickly.

Whatever the hell was wrong with the kid was so far out of his wheelhouse he might as well try to diagnose a lollipop dude from the Wizard of Oz.

Next to him was an omega woman sitting in a chair, knitting. His mind skidded a bit when he took in her vintage red and white dress. And her hair. She looked like some chick from one of Steve’s old recruitment posters.

What the fuck even is this day?

“Hey-” he said.

She looked up at him and frowned. “You’re not a doctor,” she said flatly, with a hint of challenge. She put her knitting down.

“No,” he said, and stepped inside. She quickly stood up, and moved to put herself in between the boy and himself. She looked wary, and her fingers fiddled with the hem of her dress.

He threw his hands up to show he had no ill intentions. Thank god for scent blockers. She was... attractive. And it’d been a while. The last thing he needed was to freak out an omega because his dumbass was unable to control his stupid alpha hormones just because she looked like she’d climbed out of a freaking pin-up poster.

His mother would say that the Lord was testing him.

Why Lord? Why?

“Sorry ma’am. Don’t mean to freak you out. I’m Sam Wilson. Steve sent me down to check on things,” at least he could keep his tone professional.

She hesitated, but didn’t move. “Jarvis?” she asked.

“Mr. Wilson is a member of the Avengers,” Jarvis said from the ceiling.

She studied him for a minute, then nodded and relaxed a little. “Sorry man. I’m under orders from Natasha to watch him,” she said. “And it’s been a crazy day.”

“So Nat called you in?”

She nodded. “Apparently all the doctors are stupid today. I’m to keep people from giving him things,” she said, sitting back down.

He frowned. “So, you have experience with...” he trailed off. She didn’t look like she had military training. But if Nat had called her in...

“Experience?”

“You special forces, or-”

She blinked, and giggled. “Fuck no man! I specialize in making sure crazy scientists have their doohickies charged and a steady supply of pop tarts.” she paused. “I’m Darcy by the way.”

He stared at her. “Pop tarts?” he said, doing his best to keep his eyebrows firmly in place.

She nodded. “Keeping the pop tarts stocked is like 40% of my job, honestly,” she said.

The funny thing was, he couldn’t tell if she was fucking with him or not. But Nat had called her in. He decided to tread carefully anyway in case she had a side hobby of knitting with people’s intestines or something. (Nat always knew the craziest fucking people...)

“Hey- do you know if Tony fixed that thing at the Sheraton?”

He frowned. “Sheraton?”

“There was like... a machine that ripped a hole in space or something and made it rain indoors. He was going to go shoot it...” she looked worried. “I haven’t heard from my friend Jane for a while, and she was there-”

Ah.

“Steve took care of it,” he said, not sure what he could tell her. “No one was seriously hurt.”

She gave an exaggerated sigh. “Well that’s a relief. I swear I’m gone for not even an hour and she’s ripping holes in space time or whatever without me,” she complained. “That’s just typical that’s what it is,” she bitched. “I never get to go to freaking other space times. Last time she went to Asgard and I got stuck chasing a half naked old dude around London. I mean, I’m not really complaining. Selvig didn’t belong in that insane asylum- but seriously. I missed like elves .”

Sam decided that he would ignore pretty much all of that for now and take this woman out for drinks later. Maybe they could swap “My boss is crazy” stories.

“How’s he been?” he asked, gesturing at Peter.

She screwed up her face into one of exaggerated frustration and tsked.

“I mean... he’s not like... getting worse I don’t think,” she said hesitantly. “But he’s not getting better either. And the ice is melting, but I don’t know if I’m like... doctor enough to replace it? Or if I should take it off? I mean, his temp has stayed the same. But it’s high. Even I know that.”

“Do you know what happened?” he asked, as he examined the various monitors. He wasn’t happy with the blood pressure reading. Or the pulse. The O2 saturation looked good at least. And the temperature of 103.1 wasn’t the best. But it wasn’t high enough to be cooking the kid’s brain. So that was good.

“No idea,” she said.

“How long has the ice been on?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Since I got here?” she offered meekly. “But that was hours ago.”

Sam winced. Ice shouldn’t be on that long. There was risk of frostbite.

“Help me take it off,” he said.

Darcy frowned. “We’re not supposed to do anything,” she protested, clearly uncomfortable. “I’m a sort of Paramedic. I can’t cure him, but I can tell you it needs to come off,” he said firmly.

She sighed with relief. “That’s what I thought too, but no-one said anything-” she said. “And the doctors and nurses are all steering clear. I think Nat chewed some of them out,” she confided.

Sam frowned. Well that was just unacceptable. It looked like once everything wasn’t on fire, he’d have to have a serious look at the MedBay staff. You can’t just neglect a patient because one of their relatives was scary. It was freaking unethical for just starters.

They took the ice off, and Sam checked the boy’s skin for frostbite. The skin was super cold and pale where the ice had been, but nothing was black.

Yet.

He’d have a serious talk with whoever the hell put him on ice. That wasn’t the current accepted treatment for high fevers. Hadn’t been for at least a few years, he knew for damn sure. You were supposed to mist them with water and put a shit load of fans on them. It did just a good a job as ice, but without the risk of frostbite.

They put the bags into a corner, and emptied one into the tiny hand washing sink.

“Has he woken up at all?” he asked, as he grabbed the boy’s chart off the wall. He took note of the kid’s doctor’s name: Dr. Connors. Oooh... he was going to have some words with him.

“Nope. If he had I would have sounded an alarm of some sort.”

Sam hummed as he went over the papers. Saline. Liquid emergency suppressants... seemed standard “sick omega” treatment so far... Or at least, it sounded right. He didn’t have much training for omegas. There was a record of a head injury. The kid had ... fallen off a ceiling? But the x-rays said nothing was broken... His eyebrows rose to his hairline when he read about the kid’s heart stopping.

He quickly flipped through the pages.

They hadn’t put him on any additional heart medications since.

WTF.

He put the file back, and went to Peter’s bedside. He wasn’t just going to have words, he was going to kick someone’s fucking ass right out the god damn window over this. Now he didn’t trust a goddamn word of this fucking chart.

If you wanted something done right, you have to do it yourself.

“Hey Peter,” Sam said loudly and clearly, leaning over the boy’s head. “Can you hear me bud?”

No response. He shook him a little.

“Peter?” still no response.

He dug his key chain penlight out of his pocket, and used it to check the boy’s pupils. They reacted. That was good.

“Peter buddy, you awake?”

He pressed the pen light to one of the boy’s fingernails, hard. The kid weakly tried to move his hand away and groaned. His eyes fluttered, but stayed closed. The pulse rate on the monitor jumped.

“Is he waking up?” Darcy demanded, breathless.

Sam waved her back. “Not fully. But this - this is good.”

He took the boy’s hand. “Can you squeeze my hand, bud? I want you to squeeze it as hard you can.”

After a moment... was it his imagination or did the kid’s fingers move a bit?

“You’re in the MedBay, buddy. You had a bit of a fall, and you have a fever. You’re safe. Are you in any pain?”

There was a whine. It was barely there, but it was there.

“Ohmygod-” Darcy babbled.

Sam waved a hand to shush her.

“Can you tell me where you hurt?”

Nothing.

“Does your head hurt? You had a pretty nasty fall.”

Another whine.

“Good job. Thank you for letting me know. I’m gonna try to get you something for that, okay? You hurt anywhere else?”

No response.

“Are you tired? You wanna sleep?”

A hand flutter.

“It’s okay if you’re tired, bud. You go back to sleep, okay? Darcy here is going to stay with you, and keep you company, yeah?” Sam kept his voice calm, clear and firm. “But you’re safe here. I promise you.”

He waited. No response. After a moment of thought, he added, “Everyone else is home and safe, buddy. It’s okay. We’re gonna take good care of you, yeah? If you understand, can you squeeze my hand again? I want you to squeeze as hard as you can. Can you do that bud?”

Another flutter of movement. A bit stronger this time.

“Good job! That was great Peter. You’re doing so well! You wanna go back to sleep and rest, buddy?”

No response.

He gently but firmly patted the kid’s shoulder so the kid could feel it. “I’m gonna go. You sleep, okay? Like I said, Darcy’s gonna sit with you, okay?” Reassurance was the important part. That and sounding like you knew exactly what you were doing. If you freaked, the patient would freak, and freaked patients did not do as well as calm ones. And no one liked being alone.

He turned to a freaked out Darcy. “So. He can hear us. I can’t say he’ll remember what we’re saying, but keep that in mind, yeah? Don’t say anything to him you don’t want repeated later.”

She blinked. “I... I’ve not been talking to him,” she admitted, sounding alarmed. “Should I have?”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to. But I’d recommend you put on a podcast about something nice. Like vacation destinations or something. It’ll make him feel less alone. That or music.”

She hastily dug in her bag and produced an ipod and a bluetooth speaker. “Would rock music be okay?”

“I’d stick with something soothing.”

“I’ve got like, rain sounds, I think?”

“That’d be great.”

“What was your name again?” Darcy asked, sounding excited and relieved as she scrambled for her phone. “I’m gonna text Natasha. This has been the best thing that’s happened all freaking day- she’s gonna flip-”

“It’s Sam,” he said, smiling, holding himself back from preening a bit. He always loved it when he could give good news. “And tell her to call me. I don’t think I have her current number.”

“Sure,” Darcy said, furiously texting.

“Stay with him, okay?”

She looked up, and beamed a sunrise smile at him. “No problem,” she said, before going back to texting.

“I’ll check in on him an hour or so,” he said, putting a reminder on his phone.

She didn’t even look up as he left the room.

He grabbed the first person in scrubs he saw. “Hey- I’m looking for Doctor Connors,” he said.

The beta nurse paused in thought. “You know, I haven’t seen him for a while. Sheryl?” she called out over the MedBay.

“Yeah?” another nurse answered her from desk. She was doing paperwork.

“Have you seen Doc Connors?”

“I haven’t seen him in a few hours. Jarvis?” Sheryl asked.

“Doctor Connors has left the Tower,” Jarvis reported primly.

The nurses frowned.

“Did he say when he was going to be back?” the first nurse asked.

“No,” Jarvis said.

“That’s... weird. Umm...” she turned to Sam, “Was there anything specific you needed?”

“I’m Sam Wilson. I just checked in with Peter and he’s in a bit of pain-”

“We’re not supposed to give him anything,” she responded quickly.

“Not even tylenol?”

She shook her head. “Not without Doctor Connors' express written permission.”

Right. The doctor who wasn’t here.

“Who’s next in line?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Who’s in charge when he’s not here?”

“Doctor Shaftner just left for dinner. He should be back in a half hour or so,” Sheryl said. “I’m sorry- we really can’t give him anything. I think he has allergies or something?” she said haltingly. “We’re not really cleared to know.”

Sam sighed. “Right. Thank you.”

He would read them the riot act over the ice later. Right now he might throw something. He set another alarm on his phone for half an hour.

Next step. Regrouping. “Jarvis, where’s Clint?” he asked, as he walked to the elevator.

“Clint has just arrived at the Tower.”

“Tell him to go to the common floor and wait for me,” he said. “Is Bruce in his labs?”

“Dr. Banner is currently in Lab 4.”

“Take me to the lab,” he said, then paused as he had a thought. “Has Bruce eaten yet?”

“Dr. Banner ate breakfast this morning,” Jarvis said.

“Cancel the lab. Take me to the cafeteria,” Sam said.

“Yes sir.”

Sam fiddled with his phone, checking his texts. No Natasha yet.

10 minutes later, Sam knocked on Bruce’s lab door, arms laden with a double portion of whatever today’s vegetarian option had been. It was tofu something, and smelled good. Hopefully he’d like it.

“Come in!” Bruce called politely. He sounded stressed.

Sam opened the door, and walked in. “Bruce!” he called.

Bruce looked up from his computer screen and did a double take. “Sam!” he said happily. “What are you doing here?”

Sam grinned, “Feeding my favorite scientist,” he said cheekily, and happily gave the beta a big hug complete with back slaps.

“Is that butter masala?” Bruce asked hopefully.

“I think so. It’s today's vegetarian option from the cafeteria,” he said, and handed over his prize to Bruce, who popped the clear plastic lid off the to-go dish and happily inhaled it’s scent.

“Sam, you are an angel from heaven,” he said. “I’ve just been so busy... what time is it?”

“It’s a little past 6. Way past lunchtime,” Sam said, his voice reproachful. “Don’t you have like, interns to remind you to eat?”

Bruce winced. “I had to move them to other labs. This-” he waved a hand at the computer monitor, “is too sensitive.”

“Is it Peter’s?”

Bruce nodded. “I’m running blood work, and a DNA comparison-” he said, taking his glasses off and rubbing his face, “as well as about a dozen different tests for possible poisons...”

“You think he was given something?”

Bruce shrugged. “I’m just trying to cover the bases,” he said neutrally.

“Have you talked to Doctor Connors? Peter’s chart didn’t really say anything about why he’s out of it.”

Bruce shook his head, and dug a fork out of a desk drawer. “No. But second heats are, from what I’ve been told- just this side of hell. Right now, his reproductive system is gearing up fully for the first time. Add in Peter’s... superness-” Bruce waved a hand vaguely, “And you have a recipe for a super bad time.”

Sam frowned. “So what’s the panic about? Steve made it out like it was some big serious thing-”

“He’s early. And he was on suppressants. He should be late, not early,” Banner said, frowning. “Also the alphas around him were acting weird. They tried to break down the door to his heat room. So, something happened. Plus he should have been coherent a long time ago with all the suppressants he’s been given. But he’s not.”

Sam nodded. “So, definitely something funky going on.”

Bruce nodded. “We just need to find out what.”

“Any luck?”

Bruce shook his head. “As far as I can tell, the only things he had in his system were his suppressants and a trace amount of caffeine.”

“Caffeine?”

“I’m guessing he had a soda for lunch.”

Sam shook his head. “I’ll let you get back to work. Let me know if you find anything. Steve’s taking care of Tony and last I heard, Bucky was stuck in a debriefing for SHIELD.”

Bruce frowned. “Did something happen to Tony?”

“There was some sort of funky machine at the Sheraton. He went to bust it up, and it messed with his reactor thing a bit or something.”

Bruce paled. “Is he okay?”

“He’s fine. Just needed a new... ah...” he thought for a moment, searching for the word. “Core? I think it was.”

Bruce relaxed. “I’ll have to check on him later.”

“Sounds like a plan. In the meantime, eat man. I don’t want you starving on me,” Sam teased.

Bruce snorted. “Thanks Sam,” he said wryly and started digging in as Sam walked out.

Sam checked his phone in the elevator. Still no Natasha. “Where’s Nat at, Jarvis?”

“Ms. Romanov is in her quarters.”

“Tell her to meet me at the common floor,” he said.

“Of course, Mr. Wilson.”

“Thanks Jarvis,” he said absently. He stepped out into the common floor when the doors opened.

Clint was sitting on a stool, with his feet propped up on the kitchen island, eating ice cream straight out of the tub with a spoon.

“I see some things never change,” he quipped.

Clint twisted to look behind him, and nearly fell off his stool. “SAM?”

“Hey man, don’t hurt yourself,” Sam chided, laughing.

“Holy shit! It’s been forever- what the hell are you doing here?” Clint managed to right himself.

“Steve called me in. Apparently you’ve got omegas dropping like flies around here. I’m an extra set of hands.”

Clint frowned, suddenly serious. “Did something happen to Nat?” he demanded.

“No. Tony. Something to do with his reactor. Threw him for a loop. He should be fine, but Steve’s gone full mother hen and won’t leave him.”

Clint sighed, shaking his head. “This fucking day, man.”

“So what have you been up to?”

“Officially? Or...”

“Steve’s letting me have the reigns for now. Bucky’s held up in some sort of debriefing. So. Yes. Everything.”

Clint grunted. “Went to the kid’s school. Found one of his guidance counselors. Had to take him for a little ride to get any info out of him. Bastard.”

“And?”

“He and a couple of security guards cornered Peter in an office and read him the riot act. Apparently, they thought he was in a gang or something? When they went to search his locker for drugs, apparently the kid lost it, and ran off to the omega room. They were trying to get him out when we rode up to get him.”

Sam wrinkled his nose, remembering the slight child in the MedBay. “That kid... in a gang?”

“I know! I know you don’t know him Sam- he came in after you left, but he’s legit like the sweetest fucking thing. He once said ‘sugar’ like a swear word after he took a fall in combat training with Nat. Can you believe that? And those assholes treated him like shit.” Clint aggressively stabbed his ice cream.

“Why did they think he was in a gang?”

“Apparently the guards said he smelled weird,” Clint bitched, rolling his eyes. “Like that means anything.”

Sam eyed him. “Did you leave him one piece?”

“Who?”

“The asshole.”

“I barely broke his arm,” Clint grumbled. “Dude will be fine.” He didn’t sound very happy about it though.

Sam held in a sigh of relief. At least he was alive. Clint had a temper when it came to people hurting kids. Not that he’d ever admit it, the big softie. Speaking of people who should be worried about the kid...

“Come to think of it, doesn’t the kid have like, parents or something?” Sam said, suddenly worried.

Clint shook his head. “He’s got an aunt.”

“And?”

Clint shrugged. “I was tasked with the school, man. I dunno.”

“Mr. Hogan has called and let me know that he is on his way with Mrs. Parker,” Jarvis suddenly volunteered. “They will be arriving shortly.”

“Anyone else coming down, Jarvis?”

“Ms. Potts touched down at the airport 10 minutes ago. She is also on her way.”

Sam nodded. He’d only met her a couple of times, but she was a beta who had her shit together.

“Is this an exclusive party?”

Sam turned. “I’m sorry ma’am, but this is for Avengers only-” he said, barely keeping a straight face. “I’m gonna have to see some ID-”

Natasha snorted, “You’re never going to let that go, will you?” she grumbled.

Clint raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“I asked him for some ID when Steve brought him in,” she told him testily. “Rogers may be Captain America, but even I know better than to trust some guy he just met at a VA.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “I’m black, Nat. If I were any more not a Nazi I’d have to be Jewish.”

“Barnes is Jewish,” she shot back mulishly.

“Good for him,” Sam said good humoredly. “I trust you’ve got something you can report to me on about the kid?” he said, switching gears.

Nat, ever a professional, was quick to keep up. She sat at the island, and sighed. “I got a babysitter for the kid, and I’ve spent the last-” she glanced at a clock, “hour or so being laughed off the phone by every omegatrician in the state of New York, and half of Jersey.”

“What did you ask?”

“If they knew anything at all about male omegas. Most of them said that they didn’t exist. A few said that they’d seen a few stillbirths- apparently being a male omega is considered to be a birth defect that’s quote- 'incompatible with life’.”

Clint pulled a face. “What the hell does that mean?”

She shrugged. “Something about heart problems. They all talked about the same articles at me, that are all too old and in specialized medical journals to be on the internet. I did track down some copies of them, but they’re in England in the ‘Royal Library.’ We’d have to fly there and make an appointment to even look at them.”

“Royal Library?” Sam asked.

“The very short version is they think that most of the queens had so many miscarriages is because they kept getting pregnant with male omegas, due to inbreeding problems.”

“Ohhh... Tony is going to love that,” Clint sniggered after a beat of stunned silence.

“I know. He’s either going to be offended by the inbreeding thing or he’s going to claim that it’s proof that he’s some form of royalty,” Natasha said, clearly not looking forward to either option.

Sam hummed thoughtfully.

“Jarvis, does Tony have some file on male omegas somewhere?” he asked, because why the hell not.

“No, he does not,” Jarvis said. “Sir has always been... sensitive about that subject.”

Clint sighed. “I’m so fucking glad I’m a beta,” he muttered.

“Shut up man and give me some of that,” Sam barked. This was too much bullshit to deal with without some ice cream.

Chapter Text

Bucky sprawled in a soggy swivel chair. It was unpleasant, but not unbearable since he was generally soaked anyway. His feet occupied another adjacent chair, but not the table. He’d been parked in a generally ruined conference room somewhere on the third floor of the hotel for “debriefing” by some grunt in a suit, so that he could wait for probably Coulson.

He hoped Coulson was having just as much of a shitty day as Barnes was having. Otherwise there was no justice in the world.

The reason for his attempt at manners was a small brown haired beta woman who was perched on her own soaked chair. Unlike the other two alphas and the omega on the scene, she didn’t make a run for it the moment the grunts in cheap suits showed up. He wasn’t sure if that was because she seemed to be generally unimpressed with them or if she had some underlying fault in her brain.

Not that Bucky could judge her for that. He knew all too well that sometimes brain glitches meant lapses in common sense. His biggest brain glitch was not present at the moment, since Steve had ran like his ass was on fire back to the tower with Tony. It left him feeling a bit... adrift. Steve was a bit of his own personal North Star Oceanliner. One of those big ones with like a swimming pool and several casinos on it. Some days it was nice. Other days it felt like he was being dragged behind it via the anchor line.

Today... today had started on the sundeck, but sometime around noon he had started wishing for a pair of skis. Or at least a snorkel. (He wouldn’t sneeze at a life vest either, but he knew he’d never get one of those... dog paddle or die seemed to sum up quite a lot of his life).

He eyed the door. Maybe... well... what would be the worst that would happen if he just, you know... walked out?

There wasn’t a law that said he had to debrief SHIELD. It was more of a sort of understood, unspoken courtesy really. But SHIELD was a bit on the Avenger’s shit list right now. Unofficially. Very Unofficially. So unofficially they weren’t supposed to know they were on a shit list to begin with.

And Steve was busy with Tony right now. Right about now he was probably in full mother hen mode. Probably literally smothering the poor bastard. So he probably wouldn’t notice or care if Bucky played hooky.

He checked his phone. The all clear for the ‘code blue’ (that had scared him half to death to be honest) had come in ages ago. He considered. Maybe if he called in another half hour or so he would manage to cockblock the Idiots. Tell them about how his socks were starting to grow mold or something.

It would serve Steve right for... Well. Many times.

He couldn’t think of a specific instance at this moment worthy of a cockblock, but Bucky was sure that on a cosmic scale, Steve had at least one cockblock coming to him for something Bucky had forgotten about.

He had, after all, forgotten a lot of things. And Steve, as a rule, was a little shit.

The beta woman sighed, clearly bored. Bucky’s eyes skidded over to her, then back to a nearby wall. The thought of trying to talk to her... nope. Not happening.

Jesus, he was worse with dames now than Steve had been before the freakin’ army.

Which was all the more reason for him to bug the fuck out.

He was just about to go for it- he’d put his feet down and was starting to shift in his chair- when the door opened, and another brunette woman in a suit came in. She was an omega. Her faint scent of ever-so-slightly-over-ripe peaches made his nose itch and irritated him beyond reason. Omegas always smelled like some sort variation of fruit, and the peach ones just... pushed some secret button in him that made him irrationally angry. Like nails on the chalkboard of his soul.

Steve thought it had something to do with Hydra. Maybe some scientist or past handler had made him associate peaches with Bad Things.

Bucky couldn’t argue with that reasoning, but swore it was wrong anyway. Plus he could eat them just fine. He liked peaches, damnit. Just, apparently, not Peach Omegas.

She smiled at the beta woman first. “Good afternoon, Dr. Foster. I’m Meg Masters. Thank you for your time,” she said, and extended a hand.

“Pleasure,” the beta said sarcastically, and shook it.

“Mr. Barnes?” Masters said. She did not offer her hand to him, he noticed. (Not that he would have shaken it anyway.) And she was playing dumb about his name. She was SHIELD. And he was in a goddamn tact vest with something like 20 knives on him currently, and his favorite rifle leaning against the table next to him. Plus the whole Avenger thing. People wore shirts with his fucking face on it. His eyes narrowed ever so slightly.

“Call me Sergeant,” he said gruffly, because he could and it was technically his rank.

She smiled. It was condescending as fuck. “Of course, Sergeant Barnes.”

Where the fuck was Coulson? He normally did their debriefs...

She pulled out a phone and placed it on the table. “I’m going to record this and transcribe it later, okay?” Her smile stayed condescending. “Dr. Foster? Would you care to start?”

“Start where?”

“Wherever you think is the beginning of this incident.”

Bucky leaned back in his chair and half listened as Foster rattled on about the alphas and a competition. He kept his eyes on Masters, who was keeping her eyes on Foster. Ignoring him, again.

It annoyed him for a full 5 minutes before he could verbalize why. He was the second ranking alpha of the most powerful pack on the planet. Coulson always asked for Steve’s report first then his before moving on to Tony (who by then was so done and usually gave a damn near gibberish account).

And she’d just asked a fucking beta for her report before his... Masters had to be doing it on purpose.

That or she was just incompetent. But, she was an omega. Omegas knew far better than betas how rankings went. Betas had to have it explained. Omegas tended to just automatically fall into line.

It was probably why Foster hadn’t tried to defer to him. If she’d been an omega she’d would have glanced at him for his approval before starting.

At least, that’s how it would have worked in the old days.

A sudden smack of doubt hit him. Oh god. Was this a future thing? He hoped not. Steve- no. Tony would have definitely mentioned something about this if it was a future thing. The little omega always loved to call him on shit. And he would have been all over him to tell him that people put betas first now. So probably not a future thing.

In fact, the longer he watched, the more he became convinced it was Masters thing.

He tuned back into Foster just in time to hear her say, “And then I called my friend Darcy to see if she was okay, because she was with me at the event, but she was out of the building by then. Anyway, she talked to Tony. And then Tony came and tried to shoot it, but then it ate his suit-”

“I’m sorry. It ate his suit?”

“Yes. It was magnetic.”

“A giant ball of light. That was magnetic. And it ate someone’s suit.” Masters’ tone implied that she didn’t believe a word of it, but was too polite to call her on it.

“You should ask him-” Foster said, pointing at Bucky. “He was there.”

Bucky shrugged. “I came later. The suit was already gone by then,” he said.

A thought occurred to him. What the hell clearance level did Foster have? Or Masters? It should say on her badge... which was on a lanyard that was hanging around her neck. He couldn’t stare at it and read the fucking tiny type on it without looking like he was staring at her breasts. Wonderful.

“So where is Tony now?” Masters asked. “I don’t see him on my list...”

“He left. Rogers took him,” Foster said. “I think he was hurt.”

“Do you know his last name?” The Idiot Woman asked. “I’ll try to run him down later.”

Fosters joined the “are you an idiot?” club. “You mean... Tony Stark?” she asked, in disbelief.

Masters frowned, and looked up from her paperwork. “I’m sorry?”

“I called Darcy. She talked to Iron Man. He came to blow it up, but-”

“And you... just happen to know someone who knows Iron Man?” Masters asked, clearly ready to call her out on her BS.

“I’m dating Thor. So yes,” Foster said, now with definite attitude.

Bucky turned wide eyes on her. Jesus Christ. SHE was the one dating Thor? And he’d been giving her the fucking cold shoulder this entire god damned time? Thor was going to fucking skin him alive...

Why the hell did no one lead with the important information these days?

“So... Rogers?” Masters asked faintly.

“Captain America,” Foster said, sounding like she was talking to a dense idiot. “He took him home. I told you, I think he was-”

“Wait. Stop,” Bucky held up a hand to silence the beta. “What’s your clearance level again?” he demanded of Masters.

She blinked at him, and frowned. “It doesn’t matter what my clearance level is,” she said disdainfully. “If I were you, I’d be more worried about myself right now.”

Bucky blinked at her. “What?”

“That gun,” she said, and looked at it meaningfully. “You’d better have the proper paperwork for that. I know that vigilantes are fashionable these days, but you can’t just go running around New York with military hardware!”

He blinked. Did he miss the memo where they passed out the stupid pills or something this morning?

He stood. “Lady,” he drawled. “I’m the second in command of the god damned Avengers,” he said, and leaned intimidatingly at her. “Go fuck yourself. We’re done here.”

Masters stared at him, open mouthed.

Bucky turned to Foster. “Come on. I’ll walk you home,” he said gruffly. He sure as shit wasn’t letting her out of his sight until she was somewhere safe. The way this day was going he’d turn his back and she’d be kidnapped by mole people or something. And then Thor would roast him with lighting before he skinned him.

Fosters sighed, clearly frustrated. “I was staying here-” she waved vaguely at the building around her.

Yeah. Not happening. “Congratulations. You’ve just been upgraded to a room at the Tower. Get your stuff. We’re going.”

He grabbed his gun, slung it over his shoulder and started to walk out of the room.

“Wait a minute! You can’t just leave -” Masters complained.

He flipped her the bird with his metal hand and (gently) grabbed Foster with the other. After a small initial pull to get her going, he put his hand on the small of her back to make sure she was matching his speed as he did a pissed speed walk out of there.

Fosters squawked a bit, protesting her treatment. “I’d rather not have to cause a scene, doll,” he muttered into her hair. She sure was a tiny thing, Thor’s girl. “Keep up. The sooner we get out of here, the better.”

“Right,” she said, but she didn’t sound happy about it. She had to take at least two steps for every one of his, he noticed. He slowed, but not by much, and squared his shoulders. Right. He knew where was going. He was important. He was armed.

No one stopped them. A grunt manning the barricade line looked questioningly at them, but Bucky death glared him into silence, and didn’t even break stride.

“MOVE!” he barked into the crowd that had collected around the barricade. He put a bit of his alpha command into it. The crowd parted like the Red Sea, and he power walked through, all but dragging the beta behind him now.

He didn’t slow until they’d turned the corner, where he stopped. Dimly, he felt her bounce off his back.

“Sorry,” he said. “You alright?”

She seemed to be out of breath. “I... I will be,” she said, and shivered.

Aw fuckin’ hell. She was human. Like, full normal human. In wet clothes. And the air was a bit chilly today. And he didn’t even have a jacket to offer her. (He had a tact vest, but he didn’t think it would help.)

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you in the warm and some new clothes.” He started off again, but at around half of his previous speed. She still had to scramble a bit to keep up with him, but it wasn’t as bad as before.

“Can I take a shower?” she asked hopefully.

“Yes,” he said simply.

“Oh, thank god,” she said.

He hustled her to the Tower, which clearly exhausted her. He got them in the elevator. “Building, guest floor.”

Jarvis didn’t answer right away. “Building?”

“Who are you talking to?” Foster asked.

“He’s the computer that controls the Tower,” Bucky said frowning. “He should be responding-”

“Ms. Romanov has requested that Dr. Foster stay with her on her floor,” Jarvis said, and the elevator started to move.

“Natasha knows I’m here?” Foster asked.

“Ms. Romanov requested to be notified when you arrived,” Jarvis said calmly.

Jesus. Nat was just scary telepathic sometimes.

Foster gave a sigh of relief. “Well, at least something is going right today,” she grumbled.

A few minutes later, the door opened. Natasha leaned back in her chair and waved them in from her tiny kitchen area. She was on the phone. “Uh uh,” she said, a corded landline headset jammed between her shoulder and her ear. “It’s a birth defect?”

“Um... thanks for the rescue I guess?” Foster said, offering a hesitant smile.

“No problem,” he said as she walked out of the elevator.

God, he couldn’t wait for his shower. “My floor, Building,” he said.

“Of course sir.”

On second thought, fuck the shower. He was going to take a fucking bath. Use one of those bath bombs Stark had bought him once as a joke. Put some conditioner in his hair... as a matter of fact, this was the perfect time to break out that new avocado stuff that was supposed to make your hair extra soft and shiny.

It was official. He was taking the rest of the day off.

“Building, if anyone asks, I’m not in,” he said gruffly.

“Of course Sergeant,” Jarvis said.

20 minutes later he was smoking a cigar and watching some sort of nature documentary on pandas with David Attenborough talking over it on the TV built into the wall. He had that new avocado shit in his hair, the Jacuzzi jets on full, and his bath water was a very interesting shade of purple.

The future was fucking awesome sometimes, he decided.

Chapter Text

Natasha met Pepper on the helipad on the roof.

The polished red-head accepted Natasha’s hand as she stepped with practiced ease out of the helicopter she’d taken from the airport. Natasha noticed with distant jealousy that not a single hair on her perfectly coiffed hair so much as shifted out of the bun that was on top of her head despite the efforts of the helicopter blades above them. She wondered what hair spray she used and if she could steal it later. Nat moved to leave-

“Wait-” Pepper shouted above the whir of the blades winding down. “Helen-”

Natasha peered inside, and found a very green looking asian beta. It took both women to get her out, and she swayed a bit on the helipad.

“Ugh...” the stranger groaned. “I hate helicopters.”

Natasha dragged her to the elevator, with Pepper close behind her.

“New assistant?” Natasha asked once the elevator doors were closed and you could hear yourself think again.

Pepper smiled like a cat that ate the canary. “New doctor.”

Natasha frowned. “Doctor?”

“Natasha, I’d like you to meet Dr. Helen Cho. She’s a geneticist and is an expert in male omegas,” Pepper chirped.

Natasha stared down with wide eyed wonder at the beta. She was of average height, with a thin build and of obvious korean descent.

“Hi,” Helen said. She sounded like she was two seconds from puking.

“Where do you find people?” Natasha demanded.

Pepper smiled. “I’ve been looking for an expert for years. Got lucky on a lead I got from a fundraiser for an omega hospital wing I was at a few months ago. I was in a meeting with her when Jarvis called. Figured I’d bring her with me.”

“Tony is going to freak out,” Natasha warned. “You know he hates...” she hesitated, eyeing the new beta woman. She wondered how much she knew. “People knowing things,” she finished lamely. Pepper always threw her off her game for some reason.

Pepper frowned at her. “Well, he’s just going to have suck it up and get over it,” she declared. “I’ve let him have his head up his ass for years - and if he thinks he can just hide in his lab and pretend everything is fine, I will... I will call Rhodey, ” she threatened.

Nat blinked. Calling Rhodey was the nuclear option when it came to Problems With Tony. Everyone hated to do it since he was still tied up in the Air Force, and leave was hard to come by.

“I think we can get by with Steve for now,” Natasha offered neutrally, trying for peace. Internally, she was wincing. Pepper was clearly on an “improving Tony” warpath, which usually meant low level shouting behind closed doors and Tony locking himself in his labs for a week straight afterwards.

She hadn’t gone on one since Tony had mated Steve, and Natasha had hoped those days would be over. Clearly, she’d been wrong.

“What’s happening now?” Pepper asked.

“Nothing,” Natasha said. “We’re all stuck in a holding pattern.”

The doors opened to reveal the common floor. Natasha helped Helen to a bar stool and got her a glass of water.

“Who’s this?” Clint demanded. He had moved on to a large sandwich and some chips. The man was a stress eater and would probably weigh close to 300 pounds if he didn’t work out so much.

“Clint, meet Helen. Helen, this is Clint,” Pepper said, getting her own glass of juice from the fridge.

“Hi,” Clint said suspiciously, clearly giving her a bit of a stink eye.

“Hi,” Helen said, still looking a bit green.

“Helen is an expert in male omegas,” Natasha offered.

Clint cheered considerably. “No shit? That’s awesome!”

“Jarvis, where’s Tony?” Pepper asked.

“Sir is in the Penthouse with Captain Rogers.”

“Well, tell him to get down here already. We have work to do,” Pepper snipped.

It took at least 20 minutes for everyone to gather. They gathered around the sofas. Tony, looking like death warmed over, complete with dark circles under his eyes, slumped in the middle sofa, leaning shamelessly against Steve. Clint took the floor by their feet and started passing Steve bits of popcorn and candy, who in turn then attempted to feed Tony with it.

Tony rolled his eyes, but would snatch the treats from Steve and eat it anyway with a look of long suffering. Steve looked stupidly happy about this for some reason. Natasha eyed them. It was obvious that something had happened between the two. She would have to corner Steve later.

Sam appeared out of the elevator with a sniffly and vaguely distraught brunette beta woman on his arm.

“I don’t think you’ve met everyone yet, Mrs. Parker,” he said gently.

“It’s so lovely to finally meet you,” Pepper said, stepping in flawlessly as a gracious host. “I’m Pepper. This is Doctor Helen Cho-” she gestured, and the two betas nodded at each other. “I’m so sorry that Peter is unwell.”

“Mr. Wilson said she knows about male omegas?” Mrs. Parker said hopefully.

“I do,” Helen said, looking uneasy. “To be honest, I’m not really sure what’s going on, but Ms. Potts said it was important-”

“Tell us what you know, first,” Tony commanded from the couch.

Helen looked to Pepper for assurance. “I... I guess I could do a basic presentation?” she offered, clearly baffled.

“That would be great,” Pepper said, smiling, and took a seat next to Tony. “You know you could always just tell her what’s going on,” Pepper said under her breath and through a gritted smile to Tony. “Instead of playing games.”

“We’ll see what she knows first,” Tony said warily, and poked Steve before covering his ears.

“SETTLE!” Steve barked. Loudly.

Everyone stopped what they were doing, and found a seat.

Steve surveyed the crowd. “Anyone know where Bucky is?” he demanded, frowning.

“Sergeant Barnes is currently sleeping. Do you wish me to wake him?” Jarvis asked.

Steve considered, then shook his head. “No. This isn’t strictly critical,” he sighed. “Alright, everyone- Doctor Cho has agreed to give us a presentation on male omegas,” Steve said. His tone implied You Will Listen Or Else. “Doctor?”

Cho stood in front of the Avengers and smiled nervously at them. She took a breath.

“Ah, good evening everyone,” she started. “I am Doctor Helen Cho, and I am a geneticist specializing in rare omegan disorders. I’ve been researching male omegas for nearly 10 years now. And I can assure you that despite popular beliefs, they do exist.”

Clint snorted. Tony kicked him into silence.

“It’s all down to the chromosomes. As you may know, the gene for omegas exists only on the X chromosome. And since it’s recessive, you need two X chromosomes to become an omega. It was thought that males cannot become omegas because they possess only one X chromosome. But, as we’ve learned through genetic testing, it is possible for males to possess two X chromosomes AND a Y chromosome. These individuals present as male. And when those Xs have the omega trait- you get a male omega.”

“So, you’re saying it’s a chromosomal disorder,” Bruce said from the lazy boy.

“Yes. And like all chromosomal disorders, there is a constellation of associated symptoms, most notably- the heart defects. Omegas have a slightly different heart structure than betas or alpha. For some reason this does not translate well in males. Depending on how it presents, a male omega at the very least will have an enlarged heart, and at worst, will have severe structural deformities. This is, ultimately, why male omegas have a 100% death rate. They either cannot live without a heart transplant from birth, or they live quietly as male betas until they present and the physical stress of their first heat kills them.”

There was shocked silence. More than one person looked sidelong at Tony with growing alarm.

“Have you ever met a live one?” Tony demanded.

“I’m sorry?”

“A live one. Have you ever met a live one, or have you only done autopsies?”

She stilled. “My brother was one,” she said quietly. “He collapsed during a basketball game when he was 13. My mother insisted on an autopsy. They found he had a fully developed uterus and ovaries in addition to the normal male reproductive organs. But that’s part of the problem. Outwardly they present as normal male betas. They have a unique reproductive tract-” she shrugged helplessly. “This means that diagnosis usually comes only after death has occurred. In fact, I believe that male omegas are much more common than anyone thinks- I believe that many male stillbirths with severe heart defects are, in fact, male omegas.”

“What was he like?” Natasha asked.

“I’m sorry?”

“Your brother,” Natasha said.

Cho beamed sadly at her. “He was a genius. Always tinkering. He had more energy than 10 people, I swear- he was always moving. Mom always said he would be the next Tony Stark-” she trailed off, as if noticing for the first time that Tony Stark was sitting in front of her.

Almost as one, everyone turned to look at Tony. He was bouncing his right leg and absently biting at a nail while staring intensely at Cho. He seemed unaware of the mass scrutiny.

“Tony-” Steve prompted gently.

Tony huffed. “She’s in,” he said, and abruptly stood up. Everyone else scrambled to their feet.

“Bruce, Sam- Mrs. Parker- lets go,” he went for the elevator.

Natasha and Pepper both herded a very confused Cho after them. “What’s going on?” she asked.

Nat and Pepper shared a look, then glared at Tony.

He frowned at them, looked at Cho, pursed his lips and sighed. He ran a hand through his hair.

“Alright,” he said, clearly uncomfortable. “Dr. Cho what I’m going to show you is so classified they don’t have a level for it. Pepper here will have you sign all sorts of non-disclosure agreements and so forth, but I need your word that you’re not going to speak of any of this to anyone outside of the approved team. Got it?” He glared pointedly at her.

“Oh- yes. Of course,” Cho said.

“Good. Because forget the lawyers, if I catch you spreading this around they will never find your body.”

“Tony!” Pepper protested, shocked. Cho looked a bit scared, but more bewildered than anything. “You can’t just threaten people like that! I’m so sorry, Helen, don’t listen to him-”

Tony ignored her. A moment later the elevator doors opened and Tony led the small mob to Peter’s room.

Tony opened the door and marched inside. Darcy watched them come in with wide eyes.

“What the hell is going on?” she demanded, hand going for her taser.

“Go to my floor and hang out with Jane, alright?” Natasha said. “We’ll take it from here.”

“Is he going to be alright?” Darcy asked, genuinely concerned, as she shoved her knitting in her bag.

“We’ll see. We got a new doctor,” Natasha explained, and hustled Darcy out. “Sorry Darcy. Nothing personal.”

“No, no. It’s fine. I just expect updates!” Darcy demanded from the hallway. “I expect at least one hug from him when he’s better!” she was already halfway to the elevator.

“Stop by the cafeteria. They close at eight!” Natasha called after her.

“Yeah, yeah!” Darcy waved at her dismissively.

Nat joined the others. Sam, apparently, had been elected to give the rundown.

“Male, 15. Presented as an omega two months ago. Went into heat a month early at his school around 1 pm today. Standard suppressants were given, but he’s still unresponsive,” Sam said.

Cho looked at the boy with wide eyes. “He survived his first heat?” she demanded, and all but ripped the boy’s chart off the wall.

“Yes. He’s also a super,” Sam said.

Cho frowned at him. “I don’t know what that means-”

“He’s Spider-Man. He’s a junior member of the Avengers. He sticks to walls and stuff,” Tony said briskly.

Her eyebrows nearly came off her head. “He’s a mutant as well ?” She shook her head and flipped through the chart.

“His heart stopped?” she demanded.

“Something fibrillation,” Tony said.

“What the hell do you mean his heart stopped?” Mrs. Parker demanded. She’d parked herself on Peter’s bed, and had a hand in his curls. “What the hell Tony?”

“I called you! The stupid receptionist said she’d tell you it was an emergency! And your cell phone went straight to voicemail! I didn’t want to just leave a message-” Tony stopped, and ran a tired hand over his face. “I... it doesn’t matter. They shocked him back into rhythm or something.”

Mrs. Parker lost some of her fury but not all of it.

“He also has a fever?” Cho continued, politely ignoring the outburst.

“Highest was 105.4 I think,” Tony said. “We packed him with ice- it brought his fever down...” he looked at Peter. “Wait. What happened to the ice?”

“I took it off. You can’t leave ice on for that long without risking frostbite,” Sam said.

“But we had him down to 103! Look, he’s gone back up again!” Tony protested, pointing at a monitor that now read 104.2.

“We can put fans on him,” Sam said gently. “I’ll go arrange for some in a minute.”

Tony glared at him.

Cho frowned, and approached the bed. “Excuse me, Mrs. Parker, was it? I need to examine him.”

“Yes... of course,” Mrs. Parker scrambled to get out of the way.

Cho carefully scented the boys wrist. She made a face.

“Has anyone given him a diagnosis?” she asked.

“The last omegatrician said he was an underdeveloped alpha with a cocaine problem,” Natasha volunteered.

Cho’s frown deepened. She moved the blanket at the kid’s waist.

“No. This is typical,” she said. “The extra chromosome affects the external genital development**.” She replaced the towel. “How long has he smelled like this?”

“How do you mean?” Bruce asked.

“This... metallic undertone? Did it start when you gave him the suppressants?”

“He smelled like that when we got him from the school,” Tony said. “It’s gotten worse, though.”

“I told him he stank this morning,” Mrs. Parker said, wringing her hands. “I thought he just smelled like a locker room-” she hesitated. “I can’t remember if he smelled like metal though.”

“That’s because he’s been scent marked by at least one alpha,” Cho said brusquely. “A very strong one at that.”

Tony frowned. “Wait... what?” he demanded. “I would have noticed if he was scent marked-”

“You’re probably nose blind to it,” Cho said, and smiled at him. “Because if I’m not mistaken, the same one has marked you as well.”

Tony blinked. Stared at a wall. “I’m gonna kill him,” he muttered. “I’m gonna stab him right in his stupid dumb handsome alpha face-”

“I’ll hold him down,” Natasha murmured. “We can do later on the landing pad. We’ll use the hose there to wash away the evidence.”

Thankfully, this seemed to mollify him.

“Is he on any medication?” Cho said.

“Just his suppressants,” Mrs. Parker said.

Cho looked alarmed. “You gave him daily suppressants?” she demanded.

“They were custom made by me,” Tony said. “They’re perfectly safe for male omegas.”

Cho stared at him. “And how exactly would you know that ?”

“Because I’ve been taking them for years, and I’m fine,” Tony said, defensively. A second later, the look on his face meant that he hadn’t meant to say that.

Cho stared at him. “But you’re-”

Tony waved a hand. “Not important right now. The kid, please?” he pleaded.

Cho stared at him for a moment, then sighed. “Well, to be honest, I’ve smelled this scent before. He’s rejecting the medication. He’s sweating whatever his body finds offensive out,” she said. “That’s why he smells so off. It also would also explain the fever and the unresponsiveness.” She unhooked the bag of liquid suppressants from the IV stand. Sam helped her disconnect it.

“We should increase his saline. Help him flush his system. We can see how he is in a few hours and reevaluate. Best case scenario we put some heart monitors on him and put him in a heat room and let him get it over with.”

“Worst case?” Tony asked.

“We put him in an induced coma until it’s over.”

Tony blanched.

“I would hesitate to put him under. If he is rejecting the medication, it may have something to do with his mutation. I wouldn’t want to put him anywhere near anesthesia until I’ve done some testing,” Bruce said, sounding worried.

“There are alternatives...” Cho said. “But you won’t like them.”

“What alternatives?” Mrs. Parker asked.

“Well, in the old, old days when an omega was too young for a mate and in distress like this, her omega relatives would... help.”

“Your right, I hate that and let’s never speak of it again,” Tony said instantly.

“I’ll do it,” Natasha said. “I’ve done it before.”

Everyone turned to gape at Natasha.

“Let’s not be too hasty,” Cho said quickly. “He’s lived through his first heat. That’s the crucial one, I think. I’m not saying it’s going to be smooth sailing, but I’m hopeful.”

“Do you know why he went into heat so early?” Mrs. Parker asked.

Cho considered. “Has anything stressful happened to him today?”

“Some alpha school teachers yelled at him. Chased him to the heat room,” Sam supplied. “They thought he smelled wrong.”

Cho hummed. “Young omegas are generally unstable with their heat cycles to begin with. Also, stress can trigger an early heat...” she shrugged. “There are so many factors really. It’s possible we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter medically. What I’m worried about right now is his heart. Everything else is secondary. We need to do extensive testing once he’s more stable. It’s possible he might need surgery to repair a heart defect.”

Several people in the room turned to look at Tony.

“What?” he demanded defensively.

“When was the last time you had a comprehensive physical?” Bruce asked gently.

Tony visibly flinched. “I’m FINE,” he hissed. “And can we not do this now?” he pleaded. “The kid is like... literally right there. He’s the sick one,” he said, and gestured grandly at the pale teenager.

Instinctively, everyone looked at Peter. The door to the room slammed shut, followed by hurried footsteps in the hallway outside. Pepper was the first to speak.

“Did he seriously just run away just now? Did that just happen?” she demanded.

“He’s due for a vacation next week,” Natasha said softly.

Pepper gave a silent groan. “That is not an excuse! He always does this!” she complained, and turned to Helen. “Helen, I am very sorry for that. Tony is a bit of a drama queen around here. Bruce, could you introduce Helen to some of the doctors, and get her what she needs?”

“Of course,” Bruce said. “Why don’t we go and get some fans for Peter while we’re at it.”

“Mrs. Parker, if you need anything, anything at all, just ask,” Pepper said.

“Thank you, Ms. Potts,” Mrs. Parker said. She sat back down on his bed.

Pepper gave another round of smiles, then ducked out of the room. Natasha didn’t miss how Pepper’s smile dropped the second she turned away. She followed the red-head into the hallway. With a bit of hustle she managed to get in front of her.

Pepper frowned at her. “Natasha?” she demanded.

“You’re not his mate,” Natasha said flatly.

Pepper blinked. “Excuse me?” she said, clearly offended.

“You were going to chase Tony down just now, weren’t you.”

