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Second Chances

Chapter Text

"Is this chair taken?" 

Steve looked up from his sketchbook. The voice belonged to a pretty brunet with warm brown eyes. Judging by the sweet cinnamon scent he could instantly tell the male was an omega. 

The question still hung in the air as the omega was now gripping the top of the vacant chair from the opposite end of the two person table Steve was currently seated at. The cafe shop belonged to a good friend of his, Natasha. Every morning he came in early to finish up his assignments before heading out to the university and over time recognized most of its patrons that came in and out during the morning flurry. But the omega was new. Steve definitely would've remembered those mesmerizing eyes and sweet smell. 

The omega evidently caught his stare had gravitated to his neckline and gave him a pointed look. Bare. No mark. Steve averted his gaze and muttered out a quick, "Uh, no. You can take it." 

"Thanks," the omega said with a small grin. He licked the top of his lip, a thoughtful look in his eye. "I was hoping you say that. I'm Tony Collins." 

"Steve Rogers," he responded politely. His brow furrowed in confusion when Tony pulled the chair out to sit down instead. 

"Couldn't help but notice your bag. You go to NYU?" Tony asked, head tilted towards the messenger bag sitting on the top of the table. "Because I sort of could use help getting to that side of town? If you don't mind. My phone is on its last leg and I'm awful at navigating public transit."

It was an unusual request. Especially from a stranger, and an omega at that. Steve immediately felt protective. It was hard not to. His track record for pretty brunet omegas was obviously a weakness of his. Tony in particular smelled very nice but there was an underlying scent to him that told Steve something was wrong. And that alone had him invested and made his alpha hindbrain whisper to him to protect. 

"I do, just started my junior year," he said, and tried hard not to seem too eager to help. "Do you have an address by chance?" 

"Greenwich Village," Tony answered, then pulled out his phone. It was newer than his, looked very expensive but Steve saw there was a crack right down the middle of the screen.

Tony held the screen up to show him the exact address and Steve made a mental note. Just based off the cursory glance, he discerned it wasn’t just a regular smartphone. It was a Stark phone. Average sale price for one was easily two grand, maybe three dependent on the extra features. 

He also couldn't help but notice the dried cracked blood under Tony's fingernails. He glanced up and the question died in his throat when he saw Tony's eyes. The omega now looked scared. 

"Don't have any money on me for the fare," Tony admitted, and let out a small laugh. Nervous laugh, Steve's mind autocorrected. "But my friend, uh, he can pay you back when I get there. Promise. He's good for it. On holiday leave from his officer basic course and just got all that back pay from the government." 

"Hey, don't worry about it. Are you okay? Do you need to stop at a clinic first?"

At the word clinic Tony shook his head violently. "N-no. I'm fine." 

Steve didn't say anything, not trusting himself to call out the fact the omega very much wasn't if he smelled scared and had blood under his fingernails. But he also recognized Tony was no obligation to tell him anything if he didn't want to.

The walk to the nearby subway station wasn't too far away, less than a mile. After stopping by the kiosk to purchase a ticket for Tony, they made their way down the stairs to the boarding area. 

Closer in proximity and with less air flow in the underground station Steve realized there was more to that excessively all-encompassing cinnamon smell. Tony was secreting pregnancy hormones - which had a tendency to make omegas smell sugary sweet. But the lack of a mate mark also reminded Steve of his own mother who had been an unmated omega and that medically speaking, unmated omegas had a harder time, and infant mortality was a higher risk. Omegas needed the mating bond to have a successful full-term pregnancy, or the risk to the omega parent and child were that much prominent.

On the train ride up north him and Tony fell into an easy conversation. Tony asked him what he was studying, and Steve told him digital art and design, which surprisingly Tony had a lot of knowledge on. Time seemed to go so swiftly and soon they were exiting the subway and heading in the direction of the address Steve had memorized.

By the time they arrived in front of the old apartment building, Tony seemed much more relaxed. His smile was brighter and his smell was less stressed.

"Thanks for not telling me I'm going to hell by the way when we met. But when I saw your pendant, I figured you might be less of a bigot than everyone else there." 

It took Steve a moment to realize Tony was referring to his St. Jude pendant he wore around his neck. It had been his mother's. And often associated with mate-less omegas and their children.

"I'm sorry people would say that to you," Steve said, jaw clenching. He wasn't surprised but it still bothered to hear the close minded audacity of people. "Especially since it's none of their business."

"Pregnant omegas tend to attract all sorts of attention I’ve come to realize. If I had a mate mark I'd be treated like a precious gift to society. Unmated I'm a social pariah," Tony commented, tone light despite his words. He shook his head, curly hair falling over his eyes. "It's fine though. I rather avoid the people who would condemn an absolute stranger anyway. Great way to quickly ascertain the assholes, you know?" 

Steve nodded. That was an insightful way to look at it.

"Like, just having you as a companion, I’ve gotten zero crass comments from bystanders and less stink eye." 

Steve's mouth gaped open and Tony snickered. 

"Relax," Tony smirked. "You're giving off those pheromones that tell me you're just being protective. It's cute. Most alphas think I'm disgusting. Being pregnant and unmated is like the modern-day scarlet letter lemme tell you. Not an attractive look."

