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the face our mirror shows us

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Steve is lonely.

He paints, he works for SHIELD, he rides his bike, he cooks, he has Bucky, and still, still, in the twilight hours he lays awake and scrutinizes what he’s missing. There is no discontent in the materials of his world—every night now he’s warm and detached from his formerly ice-filled dreams. Sleek covers lay tightly fitted to the mattress under his body, and if anything, he’s comfortable. Which is just another word for complacent.

Peggy is a distant memory, but the loss of control over his fate with her lingers. He’s over her, but he’s not over the helplessness. Helping Bucky fix that yawning need inside him to make things right. But now there’s no Winter Soldier to hunt, and finally, Bucky is starting to act like his old self again. This is supposed to be the life he’d bargained for, lied to Tony for. What more is there? There must be something.

Unbidden, the image of Tony plays in his head from their last mission.

Can't one human being not like another human being? Can't we all just not get along?

Steve is tired. So tired. Mostly of Tony’s mouth and his sharp Alpha scent that permeates the room any time he’s near Steve. No one else notices it like he does: the musky smell of cardamom, black pepper and cedar, leathery and too-hot. No one else is affected by it like Steve is.

It’s not that he thinks anything is wrong with Alpha-Alpha relationships, but there’s something off about them, together. Moments when Steve could smell the arousal on Tony, and himself, but they never quite tipped over that fathomless edge. The business of Alpha-Alpha partnerships is difficult, anyway. It’s bad form to assume that a worked up Alpha means they are attracted to another Alpha. Steve gets worked up sometimes too. Though he doesn’t know why he sometimes imagines Tony under him, pliant and sweet like an Omega.

An Omega.

Steve rubs at his fatigued eyes, trying to get them to at least feel like he wants to close them and rest. His burgeoning hard-on is an uncomfortable addition to what is already a fraught bedtime routine. But at this point, he’s not going to stop himself. Whatever his mind wants to come up with has to be better than contemplating his bleak existence as a ghost in Stark’s Tower when he’s not being an Avenger. His routines have become rituals to nothing, meaningless even as they sustain his reality.

God, he aches. He’s been trying to avoid touching himself, but in quiet moments his hand strays down his abs and under the waistband of his sweats. First, he thinks of Peggy, her red lips, and enigmatic eyes. She glides down his torso in a way she was never able to when she was alive, but the very thought of her, cold, in a hospital bed stifles him. Those brown eyes warp and change out from under him, his fantasy hijacked by an amber abyss with soft fronds of lashes all around. There're crinkles at the corners of this pair of eyes, and there’s a smile there that filters into Steve’s mind with a compunction that has him heating in shame. Tony follows the trail that Peggy would have taken, wrapping a calloused hand around Steve as he outright leers.

He can’t be thinking about this. About Tony.

Looking down at his elongated cock, he reconsiders that maybe it’s just a fantasy. It doesn’t have to be real. Tony is an Alpha and Steve is an Alpha and they will never be. He fists his dick then, feeling the tell-tale puff of his knot under his knuckles as he begins to jerk his hand forward. Tony is hovering outside of his consciousness, waiting for a way in, and Steve lets it happen. Lets Tony slither into his seams and deposit himself there.

In his mind, the leathery scent of Tony has turned to the sweetness of amber, the black pepper heightening and becoming a tart citrus, and the cedar becoming the secretive, woody scent of sandalwood. These are not Alpha scents, and in his mind, Tony is on all fours, presenting to Steve. His hole is slick and open while Tony’s mouth does its best imitation of his ass, drooling and agape.

Steve wants.

It’s a pain that wrenches his insides, pulls him forward in his reverie about Tony, into the cavernous insides of Steve’s true yearning.

Steve would give anything to see Tony as a compliant, delicate Omega.

The integrity of this daydream falters under his hands. He stutters for a moment, his cock softening even though the very thought of Tony like that arouses him more than anything ever has.

So he allows himself this. He shuts away his discomfort. He leans into his arousal, letting it color in the lines of his thoughts.

Tony is agreeable, his teasing a choreographed dance meant to entice Steve into the chase. It doesn’t grate, or make him feel inadequate. The sly smile that lives perpetually in the corner of Tony’s dusky pink mouth is an invitation, not a challenge.

And just like that, he comes, the image of Tony blissed-out underneath him staring back.

When Steve looks back, he’ll wonder why he didn’t think of this sooner. How long had this been haunting him without Steve knowing the shape of the specter?

Tony should have been born an Omega.