Pepper’s frown deepened. “Yes! Because he was rude!”

“Then you should talk to Steve.”

“What? Why?”

“Because that’s how a pack works, Pepper. He’s the pack omega . He’s mated to the pack alpha . If you have a problem with him, you talk to Steve. If you yell at Tony and upset him, then Steve will have to do something about it.”

“Is that supposed to be a threat?”

“No. It’s a fact.”

“It is not the 1400s-” Pepper protested.

“I don’t make the rules,” Natasha said flatly. “But you should know what they are before you break them.”

Pepper pressed her lips together. “So, he gets a free pass now?” she demanded angrily.

“No. It’s called talking to Steve.”

Pepper looked distinctly unhappy.

“So you either decide it’s worth talking to Steve about it or you get over it.”

Pepper looked even more unhappy.

Natasha watched her. Pepper blinked first.

“Whatever,” she grumbled, and stormed away.

Chapter Text

Tony wasn’t running away. He wasn’t. It was more of a tactical retreat. Not that he had to run away from Pepper. He was Tony Stark. He didn’t have to do anything.

He kept telling himself that as he paced in the elevator. The fact that his skin itched and felt a little on the small side wasn’t helping. Probably because he didn’t shower earlier and still had bits of that horrible hotel carpet on his arms. UGH. Disgusting.

It wasn’t like army crawling with his reactor failing brought up memories of Obadiah and his desperate crawl through the workshop. Nope. Not him. He was... he was fine. Totally fine.

And he definitely was not running away from Pepper like a naughty school boy. She was fine. They were fine. And that glint in her eye when she’d first laid eyes on him probably just meant she was going to redecorate again. Or something. It was a totally different glint from all those times she’d tried to get him to see a therapist. Or that time she’d tried to convince him to get the arc reactor removed. Or those times she’d talked to him about possibly quitting being Iron Man. For his health and all that.

Because Steve. It was Steve’s job to... well. Whatever. Now.

He had a sudden memory of Steve’s hands. Of them moving, ever so slightly too fast out of the corner of his eye.

FUCK.

Jarvis, his eternal favorite son, took him straight to the penthouse, where Tony stumbled to the bathroom and almost tore off the medicine cabinet door in his haste to get it open. He used trembling hands to open his prescription bottle for Xanax, and dry swallowed a pill.

He groaned and leaned against the sink. What the fuck was with this day? It was like a day out of hell or something. One minute he was fine, it was a normal day, and the next he just couldn’t seem to take a breath without some damn thing or another tossing him around, both literally and figuratively.

He rubbed irritably at his skin. He needed a shower. That’s all.

He went to close the cabinet, and his eyes landed on the little vial of long acting liquid birth control. He hated taking that stuff. It always made him... clingy. Thank god he only had to take it before his heat. His suppressants kept it from showing up unexpectedly, but did nothing to prevent him from pupping. He’d never had to worry about it before Steve came along. No alpha during his heat meant no pups. Even Tony knew that.

A sudden horrible thought occurred to him and he double checked the expiration date. 5/2020.

Good. He had a over a year then. He wondered, not for the first time, why Natasha even had up to date birth control medication to give him. She didn’t have heats anymore. She shouldn’t need it. But when he’d turned up that day...

******

He had pounded on the door like there were terrorists after him. Natasha had insisted on having a tiny hallway added to her floor so that you couldn’t just walk off the elevator and into her private rooms. As if Jarvis would let anyone just waltz in on her.

“NATASHA!” he shouted, and pounded harder.

She opened her stupid fucking door wearing sleep pants, a tank top, and brandishing a gun in one hand.

“Tony?”

“I’ve fucked up. I’ve fucked up everything, oh god- Nat- Natasha- What am I going to do?” he babbled, distressed in every sense of the word. He could vaguely feel himself pulling at his own hair. And why was it so god damned hard to breath here?

Via some sneaky Natasha ninja skills he found himself on her couch, firmly tucked against her chest. He held onto her and whined.

“Shhh....” she sounded like she was comforting a wounded animal. She gently ran a hand up and down his back soothingly. “What happened?”

“I... I fucked up Nat. Oh god... I’ve ruined EVERYTHING-” he whined.

“Tony,” she demanded firmly.

He took some breaths. “I... I asked Steve to help me with my heat,” he whispered.

Nat’s hand froze for a second. “You told him you were an omega?” she asked, her voice carefully neutral.

Tony nodded frantically, unable to form words. He could feel tears leaking out of his eyes. He buried his face into her neck.

“And he said no?” Natasha guessed.

Tony took a gasping breath. “It’s worse- oh god, it’s so much worse.”

She frowned. “What?”

“He said YES,” Tony said, voice strangled.

Nat’s hand froze for a second. “What?”

“Oh god, Nat. What am I going to DO?”

Natasha was silent for a moment. “Isn’t it a good thing, though- you asked-”

“I asked because I panicked! I have a heat in like 4 days and Pepper- Pepper said she wouldn’t help anymore after- after we broke up, and Rhodey... he’s-” Tony flailed an arm vaguely indicating something or other. “And I... I just need someone to pop in every now and again and make sure I have water bottles and stuff. And I thought ‘who do I know that’s dependable,’ and I thought of Steve, so I asked him, and it wasn’t until after he said yes that I remembered that he’s an alpha- he’s an ALPHA Natasha-” Tony whined desperately. “He’s like the most alpha to ever alpha ever!”

“And you just now realized that you asked an alpha to help you with your heat,” Natasha said levely. “And all that that.... implies.”

“YES!”

Natasha considered for a moment. “He’s... I mean. This is Steve , we’re talking about Tony. If all you want is water bottles, I’m sure he’ll be okay with that.”

Tony said nothing, and squirmed a bit.

“You want him to do more?” Natasha asked.

Tony squirmed some more. “What... what if water bottles... what if that’s all he wants to do?” he whispered, clearly terrified of the possibility.

Natasha sighed. “Oh, Tony...”

“And I’ll fuck it up. I know I will-”

“It’s a heat, not a bomb. You can’t fuck it up-”

“But my scent blockers will wear off and he’ll puke- and oh god, Natasha. I can’t... I can’t - if he pukes I’ll never be able to look at him again- I’ll have to move back to Malibu-”

“Why would he puke?”

“Because I smell just awful , Nat. Not even Rhodey can stand it-”

“He’s an alpha, Tony. Sometimes when you’re super incompatible for mating an omega doesn’t smell good to them. And he thinks of you like a brother, right?”

Tony considered, and then nodded. “I... yes,” he agreed reluctantly.

“So there. You don’t smell good to him because it would be like thinking your brother smells good.”

Tony was silent for a moment. “Pepper puked,” he said quietly into her shoulder. “A couple of times. She said I ruined bakeries for her. Whatever- whatever that means.”

Nat stilled. It was a bad stillness. It meant she was about to shoot someone. “Steve will not puke. And if he does I’ll stab him,” she said firmly after a moment.

Tony turned wide eyes to Natasha. He could tell that this time she meant it. “Nat- you can’t... you can’t stab Steve -” he whined.

“Why not? Bucky’s stabbed him at least twice since he was unfrozen. He’s still pack,” Nat said this like she was discussing the weather.

Tony stared at her, horrified.

“Fine. I won’t stab him. I’ll ban him from the gym instead,” Natasha conceded.

Tony huffed, but didn’t protest.

“Okay, so best case scenario: Steve doesn’t puke. He spends a week knotting your brains out....” she trailed off, and looked at the miserable omega in her lap. Her eyes narrowed. Tony suddenly found himself unable to look her in the face.

“You’ve never dated an alpha before,” she said quietly.

Tony suddenly became super interested in the carpet. Was this color called beige or eggshell? Or... or something?

“You’ve never spent a heat with an alpha,” she continued.

“I... just. I’m supposed to be a Beta. Betas don’t have heats,” Tony said haltingly. “I.. there wasn’t anyone...”

She Looked at him. “You’ve never been knotted, have you?”

“I’ve slept with lots of people! So many! Did I ever tell you about the twins from the Christmas cover-”

“But they weren’t alphas, were they?”

He sullenly studied the carpet. “No... Beta, remember?” he mumbled. His right leg started up, jittering in place.

She considered him for a long moment. Almost too long. “You know that knotting doesn’t hurt, right?” she said gently. “And it definitely doesn't hurt when you’re in heat.”

Tony side eyed her desperately, and huffed. “Well- yeah. Duh! I’m a literal genius Nat! I’m not stupid!”

It was obvious, even to the potted plants, that he was lying.

“I mean... I’ve seen- you know... porn and things. I know how it... I know how it works,” he protested. “I’m not- god damn it stop looking at me like that- I’m not some stupid virgin, Natasha!”

Natasha looked unimpressed. “You know they make that stuff mostly for alphas, right? It almost never happens like that.”

Tony blinked. He wasn’t sure if he was more relieved or terrified at that thought.

She patted his leg. “Wait here,” she said, and disappeared into a back room. She reemerged a couple of minutes later, holding a vial. She put it carefully on the coffee table in front of them.

“What is that?” Tony asked suspiciously. This was Natasha after all. It could be anything from a bio-weapon to a love potion from Asgard.

“That is contraception made for heats. Inject 3 ccs the day before your heat starts and you’re good for a week.”

Tony stared at it like it was radioactive. “Any... anywhere in particular?” he asked, sounding slightly strangled. Oh god. Pupping. He hadn’t even thought of that...

“Your hip is good.”

They sat there in silence for a moment. She nudged the bottle closer to him. “Take it. And if Steve wants water bottle duty... fine. And if not... there won’t be any accidents.”

More silence. Tony, after a long beat, took it. The tiny bottle felt oddly heavy in his hand.

“I...” he started.

“You’re welcome. And Tony? Trust Steve. He’s a good alpha. He’ll take care of you.”

Tony nodded, feeling oddly numb. Yeah. Steve was the best. It’s why he’d asked.

“Okay...” he said slowly. “Okay... I think... I think... I think I’m gonna go do some... my workshop...” he mumbled.

Then he had fled, taking the bottle with him.

****

Tony carefully replaced the bottle on the shelf.

Wait. Was he feeling warm? Was it warm in here? Did he always keep the bathroom this hot? When was his last heat anyway? He couldn’t remember.

“Jarvis?”

“Sir?”

“When is my next heat?”

“It is scheduled for next week, sir.”

“Fuck,” Tony muttered, and glared at the bottle. “Do I have a reminder set to take my birth control shot?”

“Yes sir. It is scheduled to remind you 5 days from now.”

“Good,” Tony sighed. If nothing else, he could count on his heats being regular. Except for that time in the cave his heats had been like clockwork. And maybe that time after his parents died. And the whole... New York portal thing...

And he should really stop thinking about this.

Shower.

He should take a shower and go to his workshop and maybe trace those faults in that circuit board. It would be fiddly and almost meditative. No room for things like thinking.

He stripped, kicking his clothes into a random corner, and took a nice hot shower. He scrubbed until he was pink, making sure to get every last bit of that stupid carpet off him.

By the time he was done, he could feel the Xanax kicking in, and the steam had helped him feel like he could breathe again.

He stepped out into the main room wrapped only in a towel, and was surprised to find Steve sitting at the little table next to the window, looking at something on a Stark Pad.

“Steve?”

Steve looked up, and scrambled to his feet. “Tony-” he hugged him tightly. “Is everything okay baby? Jarvis said you had to take a Xanax-”

“I’m fine. Peter- he should be fine. I just...” he leaned against Steve for a moment. “Pepper was a bit much, is all,” he mumbled. God, it felt good when Steve touched his bare skin. He smelled so good too- like coffee and wood smoke and just the right amount of alpha musk.

Wait. It was hard to think with Steve nuzzling his hair like that, but he could have sworn he was supposed to be angry with Steve over something.

Something... something to do with... he inhaled deeply- and he remembered.

“You scent marked Peter,” he said, deeply offended, and pushed Steve away.

Steve was left blinking in confusion down at Tony. “What?”

“You scent marked Peter. The doctor said so,” Tony snarled. “What the fucking hell, Steve?! He’s a god damned child!”

Steve frowned at him for a moment before he got his bearings. “Exactly. He’s an omega under my protection-”

Tony made a face of betrayed confusion. “What? Since the fuck when do you do that?” he demanded. “You never do that to Natasha-”

“Natasha doesn’t need my scent to keep people from messing with her,” Steve said. “But Peter is very timid-”

“Did you ask him first?” Tony demanded.

Steve’s frown sharpened. “Tony-” he said sharply.

“What?”

“I’m the pack alpha. I did it because I have a duty to protect him-” Steve said seriously.

“I’m going to take that as a ‘no’ then,” Tony snarked.

Steve sighed. “No,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter. People need to know that if they mess with him, they’ll answer to me.”

Tony glared at him. “Who else?” he demanded after a sharp silence.

“What?” Steve’s reply was baffled.

“Who else is under your... ‘protection’?” Tony demanded.

Steve stared at him in shock for several seconds.

“Tony... sweetheart- you’re my omega-” he said gently, and reached out to touch Tony’s face with his hand.

Tony swatted it away, feeling near tears. “That... that is not an answer!” he snarled, and stormed off to the closet, slamming the door shut behind him.

God. He felt like such a fucking fool. He threw on some jeans and band t-shirt. He needed to go out in the suit, and just... fly. And plan his next move. He’d lost the house in Malibu to that stupid pretend terrorist, but he was a billionaire. He’d just buy another one. He also did have that island with a volcano on it. Maybe he should just say ‘fuck it’ and make the beach house there the biggest, stupidest, most cartoonishly evil lair possible. He could get drunk there, and no one would care. It’d be great. And he wasn’t allergic to cats. He could adopt like six of them.

Fuck it. It couldn’t be that hard to find non-Nazi bad guys, right? What was his name- Mag... Magnet something... whatever. The X-Men hated him. Maybe he would like a place to crash and party. Deadpool- now there was a guy who knew how to make drinks.

Okay, maybe not Deadpool.

Loki. He didn’t absolutely hate Loki. And his magic would make for a hell of a party trick...

Maybe Fury would finally have that aneurysm he always looked like was on the verge of having. That would be a plus.

He sniffed, and furiously wiped his face with the back of his hands. Why the fuck was he crying? Stupid, stupid... he’d been cheated on before. He’d get over it. He always did...

He pulled the closet door open and almost tripped over Steve.

Steve, who was kneeling on the floor in front of the door, with red eyes.

Tony stared down at him. His brain refused to compute this. Steve... Steve was kneeling. He looked like he was crying. What the fuck- Steve didn’t cry.

“Baby- there’s no one else. I swear. I swear . I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I keep... I keep fucking this up. I don’t mean to, but-” Steve babbled.

Tony stared down at him horror. Alphas didn’t kneel like that. Steve didn’t cry. But there he was... the big stupid dumb alpha was doing both those things.

For some reason it horrified and panicked him more than the thought that Steve was cheating on him.

“I know I’m just... the worst alpha ever. I’m sorry. I’ll do better. I swear. Please- Tony. Baby. Can you forgive me?” Steve said, his voice wavering all over the place.

And then he bared his throat.

Tony found himself skittering backwards, and damn near climbing up the wall behind him. Alphas just did not DO that. Never mind pack alphas. If someone saw- if anyone knew - they could challenge Steve. The pack might even demand it.

“Don’t... don’t do that!” Tony protested. “You... you can’t do that-” he complained.

Steve didn’t move.

“Stop that! Steve-” Tony looked around, wide eyed. “You can’t... Jesus Christ... I SAID STOP!”

“I don’t care,” Steve said, his voice determined. “I... I can’t lose you Tony. I can’t. I’d do anything for you baby,” he said softly. “Just... give me another chance. Please .”

They stared at each other for a moment, stuck in a frozen tableau.

Jarvis was the one who broke the moment. “Sir, do you require assistance?” he demanded. “Should I call for Sergeant Barnes?”

Tony blinked. “What- fucking hell, no! Do not call Bucky!” he turned to Steve, who was still on the fucking ground. “And would you... get up? Please I can’t... god damn it, I’m staying alright? I’m not- just stop it. I... I’m not worth that. Don’t DO that-” he pleaded. He felt tears start up again.

God damn it . Why the fuck could he not stop crying? Jesus Christ.

He needed a drink.

He needed 10 drinks.

They were on the couch now, with Steve holding him tightly. When had that happened?

“You’re worth it. You are so worth it baby,” Steve murmured, and kissed his hair. “I’d leave it all for you.”

Tony shook in his arms. How the hell was he supposed to answer that?

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I swore I’d take care of you when I took you as my mate, and I haven’t. I fucked up. I’ve fucked up so much today. And in the past, as well,” Steve said. “But I’m going to do better. I swear. I swear on my Ma’s grave. I’m going to do better.”

Tony sniffed miserably, and leaned his head against Steve’s chest. He didn’t really know what Steve was talking about, but he had his “rant about injustice” tone on, and there was really no stopping him once he started. Steve hadn’t fucked up. It was just Tony, being ridiculous. Had he actually thought for even a second that Steve was cheating? Jesus. He was STEVE for god’s sake-

God. He was just so tired. Why the hell did he have to be a fucking drama queen so much? He inhaled deeply of his alpha’s scent. God. He had no right to smell so fucking good. It just wasn’t fair.

“Tony-”

There was something about the man’s tone that made him look up. Steve cupped his face with a stupidly big hand. Steve looked miserable and sincere.

“Tony. I swear. I will never hit you. You know that, right? I’d never hurt you baby,” he said desperately. “Please. Please believe me.”

Tony froze. He felt his eyes grow wide as saucers. He had a sudden flash of memory of those fucking hands again... moving in his peripheral vision...

He forced himself to breathe again, but found he couldn’t look Steve in the eye anymore. He found himself gazing fixedly at the floor.

“Of course you wouldn’t-” he said, full of bluff and swagger. “Like I would ever let anyone hit me-” he snorted dismissively. “Why... why would you even say such a thing?” he said, giving Steve his best “fuck you and your cameras” smile.

Steve looked even more miserable. “Today. I...” he swallowed, turned stubborn, then clearly just soldiered on, “I reached for you. And you flinched. You flinched, sweetheart,” he said gently, his thumb rubbing ever so gently against Tony’s cheek.

“I shouldn’t have talked to you like that,” Steve continued, when Tony stayed silent and frozen. “You were hurt and tired, and I didn’t even check to see if you were okay first. It was unacceptable. Dangerous even. I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have comforted you and taken care of you and instead I-....” he trailed off, determination taking over his face. “Instead I was a complete and irresponsible asshole. It will NEVER happen again. Please. Hear me baby- I promise. I won’t do that ever again.”

Tony found his “fuck you” smile had died somewhere during Steve’s speech. He studied Steve’s face. He looked like he meant it. But he’d heard this sort of speech before. His dad had trotted it out a time or two after he’d gone too far- broken a bone or left black eyes that were impossible to cover (no amount of concealer will help when your fucking eye is swollen shut). He’d never apologized for talking to him like that. Only said that next time he’d wouldn’t hit him. That he felt bad for hurting him like that.

It had all been lies, of course.

But this was Steve .

And Steve... well. He hadn’t hit him. He could have. But he didn’t, did he?

“Okay,” he said, feeling wretched. He should probably apologize here, he thought. For being a fuck up. For going out without telling anyone. But he just couldn’t get the words to form. They stuck in his throat.

Thankfully, Steve didn’t seem to care.

“Thank you baby. Thank you,” he gushed, and pressed careful and gentle kisses to Tony’s forehead. “I’m so sorry I scared you. I never ever want to scare you,” he said between kisses.

Tony sighed. This was... nice, he thought. Normally he avoided things like outright affection, but this... this was nice.

Steve eventually stilled, and they sat for a moment, foreheads pressed against each other, eyes closed.

“Who hit you sweetheart?” Steve asked quietly. “Please... it’s killing me. Who hit you?” he pleaded.

Tony went stiff again.

“You don’t have to give me a name, sweetheart. Just... please tell me that he’s not doing it anymore, okay? I... I won’t forgive myself is someone’s been hurting you and I didn’t notice-”

“No. He died. Ages ago,” Tony said quickly. It was the truth.

Steve heaved a sigh of relief. “I’m so sorry. They should have never laid hands on you.” He gave Tony another long gentle kiss to the forehead. “And if anyone does it again, you need to promise to tell me, okay? Please.”

“Okay,” Tony mumbled.

“Good. Good. Thank you baby,” Steve said. “I’m here to take care of you, you know that, right? I want to. I love taking care of you.”

Tony squirmed a bit. He didn’t need anyone to take care of him. He was Tony Stark, damnit . But he wasn’t going to tell Steve that. It was such a harmless lie, and Steve- he was so happy. So he kept his mouth shut.

They sat there for a moment. Steve took to running his fingers through Tony’s hair. It was heavenly. So Tony luxuriated for a moment, just laying against his stupidly strong alpha, taking in his scent and just... relaxing.

It was nice, this. Why didn’t he do this more often? He couldn’t remember why.

“I want to take better care of you,” Steve said suddenly. “I need to take better care of you.”

Confused as to where this was going, Tony frowned.

“So I want to ask you some questions, okay? I want you to be honest with me, alright?”

“Okay...” Tony said guardedly.

“When you’re in heat. Is there anything I do you don’t like? Or is there something you need me to do, that I’ve not been doing?” he asked earnestly.

Tony froze. Completely and utterly. How was it possible for your heart rate to spike suddenly like that and not have something explode?

“Tony...” Steve said. He sounded miserable again. “Please. I swear. Whatever it is. I’ll do it. I don’t care- if I... if you want me to stand on my head and sing something I will-”

“Scruffing,” Tony muttered, then instantly regretted it. He would have bolted except for the fact that Steve was really strong and held him firmly.

“Hey. Hey. It’s okay. What about it baby? You want more of it?”

“NO!” he didn’t quite shout in Steve’s face but he might as well have based on the expression on Steve’s face. He would have bolted again, but again- Steve’s stupid tree trunk arms kept in place.

“Shhh...” Steve held him firmly and rubbed his scent glands, the god damned cheater. “It’s alright. I got you.”

Tony panted as he turned into a puddle of omega goo.

“You don’t want me to scruff you?” he asked quietly.

Tony shook his head violently into Steve’s chest.

Steve considered him, clearly unhappy.

“Sweetheart... I’m going to need a reason here,” Steve said finally. “I scruff you because it’s for your own safety. It keeps you from hurting yourself on my knot. You squirm too much otherwise. I don’t want you to tear something.”

Tony blinked back tears.

“I know. I’m sorry. If you hate it, I’ll do my best to do it less. But I can’t let you hurt yourself baby,” he said.

Tony buried his face deeper in Steve’s chest and shook.

“Hey. Talk to me, sweetheart. Take your time. I can wait.”

Steve laid there, holding him firmly and gently rubbing his scent glands.

“Obie,” Tony said eventually.

“What about him?”

“He... he scruffed me when he took my reactor,” Tony whispered.

Steve stilled. “What?” it was clear that Steve was millimeters away from Freaking Out.

“Obidiah. He... he knew I was an omega. Helped Dad cover it up when I was younger. He... he scruffed me and took the reactor out and then left me... I-”

“And scruffing you brings back bad memories-” Steve finished grimly.

Tony nodded. He watched Steve carefully. The man was thinking- he could practically see the gears turn in his head.

“What about my Voice?” he asked. “Any bad memories there? I could Tell you to be still...” he didn’t seem happy about the option.

Tony considered this. “I... I don’t know,” he said.

Steve kissed his hair. “It’s okay. We’ll try some new things and see what works, okay?”

“So... no more...” Tony asked hesitantly.

“No. Not if it makes you panic,” Steve said firmly.

It felt like a several ton cinder block had just fallen off his chest. Jesus.

“Anything else? You want different bars or something? Are you sick of the blue Gatorade yet?”

“No. They’re fine,” Tony said quietly.

For a while, Steve ran his fingers through Tony’s hair. Tony watched him through half lidded eyes. The man was clearly thinking about something. You could almost see the smoke coming from his ears.

“The Penthouse,” Steve said suddenly.

Now it was Tony’s turn to be confused. He frowned up at Steve. “What?”

“Why don’t you like the penthouse?”

“What?”

“You never sleep up here outside of your heats,” Steve said. “And when we first got together you were using the guest room...” he trailed off. “But you’d already been broken up with Pepper for what- at least 3 weeks by then... and I know she moved out before then...”

“I... the penthouse is fine,” Tony lied.

Steve eyed him. “And if I asked to move some stuff around- maybe set up a corner as a study-”

“I... guess?” his tone implied that he was not okay with this.

“What’s wrong?” Steve asked.

“Pepper...” Tony said hesitantly. “She’ll get mad.”

Steve frowned. “She doesn’t live here anymore, Tony,” he said. There was a tone there- Tony couldn’t quite read it.

Tony looked around the penthouse, and felt... disconcerted. “Yeah but...” it felt wrong to move things. “She... she picked everything-”

Steve stared at him for a long moment, while Tony sat there feeling small and miserable for reasons he couldn’t explain.

“Everything everything?” Steve asked at last. “Did you help at all?”

“I installed the TVs, and the speakers and stuff-”

“But you, for example, didn’t pick the couch.”

“No.”

Steve looked slowly around the room, as if seeing it for the first time. For some reason he didn’t seem very happy about what he saw.

“The paintings?” he asked.

“No.”

“The wall color?”

“No. I told you Steve- I did hardware installs,” Tony said, wondering why Steve was so hung up on this.

Steve stared at wall. Tony had to check to make sure it wasn’t melting under the intensity of his gaze.

“Steve?” he asked hesitantly, and tried to subtly scent him. Was he mad? He smelled... intense. Tony couldn’t tell. Nor could he fathom why Steve was apparently so upset that Pepper had decorated the place.

Could it be jealousy thing? Alphas could be territorial. He’d never really seen Steve do that but-

“What if I called Pepper and asked?” Steve said suddenly, interrupting Tony’s train of thought.

“What?”

“If I called Pepper and she said it was okay. We could redecorate then?” Steve asked doggedly.

“I mean... you can try?” Tony said. “But she’ll just change it back- she always does... I don’t even know how she does it honestly. I just come up here and everything will be put back.”

Steve frowned at him. “And if I said I wouldn’t let her?” he asked seriously.

Tony stared at him, horrified. Jesus Christ. Steve and Pepper going head to head? There wouldn’t be much left of the city, maybe even the state... he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

“I mean... if you want to that badly-” Tony said haltingly. It wasn’t like it was an unreasonable request. Right? Steve had, you know... things. He probably wanted a place to put them, though Tony was pretty sure most of Steve’s stuff was still on Steve’s old private floor aside from his clothes and underwear and stuff.

Steve pulled out a cell phone from a pocket, and started dialing.

“What- oh my god- Steve- are you seriously calling her right now?” Tony demanded.

What the hell was going on?

“Yes,” Steve said, putting the phone on speaker.

Pepper, being the wonderful perfect person that she was, answered on the second ring. “Hello?”

“Hey Pepper, it’s Steve,” Steve said, with what sounded suspiciously like his “buy my war bonds” voice.

“Hey Steve- is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything’s fine. Listen. I know it’s probably not the best time, but Tony and I were talking about redecorating the penthouse, and I was wondering if there was anything you wanted to keep.”

Tony frowned. That... that was not asking permission.

“What? Oh... um. Not really, no.”

“So you don’t want any of the paintings or anything?”

“Oh, no. It’s fine. Do- do you need decorator? I can give you some phone numbers.”

“No, I think we’re going to do it ourselves.”

“Oh,” Pepper said with a small laugh. “If that’s what you want- that’s fine. Just keep an eye on Tony. He has the worst design sense I’ve ever seen. Did you know he once took down a Barnett Newman and put up a cartoon poster of his armor once?”

“He did?”

“Yeah. I had to take it down after a couple of weeks. It clashed horribly with the lamps-” she trailed off. “Do you need movers or anything? Again- I can get you some phone numbers-”

“I think I can manage it. And if not, I can call Bucky,” Steve said easily.

Tony physically could not contain himself anymore. “You... you don’t mind, Pepper?” he asked.

Pepper paused. “Tony?”

“Yeah- you don’t... don’t mind?”

“Tony it’s a penthouse. Decorate it how you want.”

“You sure?”

“Yes! God Tony, like I said- it’s a penthouse not a nest. I’m not some over dramatic omega that’ll have hysterics because you moved the couch two inches to the left,” she said, sounding tired and just done. “We broke up. Do what you want. Is that all?”

“Thank you Pepper,” Steve said.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “And if that’s really all, I gotta go. We’re moving Peter to a heat room.”

“He’s awake?” Tony demanded.

“Enough to complain that he needs to pee and how hot he is,” she said fondly.

“I’ll be down-”

“No. You can’t. Cho says he won’t be lucid for much longer before his heat hits in full force. Blood relatives only.”

Tony frowned. He’d have to talk to Cho about that. But not now when it sounded like things were at critical stage.

“Keep us updated, would you Pepper?” Steve asked.

“Sure. I’m sorry. Gotta go- they need something-”

“Bye-” Tony tried.

Pepper hung up.

“Well, sounds like good news all around,” Steve said cheerfully, and put the phone away before gently moving Tony off him and standing. “What do you want to get rid of first?” he asked.

Tony stared at him. “What?” Did he miss something?

“Do you like this lamp?” Steve asked, walking over, and pointing at some sort of collection of random sized white cubes someone had stuck a lampshade on.

Tony blinked. “Not really,” he said.

“Okay,” Steve said. He carefully unplugged it from the wall, picked it up off the table it had been sitting on, and walked over to the french doors and tiny balcony overlooking the landing pad. He opened the door.

Tony watched in confusion. “Steve?”

Confusion turned to horror as Steve literally chucked the lamp off the balcony. There was a sort of distant crash of something hideously expensive breaking beyond repair.

“STEVE!” Tony rushed over, and looked out the window. Sure enough, the lamp was in pieces on the landing pad. “Have you lost your mind?” he demanded. “What- why?”

“You didn’t like it,” Steve said as if this was the most reasonable thing in the world.

“You can’t... you can’t just throw it off the damn balcony!”

“Why not? It’s your stuff. You should try it. It felt kinda good,” Steve, the reasonable and sane one of the pack said, wandering over to a giant silver mirror. “Do you like this thing?” he asked.

Tony, entranced by the broken lamp and not in control of his senses said, “No.”

A few seconds later he had to scramble to get out of the way as it too, went sailing through the french doors to the pad below.

“Steve!” Tony protested.

“Sorry,” Steve said, completely not sorry at all. “You can do the next one.”

“What are you doing?” Tony felt near to tears. Oh god, was Steve losing his mind? They couldn’t both lose their minds. Someone had to be the sane one, damnit!

Steve stopped his investigation into how a painting was attached to a wall to look at him. He carefully walked over, and cupped Tony’s face in his giant hands.

Tony sniffed, feeling adrift and confused.

“I’m going to help you make your nest baby. But first, we need to get rid of all the stuff you don’t like.”

“What?” Tony said, baffled.

“You need a nest, sweetheart. It’s not good for an omega to not have a nest. So I’m going to help you make the penthouse into one.”

“But...”

“If you want, we can set all this stuff on fire after we finish throwing it out.”

Tony stared open mouthed at Steve. For a full minute, words utterly failed him. He meant it. The damn fool actually meant it.

Without any input from his brain, he pointed at the grand piano that occupied a sunny corner. “I hate that stupid thing,” he said. “I can’t even play, and I want to lay in the sun there-”

He hadn’t even finished speaking before Steve was manhandling it across the floor. He had to break the legs off and go get his shield out of a closet to strategically hit it in a few places (making it make the most god awful noise in the process) but eventually it too went over the balcony railing.

Tony thought it was quite possibly the sexiest fucking thing he’d ever seen.

The stupid white couch and ugly throw went next- that didn’t require any dissembling, and flew nicely. Tony watched it land from a nearby window- it hit and rolled right on top of the bits of piano. The man had a talent, Tony thought somewhere on the edge of hysteria. Was there a sport that called for throwing shit out a window to land all in one pile? He felt like that should be a sport.

The fucking Barnett Newman- he threw that out himself. Stupid painting of a stupid fucking black line. A Pollock followed it out. Looking at it for too long had always given him a headache.

They were in the middle of getting some sort of dark wood antique wardrobe thing Tony had never used out- (“You have to pivot it Steve - no the other way!”) when Jarvis spoke up.

“Sir, Ms. Romanov is demanding to know what’s going on.”

“Don’t let Clint set it on fire! I get to do that!” Tony snapped. “Come on- put your back into it!” he goaded/yelled at Steve.

Steve grunted and the wardrobe landed with a splintering crash and various complaints from the remains of the piano.

“I’m sorry sir, but she is requesting verbal confirmation from Captain Rogers.”

“Tell her to keep everyone off the landing pad,” Steve said. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Tony tossed a vase out. To his immense disappointment it bounced and rolled instead of shattering. Steve immediately handed him another one. Tony didn’t just toss that one. He threw it as hard as he could at the ground. This one did shatter.

The coffee table was next. That one almost skidded off the landing pad.

“A little less power on the next one, I think,” Tony said. “Don’t want to crush someone.” Steve was already dragging a new victim- sorry- priceless white sideboard thing- towards the balcony. Tony watched as it too, was sent to a splintery grave.

The whole thing was immensely satisfying in some inexplicable, primal way.

“How do you feel about the bed?” Steve asked.

Tony looked down from his position on a bar stool set on top of an end table. “Keep the mattress. Toss the frame,” he said, and went back to trying to unscrew a chandelier from the ceiling.

Steve reappeared a minute later after another horrible crash from the landing pad. “You need a hand, sweetheart?”

Tony grumbled. “I can’t reach it!” he bitched. “Is there a phone book or something somewhere-” he squeaked as Steve gently picked him up and set him on the floor.

“Let me,” he said with a bright smile that for some reason made Tony feel a bit weak in the knees.

He got his shield, hopped on the table, did a bit of banging on the chain attaching it to the ceiling, then hefted it triumphantly like a hunter with a fresh kill when it came down. “Got it,” he said, and beamed at Tony.

Tony watched as Steve hauled it out and onto the balcony. The hideous monstrosity landed with a million tinkles of shattering glass. Steve actually brushed his hands off against each other when it was done, the big goof.

He turned, and stopped, startled, when he found Tony directly in front of him.

“Babe?” Steve asked uncertainty.

“Have I ever told you that I think you’re the sexiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen?” Tony said breathlessly. He eyed Steve like a piece of meat. Sexy sexy meat.

Steve’s eyes widened. Looked at Tony.

“Gee, Tony. I think you’re kinda swell too,” he said after a moment with a shit eating grin.

Tony pulled him down, and kissed his alpha properly for what felt like the very first time.

Chapter Text

Steve stumbled out of the elevator into the common area. His hair looked like a birds nest. His shirt was inside out and probably backwards. And he was fairly sure his pants weren’t zipped all the way.

He didn’t care. He started ripping open cabinets.

“Whoa- where’s the fire, Cap?” Natasha asked from the other side of the kitchen island.

“Out of Gatorade upstairs,” he said grimly.

Nat frowned. “What’s the rush? His vacation doesn’t start until next week.”

Steve stopped, and gave her a Look.

Her eyes widened. “What? Seriously?”

“I’ve got maybe 10 minutes before he wakes up for another round,” he said grimly, ripping open more cabinets.

“Hey Nat- can I get some help here? I’ve got this bobby pin-”

Steve turned at the unfamiliar voice to see a curvy brunette omega wearing some sort of polka dot dress. She looked like she was coming from the bathroom, and her hair was half-undone from a Victory roll.

“Holy shit! Are you Captain America?” she babbled.

Steve frowned at her. “Do I know you?” he demanded, bristling.

“Darcy, if you would just hold still a minute I could help-” another woman came up behind her, didn’t notice that she’d stopped, and ran into her hard enough that she bounced backwards. “What the hell?” she demanded.

“Stand down Cap,” Natasha teased. “This is Jane- she’s an astrophysicist that’s dating Thor-” the smaller of the two stared and waved meekly after a moment.

“And that’s Darcy. She’s... Darcy,” Natasha said.

“Hey!” Darcy in the dress protested.

Steve took a breath. He didn’t have time for this. Gatorade. “Fine,” he snapped. “Don’t let them wander off.”

Natasha gave him a look of utter contempt. “Don’t be all pissy with me, Rogers. I know where you sleep.”

Steve snorted, and resumed ripping open cabinets.

“Not to be all like nosy, but... you smell like you should be with your omega right now...” Darcy offered, wrinkling her nose as she walked over to stand next to Natasha.

“I’m working on it. Where the fuck is the god damned blue Gatorade?” he huffed. “I know Jarvis ordered more of it-”

“It’s in the closet next to the emergency stairs,” Bucky said, emerging from the elevator. He looked like he was still half asleep, squinting in the light from the overheads. He was wearing a white wife beater and gray sweatpants filled with holes. “Any news on the kid?” he asked, absently sidestepping Steve to get to the kitchen.

“He’s cranky. Apparently the medication did a number on his hormone balance, so he’s switching randomly between hysterical weeping and destroying everything in the room while screaming about how much he hates things,” Nat said calmly, digging through Darcy’s hair. “Sam put Clint on tranq duty just in case.”

“Make sure someone relieves him eventually-” Steve said absently. He made a sound of triumph as he found a case of the mythical blue Gatorade under a blanket.

Bucky, meanwhile was rifling through the cabinets. “Does anyone know where the peaches are? I can’t find them-”

“We’re out. Sam ate the last one,” Natasha said, carefully plucking something from Darcy’s hair. “Got it,” she said.

“No. I can fucking smell them. They’re here somewhere ,” Bucky growled. He moved to stalk over to the next section of the kitchen and nearly ran over Darcy. He stopped only a few inches away from her. “Hey dude!” Darcy protested. “Watch the goods!”

Bucky stared like his brain was broken.

There was something about the way he stood there that made Steve drop the case of Gatorade on the floor. It landed with a thump, but Bucky didn’t even look up.

“Buck?” Steve asked carefully, eyes riveted on his friend.

Bucky inhaled, scenting the air. “Omega?” he asked with quiet wonder.

Steve made small motions with his hands at Natasha, who was already several steps ahead of him. She pushed the beta woman behind her, and put a wary hand on one of her knives.

The scent of rut smacked Steve in the face. It must have hit Darcy even harder, because she blinked, and backed up a step, eyes wide.

SHIT. Bucky hadn’t had a rut since he’d been unfrozen almost two years ago. There was no telling what would happen.

“Nat-” Steve warned, but she had already tossed the confused and protesting beta over her shoulder and was making a run for the emergency stairs. Steve made sure to put himself between Bucky and the retreating women as much as possible. He stayed there until he heard the door to the stairwell slam closed.

“Bucky,” Steve said gently, and crept forward. “Hey. Can you look at me Buck?” he coaxed.

Bucky ignored him. He stood there, nostrils flaring as he openly scented the air. Darcy was worriedly glancing back and forth between Steve and Bucky.

“Omega-” Bucky said again. This time, there was a hint of command in his tone.

Darcy’s eyes snapped to his face, then held there. She breathed in. Looked like she was having some sort of religious revelation.

“Alpha?” she whispered. It almost sounded reverential.

Bucky held out a hand. Inviting.

“Darcy-” Steve called out, unsure of where this was going.

Bucky growled a warning, and Steve froze.

Steve watched with his heart in his throat as Darcy stared at Bucky for a long moment- then climbed the alpha like a tree.

Bucky had her up against the refrigerator in a second flat, and Steve watched with open shock as they did their best to suck each other’s faces off.

Shit.

Now what?

He sighed, and checked his watch. God damn this fucking day.

He was tempted to leave them. Judging from the sounds the omega was making she wanted Bucky almost more than he wanted her- but it was rapidly becoming clear that they were about 5 seconds away from enthusiastically defiling the communal kitchen. And if he walked off now, Natasha would stab him in his sleep for allowing that.

So... just get them to the elevator? Jarvis would make sure they got to the right floor.

He carefully side stepped around the kitchen island, positioning himself so that if Bucky fled, he would go away from Steve and towards the elevator.

“Bucky,” he barked.

Bucky ignored him.

“BUCKY.” He used his alpha voice. Bucky twitched, but was immediately distracted by his omega.

“SERGEANT BARNES,” he roared, loading as much Alpha Command as possible into his voice.

Bucky snapped to attention, nearly dropping Darcy. She squawked in protest, but held on with her legs around his waist.

“Not here, Bucky-” Steve said sternly.

“Wha?” Bucky slurred. The man’s eyes were dilated and he swayed ever so slightly where he stood.

“Take her to your floor, Sergeant,” Steve ordered.

The man blinked, and looked down, as if noticing the whining omega that was doing her best vampire impression on his neck and chest for the first time.

“Elevator, Bucky. NOW.”

Bucky looked back up at Steve, looking lost. “Real?” he asked, gently hugging her close.

Steve’s heart broke a little. “She’s real, Buck,” he said gently.

“Right,” Bucky said, as if trying to convince himself. “Right...” He took a breath, clearly struggling at centering himself, then with a few quick movements, juggled the omega over his shoulder.

She squawked again. “Settle,” he rumbled, and smacked her rear.

She did settle, but Steve could tell by the pitch of her groan that his smack probably did not have the effect he’d been going for.

Bucky made it the elevator. He kept a firm grip on her even when he stumbled a bit, as if drunk. A moment later, Steve understood why- the overwhelming scent of peaches and cream- her heat scent no doubt- filled the air. Mixed with Bucky’s rut musk, it made Steve cough and cover his nose.

“Jarvis-” Steve coughed again, “Air out the elevator. Jesus Christ...” he muttered and threw open the doors to the landing pad to let some fresh air in.

“I will alert the cleaning staff to bring some fans in, Captain,” Jarvis said from the ceiling.

“Do that,” he said, and shuddered.

A thought occurred to him, and he cautiously sniffed his clothes. He didn’t think he smelled... but he should take a shower before he joined Tony in bed. Going in smelling like another omega’s heat... yeah. How had Peter put it the other day? “No thanks, I choose life.”

He grabbed the Gatorade and took the stairs.

After the world’s fastest shower with special de-stink soap, he snuck a peek into the master bedroom- to find Tony still sleeping soundly.

He breathed a sigh of relief and dug out his phone from a pile of clothes on the floor. He dialed Nat first.

“I’m getting a tranq,” she said, her voice flat. “I’m 3 minutes out.”

“Stand down.”

“What?”

“They’re fated. She’s fine.”

“Fuck you, what ?”

“She was in heat before they hit the elevator,” he said. Now that no one was in immediate danger of being beaten to death with their own limbs by a horny super alpha, the situation was almost funny.

There was a strained silence on the other end of the line.

“Peaches?” she asked after a moment.

Steve frowned. It took a moment for him to realize what she was asking. How the fuck-

“With cream.”

“Huh. Clint owes me 50 dollars then,” she said, annoyingly smug.

Steve sighed. He didn’t even want to know, honestly.

“I’ll keep the beta on my floor. Go take care of Tony,” she said, then she hung up on him.

He dialed Sam next.

“Wazzup?”

“Call Coulson. Tell him I’m taking us officially off the roster for two weeks.”

“What the hell happened?” Sam demanded, alarmed.

“Bucky’s rut finally hit, and Tony’s in heat. We’re in no shape to defend anyone from circus clowns, nevermind aliens,” Steve said grimly. “I want the Avengers floors locked down.”

“You need a hand corralling Bucky?”

“Nah. He found his mate.”

“Are you fucking with me right now?”

“Some sort of brunette. Curvy. Smells like peaches.”

Silence. “Was she wearing a red polka dot dress?”

“Yeah, she was,” Steve wondered how Sam knew...

“Oh come on ! I was going to ask her out!” Sam complained. “That’s just typical, that’s what that is!” he bitched.

Steve snorted a laugh. “Really?”

“YES! White men steal all the best women, I swear to god-” Sam grumbled, then sighed. “Go take care of your omega man. I got this.”

“Remember they don’t know-”

“Yeah yeah. It’s a shame that you and Bucky are so close your ruts synced,” Sam said, full of shit. “And that Peter is having a bad reaction to an over the counter medication. Something something spider DNA, rare complications etc, and all that jazz.”

Steve relaxed. If anyone could bullshit Coulson with a straight face, it would be Sam.

“Thanks, man,” Steve said, and meant it.

“No problem,” Sam said, then hung up on him.

Steve looked at his phone with amused irritation. What was it about this pack that made them all hang up on each other without so much as a “good bye”?

He stood there for a moment, mentally going over things in his head. Was there anything else he needed to take care of? He couldn’t think of anything.

“Jarvis, initiate Vacation Mode,” he said.

“Vacation Mode activated,” Jarvis said.

Steve breathed a sigh of relief. Vacation Mode meant that the elevator was locked, all the cameras in the penthouse were turned off, and all calls to either of their cellphones were redirected.

Now it was just him and Tony.

Just like it should be.

He tossed his phone... no wait. There wasn’t really anything left for him to put it on. He and Tony had effectively gutted the place, leaving a hefty pile on the landing pad. He absently wondered what the tabloids would say about it. It really was a large pile...

Whatever. He let the phone fall back into the pile of clothes. The mess outside would be easier to haul away after Tony burned it. Steve didn’t think for a minute that a burn pile was legal in downtown Manhattan, but that’s what Tony’s lawyers and stupid amounts of money were for.

He wandered over the bedroom, and leaned against the doorway, enjoying the sight of his mate.

Tony was passed out naked in bed piled high with blankets and pillows, curled around the biggest, softest, and fluffiest teddy bear Steve had ever seen. God only knows where Nat had found it, but it had quickly become Tony’s favorite thing (after Steve’s dick) during his heats. It was big enough to use as a full body pillow and soft enough that it felt like heaven even on non-heat-sensitive skin.

Tony snored, and Steve was fairly sure his omega was drooling a little.

It was so fucking adorable he thought his heart would burst.

It was a stark contrast to how he’d found Tony the first time he’d been invited to join Tony’s heat...

*****

“Captain. I have been requested to inform you that Sir has started his vacation,” Jarvis said from the ceiling.

Steve looked up from his book, and frowned. Vacation?

Oh, right. Tony didn’t call them heats. The clever little omega had fooled pretty much the entire world, including him. Or at least, he had until he’d abruptly asked Steve for help. In the few days since Steve had kept an eye on him- and found that many things that had puzzled and amused him about the man suddenly made sense through the lens of his new knowledge.

His legendary fickleness. The seemingly endless supply of new suits and shoes. The dramatics. Now that he knew what to look for, he’d found the man to embody almost every stereotype possible of an omega he’d ever heard of- and somehow everyone just passed it off as him being “eccentric.” Steve still wasn’t sure how he’d pulled it off. Sure, he’d never heard of a male omega, but once you accepted the possibility, it was so fucking obvious it was ridiculous.

The only thing the man was missing was ridiculously long fake nails painted bright pink and a pair of matching high heels.

His brain shorted out for a moment at that thought- Tony in high heels. If anyone could pull it off, it would be Tony.

“Captain?” Jarvis prompted politely.

“Ah- tell him I’ll be up shortly,” he said. There was no need to appear to be, well- eager. The man had asked for assistance, not begged to be knotted. He probably only needed to be checked on and resupply runs done for his nutrition bars and drinks.

Probably. Maybe-

No. It would be wrong to assume otherwise. Besides it wasn’t like it was the first time he’d ever done such a thing for an omega in heat. Half the chorus girls on the Tour had synced up and Steve and half the stage crew had found themselves Drafted For the Cause. Plus, ya know- his Ma.

Right. It was settled then. He’d pop in, check on him and leave.

It was the right thing to do.

20 minutes later found him in the elevator heading for the penthouse. The minute the doors opened, the most mouth-watering scent of baked cinnamon apples smacked him in the face. Had the man gotten catering or something?

A second later, he heard it- and it wasn’t the sound he’d been expecting from an omega in heat.

It was a small, heartbroken sob.

Now alarmed, he checked the master bedroom and was confused to find it empty. What the hell-

“Jarvis, where’s Tony?” he demanded.

“Sir is in his heat room,” Jarvis said calmly. “It is the last door on your left.”

Frowning, he left the master and followed Jarvis’ directions. He opened the last door on the left.

For a second he found it impossible to breathe.

For one thing, it was now obvious that Tony was the source of that incredible smell- and second the scene before him made his heart utterly break.

The man was curled up on a tiny twin mattress, softly crying. It looked like he was laying on some sort of rubber sheets- which had to be hell on his sensitive skin. And he only had a couple of thread bare blankets around him.

What the fuck.

What the FUCK.

There was a standing floor lamp that was far too bright and harsh. And the pillow on the bed was the saddest, flattest thing he’d ever seen. There was a pile of gatorade bottles and granola bars within reach of the bed. Other than that, the room was bare. Worst of all, the room was filled with the stench of complete and utter omega misery.