He pointedly did not comment on that. Because inwardly he thought Tony was very good looking. Between the O's friendly warm brown eyes and curly brown hair and pleasant conversation on the way here, he was very much attracted. But he also was very much aware Tony probably was not looking for that sort of attention. 

He walked Tony to the entrance, watching the omega press the apartment number on the intercom console by the metal gate. Seconds later the speaker crackled to life.

"Hello?" The person on the other end sounded confused. Clearly Tony's arrival wasn't planned, Steve gathered. 

"Honey bear!" Tony gushed. Steve raised a brow at the nickname. "Surprise!" 

The man's voice stuttered. "T-Tony!? What the hell. Aren't you supposed to be in California for break?" 

"Eh," Tony said in nonchalant tone. "Bus fare to NYC was cheaper from Boston than there. Are you going to ask me 20 questions in the cold out here or let me in, pooh bear?" 

"Call me that again and I'll-"

The locked gate popped open with a loud buzz and Tony quickly grabbed the door handle before it closed.

Steve took that as his cue to leave and the moment he turned around; Tony called out his name.

"Thanks, Steve," Tony said. His smile was warm and sincere. "Really appreciate it." 

Chapter Text

It was nearly three months later before he saw Tony again. Bucky had teased him for days after he got the whole story out of him. By memory Steve had sketched a drawing of the omega and accidentally left it out on the dining table. Bucky had asked if the omega had a name. Reluctantly he told Bucky how he met the omega and the circumstances. Bucky let it go, understanding it was a sensitive subject for Steve. (“I’m sure he’s going to fine, Stevie. If he had a friend taking him in, that will help.”)

This time Bucky was with him as they were out grocery shopping. Two overgrown alphas arguing what kind of pasta to get in the middle of the aisle was probably a bizarre sight to walk in on. Between Bucky's hours being cut and Steve’s part time work, they needed to be more economical and went to the cheapest market on the other side of town. He wanted to buy the bulk because the unit price label depicted it was cheaper but Bucky insisted life was shitty as is and they at least deserved good pasta.

"Buck, it's pasta. It's all the same once it's cooked."

Then Tony appeared around the corner, red shopping basket in hand.

Steve froze. 

Tony's eyes widened.

"Well well this is a surprise," Tony said, a small smile on his lips. Steve instantly picked up on that saccharine aroma. It was heavier. Enough to his mouth water.

Bucky also picked up on it and looked between them both with a smirk. 

"Hello, excuse my friend and his awful manners," Bucky said dryly, and his eyes clearly were checking out the omega. The roundness around Tony's midriff was more pronounced. "I'm assuming you're the Tony Steve helped get to the village the other day." 

Tony made a surprise noise, brown eyes assessing the other alpha. "Made that much of an impression mm? And yes." 

Bucky shot him his trademark flirtatious grin. It was unmistakable Tony was not immune to it. His cheeks and the tips of his ears turned red. 

Steve cleared his throat. "Good to see you again, Tony. This is Bucky Barnes, my best friend and royal pain in the ass." 

Tony and Bucky shook hands. The too-big sweatshirt Tony was wearing stretched out around his protruding belly and Steve could make out it read MIT. 

Bucky whistled. "Impressive. Your alma mater?" 

"Not the usual reaction I get," Tony muttered, teeth flashing with all how wide his grin was now. "Technically attended but didn’t graduate. Had to drop out on the count of..." He made a feeble downward glance. "You know Steve is right. More cost effective to go in bulk. Learned that pretty quickly living on a budget myself." 

"Well, you two clearly outnumber me in this argument," Bucky said and shot Steve a wry grin, then put the package of the name brand pasta back on the shelf and replaced it with the bulk generic version. "Any chance I can persuade you to tell me your opinion on sauces?"

"Depends," Tony quipped back with a thoughtful hum, and looked at Steve as he asked, "Will I be invited to partake in this pasta dish?"

And so that was how Tony ended up coming over for dinner that night. It was mainly the omega giving minimal directions and watching both alphas fluster their way through making lasagna for the first time. It had been ages since Steve had felt any sort of attraction like this. Not since Peggy and though they had ended on amicable terms and still kept in touch on Facebook, Steve knew he didn't react this strongly to her fragrance.

At some point as dinner was cooking in the oven and they were waiting, munching on popcorn, Tony showed them a sonogram photo from his wallet. The sense of love and pride was strong in Tony's voice as he talked about his plans with the baby. Currently he lived with his best friend and alpha James Rhodes. Who had offered to mate with him Tony explained, but the omega stated he knew that would only end in disaster. That him and Rhodes were too much like brothers.

"I said he could adopt, so bambino will have good health insurance for life. He just got back from his air force training so it's just me and his mom at his place," Tony said. “Bambi deserves the best medical care considering I’m unmated and I know there is a high probability of risks, and if legally being adopted by Rhodey is what it takes, I’ll do it.”

Bucky picked up on the term Tony used, squinting at the black and white photo. "So it's a boy? I can never tell with these. I thought that was an arm."