Surely what’s best for Tony plays into this equation?

Because if you asked anyone, Tony needs a minder, someone to care for him. And not in the way Omegas typically care for their Alphas. Again, Steve isn’t against the breaking of gender norms; he couldn’t care less who cooks, does the dishes, laundry, etc. He just thinks that if Tony were an Omega, his Alpha would regulate those bursts of manic energy. Fuck it right out of him.

And oh god, Steve really believes this, he realizes. The conviction he’s holding is that there’s been a grievous error with Tony. Something so wrong, that it would be a crime to not do something.

But what can Steve do?

--

“Bucky, I– I have some questions.” There’s no need to corner Bucky; they’ve been friends for so long, and with Bucky on the mend, there’s more between them than there had been when they were so young and in the midst of war. Yet, he corners him anyway after a training session.

Bucky isn’t fooled by anything, and he side-eyes Steve with what looks like apprehension. Steve gets it. His behavior is off from his usual.

“Get to it, sport.” Bucky is toweling off his hair that’s limp with sweat before he drags the rag down his arms and chest. At one point, Bucky had been a beta, but Hydra had changed all of that. Very recently, Bucky had had a surgery to help correct some of the issues with the change that Hydra hadn’t seen fit to do.

Mainly, that Bucky, as an Alpha, needed to be able to knot. Invasive, expensive, and profoundly painful in its recovery, Bucky had chosen to undergo the procedure to become a full-fledged Alpha.

Since then, a lot of the agitation had drained from his friend’s body, like having a knot had solidified that Bucky would recover and become something of the man he once was. Steve was just happy to have his friend back.

“What made you decide to stay being an Alpha?” His words were rushed, spilling as if he couldn’t get them out fast enough. Once they’re in the air, Steve wants to dissociate from them; he can’t own them. He considers running away now without waiting for the answer, but Bucky has stopped his movements and has set his piercing dark-blue eyes onto Steve.

“Why do you ask?” It’s casual, and anything but.

“I just– I just wanted to know.” He twists his fingers with his other hand before dropping them, and gazing back at his friend. There is nothing wrong. He’s not done anything, and he’s not going to do anything. He just wants to know.

“You thinking of switching your designation?”

“No, no, no– I– um.” This was a bad idea of all kinds. He should go. He turns to leave, and Bucky’s arm shoots out, grabbing his bicep and holding onto it so that Steve would have to twist his arm to escape.

“Stevie, what are you getting yourself into here?” Terror strikes Steve then. Bucky’s going to think awful things of him if he finds out what Steve is thinking. He’ll think Steve is being nosy and maybe self-interested. But because Steve is here, and even though he isn’t committed to telling Bucky his innermost thoughts, he will anyway. That’s what they are to each other, and it means the world to Steve. Not betraying that principle is more important than the morality of the kinds of thoughts he’s having.

“I don’t know, Bucky. I don’t even know.” He rubs his face into his hands before clearing his throat. Blowing out his breath, he looks off at a point behind Bucky. He feels wrung out from thinking about Tony. He doesn’t know exactly how this is going to come together. It’s all by the seat of his pants, his hopes pinned on Bucky helping him out.

“Come on, punk, let’s talk over it in my room.” Bucky adjusts his hand so it lays on Steve’s shoulder, pulling him closer. Tilting his head as Steve pauses, Bucky squeezes just the barest amount, reminding Steve to speak up.

“No, lunch.” JARVIS. How could he forget about JARVIS? He hasn’t revealed anything yet, so he’s as safe as it gets. He measures his own heart rate increasing, and he knows Bucky can also hear it with his enhanced abilities. Steve wants Tony in all the wrong ways, but he’s down in this now, committed, even if he has to look elsewhere to make what needs to happen, happen.

Bucky goes to shower and so does Steve before they meet in the Penthouse common area. Tony and Bruce are in their respective workshops, per usual, while Nat and Clint are playing “darts,” which turns out to be knife throwing. Thor is off-world. The tower never feels quite empty, but in times like these, there’s a quiet that settles over each floor. Like Steve can hear every bit of noise. It sets him on edge more than when there’s movie night or some other gathering, and the sounds become a blur.

“Diner across the street?” Bucky nods and they make for the elevator. They don’t talk on the way down, Bucky, per usual, sensing that Steve isn’t going to open up until he feels that he’s in a secure place. It’s good to have such a close friend, and Steve is grateful that he’s had the opportunity to have a second chance with Bucky.