WHAT THE FUCK.

He stood there, staring. Jesus Christ- omegas in sanitariums in the 1900s had better conditions than this.

He carefully closed the door, and went back to the main room, and stared at a wall until his thoughts stopped racing and he wasn’t in danger of screaming at something.

He pulled out his phone, and called Natasha.

“Penthouse. NOW,” he snarled with ill disguised fury before she could even so much as say ‘hello’.

“Steve? What-”

He hung up on her, and started pacing.

She was coming out of the elevator in less than five minutes. She looked a bit out of breath. “Did you know about this?” he demanded.

She blinked. Inhaled.

“Oh, his heat started.”

“So you knew about this?” he continued, his tone dangerous.

She gave him a Look. “It’s his life Steve. You don’t have to tell anyone your status now. It’s a thing. It’s normal-”

“I want you go in there and look at him- then come back here and look me in the eye and tell me that that is normal,” Steve demanded, pointing at the door. She frowned. It was taboo to enter a heat room without being invited. “Steve-”

“NOW,” he used a hint of his alpha command.

She flinched, eyes wide. Steve had never used his alpha voice on her before.

“Okay... calm down. I’m going,” she said carefully, then walked to the door Steve had indicated. She opened it, and looked inside. She stood there for a long minute, taking it in before she gently closed it again.

When she came back, she looked rattled. “I had no idea,” she said. “I don’t understand. His mother was an omega-” she trailed off. By the look on her face she made a connection that she wasn’t happy about. “And his father was a piece of shit alpha,” she finished softly. She looked sick.

“I can’t... I can’t leave him like that-” Steve said, upset. It was hard for him to keep his voice down. He didn’t want to distress Tony any more than he was already. “Has he always done it like that?” he demanded. “How the hell did Pepper let this go on like this?”

“She’s a beta-”

Steve gave Natasha a Look. “That- that is NOT an excuse-”

“Maybe she doesn’t know its not supposed to be like that. If Tony insisted... if that’s all that he’s known-”

Steve shook his head. “Honestly? I don’t care right now. We need to fix this, Natasha-”

She considered. “I’ll get some supplies. I’ll be back in 30. There’s blankets in the linen closet in the common room. You can steal some from there in the meantime.”

10 minutes later, Steve had set up the master bedroom the best he could with stolen blankets. They weren’t the softest things in the world, but they’d have to do. He fluffed the pillows one last time.

Now to get Tony.

The omega was still in bed, crying quietly and smelling absolutely miserable.

“Hey there big guy-” Steve cooed gently. “Let’s get you to bed-”

“Steve?” Tony whimpered.

“I’ve got you, come here-” Steve gathered him up in his arms.

“Steve-” Tony fussed.

“Shh... it’s okay. I’m here now,” Steve said, and stood up, bringing Tony with him. They were halfway out the door before Tony realized that he was being moved and started to freak out.

“No! NO!” he protested, trying to get out Steve’s grip. Omegas hated being moved once their heat started. The further they got from the room, the more the omega panicked and fought to be free of Steve’s grip.

“Settle,” Steve ordered, using his Voice, and held him tight.

Tony stilled, but his eyes were wide with fear and tears leaked down his face. He panted with stress.

Steve carefully placed Tony in bed, and laid down next to him, holding him close.

“Shh...” Steve said. He tried to concentrate on projecting safety and comfort instead of the horrible rage that he actually felt inside.

Tony moaned, and clung to him.

“I’ve got you,” Steve murmured. “I got you.” He ran his fingers through Tony’s hair.

“Steve-”

“Shh... Sleep.” Steve said. “You’re safe now. Rest.”

Tony whined, clearly exhausted.

“Shh....”

He was out like a light in less than 5 minutes.

Natasha showed up after a while with Clint trailing behind her, both loaded down with bags.

“How’s he doing?” she asked.

“Exhausted,” Steve said.

They started dumping stuff out- mostly pillows and blankets, what looked like the entire linen inventory of a Macy's and a giant fucking teddy bear.

“Get him and we’ll change the sheets,” Clint said.

Steve carefully got out of bed and picked him up. He held him as Natasha and Clint stripped the bed and put on a rubber protector followed by soft pad, and then a sheet set that boasted “Heat Tested, Omega Approved” on the label.

“You knew he was an omega?” Steve asked.

Clint snorted. “Not until 30 minutes ago,” he said cheerfully. “Learn something new every day.”

Steve huffed. “Get the bars and water in here,” he said, settling Tony back onto the bed.

Clint made quick work of it, but by the end of it, he looked grim. “What the fuck is that room even for?” he demanded.

“That was his heat room,” Natasha said.

“Are you serious?” Clint demanded. “What the hell-”

“Shh-” Steve scolded. “You’ll wake him.”

“I mean... I’ve slept in worse places myself, but I thought that he’d have like... at least a million sex toys or something. Dude doesn’t even have a vibrator. I have a vibrator. What the hell kind of billionaire omega doesn’t even have like a sex dungeon -”

Natasha smacked him upside the head. “Get out already,” she hissed. “You’re lucky I even let you up here. No betas in the heat room.”

Huffing and grumbling, Clint left.

Natasha waited until he left, then dug out another bag and upended it into a plastic bin. A wide selection of sex toys still in their boxes fell out.

Steve stared at the boxes and what they implied made him feel sick. The thought of Tony, alone and desperate, using those... things on himself in a bid to find relief... it made him want to punch something. It wasn't fucking acceptable that he experiance that.

"Get rid of those," he said.

Nat gave him a Look. "He's going to need them Steve," she said and stared at him for almost a moment too long. "Unless... you're volunteering."

Steve startled. "What? I can't. He... he can't consent once he's this deep, Natasha."

"He talked to me a few days ago. He was hoping you would."

Steve blinked. "What?"

"I thought you were smarter than this Rogers. He, an omega, asked you, an alpha, to help him with his heat. Should I make you an engraved invitation?"

Steve looked down at Tony, who even in sleep had his face tight with discomfort. He gently ran his fingers through his hair. The omega stirred, whimpering.

"Alpha?" Tony whined quietly.

Steve Decided.

"Get out," Steve barked, and peeled his shirt off.

Natasha flashed him a cheshire cat smile and moved to leave- only to pause in the doorway.

"He's never been with an alpha before," she said quietly. "Be gentle with him."

Steve nodded and shucked off his jeans. "OUT Nat."

She left, and Steve settled into bed next to Tony. The omega immediately clung to him.

"Alpha- Alpha please-" Tony begged.

"I've got you baby," Steve said, and kissed him. He knew in that moment, down to his very bones, that he would make Tony his, and his alone.

A week later when they'd finally emerged in the common room with a blushing Tony trying his best to not look over the moon with his new bonding bite, Steve pretended that he didn’t notice Clint wordlessly handing Natasha a hundred dollar bill.

Sometimes it was better not to ask.

****

"Steeeve-" Tony whined. "I need you..." The man hadn’t even moved from his spot, the spoiled brat.

Steve smiled and slid into bed. “I know baby. I’m here,” he said gently, kissing his beloved’s neck. He would always be there for him. His Tony would never be alone again.

Chapter Text

Peter groaned. His head felt like was stuffed with cotton. And he was so fucking thirsty - he pried an eye open, and spotted a water bottle. With trembling hands, he got the thing open and chugged it in one go.

Where the fuck was he? The room didn’t look familiar- wait. Had he been kidnapped?

And why the fuck was everything in pieces all over the floor? The remains of what looked like a mattress littered the floor. Several feather pillows had been savagely disemboweled and their remains scattered.

But most importantly- why the everloving fuck was he STICKY? And... naked? He rubbed at his legs, only to find he was covered in dried... something... as well as feathers, bits of blankets, and god knows what else...

Oh god... had he been kidnapped by sex perverts?

He couldn’t think of what kind of sex pervert had a thing for feathers but he had a sinking feeling it was probably A Thing somewhere on the internet.

He sniffed miserably. Frowned. Sniffed again. Why the hell did it smell like a Cinnabon stand in here? And... there was some sort of scent he couldn’t quite identify. He wrinkled his nose with disgust. Jesus, he needed to get out of here.

Fuck it. He was Spider-Man. He should be able to take on weird sex perverts no problem, right?

He found the door and banged on it. “Let me out!” he demanded.

“Not until you’re sane kid,” someone said over an intercom set into the ceiling, clearly bored.

Peter blinked. Wait... he knew that voice.

“CLINT?” he demanded. “Let me out!”

“What’s the password?” Clint replied.

What the hell? “Clint? Let me out-” Peter complained. This made no sense. Clint had a thing for practical jokes, but this- this was just too weird.

“Not the password,” Clint said, still bored.

What was happening? None of this made sense... he felt on the verge of tears.

“Clint... please? I’m- I’m scared,” Peter begged.

A second later, a lock clicked open, and the door swung open. A suspicious Clint was there, holding a blanket.

“You with me kid?” he demanded.

“Where are we?” Peter demanded back, frightened and confused.

Clint relaxed, and shoved the blanket at Peter. “Relax. You’re at the tower. You had one hell of a heat.”

Peter hastily wrapped himself up in the blanket. “What?”

“Congrats on being a man or whatever,” Clint said, and ruffled his sweaty hair. “Lets go get you in a shower, yeah? Then we can call your Aunt.”

A baffled Peter allowed himself to be led down a hallway and into some sort of communal shower area.

“Soap and shampoo are in dispensers on the walls,” Clint said. “I’ll go get you some clothes.”

It took a while, and the scent of the soap made him wrinkle his nose in disgust, but eventually he got the last of the stickiness off. He did his level best to not think about how the worst of it was in and around his ass crack. And he’d been in heat. Which meant the stickiness was slick. Which meant he had had slick coming out of... Nope. Not thinking about it. Definitely not a thing that was happening to him.

NOPE.

He was exhausted by the time he was done, and he emerged on shaky legs. Clint was waiting for him with a towel and a change of clothes. “Change over there,” he said, pointing to a curtained off area.

Peter managed the underwear. The jeans... the jeans felt oddly constricting for some reason. He didn’t even attempt the shirt. He recognized it as one from his closet at home, but he could hardly bring himself to touch it. It was far too scratchy and rough.

He opted for wrapping the blanket around himself and leaving the jeans unbuttoned- which was marginally better.

“Come on, kid. I’m supposed to take you to the doctor,” Clint said. Thankfully he didn’t comment on his clothing choices.

By the time they got to the part of the floor that had exam rooms (they must be somewhere on the MedBay floor, he realized), Peter barely had the strength to collapse onto the nearest gurney. He was to-his-bones exhausted, and for some reason felt like he was about to cry.

“I’ll go get the doctor. Stay put,” Clint said, then vanished.

The sheets on the gurney weren’t helping, and must have been made by some sort of evil sandpaper company, Peter thought distantly. There was no other way to explain it. He put as much of the blanket between himself and the bed as possible. Maybe he could take a nap? That sounded like a good idea.

He blinked, and suddenly there were people in the room.

“Hey Peter. You awake, buddy?” a female voice was asking him gently.

“Hmm?” he asked, blinking and wincing in the bright light of the exam room.

“Jarvis, dim the lights 20% please,” the voice said. It sounded kind.

The lights dimmed and he found he didn’t have to squint so much. “What?”

“It’s alright Peter. You’re safe. I’m just going to set up an IV and get some fluids in you, and draw some blood, okay?”

Peter hummed.

“Is this normal?” someone- Clint- asked.

“Very. He’ll sleep it off, and will be back to bouncing off the walls probably sometime tomorrow,” the woman said. She sounded amused.

Peter felt a small prick, and the cool drip of an IV, then passed the fuck out.

*****

Tony sighed and squirmed a bit to get into a better position. He was in his favorite spot- squished nicely between his alpha and his bear. His movements roused his mate, who kissed the back of his neck gently. He distantly felt as the alpha gently ran his fingers down Tony’s chest, then his stomach, then-

“If you touch my dick I will laser your hand off,” Tony grumbled. He was SORE, damnit. It was a good kind of sore, but still- no touching allowed.

The hand froze.

“Tony?”

“Shut up and cuddle me,” Tony groused.

His mate huffed in amusement, and Tony could feel his hair move with his breath. “Yes dear,” the alpha said wisely, and kissed the back of his neck again. The treacherous wandering hand was moved back to his chest.

“Welcome back baby,” Steve said softly.

“Fuck off,” Tony said.

“But then I won’t get to cuddle you,” Steve pointed out.

Damn the man and his logic. Tony grumbled and huffed on general principal.

“Go back to sleep baby,” Steve said gently. “I’ve got you.”

“Fuck you,” Tony mumbled, not meaning a word of it, then fell asleep again.

****

Bucky woke up to a faceful of long hair. He spat a few strands out of his mouth, and took a moment to reorient himself. The back of a warm curvy body snuggled up to his front was a nice surprise... then a whiff of peaches hit his nose.

MATE.

Oh, right. He was mated now. (Sweet Jesus, how the hell had he managed THAT?) He moved her hair out of the way, and checked the new mating bite on her neck. It had scabbed over, but still looked red. He was carefully cleaning it with his tongue when she stirred.

He froze for a second.

“Don’ stop. Feels good,” she mumbled.

He started up again. She reached back and gently ran her fingers through his hair, gently scratching his scalp with her nails.

He rumbled with happiness. Was this heaven? It felt like heaven. He’d never expected to go, honestly, but here he was all the same.

She leaned back against him and softly giggled. “Like that, do you?”

He hummed in agreement, then laid there for a while, nose buried in her neck, enjoying her scent and warmth. He tried to engrave this moment in his memory. He never wanted to forget this.

“Soo...” Darcy said, “Just so you know, the future of this relationship is going to hinge largely on how awesome your bathtub is.”

For a split second, he thought she was serious, and nearly had a heart attack. Then he recognized her teasing tone, and relaxed and snorted. So it was going to be like that, huh?

“Mine has jets,” he told her smugly.

She turned to look at him over her shoulder, eyes wide. “It’s a jacuzzi?” she demanded.

“Yep. TV on the wall too,” he said, grinning.

She wiggled onto her back and held out her arms. “Well?” she demanded when he didn’t do anything.

“What?”

“Are you going to carry me or not?” she complained.

“What, your legs broke, baby?” he teased.

“YES. You should know. You broke them. Plus what’s the point of having a big strong alpha if they don’t carry you places? Come on!” she whined.

He snorted, pretending that her compliment didn’t make his brain buzz, and gathered her up carefully. “You’re a handful, you know that doll?” he sassed.

“Fuck yeah I am,” Darcy agreed. “And you know you like it.”

He laughed all the way to the bathroom.

*****

The next time Tony woke up, he felt more like a human being. He took in a deep breath, and grunted in displeasure as he got a giant nose full of well... the special kind of stink you get when two people spend several days in bed not showering and fucking each other’s brains out. He shoved Steve, who hummed in question.

“Get up,” he bitched.

Steve grumbled.

“It smells like a brothel in here,” he complained.

“How do you know what a brothel smells like?” Steve sassed, still half-asleep.

Tony huffed, then got up and stumbled over to a window, threw the curtains back and after a bit of cursing, got the damn thing open.

Steve groaned a complaint from the bed at the sudden brightness of the room. “Shut up and change the sheets, you big baby,” Tony said, callously. “You’re the one who gets up at 3am to go running,” he huffed. “So stop complaining.”

Steve threw a pillow at him, which missed. Tony ignored him, and headed for the bathroom. Jesus Christ, he needed a shower.

“What the fuck time is it J?” Tony demanded as he threw open his medicine cabinet and got out his scent blocker pills.

“It is 9 am,” Jarvis said serenely. “This is your reminder to take your birth control shot today.”

Tony froze, pill halfway to his mouth.

“Say... say that again?” he demanded, heart racing, eyes fixed on that tiny stupid bottle on the medicine cabinet shelf.

“This is your reminder to take your birth control shot, sir. For your vacation.”

“Right,” Tony said, amazed at how even and level his voice was. His birth control shot. Right.

FUCK.

Breathe. Breathing was something he should be doing right now. He was fine. Everything was fine. Don’t be stupid. He wasn’t pregnant. Of course not. Couldn’t be. He was ... male. And hormones. And... and... whatever. The shot was just a safety net really. Peace of mind and all that.

He stared at a wall, thoughts racing. He wasn’t pregnant. Nope.

But...

“How... how soon can the test things... how do pregnancy tests work? Just for, you know...” he trailed off. “Science and things...”

“Tests can detect pregnancy as soon as two weeks after a heat has ended,” Jarvis said. “But it is recommended you wait three weeks for accurate results.”

Tony’s eyes widened. “THREE WEEKS?” he demanded, his voice going into a register he didn’t even know he was capable of reaching. What the fuck? What the absolute stupid fucking fuck...

There was a knock on the door that nearly made Tony jump out of his skin.

“You okay in there baby?” Steve asked through the door.

FUCK.

“What- no- I’m fine!” Tony said. “Just... something with the company,” he lied. Badly.

He could feel Steve’s disbelieving stare even through the door.

“I’m fine,” he said. “Just... emails pissing me off,” he said. It sounded more reasonable.

“Okay,” Steve said cautiously. “If you need anything-”

“Yeah, I’ll call you,” Tony agreed easily. Too easily. God damnit. He froze, and waited for Steve question it.

Steve hesitated outside the bathroom door for a moment before walking away.

Tony breathed a sigh of relief.

Right. Everything was fine. It was. He just would live his life as normal and-

He froze again with the scent blocking pill halfway to his mouth.

"Jarvis?"

"Yes sir?"

"Would scent blockers hurt a ba- a fetus?" He asked softly.

Not that it mattered. Because he wasn’t pregnant.

"Scent blockers are not contraindicated, no."

Tony tried to make his brain work. He was smart damnit. He knew words... He gave up. It was too early for this shit.

"Can I take the fucking pill or not?" He demanded.

"It is not recommended but nothing says it would harm a fetus, sir."

"What the hell does that mean- not recommended?" Tony demanded, feeling more exasperated by the moment.

"Scent souring is often the first sign of pregnancy complications," Jarvis said. "Eliminating scent deprives doctors of critical health information."

Well, if that was all. He was all for denying doctors stuff.

He eyed his medicine cabinet. “What about suppressants?” he asked.

“According the American Medical Association, an omega should discontinue use of suppressants at the first sign or suspicion of pregnancy.”

He stared intently at a wall. It was recommended that omegas take a break from suppressants every now and again, right? He couldn’t remember the last time he’d done that.

Maybe... maybe he should do that. He could start today.

Yeah. That... that sounded like a good idea.

He took the scent blocker pill, and closed the cabinet. Right. Pretend to be normal. Actually, he didn’t even need to pretend because everything WAS normal. There was absolutely nothing wrong.

Right....

FUCK.

**********

Peter sat at the kitchen island in the common room eating some cheerios. Never in his life did he think cheerios would taste this good but after days of bars, it was like eating manna from heaven.

Clint made a show of checking the cheerio box.

"What?" Peter demanded.

"Just checking to see if they added crack or something," he teased. "Never seen someone so happy to eat cheerios."

Peter rolled his eyes.

"HE LIVES!" an excited voice boomed from the elevators.

Peter barely had time to turn around before he was nearly knocked off his barstool by an ecstatic Tony who hugged him like Peter was newly returned from the dead.

"Toony-" Peter whined. The man was squeezing too hard. He could feel his bloated stomach protest.

Tony ignored him and shamelessly buried his face into Peter's neck before inhaling deeply. "And you've got your scent!" He babbled happily.

Peter wanted nothing more than to sink into the ground and disappear.

"Tony-" he protested.

"He got his scent?" Steve sounded way too excited about that.

"He did!" Tony inhaled again. "Fresh baked cinnamon rolls..." he purred, for some reason sounding proud. "Good job kid. Knew you wouldn't be something boring like pears or bananas." He ruffled Peter's hair.

Peter suddenly had had enough. "Get off!" he snarled, and shoved him.

Tony wound up on his ass on the floor several feet away, his eyes wide. Peter felt horrified.

“Peter-” Steve barked. Peter turned, and looked at a shocked Steve. Felt his horror turned into terror.

Peter burst into tears. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” he sobbed.

“Peter we’ve talked about this-” Steve rumbled, scolding, and took a step forward.

Clint stepped neatly between them.

“Hey. He said he’s sorry,” he said softly. “He’s just a pup, man.”

Peter shamelessly cowered behind Clint, worriedly peeking around him to watch the alpha’s reaction.

Steve took a breath. Let it out, then helped a clearly shaken Tony to his feet.

“I’m okay-” Tony protested as Steve checked him over. “I’m okay,” he insisted. “Just... surprised.”

“Go sit on the couch and I’ll make you something,” Steve said, and kissed him on the forehead.

“Steve-” Tony protested.

“Couch. Now.”

Tony went, but it was clear he was unhappy about it.

Steve turned his attention back to Peter, and Clint stood his ground, fearlessly staring his pack leader down.

“He didn’t mean it-” Clint said.

“I know. Stand aside,” Steve commanded.

Clint studied his face, then reluctantly moved.

Peter couldn’t stop the anxious whine that escaped his throat as he hunched in on himself. “I’m sorry-” he cried, his eyes on the floor.

Steve sighed. “I know,” he said gently. “But you have to watch yourself Peter. You have super strength. You could have really hurt Tony.”

“I’m sorry-” Peter said quietly, sniffing miserably.

“Don’t do it again,” Steve said firmly.

“Yes alpha,” Peter said meekly, eyes still on the floor.

Steve studied Peter and sighed. “Go give Tony a hug and tell him you’re sorry,” Steve said finally.

Grateful that was all, Peter fled. Tony was waiting for him on the couch, arms wide.

“Come here,” Tony said, and Peter sank into the omega’s arms.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled.

“It’s alright, kiddo. I was an ass,” Tony said softly. “You just scared me a little, that’s all.”

The elevator slid open, and Sam emerged. “What the hell is going on?” he demanded, sniffing the air.

“Everyone’s extra hormonal today,” Clint said wearily.

“You guys okay?” he demanded, looking at Tony.

“We’re fine. Just... a little misunderstanding with some super strength,” Tony said. “No one’s hurt.”

Sam eyed them skeptically for a moment, before turning and going into the kitchen. “Jesus, man,” he complained. “I can’t leave you people alone for a minute without there being some sort of drama.”

“Why did you think I asked you to stay?” Steve teased.

Sam snorted, and dug out some eggs from the fridge.

The elevator slid open again, and Natasha emerged. She frowned. “Tony?”

He waved a hand. “It’s fine,” he said dismissively.

She considered Peter, then spotted Sam. “You might as well make all of those,” she said. “I think I spotted Bruce on my way over.” She took a spot at Peter’s feet and quietly placed his feet in her lap, and put a hand on his leg.

Peter sighed. It was oddly comforting, laying like this while he listened to the guys make breakfast- his feet in a lap and his face on Tony’s chest.

A few minutes later, her prediction proved to be right as Bruce stepped out of the elevator.

“Brucie Bear!” Tony beamed. “Long time no see!”

Bruce smiled. “Heard the vacation was over,” he said mildly. “Came to check up on you.”

“We’re making breakfast- you want anything?” Sam asked from the kitchen.

“Those eggs smell good,” he said. “And I wouldn’t say no to some coffee. And before I forget- you’re Aunt is coming in today Peter. We’re ready to look over some test results with Doctor Cho with her.”

Peter frowned. “Test results?”

“Don’t worry about it Pete. You got a bit sick before your heat- remember? Steve and I will sit in, make sure that everything’s like it should be,” Tony said.

Peter frowned. “I was sick?” he asked.

Tony ruffled Peter’s hair. “Don’t worry. I don’t really remember my first and second heats very well either,” he said.

“Neither do I,” Natasha said. “It’s for the best, really,” she patted his leg. “The third one is always much better than the first two.”

Bruce nodded. “That’s very normal - or so I’ve been told,” he said, then snorted with amusement. “I swear I’ve learned more about omegas in this last week than I ever did in my rotations in medical school,” he complained good naturedly. “You lot are complicated creatures!”

The elevator door opened again, and Bucky and some lady Peter had never seen before wearing oversized sweats stepped out.

A series of cheers and wolf whistles filled the room- mostly from the alphas in the kitchen.

“If she’s still walking man, you didn’t do your job!” Clint ribbed from across the room.

Bucky rolled his eyes.

“Yeah yeah,” he said.

“Someone mind filling me in?” Tony demanded. “Why are you here?” he asked the lady. “Don’t you have... rabbits to save or something?”

Bucky frowned at Tony. “Watch how you talk about my mate, tin man,” he growled.

Peter stared at her neck with wide eyes- and yep. That was a fresh bond bite.

“Bucky-” Steve barked a warning. “He didn’t know- he was on vacation. Why don’t you introduce her?” he said. His tone said it was more a command than a suggestion.

“Everyone- this is Darcy,” Bucky announced. “She’s my mate,” he said proudly. The lady- Darcy- gave a little shy wave.

“Like... hi guys,” she said.

“Darcy- that’s Tony and Nat on the couch. Peter’s the little one-”

Peter scowled at him. “I'm still growing!” he protested. Bucky ignored him.

“Steve you probably know-” Steve gave a wave from the kitchen. “Sam’s cooking, that’s Bruce, and Clint’s the one stuffing his face.”

Natasha patted an empty spot on the couch. “Come on. The alphas are in charge of breakfast today,” she said.

Darcy hesitantly sat down, and Peter sat up, feeling weird about being so obviously clingy in front of a stranger.

“Does this mean you’re in the pack now?” Peter asked her.

She froze. “Pack?” she asked, clearly confused.

“You’re Bucky’s mate. So... that makes you pack, right?” Peter asked, then blinked when his spider sense buzzed quietly. He suddenly became aware of the complete and utter silence in the room.

He looked around and found everyone looking at Tony. Waiting.

Tony huffed. “What?” he demanded.

“Tony-” Steve said gently. There was a hint of warning there that Peter didn’t miss.

“Fine. She can join the club,” Tony said. “Natasha need someone she can paint nails with or something anyway.”

Natasha glared at Tony, who ignored her.

“Don’t let him bother you,” Natasha said to Darcy. “His bark is much worse than his bite.”

“I’m sorry. I’m still stuck on the pack thing?”

“Steve’s the alpha- Bucky’s his second,” Peter said. “Tony’s the omega. Natasha is his second...” he trailed off. “Bruce and Clint are betas... they’re their own thing, I think.”

“They’re under Sam. Who’s third under me,” Steve said, appearing with coffee mugs. Tony, Natasha and Darcy all got steaming cups. Peter excitedly took his- only to feel a deep sense of betrayal when he found it contained only apple juice instead of coffee like he wanted. Peter scowled at Steve, who ignored him.

“So... the Avengers are a pack?” Darcy asked faintly. “Seriously?”

Peter shrugged.

“Wait. Tony’s an omega? Like, for real, for real?” she asked suspiciously. “Or is that like a rank thing?”

“Both,” Natasha said calmly.

“No way! I thought male omegas were a myth- like unicorns and mermaids,” Darcy exclaimed.

“It’s a secret-” Peter said seriously. “You can’t tell anyone.”

She frowned at him. “Wait... you were the one who was sick. Right? You were in the medbay and I sat with you.”

Peter frowned. “You did?”

“She did,” Natasha said. “I called her in.”

“Aww! I’m so glad you’re better!” she said. “I was seriously worried about you little dude!” she dragged him over into a hug, then just as abruptly dropped him.

“Wait wait... you’re in the pack? I get the others. Steve, Iron Man... Black Widow... what are you?”

“I’m Spider-Man,” Peter said.

Darcy looked shocked. “But... you’re what- 12?” she protested.

Peter bristled. “I’m almost 16!” he protested.

“Hush,” Tony said. “Don’t rile him up. He’s had a hard week.”

Darcy glanced at Tony. “I’m guessing I’m under Natasha because I’m an omega then?”

“Yep,” Natasha said, popping the P. “You’ll do errands for me.”

Darcy, who had initially looked thrilled to be under the famous Black Widow, wilted.

“Aww... come on!” she protested.

“If this wasn’t a War Pack, you’d be second under Tony,” Peter said. “Because of Bucky. But Nat comes first because... she’s, well... Nat.”

Darcy sighed. “Yeah yeah. I get it. It’s fine. I’ve been the errand boy and scientist wrangler for forever now. Figures.”

She drank her coffee, then paused in thought. “So... are you with Clint?” she asked.

Peter frowned. “What?”

“You’re in the pack, right? So where are you?”

Peter hesitated.

“He isn’t anywhere. He’s the pup,” Tony said. “He’s under everyone.”

Peter turned wide eyes to Tony. “WHAT?” he demanded. “Since when?”

“Since I said so,” Tony said imperiously. “And also since you’re not old enough to vote.”

“But-” Peter whined, fully intending to argue this.

“Peter-” Steve called out a warning from the kitchen. “You’ll have a rank when you’re of age,” he said firmly.

Peter sank into the sofa, sulking. It wasn’t fair, damn it.

Chapter Text

They ate breakfast at the large dining table. Bucky even made waffles, Peter noticed suspiciously. He made sure to snag at least 3 of them.

He also noticed Bucky carefully preparing Darcy a plate- Steve followed suit for Tony. He watched with growing alarm as Bucky used his knife and fork, and took normal, human sized bites. Steve did the same.

“Did someone replace you two with pod people while I was out?” he demanded.

Bucky stopped staring at Darcy like she was a piece of cake to look at him. “What?”

Peter swung his fork to indicate Bucky at large. “Especially you. What’s going on?”

Bucky frowned at him. “What are you going on about?”

“Natasha-” Peter whined. “Look at him.”

“What about him?” she asked.

Peter pointed his fork meaningfully at Bucky, who was currently chewing with his mouth closed. “THAT.”

She considered Bucky. “It’ll last a week,” she said. “Tops.”

“It’s weird ,” he complained.

Natasha nodded. “Yep.”

Bucky stared at them for a moment, then scowled. “Shut up,” he snapped.

“What?” Darcy demanded.

“Peter is saying that it’s weird Bucky isn’t stuffing himself like a starving animal,” Clint said, because he was well out of range at the other end of the table.

“I do not!” Bucky protested.

Darcy shrugged. “It’s okay. I’ve eaten with Thor and his friends. That was an experience,” Darcy said. “Just so long as you don’t choke yourself.”

Bucky flushed, then glared at Peter. “You’re going a bit slow,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be on your second plate by now?”

Peter poked at his waffles. He’d gotten three bites in. Looking at them drenched with syrup was making him feel a bit sick, to be honest.

“And don’t say that there’s something wrong with my waffles, because there ain’t.”

Peter stared at the waffles. “I think... I think I’m gonna eat them later,” he said.

The entire table stilled. Natasha got to him first since she was sitting next to him. She checked his forehead with the back of her hand. “He doesn’t feel warm,” she reported.

“He had a bowl of cheerios earlier,” Clint volunteered, also concerned.

“I’m not sick!” Peter protested, swatting her hand away. “I... I’m just tired.”

“You sure you’re okay Pete?” Tony asked.

“I’m fine. I... I just need to go lay down for a while,” Peter said quietly. He needed to change pants. The jeans he’d put on this morning when he woke up had been a bad idea. He still felt bloated from yesterday. Did he have sweatpants somewhere?

“That’s fine, but Peter- if you start feeling hot, you need to call me right away,” Bruce said. “And your Aunt is supposed to be here in an hour.”

Peter nodded, and started to gather up his plate.

“Hey. I’ll take care of that,” Natasha said gently. “You go feel better, okay?”

“Thanks,” he mumbled, and headed for the elevator.

“My room, Jarvis,” he said quietly in the elevator.

“Of course, Young Master,” Jarvis said. “And may I say- it is a pleasure to see you out of the MedBay.”

“Thanks Jarvis.”

“Should you need anything I am always here,” the computer said as the doors slid open.

Peter nodded, stepped out of the elevator and stripped off his pants. He immediately felt a little better. God, he hoped it wasn’t permanent. Aunt May had just bought him new jeans last month.

A search of his drawers revealed a brand new pair of Stark Tech sweatpants that were a bit on the big side with a drawstring. Perfect.

He put them on and got into bed.

An hour later, he was even more miserable than when he’d first laid down. His stomach cramped horribly. Or was it his stomach? What were you supposed to call the... the lady bits anyway? Uter... Uterus or something? Whatever.

“Young Master Peter, your Aunt has arrived,” Jarvis said. “You are being called to attend a meeting in the MedBay.”

Peter groaned and heaved himself out of bed. Once he got there, a nurse spotted him and showed him to a small meeting room without windows for privacy. All the adults were already there- Doctor Banner, his Aunt, and Steve and Tony. A lady he’d never seen before was there as well- he guessed from her lab coat she was some sort of doctor.

“Peter!” the new lady was the first to spot him. “So good to see you up and about!”

Peter nodded shyly at her, and took a seat next between his Aunt and Tony. His Aunt gave him a hug as he sat down.

“I came as soon as I could honey.” Aunt May said. “I’m so glad that you’re better.” she gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Peter flushed. “Aunt May,” he protested. He wasn’t a baby- sheesh! She ignored him and ruffled his hair.

“Welcome everyone. In case you’ve forgotten, I’m Doctor Cho. For now I’ll be Peter’s primary doctor. Peter- are you okay with everyone hearing about your medical information? I can kick anyone out and I promise there won’t be any hard feelings.”

Peter shrugged. “It’s fine,” he said, just wanting this to be over with already. Maybe google would know how to deal with cramps?

“Alright then. Once we got him off the suppressants, Peter had a fairly normal heat lasting around 4 days. His blood work both before and after the heat are mostly positive. My most pressing concern is his heart. I would like to schedule some testing as soon as possible to check him for heart defects.”

Peter frowned. “I have something wrong with my heart?” he demanded, alarmed.

“Most likely. It’s part of being a male omega,” she said. “There are also some other concerns that go along with it- but those are not life threatening.”

“I’d like a list of those, please,” Aunt May said.

“Me too,” Tony said.

“Of course. I’ll have a packet out to you two by the end of the day.”

Peter turned and looked at Tony. “Is that why you have a pacemaker? Because you’re an omega?”

Tony looked like Peter had just mooned the Nobel Committee. “I don’t have a pacemaker,” he said flatly.

“But, I’ve seen the plans and the reactor is connected-”

“This meeting is about you Peter. Not me.” Tony said firmly. “And your job to worry about you right now, okay?” Tony said and gave him a Look.

Shit . The last time Tony had given him that look was right before Tony gave him the “we don’t discuss classified things in front of civilians/baddies” Talk.

He flushed and faced the floor. “Yes Omega,” he said obediently.

“How was his blood work?” Tony asked, dismissing him. “Does he still have that hormone imbalance?”

“Yes. And it’s likely he’ll have it for a while. Between normal puberty and the reaction he had to the suppressants-”

“I had a reaction to the suppressants?” Peter asked, bewildered.

The adults shared a look.

“Peter... why don’t you tell us what you remember?” Bruce asked gently.

He considered. “I... went to school,” he said slowly. “And... everyone was acting weird. Ned said I smelled weird...” he frowned. “And then...” he trailed off. He remembered the guards and the counselor...

“Hey- hey. You’re okay. You’re safe here, kiddo-” someone- Tony was saying.

Peter blinked. When had he started panting?

“I know it was scary- being by yourself. But we’re here now, okay baby?” Aunt May said, and squeezed his hand.

Peter sniffed miserably.

“Listen to my voice Peter. You’re in the Tower, okay? You’re safe. I’m right here behind you,” Steve said, and put a hand on his shoulder. Peter found himself relaxing at the alpha’s touch. Steve was his pack leader. He’d keep him safe.

“I’m sorry-” Peter said.

“Don’t be sorry Peter. Going into heat in a public place can be very traumatizing even for female omegas. It’s not your fault,” Dr. Cho said.

Peter nodded shakily.

“After you went into heat you had a bad reaction to the suppressants. It put you into a coma and gave you a high fever. The stress of the event also may have been what triggered your heart to stop for a few seconds.”

Peter felt his blood turn to ice. “My... my heart stopped?” Steve immediately began to rub Peter’s shoulders, soothing him.

“Yes, but not for very long. When we do the testing, we will also be checking for any heart damage.”

“I have really fast healing though-” Peter protested.

“Which is most likely why you are alive today,” Dr. Cho said. “Your ‘spider’ DNA is most likely why you survived your first heat. But we think it is also why you rejected the suppressant medication.”

“Has Peter been sick at all since the bite?” Dr. Banner asked Aunt May.

May considered. “Not that I can remember...” she said.

Dr. Banner nodded. “No over the counter medication at all?” he asked Peter.

Peter shrugged. “I don’t think so.”

“Good. I’m going to have to recommend that Peter take absolutely no medication - not even a vitamin - without clearing it with me first. Until we get some further testing done, it just simply isn’t safe for him to take anything,” Dr. Banner said firmly. “Do you understand Peter? Not even Tylenol or aspirin.”

“I understand,” Peter said.

“Now, I don’t want to scare you, but I want to make sure you understand. If we have a repeat of this and you aren’t close to the tower, it could kill you, okay? So no medication .”

Peter nodded. “I got it,” he said quietly.

“You got that Jarvis? Peter gets no medicine. At all. Speak up if he or someone else is about to mess up, category Priority 1,” Tony said.

“Yes sir,” Jarvis said. “New Priority One Command has been entered and logged.”

Tony nodded. “Jarvis will help keep an eye on him,” he said.

They started to talk about hormone levels again after that. It was hard to keep track. He felt just awful and tired and...

“Peter. Are you okay?” Aunt May asked.

He blinked. “What?”

“You don’t look so hot, honey,” she said, and put a hand to his forehead. She frowned. “He’s sweaty,” she announced, concerned.

A new cramp hit him and he couldn’t hide a wince.

“Peter?” Tony’s tone was alarmed. “Did you smell that?” he demanded.

“He’s in pain,” Steve said, grim. “Peter- what’s wrong.”

Peter flushed. “Just... cramps,” he said miserably.

Tony frowned. “Your heat is over, kiddo. That shouldn’t be happening, right?” he demanded of the doctors.

Dr. Cho shook her head. “Cramping is not unheard of, but... Peter? On a scale of 1 to 10, how you rate your pain?”

Peter considered. “Five?” he guessed.

People suddenly rushed into action. Peter found his chair rolled back from the table, and Dr. Banner kneeling in front of him.

“Does it hurt all over or just in one spot?” he asked, and reached for Peter’s belly.

“DON’T TOUCH ME!” Peter screamed, smacking his hand away.

There was shocked silence. “Don’t... don’t-” Peter sobbed.

“It’s okay. I won’t touch you without your permission, okay?” Dr. Banner said slowly, his face screaming concern. “You know I’m not going to hurt you, right?”

Peter whined, and crossed his arms over his belly. He couldn’t bring himself to look him in the face.

“Do you think it’s appendicitis?” Aunt May whispered behind him, horrified. “You just said no medication-”

“Peter did you bleed at all today?” Dr. Cho asked.

Peter shook his head.

“What about when you went to the bathroom? Any blood then?”

Peter shook his head.

“Wait... wait...” Tony said. “Move over Jolly Green.”

Tony took Dr. Banner’s place in front of Peter.

“Look at me Peter. I mean it- Look at me.”

Peter looked at him. Barely.

“When was the last time you went?” he asked.

Peter blinked. “What?” he whispered.

“The bathroom kiddo. Have you gone since your heat ended?”

Peter thought about it. Had he gone? Now that you mention it...

SHIT.

Tony correctly interpreted the look on Peter’s face.

“Steve- we need to get him to a bathroom, NOW-”

“On it,” Steve said, scooping him up.

They didn’t make it.

They didn’t make it.

Steve had to hold a sobbing Peter up while Aunt May dragged soaking wet sweatpants and shoes off him. After they parked him on the toilet she gave him a kiss on the forehead, told him that she loved him, then they left to give him some privacy.

It was awful. He’d thought that the night after he had those tacos from that shady cart vendor on 4th was bad, but he was wrong. So very, very wrong.

First he cried because it hurt, damn it.

Then he cried because it wouldn’t stop.

Then he cried because it did stop. (And because he’d peed on Captain America).

Then he cried because he felt so much better. (And because he’d peed on his pack leader).

Then he cried because he couldn’t stop crying. (And also- Steve. How would he ever look at him again?)

He was just starting to get angry about not being able to stop crying when someone knocked on the door.

“It’s been half an hour Peter- are you okay?” Aunt May asked.

“FUCK OFF!” he screamed, and because he didn’t have anything to throw, he smashed his hand into the wall.

Then he cried because he was horrified at what he’d done and now his hand hurt. And also now there was a nice fist-shaped hole in the tile.

And great. Now his hand was bleeding. Wonderful. And he couldn’t feel his legs. So now he was stuck here. For probably forever. Which, overall, might even be a good thing. He’d never have to look at Steve again, for one thing.

“Peter!” Steve rumbled from outside the door, “You do NOT talk to your Aunt-” Steve stopped. “Get Banner- I smell blood-” he said urgently to someone outside.

What?

“Peter I’m coming in-” Steve said.

Oh, god- please no!

“No! I- I’m okay-” Peter protested.

Steve didn’t listen. He opened the door and Peter sat cringing on the toilet, bleeding hand held against him.

If God was merciful, Peter thought distantly, he’d just let him fall over and die right now.

“Oh Peter ,” Steve said- and oh god, he hadn’t thought it was possible for this day to get any worse, and yet there it just did. Steve Rogers - Captain America and his pack leader - was disappointed in him.

Peter sobbed. “Go away,” he said miserably. Why couldn’t these people just let him die in peace already? “Just go away!”

Steve knelt in front of him. “Peter, I need to see your hand,” he said gently.

“No!”

“Peter-” Steve said firmly.

Peter sniffed, then shamefully held out his hand.

“I’m sorry,” he tried.

“We’ll have to do an X-ray,” Steve said, as he examined the hand carefully, then used some paper towels to get the bleeding to stop.

Peter wiped his face with his good hand miserably, and only succeeded in smearing snot around. He whined with distress. Steve, being a good telepathic alpha, hushed him and gently cleaned his face with some tissues he got from the sink. “I’ve got you sweetheart,” he said softly.

“Peter’s bleeding?” Banner said from the doorway.

“He smashed his hand against the wall,” Steve said. “Cut it pretty good.”

Banner joined Steve in the tiny bathroom, and snuck a peak at the cut under the towels.

“He should stop bleeding in a minute. I don’t think he’ll need stitches,” he said. “Can you stand Peter? I’d like to get an x-ray.”

Peter flushed, and stared at the ground.

“Peter?”

“My legs are all tingly,” he complained.

Banner looked like he was trying really hard to not be amused. “It’s because you’ve been sitting for so long,” he paused. “Are you... are you done, Peter? Do you need more time?”

“No. I... I’m done,” Peter said miserably. Jesus Christ. Would they just shoot him already?

But the indignity didn’t end there. Steve helped him to his feet, and Peter nearly fainted- his legs gave out and if Steve had been any slower, he would have wound up on the floor.

“Whoa- I’ve got you,” Steve said. “You okay Peter?”

Peter whined with stress.

“Talk to me Peter, did your vision turn grey a little there?” Banner asked.

“Yes,” Peter said miserably. “What’s wrong with me?”

Banner sighed. “I think you’re about to go into active distress,” he said grimly. “We need to hurry and get him cleaned up, then swaddled in something warm.”

Tony ended up volunteering to help hose him down in a communal shower while Steve held him up and soothed him the best he could. Peter wound up swaddled in a giant blue blanket that he suspected was from the communal floor, and wedged between Bucky and Steve on a tiny hospital bed.

“Shh...” Bucky murmured, running a hand through Peter’s hair. “You’re safe Peter.”

Peter sighed. “I’m tired,” he bitched. “My hand hurts.”

“Go to sleep Peter. We’ll get the X-ray later, okay?” Steve said.

Peter whined. Would this nightmare of a day never end ?

“This isn’t working. Here. Shift him over-” Bucky said. They shuffled him so that his front was pressed against Bucky. Bucky rumbled.

Peter gasped as he felt his body relax without any input from his brain.

“That’s it - keep it up, Buck.”

“Shh... go to sleep Pete. We’ve got you,” Bucky murmured.

5 minutes later Peter finally drifted off.

He woke up with his face smushed into the foam mattress, drooling. He groaned.

“Welcome back,” Natasha said. She was sitting on a chair next to his bed, texting.

“Oh, thank god,” Peter said. “Nat- Nat- I just had the worst dream ever -” Peter whined.

“Did you pee on Steve?” she asked.

Peter stared at her. “How did you know?” Peter demanded.

“Because it wasn’t a dream.”

Peter stared at her in horror. “What?”

Natasha sighed. “You didn’t go to the bathroom as soon as possible after your heat ended,” she said, not looking up from her texting. “There’s consequences to not going for 5 days.”

Peter looked even more horrified. “You... you don’t go to the bathroom during a heat?” he asked, scandalized. “How is that even possible?”

She shrugged. “You’d have to ask Bruce. What matters is that you-” she bopped him on the nose, “need to TRY to go when it’s over, even if you don’t think you need to. Unless you have a thing for peeing on panicked alphas,” she said, and gave him a Look.

Peter cringed. “God no.”

“Good. Because now we need to go x-ray your hand,” she said tersely. “Because someone got confused and thought they were an alpha.”

Peter cringed even harder. “Nat-” he protested.

She raised an eyebrow at him. He wilted.

“I don’t care how angry you are. There’s no excuse for hurting yourself like this,” she said firmly, and started unwrapping him from his blanket prison.

“Yes Omega,” Peter said miserably. He’d stopped bleeding- but when he went to push himself up, a flash of pain told him he’d really fucked up this time.

“It hurts?”

“Yes,” Peter whined.

“Good. Let’s go.”

He followed her meekly. Someone had dressed him in sweatpants and a stupidly oversized Stark MedTech t-shirt.

She lead him back to the conference room, and opened the door. Peter’s ears were suddenly assaulted by the sound of Tony shouting.

“-can’t go back! It’s not safe!”

“He’s MY KID not yours-” Aunt May shouted back.

Natasha knocked loudly on the door, and silence descended.

“He’s awake. His hand still hurts,” she said matter of factly as if Tony and Aunt May didn’t sound like they’d been on the verge of strangling each other not 5 seconds ago. Peter pushed around her, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

“Aunt May?” he asked hesitantly.

“Hey kiddo,” she said, smiling big and bright at him. “You feeling better now?”

Peter glanced at Tony, who was doing a shitty job of hiding how pissed he was.

“Is everything okay?” he asked.

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Just boring grown up stuff,” she said, lying through her teeth. “Lets go and get an x-ray of that hand, okay?”

Aunt May went with him to a back room where a tech made him wear a lead apron, and they took a picture of his hand.

“We’ll have the results in just a minute,” the tech said kindly. “Just hang out for a minute and we’ll see if we have to put a cast on or not.”

They sat in some weird hospital waiting room chairs that were just a step above folding chairs.

“May-” he started.

“Peter-” she started at the same time. They both stopped.

“You first Peter,” she said.

“What were you arguing with Tony about?” he asked quietly.

She sighed. “That is not for you to worry about,” she said. “What’s important is that you know that I’m going to take care of you, and do what’s best for you, alright?”

Peter stared at her in mild horror. Of course he knew that. But... there was something about the way that she said it that set off alarm bells in his head.

“May?”

“We’ll talk about it later,” she said firmly. “We’ll get your hand all fixed up and then I’m going to take you home.”

Peter studied the floor. On the one hand... he did kinda want to go home. On the other... the thought of leaving the tower made him feel... uneasy.

Banner was the one who came with the results- and a splint.

“The bad news is that you’ve broken a metatarsal. The good news is that it’s a hairline fracture and you’ll only need a splint for a few days.”

“How long is a few days?” May asked.

“I’ll do another x-ray on Monday. See how it’s healed,” Bruce said, strapping the splint to Peter’s right hand. “If it’s all good, we’ll take the splint off.” He paused. “And remember- no pain medication. I know it’ll suck but you’re just going to have to tough it out.”

Peter groaned. He hadn’t thought about that. “Fine,” he said, dejectedly.

Bruce looked at May.

“I’ll make sure that he doesn’t take anything,” she said, and ruffled his hair. “Let’s get out of here kiddo. And tell Dr. Banner ‘thank you’,”

“Thank you Bruce,” Peter recited dutifully.

“Not a problem,” Bruce said, looking amused. “Feel free to call me any time.”

“Can’t I say goodbye to Tony?” Peter fussed.

May pursed her lips. “You can call him when we get home,” she said.

Peter frowned. “May-” he protested.