Tony laughed loudly. "Ah no. I mean, still too early to tell. I just feel like it's a boy. Omega intuition." 

Immediately Steve envisioned an adorable baby boy with brown curly hair and big doe brown eyes. Tony’s eyes. It was a nice image. Bucky jammed Steve's foot under the table with the toe of his boot. Steve yelped.

"Have to excuse Stevie," Bucky drawled. "He's been celibate for like three years and can't control his pheromones."

Steve groaned in horror that Bucky could pick up on his lustful hormones. Tony squirmed in his chair, letting out a breathy laugh.

"Don't mind it," Tony quipped with a wolfish grin. "I'm very obviously pregnant now. Nobody looks twice at me nowadays or they give me those scornful 'you're going to hell' looks."

"Eh," Bucky said. “Ignore those looks, please. Don’t let that get to you. People who have time to judge someone they don’t know are just sad, pathetic people and not worth a second of your time. You’re amazing, Tony. Taking this whole thing in stride. What you’re doing is admirable. Especially without an alpha.”

"Bambino wasn't planned, obviously," Tony said quietly, and there was a look of regret on his face. "I did tell the alpha but they didn't believe me because of my reputation at school. But, uh, that's the funny thing about reputations. Easy to get one based off one instance of being drunk and getting handsy and soon everyone thinks you're easy and you can't ever shake it. I'm not saying it's right, but it is what it is."

“So they denied it,” Steve concluded in a strangled voice.

“In retrospect, I’m glad they did.” Tony fixed Steve a tentative smile. “I never would’ve left that toxic relationship. And then I came here. Sure, my parents disowned me in the process but I got something so much better in return. And what are the odds I run into you again, Steve? In a metropolis with over eight million people at a grocery store neither of us go to regularly? Must be fate.”

“Fate,” Steve repeated, an unbidden smile coming to his face.

“He does have a point,” Bucky mused, his blue-grey eyes glinting. “Stevie is a hopeless romantic, Tony. Believes in that whole true love alpha omega soulmate stuff. Cries in theaters when movies depict it. Be careful of using that word. Steve takes that word very seriously.”

Steve threw a popcorn kernel at him. Bucky easily caught it in his mouth.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when Steve felt a brush against his ankle. It was Tony’s foot.

Bucky made a mock retching noise when he realized what was happening under the table. He fixed both of them an incredulous look. “Footsies? Really? My god. I’m leaving. Call me when dinner's ready. I can’t believe…”

It was so late it was early when Tony came home. Despite the dozen text messages the omega had sent, James Rhodes could not sleep until he knew his friend was home. Besides, his irritating and inconsiderate friend refused to answer his damn phone. How was he to know someone hadn't kidnapped the omega and someone else was sending those texts?

The very moment his friend walked through the doorway Rhodey had his arms full of a protesting omega.

"Sugarplum, squeezing me a bit hard.” Tony wheezed as Rhodey took in that familiar honey cinnamon scent but there was more on his MIT sweatshirt. His friend smelled like two alphas, not just one.

"What the hell," Rhodey shouted. "You can't just run off with two strange alphas like that! I was going to call the cops to file a missing person report but realized I couldn't because I have Tony fucking Stark living with me and then the damn media would find out and then so would she. It's," Rhodey looked down at his watch, "5 in the morning, Tony. You went to the grocery store at 3 PM yesterday and now it's 5 AM the next day. Do you really think that's okay? A text, a fucking text is all I get?"

Tony's answering texts throughout the evening had assured he was fine. That he had run into "Steve" and his friend and had gone to Brooklyn for dinner. As if that was completely normal and would placate him. Steve, whom Rhodey never met and only heard about from the omega. Worse, now he knew Tony had very intentionally wrote 'friend' and not 'alpha friend' because the genius surely had known Rhodes would've had a conniption.

"I'm sorry! I just lost track of time, we had dinner and then started talking and watched a few movies and and—" Tony whined petulantly, trying to break free from the embrace but Rhodes held onto him tighter. The omega settled once he scented the scared scared love love protect protect pheromones emitting from the shaking alpha. Rhodes was silently crying. "Sourpatch, I'm fine. Bambino is fine. I'm really sorry, I didn't realize—"

"No you didn't! I trust you but there’s other people out there who could hurt you if they find out who you really are," Rhodey stressed, voice thick with a rasp. "For a genius you're an idiot. You can't send me a text like that! You telling me via text out of the blue that you're going to some strange alpha’s place in a different city is not okay. The world is a dangerous place and you have no idea where my thoughts were leading. You're just seventeen and my responsibility."

Tony wriggled in his arms.

Rhodey narrowed his gaze at the top of his friend's head right under his chin, immediately picking up on his friend's underlying emotions. "Does Steve know you're seventeen?"

"It's not like that," Tony mumbled into Rhodey’s chest. He was still squished. “Nothing happened.”

Rhodey growled inside his chest. "So that's a no."

"Jesus Christ you're worse than Janice and that's saying something. I'm pregnant! No alpha is going to want me like this—”

"Not true. Tony that's simply not true. Plenty of alphas won't care. You pregnant makes it worse! They'll think you’re easy—”

Tony stiffened and Rhodey immediately regretted what he just said. Tony pulled free from him and the hurt was so palpable it soured that sweet scent and quickly permeated the entire living room with hurt and pain.