Settling into the booth, Steve initiates blackout with JARVIS. Then Steve haltingly starts to tell Bucky his thoughts: It’s clear Tony isn’t a stable Alpha. He assaults with impunity. Nothing in the past has worked to stem the tide of Tony’s anger when he’s in a rut, or even just a bad mood. But as an Omega, all of that would change. Because then Tony could find someone to take care of him. Bucky and Steve are both Alphas who have both been on the periphery of these events. They both know, and suspect, times when Tony has hurt Pepper. Any good Alpha wouldn’t use their designation to harm those who are supposed to be in their care. As he says it aloud, he feels more and more that it’s a solid plan. He’d thought that admitting it would reduce some of the magic in the idea, detract from what the end result might look like. Instead, it feels like the future is alive and more powerful than ever.

“Wow. That’s– wow. Stevie…” His friend is picking at his food, his mouth opening and closing like he wants to say more, but can’t. Steve can’t say that Bucky would never judge him, but at the very least Bucky would keep his secrets. It makes him sag against the back of the booth in relief.

“Is it possible to do?” Steve has his palms flat on the table, waiting with bated breath to know if this is an option for him. He’s heard of people transitioning to Alpha. A lot of betas give it more than a second thought. But transitioning to Omega? It’s uncommon enough that Steve isn’t sure about it at all. Omegas have more rights than ever, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that there’s still discrimination and even sex-trade issues. Now, Steve is a believer that Alphas aren’t entitled to Omegas. If Tony transitions and he doesn’t want Steve, he’s going to accept that. Maybe not lying down, but he will.

“Yeah, yeah it is.” Bucky finally admits after a long silence. Hope blossoms inside, and the elation that fills his being brings along images of Tony. Tony swaddled warm in Steve’s bed, Tony’s fingers tracing Steve’s abs, Tony’s hot little mouth yielding under Steve’s. Yes, Tony was meant to be an Omega, with his doe-brown eyes and Ganymede hips.

“So you can you get pills?” The idea is fire now, burning through his mind and seeking all the places where Tony has damaged their relationship. Those things can be repaired now. They can’t be saved, but they can be regrown with a new identity for Tony. Steve just knows it.

“Yeah, I could. But there’s a lot to this. I know beta or Alpha to Omega is the easiest change, but the change is still not easy.” These are just details to Steve. If it’s doable, then it’s almost certainly the right choice. Now to get Tony to accept that himself. Steve hasn’t even gotten to that part yet, so overwhelmed with having the potential to solve this problem between them, between Tony and the world.

“Easier than Tony is now?” Because Tony’s ruts are worse than unpleasant. He’s no longer allowed in his workshop or anywhere but his room when one comes on. Sometimes Pepper, a beta, joins him. Other times she won’t even go into his room. An interior decorator comes once every three months to repair the damage Tony does. If the man weren’t so obscenely wealthy, there would have been consequences long before this point.

But the money hides it. It hides his violent rages and lack of control while he’s in a rut.

Steve, with Bucky’s help, can permanently fix this.

“Ok, fair point. Have you talked to him though? Does he want this?” Bucky asks.

Steve is silent. This is the crux of the matter with Bucky. Steve is no expert at navigating the line between telling as much of the truth as he can without dooming his cause.

“Oh, Stevie. You have to talk to him.” The devastated look on Bucky’s face causes Steve to look out the window of the diner towards the tower.

The tower is a steel monument to Tony, and Steve thinks the sharp angles and modern lines are synonymous with the way Tony hides himself in the minutiae of what he creates. Somewhere between those contours is Tony, waiting. Tony must be as lonely as Steve is. The man exhibits all the classic signs of social deprivation, isolation. Steve understands this, has understood it, and now it’s drawing him in like a magnet, all these things that are wrong with Tony. That could be fixed just by just a few pills.

Tony would never have to conceal himself again. Not with Steve. Steve would always be there to protect him from the way the world seems to ravage Tony’s sensitivities.

But, he knows he should talk to Tony. Tell him his theory. Though if he does, and Tony says no, what then? Steve can’t tolerate failure, and he’s fixated onto this idea now. It’s not even for Steve; it’s for Tony’s sake.

“Do I? Spontaneous designation changes are rare, but they do happen. I looked it up.” He turns back to Bucky who is idly picking at his burger bun, tossing little bread pieces onto the plate.