“Nope. I know you. You’ll wind up asking for ‘5 more minutes’ that turns into 2 hours. Let’s go. You’ve been away from home long enough,” she said, and herded him towards the elevator. “Plus you’ve got make up work to do from school that’s due on Monday when you go back.”

Peter groaned. Life was just so fucking UNFAIR.

Chapter Text

The ride home was an uneasy one. His Aunt's car, an unremarkable Toyota Corolla that he'd ridden in hundreds of times before, suddenly and bafflingly smelled... weird. Offensive weird.

It took him nearly 10 minutes to figure out it was his Aunt's pine air freshener that hung from her rear view mirror. It had never bothered him before. But he found himself hating the damn thing with the ferocity of a thousand suns.

He covertly threw it out the window while she was checking her blind spot to make a left hand turn.

"Did you just throw my air freshener out the window?" she demanded incredulously.

"What?" he lied, badly. "Your air freshener? Um... what about it?"

“My little tree thing. That you just threw out the window,” she said. “Or are you denying that that just happened?”

Peter sighed. “Look, it just- it really smelled, okay?”

“So your solution to the problem was to just... throw it out the window,” she said flatly. “Instead of, you know, talking to me about it.”

Well, when you put it that way...

“I’m sorry,” he said. “But it was really bad, Aunt May-”

She sighed. “I’ll forgive you- this time ,” she said wearily. “But you can’t just throw out other people’s things without asking, yeah?”

Peter wilted. Now he felt like an ass.

“Sorry May,” he said, meaning it this time.

She hummed, and gave him a judgy look. “I really shouldn’t have to tell you that, you know,” she pointed out. “You’re 15 Peter- I expect better judgement from you.”

“Yes Aunt May,” he said. Jesus Christ. Why the fuck was it so hard to go more than 5 minutes without fucking something up?

He resolved to do better.

As part of his resolve to do better, when he got home he carefully removed his shoes at the door, and put his book bag in his room instead of just throwing it somewhere on the couch in the living room.

“Homework is on your desk!” May said from the kitchen. “I just picked it up this morning.”

“What did you tell them?” Peter asked.

“You got lucky this time, kid. Everyone’s been excused for the last week because of the whole ‘armed intruders’ thing. Today was the first day back. I told them you got sick while you were out,” she said.

Peter frowned. “Armed intruders?”

“When you called Tony for help, he freaked out. The entire pack came down expecting... I dunno. Anyway, they didn’t stop at the front office and sign in, if you get my drift.”

Peter recoiled in horror. “They stormed my school?” he asked, horrified. “Was everyone okay?”

“They hog tied a couple of the teachers, but other than that I think the worst that happened was some bruised egos and broken doors,” she said.

“Oh god- Ned! Have you talked to him?”

“I’ve talked to his mother, and they know you’re okay,” she said, and handed Peter a sandwich on a plate. “Eat. Call your friend. Then I expect you to start work on that homework,” she said. “Life doesn’t stop because you get a heat.”

Peter flushed. “Yes Aunt May,” he said, and retreated to his room.

He had to dig a bit to get his phone out of his bag. When he plugged it in, it started dinging like crazy with messages and missed call notifications. Almost all of them were from Ned. A few were from unknown numbers that claimed to be news organizations looking for “his version of events”. He deleted those.

He called Ned, who breathlessly picked up on the second ring. “PETER?” Ned shouted down the phone. “HOLY SHIT YOU’RE ALIVE!”

“Dude! May said she’d talked to your mom-”

“It could have been a cover story!” Ned insisted. “Did you really get kidnapped by the CIA?” he asked.

“WHAT?”

“Everyone’s saying that that someone got taken by the CIA. I assumed it was some sort of top secret mission thing-”

Peter face palmed. “Ned- no. Just no. The CIA wouldn’t storm my school to take me to... to... wherever.”

“So what happened then?” Ned demanded.a

Peter hesitated. “I... I went into heat at school,” he said. “I called Tony, and I guess he overreacted.”

There was silence on the other end. “I TOLD YOU you smelled weird!” Ned announced. “Dude- I totally called it!”

Peter sighed. “Yeah Ned, you did,” he said quietly.

“Wait, why didn’t you call May?”

“She was on her surgery rotation. I couldn’t call her.”

“Well, dude, I think next time you should call my Mom. She’s cool. She’d come pick you up and not, ya know- freak out everyone at school.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Peter said dryly.

“Oh- did you hear? They’re talking about canceling spring break-”

“What?” Peter squawked. “They can’t do that-”

“We’ve been out for 3 days man, apparently we used up all our snow days during the winter, so it’s that or go to school for an extra week-”

They talked about everything and nothing and all for nearly an hour before May knocked on Peter’s door. “Time to get off, Peter. Homework!”

Peter sighed. Technically, it was Friday, and so therefore he had all weekend to do his make up work, but...

“I gotta go Ned. May wants me to work on my homework packet.”

“But... it’s like Friday...”

“Dude. Don’t get me started,” Peter deadpanned.

Ned snorted a laugh. “Fine. Talk to you tomorrow?”

“Sure.”

“Bye Peter!” Ned chirped and hung up.

Peter looked up to see May still standing there. “What? I hung up!”

“Good. Get to work! I have plans for us this Sunday. So no procrastinating!”

“Plans?”

She smiled. “Homework. Then we’ll see.”

Peter sighed and climbed off his bed to sit at his desk. There was a packet of papers there, but when he moved them, there was a book he’d never seen before sitting on his desk. He frowned at the title: “The Care and Keeping of You: The Ultimate Body Book For Omegas”.

Peter frowned, and flipped it over. The back was fairly simple- just going on about how it was meant to “empower omegas” with knowledge of their own biology. The book, most promising of all, was not pink. There was, in fact, no pink at all anywhere on the cover. It was a bit odd, since pink was sort of the ultimate “omega color”.

He looked around. Where on earth could it have come from, though-

Aunt May.

Of course.

He felt a bit... weird... opening it. Like at any moment someone was going to jump out from behind a closet door or something and start shouting about how much of a pervert he was.

He wound up closing the door to his room.

The book seemed to pretty much not apply to him. He made a face and flipped past the pages that talked about boobs and pubic hair- that stuff even betas knew about. He was about to close it when a simple and tasteful scientific line illustration in the back caught his eye. He opened the book fully, and it took nearly a full minute for him to realize what, exactly, he was looking at.

It showed the inside bits of an omega, with a fully inflated alpha knot inside it. How the knot shifted the bits inside the omega to make room for it-

Jesus, it looked... big.

In fact, it seemed... huge.

He suddenly had a vague memory of a new alpha waving his fist around, bragging about the size of his new knot... Peter made a fist, stared at it, and promptly discovered new and previously unexplored depths of horror.

Holy fuck... he turned the book 90 degrees and peered with growing disbelief at the illustration.

God... that looked- how did it not like... split them in half? Or at least make them bleed?

The alphas in the locker rooms at school always talked about omegas "begging for their knot" or some other stupid nonsense. But the more he looked at it... this didn't seem like something ANYONE would want.

He turned the book some more. Maybe a different angle?

It did not help.

He couldn't figure out how it got IN there to begin with...

He had a somewhat hysterical vision that involved some sort of shoehorn.

How the fuck did that not hurt???

What had Clint said? “If she’s still walking, you didn’t do it right?”

As for him, that was supposed to go... to go...

He found his knees had slammed themselves shut of their own accord, and the book was hastily flung into a desk drawer and the drawer slammed shut.

He took a moment to breathe, and try to unclench his ass. He was fine. Everything was fine. Just... Jesus Christ. How the hell did Tony do it?

Or even worse- how the hell did Steve do, well- that to Tony? The alpha seemed to like his mate... but the whole thing didn’t seem like something you’d do to someone you liked...

Wait... did Tony do it? Maybe they used...

Nope. Time to abort that thought process. Abandon ship. Not Going There Parker.

Homework. Homework was a thing that needed to be doing. Some math and reading about some Dead White Dudes seemed to be just the ticket to avoid him needing to remove his brain and wash it with bleach.

It was a good plan. It lasted all of half an hour before it fell apart. As he worked, he gradually became more and more aware of the dresser that was to his left. It was an old wooden one that had used to be Ben’s when he was a boy. There wasn’t anything special about it. And it had been in that spot for years now.

He glared at it. It had absolutely no business being in that corner. It did NOT belong there.

But that was stupid. It was a piece of furniture. Where it was in the room didn’t matter.

He went back to his work.

10 minutes later he was dragging it across the room, swearing under his breath as he struggled to shift it to the middle of the room without causing too much pain to his right hand in the process.

Right. If he put his bed there-

“What on earth is going on in here?” May demanded from the doorway.

“Fixing my room,” he said.

“Right now?”

“Yes.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you supposed to working on homework?” she asked.

“I can’t! It’s... it’s WRONG!”

She frowned. “Wrong?”

“It’s in the wrong place...” he grumbled. “It’ll only take a minute to fix it-” he protested.

She looked at him like he’d grown a second head. Looked around his room. “Okay... just... make sure you don’t hurt yourself, okay?”

“Yeah- I’ll be fine. Super strength, remember?”

She hummed, clearly skeptical, and left.

He tugged, pulled, and dragged. He shoved the dresser against the other walls. Against the window. Sideways in the closet. For half a second he even considered webbing the damn thing to the ceiling and was actually looking for his webshooters when sanity caught up to him.

2 hours later his room was back the way it was before, and he lay miserably sprawled eagle on the floor.

His aunt peeked in, and eyed the room. “I thought you were rearranging things.”

“I really really don’t want to talk about it,” Peter said, feeling disgusted with himself. Now that he’d put things back, it felt right, but still... what the fucking hell?

She considered him, and took a sip of her tea. “You done with homework?”

“No.”

“Come eat dinner and you can finish afterwards,” she said. She sounded amused.

Peter managed to eat dinner and finish him homework without any further mental breakdowns.

The real trouble came when he went to bed.

He tossed and turned and fluffed and refluffed pillows and rearranged blankets. At 2am he raided the linen closet. At 4 am he stole every single cushion from the living room, including the couch cushions.

At 6 am, he woke up to a strangled “Are those my couch cushions?”

Peter flailed a bit, and unearthed his face from the generalized pile on the floor he’d made in the night.

“Wha?” he asked intelligently.

She sighed. “Put them back when you’re done, please.”

He whined in frustration. He’d just gotten his pile the way that he liked it-

“I’m going to go to work. I’ll be back in time for dinner. Don't forget to vacuum the living room. You gonna be okay?”

Peter stuck out an arm and gave a reluctant thumbs up from under his pile of stolen soft and fluffy things.

She took one last look around, shook her head, and left.

****

May sighed and dug the keys out of her pocket. She did a bit of juggling with the grocery bags before she managed to get the door to the house open.

“Peter? Did you-” she froze. Stared at the living room. The entire thing- the furniture, the TV, the joke painting of “dogs playing poker”- had all been moved to different walls. It was like someone had come in, and rotated the whole room 90 degrees to the left.

“Peter?” she called, confused and alarmed. When she didn’t get an answer, she hurried to put the grocery bags in the kitchen- only to nearly accidentally drop the bags on the floor because the kitchen table had been moved to the other side of the kitchen to be crammed into a corner near the window. Almost afraid of what she’d find, she experimentally opened a cabinet.

The entire thing had been rearranged. It took her a moment to grasp the reasoning, but at her best guess, Peter had gone by box size/shape and possibly color- never mind the contents of said boxes. As a result, the shelf in front of her held, (in a strict size order of rectangular boxes) ramen, a box of baking soda, a box of hot chocolate mix, a box of instant flavored oatmeal pouches, 2 cake mixes, some instant powdered mashed potatoes, and a box of uncooked spaghetti noodles.

She stared at it for a long moment. The next cabinet revealed that he’d alphabetized her spice rack, as well as the canned goods. She noted, with an almost out of body sense of amusement, that he’d classified “Green Beans” as “Beans, Green,” and had lovingly placed them next to the “Beans, Kidney”. She knew this because there were sticky labels on the shelves- all written in sharpie with Peter’s careful “official lab notebook” handwriting.

She debated on opening the fridge with the handle of the broom, before womaning up and just yanking it open. The inside had been apparently bleached within an inch of its life judging by the smell, and yes- there were more sticky labels on the shelves. She wondered what the child planned on doing when the jug of cranberry-apple juice she had just bought instead of plain apple ruined the alphabetical order of what was now apparently the Juice Shelf ™.

She wandered the house with all the caution of a jungle explorer that expected very hungry leopards to be hiding behind things. The linen closet was completely empty, while the utility closet under the stairs had been spared reorganization completely. Her room was also, thankfully untouched. The cabinet in the bathroom had all the pill bottles carefully arranged by size in a row, and the closet in the hallway held a literal pyramid of toilet paper rolls.

“Peter?” she called hesitantly, and opened the door to his room with a broom she’d found next to the paper pyramid. Thankfully, nothing exploded, and there was no frightened screaming. Instead she found a mound of... laundry? Sofa pillows? Her grandmother’s old sheets? On the floor. It had grown exponentially since this morning, and moved ever so slightly up and down, indicating that yes- Peter was underneath all that crap and was (thankfully) breathing, and possibly sleeping.

She stared at it for a long minute. Eventually she got out her cell phone and dialed a number. “Hey, Dr. Banner? Yeah- it’s May. No- no- Peter’s fine. Sorta. Look- can we move up that testing to tomorrow?”

Chapter Text

Harley banged the skillet back onto the stove harder than strictly necessary after plating the scrambled eggs.

“Come on Abby, let’s go! Bus comes in 10 minutes!” he bellowed through the house. He shoved a portion of the eggs onto the tray of the high chair, where a happy 8 month old baby girl laughed at the sudden bounty. Harley watched with amused horror as the eggs were consumed via the "shoving fists with eggs in them into her mouth" method.

“Don’t choke, sweet pea’,” he scolded gently.

“I’m here! I’m here!” an out of breath brunette pre-teen girl appeared from the hallway.

“You have your homework?”

“Yes.”

“Your science book-”

“Yes- I’m ready!” she said irritably, bouncing in place.

“Your phone?” he continued doggedly.

“Yes.”

“Is it charged?”

She rolled her eyes “YES!”

He raised an eyebrow. “Your lunch?”

She blinked, mouth open wide in horror. “My lunch!”

He let her suffer for a moment before smiling gently. “It’s on the table next to the door, darlin’. Well? What are you waiting for? GO GO GO!” he shooed her towards the door.

She took off running, grabbing the lunch box as she went. “BYE!” she screamed before slamming the front door closed after her.

Harley wolfed down the rest of the eggs, and split a piece of buttered toast with the baby. He checked the time. He’d have to hustle if he was going to make it. He let her eat while he hastily made some PB&J sandwiches for his own lunch. He threw in a bag of chips and a can of pop, and shoved the paper lunch bag into his own book bag.

Emma watched him work, and deliberately knocked her sippy cup onto the floor. Harley sighed, and picked it up off the floor. “And now you’ve lost it, sweetheart,” he said firmly, putting the cup on the counter well out of her reach. “We don’t throw things on the floor.”

Emma stared at him in shock, then slowly scrunched up her face and started to wail. “Up! UP!” she demanded, her face red, and waved her hands imperiously towards the cup.

“Nope,” he said. He ignored her wailing to undo the harness and dragged her out of the high chair. He held the screaming and kicking infant expertly like a football over a trash can and brushed the worst of the egg off her. A binky popped into her mouth didn’t quite solve the crying issue, but it at least made her quieter. He dumped the pan and the plate into the sink with her on his hip. He’d have to clean up the tray when he got home. “Ready to go to school, Emmy?” he asked, parking her on a table top and shoving her arms into her coat, before zipping it shut. Even though it was April, it was still chilly outside, especially in the mornings. She didn’t stop wailing- in fact she wailed even louder when he set her down for a second on the floor long enough to shrug on a hoodie.

He grabbed his keys and his book bag, settled her on his hip again, and headed for the door.

He paused, hand on the door knob, then doubled back and grabbed a blanket covered with pink elephants and a battered pink care bear off the sofa. “Whoops! Can’t forget blankie and bear!” he said with false cheer. She was too busy crying to hear him. She calmed a bit when he put her in her car seat in the back of an ancient Dodge Dakota pickup, and shoved the bear and blanket into her lap.

By the time he dropped her off at daycare she was a bit sniffly, but went willingly to the overly-happy omega daycare worker.

“Hey there sweet girl! I see you had eggs for breakfast! I bet it was yummy!" Sandra gushed as she took both the kid and the various accessories off him.

Harley winced. “Sorry, crazy morning. My mom will pick her up.”

Sandra nodded. “I’ve got her! Go have a good day at school, Harley! Say bye bye to your brother, Emma!” she said, and waved Emma’s arm at Harley.

“Bye Bye!” Emma said.

"Bye sweet pea," he said, and gave her a kiss before hurrying out the door.

He broke somewhere around 10 different traffic laws and slid into his seat in biology class exactly 4 minutes late.

“Mr. Keener- so glad for you to finally join us,” Mr. Finnigan said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “Unless you have a note, I’ll see you on Saturday in detention.”

Harley winced. He had a shift on Saturday.

“Yes sir,” he said resignedly. He really ought to either have his mother mass produce the damn things and let him have a stash of them. Or learn to forge his mother’s signature.

That or he could just let it ride, and pick up some shifts at work when they eventually suspended him. He’d have to think about that. This was his last year after all, and there was only a month and a bit left before he graduated. Would one suspension be that bad really, when you looked at the long term?

He barely paid attention in class. It was all boring squishy-related science, and he had no interest in it. Give him a good hydraulic set any day over “genes”.

Eventually the bell rang. He got up to leave, only to have Mr. Finnigan wave him over. “Come here a minute, son,” he said.

Harley ambled over, dread forming in his stomach. What did the man want now? He stopped a polite distance from him. If he slouched a bit more he would be about on eye level with the older pot-bellied alpha.

“Yes sir?” he asked politely because his Momma had raised him right.

The older alpha leveled him, or at least tried to, with a look. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed you coming in late more and more frequently over this last month, Harley. I know it’s getting close to graduation, but you need to take your education seriously. It doesn’t matter that you’re an alpha- you have some serious potential and I’d hate to see it wasted.”

“I’m getting an A, aren’t I?” Harley retorted.

“Actually, you’re getting a C.”

“What?” Harley demanded, stunned. “I’ve gotten an A on every test I’ve ever taken-”

“You’re missing several homework assignments. And I don’t give participation points to people who don’t participate in my class,” Mr. Finnigan said sternly.

Harley gaped at him. “Can... can I make it up? Do extra credit or something?”

The teacher considered him. “I’ll tell you what. You come to class- on time for two weeks and I’ll give you some work you can do to bring your grade up.”

It was like being shot. That... that was impossible. There was no way he could get the girls out the door in the morning and make it to school on time every day , especially not now, when Momma had just gotten the breakfast/lunch shift that she’d been praying for. With the new schedule, and Harley’s shifts at the garage and junk yard, they were finally on track to making the full payments on the hospital debt from when Emma had been born. Next month they might not even get calls from bill collectors...

Harley gritted his teeth. “Thank you Mr. Finnigan,” he said quietly. “I’ll try.”

Maybe... maybe if he got Abby up earlier? But then she’d be left waiting at her bus stop all by herself. And they didn’t live in the best neighborhood... Not to mention he was already one of the first people to drop off at the daycare... what time did they start accepting children exactly? He wasn’t sure.

He’d have to think about it.

Worse case, was one C that bad?

“Good. And speaking of academics- you have an appointment with the guidance counselor at around 11 today. They’ll call you down over the intercom when they’re ready for you.”

“Yes sir.”

“Good, now go on. Don’t be late to your next class too,” Mr. Finnigan said.

Harley gratefully fled.

They called him down at 11:05.

He went in, half hopeful and half full of dread. The last time he’d seen her he’d asked about scholarships for Empire State and NYU- maybe even Caltech (though that last one was a fever dream. He’d never be able to afford it. But still... you never knew until you asked.)

Mrs. Drake was a beta- but she sat in her office chair like a natural born alpha, all confidence and authority.

“Mr. Keener-” she said, and he shook her hand.

“Ma’am,” he said, before slouching in one of the chairs opposite her desk.

“We don’t have much time, so I’ll get right down to business. Last time we spoke, you asked about scholarships, so I did some digging, and to be frank, I’m afraid you don’t have a lot of options.”

Harley frowned. “I don’t understand. My gpa and SAT-”

“Are very good, yes. But- you don’t have much else going for you.”

Harley stared at her, frustration clear on his face. “What?”

“Colleges like NYU and even Empire State are looking for more than just a good Gpa and SAT scores. There’s thousands- millions of students who have that. These days they’re looking for something... extra. And you don’t have that. No extra-curriculars, not even a sport or charity work. A lot of the scholarships aimed at alphas are focused on sports, business, or even nursing orderlies- but you’ve told me you have no interest in those.”

“Now-” she pulled out a brochure from her desk, “With your grades and SAT score, you can get into Pellissippi State Community College no problem. They offer a very nice program for Mechanical Engineering, and they also have a welding program I would highly encourage you to look into. You’ve told me you’re good with your hands, and welders can make very good money. In addition, the local welder’s union has several scholarships available that you could apply for to help with tuition cost.”

He stared at the brochure. A community college? He took it with numb fingers.

He already knew how to weld, he thought somewhat hysterically. Tony fucking Stark had taught him how when he was 13. He’d been welding ever since.

But...” he trailed off. He wanted to make robots. And... and... fuck .

She read his face perfectly. “I’m sorry Harley,” she said gently. “There is of course, option B.”

He looked up at her, hopeful. “Option B?”

“Have you ever thought of joining the army, Harley?” she asked sincerely.

*********

Harley sat down heavily at the lunch table next to a wispy beta with black hair.

“Whoa- take it easy Thor,” Evan joked. “Save some table pieces for the rest of us.”

Harley rolled his eyes. “Ha ha, very funny Evan,” he said miserably, and dug a sandwich out of his paper bag.

“Seriously- who died and shit in your cheerios?” Evan demanded. “We’re almost free from this place, man! We should be celebrating! Wait- is your mom pregnant again?”

Harley shuddered. “Fuck you, no. Mrs. Drake says I don’t have a chance of getting into basically anywhere I wanted. She asked me if I had ever thought of joining the army.”

Evan choked on his drink. “The military ?” he asked, outraged. “But... you’re not even a fuck up! Like, not even a little!”

“That’s what I thought!” Harley said. “But she gave me this card for a recruiter and everything-”

“What’s going on?” Mary-Anne asked, and sat down with her tray.

“Mrs. Drake gave Harley the army guy’s card!” Evan said, clearly scandalized. He had to lean over the table to be seen around Harley.

Mary-Anne frowned at them, “So? I think you’d be great at it Harley.”

Both boys turned astonished gazes at the slight omega.

“Are you serious right now, Anne?” Evan complained, glaring at her.

“What?”

“Why on earth would I be any good at it?” Harley demanded.

Now it was Mary-Anne’s turn to look at them like they were stupid. She raised her eyebrows and very pointedly looked him up and down. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?” she asked. “And did you grow again?” she demanded.

Harley huffed, irritated. “Another half inch,” he groused.

Evan scrunched up his nose. “That’d make you what- 6’2” now?”

“6’3” and a half,” Harley grumbled. “Drivers measured me a few days ago at the shop.”

Evans whistled. “You’re taller than Captain America dude!”

Harley rolled his eyes. “ I know ,” he said. Everyone at the shop had said the exact same thing to him. It was as horrifying as it was inconvenient. His hands were large enough now to make it a pain in the ass to do any sort of fiddly detail work. Plus he’d noticed within the last 6 months or so that omegas and betas with children tended to cross the street when they saw him coming. Like it was his fault he’d shot up like a noxious weed the second he’d popped his knot.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Harley complained. “Lots of people are tall.”

“And how much can you lift again?” she continued.

Harley narrowed his eyes at her. “I don’t know. Car engines don’t usually have that label on them.”

“Uh huh,” she said sarcastically. “Clearly you are not suited for any sort of punching bad guys at all. I can see why you are so confused. Clearly someone like you - who is about to blow away in the wind - has no business running around saving people.”

She took a bite of her lunch. After a second of silence, Evan said, “Well, when you put it that way- I can totally see why Mrs. Drake-”

Harley whipped around and growled at him.

Evan hunched in on himself a little but didn’t back down. “I’m just saying she’s got a point dude!”

Harley deflated. “But I don’t want to punch people,” he complained. “I want to make robots-”

“Robots that punch people, you mean?” Mary-Anne asked, the little shit.

Harley glared at her. “They don’t have to,” he protested.

“So, join the army, punch things, then convince them to let you make things that punch things better,” Mary-Anne said, as if it was obvious. “At least the pay will be steady. Don’t have to worry about your paycheck bouncing.”

Harley grumbled into his chips. God damn it, Mary-Anne. Now he was actually considering it.

“Also, I know of at least 4 omegas who’d volunteer to be kidnapped by terrorists if it meant you showing up in an army uniform to save them,” she said, apropos of nothing.

Harley blinked, then blushed. “Fuck you,” he growled.

“No, I’m serious. If you declared yourself available, I guarantee a line would form.”

Harley shifted uncomfortably. “Ain’t got nothin’ to offer,” he said softly. “Plus I gotta take care of the girls.”

She snorted. “That’s not true. And an omega could help you with the girls,” she insisted.

“Why are you so pushy, Anne?” Evan complained. “You lobbying for the position?”

Mary-Anne scowled at him. “Fuck no. But I just so happen to know that men who are married get paid more when they join the military. Some sort of extra allowance.”

Harley rolled his eyes. “Now that’s just wrong. I’m not gonna mate someone for more in my paycheck.”

“I said ‘marry’ Harley, not mate. And I bet your Momma wouldn’t say no to an extra set of hands living in her place when you deploy.”

“I’m not- that’s....” Harley complained.

“I’m not saying you need to marry the first girl you see. But you could marry someone. Lots of alphas marry without a mating bite for like insurance benefits and things. There’s no law against it.”

Harley huffed. “Can we talk about something else, please?” he pleaded. “I feel like I’m gonna get a headache talking about this.”

Evan considered for a moment. “Has anyone noticed that Danny Mathis looks like he’s stuffing his pants with at least 4 pairs of socks?” he asked, staring fixedly at a wiry beta that was making his way across the lunch room.

It was Mary-Anne’s turn to choke on her soda.

Harley snorted. “I’m not in the habit of staring at people’s dicks, Evan,” he complained. “Unlike you, obviously.”

“Well you don’t stare at boobs, man. You gotta look at something ,” Evan complained.

Harley rolled his eyes. “I’m not marrying you for a larger paycheck Evan,” he said, sounding bored.

Evan snorted. “You could. I’d totally do it for like, a few hundred dollars a month. I’d wear a veil and everything. Make me a kept beta or whatever.”

“Slut,” Mary-Anne coughed into her pizza.

“One of us has to be!” Evan protested, eyeing Danny like a piece of meat. “I’m gonna go talk to him. Be right back.”

“Don’t forget to make him wear a condom!” Harley called after him. Evan flipped him the bird without even looking.

Harley smirked, and ate his lunch. This was going to be good. Evan trying to get into someone’s pants never failed to entertain.

“You know...” Mary-Anne said quietly. “If you wanted... you could just get in touch with Tony Stark. A letter of recommendation from him could get you in anywhere.”

Harley froze, then sighed. “I keep forgetting you know about that,” he groused.

“So? Would it kill you to write a single email?” she asked.

He shook his head. “I haven’t heard from him in almost two years Mary-Anne. The last time I sent him something it bounced back. He must have updated his spam filters,” he said quietly. “Doesn’t matter anyway. He’s Iron Man. And I’m...” he shrugged. “Just some stupid kid from Tennessee, I guess.”

She side eyed him. “You know,” she said, “you always sell yourself short. And you are definitely not stupid.”

Harley snorted and ate his sandwich.

****

Harley pulled into the junkyard an hour before his shift started. He gathered up his backpack and walked inside the office.

“Harley! You need help with that English homework again?” A broad beta with golden hair greeted him from behind the main counter.

“Not today Barlow,” Harley said, slipping onto a chair behind the counter. “I was hopin’ I could pick your brain about somethin’ else.”

“Well, I don’t know nothin’ about omegas, Harl,” Barlow teased.

Harley flushed. “It’s not about omegas. I ain’t got time for that. It’s about your service.”

Barlow’s sunny smile faded, his expression turned serious. “What about it, Harley?” he asked cautiously.

“Do you regret joining?”

Barlow considered him for a long moment. “Most days I don’t,” he answered slowly. “But some days my leg reminds me that I should have listened to my Momma,” he said, and knocked on his prosthetic. It made a thumping plasticy noise. “Why? Has someone been talkin’ nonsense to you, Harl?” he asked suspiciously.

Harley studied the floor. “My guidance counselor says it might be good for me. I’d get a signing bonus and the pay would be steady. We could pay off Emma’s hospital bills with that. I could work on the trucks and the tanks and things, so I wouldn’t be in like actual combat. That don’t sound hard. Plus afterwards I could use the GI Bill to pay for college.”

Barlow thought for a moment. “Sure. Sounds like easy work to me. Until you realize that if you’re deployed to Iraq you’d be working every day in 100 degree heat on hot engines,” he said reasonably. “And I wouldn’t say that being a mechanic saves you from combat, if you’re in a convoy that starts taking fire, they don’t care if you’re a medic or a mechanic or Jesus himself. They’s still gonna shoot at you.”

“Maybe. But don’t we got peoples in like France? I might end up there,” Harley pointed out. “Plus with the Iron Patriot running around there’s less work-”

“Now that is a bunch of government propaganda bullshit,” Barlow cut in firmly. “I was there when Iron Man was still playing soldier and he made nothing but trouble for us regular folk.”

Harley shrugged, and didn’t argue.

“Are you serious about this Harley?” Barlow asked. “I thought you wanted to go to Empire State.”

Harley pressed his lips together. “Ain’t no scholarships for alphas from Rose Hill that don’t got any extracurriculars or don’t play sports,” he said, trying to keep the bitterness from his voice and mostly failing. “It’s the army or the community college for me.”

“Oh Harley-”

“It is what it is,” Harley said sharply. He didn’t want the mans’ pity.

Barlow nodded. “It be like that sometimes,” he agreed neutrally. “Don’t mean it hurts any less though.”

Harley shrugged apathetically.

“You know, it’s hard to remember that you’re only 17. You’re more responsible than my own Pa most days,” Barlow said, chuckling. “I’m sure that whatever it is you choose, it’ll work out. You’se a good alpha Harley.”

Harley blushed. “Thanks,” he said gruffly. “I gots homework to do,” he said.

“Back office is free,” Barlow said. “And if you’se got the time, I’d appreciate it if you put some numbers in the book for me tonight. You can start early today.”

Harley nodded. “Call me if you need me,” he said, and headed for the back.

Two hours later and Harley was wrangling invoice numbers into submission when his cell phone went off. Frowning, he dug the phone out of his pocket. His heart dropped a little when he saw it was from the house. What on earth-

“Hello?” he asked cautiously, praying the house wasn’t on fire or something.

“Can I go to Amber’s?” Abby asked, breathless.

Harley leaned in his chair and considered the clock on the wall behind him.

“Homework?”

“Don’t have any today.”

Harley filed that under “suspicious but probable.”

“Did you wash Emma’s bottles?”

“Yes.”

“Is the laundry done?” he asked.

“It’s in the dryer-”

“Well then it’s not done, is it?” Harley said, unimpressed.

Abby whined. “But-”

“You fold it and put it away Abigail. Then you can go.”

“Fine,” Abby said, resigned.

“Make sure you’re home by sunset,” Harley said.

“Harley!” Abby protested.

“I don’t want you walkin’ home after dark by yourself. You hear me?”

She made a noise of disgust.

“Abigail Grace, I said, ‘do you hear me’?” he demanded.

“Yes sir,” she said, this time with grudging respect.

“Good. Go have fun,” he said. “ After you finish the laundry.”

“Okay, okay! I will! Bye!”

“Bye-” he said, but she’d already hung up on him. He snorted. That little snot- it was a good thing she was cute or he’d have thrown her out on her ear already, he thought, amused.

Some time later he was elbow deep in a Grand Caravan pulling a steering wheel column for an order when his cell phone went off again. He didn’t even check the number this time. He just answered.

“Abby I said you could go-”

“Mr. Keener?”

His heart sank into his feet. It was the daycare.

“This is him. Is Emma okay?”

“No-no- she’s fine. But your mother hasn’t picked her up, and she’s not answering her phone.”

Harley checked his watch. SHIT. Emma should have been picked up 20 minutes ago. Jesus Christ, that meant they’d have to pay the late fee...

“I...” he swore internally at his grease stained hands. “I’m sorry about that ma’am. I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” he said.

“Thank you. The director and I will stay here with her until you get here,” she said.

He hung up.

“FUCK!” he breathed purposefully through his nose. Putting a dent in the caravan would be satisfying, but it would do no one any good if he broke his hand in the process.

He scowled at the steering column and gave one last yank on it, not fucking around this time. It came free with a squeal of protest, but it came out and in one piece, which was the important thing. He slung it over a shoulder and hustled back to the office.

“Barlow!” he hollered.

The man poked his head out of the office. “What’s wrong, Harl?”

“Momma didn’t pick up Emmy from the daycare. I gotta go. Can you finish labeling this thing for the Campbell order?” he asked, putting the steering wheel, column and all, on the desk.

“Sure. Take the rest of the night off,” he said. “And here-” he grabbed a rag and tossed it at Harley, who deftly caught it. “Clean up a bit first. You shouldn’t be handling a sweet pea like that with grease all over you. You’ll ruin her onesie.”

“Thanks Barlow,” he said, and grabbed his book bag. He ran to his truck, wiping his hands as he went. It wouldn’t be enough to get them fully clean- he’d need hot water and that orange lava soap and 10 minutes to scrub all the grease off him.

He got to the daycare in 11 minutes and with grease stained hands. At least he wasn’t contaminating everything he touched still, he thought absently as he pushed on the little doorbell thing so they could buzz him in.

“Mrs. Shefeild-” he said, “Miss Sandra- I’m so sorry,” he said when he was finally inside. The two blonde omegas were alone at the front desk, Emma balanced on a lap and happily eating animal crackers.

“It’s alright Harley. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to fine you- it’s in the contract-” Mrs. Shefeild said.

“I understand.”

“Your payment is also due today,” she said. “If you’re late, there’ll be another fee.”

Harley sighed. God damn this day. He paused for a moment to clamp down on his emotions. The ladies did nothing to deserve alpha irritation stinking up their place of business. He dug out his wallet and got out the blank emergency check he kept there. Thank god he just got paid last week.

“How much I owe you?” he asked.

“550 dollars,” she said.

It hurt. He’d just managed to hit a thousand in his account. Looks like that was gone.

He nodded, and made the check out anyway. Momma would have to pay the mortgage this month, that’s all. It’d work out. Eventually.

“I’m sorry ladies,” he said. “I’d shake your hands, but I’m afraid I’d just get ya’ll dirty.”

Miss Sandra gave him a kind smile. “I hope you find out what happened to Mrs. Keener. I hope she’s alright.”

“I’m sure she just lost track of the time,” he said, and collected Emma and her various accessories.

“We’ll see you on Tuesday, Harley.”

“Ma’am,” he agreed.

He walked out to the car, carefully buckled Emma into her car seat then stepped back and took a lap around the car. He called his mother.

“Come on... pick up...” he muttered.

It went to voicemail.

“God damn it,” he grunted. He was gonna kill her. She couldn’t start doing this again. He didn’t care what bullshit reason she gave, she couldn’t just start not showing up to things because she was ‘depressed’ or whatever.

And if she’d been drinking...

He took a breath. Took another one. He couldn’t get in the car like this. He’d scare Emma. It took him a full five minutes to find a calm place again. He checked the time, and the sky. It was getting late. Technically, Abby had another hour or so before sunset, but...

Fuck it. He’d go and pick her up on the way home. It’d take him a while to get the Costel’s, and they could get McDonald's on the way home- he was in no mood to cook tonight. He’d just burn everything.

Plan in place, he got in the car and headed over to pick up Abby.

15 minutes later he was knocking on their door. Emma was still in her car seat, but he figured it was fine since she was still in his line of sight.

Mrs. Costel answered after a minute. “Harley!” she said, she sounded surprised. “What brings you here?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, I hope I’m not interrupting your dinner- but I’m here to pick up Abby.”

Mrs. Costel frowned. “Abby?”

“Has she gone home already?”

“Um... hang on a minute. Amber!” she called.

“What?” Amber screamed back from the other side of the house.

“Get over here please!”

A minute later Amber appeared. “Oh- hey Harley. What’s up?”

“Did Abby come over today?” Mrs. Costel asked.

Amber frowned. “What? No-” she said, then froze. “Wait. No. I just remembered. She did. She left just before you got home,” she said, obviously lying.

Was there a record for the number of times your heart could fall out of you? Harley wondered. If she wasn’t here- where the hell could she be?

“Amber?!” Mrs. Costel scolded, clearly alarmed.

Amber squirmed. “She was here,” she insisted, still lying.

Mrs. Costel scowled at her daughter. “You tell Harley where Abby is this second or you’re grounded for two months!” she said firmly.

“What?” Amber said, shocked.

“AMBER LEIGH COSTEL YOU TELL ME THIS INSTANT, OR SO HELP ME-” Mrs. Costel roared, raising a hand threateningly. She was impressive for a beta woman, Harley thought distantly.

“She’s at the park!” Amber sobbed, folding like a cheap chair. “She’s... she’s fine, I swear! She’s at the park!”

“Which one?” Harley insisted.

Amber shrugged. “The one... the one near the Walgreens I think?” she said. “She... she wouldn’t tell me.”

“Harley, I am SO sorry,” Mrs. Costel said, putting her hand down. “Do you want me to call the police for you?”

Harley shook his head. “I’m gonna go look for her,” he said. “Thank you, Mrs. Costel.”

“You call me when you find her, you hear? And I’ll deal with Amber,” she said grimly.

“Yes ma’am,” Harley said, then ran back to his car.

Jesus Christ... he dug out his phone and grimly pulled up the tracking app he had on his phone. He didn’t think he’d ever have to use it, and if she didn’t have it on her...

A minute later he was breathing again when he got a hit at Wilson Park.

It took him a full 5 minutes to drive there- they were some of the longest of his life.

Fortunately, the “park” was a small one. Just a small pagoda with some picnic benches and a swingset. He saw Abby as soon as he pulled in. She was sitting under the pagoda... with a boy?!

He leapt out of the truck almost before he put it in park.

“ABIGAIL GRACE KEENER!” he roared, slamming the door to his truck shut. It sounded like a gunshot. The two children startled apart- Jesus Christ, had they been kissing? He stalked menacingly up, and Abby looked like she was in the process of having a heart attack. The boy beside her similarly looked like a deer in headlights. He looked... older, Harley thought with alarm and disgust.

“Harley!” she stuttered. “What- what-”

“What is happening right now had better NOT be what I think is happening-” he snarled. “Do I know you, boy?” he demanded.

“Um... I’m... Aaron. I-”

Harley’s scowl intensified. Deliberately he leaned forward into the boy’s personal space and openly scented him. “Alpha-” he said accusingly.

Aaron gulped. “Um... yes? Yes sir?” the boy squeaked.

“Did you know that my Abigail is only 13?” he demanded.

“Harley!” Abby protested.

The boy’s eyes widened in shock, and he looked in alarm back and forth between Harley and Abby.

“No! Sir- No- I did not! She said- she said she was 15! I swear-”

“You have 30 seconds to get out of my sight before I go get my tire iron,” Harley snarled. “And if you even look in her direction again, I WILL have a word with the sheriff.”

The boy somehow looked even more terrified. “Sir! Yes sir!” he said, and scrambled away. Harley watched as the boy literally made a run for it.

Abby, meanwhile, burst into tears. “Why are you even here?” she demanded. “It’s not even past sunset! You said-”

“Get in the car,” he growled, and when she didn’t move, grabbed her by her arm and dragged her back. “Now Abigail!”

Eventually she complied, and she buckled her own seat belt in the back. “I don’t understand- why is Emma here?” she asked tearfully.

Harley ignored her. “I’ve gotta be honest here, Abby. I’ve had a real shit day so far,” he said, putting the car in gear. “Momma didn’t pick up Emma from the daycare so I had to leave work early. THEN I go to pick you up from Amber’s so we could get McDonalds for dinner- only for me to find out that not only did you lie to me about where you were going- you didn’t tell anyone where you went! What if something had happened? What if he tried to- to touch you? Or hurt you? What the hell were you THINKING? And with a fucking alpha Abby? Seriously?!”

Abby cried. “It’s just Aaron- he wouldn’t hurt me!” she protested. “He’s smart- and- and-”

“Oh can it-” Harley said callously. He was just DONE with this fucking day. Thank god tomorrow was Saturday or he’d have to call in sick to school- wait. He had detention tomorrow.

FUCK.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on, Abby but it needs to stop. It needs to stop NOW, do you understand?” he rumbled.

She started crying again. Emma soon joined her, distressed by the noise and all the angry pheromones filling the air in the cabin, he thought. He cracked a window to try to minimize the smell.

When they rolled up to the house, Harley found his rage had cooled into tiredness. Abby darted out of the truck and into the garage, sobbing. “I hate you!” she screamed at him. “You always have to ruin everything !”

It hurt. God, did that hurt.

“Get inside Abby,” he said firmly.

Thankfully, she obeyed, slamming the door shut behind her.

Harley sat for a minute in the truck, head in his hands. God, he just wanted to lie down and just... be done. But he needed to feed Emma and give her her bath and put her to bed, and then probably call around to see if anyone had seen Momma...

“Looks like it’s me and you tonight, sweet pea,” he said, forcing his voice to be gentle as he got the hiccuping and fussy Emma out of her car seat. “Shh... I know. I know. I’m sorry Emmy,” he said, and went inside.

Momma was passed out the sofa in the living room, still in her uniform from the diner. He looked around. He didn’t see any obvious beer cans- he shook her awake. “Momma,” he said.

She startled, eyes wide. “Harley? What- why do you have Emma- Sweet Jesus, what time is it?”

“It’s late Momma,” he said. “You didn’t pick up Emma from the daycare. I had to go get her.”

She looked horrified. “What? Oh my god, Harley- I’m so sorry! I only meant to take a nap- I must have overslept-”

Something inside Harley relaxed. She had been working double shifts at the restaurant today. She must have been tired. She hadn’t been drinking.

Thank god.

“Here- give me Emma,” she said. “You look like you need a shower.”

Harley nodded. “I don’t think she’s had dinner yet, but the ladies at the daycare gave her a snack,” he said.

Momma took her, then looked around. “Where’s Abby? Why didn’t she wake me?”

“I... I told her she could go to Amber’s,” he said. “I...” he sighed. “It’s a long story Momma. I’m tired. Can we talk tomorrow?”

She gave him a small smile. “Sure,” she gave him a kiss on the forehead. “You go put your feet up, Harley. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

The nice hot shower was probably the best thing that had happened to him today. He called Mrs. Costel, and told her that Abby had been found, safe and sound, then he sat on his bed, and set an alarm for the morning on his phone.

It looked like it would be another long day tomorrow.

Chapter Text

First thing that morning, they had a little ceremony out on the landing pad. Clint, being Clint, had insisted on spraying the whole pile of furniture down with some lighter fluid that he’d gotten from who knows where. Tony had lit the match, tossed it onto the pile, and then promptly nearly lost his eyebrows in the ensuing “whoomph” of flames.

Steve had tackled him and everything, the sweetheart.

Nearly an hour later, it was still smoldering. A couple of helicopters buzzed around- civilian news stations no doubt hoping that the wreckage was from one of Tony’s suits. They always loved their drama.

The day had turned into a rare lazy Saturday morning. Since Steve had taken them off the roster for two weeks it meant all training practices had been cancelled and if aliens happened, it was the X-Men’s problem.

It was nice, being “off”. Tony couldn’t remember the last time the entire team had been taken off the roster at the same time. They should do this more often, he thought as he lazed on a couch, his head on Steve’s lap. Occasionally the alpha would slip him a piece of popcorn or an m&m while Tony fiddled with designs on a StarkPad.

On the wall, a random Disney movie was playing. Tony wasn’t sure what it was, but it had a singing chicken and some love-struck foxes in it. Sam was working on some sort of chili concoction in the kitchen, puttering around and putting more work into herbs and spices than Tony put into some of his phone designs.

Darcy, Jane and Bruce were somewhere in the labs setting up Foster’s new lab space. Apparently the two women were a package deal, and Darcy had put her foot down and refused to be parted from Foster. She’d huffed and glared, then turned on the tears until a panicked Bucky interceded to Tony on their behalf last night. Once Tony had looked over her work, he’d found he actually didn’t mind adding Foster to the “science bros” lab level. (The fact that she was dating Thor didn’t hurt either).

“We should do this more often,” Clint said. He, Natasha and Bucky had apparently dug out every knife they’d ever owned, and laid them out over the entirety of the dining room table. It looked like they were about to open some sort of exotic “everything but swords” store. The trio were currently sharpening, polishing and doing whatever else it is that crazy knife people do to maintain their knives.

“I didn’t know those things needed that much maintenance,” Tony quipped from the couch. In theory he was “working” but in reality, he was just trying to make War Machine- sorry, the Iron Patriot suit the most obnoxious color scheme possible as a sort of mental exercise in tackiness. He was having trouble topping the current design, however. And for some reason pale pink and baby blue kept appearing in most of his “designs”.

“No, I mean a day off for everyone. It’s nice,” Clint said.

“It is nice,” Steve agreed.

Tony’s pad beeped, and a notification popped up. He frowned at it. “Steve- the Maria Stark Gala is next Saturday. Did you get that suit back from the tailor yet?”

Steve sighed. “Yes,” he said, but it sounded like he wished he hadn’t.

“I’m sorry. Is there something wrong with my parties?” Tony demanded, mock offended..

“You know I hate monkey suits,” Steve complained.

“So walk the red carpet with me, schmooze up to some retired old folks for ten minutes and you can leave,” he said.

“Really?”

“Sure. And then I’ll put some of your underwear up for the auction.”

There was a collection of snorted laughter from the dinner table and the kitchen.

“Tony!” Steve said, scandalized.

“Oh dear, did I say that out loud?” Tony said, completely unrepentant.

“Tony- you can’t-”

But they never found out what Tony couldn’t do because at that moment the elevator door slid open and Fury walked in, with Coulson trailing along after.

“Good Morning! And my- what a beautiful morning it is!” Fury said gleefully. “It’s so nice to see folks enjoying a day off. Isn’t it nice, Coulson?”

“It is sir,” Coulson said.

Tony sat up. “What the hell-” but then Steve was there, standing between the intruder and his mate.

“Fury,” he said coldly. “What do you want?”

“Oh- I’m sorry. Am I interrupting something?” Fury asked, and looked around. “Or are you suggesting that I’m not welcome?” the question was pointed.

Bucky quietly sidled up, adding his bulk to the wall between Fury and Tony.

“Because lately I can’t help but get the feeling that we’re not on the same page anymore,” Fury continued.

“And if we’re not, you really think coming here uninvited would help your cause?” Tony demanded, and tried to push Steve out the way. Steve didn’t move. Irritated, he popped around the side of him instead. Or at least, he tried to. Steve stuck an arm out almost absently to block his way.

“Would you stop that already?!” Tony demanded.

Omega,” Steve commanded, his eyes never leaving Fury.

Tony froze, and suddenly gained an extreme interest in the carpet before taking a step back. He huffed unhappily. He hated when Steve pulled rank and yanked on his invisible chain like that... he scowled at Steve’s back.

“What do you want Fury?” Steve repeated.

“I just want a little chat, is all. See how our notes compare,” Fury said. “You folks have been keeping me real busy this last week.”

Tony fumed, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Oh, he was going to rip Steve a new one about this.

“If you wanted a meeting you could have just called. This level is for pack members only,” Steve said firmly.

Fury raised an eyebrow. “Really? I did not know that. Did you know that Coulson? Because I could have sworn I’ve been here before.”

“I was up here just last week,” Coulson said.

Behind them the elevator doors opened and a laughing Darcy and Jane got out.

“Woah- what the fuck?” Darcy demanded, wrinkling her nose at all the alpha pheromones.

“Sam- take Darcy and Jane to Bucky’s floor please,” Steve said.

“On it. Let’s go ladies,” Sam hustled them back into the elevator.

“Wait- what’s happening?” Darcy demanded as the door slid shut.

“Oh, I get it. Groupies only, huh?” Fury said, smirking.

Bucky snarled and lunged forward. “Don’t talk about my mate-”

Steve put an arm in front of him, blocking him. “Enough. If you want a meeting, we’ll have a meeting. Just not here.”