"Leave the poor boy alone," Roberta Rhodes growled from the doorway, still dressed in her nightgown after walking down the stairs due to the loud commotion. Her alpha glare could kill. "Tony is clearly fine, and you're making him upset which is not good for his worrying health. Shame on you James Rupert Rhodes for saying such a vile lie like that. Your father and I did not raise you to think such awful, bigot things."

"Mama—” Rhodey gulped when Roberta narrowed her eyes when she took in the sight of Tony's tears.

Tony sniffled, sitting down on the sofa to settle his frayed nerves.

"Tony I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that," Rhodey pressed, eyes contrite. "I was worried and hadn't slept and wasn't thinking. If something happened to you or bambi I don't know what..." The man trailed off, too emotional to say the words out loud. That nightmarish thought kept the alpha up way too many nights than he cared to brood over.

Tony let out a watery laugh, hand swiping at his wet eyes. Roberta fumed darkly at her son before sitting down next to the boy.

"I understand, don't apologize," Tony said, and his tone was deceivingly light and steady despite his smell. "You, her, the dean of MIT, my parents all share in that opinion. Steve probably thought that too when we first met, I bet. You know what? It doesn't matter. Soon I'll be eighteen and won't be your responsibility anymore. Me and my easy ways will figure something else out—"

"Don't talk about yourself like that," Roberta snapped, but her tone was gentle, and her face was concerned. "And don't you dare even think twice about staying here with us. You're family. That's my grandbaby and if I have to kick out my own son with his asinine comments," She fixed her son another hard scowl. "Then that's what I'm going to do.”

"G-grandbaby?" Tony stuttered, confused.

Roberta fixed Tony a loving smile but her eyes were sad. Rhodes knew Tony didn't view the word 'family' like they did, and it irked him to no end how the Starks treated his best friend. "Family is not tied to just biology. My son's mate or not. That doesn't matter and never will. You're a part of this pack, honey. Even when you find your mate for life and form your familial pack with them. You and that precious baby will always be a part of ours. Hope you don't find it presumptuous of me to think of that child as my grandbaby."

Tony looked at her with a stunned, wide-eyed expression. "What? No, of course not. That means you're going to be the only g-grandparent this baby will have and that's w-wonderful. T-thank you. God, I'm not crying, okay? It's hormones, okay?"

"Thank god," Rhodey breathed, and he gave his mother a grateful look. It sickened him to think of Tony leaving after his stupid, insensitive remark. "Because we wouldn't have it any other way." Rhodey sat on the other side of Tony, and with the sniveling from the omega and his mother's knowing, angry alpha stare, Rhodey knew then what he had to say to make this right. If he had any chance to keep Tony permanently in his life, he needed to accept that being so overprotective would only serve to push the omega away.

"I'm sorry for saying you're my responsibility, because you're not an obligation or anything like that. You are your own person and you're allowed to go out and do things with friends, or-or potential mates. You're my best friend, Tones, and if you trust Steve that much, then I'd like to meet him, please. You said he goes to NYU? Have him come over for dinner," Rhodey acquiesced. An olive branch.

"And his friend?" Tony inquired quietly after a long pause. The omega's tentative smile was hard to miss.

"Yes, we would love to meet them both," Roberta affirmed when Rhodey didn't respond instantly. Roberta fixed her son a warning glance over Tony's downcast head. "This is your home too. My son is right: the world can be a dangerous place, but you can't live scared and not want to open up with other people. I think it's wonderful you met two people you clearly felt that comfortable with to blow off my idiot son all night for. You know, when I met my omega, James' father, we stayed up for twelve hours straight just talking and I missed the bus home. Honey, sometimes, that's just how it goes when you have that connection. It’s a wondrous feeling to experience and worth fighting for."

Chapter Text

Tony woke up that morning with a crick in his neck and severe heartburn. Officially at twenty weeks, Bambi was no bigger than a coconut but was already giving him trouble and keeping him up all night long.

He had no idea how he was going to survive parenthood if being five months pregnant was already defeating him.

He checked his phone- almost two in the afternoon. He had gone to bed absolutely drained after a full day of tutoring local students in math to earn income on the side. He hated relying on the Rhodes' generosity so much and wanted to make his own money with what he had. His best asset has always been his mind and until seven months ago he had been on the fast track to graduating early with a double major. His undergraduate degree should've been a given but dare he sullied MIT prominent reputation so the dean decided he hadn’t actually earned all his undergraduate credits.

At the local tutoring center he had met Eddie Brock, an aspiring journalist and Virginia Potts, a business major who wanted to go into business administration. Eddie's liberal arts degree required at least six credits of math. Once he created a correlation spreadsheet between the math equations to the different types of journalism writing styles, the blonde omega had caught on quick. Virginia's math requirement was more robust but still easy for him to teach. He quite liked it, an easy way to make money and he could set his own schedule. He went to the campus three days a week.