Fury considered them. “I can do that. There’s a conference room on the 40th floor. Is that neutral enough territory for you, Cap?”

“We’ll meet you there in 20,” Steve said.

Fury twitched an eyebrow at him, but otherwise didn’t comment. “See you there Cap,” he said, and went back into the elevator with a dramatic trench coat swish like the secret diva that he was.

Steve didn’t relax until the elevator was well and truly away.

“What the hell Tony?” Bucky demanded. “I thought that elevator was secure!”

“It IS secure!” Tony protested. “Only authorized people can even get on it! And last time I checked, Fury is authorized. And what the hell was that Steve?” he smacked his alpha’s arm indignantly. “Why are you pissing all over Fury? Since when is he on our shit list?”

“Coulson came sniffing around while Peter was sick. Was asking all the wrong questions,” Steve said.

“What sorts of questions?”

“He wanted to know why me and Bucky were on the guest floor, and some other things,” Steve said. “If he kept poking in the direction he was going, there was a risk he’d find out that Peter is an omega.”

Tony wrinkled his nose. “So?”

Steve frowned at him. “Omegas aren’t allowed in combat, honey,” he said softly.

Tony blinked. “WHAT? What about Nat? They know she’s an omega-”

“I don’t get heats anymore,” Nat said softly. “I’m an exception.”

Tony made a face. “Stupid sexist-” he ranted.

I know . Which is why I decided to give us some extra distance for a while until things settle down.”

“Wait... if you didn’t know that would get you excluded, why haven’t you told Fury before now?” Clint asked, ever nosy.

“Because it’s not his fucking business, that’s why!” Tony snapped. As well as... other reasons. Like how he did not have a good history with alphas who knew he was an omega. He’d had a full blown screaming argument with Steve when he’d learned that he had told Bucky- though looking back he wasn’t sure what he’d expected. The two alphas probably knew each other’s condom sizes. Asking one to keep a secret from the other was an exercise in futility.

Though, to be honest, Tony had been the one mostly screaming. Steve had just sat there, being stupid and reasonable. Because he was annoying like that.

And then of course, once one of the pack (outside of Natasha) knew, then the ENTIRE pack knew, because they were worse than gossipy old biddies when it came to each other’s business.

“So... what are we going to tell Fury?” Natasha asked.

Steve frowned at a wall, thinking. “Alright-” he said, in his “I have a plan” voice.

20 minutes later the entire pack (sans Darcy, and Peter) trooped into the meeting room and took seats around a long rectangular table. They sat in pack order, Steve at the head, with Tony and Bucky at his sides, then by rank on either side. Bruce sat on Tony’s side to help even out the numbers. (And also because Tony had always thought of Bruce as “his”. He just let Steve pretend Bruce was under him.)

“So glad that you could join us,” Fury said, putting down his phone. Tony swore he heard the background music of Candy Crush for a moment before he turned it off.

“Fury,” Steve, the chosen headpiece, said. Clint was under strict orders that if he so much as squeaked out of turn Natasha would hide his favorite bow.

“Let’s start with the obvious. SHIELD is an ally of the pack, are we not?” Fury asked, in a reasonable tone.

“You are,” Steve said. Tony was impressed. He hadn’t even hesitated on that one.

“And allies share information with each other, do we not?”

“We do,” Steve agreed.

“So explain to me why Coulson here learned about you storming a high school in Queens over twitter? Actually- no. A better question would be why were you breaking into a high school in the first place?”

Steve didn’t so much as blink. “Tony received a distress call from Peter’s cell phone. He’d locked himself in a panic room and reported several people were trying to get in. He also reported that he was having trouble breathing. The call disconnected unexpectedly-”

Tony listened as Steve, the worst liar in the world, spun a yarn he’d just invented maybe 10 minutes ago. His quiet earnestness was impressive, and more importantly, Fury appeared to be falling for it. Tony suddenly wondered how Steve would do at poker. Why hadn’t they played poker yet? They should do that sometime.

He relaxed a little, and once it was clear that Steve was going full steam with no need for creative prompting, he dug out his StarkPad. He hated debriefings. He could feel Bucky’s glare from across the table, but ignored it.

Besides, him doodling and tapping on the damn thing was what he did at every debriefing. It would be fine. He scrolled through project ideas, but couldn’t find anything that was inspiring.

Eventually a quiet pop up appeared. “May I suggest you look at furniture for the Penthouse sir?” It was Jarvis, being psychic. Tony approved.

He’d forgotten about that. Odd. You’d think that sleeping on a mattress on the floor would make one eager to go shopping but... he’d never really liked furniture shopping.

Or did he not like furniture shopping because he’d never been able to pick things?

Huh.

Jarvis, being perfect of course, already had several websites up for him to scroll through.

He looked at sofas for all of 5 seconds before deciding that he’d just get another one like the ones they had on the common floor. They were overstuffed monstrosities but they were fucking comfortable and could take a beating. And as a bonus, he knew Steve liked them. A quick note to Jarvis- and it would be delivered in a week.

That was easy.

Next up- that sunny spot where the piano had been. Would he want a mound of pillows like they had on the common floor? Another mattress? Maybe another sofa- one that could fold flat like he had in his workshop?

He was mindlessly scrolling when he spotted the hammock. It piqued his interest. One hammock themed google rabbit hole later, and he was circling several options on his screen, leaving it up to Jarvis to track them down and buy them. The ones he picked were nice and extra wide with plenty of room for blankets and pillows, and maybe Steve - if he asked nicely.

Okay... beds next?

He didn’t really want to buy that one without Steve’s input though. It felt... wrong to do so. But he could at least get a feel for what was out there, right?

He was scrolling through bedroom sets when his eye got caught on a little category link on the left of the screen. “Newly Mated Omega Section”, it said. He wasn’t exactly newly mated... but. Curious, he clicked on it. And for a second, he was cautiously optimistic, though he wasn’t sure why all of the headboards featured tufted fabric. Wouldn’t that get dirty or rip or something?

He scrolled down a bit, and felt his heart stop.

Matching cribs. They were selling cribs that matched the main bedroom set. Oh- and changing tables. And rockers.

Of course they were.

And the cribs had little spaceship or princess sheets on them and those little spinny things that you hung over them to keep the kid entertained, and... and... the blankets!

There were little quilts that went with the sheets .

Why did no one ever tell him that was a thing?

It was adorable.

And the red one with gold teddy bears on it would be good for either a boy or a girl-

Wait.

Wait.

He caught himself in the middle of circling the damn thing.

What the absolute fuck was he doing? He didn’t need that! He wasn’t even pregnant, for god’s sake.

Or was he?

Nope. Not it. Definitely no.

But... he was looking at cribs. When, in his entire life, had he ever looked at a crib and thought, well... anything?

And now he was internally oohing over baby blankets.

WTF brain?

Oh god. Was it a hormone nesting thing? Like how dogs and cats knew an earthquake was coming before the scientific instruments picked it up sort of thing? Like one day after a heat, an omega would just wake up and start hard core nesting and then BAM. Baby.

Was that a thing? He felt like it could be a thing.

Oh God... he could actually be pregnant.

He slammed the StarkPad face down on the table like he’d been scalded.

“Tony?”

He was suddenly aware that everyone was staring at him. Right. He was in the middle of a debriefing and now he was going to have a panic attack for no apparent reason. Wonderful.

“Tony?” Steve repeated, now sounding worried.

“Sorry... I just... need some air or something...” he muttered, and stood up on wobbly legs- or at least tried to stand up. Steve scrambled, and was able to catch him before he hit the floor in a panting mess.

Natasha was there, and she put a finger to his neck. “Panic attack I think,” she said quietly.

“Tony? Can you hear me baby? I’ve got you. You’re fine.”

Oh god, he couldn’t get his breathing under control. He was going to actually die this time, wasn’t he?

“What the hell was he looking at?” Steve demanded.

Oh god- not that, not that-

Thankfully, it was Natasha who picked up the pad and looked at it. Stared at it. With an almost out of body experience Tony watched as she very slowly turned to stare at him.

She knew.

Of course she knew. She was Natasha, after all. She had figured out that he was an omega within a week of living at the Tower with him.

Stupid, stupid psychic Natasha.

Tony refused to look directly at her.

"Nat?" Steve demanded.

He heard her tsk.

“He was looking at some of Foster’s research about deep space,” she lied. “I think it triggered a flashback.”

How the fuck did she come up with this crap on the fly like that?

“Tony?” Steve asked, looking for confirmation.

Tony grimaced and wheezed, “I’m okay-”

And also - thank god . He needed to buy her some shoes or something. Once he figured out this whole breathing thing, of course.

Steve swore, and picked him up. “Bucky- take over. I’m gonna put him to bed.”

Tony buried his face in Steve’s neck. Was it odd that his greatest source of comfort was also the main cause of his panic attack? He didn’t know.

Steve carried him all the way to the penthouse. Somewhere along the way Tony rediscovered breathing. Steve settled him gently on the mattress, then got him a Xanax and some orange juice from who the fuck knows where. Tony hesitated over the xanax.

“Come on, baby. Take it for me?” Steve asked, oh so sweetly. And Tony took it because he was a complete and utter idiot when Steve asked him to do things like that. Steve patiently piled pillows and blankets around him before kissing him on the forehead.

“I gotta go take care of this, okay baby? I’ll be back as soon as it’s over. I promise. Okay?”

Tony sniffed. “Go,” he managed. “I’ll live. Go razzle dazzle the bastard.”

Steve smiled gratefully at him, and gave him a chaste kiss. “Be back soon,” he said, then hurried off.

He listened as Steve walked through the penthouse and got onto the elevator. He laid there and stewed. He wasn’t sure how he felt. Was he angry because he’d stupidly managed to trigger his own panic attack? Was he angry because he’d been weak in front of Fury? Was he still panicking about the possible... small human situation? Or was he relieved that he was, at the very least, no longer in the stupid boring meeting?God he wished he knew. Right now he just felt... numb.

“Sir, I feel I must inform you that taking Xanax within the first months of pregnancy can cause serious birth defects-”

Tony had never moved so fast in his life. Within seconds he was in the bathroom, fingers down his throat.

He watched the stupid pill float in the toilet bowl. In an act of impulse he grabbed the bottle out of the cabinet and dumped the rest of them into the toilet before flushing them. For some reason he felt better once they were gone. He tossed the now empty bottle in the trash can and managed to get back into bed.

Holy fuck.

What was he going to do?

He had no idea.

Jarvis played him soothing rain sounds while he cried himself to sleep.

.....

A hand touched his shoulder.

“Tony?”

Tony sniffled sleepily and rolled onto his back. Steve was there, leaning over him, his face a mask of deep concern. His alpha reached out and gently wiped at the tear tracks on Tony’s cheeks.

Oh, sweetheart-

“I’m okay,” Tony said quickly. He honestly felt better after having a good cry. Tired. But better.

“I’m sorry. I should have stayed-”

“No- it’s okay-” Tony protested, as he took in his big, earnest alpha. Steve... Steve would make a great dad, a distant part of his brain thought suddenly.

Steve smiled sadly at him and went to kiss him on the forehead, but Tony intercepted him, and got him to kiss him on the lips.

When Steve finally separated from him, he seemed confused for some reason. “Tony- what-”

“Alpha?” Tony asked breathlessly. Steve snapped his mouth shut.

“Yeah baby?” he asked hopefully after a moment.

“Make me feel better?” Tony asked coyly and bared his neck, showing off his bond mark. It wasn’t his best line, admittedly. But he didn’t need his best line for Steve.

It was fascinating, Tony thought- watching an entire series of emotions flicker across Steve’s face before settling on hunger, complete with dilated pupils. It made him feel smug and powerful, knowing he could seduce the most powerful alpha on the planet with just a little flash of bare neck, an inviting smile and a cheesy line.

This time when Steve kissed him, it was anything but chaste.

Sometime later, Tony laid in bed, sweaty but content. A stray thought caught in his mind, and he critically examined the wall behind him. And yep- right THERE- was a hand print. Several in fact.

He examined them thoughtfully- and yes, they belonged to Steve. One of them might be his, but it was hard to tell. That one was smudged beyond all recognition.

“I knew it-” he said suddenly.

“Knew what?” Steve said distantly, mostly face down on the mattress next to him.

“You put your hands on the wall,” Tony complained.

Steve considered this, then grunted. He somehow made it sound questioning.

“You put your big sweaty alpha hands all over the wall- if we get a headboard with fabric on it, it’ll be destroyed in like a week,” Tony explained. “We’ll have to get one that’s just solid wood.”

Steve dug his face out of the mattress to look at him. He looked a bit incredulous.

“What?” Tony demanded.

“That’s what you got out of that? Really?” the alpha sounded a bit hurt.

Tony huffed. “Yes dear, you were amazing. 10 stars. Definitely would do again,” he said with as little sarcasm as possible and gave his ridiculous alpha a kiss. “And don’t pout. It doesn’t suit you,” he lied. For a damn near-giant, the man could pout better than a puppy.

Tony paused. “And I do feel better. Thank you,” he added softly.

Steve looked moderately happier.

“How did the meeting go? Did Fury buy it?”

Steve smirked. “Hook, line and sinker,” he said, then frowned. “But Bruce had to tell Fury that Peter’s ‘episode’ would likely repeat.”

“How the hell did he explain that?”

Steve sighed. “He framed it like his ‘hulk’ episodes. Inevitable, but controllable 90% of the time. He blamed the spider DNA being faulty and ‘fritzing out’ in response to something he took at lunch. We all agreed to keep the kid off the roster for a few months until he’s stabilized or we have a better plan for him.”

It was Tony’s turn to frown. “Does he really need to be benched?”

“I talked to Bruce and Cho afterwards. Apparently he turned violent during his heat. Even tried to break down the door at one point. Screamed his head off. They’re not sure if it’s a one time thing or-”

“Jesus Christ. Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me or the Aunt? She should know-”

“The meeting got interrupted halfway through because of Peter’s accident, remember? Then you got in a screaming match with her. It fell through the cracks. They felt the heart issues were more pressing. Anyway- they’re afraid that with the hormone imbalance and things his next heat might happen unexpectedly or even early. It’s possible his cycle might be shorter or longer than a normal omega’s. We just don’t know.”

Tony winced. “I knew it. The kid cannot go back to that school Steve. It’s not safe!”

“I know. But she’s his guardian, Tony. She wants him to stay ‘normal’. I get that. There’s not much we can do, other than make sure the people involved are all fired.”

Tony rubbed his face. “Pepper’s already on it. She sicced my lawyers on it while we were on vacation. But if he tried to break down the door- we need a reinforced heat room- THEY need a reinforced heat room. There’s no way they’d make it here in time if-”

Steve nodded. “I’ll talk to Clint. Get him to map out some emergency landing places next to his house, just in case something happens before we get it sorted. We can put him in the hulk room-”

“NO.”

Steve looked surprised at Tony’s vehemence.

“That place has windows and cameras , Steve,” Tony hissed. “He’s a MINOR. I will NOT have child porn on my fucking servers-”

Steve looked horrified. “I... that didn’t even occur to me-”

“We’ll just use the room we did last time. It held, didn’t it?”

“Apparently Sam had to tell him to get away from the door. Peter didn’t like it very much, but obeyed.”

Tony stared at him, horrified. “He told him, or told him to stay away from the door?”

“He used his alpha voice through the door, yes.”

“Oh god. No. We are not doing that again.”

Steve looked equally unhappy. “I’m not going to discipline him,” he said. “He was trying to keep the people in the medbay safe-”

“I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it,” Tony grumbled, then let out an unhappy sigh.

“I need to get to my workshop. Work on some blueprints,” he said, and sat up.

“Wait-”

Tony turned to look at Steve. The alpha somehow looked mischievous and hopeful at the same time. “What?” Tony asked, suddenly uncertain.

“You gonna work all sweaty like that?”

Tony looked at himself. “I guess I do need a shower...” he trailed off as Steve suggestively waggled his eyebrows.

“What... oh my god!” Tony whacked Steve with a pillow. “You’re just insatiable, you know that?”

“It’ll save water!” Steve protested, and easily wrestled the pillow out of Tony’s grip before pulling the omega in for a playful kiss.

“No!” Tony protested, and smacked Steve’s chest in protest “I’ve had shower sex before and it is not at all as hot as you’d think-”

“I won’t let you fall,” Steve said. “I’ll make sure to hold you nice and firm against that wall-” he rumbled directly into Tony’s ear.

Tony felt his heart skip a beat. That... well. This was Steve. He could probably do it. Right?

Steve aggressively nibbled an earlobe.

Tony broke. “Fine,” he said, sounding slightly strangled. “But if I break a leg you’re carrying me the entire time I have a cast.”

“Yes dear,” Steve said, grinning triumphantly.

“And stop being smug about it,” Tony complained as Steve nonchalantly gathered him off the bed and carried him towards the bathroom.

Steve chuckled, and his smile doubled.

Jesus Christ, his mate was such a dumb alpha, Tony thought fondly.

Chapter Text

Peter sulked in the passenger seat. “I thought we were going somewhere special,” he protested as they pulled into the Tower’s parking garage.

“We were supposed to. But there’s been a change of plans. Dr. Banner wants to run those tests-”

“TESTS?” Peter protested, way too loud.

“Calm down. They just want to make sure that your heart is working properly.”

“But I thought Bruce did that months ago!” Peter complained. “I had to get on a treadmill in the gym and run for ages-” he bitched.

“Well, they definitely won’t be doing that,” May said.

Peter sighed, and sulked harder, sinking down in his seat.

“Don’t be a toddler,” May said sharply.

Peter snorted, but did not stick his tongue out at her. He HATED tests. They made him feel like a lab rat. Especially the ones where he had to run and jump or catch things.

He sulked all the way to the MedBay.

“Morning Peter,” Dr. Banner said cheerfully.

“Am I gonna have to run again?” Peter demanded, grumpy.

The older beta smiled. “No. It’s going to be worse.” “Worse?” How could it possibly be worse?

“You’re going to have to lay still.”

Peter snorted. “That’ll be easy,” he protested.

“We’ll see,” May said. She didn’t sound like she believed him.

“What? I can! It’s just laying still. Anyone can do that,” he protested.

They made him take his shirt off and lay on his left side on a gurney.

“So, Peter- this is Rose. She’s going to be doing the echocardiogram today,” Dr. Banner said.

Peter scrunched up his nose. “Echo... cardio... something to do with my heart?”

“It’s an ultrasound machine,” Rose said, and showed him the probe. “I press this all over your chest and get good pictures of your heart and all the valves and stuff.”

Well that didn’t sound so bad.

“Did you pee this morning Peter?” Bruce asked.

Peter flushed. “Yes-” he said irritated. Jesus. Would he never live that down?

“In that case I’m going to need you to drink this,” he said, and pulled out a giant 32 ounce cup of water from apparently nowhere. Peter knew it was 32 ounces because it had little lines with labels on it.

“What? Now? The whole thing?” Peter asked, profoundly confused.

“We’re going to do a scan of your lower abdomen as well,” Bruce said. “You’ll need a full bladder for Rose to get proper images.”

Peter eyed the cup. He’d had Big Gulps before. Well. Not all at once. But he could drink it.

He managed half of it before he started to feel a bit sick. He pulled a face.

“It’s alright Peter. You can finish it later,” Bruce said.

The gel Rose slathered on his chest was cold and sticky, and the machine made a weird whooshing noise. On any other day he’d be fascinated and asking a million questions.

But right now he wanted the damn thing to be over with so he could go home.

It also took ages .

May was of absolutely no help whatsoever- she was sitting in a corner reading a book. The clock on a nearby wall ticked, mocking him. He watched the hands on it move. Occasionally Rose would stop and make him drink more.

“Peter- you need to lay still honey,” Rose said gently.

“I am-” he protested.

“You’re shaking the entire gurney, sweetheart,” Rose said.

Peter looked down. His right leg was at it again, and she was right. The entire gurney was gently vibrating. He hadn’t even noticed. He huffed, and willed the leg to be still.

Rose smiled at him in amusement and prodded him some more.

UGH. He clamped his jaw shut. He would NOT whine like a spoiled brat. He was laying down. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t hurting. There was absolutely nothing to complain about.

If she didn’t hurry up he’d rip the damn wand off the machine. What the hell was she looking for anyway? The Ark of the Covenant?

“Hey there Kiddo- how’s it going?”

Peter nearly melted with relief as Tony walked into the exam room. He turned his best “rescue me” eyes on.

Tony gave Peter a crooked smile. “That bad, huh?”

“It’s going well. Almost done,” Rose said.

“Finally-” Peter complained.

“I meant almost done with this part. We’ll do your abdomen next,” Rose said with another amused smile.

Peter groaned. “Do we have to?”

“Here. Take this. Watch netflix or something,” Tony said and handed over a tablet.

“Oh my god, Tony I love you-” Peter babbled as he gratefully took the device.

Tony snorted, and took a seat next to May.

“All done!” Rose said, and wiped the gel off his chest. “Now lay on your back and shift your pants down a bit-”

Peter flushed, and adjusted his pants. “Good?”

“That’s fine. You’ll feel some extra pressure. But just like the chest- this won’t hurt at all.”

He still braced a bit. The gel was fucking cold. And she was right. It was more uncomfortable than what she’d done on his chest but...

He felt weird. Like, almost jittery. He ignored it, and tried to flick his way through the Netflix queue.

She moved the wand down further. Peter gritted his teeth.

“Sweetheart, you need to relax,” Rose said.

He tried to unclench. He did. But... she was touching his stomach. And he just absolutely did NOT like it. He tried to power through it. It was stupid. It was just his belly. Who cared if she... just... would... not stop TOUCHING IT.

“Sir, Peter’s heart rate is spiking,” Jarvis said from the ceiling.

“Peter, are you okay?” Tony asked.

getoffgetoffgetoffgetoff

“Peter, I’m right here. Can you hear me?” someone was holding his hand. It sounded like May.

He whined. He was shaking. Why was he shaking?

“Jarvis- get one of the pack alphas down here NOW-” Tony was saying.

“Sweetheart it’s okay. We’ve stopped. The machine’s off. You’re safe,” May was saying. She sounded like she was upset? Why was she upset?

He blinked and someone big and warm was crammed next to him in bed. “Shhh...” a wrist was shoved in his face. He got a big whiff of woodsmoke and coffee. Steve.

Steve was here. He was the pack alpha. Everything would be fine. Steve was here. Peter felt himself relax.

“St’ve?” Peter mumbled.

“I’ve got you. You okay?”

“Don... don like it,” he slurred.

“Don’t like what?”

“She... she touched me-” he whined.

For a brief second he got a lungful of pure alpha anger. It made him tremble a bit again.

“Tony?!” Steve demanded, rumbling.

“I was right here! It was a medical exam! She was touching his stomach- he still has his pants on-” Tony babbled.

Steve relaxed. “She get a bit too close to something honey?” he asked kindly. “Give you a bit of a scare?”

“Don LIKE it,” Peter whined.

“We’ve stopped, okay? Just breathe for a bit, okay?”

Peter hummed, and Steve ran his fingers through Peter’s hair.

It took a couple of minutes, but eventually Peter felt like he could breathe again.

“I’m sorry-” Peter said, feeling a bit ashamed. He’d just freaked out for literally no reason... what the fuck was WRONG with him?

“It’s fine kid-” Tony said. “You wanna tell us what freaked you out so much?”

Peter hunched in on himself a bit.

“Hey- it’s okay,” Steve said, and pulled Peter in a bit closer to him.

“It’s stupid,” he muttered.

“If it freaks you out, it’s not stupid. And if you tell us, we can make sure it doesn’t happen again, alright?” May said.

“I...” Peter huffed. Everyone waited. “She- she was touching my stomach, okay? I... I really didn’t like it. It’s... like I said, it’s stupid-”

Steve frowned. “Your stomach? Like here-” Steve reached down, his hand pressing down on Peter’s bare belly for less than a second-

Peter snarled and hissed like a cornered cat, and literally kicked Steve off the gurney and into the nearest wall. Steve hit it, bounced off, and landed in a heap on the floor, putting a sizable dent in the wall in the process.

Everyone froze.

“Ohmygodohmygod-” Peter babbled, feeling the color drain from his face. He’d just kicked his pack leader across the room. And into a wall . Oh god... oh god...

You IDIOT! He literally just said not to touch him there!” Tony barked angrily, and stormed over so he could sharply smack Steve with a StarkPad on his shoulder like you would a bad dog with a newspaper. “Now you’ve dented the wall! What have I told you about denting walls in the MedBay?” Tony demanded, nearly incandescent in his fury, and smacked him again.

Peter was fairly sure he heard the Starkpad screen crack.

Steve sat up, and threw up an arm to prevent further smacking. “Okay- okay-” he sounded a little breathless. “That one was on me.”

“Now hurry up and apologize before he freaks out again,” Tony demanded.

Steve flushed, and stood. “Peter, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“You okay kid?” Tony asked.

Peter stared at them with wide eyes. “I’m sorry!” he blurted.

“Don’t be. You’re not in trouble. He shouldn’t have done that,” Tony said grimly. “If you don’t like to be touched there, people shouldn’t touch you there. Period.”

“Everything all right in here?” Cho asked, sticking her head in. “Rose said there was a problem?”

“Kid doesn’t like his stomach being touched. Freaked out during the ultrasound,” Tony said.

Cho immediately went to Peter’s bedside. “I’m so sorry about that. Are you feeling better now Peter?”

Peter nodded. “I’m sorry. I know- it’s stupid...” he cringed.

She raised an eyebrow. “It’s not stupid. Many omegas don’t like their stomachs touched. I should have asked you before we started.”

“Really? It’s just... I’ve never- it’s never bothered me before? I don’t think?” Peter said, uncertain. He couldn’t remember the last time someone tried to touch his stomach.

She gave a small smile. “It’s not a surprise, really. Omegas have a stronger instinct-response than betas and even some alphas,” she said. “And you do have some pretty important organs down there.”

She turned to talk to Tony, and did a double take at the wall. “What on earth?”

“That’s my fault. I touched him after he said not to and he rightly kicked me into a wall,” Steve said with a grimace. “I wasn’t even thinking.”

She sighed, turned back to Peter and gave him a smile. “And that, my dear, is exhibit A in why omegas have such strong instinct-responses,” she said ruefully.

Tony snorted. Steve flushed.

“The good news is that the lower exam isn’t strictly necessary right now. But I would highly recommend you get it done.”

“I’m not putting him in distress for an ultrasound,” May said.

“And we can’t risk giving him a Valium,” Tony said.

Cho smiled. “There’s ways around that.”

20 minutes later Sam and Steve had Peter firmly wedged between them on a significantly larger gurney.

“I dunno man, this feels weird,” Sam complained.

“You’re not the sardine,” Peter bitched. “You guys need to lose weight or something.”

“The faster we do it, the faster it’ll be over with,” Steve said. “You ready Sam?”

“No. Are you sure Bucky can’t do it? He’d be better at this than both of us-”

“The Sergeant is currently occupied with Lady Barnes. I was told not to disturb them for anything less than a nuclear attack,” Jarvis said primly from the ceiling.

Sam huffed. “Jesus Christ I could have lived to be a hundred without knowing that,” he complained.

“Who’s Lady Barnes?” Peter complained.

“Darcy. She’s going a bit overboard with the whole ‘Jarvis will call you whatever thing’,” Tony huffed. “Will you two get on with it already?”

“Alright on three... one, two-” Steve said.

Both alphas leaned in hard on Peter and started to rumble.

The world faded away. Someone- Steve probably- scruffed him. It was weird- it was like someone pressed an off switch on his central nervous system. One moment he was in control of his limbs and the next someone had a firm hold of the back of his neck and suddenly he couldn’t quite feel his fingers or toes anymore.

Fingers firmly but gently pressed inwards on both of his scent glands at the same time. Held there.

He didn’t just float, he orbited.

Somewhere- something was touching him. It was cold.

He did not give a single rat’s ass.

It was nice here, he thought distantly, but did not think of much else. His brain was mostly cotton candy, and rapidly approaching hot mush.

Several eons later Peter tried to pry his face out a puddle of drool.

“Ughhh...” he said intelligently.

“Sleep it off sweetheart,” May said, and ruffled his hair.

He dreamed of better web shooter designs and something that looked suspiciously like calculus but with weird symbols that shifted color and shape depending on how you looked at them.

Peter inhaled sharply, and sat up. He felt oddly refreshed and... calm?

“Welcome back kid,” Tony said from a nearby chair, his eyes never leaving his StarkPad. “You see Jesus up there?”

“I saw math,” Peter said without thinking.

Tony paused, and looked up from his StarkPad. “What kind of math?” he asked, frowning.

Peter shrugged. “The symbols kept changing. But... calculus I think?” Peter rubbed his face, making sure it was still there. “Did it work? Did they get what they needed?”

“Huh,” Tony said, thoughtful, then shook himself. “Oh yes. It worked. Almost too well. Your breathing slowed down enough it scared us for a bit.”

“I feel fine,” Peter said.

“Good. Because we’re going shopping.”

Peter frowned. “Shopping?”

“A little birdie told me that you emptied out the entire linen closet and stole sofa cushions to sleep with last night,” Tony said, like he was discussing the weather.

Peter was fairly sure his face was the same shade of a tomato. “I...”

Tony waved a hand. “Don’t worry about it. Happens to the best of us. Point is, both Darcy and I, and apparently you, are all in desperate need of things for our... nests.” Tony said it like it was a foreign word. “So, therefore- shopping will happen.”

Peter tried to tame what he was fairly sure was a bird’s nest of hair on the top of his head with his fingers. “Where’s May?”

“She got called in for another shift an hour ago. Said I could ‘go crazy’ so long as nothing I get explodes.”

“Um... okay?”

“You hear that Jarvis? Rally the troops. We’re heading out.”

10 minutes later Peter was in the back of a packed stretch limo. It was probably the most underrated skill the Avengers had, he thought, amused. Any other group would still be dawdling in the parking lot for like 30 minutes as people popped back for “one more thing” or waiting for that one dude who just could not find his pants that morning or whatever (there’s ALWAYS one of those in a group.)

Instead, Tony just... gave an order and everyone just dropped what they were doing and showed up. Without even any arguing- there wasn’t even a 15 minute discussion about what cars they were going to take, or who was going to drive, or who was going to ride with who- Happy just pulled up in a stretch limo and everyone piled in without blinking an eye.

“Where are we going again?” Steve asked.

“Shopping,” Natasha said.

“Wait... why am I here?” Clint demanded.

“Someone has to carry the bags,” Natasha said calmly.

Clint visibly wilted and groaned. “ Come on. ...” he whined. “I had stuff I was going to do today!”

“Doing target practice for 3 hours doesn’t count,” Bucky said.

“Come on- Sam- please tell me you don’t want to be here.”

Sam shrugged. “As long as Tony’s paying for it, I don’t give a damn. Plus I need like, underwear man.”

“We’re going furniture shopping,” Tony said.

“That’s cool. I need a bookcase too,” Sam said amenably.

Clint huffed. “Why isn’t Bruce here?” he whined.

“Because he has actual important work to do- like finding drugs that won’t kill Peter,” Tony said sharply. “That and I asked him and he said he’d pass,” he added.

“Remind me that Jane needs like a desk and as many bookcases as they have in stock,” Darcy said to Bucky. “And one of those couches that goes flat for her lab.”

“Hmm...” Bucky said noncommittally.

Darcy frowned at him. “You have a bad memory?” she asked.

He hesitated. “Unreliable sometimes,” he said, clearly uncomfortable.

She frowned some more. “It’s fine. Don’t be all grumpy about it- it’s not a big deal. Jane can’t remember birthdays even if you held a gun to her head,” she said, and dug through her Bag. Eventually she emerged with a notepad and a pen.

“Bookcases, desk, sofa- underwear for Sam-” she muttered as she wrote.

“Are you really writing this down?” Tony demanded, offended. “What is this, the 1800s?”

“Hey. Don’t knock the system man,” Darcy said. “After SHIELD took all of our equipment I managed to put all of Jane’s data back together just from the sticky notes and napkin doodles they thought were trash. Plus EMPs can’t touch this-” she said, and waved the book.

Bucky beamed at her. “You’re so clever, doll,” he cooed, smitten.

She beamed back. “It’s so nice for someone to finally notice!”

Clint made quiet gagging noises. Natasha kicked him.

“They can’t help it,” she said. “Besides, you shouldn’t make fun of the disabled.”

That got a quick snarl from Bucky.

“Settle,” Steve barked. “Natasha?”

She sighed. “Sorry Bucky,” she said, but she didn’t sound sorry.

Steve narrowed his eyes at her.

“I’m gonna help Darcy pick out her blankets, okay? Back off,” she grumbled.

“Hmm,” Steve said, but didn’t push it further.

The limo pulled to a stop. “Everyone out, we’re here,” Tony said.

“What- already?” Darcy said, surprised.

“Yep.”

“Tony, we could have walked,” Steve said, exasperated.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Walk? In New York? Yeah, how about no.”

They piled out.

“Where are we going?” Sam asked.

Tony didn’t answer and instead pulled on an unlabeled door. “This way,” he said cryptically.

They filed in after him.

“Mr. Stark!” a woman at a plain receptionist desk immediately leapt to her feet.

Tony flashed a paparazzi smile at her. “Carol,” he said, “I’m redecorating the Penthouse,” he said. “And my friends here might need a few things too.”

Her smile grew several sizes. “Of course! I’ll show you to the showroom!”

“Tony- where are we?” Bucky hissed.

“It’s a furniture place. Relax,” he said dismissively.

They all followed him and Carol through a door and into...

Well. It was a place. Most of it was white. There were... things in it? (Also mostly white). Peter would swear he’d seen several episodes of the original Star Trek that started like this- Kirk and Spock would beam down to an alien planet and there would be green women dressed in togas leaning on objects that were supposed to be furniture? Maybe?

It was like that. But the women weren’t green. Or wearing togas. They were just... there. Tastefully dressed and beaming too-bright smiles at them as they took turns talking about how great the “latest shipment from Italy” was. Peter wasn’t quite sure. Everyone was more or less ignoring him.

Gentle harp music played from somewhere. It was very tasteful and very boring.

The fountains were. Well. There were fountains. Inside. Peter was pretty sure that fountains belonged outside but maybe rules didn’t apply to rich people? And these ones didn’t have angels or nearly naked people on them at all, like proper fountains should. Instead they were just like a series of bowls/plates with water pouring down them. Or a white stone box that just sort of gently leaked water out of a hole in the top like the world’s worst designed drinking fountain. It was disappointing. He liked a good fountain.

In short, everything was... delicate. And expensive. And... Jesus Christ was that a crystal flower arrangement? Peter examined it the best he could from about a foot away, trying desperately to not even breathe on the stupid thing in the process. Still- he wondered- did they somehow manage to grow them like that or-

“If you break it you buy it.”

Peter nearly leapt out of his skin, then turned to glare at Clint. “Not funny, man!” he hissed.

Clint sniggered. “Come on. Relax. Tony could probably buy this whole place out like two times over.”

Peter frowned at him, then looked pointedly at what looked like a solid gold letter opener that was in it’s own crystal display case next to the crystal roses on the display writing desk that looked as if it was barely supporting itself on it’s tiny spindly white legs.

Clint joined him in looking.

There appeared to be diamonds in the hilt part of it.

“Okay, maybe- maybe back a little bit more away from the flowers, yeah?” Clint said.

Peter had heard him less concerned about actual bombs, but Peter was in agreement with Clint here, and carefully backed away.

The not-green women had retreated apparently, to do whatever it is they did, because for a split second, the Avengers were alone in the display room.

“Tony-” Bucky hissed. Steve was off looking with interest at some sort of thing with drawers in it. Sam stood next to him. He had an expression on his face that Peter felt he shared- like he was an observer on an alien planet.

“What?”

“None of this is going to last you like 2 minutes in the Tower,” he said.

Tony frowned. “What?”

Bucky rolled his eyes at him. “I know you’re rich. But seriously. Steve’s gonna break the bed the first time he farts on it-”

“Hey-” Steve protested from across the room.

“Nevermind the first time you go on vacation,” he said, ignoring him. “This stuff... I mean... it’s good to look at I guess, but-”

“Can you even use a solid gold letter opener?” Peter asked. “Isn’t gold like super soft? Wouldn’t you bend it with just like the heat of your hand?”

“The kid’s right. It’s useless. Can’t even stab someone with it,” Clint agreed.

Natasha sighed. “I also think this is... not us Tony. Where did you even find a place like this?”

Tony frowned. “I dunno. This is always were Pepper shopped-”

“I thought you didn’t like the things in the penthouse,” Steve said rejoining them.

Tony looked frustrated. “What? I don’t know! Where else do you buy furniture? They do commission work-”

“There’s a thrift shop that specializes in furniture in Brooklyn,” Darcy said. “It’s got good reviews on Yelp and ThriftMe.”

Everyone crowded around her phone.

“Now see- THAT is a bed-” Bucky said. The piece in question looked like it had been chainsawed out of some sort of ancient tree trunk you saw in old black and white photos that was wider than 5 men standing abreast.

“Guess we’re going to Brooklyn,” Natasha said.

They went to Brooklyn.

The thrift shop was called “The Attic”, and it smelled like cedar and rosewood. Peter knew as soon as the little bell tinkled as they opened the door to get inside that this- this was more their speed.

It was crammed wall to wall with just wood. In all of it’s forms. Nightstands standing on dressers with a chair on top, forming a pyramid of wobbliness. Bed frames leaning against walls. It was a Where’s Waldo of wood furniture.

Peter loved it- and so did everyone else because they all instantly scattered, hands trailing along walls of carefully balanced piles down the little paths that you could barely walk through because of all the just... stuff.

Peter was the first to find a treasure. “Tony!” he called out, and the man appeared a moment later.

“What you got there Pete?” he asked.

“It’s so cool! It’s got constellations on it!” a giant box with intricate carvings of stars formed the base of a tower of various chests. It was big enough that Peter could curl up in it if he wanted to- and it was the perfect size to fit at the end of his bed.

“Isn’t that a hope chest?” Natasha asked, appearing out of thin air.

Peter frowned at her. “A hope chest?”

“It’s traditional. The family would make one for an omega and fill it with things for when they got mated. Like blankets,” Steve said, peering around at them from a nearby corner- the pathway was too narrow for him to join them.

“I could put blankets in it!” Peter said, excited. It sounded much better than his original idea of storing his lab notebooks and his microscope in it.

Well. He could probably still put those things in it and put the blankets on top. It was a huge box after all.

“Steve go get someone-” Tony said.

“On it-” he said, and disappeared.

“Good find. You see anything else you want, you speak up, okay?” Tony said.

From the other side of the store there was a shrill squeal of delight.

“Sounds like Darcy found something,” Natasha said, amused.

Tony snorted. “I’m surprised, honestly. How on earth do you find anything in this-” he trailed off, and did a double take at something barely visible from a landing just behind them. “Is that- fuck... how do I get over there?”

Peter looked up and over. There was some sort of metal... if he tilted his head just right he could see the light reflected off something shiny.

“Hang on,” Peter said, and climbed the tower of boxes like a circus monkey.

“For fuck’s sake Peter!” Tony protested. “Be careful- do NOT fall-”

Peter ignored him, and scouted the little pathways around the shop. “Okay, so... go out that way-” Peter pointed. “And take the second left and there’s like a stairway.”

“On it,” Natasha said, and headed for the stairs.

“Get down before someone yells at us,” Tony insisted, and Peter hopped down.

“Chill out man. It’s fine.” Peter complained.

“Just don’t die in a furniture avalanche. It’s all that I’m asking today,” Tony bitched, and went to follow Natasha. “Your aunt would kill me.”

Peter rolled his eyes. “You really think my Aunt could kill Iron Man?”

“I think she’d shiv Steve in his sleep,” Tony grumbled. “Then drown me in my own coffee, and Natasha would help her,” he said.

Peter scowled at him in confusion. “What- why would Natasha help her?”

“She would if you were dead,” he said calmly. “So please don’t be stupid.”

“He’s right. But I would only do it if you really deserved it,” Natasha said, popping back from around a corner. “It’s up here.”

Jesus Christ, his life was so fucking weird sometimes, Peter thought.

The thing on the tiny landing that had caught Tony’s eye was a giant monster of a king sized four poster bed, with each of the posts almost as big around as Peter’s thigh. But it was the wrought iron that was the most impressive. Someone had twisted it around and through the honeyed wood posts as well as the head and footboard.

It reminded Peter of a vine that had grown up, twisted around a wrought iron frame, but in reverse- where the iron was the alive thing, growing up and around the wood like a trellis.

In some places the iron had what looked like some sort of faded gold gilding on it. Most of it had been worn away to leave the black behind.

“Oh Tony- it’s beautiful,” Natasha breathed.

Tony reached out a hand and touched it, almost reverently.

“Tony?” That was Steve, below them.

“Up here!” Tony called down. “There’s a set of stairs somewhere!”

Surprisingly it didn’t take Steve long to find them.

“What- holy shit,” Steve murmured when he saw the bed frame. “You like this one, sweetheart?”

Tony, still staring at it like a parent at a long lost child, nodded.

“We’ll get it,” Steve said. “It’s perfect.” He enveloped the omega in a hug from behind and kissed Tony’s hair.

“Good luck getting a nightstand to go with it, though,” Natasha said.

“Jarvis will find out who made it,” Tony said firmly, shrugging Steve off. “If he’s still alive he’s about to become a very rich man. I want everything he’s ever made,” he said, and started taking pictures of the bed frame with his phone. “Did you hear that Jarvis?”

“I’m already working on it sir,” Jarvis said from Tony’s phone speaker.

“Good.”

They stayed for a couple of hours, exploring, before Steve called it and regrouped them at the entrance with an ear shattering whistle.

“Did everyone find what they need?” Steve asked.

“I still need bookcases. The stuff here is great, but it’s not exactly my vibe,” Sam said.

“Same here. I still need things for Jane’s lab,” Darcy said.

“Well, it’s lunch time. How about we break for something to eat and we’ll talk about where we’re going next,” Steve said.

“Actually... I have an idea-” Sam said.

30 minutes later they were piling out of the limo and into an IKEA parking lot.

“Are you sure you want to get something here?” Tony complained. “I thought you wanted like, quality stuff.”

“Stop dissing the Swedish,” Sam said.

“I thought you’d like it here Tony,” Darcy said. “Have you never heard of hacking IKEA?”

Tony scoffed at her. “Why would I hack a furniture store?” he asked dismissively.

“Not the store,” Darcy rolled her eyes. “The furniture. The parts are all pretty much interchangeable. So you take like a couple of bookcases, a lamp and a bedframe and you can make like a kickass little fort castle thing for kids, or stairs that lead up to your lofted bed that double as bookshelves,” Darcy said. “That sort of thing.”

Tony stopped scowling, and dug out his phone. “Show me this furniture hacking thing, Jarvis,” he demanded and started aggressively scrolling.

“Are you sure we can get food here?” Bucky asked skeptically. “I thought they sold furniture.”

“They have a little cafe thing inside too,” Sam said. “You gotta try the meatballs, man. They’re good.”

“I’ve always wanted to come here,” Peter said, bouncing a bit in excitement. “I heard their hot dogs aren’t bad either.”

Bucky brightened considerably. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent hot dog,” he said.

“Just leave some for the rest of us,” Clint complained.

“You guys will love it,” Darcy said. “IKEA is amazing.”

Tony ended up buying just the entire tray of meatballs and half of the hotdogs they had on display to save time. The staff was kind enough to give them a set of plates, and they set up shop around a couple of tables shoved together.

It felt a little like a Sunday dinner night at the tower, Peter thought, as he sat crammed between Tony and Natasha. Everyone else pretty much sat in their usual ranked spots, with the exception of Darcy, who’d parked herself in Bucky’s lap. Occasionally they fed each other things off their forks. It was disgusting, really. He did his best to ignore it.

At least the meatballs were good.

Peter watched the gooey couple out of the corner of his eye and wondered if his alpha would do that with him one day. They looked... happy.

His alpha... he wondered if he would ever find one. Did he have a fated mate like Darcy and Bucky? Or would he have to find one the hard way like Steve and Tony had?

Or would he be alone like Natasha?

His gaze flickered to her, but quickly skittered away. The older omega seemed happy to be alphaless, but... he sometimes wondered if she was lonely.

Would... could he even have an alpha? Tony had one, but Steve- well. He was Steve . Peter was fairly sure there wasn’t another Steve on the entire planet, never mind the whole serum thing.

Plus there was the fact that Peter wasn’t... wasn’t... curvy. Or... well. Let’s be real. He had a dick. What the hell kind of alpha would want an omega with a dick when there were literally billions of omegas of all shapes and sizes who- well. Didn’t have dicks. Anyone who would be able to keep up with the pack (and Peter’s alpha would have to do so, probably) would be spoiled for choices.

So.... why the fuck would they want... him ?

He stabbed a meatball, suddenly annoyed with himself. Here he was, out with the pack on a pretty day and he was just... ruining it-

“So, we need bookcases and a sofa for Jane’s lab...” Darcy said, cutting into his thoughts, and digging out her list. “Did you find your bedroom stuff at the Attic?” she asked Steve.

“We found a bed. Peter found a hope chest too,” Steve said around a mouth full of meatballs.

“Does anyone else need things for their little kitchen areas?” she asked, scribbling notes. “I could use a dish rack,” Natasha said.

“How are we going to get this stuff home?” Clint asked. “Last time I looked that limo didn’t exactly have trunk space to spare.”

“They deliver these days,” Darcy said. “It’s stupid expensive, but if Tony’s paying-”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Knock yourselves out,” he said.

“Does anyone know what happened to all the spoons in the common kitchen?” Sam asked. “There’s like no spoons left whenever I want one.”

Everyone looked at Clint.

“What?” he demanded.

“Stop hoarding them,” Natasha scolded him. “And return the bowls when you’re done with your cereal already.”

“They’re not moldy! I wash them out! I’m not a pig-” he protested.

“Yes. But that means they’re not in the cabinets, dude,” Darcy complained. “Eating soup out of a coffee cup is something I stopped enjoying doing in college. Now it’s just depressing.”

“Just buy like a million bowls already,” Tony said.

Darcy and Natasha eyed each other. “It’s not the worst idea,” Darcy said. “And we’re going through the kitchen section anyway-”

“Add it,” Natasha said.

Darcy scribbled. “Someone’s going to need to grab a couple of carts,” she said. “If we’re going to clean them out of dishware I don’t want to have to carry that stuff.”

“Can’t we just get it delivered?” Tony asked.

“Yeah, but I want bowls for tonight,” Darcy complained.

“I second the buying bowls now,” Sam said.

Sam, Clint and Peter found themselves on cart duty. Fortunately, Darcy was a woman who knew what she wanted, and seemed to know her way around the maze of the store with little trouble.

She bounced on a couple of sofas before declaring one the winner and writing it’s number down. The same thing happened for the book cases. The Billy Bookcase was apparently ‘A Thing’, and the only thing that mattered was what finish they wanted and how many they could cram into the space in question.

They stood there, talking measurements for 10 minutes before Clint cracked and suggested they just buy 10 of everything and return what they didn’t use. Thankfully for Peter’s sanity they agreed to it. While the store was interesting, there were only really so many variations of a bookcase you can look at before becoming bored.

Darcy also got a new kitchen table and chair set to go with it.

“What happened to your old table?” Tony demanded. “I thought all the kitchens were fully stocked-”

“It broke,” Bucky said blandly. For some reason Darcy turned red.

“Yes. Well. It won’t happen again ,” Darcy said meaningfully, glaring at Bucky.

His smile said “Whatever you say dear”, while also somehow being full of shit.

“I’ll be more careful next time,” he said sweetly.

She looked horrified. “Not on IKEA, you won’t!” she said. “You’ll be ‘more careful’ on the countertop, not my new table!” she snapped, smacking his shoulder with her notebook.

“Whatever you want, doll,” he said, and gently kissed her hair.

“Just out of curiosity- did you break the table by fucking on it?” Clint asked.

Darcy scowled at him.

“NO!” she shrieked at the same time Bucky said “Maybe.”

Clint smirked, and Peter quickly found a brochure to look at while he regained control over his face and could stop his horrified giggles. Steve likewise seemed to suffer a sudden coughing fit.

“That’s nice,” Tony said, clearly bored. “Can we be moving along please?”

By the time they left, they’d left significant dents in the stock of several sections of the lower floor. Darcy wasn’t kidding about buying out the bowls- she’d opted for 6 sets of 18 place settings and 8 sets of silverware, as well as almost every loose bowl they had out on the floor.

“Now it’ll all match,” she said. “And it won’t matter what comes and goes from the common kitchen.”

Natasha got her dish rack, and a new lamp. Tony even settled for a couple of nightstands and end tables “for until we find some better ones”.

Peter found a circle rug. It looked like a rainbow had puked on it. It was so ugly he loved it.

The limo trunk was stuffed when they left. The rest of the things would arrive in a couple of days.

“Can we go somewhere I want?” Clint whined as they drove off.

“Why? Where do you want to go?” Steve asked.

Clint told them.

Absolutely not,” Tony growled.

He was still bitching about it as Happy pulled into the parking lot. “A freakin’ Wal-Mart? Are you kidding me?” he bitched. “I’ll catch scabies or something.”

“It can’t be that bad,” Steve said, amused. “And Sam and Darcy said they need some things too.”

“Stop complaining,” Peter said. “My Aunt buys my clothes from Wal-Mart online,” he said.

Tony whipped around to look at him like he had two heads. “ALL of your clothes are from Wal-mart?” he demanded, clearly scandalized.

“My underwear too.”

“God help me,” Tony complained, and rubbed his face.

Sam and Clint grabbed a cart and peeled off to do their own thing, while Peter found himself again on cart duty, following everyone else as they made their way to the “Omega” section.

“Wait... those look like my sheets-” Tony protested as they piled several sets of “Heat Tested, Omega Approved” bedding into the cart.

Natasha ignored him. “How many sheet sets do you have at your house, Peter?” she asked.

Peter shrugged. “I don’t know- two or three?” he said.

“Pick out another three,” she said.

He picked out some blue ones.

“Did my fucking sheets come from a fucking Wal-Mart? ” Tony demanded, outraged.

Natasha rolled her eyes. “There was a time crunch. And you like them don’t you?”

Tony huffed. “I’m burning them when we get back,” he said spitefully.

“Get a mattress protector too, Peter,” she said, and started piling things in the cart.

“Get me one too,” Darcy said. “Do you need more towels, Natasha?”

“I’m gonna get another cart,” Bucky said, looking at the already burgeoning cart.

“I’ll come with you,” Steve said, and the alphas promptly abandoned them.

Natasha watched them leave with a critical eye, and put some towels on their pile.

“I think they’re gone,” she said, and turned to Darcy. “When are we having the baby shower?” she asked.

Both Tony and Peter had abrupt choking fits.

Darcy meanwhile, had turned the color of a tomato.

Natasha -” she complained, clearly flustered. “I...” she looked around. “It’s too early to tell-” she mumbled, a hand on her belly.

Natasha raised an eyebrow. “You shared a heat with Bucky, Darcy,” Natasha said bluntly. “Did you, or did you not use protection?”

Darcy flushed even harder, and sputtered. “I mean-” she protested. “That doesn’t mean-”

Natasha gave her a tight smile. “He’s a super soldier, Darce. You really think it didn’t take?”

Tony, for some reason, was looking more and more horrified the longer Natasha talked.

“I don’t know, okay!” Darcy protested. “Plus... what if... what if Bucky doesn’t want kids?” she asked faintly. “We just started out. I don’t... I don’t want to ruin it-” she said miserably.

Natasha stared at her for a minute. “I have a suggestion,” she said.

It turned out the baby section was right next to the omega section. Peter wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Tony seemed even less enthused. He looked at the cribs and the row of car seats and high chairs like they were a row of nuclear bombs he had 5 minutes to defuse.

Peter, for some reason, found himself being told to hold a variety of baby clothes that seemed to consist of at least 20% zippers and more snaps than he’d ever seen in his entire life.

Natasha, meanwhile, was debating convertible (They could change into other things?! Like Optimus Prime?) vs regular cribs with Darcy when a shout of “Tony?” echoed through the store. Peter eyed the contraptions with a bit more respect.

“Over here!” Darcy called.

Peter had a front row seat as the alphas ambled up with another cart, and thus got prime viewing of Bucky and Steve going from confident, to confused, to bewildered, to vague panic on Bucky’s part and stoic alarm from Steve.

“Doll?” Bucky asked, quietly. He looked like he’d just been shot.

Darcy flushed. “Just looking,” she said quickly. “Natasha said a lot of things have changed since my niece was born-”

“And you never know when a happy accident might happen,” Natasha said ruthlessly with a smile.

Jesus Christ, she was scary, Peter thought, because Bucky suddenly looked like he’d remembered he’d left the stove on and was currently stuck on a 3 day cruise on the other side of the world.

“Can I put these back now?” he complained, and before anyone could answer him, he fled to avoid the coming possible disaster.

He took a little longer than strictly necessary to put the clothes back, and when he returned he found Bucky and Darcy alone in the baby section having a quiet (and somewhat tearful) conversation with Natasha standing guard at the end of the aisle.

“Where’s Steve and Tony?” he asked her quietly.

“Electronics,” she said.

“I’m gonna-”

“Go,” she said. “They might be a while.”

Peter fled again. Only he must have read the overhead signs wrong because instead of TVs he found himself in the snack aisle.

Holy shit he’d found heaven, he thought distantly. He wondered how many family size Doritos bags he could fit in his arms.

He wondered how many Tony would let him buy.

It seemed like an experiment worth trying.

He was in the middle of trying to wedge more bags under his chin and not lose his grip on the ones in his arms (maybe if he put some in his teeth?) when he felt a presence behind him. He turned, and saw a man standing behind him.

“Having a party?” the man said, amused. He was a brunette alpha and was, well. Fairly average.

“Um...” Peter looked down at his horde. “I’m stocking up?” he offered, not quite sure what the man wanted.

“You know, if you want to party, I know a place-” the man said, and took a small step closer.

Peter frowned at him. His spider sense was going off for some reason. He ignored it, and distantly wondered if this was the “Free drugs” conversation he’d been assured was a thing in D.A.R.E. He’d always wondered when that would happen. Ned had sworn that it wasn’t actually a thing. But it looked like Peter was going to win that bet.

The man didn’t look like a drug dealer. Hell, he was even a little on the short side for an alpha. And his arms were spindley. Peter could probably hurt him by accident just shaking the poor man’s hand.

“Um... I’m fine, thanks?” he said.

The man stepped slightly closer. “Do you need help carrying those?”

Peter blinked. This didn’t seem like any “free drug” conversation he’d ever heard of. What the fuck did this guy want?

“I think I can manage,” Peter said. “Thanks though,” he took a step backwards. He felt nervous for some reason. Which was stupid. It was just a man, offering to help.

“Really? Because I think you should put them down,” he said.

Peter dropped the chips. His spider sense started screaming at him.

He blinked, and stared at the bags on the floor. Why had he done that?

“What-” he looked up in confusion and something sweet and wet was sprayed directly in his face. He coughed.

What the fuck?

He took great big gasping breaths, trying to clear whatever it was out of his system.

Whoa.

He felt... weird.

“Alpha?” he asked worriedly.

“Shh... it’s okay. Follow me,” the alpha said, still smiling.

Peter blinked. That... wasn’t the best idea. He didn’t like it.

He followed the alpha anyway. The man took his hand and started to lead him out of the store.

Peter felt vaguely ill. Somehow, this man was his alpha, but he didn’t like it. The man was wrong.

But he was his alpha, so he followed anyway. He was sure he’d make sense of it later. His alpha would take care of him until then.

That’s what alphas did, after all.

“Whoa there big boy-” someone said, and suddenly his alpha was on the floor, gasping and twitching, a knife sticking out of him.

Peter felt oddly that he should probably be more upset by that.

“BAD alpha!” the voice continued. “We don’t kidnap precious smol omegas- that’s very bad -”

Peter blinked. A very large alpha was leaning over the downed alpha, shaking a finger. He was tall, probably as tall as Steve, and broad- very very broad.

It was like a light coming on in pitch blackness.

Oh.

There’d been a mistake.

Obviously.

That hadn’t been his alpha at all. But this one- this one was definitely his alpha.

“You’re so big,” Peter said breathlessly from about two inches away from his new alpha.

The alpha jumped. “Sweet baby Jesus- you’re a sneaky bitch, aren’t you? You alright baby girl?”

Peter wasn’t a girl, but he didn’t really care what his alpha called him. He eyed his alpha’s shoulders, hidden under a large red hoodie curiously.

“Are you going to take me home, Alpha?” he asked hopefully.

The man choked. Peter watched, worried.

“Alpha?” he asked, and gently touched the man’s arm.

“Okay, okay- no I don’t know what’s happening-” the man hissed. He was bald and his face was covered in scars, Peter noted almost absently. Not that he cared. He was used to seeing scars- he was part of the Avengers after all, and everyone had their marks.

“Are you okay, Alpha?” Peter asked, genuinely concerned.

“Okay- first of all- you’re going to call me Wade-”

“Yes Wade,” Peter said instantly, obediently.

“And you are going to stand right... here-” Wade gently pushed him back a couple of steps. “And you are going to stop touching me,” he said grimly.

Peter pouted, but stopped stroking the man’s forearm, and clasped his hands in front of him.

Wade took a breath. Peter waited.

“Okay... he sprayed you with something, right?”

“Yes Wade,” Peter said sweetly.

“Jesus Christ- I know! Shut up!” Wade hissed at something behind him, then gently nudged Peter’s face up so that he could look closely at Peter’s eyes.

Peter’s eyes widened- could he be-

The man smelled of woodsmoke and gunpowder, he thought wildly.

“Ah. You’re higher than a kite, aren’t you, baby girl?”

Peter pouted as the man retreated without kissing him.

“You’re so mean Wade,” he whined. “I’m not a girl. And you didn’t even kiss me. That’s not fair -”

The alpha sighed. “Orbiting Jupiter, got it,” he said grimly. “And I’m sorry, lady -”

“I’m a boy Wade,” Peter complained.

Wade frowned at him. “But- you-” he breathed deep. “Definitely an omega-”

“I’m both,” Peter said brightly. “Can I go to your house now?”

“Sweetheart, why do you want to go to my place?” Wade asked, exasperated.

“Because you’re my alpha,” Peter said matter of factly. “Can we go now?”

Wade froze. “Oh, honey- no-” he whispered.

“You’re my alpha,” Peter insisted. “I like you. And you’re... so big ,” he said, eyeing his man’s shoulders again. “Plus you smell good. Like Steve. But I can’t have Steve. He belongs to Tony. But I can have you -” he said pointedly and beamed up at Wade, immensely pleased at his own logic.

Wade, for some reason, sighed, and rubbed his face.

“Yes. I know. I KNOW. She- he’s... like 13 at most. I KNOW!”

“I’m 15. Are you talking to your pack, Wade?” Peter asked politely.

Wade froze. “What do you know about packs, baby boy?” he asked cautiously.

“Steve’s my pack leader,” Peter said sweetly. “He’ll like you. You’re big. Like he is.”

Wade stared at him in horror for some reason.

“Wait wait... Steve.... Tony...” the man muttered. “Big like me... is... is Steve blonde, by any chance?” he asked distantly.

“He is! Do you know him, Wade?”

“And let me guess... you know a guy named Clint, don’t you?”

Peter nodded. “Natasha said I’m not allowed to kill him until I’m older,” he said seriously. “But I wouldn’t because he’s funny. Are you alright Wade?”

The color had drained from his face. Peter hoped his alpha wasn’t getting sick.

“PETER?!” a voice bellowed from somewhere close.

“I’m over here, Steve!” Peter called back. Steve was going to be so happy to meet Wade. Wade was nice .

Wade looked up. “Shit-”

“Peter- you shouldn’t wander -” Steve trailed off as he rounded the corner. He took in the man with the knife him, Wade kneeling very close to Peter-

“Peter come here-” Steve ordered, eyes wide.

Peter ignored him. “Do you know Wade?” Peter asked brightly. “He’s my alpha,” he said proudly.

Steve froze. Stared at Wade. He seemed really angry for some reason.

“Whoa- I can explain-” Wade protested, but Steve suddenly had him by his throat against the metal shelving, his nose an inch from his, growling.

Peter watched, horrified. “Steve?”

“If you touched him-” Steve snarled.

“Didn’t- “ Wade squeaked. “Never. Jesus Christ you’re really Captain America,” Wade babbled even though he was nearly strangled. “I’m never washing this hoodie again-” he muttered.

“Yes I am. And you are NOT HIS ALPHA-” Steve slammed him against the shelving for emphasis. The entire unit shuddered.

“No- definitely not-” Wade agreed, sounding strained.

Peter couldn’t take it anymore. He kicked Steve in the shin.

“Put my alpha down!” Peter protested. “Don’t hurt him!”

“Peter, you’re confused-”

“I’ll... I’ll kick you into a wall again! I mean it! I’ll hurt you!” Peter threatened. The effectiveness wasn’t very good- he was sniffling back tears as he said it.

Steve froze. Wade froze.

“What?” Wade said, clearly confused.

“Put him down!” Peter demanded, now openly crying.

Steve dropped Wade like a hot rock.

“Shh... it’s okay Peter. I let go, okay?” Steve said.

“He’s nice!” Peter insisted, hiccuping. “He’s my alpha! Don’t hurt him!”

“Calm down honey. I promise. I won’t hurt him,” Steve said, but glared at Wade.

“Look- I’m in your line of work-” Wade said. “Sorta. Anyway, this fucker” Wade kicked the man with a knife in him, who groaned, “is an omega trafficker. Made some really sweet girls disappear. But no-one knows how. They just vanish. I’ve been stalking him for like a week now. Saw him with your kid. He sprayed him with some sort of drug then used his Voice on him. Baby boy here never stood a chance. He’s orbiting Jupiter right now. He doesn't know what he’s saying.”

Peter cried. He was so confused. Was Wade saying he wasn’t his alpha? Why didn’t his alpha want him?

“He sprayed him with something?” Steve demanded, alarmed.

“Yeah-”

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Steve muttered under his breath, and anxiously patted the man down. “Is this it?” he demanded, holding a spray bottle aloft.

“Looks right-”

“I gotta go. You can take care of this?” Steve demanded.

“Sure-”

“Great. Peter, let’s go sweetheart.”

Peter refused to move. “Wade’s supposed to take me home,” Peter insisted stubbornly.

Steve hissed, then took a breath. “I need to get you to your doctor, Peter,” Steve said seriously. “We need to get you checked in case of your allergies, remember?”

“But... Wade’s my alpha-” Peter hiccuped, and looked at Wade, feeling lost. “Right?”

Wade looked like he’d been stabbed, but smiled anyway. “I’ll tell you what. You go with the Captain, baby. I’ve got some errands to run, and an apartment to clean. I’ll come by and pick you up later, okay?”

Peter eyed him. Sniffed. “Promise?” he asked wretchedly.

Wade seriously held out a pinky finger. “Pinkie swear,” he said softly.

Peter shook his pinky. “Okay-” he said sadly.

“Good boy,” Wade said, and patted Peter’s head.

He beamed up at the alpha, suddenly happy again. “I’ll wait for you Wade!”

“Come on Peter-” Steve said, and tugged at his hand.

“Hey Cap?” Wade said.

Steve paused. “What?”

“You let that angel out of your sight again and I’ll take your eyeballs out with a rusty spoon,” Wade rumbled.

Steve looked like he’d sucked on a lemon. “Got it,” he said grimly, then hurried Peter off.

Halfway down an aisle, he said, “Cover your ears, Peter,” he said.

Peter obeyed.

Steve whistled. It was an emergency evacuation whistle.

“Is someone hurt, Steve?” Peter asked worriedly as Steve started pulling on his arm again.

“I hope not, sweetheart,” he said. “I hope not.”

They met with the others out front. “What’s going on?” Bucky demanded.

“Someone sprayed Peter in the face with some sort of drug and tried to walk off with him,” Steve said. “We need to get him home, NOW.”

“Jesus Christ- is that fucker still back there?” Sam demanded.

“Someone named Wade is taking care of it.”

“Big? Wearing red?” Clint demanded.

“Heavily scarred,” Steve said.

Clint whistled. “Well, that guy is dead,” he said. “Wade don’t fuck around with child predators.”

“Wade’s my alpha,” Peter said triumphantly.

Everyone stopped. Stared.

“What?” Peter demanded. “He’s nice.”

“Peter’s also very very high,” Steve said. He sounded upset.

“I’m calling Cho. Letting her know we’re coming in hot,” Tony said, already on his phone.

Peter swayed slightly.

Happy pulled up.

“Dad?” Peter said softly. “I don’t feel so good,” he whined.

He threw up on Steve’s shoes.

Multiple hands shoved him into the limo.

Chapter Text

The day had started off well enough. Peter had given him a bit of a scare over an ultrasound, of all things. But they caught it before he went into full distress and some cuddles fixed him, good as new. It irked Tony that he couldn’t give Peter comfort like Steve did. He didn’t have a scent due to his scent blockers though, and scent was vital to an omega in distress. Maybe he should take to carrying something of Steve’s with him, just in case.

And then there’d been the disaster at Valintos. He wasn’t even sure why he’d taken them there- but they’d supplied his furniture for years, even before Pepper had taken a liking to the place. All of the designers swore by him for a “modern look”.

It wasn’t until they’d gone to the Attic and found the bed that he’d realized that the designers were all full of shit. Just because he was a futurist didn’t mean he wanted to live like the freaking Jetsons, surrounded by white and untouchable furniture.

He just didn’t want furniture like his father had had. Wood so dark it sucked in light and never let it go and so much fucking hideous orange and fucking dark green and cold stainless steel everywhere.

IKEA... IKEA had been interesting. Modern. No frills. But... it wasn’t because it was looking to be soulless. It was to make it cheaper to manufacture. And they weren’t afraid of color, either if the 3 second brisk walk through of what was obviously the baby/kids section was anything to go by. There had been a near riot of color there.

He’d almost been disappointed when Darcy picked out all white plates. He thought for sure she’d go for the blue ones... maybe... maybe he could get some red ones for the penthouse? Like his suit colors.

NO.

Red plates and sparkly gold cups.

Maybe red plates with gold painted on? He made a hasty note to Jarvis. If such a thing didn’t exist yet, he could order them made. And he didn’t care if it was “tacky.”

He wanted fucking red plates damnit.

And then they’d hit the Wal-Mart.

“Did my fucking sheets come from a fucking Wal-Mart? ” Tony demanded, outraged. What the fuck? They were $13.99 per set for fuck’s sake. How was that even possible? He liked those sheets!

Natasha rolled her eyes. “There was a time crunch. And you like them don’t you?”

Tony huffed. “I’m burning them when we get back,” he said spitefully. He could do better than THAT, surely.

“Get a mattress protector too, Peter,” she said, and started piling things in the cart.

“Get me one too,” Darcy said. “Do you need more towels, Natasha?”

“I’m gonna get another cart,” Bucky said, and Steve joined him.

Natasha watched them leave with a critical eye, and put some towels on their pile.

“I think they’re gone,” she said, and turned to Darcy. “When are we having the baby shower?” she asked.

Both Tony and Peter had abrupt choking fits.

Darcy, meanwhile, had turned a bit puce.

Natasha -” she complained, clearly flustered. “I...” she looked around. “It’s too early to tell-” she mumbled, a hand on her belly.

Natasha raised an eyebrow. “You shared a heat with Bucky, Darcy,” Natasha said bluntly. “Did you, or did you not use protection?”

Darcy flushed even harder, and sputtered. “I mean-” she protested. “That doesn’t mean-”

Natasha gave her a tight smile. “He’s a super soldier, Darcy. You really think it didn’t take?”

Tony stared at the two women. Holy shit. HOLY SHIT. Darcy was pregnant too? WTF was his life right now?

“I don’t know, okay!” Darcy protested. “Plus... what if... what if Bucky doesn’t want kids?” she asked faintly. “We just started out. I don’t... I don’t want to ruin it-” she said miserably.

Natasha stared at her for a minute. “I have a suggestion,” she said.

Like all of Natasha’s suggestions, Tony hated it. They stood around in the baby section like some sort of perverse surprise party. Because that’s exactly how an omega dreamed of telling their alpha that they might be pregnant- by standing in the baby section of a Wal-Mart until the alpha noticed.

For some reason, Darcy didn’t seem to mind. Tony kept his mouth shut, mostly because he was battling to keep his lunch down. It was one thing to look at cribs online. It was another thing entirely to be literally surrounded by them.

The pictures of happy smiling babies in high chairs and strollers and baby seats and clothes and ... and...

Oh god. He was going to be sick. What the fuck did he think he was doing? He was Iron Man. It was stupidly obvious that he had no business even existing in this part of the store, let alone... let alone... needing things from here.

“Over here!” Darcy called.

He watched with quiet despair as the alphas came strolling up, and them immediately realizing what the omegas being in this section MEANT.

“Doll?” Bucky asked, quietly. He looked only slightly better than Tony felt at the moment.

Darcy flushed. “Just looking,” she said quickly. “Natasha said a lot of things have changed since my niece was born-”

“And you never know when a happy accident might happen,” Natasha said with a false smile.

Jesus Christ, she was scary, he thought.

Peter took this opportunity to escape- which only showed he had the real brains of the bunch, Tony thought absently.

He blinked, and realized that while Bucky had only eyes for Darcy, Steve had a similar laser focus on him. The alpha quietly put an arm around his waist. “You guys talk, I saw a TV I want Tony’s opinion on,” he announced, though no one listened or cared.

Steve guided him away, and Tony found himself relaxing the further they got from the small human section, with Steve chattering away the whole time. For some reason he hadn’t thought the alpha was serious- just making an excuse to give Darcy and Bucky some privacy. He leaned into his mate, and let him talk.

So he was shocked when they actually walked into the electronics section and Steve started to point at things and ask him questions. It took him a moment for his brain to switch back into gear.

“What?” he said, confused.

“I said there’s all these abbreviations I don’t understand,” Steve said patiently. “This one is LCD and this one here says it’s OLED. They’re the same size but the OLED one is more expensive. Is it made of something different?”

Tony sniffed. “Oh... um... they... they create the images differently,” Tony said, and tried to will his brain back on again. Right. Explaining flat screen TVs to Steve in terms the man from the 1940s would understand. He could do this.

“The OLED is more complicated, so it makes a better picture,” he said. “There’s an even better version called QD- but they’re still researching it.”

“What version do we have in the tower?” Steve asked. The man sounded like he actually cared for some reason.

“OLED. Except for the common room- that one is projection from the ceiling.”

“Do they even make TVs that big?” Steve asked.

“I think I saw an 80 inch somewhere,” Tony said. “But the wall in the common room is bigger than that.”

Steve whistled. “That’s big.”

They talked about everything and nothing, with Steve peppering Tony with questions. He lost his temper a little when Steve actually talked like he was going to pick up a box and buy one, though.

“Absolutely not!” Tony said firmly. “I refuse to let this happen! Underwear is one thing- but I will not allow a TV from a god damned Wal-Mart in my fucking Tower! I will throw it on the landing pad and set it on fire, Steve! It’ll make Jarvis sick, having to look at the damn thing-”

Steve seemed pleased for some reason. “If it means that much to you, I won’t get it,” he said, clearly amused.

“Don’t even know where you’d put it-” Tony bitched. “I already have TVs everywhere-”

“I thought I might put it in the bathroom. I saw an ad the other day where this lady in a hotel had a thing like inside a mirror-”

“You mean a magic mirror?”

Steve raised an eyebrow. “I thought you didn’t like the ‘m’ word, Tony,” he said, surprised.

Tony sighed. “I know- I KNOW! But that’s what they’re called,” he complained. “Marketing gimmick, really.” He frowned at his mate, suddenly suspicious. “Wait. You were seriously going to buy a TV from Wal-Mart... and stick it behind a mirror... and you thought that it would work?” The man was from the 1940s, not retarded. Surely he knew that mirrors had a coating on the back... the damn things used plexiglass not an actual mirror mirror.

“I thought you’d make it work,” Steve said and beamed at him. “You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met,” he said. “If anyone could get it to work, you could.”

Tony stared, open mouthed at him for a moment before recovering. “Of course,” Tony said pompously. “I am a literal genius.”

“I know,” Steve said, still beaming.

Wait. Most people rolled their eyes when he said that. But Steve seemed to be genuinely happy with him. Tony eyed his alpha, suddenly suspicious. What the fuck was this man up to?

Maybe he was buttering Tony up to ask for a blowjob or something?

“Why don’t we go check on Natasha and Peter?” Steve suggested. “Peter might like a new game or something.”

The poor kid probably deserved a whole new gaming system if he managed to survive the Feelings Storm that was no doubt happening in the baby section, Tony thought. “Sure,” he said.

They ambled back, to find the happy couple giggly and kissing. Natasha stood guard at the end of the aisle, but Peter was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s Peter?” Steve asked.

She frowned. “He said he was going to go find you,” she said.

Tony rolled his eyes at the sudden panic on Steve’s face. “Oh, come on Steve. He’s 15. He’s FINE. He probably got distracted and is looking at something shiny or whatever.”

Steve shook his head. “I... I think I’m going to go look for him,” he said. “Something doesn’t feel right.”

Tony considered him. “Calm down. If you’re that worried, I’ll call him,” he said, and dug out his phone. He dialed a number.

“Sir, Peter’s phone is ringing in the MedBay. I believe he forgot it there this morning,” Jarvis said over Tony’s phone speaker.

Tony sighed. Of course. He hung up, and considered the signs hanging from the ceiling. “I’ll tell you what. You take food, I’ll take animals... and Nat- can you take toys?”

“Sure,” she said. “Meet at the front?”

Tony nodded, and they split up.

Considering it was basically a box with aisles in it, the place was a maze. He’d have a serious word with whoever the hell designed the signs, for one thing. It took him three wrong turns before he finally found the “pet” section. He scanned the aisles, looking for a short teenager with a mop of curly brown hair. He found one, but she was with her mother and was excitedly picking out a leash for a dog.

Okay. Not here. He was making his way to the front when he heard the whistle.

He froze. Wait. What? Emergency evacuation? What the hell?

He broke into a jog. He found everyone out front. “What’s happening?” he demanded. He didn’t see Steve. He dialed Happy.

“I don’t know. We were in the middle of checking out-” Clint protested.

“We need to go- now-” Tony barked into his phone, then hung up before the man could argue.

“Where’s Steve?” he demanded.

Steve appeared, basically frog marching a swaying Peter out the door.

“What’s going on?” Bucky demanded.

“Someone sprayed Peter in the face with some sort of drug and tried to walk off with him,” Steve said. “We need to get him home, NOW.”

“Jesus Christ- is that fucker still back there?” Sam demanded.

“Someone named Wade is taking care of it.”

“Big? Wearing red?” Clint demanded.

“Heavily scarred,” Steve said.

Clint whistled. “Well, that guy is dead,” he said. “Wade don’t fuck around with child predators.”

“Wade’s my alpha,” Peter said triumphantly.

Everyone stopped. Stared.

“What?” Peter demanded. “He’s nice .”

“Peter’s also very very high,” Steve said, clearly one second away from losing his shit.

“I’m calling Cho. Letting her know we’re coming in hot,” Tony said, already on his phone.

Peter swayed slightly.

Happy pulled up.

“Dad?” Peter said softly. “I don’t feel so good,” he whined.

He threw up on Steve’s shoes.

Tony helped shove the kid into the limo.

“Clint- you drive-” Steve ordered.

“On it,” Clint said grimly.

“Cho- we’re coming in hot-” Tony said, sliding into the limo. “Someone sprayed Peter in the face with something, and he just puked.”

“They sprayed him with what?”

“I have no idea. Some sort of drug. He’s seriously out of it-” he covered the phone’s speaker- “Lay him on the floor, Nat-” he hissed. “I gotta go. Clint’s driving. I can’t talk and be thrown around at the same time-” he grunted as Clint floored it, and several people were thrown against each other or the seats behind them.

Up front, Happy was protesting, but Tony ignored him. He hung up, and crawled on the floor to curl up behind Peter to help keep him from sliding around.

“Are we on a roller coaster?” Peter asked, pupils blown as Clint sailed them over a speed bump.

“Brace for drift-” Natasha barked, her eyes looking out the front window. Everyone threw out their arms. Bucky all but sat on Darcy, pinning her to her seat as Clint took an on ramp like it was a mild suggestion and quickly hit whatever the max speed for a stretch limo was.

Tony and Peter slid several feet from the back of the limo to the front as Clint braked, swore, jerked the wheel, nearly rolling them....

Steve and Sam threw themselves against the side that was up, and they were back on the ground on four wheels again, accelerating.

“It's okay baby,” Tony mumbled into Peter’s ear, and held on tighter. “It’s okay. Just relax. We’re going to get you home,” he said. He held him tightly and ran soothing fingers through Peter’s hair while Clint redlined a screaming engine.

5 minutes from home Tony’s world stopped when Peter started seizing.

“Get back!” Steve dragged Tony off him as the boy flailed.

“Peter!” Tony protested.

“Watch his hands-”

“Bucky- don’t let him punch through the floor-”

“Watch it, watch it- Darcy honey you need to get your feet off the floor- he’ll kick you-”

“Get him on his side! He’ll choke if he pukes again-” Natasha said urgently.

Everyone got thrown to the side as Clint took a hard 90 degree turn while going at least 40 using the parking brake and completely ignored the wooden arm boom that kept the general public from entering the Tower’s parking garage. It shattered on the bullet proof windshield.

The limo skidded to a smoking stop 4 feet from the elevator. Somewhere from the entrance behind them were the sounds of armed security guards freaking out.

“Happy take care of that!” Tony barked, as the Avengers boiled out of the limo like enraged ants. Steve carried Peter, who was still twitching. Jarvis, being amazing, had the elevator open and waiting for them. Steve took Peter inside.

“Bucky come with me. Everyone else take the next one. If he seizes again he’ll just hurt everyone.”

Tony tried to protest, but Bucky was in and the door slid shut before he could argue.

“Calm down, he’ll be fine. He’s with Steve,” Natasha said urgently.

“Whoa- why don’t we catch our breath a minute here,” Sam said, and took hold of his arm. “Come on. Breathe in. That’s it...”

“What’s happening?” someone whispered.

“Panic attack. Ignore it,” that sounded like Clint.

He was NOT having a panic attack, damnit.

“Oh. We’re allowed to have those?” Darcy asked. She sounded weird.

He sat heavily on his ass on the stupidly cold garage floor.

“Does anyone have a xanax?” Natasha asked.

Tony snarled. “No xanax,” he managed. “I’m... I’m okay.”

“Come on. Count with me,” Sam said quietly. “Breathe in and hold it- that’s it. 9...8... 7... you’re doing it... 3... 2. 1... breathe out-”

Tony sat and breathed. “Okay. Okay. I’m okay-” he said.

Behind him there was a thump, and strangled swear. Tony turned to find Darcy on the floor. “What the fuck-”

“She fainted,” Clint said grimly. “Fucking civilians- Sam help me-”

They staggered into the elevator, Darcy slung between Clint and Sam.

“Medic!” Clint shouted as they walked into the MedBay.

Several people in scrubs rushed up. “Status?” one of them demanded.

“She fainted. I think her head bounced a bit on the concrete,” Clint said.

“She might be pregnant,” Natasha added. “She’s also Bucky’s mate. Handle with care.”

“Head wound in bay 4!” someone announced as the doctors took over, taking Darcy away.

“Where’s Peter?” Tony demanded. He was tired, but he’d power through it.

“I think I see him bay 2,” Sam said.

Tony speed walked. The kid was flat on his back on a gurney, and two IVs going, one in each arm. Steve and Bucky were nowhere to be seen.

“I thought he was supposed to be on his side-” Tony demanded.

“Toni?” Peter slurred.

Tony was at his bedside immediately. “I’m here, honey. I’m here.”

“I feel funny. Is Wade here?”

“Who?” Tony asked, and ran fingers through Peter’s hair.

“My alpha,” Peter said. “He’s suppose to come... come get me,”

Tony pressed his lips together. The kid was sick and high and god knows what. You don’t argue with that- it would only upset him.

“I don’t know. But I’ll stay here until he comes, okay?”

“Be nice to him-” Peter said, urgently. “St’ve... he... he didn’t like ‘im...” Peter sounded close to tears. “He was... mean...”

“I promise you I’ll yell at him about that, okay?” Tony lied earnestly. “I’ll give him a good smack, yeah?”

Peter sniffed and relaxed.

“Tired,” the tiny omega bitched.

“You’ve had a big day, baby,” Tony said.

“Not a baby!” Peter snarled. “NOT!”

“Hey hey... it’s okay-” Tony soothed. Where the fuck was a god damned alpha when you needed one? Always underfoot when you didn’t need one and then when you did-

“How’s he doing?” Steve asked.

“Where the fuck have you been?” Tony hissed, incensed. “Did you seriously leave him alone? What if he was scared?”

“I had to give the drug to Banner. They’re testing it now,” Steve said.

“So give it to fucking... some guy in scrubs to deliver!” Tony insisted. “You do not leave my pup alone like that!” he was shouting. Why was he shouting?

Steve looked horrified. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking-”

“Tony... you’re ... making my ears hurt,” Peter protested. “Stop...”

“I’m sorry sweetheart. I’m sorry.”

Tony gave up all pretense of dignity and crawled into the bed next to Peter. “Shhh... I’ve got you,” he murmured, drawing the boy close.

Peter huffed and bared his neck, and Tony buried his nose into the boy’s scent glands, greedily breathing in his scent, soothing himself. He didn’t really care that his ass was half off the gurney. Peter was alive, and awake.

He ran fingers through Peter’s hair. “Shhh....” he wasn’t entirely sure who he was soothing- himself or Peter-

A solid warmth enveloped him from behind, and Steve’s scent surrounded them both as Steve leaned over to kiss Tony’s hair and aggressively scent mark them by running his wrists down their sides. He rumbled protectively, and both omegas sighed and relaxed.

They were home, safe in their nest, with a strong alpha to guard over them. It would be okay.

They would be okay .

Someone was shaking him awake- Tony grumbled and buried his face deeper into the scent of cinnamon rolls.

“Fuck off,” he groused. The teenager next to him snored gently.

“Tony- baby- it’s time to get up. Mrs. Parker is here,” Steve rumbled into his ear, and gently kissed his hair.

Tony huffed. Grunted.

“Come on... you’ll want to hear what the doctor says,” Steve said.

Tony sighed and rubbed his face. His mate was right. He did want to hear what the doctor had to say. “I’m coming...” he mumbled, and managed after a bit to sit up.

He looked at Peter- who was peacefully dead to the world, somehow snoring adorably. How the fuck one snored adorbly, Tony had no idea but Peter managed to pull it off.

“Baby... you with me?” Steve asked, and ran his fingers through Tony’s hair. Tony leaned into the touch.

“I’ll manage,” he said. God, he could use some coffee. But even he knew that caffeine was bad for... well. Maybe if he asked Jarvis to stock some decaf?

He shook himself awake. “Okay. Okay. Where are we going?”

“Come on, I’ll take you,” Steve said.

“Jarvis?” Tony called. “I will call for Mr. Wilson to come sit with him,” Jarvis said. “I will let you know if he wakes up.”

“Good boy,” Tony said grimly.

By the time they reached the meeting room Tony was back on earth.

May was already there. She looked frustrated and sick. “What the fuck happened ?” she demanded. “I thought you were taking him shopping!”

“We did. We were at Wal-Mart,” Tony said flatly. “Steve-”

“He wandered off while we were looking-” Steve sighed and rubbed his face, and started again. “We got separated. We tried to call his phone but he’d left it here in the MedBay from this morning. We went looking for him, and I found him near the food area. An omega trafficker sprayed him in the face with some sort of drug and used his Voice on him, then tried to walk off with him- another alpha saw it happen and stepped in. I-... nothing happened, May. I want to emphasize that. When I got there the guy who’d rescued him was trying to get information out of him so he could call someone. I swear - he was out of my sight for no more than 10 minutes. I... I’m so sorry .”

May looked sick. “Oh god. On the news- they’ve been talking about omegas going missing- the man- the trafficker- where is he?”

Steve’s expression turned dark and serious. “He’s being... dealt with. I put Natasha and Clint on it. We’ll know soon if he was acting alone, or-” he shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. He won’t be hurting anyone again.”

For a second, May looked shocked, then grimly satisfied.

“Sorry folks, to keep you waiting-” Cho and Banner walked in, looking harried. “We just got the test results back.”

“What was it?” Tony demanded.

“Well, the good news is that it was very simple- synthetic Greater Omega Bonding Hormone, or GOBH for short. I understand it’s called a ‘roofie’ on the street. Usually you put in someone’s drink- it’s very unusual to see it aerosolized like that.”

“Basically it fools the Omega’s brain into thinking they’re bonded to the alpha in front of them,” Banner said grimly. “It’s why Peter went with him without fussing. He probably wouldn’t have even had to use his Voice on him. Steve- you know how loopy a newly bonded omega is-”

Steve looked sick. “That’s probably why he was so enamored with Wade,” he said.

“Wade?” May asked.

“The alpha who saved him,” Steve said. “I talked to Clint. He said Wade’s in the business, and has a soft spot for kids- but he’s dangerous. Unstable. We should do everything we can to keep Peter away from him.”

“Peter asked for him again before he went to sleep. Wanted to know when Wade was going to come pick him up,” Tony said, equally unhappy. “I said I’d wait with him until he came, I didn’t want to upset him.”

“How long does it last?” May demanded. “Do I need to nail the windows shut to keep him home-”

“For most omegas it lasts a few hours. We’ve pumped him full of saline to try to flush it out of him, and with his metabolism I think it’s safe to say that he’s probably over it already. I will want to test him to see how lucid he is before I let you take him anywhere. I don’t want him hurting himself by accident.”

“He also probably won’t remember any of it, either. That’s a well known side effect of the drug. He might be sad and irritable but won’t be able to tell you why. That will be him missing an alpha that doesn’t exist,” Cho said.

Tony winced. That sounded like a fresh new layer of hell.

“If he doesn’t remember... What should I tell him?” May asked. “He’s... he’ll be so upset- he’ll blame himself, I know he will- I don’t want him feeling like he can’t go outside-”

Bruce and Cho shared a look.

“I find, generally, that the truth is best,” Bruce said slowly. “Even if it’s a partial truth.”

Tony stared at the wall, leg shaking with the speed of his thoughts. “We can tell him he had a bad reaction. Perfume maybe? Someone pulling a prank?”

“That won’t make him feel safe-” May protested.

“It’s better than ‘you were 5 minutes from being raped and sold’,” Tony said bluntly. “Does anyone here think he’d ever recover if he knew that?”

“I would have found him before that-” Steve said firmly.

Tony gave him a Look. “ Steve . It doesn’t matter . He’s timid enough as it is-”

“What’s important is routine. Routine helps keep children feel grounded and safe. We need to treat this like what it was- which was an unfortunate incident that was not his fault . No different than if he slipped and bumped his head in the bathroom. If you start treating him differently he’ll notice and that will upset him more than anything he does or doesn’t remember,” Cho said firmly.

“So... he’s okay to go to class tomorrow?” May asked.

“I would imagine so- if he feels up to it. If he pretends to be sick, don’t call him on it, let him take a day. It might take a day or two for him to shake the sadness.”

Tony tried his best not to scowl. Now was not the time or place for another screaming match with the damn woman.

“What about the seizures?” Tony asked.

“Seizures?” May demanded.

“He seized in the car before we got him to the tower,” Steve said grimly.

“I think that was a reaction to the synthetic hormones,” Cho said. “If that had been his first exposure- he probably would have been fine. But I’m guessing he’s developing an allergy to man-made hormones.”

“You mean his throat might swell shut? He’ll need an epi-pen?” May demanded.

“Epi-pens are synthetic adrenaline, so I’m going to veto that until we do some more testing,” Bruce said. “His reaction so far seems to be idiosyncratic. I think that if he’s exposed again- it’s likely another seizure will be the result. So... unpleasant, but most likely not life threatening.”

Unless he’s in the middle of swinging around town, Tony thought grimly. He made a note on his phone- put an air filter into the spider suit capable of filtering out hormones.

“I’ll write a note for his school,” Bruce said. “And I’ll get him a medical alert bracelet,” Bruce said.

May sat and thought for a moment.

“Okay. I... I think we’ll go with Tony’s perfume idea. A teenager pulling a prank, and he had a strange allergic reaction to it. He’s had trouble with kids before, so he’ll believe it.”

Tony whipped around. “He’s having trouble with bullies?” he demanded.

Used to . I handled it,” May said firmly. “I spoke to the principal, and he moved classes. It’s been taken care of.”

Tony frowned at the table. Peter had never mentioned that-

“If that’s settled- I have some other good news. The results from his scans are back, and I’m happy to report that Peter’s heart has very little deformity. He has a heart murmur that’s caused by some leaks in his heart valves, but they’re small enough that it shouldn’t affect him. I think he can lead a very full and normal life,” Bruce said.

Everyone in the room let out a breath they didn’t even know they’d been holding in.

“I also took a peek at his reproduction system,” Cho said. “For an omega, it’s fairly normal. He does have what’s called a ‘tilted uterus,’ which means it sits differently than it should- it leans backwards instead of forwards- but that’s common. I would strongly urge that he be tested for an allergy to copper and discuss having an IUD placed sooner rather than later.”

“I thought IUDs contain hormones-” May protested.

“Not a copper one. These are completely hormone free, are very effective, and can last for several years.”

“I don’t understand- an IUD? What-” Steve protested.

“It’s a form of birth control,” Tony said.

“Birth control? But he’s not seeing anyone-”

“And he’s a teenager. And accidents happen. Especially if his heats are irregular as we think they might be. It will be better to be safe than sorry,” Cho said.

Steve and May looked ill.

“Please tell me you are not suggesting-” Steve protested. “Peter- he’s a good boy-”

Accidents. Happen ,” Cho said firmly. “It’s not the best, but this real life. Teenagers get caught up in hormones and feelings- it happens more often than you think, even to ‘good boys’.”

May shook her head. “I’ll have to talk to him about it later. I don’t... so much has happened. I think I’ll wait until everything settles down.”

Cho nodded. “I just wanted to put it on the table,” she said. “It’s not pleasant, but it needs to be mentioned- if he ever does get pregnant, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to terminate it safely. The procedures either call for artificial hormones or surgery. And right now, based on what I ‘ve seen, I think both of those options would be more dangerous for him than the pregnancy. I think aggressive prevention would be the best course of action.”

“Oh god,” May said, rubbing her face.

“Has anyone had... ‘The Talk’ with Peter?” Bruce asked delicately.

“Yes. Ages ago. He knows about condoms and things,” May said doggedly. “Ben talked to him.”

Another sigh of relief went around the table.

“Sir, Peter is awake,” Jarvis said from the ceiling. “Mr. Wilson is with him, but he seems confused.”

There was a scramble for the door.

Tony made himself slow down when he hit the general floor of the Medbay. Everyone stampeding over wouldn’t help Peter’s nerves any.

May didn’t have the same idea and rushed forward. “Peter!”

If the boy had been standing, she would have knocked him over. As it was, the gurney rocked a bit as May enveloped him in a bone crushing hug.

“How are you feeling?” she demanded.

“Uh... okay I guess? I... I thought we were at Wal-Mart-” a sudden thought seemed to hit him. “Did... did I go into heat again?” he asked, horrified.

“No, Pete. Some boys playing a prank sprayed you in the face with some perfume that had some fake hormones in it. You had a bad reaction, that’s all,” Steve said. “You had a seizure in the car on the way back. Gave us a scare.”

“I had a seizure?”

“Bruce thinks it’s a sort of allergic reaction, kiddo,” Tony said. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“I... I wanted some chips...” Peter trailed off. “Did... did I hurt anyone?”

“No. Everyone is fine,” Steve said.

“Well. Darcy fainted, but I think it's because Clint’s the most aggressive driver on the planet,” Tony said cheerfully. “I’m sure she’s fine.”

Peter looked forlorn. “I missed Clint driving?” he complained, obviously disappointed. “Did he drift? Natasha says he can drift anything-”

“Excessively,” Tony said.

Peter groaned and pouted. “He says he’ll teach me how to drive when I don’t need a carseat anymore, but I’ve been out of one for ages-”

“Clint said what ?” Tony demanded.

“He is not teaching you how to drive,” Steve said firmly. “I will-”

Tony sputtered. “No you will not! You still haven’t gotten a driver’s license-”

“It’s a paperwork thing- they won’t believe I was born in 1920,” he muttered darkly. “I know how to drive Tony- I drove through half of France-”

“Throwing your motorcycle at Nazis does not count as driving experience!” Tony insisted.

I will teach him how to drive,” May said firmly. “And there will be NO drifting. Whatever that is.”

“You ready to go home, Peter?” Bruce asked from the outside of the group.

“I can go home?” Peter asked.

“Sure. I just want to double check some things first and you’ll be good to go.”

Everyone made way so Bruce could sit next to the bed. “Just follow my finger-” he said.

Tony tapped May on the shoulder, and tilted his head towards an empty bay. She reluctantly followed him.

“I know what you’re going to say-” she said.

Tony held out a hand. He took a breath. “I just... I want to be on the same page here. He’s going back to school. Great. Whatever. He needs a safety plan. Something formal with the school... what- what do you intend to ask for?”

He would not die of an aneurysm during this conversation. He would... delegate. He would be diplomatic . He would keep his fucking mouth shut- he could blow things up later-

Peter. Remember Peter. If May put her foot down, she could cut him off, and he could lose him- like he had Harley-

Not again.

She eyed him. “It’s killing you, leaving this to me, isn’t it?”

“May-” he sighed. “I just- I want what’s best for him-”

“Which is what I’m doing. Going back to school so he can be with his friends-”

Friend , Tony thought.

“And be normal-”

And be bored.

“And... be a teenager.”

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Another breath.

Stay on topic.

“Safety plan?” he tried.

“I’m meeting with the principal first thing in the morning. If he so much as sneezes weird, he’s to call a list of emergency numbers- which includes you- BUT- you have to promise me you will DRIVE there, and not go in guns blazing and hog tie his teachers.”

No aneurysms. Right.

“I... promise.... That I will check in with the front office before I pick him up,” Tony said haltingly. “And that I will not hog tie anyone.”

She considered him. “That’s the best I’m going to get out of you, isn’t it?”

“May- I wish I could promise-” he trailed off. “Look. Even if no-one knows he’s Spider-Man, he’s Peter Parker. Someone, somewhere, eventually, WILL realize that he’s the same Peter Parker that’s listed as an intern at Stark Industries. The only intern with unlimited clearance. My personal, very much loved intern. Someone could come for him for just that-”

May was looking less and less happy the longer he talked.

“And I just... I want you to know that I take his safety seriously. I thought he was under attack when he called me- I could hear people trying to break down the door to the room he was in, even over the phone-”

She stopped him. “No one told me that-” she said flatly, angry now. “Who was breaking down the door?” she demanded.

“Some teachers. Thought he shouldn’t be in a heat room and went overboard. My lawyers are on it. Breach of protocol, privacy, whatever. I expect them to be fired. Anyway- I just. He’s important to me. Also.”

She considered the floor for a moment before looking at his face. “I- thank you. But you have to trust me Tony. I’ve been his parent for a long time now. I know what I’m doing. And he belongs at school.”

Tony nodded. “I understand,” he said, even though he was dying inside.

She sighed. “I’m going to take him home-”

“I’m sorry- about today-” he said suddenly. “It was supposed to be fun-”

“I know,” she sighed. “It’s life, I guess. I don’t blame you. He is super adorable. I’m kinda surprised this is the first time someone’s tried to take him.”

Tony snorted. “Yeah. I’m actually kind of surprised about that too.”

“May? Can we go? I’m hungry,” Peter called. “Can we get pizza?”

May eyed Tony.

“He had meatballs and hotdogs for lunch,” Tony said, instantly caving.

She snorted. “That’s what I thought,” she said, smiling. “You can have leftover meatloaf,” she said loudly.

Peter groaned.

“But Aunt Maaaay-” he whined.

***********

A hand touched his shoulder. “Are you coming to bed?”

Startled, Tony nearly dropped his soldering iron. “What?” he asked, twisting around.

Steve stood behind him, smiling gently. “It’s late baby- I think it’s time to go to bed.”

Tony stared at him, open mouthed for a moment. “What- what time is it?” he asked, looking around his lab, knowing full well that there weren’t any clocks on his walls on purpose.

“It’s past midnight. And you were upset today. Come to bed with me,” Steve said with puppy dog eyes.

Tony stared down at his hands. Was he hallucinating? Steve never really asked him to come to bed before...

He blinked. He was tired. He’d had some coffee, but it was decaf, and it just was not the same-

Damn those eyes.

“Okay,” he said, and put the soldering iron back on it’s holder. “Shut it down J,” he said.

Steve beamed and kissed his hair.

Tony pretended he wasn’t pleased.

A shower and a change into jammies later, he crawled into bed and after a moment of hesitation, curled up with his head on Steve’s chest.