Eddie and Virginia were both omegas. And like all omegas, there was an instantaneous kinship formed. Tony nicknamed Virginia "Pepper" because whenever she got mad or annoyed, her scent reminded him of pepper spices. He told her so when they argued. She was at first miffed when he called her ‘red hot chili peppers’ as a double entendre and then later asked he call her ‘Pepper’ as ‘hot chili peppers’ was a mouthful. He agreed.

"You're scarier than an alpha, Pepper," he told her truthfully. "I like that about you. You can do all the yelling I don't want to. You may even give Rhodey's mom a run for her money there."

Pepper's cheeks flushed red and she smelled pleased. "Well what should I call you?"

"Genius. Futurist. Mr. Fantastic, take your pick.”

“Afraid that last one is already taken,” Pepper said with a teasing smile. “And the first two aren’t very distinguishing. Going to have to find a better one.”

“I’m sure we’ll think of it, one day,” Tony promised.

Pepper also informed Tony she had a friend whose office could help him when he mentioned off-handedly the news his baby was an alpha worried him. She was the only one he had told about Sunset with full disclosure. He hadn't told Rhodey yet, not wanting to add more stress to his friend's plate.

Tony was a genius, but he was slow on the uptake.

"For what?"

"For custody," Pepper said, and gave him an exasperated look. "You should look into it now. She might fight for custody and the law will favor her because she is the alpha and because the baby is too, she automatically has more custodial rights than you by default. Nelson and Murdock are the best law firm for omegan rights. Especially given how young you are- you could have a real argument in court. Rape is a serious offense."

At the word ‘court’ his expression went sour and scared.

"What! No, I don't want to talk about that," Tony said, and mumbled quietly. "I was very willing in that regard."

Pepper gave him a sad look. "Statutory rape. It doesn't matter that you're eighteen now. From what you told me, she sounds like a real piece of work. Please." She tried to hand him a card from her bag but he made no motion to take it.

"Uh, remember the whole ‘parents disowned me’ story? That included cutting me off from the trust fund," Tony told her. "I'm not going to burden Rhodey with hiring a sleazy lawyer on top of everything else."

"Nelson and Murdock are not your typical law firm," Pepper insisted. "Most of their work was with the OCLU, and they only hung their own shingle recently.”

The mention of OCLU made him pause. Omega Civil Liberties Union was a reputable nonprofit and one of the few organizations in the country that was able to sustain itself without any government backing (ha, because the government would never favor omega rights, duh).

"I don't like being handed things."

“Go to their office. They welcome walk-ins." Pepper tucked the card in his shirt pocket instead. "If not for yourself, then your baby."

"You play dirty, Ms. Potts."

The kid wasn't even here yet and there was not a single thing Tony wouldn't do for him. That included the embarrassment of asking a lawyer to take on his case pro bono. He quickly got showered, dressed, and ate the leftovers in the fridge before heading out to the nearest T station. Chicken and dumplings - his recent craving lately and Roberta had been very accommodating on feeding him whatever he wanted. Most of his upbringing was always watching his weight and calorie intake (Maria Stark’s influence) and Ana, Jarvis’ mate and the Stark household cook, had always made sure to fellow the Stark’s strict regime. Now he could eat whatever he wanted, and he was pregnant, so he was eating everything he ever wanted tenfold.

The address was in lower west Manhattan, in Hell's Kitchen. Two minutes in that area and Tony could easily tell why it earned that particular moniker. The building looked abandoned and decrepit and he had serious doubts it was up to code. The elevator made an alarming scraping sound as it made the climb to the 7th floor. The glass-door with the firm name embossed on the front was broken and the doorknob completely fell off when he twisted it to walk in. It didn't look that much better inside either - the smell of mothballs and dust was potent.

The redhead alpha seated at the receptionist desk made a pitiful moan, her back to him as she typed at the computer in her chair. "God damnit! I thought Frank had fixed that."

Tony put the detached door knob on her desk. "If you got a screwdriver, I can fix it."

The woman whirled around in her chair to face him. Her scent reminded him of willow.

"Sorry, I didn’t mean to swear like that. Please take a seat. Do you need a cup of water?"

"That’d be great, thanks," Tony replied politely. He caught sight of her neck. She had two marks. Not necessarily unusual - widow remating wasn't new - but both marks were bright red against her pale skin and very much active on her mating gland.

Her gaze caught his and when he didn't say anything, she smiled.

"Yep," the woman confirmed. "Triad mating is possible. More common than you might think. A lot of benefits, even. You know, scientists have said our ancestors always had multiple mates. But society likes to ignore our biological imperative in favor of brainwashing us that it’s abnormal."

When he explained that he didn't like to be handed things, she placed the plastic cup of water on the side table where he sat without comment.

"Foggy's in court all day. But if you're willing to wait around, Matt should be done with his conference call soon," she told him. "My name is Karen Page."

"Tony Collins," he said. "No worries. I have nowhere to be for the rest of the day."

"Wait, you're the omega Tony Jeanie was telling me about," Karen said with a raised brow.

He grimaced. "You call her Jeanie?"

Karen smirked. "To annoy her, yes."

"I'll have to remember that."

"If you don't mind, Mr Collins, we ask potential clients to fill out a demographic survey," Karen said, and ruffled through the cluttered desk for a clipboard and pen. "If you don't feel comfortable answering anything, you can leave it blank."

He filled out most of it. Name, gender identity, secondary gender, mate status. All typical stuff. The income brackets section made him pause. He checked the last row. He didn’t want to count Rhodey’s income as part of this. He was adamant to keep this secret. If worse came to worse, he was sure he could work out a deal with them. Already he could see a dozen areas that needed a lot of electrical engineering repairs.

A few minutes later there was a distinctive sound of a colorful cursing in the adjacent room next to them. Karen stood up and knocked once before walking in. Tony took this moment to look around the receptionist area. He saw the plaque above Karen's desk - her paralegal certificate was less than a year old. Pepper had told him Nelson and Murdock were a formidable force. She mentioned the alpha/omega pair had met and fell in love at Columbia Law School. It was romantic, he thought. A mated pair that lived and worked together, equals in everything and passionate about what they did for a living.

When the door opened, his first surprise was realizing he had presumed wrong that he would be meeting the omega lawyer. Societal laws dictated alphas names were put first in alpha/omega businesses, which made him think Nelson was the alpha, Murdock the omega.

Second surprise was the quick understanding Murdock was obviously blind. Which would explain the discrimination part Pepper mentioned the alpha lawyer had faced. The man's red tinted glasses along with his worn out suit looked like it had seen better days. The alpha smell reminded Tony of frankincense and myrrth resin. Pine-needle. Woodsy smoke.

"Apologies if you heard that," the man said, and Karen rolled her eyes. They looked at each other and there seemed to be a non-verbal communication between them only mated pairs could share. She motioned for Tony to go in as she walked over to sit at her desk.

"Matthew Murdock," the alpha said, and with unerring aim walked right in front of him and stuck out his hand.

Tony shook it. "Tony Collins."

Matthew smiled. "You're lying."

Tony blanched. "No I'm not."

"Huh uh," Matthew said, letting go of Tony's hand and going back to sit behind his desk. "Listen I can't help you unless you're 100 percent honest with me. If I'm going to be your lawyer, I need to know everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Especially the ugly."

Matthew reached for a desk drawer and pulled out a calendar, back to Tony. "I am bound by lawyer-client confidentiality."

Tony took a deep breath and took the risk. Five minutes later, Matthew was sputtering.

"I can't believe this. I'm talking to a billionaire's son who has five dollars."

"Which part? The billionaire's son or five dollars? Actually," Tony dug into his pockets again and dropped a few coins on the desk. "Four quarters. Six dollars."

"Yes, I can see that," Matthew intoned, and Tony pointedly did not make a comment.

“So, I know I only have six dollars on me, and barely two hundred in my bank account right now,” Tony started, hands nervously twitching in his lap. “I am an engineer. I can fix some electrical issues you’re clearly having.”

“Can I be frank with you?” Matthew asked and when Tony gave a nod, the alpha continued, “Consider this a free consultation. I rarely charge. My omega is the breadwinner. Rising star in the District Attorney’s Office and I do this for fun. His name is first because he’s the better lawyer. Me? I’m just the lucky alpha he got roomed with at law school. Then I got lucky again when he agreed to take my mark.”

The awe and love was so palpable, he couldn’t help but feel a bit envious. Not of Nelson, or Murdock, necessarily, but hearing any alpha talk about their omega like that. He used to believe Sunset felt that way about him. In the beginning, she had certainly been open how she found him so brilliant and sweet, and loved to sing him praises. But when he came to her wanting her mark, she refused. And then she had-

“Now,” Matthew said in a brisk tone, pulling Tony from his dark thoughts. “Karen already told me about you before you came in.”

“I’m that popular, huh?”

“Virginia helped me, Foggy, and Karen out once,” Matthew admitted. “With an ex of mine.” The alpha shifted in his chair, turning his head sideways. There was a faded mark on his neck. The smell of regret and sadness hung in the air. “Long story, but I told your friend if she ever needed legal services, we would be personally offended if she didn’t come to Foggy and me first. So when she told Karen, who then told me, I did some preliminary research on the situation. Now, I’m going to assume she doesn’t know your real name because this throws a wrench into my initial plans.”

“Uh no,” Tony answered sheepishly. “Can you blame me though?”

“Might want to tell her,” Matthew advised. “Virginia gets very...upset if she’s in the dark.”

“Pepper,” Tony quipped. “She smells very spicy when she’s very upset. It’s a bad pun, but she likes the nickname.”

Matthew let out a guffaw, and he agreed.

He checked his phone before hailing a cab. His feet hurt way too much to make the trek back to the subway station and he had just enough cash to get him to the village.

He saw he had an unread messages sent over an hour ago during the time he was with Matt discussing details (the alpha insisted he be called Matt and not Mr. Murdock). It was from Bucky.

He clicked on the message icon and upon opening it he erupted into laughter.

It was a picture of a white baby bear flailing on a bed in different shots. Caption: when you’re pregnant and trying to find a comfy position in bed.