Steve rumbled his approval, and pulled him close.

Tony laid there in the dark, breathing in his mate’s scent, absently fingering his alpha’s shirt. The silly man insisted on wearing proper pajamas with a collar and buttons on them and matching pants.

The dofus.

He thought about today.

About Peter. He wouldn’t lose him. He’d toe the line with May- at least until the boy turned 18.

He couldn’t remember. Didn’t Harley turn 18 soon? He’d have to have Jarvis look it up. Maybe the boy could forgive him for leaving him in the middle of Fucking Nowhere Tennessee...

He thought about the look on Steve’s face when he saw them in the baby section. Was... had he seen things wrong? Or had Steve looked... grim? It wasn’t the look one usually hoped to see on their alpha when you had a... whatever the fuck Natasha had pulled at Wal-Mart.

Seriously Nat?

He fiddled with the collar. Steve must have gotten tired of it because he reached up and held Tony’s hand still with his own.

“Settle,” he mumbled into Tony’s hair.

Tony huffed. Decided to ask before he lost his nerve.

“Steve?”

“Hmmm?”

“Did... did you ever want kids-” he said, then panicked. “With Peggy, I mean?”

Steve froze. Literally froze. Stopped breathing and everything.

“Steve?” Tony asked, suddenly scared.

Tony suddenly found himself on his back, with Steve leaning heavily on top of him.

“I love you,” Steve said firmly. “I’m just as happy now as I was then. You’re all that I need, baby. You and my pack.”

Steve kissed him. “I love you. So much.” He kissed him again.

“Steve-” Tony managed when Steve finally let him up for air.

“Shh... my omega. My mate . Let me take care of you.”

And he did. So thoroughly and so well that Tony never really noticed that he didn’t get an answer until the next morning when he was being grumpy over his decaf coffee.

That fucking bastard.

But in a way- it was an answer- wasn’t it?

Fuck.

Steve didn’t want kids.

Oh god. What was he going to do now ?

Chapter Text

Peter groped blindly for the blaring alarm clock and groaned.

“Come on-”

Eventually he found it, and managed to shut it off.

“Peter?!” his Aunt called from somewhere downstairs.

“I’m up!” he screamed into his pillow.

“Hurry up! I made waffles!”

Oooo... wait. Waffles? On a Monday ?

Suspicious, he slunk downstairs and cautiously approached the kitchen. And yes- there were waffles. And orange juice .

He poked the glass as if it were a possible explosive.

“MAY?” he called.

“Yeah?” she poked her head out of the laundry room.

“Is... is everything alright?” he asked, worried.

She frowned. “Of course.”

He stared at the waffles.

“You made waffles. And orange juice.”

“Yeah. I felt like it.”

“It’s Monday.”

“So? I can’t treat you nice on a weekday?” she teased.

He eyed the waffles.

Right....

The last time she’d made waffles with orange juice for him before he went to school was after Ben died.

He eyed her. He tried to remember if they had any elderly distant relatives that might have died over the weekend. He couldn’t think of any.

“Hey-” May said, softly. “It’s just waffles, sweetheart. Eat.”

He ate them, but he did so while eyeing the laundry room suspiciously. He’d figure it out. May was horrible at keeping secrets.

Wait... was this about yesterday? His whole... seizure thing?

He stared at the waffles, appetite gone. Jesus Christ. He’d really freaked her out, didn’t he?

“I have more in the oven-” May said, coming out of the laundry room with a basket on her hip. She stopped, looking at his still mostly full plate.

“You okay Peter?” she asked, worried.

“I... I’m just tired,” he lied. “I think... I think I’ll eat them later.”

She stared at him. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“You feel okay?” she asked again.

“I-” his eye landed on the clock. SHIT.

“I’m late-” he said. “I- I’m not even dressed-”

He ran off, stumbling off up the stairs.

He threw on some clothes, and ran back downstairs. May tossed him his lunch as he went through the kitchen- he caught it instinctively, then came to an abrupt halt at the front door.

He stood there, hand on the door knob for a full 5 seconds.

“Peter? You okay?” May asked cautiously.

“I... I feel like I’m forgetting something,” he said, trying to take mental inventory. He had pants on, right? He double checked. Yep. Pants. And shoes. And a shirt. His bookbag was in his hand- so was his lunch.

Wait. Wasn’t... wasn’t he supposed to go somewhere? Not school... but ...

Did they need more eggs or something?

He stood there, feeling lost.

“Do you need to go back to bed, sweetheart?” May asked quietly.

Peter shook himself. “What? No. No. I’m fine,” he threw her a big smile. “I’m fine May. Just... brain being weird or something for a minute.”

“Okay, if you’re sure. I’m meeting with your principal in an hour to go over your medical stuff. Do you want a ride home later?”

“No, I’ll take the subway.”

“Have a good day!”

The smile vanished the second his feet hit the pavement outside.

What the fuck was he supposed to be doing?

The feeling intensified the further he got from home. By the time he got to school his skin was practically buzzing.

He sucked it up.

“Dude... did you smuggle in some cinnabons or something?” Ned demanded.

“What?”

“Cinnamon rolls. I could smell them from like the hallway. Share dude!”

“What are you talking about?”

Ned stared at him. “Frosted cinnamon goodness? Big as your head? Ringing any bells? Did you pack some for lunch or something?”

Peter blinked.

Oh.

He scowled and fidgeted. “Shut up, alright? I don’t... I... It’s my Scent, alright?”

Ned blinked at him.

“What?”

“I... I got my Scent, alright?”

Ned stared at him. “So now you smell like cinnamon rolls?” he whisper-demanded. “DUDE.”

Peter glared at him.

“What- it’s like... cool. I don’t smell like anything-” Ned complained.

“Mr. Parker-” Mr. Hastings barked.

“Yes sir?”

“You know my rules. No food in class.”

Peter flushed. “I don’t have any, Mr. Hastings.”

The teacher raised an eyebrow. “I can smell it all the way over here, Parker.”

“I don’t have anything,” Peter protested.

Mr. Hastings eyed him. Peter squirmed.

“It stays in your bookbag until lunch,” he said finally.

Peter huffed, frustrated. “Yes sir,” he said, hoping the man would just shut up about it.

It was a theme that seemed to dominate the day.

“Who brought cinnamon rolls?” Mrs. Garret asked, puzzled. She’d entered the class after everyone was already inside.

A couple of people immediately pointed at Peter, who flushed and sank in his chair.

She frowned at him. “Leave it in your bookbag,” she scolded.

“I-” he gave up. “Yes ma’am.”

Later it was, “Parker, you know that lunch is over, right?”

Or “Parker, unless you’ve brought enough to share, keep it in your locker.”

Mrs. McDermit almost sent him over the edge.

“No food in my class, Parker.”

“I don’t have anything!” he snapped. She was the 5th teacher to make a comment, and he was starting to lose his mind a little.

She blinked, startled, then frowned at him. “Don’t take that tone with me,” she snapped back. “Or do you need a detention to remember your manners?”

“I... no ma’am,” Peter said, deflating instantly. “I’m sorry.”

She glared at him, and he avoided her gaze. Apparently pleased, she huffed.

Peter sat in his chair, utterly miserable. His skin fucking... itched, and he just...

He wasn’t supposed to be here.

He snapped after the bell rang, letting them out of 4th period. He got his book bag out of his locker, and went into one of the beta bathrooms. A few seconds with the window- and he slipped out and was across the parking lot.

He felt marginally better once he was outside. He had no idea where he was going. Just... not here.

He let his feet guide him.

After a while, he eyed the rooftops. He’d make better progress if he had his suit. But it was back home, and May was home today. So if he went home...

He kept walking. He found himself looking at people. But they were all... not what he was looking for.

It was maddening.

What is wrong with me?

He considered his reflection in a store window. He looked normal. Hair- mess of curls in desperate need of a haircut- check. Stupid pun t-shirt- check. A Stark Tech hoodie tied around his waist- sure.

He considered his face. It looked... a little more gaunt than normal. Did he lose weight during his heat?

He huffed, and bought something from the next street vendor he saw. He didn’t have cash, so he dug out the credit card Tony had given him ages ago. He got two hotdogs with mustard and devoured them as he walked. It was fine. He’d pay Tony back later.

He walked.

People passed him. But they were the wrong sort. They weren’t Wade.

He stopped. Wade? Did he know a Wade? Where the fuck did that come from? He searched his memory, but came up blank. Whatever. Maybe his brain was a little weird because of his seizure? He didn’t know.

He kept walking.

After a while he got tired of walking. It wasn’t hard to find a park- he just looked for trees and headed in that direction. He sat on a swing set.

It occurred to him that he should probably start heading home. He definitely wasn’t going to find Wade (Who the FUCK was Wade?) today. It was probably getting late- had the sun always been that low? He eyed the area around him and didn’t recognize it.

Huh.

Well, that wasn’t anything to worry about. He’d just get google to tell him. He dug his phone out of his bookbag and turned it on.

Immediately the phone started buzzing angrily.

Whoa. He had like... a zillion missed calls. The phone rang, and Peter answered without thinking.

“Hello?”

“WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?”

Holy shit, Tony sounded PISSED.

“Um... I don’t know?” he said. There was sputtering on the other end. He felt weird. “I was just going to ask google-”

“Where have you been?” Tony demanded.

“I... I went for a walk?” Peter said.

More sputtering. “You skipped the last class of the day- and went for a walk... and... Jesus christ. WHY are you in Brooklyn?”

“I’m in Brooklyn?”

“YES.”

“I don’t know. I just...” Peter trailed off. Maybe Tony would know. Tony knew everything. “Something’s wrong. I... I need help.”

There was a sudden silence, and Tony’s tone completely changed. “What? Peter? Sweetheart? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

He sounded so concerned Peter actually double checked himself.

“No, I’m okay.”

“I’m coming. Just... stay put. I’m coming, alright?”

“Okay.”

“Talk to me Peter. What happened today?”

He could hear the jets of the suit in the background.

“I went to school. And then I went for a walk.”

“Did something happen at school?”

“I...” he frowned, annoyed. “They... they kept telling me to put it away,” he bitched.

“Who did?”

“The teachers. They kept telling me to put it in my locker.”

“Put what in your locker?”

“My cinnamon rolls. That I DO NOT HAVE,” Peter roared that last bit before going quiet again. He sniffed. God he was tired. “I’m tired,” he whined, rubbing his face. “When is Wade going to pick me up?”

“You’re confused honey. You don’t know a Wade,” Tony said instantly.

Peter huffed. “I KNOW. I know! And... and I can’t find him-” he could feel frustrated tears go down his face. “I want to go home -”

“I’m coming Peter. I’m almost there. Just stay put, okay? Everything’s going to be fine.”

“Okay.”

Tony landed not a minute later, the suit opening around him and spitting him out. Tony stumbled a bit before rushing over to him. He wore sweatpants and a t-shirt. He must have come straight from the lab.

“Peter-” Tony ran fingers over Peter’s head, then down his body- looking for an injury?

“I’m not hurt,” Peter insisted.

“Yeah- I’ve got him. You have my GPS?” Tony said, a finger to his ear. “He doesn’t look hurt. We’ll do a full scan when we get back-”

Peter sighed and leaned against him.

“I’ve got you kid,” Tony said.

“I want to go home,” Peter complained.

A car came to a screaming stop somewhere on the fringes of the park.

“TONY?” that sounded like Natasha.

“OVER HERE!” Tony called back, waving.

She ran over. “Peter?” Natasha tilted Peter’s face up so that she could look him in the face. “His pupils are dilated.”

“Yeah, he’s not making much sense. I think he’s confused.”

Maybe Nat would know. “I can’t find him,” Peter complained.

She froze. “Find who, honey?”

“Wade. I can’t find him.”

For a second her face went unreadable. “You don’t know a Wade, Peter.”

Peter huffed. “I KNOW.”

She exchanged a Look with Tony, who shook his head.

“I’ll tell you what. It’s getting late. Are you tired? Hungry?”

“Yes,” Peter complained.

“You come back with me to the tower and we’ll get you some pizza, okay? That sound good?”

“I’ll come with you,” Tony said. He rapped on the armor. “Go home, J,” he said. The suit closed itself up, then took off when he stepped away.

They hustled him to the car. Peter paused- taking one last look-

“Come on honey,” Natasha said softly.

He let her put him in. She buckled his seat belt and kissed his head.

“You drive,” Tony said. “I’ll call May.”

“On it,” she said. Tony slid into the seat next to him, already dialing. “We got him,” he said. “He was in Brooklyn- no he wasn’t hurt... he’s confused. I’m taking him back to the tower for a brain scan. Uh huh. I’ll see you there.”

Peter sighed. “Is she mad?” he asked.

“She’s worried,” Tony said. “You gave us a scare there, buddy.”

“I’m sorry,” Peter said, leaning heavily against Tony. Tony gathered him up in his arms.

“I know honey. I know.”

They made him lay down in a really loud machine and be still for FOREVER before Bruce let him have any pizza.

“So far, it looks clear,” Bruce said to Aunt May, Tony and Steve. They were in another room, but Peter could hear them just fine.

Clint plopped down next to him and helped himself to some pizza.

“Hey- you see any interesting fountains while you were out?” he asked.

Peter shrugged. “Just the usual. I had a hotdog that was pretty good.”

“What did you have on it?”

“Mustard.”

“Just mustard? Really? Have you had one with onions on it?”

Peter made a face. “I don’t like them when they’re crunchy.”

Clint snorted. “A man of refined taste, are we? You like them caramelized, or just cooked?”

“Caramelized,” Peter said. He frowned and stared at a wall... wasn’t he supposed to be...

“Hey- kid. Peter-”

Someone snapped fingers in front of his face. Peter blinked.

“You with me kid?”

“Do you know Wade?” Peter said suddenly.

Clint blinked. “What?”

“Wade.”

“Kid... are you sure you didn’t hit your head?” Clint asked.

Peter narrowed his eyes. Clint was doing that thing- his professional liar thing. The one where he looked like he was telling the truth by not actually saying anything.

“You... YOU know Wade,” Peter declared.

Clint sighed. “I know A Wade,” he admitted. “But he’s... he’s a bad guy, Pete. He kills people. You shouldn’t look for him.”

Peter sighed, and rubbed his face. “Am... am I going crazy Clint?” he asked quietly.

“If you were crazy Pete, I’d be the first to tell you,” Clint said seriously. “I think you’ve been through a crazy week and you need some rest.”

“I just... I can’t think -” Peter said. He could feel more tears coming.

“Hey- hey. You’ll be okay. You hear me? Yeah? STEVE?” Clint bellowed the last bit.

Steve was there in an instant. “What? What’s wrong?”

“We’ve got a meltdown imminent. Do the cuddle thing.”

Steve sat down next to him and gathered him up. “Shhh....” he said, and scent marked him, running his wrist up and down Peter’s back. Peter buried his face into Steve’s neck and breathed deeply of his scent.

“I’ve got you, sweetheart.”

“I’m tired , Alpha-” Peter complained.

“Your Aunt is going to take you home in a minute, okay? But you have to promise me-” Steve drew back and looked Peter in the eyes, serious. “ Promise me you won’t wander off. If you need help finding something or someone, you ask your Aunt. And if she can’t help, she’ll call one of us, okay?”

Peter sniffed. “Okay.”

“I think this will help,” Tony said, and sat down in the bed next to them. “Give me your wrist, honey.”

Peter held out a hand, and Tony attached a watch to his wrist. “This,” Tony said, “will help keep you safe. It’ll tell us where you are even if your phone is off. It will also tell us if your heart rate goes too high. Okay?”

Peter eyed it. “Like... like a tracker?”

“I won’t turn it on unless you go missing again,” Tony said. “It’s waterproof, so there’s absolutely no reason for you to take it off. Okay?”

Peter frowned. “Did... did you just make this?”

“I made it yesterday to help make sure that you’re safe at school. But you’re going to be staying home for a couple of days to rest up.”

Peter considered it. “What’s wrong with me?” he asked.

“It’s the seizure, honey,” Tony ran his fingers through Peter’s hair. “Just your brain taking longer to recover than we expected. That’s all. You’ll feel like your old self in a couple of days, I promise.”

“Okay.”

“Okay what?”

“I promise I won’t wander off again,” he said.

He fell asleep on the car ride home, snuggling a tshirt that smelled that Steve. Tony had given it to him “in case of emergency”. He probably meant it as a joke, but Peter found it stupidly soothing.

“Hey, time to wake up Peter- it’s time to go inside,” his Aunt shook him awake.

He sniffed, and went inside the house, and crawled into bed, only kicking off his shoes before passing out.

The next day he sat at home and watched old episodes of Gray’s Anatomy with Aunt May.

He ate ham sandwiches for lunch, and by dinner time he was actually feeling better. It felt like a strange fog had lifted.

“So, what’s happening?” May asked.

“What?” Peter asked.

“It’s pop quiz time. What just happened in the episode?” May asked.

“Um... the brunette omega is still pining over the alpha douche who won’t leave his wife?”

“That’s like every episode. What else?”

“Um... there was a train accident?”

“Good. You feeling better now?”

“I think so,” Peter said. “I don’t feel foggy anymore.”

“Good. Tomorrow I go back to work. But I want you to stay home without me.”

Peter frowned. “But school-”

May gave him a Look. “No point in going if you can’t put two words together, Peter,” she said reproachfully. “I never should have sent you yesterday. I pushed and... I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay May,” Peter said. “I’m feeling better now.”

“Good,” she gave him a kiss on his forehead. “I’ve got to go to bed soon. Don’t stay up too late.”

“Yes May,” Peter said.

He played candy crush before bed, before eventually turning out the light at 1 am, the shirt that Tony gave him on the floor somewhere.

He slept.

******

Tony was gently drooling onto Steve’s chest when the buzzing noise went off.

“Wha-” he blinked awake.

“Sir. Peter’s watch alarm has gone off,” Jarvis said.

That woke him up like a splash of cold water to the face.

“WHAT?”

“His heart rate underwent a dramatic spike and is now lower than normal-”

“Call May.”

“Tony?” Steve muttered. “What’s happening?”

“Something’s wrong with Peter. Get dressed.”

Steve swore, and May answered after the 5th ring.

“Tony?” she sounded sleepy.

“Where’s Peter?” Tony demanded.

“What? I- I think he’s sleeping?”

“His heart monitor just went off. Can you check on him please?”

There was silence, then sounds of footsteps. “PETER?” she called.

Tony waited anxiously while he looked for shoes.

“He’s not in bed-” she said, sounding panicked.

“Jarvis?”

“GPS indicates he is still in the house,” Jarvis said.

“Did you hear that May- he’s still there-”

“I’m looking- oh god ...”

Tony’s heart just about stopped at her tone.

May?

“He- he’s in the bathroom. I think he fell. Shit. He’s bashed his head really good against the sink- there’s blood and vomit everywhere. Oh god- Tony-”

“We’ll be there soon.” Tony said. “Jarvis?” he demanded. “Wake up Clint!”

It turned out that there was just enough space for them to land the quinjet in the street directly in front of Peter’s house.

10 minutes later they were back in the MedBay, with Peter getting yet another head x-ray. Or at least, trying to.

“NO! Go away!” Peter babbled, incoherent. “Don’ touch me!” he lashed out. Steve took the hit so the x-ray machine wouldn’t.

“Peter. It’s me. You’re at the Tower. You’re safe,” he recited, then grabbed Peter’s hands and held them down. “Did you get it?” he asked the tech. The man looked at his screen before giving a thumbs up.

“Good,” Steve kicked the wheeled machine away, out of Peter’s line of sight.

Tony waited anxiously with May at a safe distance.

“What’s going on? Peter’s hurt again?” Bucky asked, wandering in, still in his pajamas.

“Help me- he’s confused-” Steve grunted.

“NO!” Peter screamed, and tried to buck Steve off him.

Bucky swore, and quickly hopped on the gurney, pinning his legs. “Rumble for him-” he hissed.

“I’m trying-”

Bucky started, low and deep.

“Shh....” Steve joined in, and after a few seconds Peter relaxed, gasping.

“Don... don’t hurt me-” Peter begged.

“Shh... you’re safe. You're at the tower. You’re safe. I’m here-” Steve recited. “It’s just a bad dream honey. You’re safe.”

Eventually Peter blinked. “Alpha?” he asked, dazed.

“Right here honey,” Steve said instantly. “I’m here. You’re safe. You’re at the tower. You bumped your head, and got scared-”

“Don’t... I don’t want to-”

“Don't want to what, honey?”

“Don’t...” Peter protested.

“Sweetheart. You don’t have to do anything. Just relax. You’re at the tower. You’re safe.”

“Steve?”

“I’m here too,” Bucky said. “We’ll protect you, Peter. Nothing bad is going to happen. I promise.”

“Promise?” Peter asked weakly, eyes full of tears.

“Promise,” Steve said firmly.

*******

Tony sat with May at Peter’s bedside while they waited for the overnight doctor to read the x-ray. Bucky was keeping Peter occupied by showing him things on a StarkPad.

“We can’t keep doing this May,” he said quietly. “This... this is unsustainable. I know you want him at home, and going to school but... it’s looking like Peter is going to need 24 hour supervision for a while. I don’t think you can give that to him at home.”

She sighed, and rubbed her face. “I just... I just wanted him to have a normal life-”

“He can have that-” Steve said, equally quietly, standing next to May. “But for now he needs more support. Until we figure out what’s going on with him.”

“He can stay in his room here,” Tony said. “Jarvis will keep an eye on him. And there will always be someone here- Sam has agreed to stay behind if there’s a general call. And the MedBay is just floors away-”

“You’re welcome to come visit him any time you want,” Steve said. “Our home is yours.”

She stared at Peter, whose face was still mostly covered in blood. His vomit covered shirt and pants had been cut off and tossed on the floor.

She sighed. “Okay,” she said. “He stays.”

Chapter Text

"What was 17 again?" Evan asked. He was laying on his back on the floor, his feet propped up on the ancient couch in Harley’s garage. He was writing on the underside of a battered coffee table that had one Lego leg and one leg made of a stack of 1980s college math books in addition to the usual wooden ones.

"356.24" Harley said, not even looking up from his workbench. A broken Nintendo Switch was splayed out in pieces over the wooden surface and Harley soldered with all the attention and care of a surgeon. The jeweler's loop he was currently looking through was attached via some armature wire to the bill of his camo trucker’s hat.

"How the hell did you get 356.24?" Evan demanded.

"Did you carry the two?"

"Yes!"

"It's supposed to be a six."

Evan huffed. "Now you're just fucking with me," he complained.

"Order of operations, Evan. You're supposed to multiply before you add," Harley said patiently.

Evan stared at his paper.

"Fuck."

"Yep."

"I gotta redo this entire thing-"

"And number 5."

"What?"

"Did you do the exponent first?"

".... no."

"Hmmm..."

"God damn it. I don't understand. I put it in my phone-"

Harley sighed. “It’s the order of operations, Evan. You should know this by now.”

“Oh, so you’re saying that you should know how to spell now too? Because I still find it hard to believe that you don’t even know how to spell ‘mathematician’ right. It’s like... What you do!”

Harley rolled his eyes. “My Penis Extracts Multiple Damning Anal orgamS.”

There was a beat of silence.

“Harley- I don’t know what kind of friendship you think we have-”

“It’s a thing. That helps you remember. Like, ‘My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas’ for the order of the planets.”

There was another beat. “And what the fuck is your penis supposed to help me remember?”

“Parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction- the order of operations.”

Another beat.

“Hasn’t Pluto not been a planet for like... years now?”

“Shut up,” Harley growled. “Do you want to pass math, or not?”

“I would like to pass math, and have nothing to do with your penis, all at the same time. I feel like that’s not too much to ask-”

They both jumped as the back door to the garage burst open, bouncing off the wall behind it, and an enraged Mary-Anne stormed in, slammed a book on the ground, and spit on it.

Both boys froze, staring at the book.

“Anne?” Evan asked tentatively. “Everything okay?”

“NO! This... this piece of sexist... SHIT is the worst thing ever! Mrs. Flannigan wants me to do a fucking book report on it, and I’d rather gouge my fucking eyes out!”

She kicked it, hard, and it spun across the floor and bounced off an ancient and decrepit scooter on the other side of the garage. Then she launched herself onto the couch and started crying.

The boys stared at the book, then at the slight omega.

“Okay- I’m gonna go get the ice cream-” Evan said slowly.

“Get the fudge brownie- not the chunky monkey,” Harley said quietly, holding out a five dollar bill.

“Are you kidding? I’m getting chocolate therapy and the brownie one,” Evan whispered back before he took the bill, grabbed a skateboard from against the wall, and headed out.

Harley took off his hat and cautiously picked up the hated book. It seemed fairly straight forward... There was a picture of a stone tower on the cover, with some sort of blonde hair waterfall going down the side to the ground below.

He flipped the book over, and found a generic description of, well- Rapunzel. A fairy tale?

“What’s wrong with Rapunzel?” he asked. “It’s got a happy ending, don’t it? They get married and have lots of babies and live happily ever after-”

Mary-Anne huffed. “Not in this one,” she said miserably into a pillow. “This one is... ‘modern’.”

Harley sat down on the floor next to the couch. “Tell me about it,” he said neutrally.

More huffing.

Harley waited.

“So... it starts the same, right? A witch kidnaps a baby after her parents are stupid, and she grows up to be this beautiful omega with long hair. And she does the whole ‘oh my god my life is so hard’ thing because she can’t leave the tower.”

“Uh huh.”

“And then this alpha hears her singing. So he does the whole ‘how can I get my knot in her?’ thing and climbs her hair. And they share a heat together.”

“Okay,” it seemed pretty straight forward.

“He tells her that he’s going to make her his mate- but he doesn’t bite her because he has issues or something back home. He says that he’ll be back. And then he leaves.”

“Wait... so he leaves her behind?”

“Yes.”

“Okay... sounds dramatic... what does she do when he comes back?”

“He doesn’t.”

“What?”

He doesn’t come back. So she HANGS HERSELF with her own fucking hair-”

What?

“And THEN- then it just ends! IT ENDS!”

Harley stared at the book in disgust. What the fuck kind of shit was that?

“And NOW- NOW- Mrs. Flannigan wants us to do a report on, and I quote: ‘what Rapunzel did wrong’.”

He stared at the book in horror. “ What?!

“That’s what I said!”

“But... the alpha was the dick head in the story-”

“EXACTLY!”

He stared at the book. Frowned.

“And?” he asked.

“What?”

“Mary-Anne, you just about broke down my door and spat on a book before crying. What else is going on?”

She blinked, sniffed, and refused to look at him. “I... I’m sorry. I just... I’m close to my heat-”

“You just had your heat a month ago,” Harley said instantly. “You’re not due for another 7 weeks.”

She gaped at him. “Are you... are you tracking my heats?”

Harley blinked. Was this what being in front of a firing squad felt like? “Um...”

“Harley!”

“You... um... I need to know when to stock the ice cream?” he tried lamely. Maybe the truth would work?

“You asshole!” She threw a pillow at him.

“Look. I’m drowning here. My momma, you, and sometime very soon it’s gonna be Abby too. You WANT me to live or not?” he demanded. “If I don’t keep track, we run out, and then I’m the one going out at 2 am for stuff!”

“That doesn’t mean it’s okay-”

“Do you, or do you NOT want me to buy you chunky monkey, and have it on standby a week before you’re due?” Harley demanded.

“What?”

“Do you want your Chunky? Monkey ?” he demanded.

She stared, open mouthed for a second, before huffing. “You’re still an asshole,” she muttered.

“And I cannot help how the Lord God made me,” Harley shot back. “So I’m taking that as a yes to the monkeys?”

“Yes, alright! I want my fucking chunky monkey,” she pouted.

“Good. So... you wanna tell me what’s really going on?”

She fidgeted, looking miserable. “Harley-”

“Yes?”

He waited patiently as she gathered her thoughts.

“Do.... do I smell different?” she asked quietly.

Harley stared at her, eyes wide for nearly a whole minute. There was, in his experience, only one reason for an omega’s scent to change.

“Mary-Anne?” he asked quietly, intensely. “Do I need to get you a pregnancy test?”

“What?” she was startled.

“Do I need to get you a test?” he asked, seriously. He cupped her face with a hand. “I can go down to the City- no one would know-” he said, desperately searching her face. “I won’t even tell Evan.”

She flushed scarlet. “No. I...” she leaned into his touch. “McKenzie... McKenzie said that one of the reasons why Rapunzel killed herself is that... she knew that other alphas would smell him on her, and they wouldn't want... wouldn’t want..”

She couldn’t seem to bring herself to finish.

“Wouldn’t want her?” he asked quietly.

She nodded. “Do... do I smell different, Harley?” she insisted, afraid.

He sat on the couch, and made a show of drawing her close, and scenting her. He deeply breathed in her Scent of honeysuckle and roses.

“You smell just fine to me-” he said gruffly, holding her tight in a bear hug.

“Really? Or are you just-”

“You smell the same,” Harley said firmly. “And you should know that McKenzie Little was dropped on her head when she was a baby. Just ask her momma. Right down the front concrete steps of the church-”

She snorted. “That’s awful, Harley,” she complained half-heartedly.

“But it’s true. She ain’t got no sense, and you know that-”

She sniffed miserably. “But-”

“Look. Sometimes, sometimes you can tell right after, or for a few days. Sometimes, they scent mark you and it can linger for a bit,” he said earnestly. “But that ain’t nothin’ a shower, and some of that de-scent soap won’t fix. And you smell just fine .”

“Really?”

“Really,” he said firmly, resisting the urge to scent mark her himself. As much as he loved her like a sister, she wasn’t blood-related, and it wasn’t his place.

“Holy shit- should I have bought skittles too?” Evan asked from the doorway, alarmed.

“Maybe,” Harley said. “I’m about to ask for a name,” he said grimly.

“Harley!” she protested.

“What piece of shit alpha left you high and dry and worried like this?” he demanded. “Tell me.”

Evan eyed them, even more alarmed, eyes wide. “Mary-Anne? Do I need to get you a test?” he asked quietly.

“No!” she barked, irritated.

“I want a name, Mary-Anne Castor,” he rumbled, not letting her go.

She squirmed. “It’s no-one- just... some asshole-”

“That is a given,” Evan said, pissed. “What happened?”

“Some asshole spent a heat with her then ghosted.”

Mary-Anne sputtered. “I... I did not say that! I never said that!”

“You didn’t have to,” Harley said. “Why else would a stupid story about Rapunzel upset you like this?”

She huffed. “I hate you,” she said without any heat.

“Anne-” Evan said, pleading.

“Bobby. Bobby Chadwick,” she said reluctantly.

Harley frowned. He couldn’t place the name. He gave Evan a Look, who shrugged, baffled. “What grade is he in?” Harley asked.

“He graduated,” she said dully. “Like a few years ago-”

“Oh, Mary-Anne,” Harley breathed, disappointed and heart broken all at once. Mary-Anne was a year behind them, and barely 16.

“Shut up! He- he was nice!” she insisted, close to tears. “He... he treated me right , Harley-”

“Right up until he left-” Evan said grimly.

Mary-Anne sobbed.

“Shhh.... I got you,” Harley said. “I got you.”

They ate their ice cream and watched John Tucker Must Die and Magic Mike on Harley’s projector.

“Chadwick...” Evan said thoughtfully as they watched Channing Tatum gyrate on screen. “Isn’t there an ‘Emily Chadwick’ in our grade?”

Between them, Mary-Anne snored gently.

Harley considered. “Emily... the fake redhead?” he asked. “Beta, but tall?”

“That’s the one.”

“What about her?”

“We could look up where she lives,” Evan said. “In the school computer.”

Harley considered. “He’s graduated, though. He’s probably not there no more.”

“Hmmm...”

Harley thought. “You know...” he said slowly, “She asked me last week if I would fix a phone for her.”

“Oh? What did you say?”

“I said no. I didn’t have time. But... she said it used to be her brother’s- said he gave it to her broken.”

They shared a Look.

“Well, it’s not right, leaving a girl without a phone, Harley,” Evan said calmly. “You should help her out.”

Harley nodded. “I think I will,” he said thoughtfully. “I think I will.”

Emily, as it turned out, was thrilled he’d changed his mind. “I don’t actually have any money to pay you with Harley,” she said contritely. “I do have some of these cool crystals though I got from my Uncle-” she said. “He says he got them from New York after the alien attack. They glow. Sarah said you’d be cool with bartering. You like things like that, don’t you?”

“Sure,” Harley said. He didn’t give a damn if she gave him lollipops and a smile. He wanted that fucking phone. “It ain’t safe for a girl these days to be without a phone, Emily,” he said seriously. “Don’t worry about it.”

She gave him both the phone and the crystals.

The battery had somehow been knocked loose, and the screen wouldn't turn on. He spent $30 on ebay for a new glass front and screen. After a bit of jiggling, he had the phone up and running enough to clone it. Whoever this Bobby was, he had crammed the phone to the gills with files and apps. It was going to take a while for his somewhat ancient laptop to back it all up.

While he waited, he considered the ‘crystals’ that Emily had given him as payment. There were three of them, all about the size of his pinky finger. They were... glowy. Kinda. But that could be how they were cut and a trick of the light. Whatever. He shrugged and shoved them on a shelf. He’d deal with them later.

He wondered what would happen if he shot them with his BB gun?

He was tracing a particularly ornery circuit in the switch while he waited for the phone to be backed up, when a glow out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.

It was coming from the shelf. He frowned, leaned backwards in his chair to get a better look, and nearly fell over.

HOLY SHIT.

He hurried over. The makeshift miniaturized arc reactor he’d made last year was fucking GLOWING.

Weakly. But glowing.

What the hell? He’d made it as sort of test of himself- if Tony Stark could make one in a fucking cave with a box of scraps, it shouldn’t be any problem for a boy in Tennessee who had access to a credit card and Ebay. Plus he’d seen the thing close up and Tony had answered his millions of questions almost absently while he’d worked on the suit- especially when Harley offered to get him more moonshine.

It’d been. Well. Not easy. But not as hard as replacing the top screen on a Nintendo DS- (threading those wires through the hinge is a BITCH.) Except for the palladium. It had been a real pain in the ass sourcing any at the time- so he’d shelved it. Never got it to turn on.

And now it was motherfucking GLOWING.

He picked it up. The glow vanished.

Frowning, he examined it, and in a spirit of experimentation, replaced it on the shelf.

Glow.

He picked it up.

No glow.

Huh.

He scanned the shelf- trying to see what had changed.

The crystals.

He placed the reactor on his work bench, and carefully placed a single crystal on top of it.

The reactor not only glowed, but hummed a bit- it was trying to rev up.

He eyed the crystal. It was slightly too big to fit into the slot where the palladium core was supposed to go.

Maybe...

One youtube video and several of his mother’s emery boards later, Harley carefully hammered the now slimmer crystal into place with a rubber mallet. He’d covered it with a bit of foam from an old bike seat and a dish towel from the kitchen to absorb most of the shock. He didn’t want to fracture it.

There was a click as it finally slid into place. The reactor hummed happily, and after a moment, glowed green instead of blue/white.

Interesting.

It fried his voltage reader when he tried to figure out how much it was throwing out. Which both pissed him off and intrigued him.

What was he going to do with it? He’d have to step down the power before he could use it...

But... if he could get it to work....

He eyed the electrical panel that went to the main house. It could power a suit that flew through the air. How long could it power, say- a house? A month? Two? More?

He’d need to order a better voltage meter-

An alarm on his phone went off. Frowning, he dug it out of a pile of crap on his workbench.

SHIT.

He had work today.

He tossed the reactor back on the shelves, and ran off to get dressed. He double backed to throw a blanket over it- he didn’t want Abby or Momma messing with it. And while technically they knew better-

Well. Didn’t matter. If he didn’t hurry he was going to be late for his shift.

He didn’t get back to the phone until the next day after school. He eyed the shelves- but no. That would have to wait. A certain Mr. Chadwick had a date with... maybe a baseball bat? Harley hadn’t decided yet.

He brought up the files, and skimmed through them. He wanted to make sure he had the right target first. There were a lot of pictures. Lots of porn.... Lots and lots and .... jesus christ, dude. Seriously? So much porn.

He flicked through almost absently, when his eye spotted something that made his blood turn to ice. Wait... had that been-

He scrolled up.

And there she was- Abby.

What the fuck?????

She was fully dressed (thank god) and sitting on a couch, kissing some asshole on the cheek while he grinned like an idiot and gave a peace sign to the camera.

He frowned. Where had he seen that face before... Wait. What was his name- A.... not asshole, God damnit, it was A something.

Aaron.

He considered the picture for a moment, then picked the “share” option, and uploaded it to facebook. After a moment, it regurgitated little boxes around the faces in the picture with “Would you like to tag Abby Grace and Aaron Sykes?”

His eyes narrowed. He’d hoped Aaron would match. But Abby? Hmmm...

He clicked on her tag.

She had an entire facebook page under “Abby Grace” and it was chock full of just... teenage crap.

He growled. He’d thought he’d had her phone locked down so she couldn’t download facebook. But apparently he was wrong.

Looks like she wasn’t going to be getting an upgrade for her birthday after all. In fact, he was fairly sure he had a crappy flip tracfone somewhere. He’d fucking burn out the camera on it with a soldering iron first, though.

Well. At least that explained how she’d managed to meet up with this... Aaron.

He double checked- and yep. She was lying about her age on the page, too.

“Abby...” he muttered, frustrated, and rubbed his face.

He flicked through the pictures some more. No, no no.... there. There was another one of Abby. She was sitting on a porch next to the Aaron dude. Again.

More pictures. This time, no Abby but Aaron and other guys. And Jesus Christ, that was a bong. And... he tilted his head and peered at the picture. Was that...

He hoped to god someone had spilled baking soda on that fucking table because otherwise he was going to be chaining Abby to a radiator until she was 30.

So. Okay. Fuck.

He was getting distracted. He’d scared Aaron off, so he didn’t need to worry about them. He doubted he’d come sniffing back around, especially since he’d made it clear that Abby was under his protection.

So. Back on track. He needed a picture of Mary-Anne.

He found one. The guy doing the selfie was shirtless and sweaty and Mary-Anne was in bed. She didn't look coherent. Fortunately there were some sheets or else he would have seen more of her than he cared to.

It felt like a hot knife had been twisted in his gut.

The fucker had taken a picture of her while she was in heat.

He didn't look for any more. One was enough.

Now to find out where he lived. It was stupidly easy. He just told google “navigate home”. And... bam. He had the fucker’s address. It was clear on the other side of town, but that was fine.

He wiped the phone’s memory before filling it with garbage files then did a factory reset. Now anything that had been on it before was unrecoverable.

He was about to delete the phone’s files off his computer when he hesitated. Mary-Anne. Should he tell her about the pictures? She was brokenhearted already. But if she didn’t know...

He pursed his lips. He’d decide later when he wasn’t so angry.

He brought up his own phone, and dialed. Evan answered on the second ring. “Harley?”

“He took pictures of her while she was in heat,” he said flatly. “I don’t know if she knows.”

Evan swore. “Are we burning this fucker’s house down or what?” he demanded.

“No. But I have a few ideas.”

“Tell me when and where, Harley.”

“I’ll pick you up after my shift at your house. Then we’re gonna go to Knoxville and do some shopping,” Harley said.

Please let me slash his tires,” Evan said. “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

“Bring your switchblade,” Harley said.

Yeess... ” Evan hissed, excited.

It was dark when Harley picked Evan up.

“I got fifty bucks and my mom’s Sam’s card,” Evan said. “They sell eggs for super cheap, and they have these stupid big packs of toilet paper.”

“Sounds like a start,” Harley agreed. “We’re also going to Home Depot.”

“What are we getting there?”

“You’ll see,” Harley said. His smile was not friendly.

They hit the house at 2am.

“Is this it?” Evan asked. They were in a fairly hick neighborhood- the houses were run down but far apart.

“According to the DMV, that’s his truck,” Harley said.

“Awesome,” Evan said.

Harley activated his jammers. Cell phone service was spotty out here at the best of times, and now it would be non-existent. His second gadget hijacked the asshole’s stupid and cheap internet-based security cameras that he’d scouted out earlier. If anyone checked the footage, all they’d get would be a loop of Rick Ashley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” at max volume.

“Ready to rock?” Harley asked. “Born ready,” Evan said.

It took less than 3 seconds for Harley to jimmy open the door to the man’s F150 with a slim jim he’d gotten from the junkyard. He rolled the windows down, and closed the door.

“Ready?”

“Yep.”

The two part expanding foam frothed and well, expanded like crazy as they poured several gallons of it into the cabin. It wasn’t enough to fill it to the top, unfortunately, but it was enough to cover the bottom of the truck cab to the underside of the truck’s seats.

“Are you sure this will piss him off?” Evan asked.

“It’s used as a concrete substitute,” Harley said. “And it’ll be fully set in an hour. He’ll need a chisel to even get to the pedals.”

“Sweet,” Evan said.

The rest was fairly standard- they partially filled his truck bed with pancake batter, and spread 5 pounds of extra fine glitter over his yard and roof. 90 rolls of toilet paper joined them. Cases of eggs followed.

And in case he missed the point, Harley helpfully spelled out “DICK” with flour on the front yard.

By the time they were done, the house looked like a badly wrapped mummy.

And of course, Evan slashed the truck tires. Several times.

“It’s supposed to rain tomorrow,” Evan said, surveying their work with a tired smirk. Throwing toilet paper rolls was harder than it looked. It took a certain flick of the wrist to not only get the height needed to clear the trees, but also make it unfurl right for proper coverage.

“Good,” Harley said.

They celebrated at a Waffle House because it was cheaper than IHOP.

“Ugh... I am broke-” Evan whined. “And I feel like my mom made me try out for the baseball team again-” he rubbed his shoulder.

“You would have been good at it,” he pointed out. “You shouldn’t have quit.”

The beta rolled his eyes. “And what- stand outside in the heat and do nothing for hours a time? Please. Does it look like I want skin cancer? Or to die of boredom?”

“You could have stared at cute guy’s asses for hours,” Harley said innocently.

Evan glared at him. “I may be god damn whore, Harley, but I’m not that desperate. I can stare at naked guys at home in my room where there’s air conditioning,” he retorted.

Harley snorted a laugh and took a bite of his waffles.

Evan eyed him thoughtfully. “Speaking of asses... I gotta ask, Harley. I’m dying here.”

“Hmm?”

“Are... are you gay?”

Harley blinked at him. “ What?

Evan produced a hand and started counting off fingers. “You watch Magic Mike with zero complaints. I mean- none. Not even like a wrinkled nose. You, in all the years I’ve known you, have yet to even so much as glance at a girl. And Mary-Anne’s right. I know of at least 3 omegas who would totally stab a bitch to have even a chance with you-”

“Evan-” Harley said warily.

Evan ignored him continuing, “You do like... housework. And, for reasons I do not want to think about, I know for a fact none of your underwear is even close to being ratty-”

Harley frowned at him. “What does underwear have anything to do with-”

Evan waved him quiet. “I’m listing. Please wait for the end of the presentation for any and all questions and comments-”

Evan ,” Harley rumbled.

Evan huffed. Waited a beat. “WELL?” he demanded.

Harley considered his waffles and shrugged. “Never seen anything I like, I guess,” he said.

Evan frowned. “Girls? Guys? What are we talking about here?”

Harley shrugged. “Either I guess. Dunno. Never seemed... important. I ain’t got time for nonsense.”

“Then what do you call what we just did to Mr. Dickwad?”

“Necessary,” Harley said instantly.

Evan sighed. “You’re a stone cold bitch, you know that Harley?”

“Fuck yeah I am,” he said. “And you love me for it.”

“Fuck yeah I do,” Evan said, then paused. “No homo.”

Harley nearly choked on his orange juice.

Asshole ,” he grumbled.

Evan laughed.

Chapter Text

Peter woke up and did not know where he was. He eyed the room around him with a mixture of fear and confusion-

“Young Master Parker, you are in the Tower. It is Wednesday, April 17, 2019, and it is 10 am. You are safe. Sir is sleeping in the Penthouse, and the Captain is on the common floor with Mr. Wilson and the Sergeant making a snack. Would you like me to call someone?” Jarvis said calmly from the ceiling, a voice of sanity.

As soon as Jarvis started speaking the contents of the room went from strange and foreboding to familiar and comforting. He was in his room in the tower. He’d gone to sleep in his bed the night before. The reason why everything looked so strange was he had his head at the foot of the bed, not the top, and he almost never slept here anyway.

That was all.

He breathed a sigh of relief.

“Young Master?” Jarvis asked again.

“I’m fine Jarvis. Just... lost my bearings for a moment.”

“Of course, young sir. Remember I am here to help you,” Jarvis said. “And that there will always be someone here 24/7 should you require assistance.”

“Thank you, Jarvis,” Peter said. Honestly, he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Should he be relieved that he wasn’t alone? Or irritated that he was, essentially, being babysat?

He rubbed his face. His head throbbed dully. He winced, and walked to the bathroom, where he examined his head in the mirror. He had a large goose egg near his left ear, where he’d apparently hit the sink hard enough he’d taken a chunk off the formica corner. Fortunately the cut in his scalp had been fixable with just a bit of glue, but he still had dried blood in his hair, and some streaks on his neck where whoever had wiped him down had missed some spots.

Ugh. He eyed the shower.

“Might I suggest a bath, Young Master?” Jarvis said instantly. “There are some bath bombs in the cabinet, and I think you will find the jets soothing.”

Peter frowned at the ceiling, considering. Jarvis had never commented on his bathing choices before.

“And if I take a shower...” he asked cautiously.

“I shall call someone to assist you,” Jarvis said.

Peter went wide-eyed. “I can bathe myself- I’m 15-” he protested.

“They are to stand outside and wait in case you fall,” Jarvis said, unflappable.

Peter huffed. “And if I tell you NOT to call someone?” he tried.

“I’m sorry, Young Master. But your safety and general health falls under a Priority One Command Structure. You are not authorized to override it.”

Peter grumbled, but took a bath.

At least the jets were nice.

Scrubbed pink, he wandered into his room and put on a tank top and some basketball shorts. The tank top was huge on him- Tony must have ordered something several sizes too big. At least the shorts fit. His Aunt had said she’d be over later with some of his clothes. Until then he had to make due with what Tony had put in his drawers.

He wandered onto the common floor. It was unlikely that Steve and Bucky had made enough of their ‘snack’ for there to be leftovers, but a man could hope.

Thankfully, he was in luck- Bucky and Steve’s ‘snack’ appeared to still be in the process of being cooked.

“Don’t you have any clothes that actually fit you?” Sam demanded from the island where he was making salads. “You look like you got hit with a shrink ray.”

Peter shrugged, but otherwise ignored him. Sure, the shirt was all but falling off him, but he didn’t really care. “What are you making?” he asked hopefully, trying to sneak a peek past the wall of muscle that was Steve, blocking the stove.

“Spaghetti,” Bucky said, slicing up a loaf of french bread.

Peter made a noise of hopeful interest and turned on his best puppy dog eyes.

“Calm down, you can have some,” Steve said, smiling, and moved away from the stove to rummage in a cabinet.

“How are you feeling?” Bucky asked.

“My head is sore, but I feel fine,” Peter said, taking the opportunity to sneak a finger into the sauce, so he could steal a taste.

“Hey-” Bucky protested. “You’ll burn yourself doing that-”

Peter snorted. “And it’ll heal in like less than a minute,” he said, going around Steve and rummaging in the fridge.

“You still shouldn’t do it-” Bucky scolded.

“What are you even looking for-” Steve asked, amused. “It’s almost ready.”

“It needs a splash of wine. Do you have a red already open somewhere?” Peter said.

There was a beat of silence. “We don’t keep alcohol in the tower, Peter,” Steve said seriously.

Peter huffed at him, and shut the fridge. “I’m not going to drink it- just put some in the sauce. Where’s the red already?” he asked, opening a likely cabinet. He could have sworn he’d seen some wine in here before-

“Peter- we don’t keep alcohol in the tower. Period.”

Peter stared at him, frowning. Steve seemed to be serious. He snuck a look at Bucky, who also seemed to be wearing his best poker face.

Seriously? Really? Were they that concerned that he was going to drink the damn stuff? The lie was just... insulting. He could understand if it was locked up or something like Ned’s parents did, but to lie right to his face? A spark of anger flared up in his belly.

He closed the cabinet with a little more force than necessary, and started back for the elevator.

The alphas made various noises of surprise.

“Whoa there king kong- take it easy-” Sam protested. “Where you going?”

“Not hungry anymore,” Peter said. “I’m going to the lab.” Tony had some snacks down there that he liked.

“Jarvis! Hold the elevator- no lab time today Peter,” Steve called after him sternly.