He sent a reply: You're cruel. Don't put me on blast like this again, Barnes. 😒🤣-T

The response was immediate: sorry, just couldn't help it, doll. 😁 speaking of how is the avocado 🥑 doing?

The smile came on his face unbiddenly. Bucky had remembered his talk on comparing the growth of his baby to fruit and vegetable sizes.

He's now officially graduated to coconut phase 🥥. A very bouncy coconut. I think he's training for the world cup. 😩-T

 when you're pregnant and trying to find a comfy position in bed

He pocketed his phone and gave Rhodey’s address to the driver. Throughout the past weeks, he and Bucky would exchange frequent texts - mainly memes and food pics. If he saw something that reminded him of the alpha, he would take a photo and send it before his brain told him not to. Not to say he didn't do the same with Steve, though their texts were different. Less meme sharing and food pics and more deep conversation.

The day they both came over, Rhodey reluctantly agreed he liked them. He reassured his friend a thousand and one times he wasn't looking to jump into anything. His number one focus was on Bambi. But that didn't mean he didn't want to have company. With Sunset there had been immediate lust and mutual infatuation and they never talked like he did with Bucky and Steve. He found he liked just talking to them. Together or separate. They were both funny and sweet, in their own unique ways. Never said he was naive and always made him smile.

Besides, Bambi liked them, he could tell. He was more calm if one of them were around. He teased that his baby liked them more than him. Never-mind that he was the one carrying with aching feet and the constant urge to pee.

Once he was back home and sitting on the sofa, he pulled out his phone again.

Bucky's last text was a photomanip gif of a soccer player making a score with a baby’s head pasted over. He snorted. He had no idea where Bucky found these. It made his insides feel warm. To think the alpha was thinking of him that much—

Roberta reached over and ruffled his hair affectionately as she walked by, heading towards the kitchen.

"Must be some text if you're grinning like a loon at your phone. I know what you young lot do on your phones nowadays. The other day I was at church and can you believe the Wilson’s son was watching porn on his phone in the middle of service?"

"Roberta!" He said in a mock scandalized tone, and put down his phone and gestured to his bump. "I have young ears growing here. Bambi can now hear outside the womb, you know."

"Which reminds me," Roberta said with a hum, a twinkle in her eye. "What did the doctor say? Everything going good? Are we in the clear to plan a party?"

"A party for what? Who would we invite beside ourselves?"

"Silly, a baby shower. I know before you said no on the count you didn’t know anyone when you first arrived, but I think we both know that's changed. Eddie, Virginia, Steve, Bucky, Clint and Natasha." Tony appreciated she didn’t pry more. They both knew he had gotten the blood work results on what the baby’s secondary gender was. That was a nice thing about Roberta, she asked the question once and never pushed again. Radically different from his parents in that regard.

Well, Roberta Rhodes was radically different in every way. She wanted to celebrate his baby, whereas his parents wanted him to get an abortion.

"Virginia is Pepper now," Tony informed her. "Oh wow. You're right Mama Rhodes. I have expanded my circle of friends. Clint and Natasha are more of Buck and Steve's friends than mine though."

"They seemed awfully fond of you when we went to their cafe," Roberta pressed. "How could they not? You’re wonderful."

"Or they feel pity for me," Tony said automatically.

"Nonsense," Roberta admonished. "You’re real special, honey, and people can sense you’re going to be destined for greatness. And that baby too. I knew it from the moment my boy called me up to complain about the young omega who could run circles around him in smarts and took over his scheduled lab time. Anyone who could make my stoic son explode over the phone like that made me immediately think you were one of a kind."

He blushed deep red at the compliment. That was another thing he had yet to get used to. Roberta Rhodes loved to tell him he was wonderful and good and worth all the trouble he was putting their family through.

"Wait, I stole his lab time?" Tony repeated with a huff. Rhodey and him had initially met when their independent scheduled lab time at MIT had double booked by accident. Tony knew he had scheduled it in his name, as it always had been for the last six weeks but Rhodey had been adamant it was Tony who was on his time table. They eventually agreed to call it a truce and share. He also realized this was the first time he heard Roberta mention this. “He told you about that? I’m never going to let him live that down now. He said he wasn’t upset!”

Roberta smiled when Tony’s phone chimed again. “Oh, you better answer that. Someone might be sending you a pity text again.”

He gave her a very fond, affectionate look as she disappeared to the kitchen. He went back to his phone and saw this message was a group message with Bucky and Steve. Meme titled: pick yourself along with various pictures of dogs. Underneath each photo was a brief, short and hilarious personality description.

Steve: It was unanimous. buck and I agreed you’re pretty pupperina.

pretty pupperina

Bucky: steve is happ cloud.

happ cloud

Steve: buck is attac doggo.

attac doggo

He snickered, picturing the dark-haired alpha wearing a popcorn bucket for a hat. He laughed so hard, he was crying. 

Tony: You guys are so weird. -T

Five minutes later: 

You’re both wrong btw. -T

I’m a cat. 😼 -T

i do what i want

“Mama Rhodes?” Tony called out. “Do you mind if Bucky and Steve come over for dinner again?”

Roberta appeared in the doorway, apron on. “Are you asking or telling me, honey?”

“So, I’m really bad at picking up cues,” Tony admitted sullenly. “I have experience. Ha, that’s sad isn’t it? Ugh, this is awkward. I want to date them both? Is that weird?”

“Sweetie, that is not weird,” Roberta said with a grin. “I figured that was where this was going but my boy refused to believe. What’s weird is you giggling at your phone for the past five minutes.”

It was settled. He would ask them tonight.

Chapter Text

“Truth,” Bucky said when it was his turn.

Tony grinned widely. “Who was your first kiss?”

Steve and Bucky looked at each other with equally impressive wide-eyed looks.

“You totally know the answer to this, don’t you,” Bucky accused lightly.

“I suspected,” Tony confessed, smelling pleased. “You two smell kind of together but not? Or it’s because you two have known each other so long, but I had an inkling.”

“I was eleven, Buck was twelve,” Steve cut in, and smelled apprehensive. Peggy hadn’t taken this news so lightly when it came up. Some people still felt it was weird for same types to be attracted to each other. “I was really sick in the hospital and the initial prognosis hadn't been good. Not the most romantic first kiss. I think.”

“Oh.” Tony turned quiet.

Bucky sensed the omega’s playful pleased smell turned sudden awkward and apologetic. “Anyway, don’t feel bad. Spoiler alert: Steve survived. I threatened Stevie he get better or else. I'm crying my eyes and heart out and right as I get the gall to lean in, can you believe this jerk? He could barely move but he threw his hand in front of my face and told me he was worried I would get sick.”

“I reminded the jerk he was on his treatments and the doc said he wasn’t infectious anymore but if he was, kissing is not how it spread,” Bucky continued. “So I kissed him. Angrily.”

“This is officially the sweetest and saddest first kiss story I ever heard,” Tony declared. “Wow, also this was so not the answer I was expecting.”

“It was a very wet kiss,” Steve added unhelpfully, and Bucky flashed him an annoyed look. Inwardly Steve was relieved Tony wasn’t weirded out by this.

“Well excuse me, I thought I was kissing the first person I ever loved on their death bed. I wasn’t really thinking about technique at the time.”

“Understandable,” Tony commented lightly, taking another bite of lasagna. He made a face.

Steve immediately asked what was wrong, fear leaping back. 

“Oh, it’s fine,” Tony insisted but Bucky took a bite off his own plate and also grimaced.

“You burned the bottom of the lasagna,” Bucky blurted out. “The rest of it is good, though, Stevie, honest.”

Steve threw another kennel at him. “I followed the instructions.”

“Steve is not normally the cook. He tries, though. Still, better than our regular cereal dinner.”

Tony looked affronted. “Cereal for dinner?”

Bucky looked at Tony with a very cool expression. “Or ramen. We’re poor but we make do. Oh, and if it’s a real good week, mac n cheese with hotdogs.”

Tony’s brow crinkled. “What’s that?”

Steve and Bucky traded equally confused, horrified looks.

“Wait, you’ve never had mac n cheese or hotdogs? Or both?”

“Uh,” Tony started. “I know what hotdogs are, obviously. Never had either. Rhodey’s mom makes that stuff from the box, it’s really good and I think it was mac n cheese? Has a weird hand on the front- “

“Hamburger helper,” Steve and Bucky said at the same time. Bucky kept his mouth shut that having the brand was still more than what they could afford on a regular basis.

Tony nodded, blushing. It was so cute, the alphas just stared. “Y-yeah, that. I didn’t have a…normal upbringing I guess you could say.”

“So what would you usually have for dinner growing up?” Bucky was very interested in hearing this. “Your favorites?”

“Coq au vin,” Tony said with perfect French pronunciation. “My mother’s favorite French dish if she was particularly happy. Ana made the best Saltimbocca I’ve ever had, and only allowed to have it on my birthday.”

Tony’s accent was jarring. Bucky was still amazed how it was very evident right then and there they had completely different upbringings. Neither Bucky nor Steve had any idea what the omega had just said. Steve couldn’t help but pick up the way the omega said allowed and it bothered him.

Bucky had picked up on it too, repeating, “Allowed? Who’s Ana? Your mom?” Bucky had heard of some kids calling their parents by their first names. A bit unconventional but he knew some wealthy snobbery households did that.

Tony wriggled in his chair, picking up on their confusion. "Y-yeah. Oh, no, uh. Ana was our cook. Jarvis’ wife. Remember I mentioned him earlier who gifted me my first Terry Pratchett book?"

Bucky picked up his fork, then asked, pointedly, “So, you had a cook and a butler growing up. Your mother liked French dishes. You know how many languages again?”

“Just four,” Tony admitted shyly.


“Italian, Spanish, French and English. I tried to learn Japanese because the first alpha I ever liked was from Japan. I was horrible at the pronunciation and accidentally insulted her instead of complimenting her,” Tony said and okay, that was endearing, Bucky thought.

“She was my first kiss,” Tony added quietly. “I told her she smelled strange instead of like sweets. In my defense, I was eight and Japanese is not an easy language to learn on your own.”

“You win the most awkward first kiss story ever.”

This time Tony threw a kennel at Bucky. "Hey!"