“What?” Peter asked, flabbergasted.

“You had a fairly serious concussion yesterday,” Steve said. “Bruce was very clear- you need rest. No small screens, no lab time.”

“But I-” Peter protested, trying to explain. He wouldn’t do lab things. Just...

“Peter. I said no,” Steve said.

Maybe it was Steve’s tone. Maybe it was the fact that he was recovering from a concussion. Maybe it was because Saturn was in decline. Who the fuck knows.

All Peter knew was that he just... burst into tears. Standing right there on the common floor, halfway in the elevator... just... crying like he’d just been told that science had been cancelled for forever.

Everyone froze.

“Peter?” Steve asked, hesitantly. Gently. Like you would to someone who’d suddenly turned crazy.

It made Peter cry harder. “You... you’re so... MEAN!” Peter sobbed, then fled down the emergency stairs.

He let the door to the stairwell slam shut behind him, and took the stairs two at a time- the most his stupidly short legs would allow.

“Peter!” he could hear Steve calling after him, but he ignored it. Sniffling and feeling like heel, Peter hopped over the railing and jumped his way down 8 stories to his personal floor. He put a hand to the biolock, and the door clicked open. He slammed that one behind him too.

He wound up huddled in a corner on the ceiling, hugging a pillow. Jesus Christ, what was WRONG with him? He sniffled miserably, and buried his face in the pillow.

“Young Master- the Captain is asking to come to your floor-” Jarvis asked, concerned.

“NO! Go away!”

“I will tell him. Do you wish for me to call for someone else? Sir, perhaps?”

“No,” he hiccuped, his face burning with shame.

“Perhaps young sir would like something to eat- some tacos, perhaps? I can have them delivered.”

Peter sniffed. “Tacos?” he asked hopefully, miserably.

“I shall arrange for a triple order. Would you like your usual root beer to go with it?”

Peter considered. “Yes,” he said sullenly. “Can... can I have strawberries?”

“Of course, Young Master. Do you want them covered in chocolate or pre-sliced?”

Peter considered, fidgeting. “Both?” he asked meekly.

“Certainly. Is there anything else you would like to add to your order?”

“Extra salsa?”

“Right away.”

Peter sniffled into his pillow. “Thank you Jarvis,” he said miserably.

“It is my pleasure.”

He cocooned in his bed and ate tacos while Jarvis played the original 1978 Halloween on his wall. He got around the ‘no small screens’ rule by using a large tablet to scroll on the internet.

Jarvis insisted on making the text extra large, so he wouldn’t strain his eyes.

“I feel like I’m 90,” he complained. “Can’t you make it so that there’s more than 4 words to a line?”

“There are currently 12 words displayed on the top line, Young Master,” Jarvis said, the little shit.

Peter huffed, and grumbled, but Jarvis was impervious, and did not budge.

On screen, Micheal Myers stood behind a clothesline, looming with his stupid white mask and glowing red eyes.

Peter hissed and tossed a crumpled up napkin at the screen. “Booo... stupid alphas!” Jamie Lee Curtis, playing the stupid clueless omega, startled at the sight, but didn’t do anything about it.

“Come on- at least get a baseball bat,” he heckled.

She, of course, did nothing of the sort.

He snorted, and went back to scrolling. He stopped, hand frozen. A headline from the Daily Bugle was trending on twitter.

“The A’crack’nid Menace: Spider-Man the Addict.”

What?

He clicked on the link.

“An ‘anonymous source’ reported that the head doctor at the Avenger’s tower was fired last week after insisting the menace known as ‘Spider-Man’ be entered into rehab. The so-called hero had been admitted with symptoms of a cocaine overdose, but Tony Stark himself fired the man, in a blatant attempt at a cover up. The fact that Spider-Man has not been seen since begs the question: is he still recovering from a near-fatal overdose?”

They went on to cover why it was obvious he was high: his twitchness, the fact he never ever ever shut up. His stupid jokes (a sign of brain damage from all the drugs)...

He could feel himself deflate a little. Sure, he was corny. But brain-damage? They weren’t that bad... right?

And they were right. It’d been nearly two weeks since he’d been out and about as Spider-Man in public, or even gone on patrol.

He scowled at the tablet.

“Jarvis? Where’s my suit?” he asked.

“According to the tracker, it is currently at your house.”

It took some digging, but he found his phone and called May.

“Hey! How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Fine! I’m fine!” he lied. “Look, when you bring my stuff, can you remember to bring my suit? I think it’s under the bed-”

“Your suit?” May asked, confused.

“You know- the one I patrol in?” he asked. “Jarvis said it’s at the house.”

There was a pause.

“May?”

“Did Tony say you could go patrolling?” May asked, her tone dangerous.

“What- no- I just-”

“You broke my sink with your face Peter,” May said seriously. “You are NOT going anywhere.”

“I- I wasn’t going to go out today -” he protested.

“No. It’s staying right where it is.”

“But-”

“I said no, Peter. That’s final. If that’s all I have to go- I’m due in for another shift. I’ll drop off some clothes and some school work for you on my way-”

He never found out what she was going to say because he threw the phone at the wall with a snarl of rage. It dented the wall when it hit, shattered, then landed on the floor in pieces.

The sound of it breaking startled him, and he stared at it in open-mouthed horror. What the fuck... He burst into tears when he’d realized he’d just BROKEN HIS PHONE. He’d LIKED that phone. And now he’d gone and broken it for no reason- Aunt May was going to be pissed ...

And all of his pictures... he hadn’t backed up his pictures in nearly a month now- what if they were gone?

The crying turned into slightly hysterical sobbing.

He cocooned himself again.

He’d just managed to get the sobbing under control when the elevator door slid open and Tony stepped in.

“Hey kiddo. Heard you were having a rough day-” he said, surveying the remains of Peter’s lunch and the shattered phone with a wary eye.

Peter sniffed. “Go away,” he said whined tiredly, and burrowed deeper into his blankets.

“Your Aunt said you hung up on her,” he said. “She was worried about you.”

Peter whined.

Tony sat on the bed. “Your head hurt, honey?” he asked quietly.

Peter ignored him. The man had to get bored and go away eventually. Right?

Tony sat in silence for a moment.

“You watching Halloween? Never could stand that series,” he said. “Feral alphas just don’t behave like that. Micheal Myers is the least realistic serial killer ever.”

Peter chewed on a lip. Eventually curiosity won over. “You’ve seen an alpha go feral?” he asked quietly, peeking out from under his blankets.

“Sure. There was this guy- Killian- he was trying to make a drug that healed people. And it worked. But- and this is the kicker- it made the alphas go feral. Red eyes and everything. They’d go on rampages and just... well. Killed a lot of people. In fact it was so potent it made even betas go a little nuts. Not as bad as the alphas, of course,” he shrugged. “Of course, the fact that they also could shoot fire from their hands made them extra deadly, but... I gotta be honest here, I found the red eyes a hell of a lot scarier than the fire thing.”

“They shot fire from their hands?” Peter asked skeptically.

“They weren’t very good at it and it killed them in the process, but they were feral so they didn’t exactly care. Also their eyes didn’t glow like that-” Tony gestured at the movie, which showed glowing red eyes peering through slats in a closet door while a frightened Jamie Lee Curtis huddled in said closet.

“They were just... red. Entirely red. No white visible or anything. Very... unsettling.”

Peter gnawed a lip. “Has Steve ever-”

“No,” Tony said firmly. “Though apparently Hydra’s tried just about everything under the sun on him. You don’t have to worry about that.”

“I’m not-” Peter said instantly. “I just...” he sighed.

“You wanna talk about today? Steve says you were a bit... emotional earlier.”

Peter fidgeted, and huffed.

“Kid?”

“He thinks I’m going to try to get drunk or something,” Peter said eventually, his voice full of resentment.

“What?!”

Peter huffed again. “I wouldn’t!” he protested.

“Hang on. I think I’ve lost the plot here. Why don’t we backtrack a bit. You went into the kitchen and....” Tony prompted.

Peter grouched. “They were making spaghetti. But the sauce needed some wine. I asked them where they kept the red- and he said that there’s no alcohol in the tower.”

Tony considered this. “And?” he asked eventually.

Peter glared at him through a gap in his blankets. “He lied to me Tony. Right to my face,” he said, feeling like he was on the verge of tears again. “Like I’m stupid . I mean- I get it. Ned’s parents keep it locked up, but he lied to me- like I can’t be trusted with even knowing where stupid red wine is-”

Tony frowned at him. “What?” he asked, clearly confused.

Peter huffed. “I’ve seen it around. I know there’s like an entire case of whiskey in the Mark 5 cradle. So don’t tell me there’s no freakin red wine for a stupid sauce-” he bitched. “And there’s that foreign stuff in the ceiling of the lab- why you keep it in the ceiling I have no idea. But I haven’t even touched it!”

Tony for some reason, had apparently stopped breathing.

“Tony?” Peter asked, concerned. “You know... I wouldn’t drink it, right? I’m not old enough- I know-

“No. I know, Peter,” Tony said. “But ah... I gotta ask you not to mention the... the ah... booze to Steve. He... he doesn’t like it.”

Peter peered up at Tony. There was something... off about him right now, but Peter couldn’t put his finger on exactly what. But his spider sense wasn’t going off...

So... Tony was having to hide his booze from Steve? It kind of made sense. Steve did seem like a bit of a stick-in-the-mud if he didn’t even believe in putting wine in a freakin’ sauce. And Tony... well. He was the kind who struck Peter who liked having more wine in him than the sauce by the end of a night of cooking.

Not that there was anything wrong with that. His Aunt did that sometimes.

“Okay,” he said. “I won’t tell Steve.”

Tony relaxed, then went rigid again. “Don’t tell Bucky either. He’ll tattle. He can’t keep anything-”

“I won’t tell,” Peter whined. “I can keep a secret-” he protested.

Tony gave him a Look.

“I CAN!”

“Good. So what happened to your phone?” he asked. “I gather you didn’t actually hang up on your Aunt.”

Peter reburied himself. “Accident,” he muttered.

“I’m sorry. I don’t speak muffled blanket. You’re going to have to speak up kiddo.”

“Accident,” Peter said, grudgingly louder.

Tony considered this for a moment. “So... you were talking to your Aunt... and it just... slipped right out of your hands?”

Peter considered. “Yes,” he said sullenly.

“And then it grew wings and committed suicide against a wall?” Tony continued skeptically. “Because I gotta say Pete, not even my phones can do that.”

Peter sniffed miserably. “She’s going to be so mad ,” he said forlornly. “She got me that phone for Christmas.”

“So... just to be clear, you did throw it-”

“I didn’t- I didn’t mean to!” Peter protested. “I didn’t! I just...” he made a noise of frustration.

Tony sat there for a moment. He sighed deeply.

“I’ll tell you what. You and me are going to go down to see Cho-”

Peter groaned. Tony ignored him and just talked louder, “And then- THEN we’ll see if I have a spare StarkPhone laying around that you can have.”

Peter froze. The blankets came off his head. “I... I can have a new StarkPhone?” he asked incredulously.

“Hey! He lives!” Tony snarked. “And yes- you can. IF-” Tony glared at him. “IF you go with me to see Cho with no bitching, AND if you promise to keep your mouth shut about the whole... mark 5 thing.”

Peter pouted and examined the floor. “Can I bi-”

Tony gave him a Look.

“I mean- complain when it’s over?” he asked.

“No.”

Peter heaved a sigh. “Fine,” he said as if Tony had just asked him to spelunk a sewer without a wet suit.

He sat on a gurney and tried to be still as Cho carefully prodded his head.

“Have you been tired today?” she asked.

“I guess,” Peter said, grumpy. He was starting to hate MedBay.

“How is it?” Tony demanded from a nearby chair.

“It’s healing well. But the mood swings concern me. It might be a sign of something serious. I’m going to order an MRI of his brain to be on the safe side.”

Peter froze. “Serious... like a brain tumor?” he asked, alarmed.

Cho gave him a gentle smile. “No. Not a tumor. But you hit your head pretty hard last night, remember? I need to check for swelling or anything else your healing factor might not be dealing with.”

“Oh,” her answer didn’t exactly reassure him.

“Hey- look at me. You are going to be just fine -” Tony insisted. He got out of his seat to give Peter a hug. “This is just a precaution, okay?”

Peter could feel himself settle a bit. “Okay,” he agreed.

They gave him earplugs and noise cancelling earphones.

“I’m not going to lie to you Peter- it’s going to be loud in there, okay? But I need you to lay still for the entire time. It’s important,” Cho said.

Peter nodded, and eyed the machine uncertainty. It was huge, and shaped like a doughnut. He knew enough that he was supposed to lay in the middle hole. The hole seemed a lot smaller in person than it looked when they showed it on TV on the medical shows...

“Tony and I will be in the control room-” she pointed at a wall with glass in it, beyond it lay computers. “And Raoul here will be right next to you the whole time.”

An alpha in scrubs gave Peter a big smile. “Hey Pete.”

“Hey,” Peter said lamely.

“Don’t worry. You’ll be fine,” Raoul said. “We’ve done this thousands of times.”

Peter sniffed.

“If anything goes wrong, any one of us can push a button that will stop it,” Cho was saying.

“And remember- no complaining and you get a phone,” Tony said.

“I’m not a baby-” Peter complained. “I know how it works. Aunt May and I watch Grey’s Anatomy like all the time. I can do it.”

Tony raised an eyebrow. “I’ll let you have that one Pete,” he said, amused, and ruffled Peter’s hair.

Peter huffed, and gently swatted the man’s hand away.

“Can we get this over with already?” he asked.

It was... odd. They had him lay on a little table with a pillow under his knees. They velcroed him down with some sort of fabric swaddle thing over his shoulders and chest. Earplugs and headphones went on next. Then they put some sort of strange helmet thing on around his head. It was attached to the table and didn’t physically touch him - but...

“Ready?” Raoul shouted. He was muffled, but Peter could make him out.

Peter gave a thumbs up.

They started. The little table slid into the machine.

“Remember- stay still Peter,” Cho said over his headphones.

Peter gave another thumbs up.

The machine... was LOUD. It thumped and whistled and there was some sort of siren thing that beeped then stopped and started again apparently randomly.

He felt his breathing rate increase.

“You’re fine, kid. Keep it up and that phone is yours,” Tony said over the headphones.

Right. He had to be Good.

“Peter- I want you to slow down your breathing a bit,” Cho said. “Can you inhale, count to 10, then exhale for me?”

He tried.

Was it his imagination or did the machine get louder?

“Almost done, Pete,” Tony said.

His spider sense went off. One minute he was fine, the next it was screaming at him. He jerked, but tried to ignore it.

“Pete it’s okay. Stay still, remember?” Raoul shouted.

Stressed, he whined. His right leg started up-

Be still.” Raoul ordered.

Peter froze. Physically froze. So hard it hurt. He couldn’t. He couldn’t-

“Good boy,” Raoul said.

A large warm hand touched his belly.

*****

He was being squashed directly into the cold floor by something large, warm and heavy. Someone, somewhere, was screaming like they were being murdered.

He wished they’d shut up. Maybe then he could breathe properly.

Above him an alpha rumbled. Another joined in. Woodsmoke and coffee. Coffee with caramel. Steve. Bucky.

A large hand scruffed him. The screaming, thankfully, stopped. He shook.

“Peter. Can you hear me? It’s okay. It’s over. You’re at the tower. You’re safe. We have you,” a voice was saying. It sounded like it had been crying.

A hand went through his hair. Another went up and down his side- scent marking him.

He was safe. The pack alphas were there. He shuddered, and went limp.

“That’s it. Relax honey. You’re safe. You’re at the Tower. I’m here- Steve and Bucky are here too- it’s over. We stopped.”

Tony. That was Tony.

Peter blinked. It was hard to think. “Omeega?” he slurred.

“That’s it. We’re here. You’re safe honey,” that was Steve, rumbling deep and low in his ear.

Peter sighed. “Tired,” he bitched.

“Go to sleep sweetheart. You’ll feel better afterwards. I promise,” Steve said.

That made sense. And he trusted Steve. He went to sleep.

Chapter Text

Like most good things in life, the quiet gathering of the alphas of the pack happened organically. Steve and Bucky came in from their morning run and sparred a little before slouching on a nearby bench and heckling Sam, who was running on a treadmill.

“Lift those knees, airman!” Bucky sniggered, and tossed a peanut, wildly missing.

“Fuck.... you....” Sam huffed.

“How many miles is he at, Jarvis?” Steve asked.

“He is approaching five miles,” Jarvis said.

“Them’s rookie numbers!” Bucky heckled good naturedly.

Sam flipped him the bird.

“Bucky, come on. He’s not enhanced,” Steve gently scolded, smiling. “I remember when you got winded going up stairs.”

Bucky snorted. “That was like a million years ago,” he said. “It don’t count.”

“Actually, it was right after you got defrosted,” Steve said.

Bucky whipped around to stare at Steve. “I- that- is a LIE.”

“Nope. It took at least a week before you got your feet under you properly,” Steve said.

Bucky tsked and sulked. “Bringing up stuff I can’t remember is cheating,” he complained.

Sam turned off the machine and staggered over. “Don’t you two have omegas you should be wooing or something?” he demanded, wiping his face with a towel.

“Tony’s probably still sleeping,” Steve said.

“Darcy’s gone shoppin’,” Bucky said. “She said she never did get those sheets from Wal-Mart she was needin’.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “You let her go to Wal-Mart by herself after what happened to Peter?”

“Nah. She’s going to some place called Target. There’s one not far from here. And Happy’s with her. Plus Clint and Nat are taking care of that whole... mess,” Bucky said, waving a hand vaguely.

Steve nodded. “Clint texted me a little while ago. They’ve got several names they’re chasing down. Shouldn’t be long before they crack it open and hand it over to the FBI.”

“Not SHIELD?” Sam asked.

Bucky shrugged. “Omega trafficking rings aren’t weird enough,” he said.

Sam pulled a face.

Steve considered his watch. “Anyone else hungry?”

“Always,” Bucky said.

“I could eat,” Sam said. “What are you thinking?”

“Well, it’s a little early, but I was thinking if we started now, we could make something and have it ready for the omegas for lunch.”

Sam snorted. “Don’t hurt yourself there, Romeo,” he said playfully. “I thought I was supposed to be the pack’s house alpha.”

Steve scowled and tossed a sweat soaked towel at Sam, who dodged it like it was contaminated with acid. “You want some or not?” he demanded.

“Fine, fine! I’ll help with the wooing,” Sam said. “IF you lot take a shower first.”

“Sounds good. Meet in the common kitchen in 10?” Bucky said, already getting up.

“See you in 10,” Steve agreed.

It was more like 15, but no one cared or commented.

Sam was already rattling around in a cabinet.

“Any ideas?” Steve asked.

“Well... we could do soup, or something with a red sauce,” Sam said.

“What about bread? What do we have?” Bucky asked, joining them.

“French,” Sam said.

“Spaghetti with garlic bread it is then,” Bucky said.

They got to work, quietly falling into roles. Steve built the sauce while Bucky hunted down the bread and the garlic. Sam scavenged the fridge for salad fixings. It was nice- working together like this. It was... restful.

After a while the elevator slid open and Peter emerged.

“Don’t you have any clothes that actually fit you?” Sam demanded from the island where he was making salads. “You look like you got hit with a shrink ray.”

Steve eyed the boy. It looked like he was wearing one of Steve’s workout shirts. He quickly hid an amused smile. He looked adorable- but Steve remembered being that small, and knew that being called ‘adorable’ wouldn’t amuse the small omega.

Peter shrugged. “What are you making?” he asked curiously, crowding Steve at the stove.

“Spaghetti,” Bucky said, slicing up a loaf of french bread.

Peter whined and made puppy dog eyes at Steve.

“Calm down, you can have some,” Steve said, smiling, and moved away from the stove to rummage in a cabinet. The sauce needed some more basil.

“How are you feeling?” Bucky asked.

“My head is sore, but I feel fine,” Peter said, sneaking taste with a finger.

“Hey-” Bucky protested. “You’ll burn yourself doing that-”

Peter snorted. “And it’ll heal in like less than a minute,” he said, going around Steve and to rummage in the fridge.

“You still shouldn’t do it-” Bucky scolded.

“What are you even looking for-” Steve asked, amused. “It’s almost ready.”

“It needs a splash of wine. Do you have a red already open somewhere?” Peter said.

There was a beat of silence. “We don’t keep alcohol in the tower, Peter,” Steve said seriously.

Peter huffed at him, and shut the fridge. “I’m not going to drink it- just put some in the sauce. Where’s the red already?” he asked, opening another cabinet.

“Peter- we don’t keep alcohol in the tower. Period.”

Peter stared at him, frowning. Steve could swear that he could practically see the little gears turning in his head.

He slammed the cabinet door shut, and started stalking off towards the elevator.

The alphas made various noises of surprise.

“Whoa there king kong- take it easy-” Sam protested. “Where you going?”

“Not hungry anymore,” Peter snapped. “I’m going to the lab.”

Not on Steve’s watch he wasn’t- especially after that little display.

“Jarvis! Hold the elevator- no lab time today Peter,” Steve called after him sternly.

“What?” Peter asked, shocked.

“You had a fairly serious concussion yesterday,” Steve said. “Bruce was very clear- you need rest. No small screens, no lab time.”

“But I-” Peter sputtered.

“Peter. I said no,” Steve said firmly. He would not be argued with.

Peter gaped at Steve for a moment before bursting into full blown sobbing tears.

Everyone froze.

“Peter?” Steve asked, gently. Had he spoken too harshly? It was hard, sometimes, to remember just how sensitive the child really was.

The question made Peter cry harder. “You... you’re so... MEAN!” Peter sobbed, then fled down the emergency stairs.

It was like being stabbed.

“Peter!” he called out after him- rushing to the stairs. The way things had been going, the little omega would trip and break his neck... he got there just in time to see Peter slipping over the railing several floors beneath him.

He let out an irritated huff. The boy should be called Spider-Monkey not Spider-Man.

He went back to the common floor.

“He alright?” Bucky asked.

“I think he went to his floor. Jarvis?”

“Peter is in his room,” Jarvis reported.

“What is he doing?” Steve demanded.

“Privacy protocols do not allow me to answer that,” Jarvis said primly.

Steve winced. Great. That meant he was crying. He stepped into the elevator. “Peter’s floor.”

There was a pause. “I’m sorry Captain. Peter has denied your request.”

“Man, just leave the kid alone,” Sam said. “Sometimes you just gotta let them cry it out.”

“Does anyone have a guess as to what that was about?” Bucky asked.

Sam snorted. “He’s an omega, man. It could be anything.”

Steve stewed, but went back to the sauce.

Bucky eyed him. “You that upset about it?” he asked.

“He called me ‘mean’-” Steve protested.

Sam barked a laugh. “Oh man. You’ve got to grow a thicker skin. What are you going to do when you have a kid?”

“Yeah- how is that? You’ve been with Tony for what- two heat cycles now?” Bucky asked.

“Three,” Steve said. He took a breath. Forced himself to relax. They didn’t know. He shrugged. “I guess it’ll happen when it happens,” he said flippantly. “What about you, Buck? You and Darcy seem happy.”

Buck flushed. “She says it’s too soon to tell. But...”

“Buuut...” Sam said, egging him on.

He flushed harder. “We’re hopin’ it took,” he said. “Darcy said she wants at least four.”

Sam cackled. “Oh god- four mini Buckys running around? I think the world might actually end-” he abruptly stopped laughing. “Wait... wait... would they be like... super toddlers? Am I going to have to be worried about being broken in half by a two year old?”

Bucky also froze. “I... don’t know. Steve?”

Steve stirred the sauce. “Mine wouldn’t transfer,” he said quietly. “I don’t know about yours, Buck. You got a different serum than I did. You should probably talk to Banner about it. He would know.”

Bucky rubbed his face. “Oh god, I hope not. Peter’s bad enough as it is, and he’s a sweetheart. Can you imagine if he just lost his shit one day? The kid could probably level a city or something-”

“Wait- how come you already know Steve? You and Tony been planning that much?” Sam asked.

Steve shook his head. “SHIELD checked it. Was probably one of the first things they did when I came out of the ice. Wanted to make sure they wouldn’t get cloned super soldiers running around if I happened to bleed on a battlefield.”

“Really?” Sam said, then huffed. “I always knew SHIELD were nothing but cynical bastards.”

“How many are you going to have?” Bucky asked. “You still want two?”

Fuck. If they were asking him... who knows what Darcy would ask Tony. He needed to put a lid on this.

“Tony can’t have any,” he said simply, deciding to cut to the chase.

There was silence. “Wait... what?” Bucky asked, horrified.

“Are you sure?” Sam asked, concerned... “He’s a bit older- it might take a while longer-”

Steve shook his head. “I asked him once if I should use protection during his heat. He said it didn’t matter. I haven’t since and...” he trailed off, biting a lip. The unspoken ‘and nothing’s happened’ hung in the air. “Anyway, he’s sensitive about it. I’m gonna need you to talk to Darcy. I’m happy for you two- I am. But... you didn’t see him at Wal-Mart, Bucky. He was real tore up about the whole baby thing. She can’t talk about this with him.”

More silence.

“Jesus.. I’m sorry Steve ... I didn’t know-” Bucky stuttered.

“How could you? It hasn’t come up before,” Steve said. “But I mean it when I say I want you to talk to Darcy. I don’t want to spoil things- it’s your first and you have a right to be excited- but... maybe don’t be surprised if Tony has an emergency trip to Tokyo the day before the baby shower.”

There was a moment of silence as the men absorbed this.

“Hey- good news- you’re gonna be a great Uncle, man. Uncling is like the best. You can get them all high and twitchy on sugar then send them home for all the times their parents fucked with you when you were kids,” Sam said.

Bucky choked. “Oh god- please don’t,” he pleaded.

Sam cackled.

Steve relaxed, grateful for the change of subject.

“What about you Sam? You got someone special?” Steve asked.

Sam groaned. “Uh, I wish. Saying ‘Yo. I’m an Avenger’ is a great panty dropper, but the whole ‘I might be out fighting robots and miss our anniversary' part isn’t great for long term relationships.”

Bucky snorted. “You don’t have to worry about that now, though- right? Stevie said he made you the house alpha.”

Sam sighed. “I guess. What can I say? I’m still waiting for my VA transfer to go through and I can only hang around in coffee shops for so long before it starts to get creepy.”

“You don’t go to...” Steve paused, searching for the right word. “Clubs? Dance halls or whatever? Bucky and I used to go there all the time-”

“If I was like 10 years younger, sure. But the music is too loud. Gives me a headache. And the drink prices are just stupid,” Sam grumbled. “Especially here in New York. I’d rather get drunk at home, honestly.”

“Wait. Has anyone told you the rules about alcohol?” Bucky asked suddenly.

“Rules?” Sam asked, puzzled.

“It stays in on your floor. No public areas. No leaving it out. Tony’s a recovering alcoholic. He doesn’t need the temptation,” Steve said firmly.

Sam whistled. “Okay. I can do that,” he said. He paused. “Wait... didn’t you just tell Peter-?”

Steve shrugged. “He’s underage. He doesn’t need to know.” Steve paused. “Tony doesn’t need to know either,” he said firmly.

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Okay...” he said slowly. “Not the healthiest approach to this, but I get it.”

“What’s not healthy? Can I have some?” Tony asked, coming out of the elevator.

“We’re having spaghetti for lunch. You want some?” Steve asked, melting a bit at the sight of his rumpled omega. Tony was always extra grumpy and adorable when he first woke up. “Depends. Is there garlic bread?” Tony asked, rubbing his face and going straight for the coffee pot.

“Yes,” Steve said.

“I’m in,” Tony said. He took a sip from his mug. “Anyone seen itsy bitsy? He should be eating right about now-”

Bucky snorted. “He was here. Had a fit. Left.”

“What?” Tony demanded. “It’s pretty much what Bucky said. One minute he was fine, the next he was storming off. Had a bit of a meltdown when Steve said he couldn’t go to the lab,” Sam said.

Tony frowned. “That’s not like him,” he muttered.

Sam shrugged. “He IS a new omega. You should have seen my sister when she got her Scent. I think I lived in a tree in the backyard for a week just so I wouldn’t get stuff thrown at me.”

Bucky snorted. “Rebecca was like that too,” he said fondly. “I remember she cried once for an entire day because she got a rip in her dress. I thought she’d drown us all with her tears.”

Tony mulled it over. “How’s he doing Jarvis?” he asked.

“Peter is eating and watching a movie,” Jarvis said.

“See? He’s fine,” Sam said.

Steve frowned. “I don’t know,” he said carefully. “Isn’t mood swings a sign of a concussion gone bad? Cho said he’s lucky he didn’t crack his skull.”

Tony sighed. “She also didn’t want to do another MRI scan unless she had too. He just had one like two days ago,” he said.

Steve shook his head. “I’m worried though. What’s the harm in asking her?”

“I’ll talk to him, and take him to see Cho. See what she wants to do,” Tony said, relenting.

“Jarvis, how far out is Darcy?” Bucky asked.

“She is currently unloading her shopping on your floor.”

“Can you ask her to come up for lunch?”

“Of course Sergeant,” Jarvis said.

Sam and Bucky set the table while Steve fiddled with the sauce one last time. Tony drained the pasta.

A few minutes later Darcy flounced in. “OOoh... do I smell garlic bread?” she demanded, going up on tiptoes to give Bucky a kiss on the cheek.

“You bet your ass,” Bucky rumbled, pleased, and gave her a quick peck back. “Take a seat, doll.”

“Ah, I could get used to this,” Darcy sighed, sitting down and letting Bucky bring her a plate. She looked around. “Where is everyone?”

“Clint and Natasha are hunting down an omega trafficking ring. Ran into a few speed bumps. Apparently it’s tuned into some multi-state cartel thing that they think extends as far west as Tennessee. They’ll be out of town until probably Saturday,” Steve said.

“Well that’s just awful,” Darcy said. “And Peter?”

“He’s in his room, probably sulking,” Sam said.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Bucky shrugged. Told him he couldn’t go to the lab. Had a fit.”

“Does he normally do that?”

“No,” Tony said. “I’ll talk to him in a bit.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Ugh. I remember that age. It was just horrible. I think I cried twice a day for like a year.”

Sam winced. “Tony, do you know when the furniture is coming in?”

“Last I heard it was tomorrow,” Tony said, helping himself to some more garlic bread.

“Are you guys going to help put the IKEA stuff together?” Sam asked.

“I’ve already drafted Bucky to help with Jane’s things,” Darcy said. “What do you have? Just one bookcase?”

“I have two bookcases.”

Steve frowned. “And we have those two night stands and the end tables,” he said.

“Guys- you’re missing the big picture-” Tony said suddenly.

“Oh? And what’s that?” Sam asked.

“SHIELD. We’ve literally have access to SHIELD minions. And I’ll bet you Coulson has a few on his shitlist who are due for a ‘training exercise’.”

Darcy snorted into her drink. “SHIELD putting together my IKEA? I’m down for that-”

“Tony we want it assembled, not put together with duct tape and sledgehammers,” Bucky said.

Tony waved a hand. “So they’ll need supervision. It’s... a teamwork test. Cheaters don’t get points. Something.”

“Coulson isn’t our biggest fan right now,” Steve offered, amused.

“I don’t know. I know he hates some of his co-workers almost more than he hates us,” Sam offered. “He might go for it.”

“Oh? Is there trouble in the ranks?” Tony asked eagerly. “Come on, share with the class-”

Sam shrugged. “SHIELD hires a lot of veterans. Word gets around, especially the VA- it’s not a bad place to work, but you do NOT want to get on Coulson’s shit list. He has a thing for burying people in paperwork and asking for forms that don’t exist if you piss him off.”

Bucky snorted. “Oh god, that sounds like a special kind of hell. I remember how much of a pain in the ass it was just to get the requisition forms during the war. Do you remember that one place in England? They ran out of paper for the forms but the quartermaster didn’t care. Wouldn’t give you so much as a bullet without the paperwork.”

Steve snickered. “Jacques gave him a form written out on the back of a... girlie poster he stole off a wall somewhere.”

“Wait, wait... is a ‘girlie poster’ what I think it is?” Sam demanded.

Steve shrugged, grinning. “Probably. We were near a base. Bases mean lonely men... and there were... establishments to, ah... help with that. ”

“Are you talking about strip clubs?” Darcy demanded, shocked.

“Something like that,” Steve said.

“Did he take it?” Tony asked.

“He had to. It had the commander’s stamp on it,” Steve said.

Bucky frowned at him, considering. “How did we manage that?” he asked. “Don’t remember the commander there as being...” he shrugged.

“He wasn’t. I may have ‘borrowed’ his stamp for a bit. We were shipping out that night. We needed supplies... so... I made sure we got them.”

Sam and Tony sniggered.

“Holy shit- you forged something?” Darcy demanded, shocked. “But... you’re Captain America!”

Sam and Tony laughed harder.

“Welcome to the pack, doll,” Bucky said sympathetically, failing at hiding a smile, and gave her a kiss to the side of her head.

She scowled at her spaghetti. “I feel like I’ve been lied to,” she complained.

“You’ll get over it. Everyone does,” Bucky said.

“Speaking of shipping out- when do you guys go back on roster?” Sam asked.

“Monday. Hopefully things with Peter will settle down before then,” Steve said, sighing. “I know you’ll keep an eye on him, but-”

“But he’s a super powered teenager with angst issues and you’re not,” Bucky said dryly.

“Everyone has angst issues at that age,” Tony said, irritated. “It’s like... the law or something. I’m surprised he doesn’t have more angst issues, honestly.”

“He’ll be fine,” Darcy said. “I’ll be here too- poor kid could probably use a spa day,” she said.

“A spa day?” Tony asked, confused.

“You know- face masks. Pedicures. Stupid movies. A spa day,” Darcy said. “Jane’s probably overdue for one, honestly. With the move and the new lab space... she needs a break from all the geeking out and science she’s been doing lately.”

“Has she heard from Thor?” Steve asked.

Darcy froze. “No,” she said, suddenly icy. “And she’s kind of freaking out about that, honestly, so...”

“No mentioning it,” Sam said. “Got it.”

“Sir, forgive the interruption, but a matter has been flagged by Ms. Potts for your immediate attention,” Jarvis said cooly.

“What is it?” Tony demanded.

“The New York Post, the Daily News, and TMZ have all published pictures of what I believe is your shopping trip to IKEA.”

“Throw them up J. Let’s see what we’ve got.”

Several pictures appeared on the wall. They all looked like they were taken with a cell phone. One showed Steve sitting on a couch, looking thoughtfully at it while Tony talked animatedly at him. Another featured Sam and Bucky standing in front a bookcase, notepad in hand. Sam was pointing at something on the pad, looking serious while Bucky squinted up at the bookcase like it held the answers to life’s mysteries.

The last subject appeared to be the most popular- several angles of Darcy sitting on Bucky’s lap while the entire team ate at some tables in the cafeteria. The one with the most watermarks on it showed Bucky giving her a kiss to the side of her head while she laughed- her brand new mating bite peeking out above the collar of her shirt.

Everyone glanced nervously at Darcy and Bucky.

“Holy shit- that’s like an awesome picture of me!” Darcy exclaimed. “Can I get a copy of that?”

Bucky, meanwhile let out a small snarl, clearly unhappy.

“What’s the headlines, J?” Tony asked.

“Mostly positive. They all wonder who the woman is.”

Tony considered, playing with his fork. “Anyone focus on the kid?”

“None so far. Darcy has all of their attention.”

“Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later,” Tony said. “Anyone with correct guesses so far?”

“No sir. They all refer to her as ‘the mystery woman.”

Darcy gasped. “I always wanted to be one of those!” she said.

Bucky grumbled, still clearly unhappy.

“It’s up to you if you want to make an announcement,” Tony said. “You’ve been more low key than Steve and I.”

“No,” Bucky said. “I don’t want her name in the papers,” he said firmly.

Darcy scowled, then sighed. “Dude. It won’t matter. The minute my sister sees that picture she’s going to be on the phone trying to be on the 5 o’clock news. They won’t even have to dig for dirt on me. She’ll bring the naked baby pictures to them,” she grumbled. “Which is why I haven’t told my mom yet- because then she’d tell Stacey, and...” she rubbed her face. “Stupid attention whore,” she muttered.

“Family issues?” Tony asked neutrally.

She snorted. “You could say that.”

Steve raised an eyebrow at Bucky. “At least if you do it, you can get out in front of this,” he said.

“You mean like a train or like a firing squad?” Bucky snarked.

“Don’t be a baby. She’ll be fine. She’s got the world’s grouchiest sniper as her mate and if need be, I can have Happy look into getting her some body guards for when she goes out,” Tony said.

Darcy made a face. “Ugh. Guards?”

“Would you rather be the princess that needs saving?” Sam asked, serious. “Because in real life they don’t chill in towers but basements.”

“Don’t scare her-” Bucky snapped, snaking an arm around his omega and pulling her close.

“I’m not scared,” Darcy said. “I’m mildly pissed that I might have to talk to my mother again.”

“You don’t have to talk to anyone. Tony has people to do that if we need, right Tony?” Steve asked.

Tony nodded. “I have like literal floors of lawyers. I’m sure they can figure something out. If nothing else we can always pay them off to sign an NDA or something.”

Darcy looked slightly sick. “That might work, but I hate to give them money-”

“If that’s what’s it takes to keep you safe, we’re doing it,” Bucky said firmly.

“Any other surprises J?”

“The Bugle is citing an inside source in the Tower that says that Spider-Man is a crack addict.”

Everyone took a moment there.

“What?” Tony demanded.

“According to them, Spider-Man suffered a near fatal overdose of cocaine. You fired a doctor who wanted to put him in rehab-”

Tony rubbed his face. “Fuck. That’s enough J.”

“Tony?” Steve asked, confused.

“It’s... a garbled version of the truth. When we first brought him in, Doctor Connors was convinced the kid had ODed on coke for some stupid reason. Natasha fired him for being incompetent. Tried to give the kid more drugs-” pissed, he waved a hand vaguely. “I don’t think anyone will take it seriously. But more importantly-”

“We have a leak in the MedBay,” Sam said.

“Exactly. Jarvis, put someone on that- I want to know if it was the doctor or someone who’s still here.”

“I will contact someone in legal,” Jarvis said.

Tony sighed, and picked at his mostly empty plate. “Right. So. Steve- can you talk to Coulson about the minions? I’m gonna go talk to Peter. And you -” he pointed at Bucky. “You have a couple of days to decide what you want to do, alright? But sooner is better, yeah?”

Bucky grumbled. “I’ll think about it,” he said sullenly. “Wonderful. Steve?”

“I’ll talk to Coulson,” he agreed, dryly. He wondered how that conversation was going to go.

“Great. See you later,” Tony said, and gave Steve a quick kiss on the cheek as he went past.

Steve beamed at him, and managed to land a peck of his own.

20 minutes later he was putting dishes away with Sam, with a phone to his ear.

“What’s the emergency? I can have someone there in 10 minutes-” Coulson said.

Steve hid a smile, and tried to keep the amusement out of his voice. “You can calm down, Coulson, nothing’s on fire. I just wanted to give you an update.”

There was a moment of silence. “Okay...” he said, clearly suspicious.

“Peter’s been having more medical issues. We’ve moved him to the Tower,” he said. “Is that where you went last night with the quinjet?” Coulson asked. “Yeah. Kid fell in the middle of the night in the bathroom. Took a chunk out of a sink with his head. Our doctor says he has a concussion. And the day before he got confused and left school early and managed to walk to Brooklyn. Gave us all a heart attack.”

“And the crazy car thing on Sunday?”

Steve sighed. “That was Peter again. We were out shopping and someone sprayed him in the face with a drug and tried to walk off with him. I’ve got Clint and Nat on it. They say it’s a trafficking ring. Nabs kids. Sells them. He had a bad reaction.”

Coulson was quiet for a minute. “Jesus. Are you locking him down?”

“He’s in the tower. Tony put a bracelet on him in case he gets confused again. Jarvis is keeping an eye on him. And he’s staying here until further notice.”

“Right. Anything else?”

Steve hesitated.

“Your silence is not filling me with confidence, Captain.”

“You have any trainees you can spare?” Steve asked.

“For what?”

“IKEA furniture. We’ve got like a bunch of bookcases and stuff coming in tomorrow.”

Coulson was quiet for a second. “Let me get this straight. You want some me to give you some of the most highly trained people on earth... to assemble IKEA furniture?”

“Tony said you could give it to people you hate. Frame it as a training exercise in teamwork or something.”

More silence.

“Would 10 people be enough?”

Steve grinned. “Should be.”

“They’ll be there at 8am.”

“I can work with that,” Steve said. “Thank you Coulson.”

“Anything else?”

“That’s it for now.”

“Thank you for the update. I’m afraid I have to go-”

“Bye Coulson,” Steve said, and hung up.

“You can head on out, I’m good here man,” Sam said.

“You sure?”

Sam gave him a look. “There’s like 3 dishes left. Don’t insult me like that, man.”

Steve chuckled. “Fine,” he said, and clapped Sam on the back ever so slightly too hard- making Sam nearly drop the glass he was holding. Sam glared at him, and growled a bit.

Steve winced. He hadn’t meant to do that. “Sorry- sorry-”

“Just get out of here. Go draw or something,” Sam bitched.

“I’m going! I’m going!” Steve said defensively and headed for the elevator. “My old floor, Jarvis,” he said.

When he stepped out into the apartment it was... odd. He almost expected a layer of dust or something since it had been a while since he’d been up here. But it looked like the Tower’s incredibly competent cleaning staff had kept things from turning into too much of mausoleum dedicated to Steve’s bachelorhood.

He puttered around, digging out a sketchbook and some pencils. For the millionth time he decided he really should look into getting a proper drafting table. Someday.

He settled down on a couch near a window and started sketching.

He was half way through a sketch of Tony’s face while he slept when Jarvis spoke up.

“Captain- there is a situation in the Medical Bay. Peter is having an episode-”

He was already in the elevator before Jarvis could finish speaking.

When he got there he didn’t have to ask for directions. He ran, following the screaming and the scent of blood.

Tony caught him outside a room.

“We shut it down, but he’s inside. You have to get him out Steve- he’s hurting himself-” he babbled, his hands moving almost hysterically as he spoke.

Steve didn’t wait for context. He kicked the door down. An alpha wearing scrubs lay crumpled on the floor in a heap below a dent in the wall. Steve ignored him. His attention was the giant machine that took up most of the room. It was shaped like a doughnut, and Peter was inside it. He sounded like he was in the middle of being murdered. There was a horrific thudding noise that Steve knew all to well- the sound of flesh being hurled against something incredibly heavy and made of metal. The kid was trying to fight his way out of the damn thing.

Steve grabbed an ankle as it sailed past his ear and yanked, hard. The kid came out, flailing, and screamed even harder as he hit the floor. Steve grunted as he took a couple of hits as he tried to get a grip on the boy- but he as flexible as he was hysterical and he was slippery from all the blood that was coming from fucking somewhere.

“Get his arms-” Bucky shouted, appearing out of nowhere, and tackling the kid’s legs.

“Peter- stop! It’s me-” Steve tried. Eventually he got a hold of an arm and pinned it.

Peter’s screams shifted. Now they sounded less like panic and more like pain.

“Shit- pin him already Steve!” Bucky shouted as Peter nearly kicked him off. “He’s hurting himself!”

Steve gave up and threw himself bodily on the omega. Peter got in a few hits to his back- probably trying to get him off before Steve managed to get the kid’s face into the crook of his neck.

“Shh....” Steve said, and finally got a hand around where he could scruff the teenager. The omega immediately went limp.

Tony rushed in the second it was obvious the kid was no longer in danger of killing someone by accident, and knelt by the kid’s head.

“Peter. Can you hear me? It’s okay. It’s over. You’re at the tower. You’re safe. We have you,” Tony said, tears running down his face. He ran a hand through Peter’s hair.

Below them, Bucky ran a hand soothingly up and down the kid’s side, scent marking him.

Peter groaned.

“That’s it. Relax honey. You’re safe. You’re at the Tower. I’m here- Steve and Bucky are here too- it’s over. We stopped.” Tony babbled.

“Omeega?” Peter slurred.

“That’s it. We’re here. You’re safe honey,” Steve, rumbled deep and low in the boy’s ear.

Peter sighed. “Tired,” he bitched.

“Go to sleep honey. You’ll feel better afterwards. I promise,” Steve said.

He held his breath. The kid mumbled something... then went the special kind of limp that only people who were asleep or unconscious could manage.

“Medic!” Tony shouted.

People rushed into the room.

“Don’t get off him-” an older beta in scrubs warned as she knelt next to them on the floor. “I’m not going anywhere-” Steve said grimly. “And where the fuck is all the blood coming from?” he demanded.

“His hands,” she said bluntly as she and other beta started wrapping the kid’s hands in cloth, and squeezing- applying pressure he realized.

“What the hell happened, Tony?” Bucky demanded. “What the fuck even is that thing?”

“It’s an MRI. We were checking his brain. And I don’t know- we were almost done and he just started to freak out- we shut it off, but I don’t think we were quick enough- it takes a minute to stop spinning and he was already hitting it-” Tony trailed off. “Oh god, Steve- his HANDS,” he lamented. “The inside parts weigh at least a couple of tons and he was hitting it while it was spinning around him -”

“His hands are still attached,” the beta nurse said. “Which is not what I was expecting, to be honest. So it might not be as bad as you think.”

They eventually managed to get Peter onto a gurney. Steve refused to get off him, in case he woke up swinging. “Just take the fucking x-rays with me here,” he barked, plastered on top of the boy. “I’ll be fine-”

They still insisted on tossing a lead apron on him- like it even fucking mattered. He’d been frozen in ice. A little radiation wasn’t going to hurt him.

Steve didn’t get off him until they were done poking and prodding and had wheeled both of them into a private room. He slid off, wincing.

Tony, of course, was right there, and pressed a hand to Steve’s face. “Do you have a fucking shiner right now?” he demanded.

Steve touched his face. It felt a bit puffy. “Maybe,” he said. “Kid got a couple of hits in before I scruffed him.”

Bucky slouched unhappily in a chair. “We can’t keep doing this-” he growled. “This reacting crap. I don’t want another fucking doctor touching him without me or Stevie there,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on, but the kid clearly hates it here or something -”

“I agree,” Steve said, equally unhappy. “If I was there from the start, I might have been able to reassure him before he panicked.”

Tony rubbed his face. “I know,” he said, sighing heavily. “Cho and I are going to have to put together a protocol for the staff. Like we have for Bruce,” he paused. “Does anyone know if that nurse is still alive?”

“I have no idea,” Bucky said wearily. “The kid is going to lose his mind if he thinks he hurt someone, Steve-”

Steve huffed. “I know-” he said grimly.

Thankfully, Cho walked in. “I have some good news-” she said.

Everyone sat up.

“The skin on his hands was a bit shredded, which is where all the blood was coming from. That should be fully healed in another 10 minutes or so. Also, I’ve spoken to Bruce and he’s been cleared for morphine for pain relief.”

“And the bad news?” Tony demanded.

“We won’t know if there’s damage to the nerves in his hands until he wakes up and we can do some tests,” she said. “Also he has several fractures in his fingers and a major fracture in his right wrist, a compression fracture in his left radius and ulna- which we’re going to have to set sometime in the next 10 minutes- and the hairline fracture that had been mostly healed from before is now fractured again -” she shook her head. “He’s going to be in arm casts for at least a week.”

“On both arms?” Steve demanded. Cho nodded. “And his fingers.”

Bucky groaned. “Oh god, he’s going to be miserable -”

Steve winced. “At least it’s not another head wound?” he offered.

Tony glared at him. “And just for that, you’re first up for ass-wiping duty,” he snarled.

Steve blinked. “What?”

“He won’t be able to use his HANDS Steve-” Tony snarled. “ Someone is going to have to help him-”

“I think we can manage something,” Cho said, amused. “It’s not quite that dire yet. Also we have nurses for that if it comes to it.”

Steve breathed a sigh of relief. The bits that he’d seen of Peter when Tony had hosed him down had been more than he’d ever wanted to see, to be honest- the poor kid.

“How’s the nurse?” Bucky demanded. “Is he still breathing?”

“He has fractured ribs and partially fractured back from where he hit the wall. But he’ll live- and it doesn’t look like he’s paralyzed.”

Everyone breathed another sigh of relief.

“Thank god for small miracles,” Bucky said.

Steve rubbed his face and winced as he hit a sore spot where he would no doubt soon sport a bruise. That was great. The last thing any of them needed was another death on their conscious.

But- just... what the fuck were they going to do with this kid when they went back on call?

He had no idea.