“So you’re going to take his choice away?” Bucky’s voice is flat, and Steve knows he’s treading on unsteady ground. What Hydra did to Bucky was awful, but at the end of it, Bucky has come out stronger and more balanced than the man he once knew in the 40s. It’s more than a silver lining; Bucky is free. Like Steve was made free when Erskine used the formula on him.

Maybe he should have asked Nat. He’s not quite sure of her feelings on the matter, but she is an impartial ear at the least. And she knows how bad Tony’s ruts have been in the past. Bucky is really only a recent guest at the tower.

“I’m not doing this to hurt him. He’s hurting himself, every day.” The truth of this must ring through Steve’s tone, because Bucky looks back at Steve with his lips twisted to the side and his eyes evaluating instead of displaying any kind of solemn dismissal.

“I’ll tell you what. I’m going to finish my drink and my fries, and then I’m going to get up from this booth and pretend we never had this conversation. Clear?” His friend shoves the last of his fries into his mouth, gets up, and does just what he said, the door clanging shut behind him.

Steve gently squeezes the table under his hands, trying not to break it. That didn’t go well. He’d been so sure he hadn’t misread Bucky’s expression. So now he has to consider the fact that Bucky could be right. That even if Tony turns into a monster while he’s in a rut, that he’s lonely and unhappy, is no justification to change his whole life permanently. Besides, Tony could just change it back. Which is more of a point in Steve’s column than it is Tony’s.

Steve’s heart swoops down to the bottom of his stomach. All of his best-laid plans, going to waste. The version of Tony in his head gives a sly smile, as if Tony himself knows that he’s unattainable. It makes Steve burn all the more for want of him.

But Bucky is right. He has to be, because there’s no way Tony would ever agree. And Steve supposes he should get Tony to be on board with this. Even if a designation change would be the most prudent choice for Tony.

With a sigh, Steve leaves two 20s on the table and walks out.

--

“Pepper, let me out.” There’s a dull crash against the door, and it wiggles on its hinges, edges smacking the reinforced metal frame. Pepper is huddling against the wall, her hand clutched to her head, her shirt in disarray. He wants to help, but he isn’t sure if it’s his place and doesn’t know what to do. Steve also feels a pang of jealousy at the idea of Tony attempting to disrobe Pepper.

Steve’s resignation at not being able to help Tony does nothing for the appearances that Tony keeps making in his head. It’s worse, with the rut, as the stink of it fills up the hall. Steve envisions Tony on Steve’s bed, legs rucked up around his head, all that energy channeled into the sweet cries that leave Tony’s mouth. Steve is never going to hear them, and the realization hits him with juddering harshness.

“Let me see,” Natasha says as she leans over Pepper. Steve is trying to stand away from the door so his scent doesn’t leak into Tony’s room, but honestly, the smell of Tony is so overwhelmingly strong that he doesn’t think Tony can tell anyone else is there. He’s also worried that more Alpha scent might be worse for Pepper right now. Beta’s sense of smell isn’t very good, but the hallway stinks of Nat, Bucky, and Steve, their stressed hormones blanketing the enclosed space. There’s no way she can’t scent it. As for Tony, he’s lost to his rut, which started a few days ago. Of course, Tony hadn’t put it on the schedule, so he had managed to bark at some interns and give a board member the bird before Pepper realized what was up.

And that was just the beginning.

From there, Pepper had tried to comfort Tony, offering to play Omega as much as she could despite being a beta herself. Steve has always thought the majority of their problems derived from their mismatched designations. An Alpha couldn’t physically knot a beta without proper preparation, otherwise there was a risk of internal bleeding. Having to knot outside the body during rut was painful, but necessary if you didn’t have the right genitalia to match with. Tony was just the exception that couldn’t deal with ruts well. Steve and Bucky handled it just fine, finding moderate discomfort better than seeking a rut service.

“He just got a chunk of my hair, that’s all,” Pepper whispered.

“Just a– I’ll fucking kill him.” Nat stood at attention then, eyes glued to the door that was still jiggling as Tony tossed himself bodily against it. The room inside would be destroyed by the end, bedding clawed up and clothes torn to shreds. This was a particularly bad one by Steve’s estimates. He usually didn’t get violent with Pepper.

Bucky remained silent, but kept trying to make eye contact with Steve. Steve, in his embarrassment for the previous week’s conversation, avoided meeting Bucky’s eyes. But he can see that Bucky is riled, unhappy about Pepper’s treatment.

Tony slammed against the door once more before going silent. Despite his silence, they all knew it wasn’t over. Tony’s mischievous nature turned deviant when he was in rut, and the silence could no more be trusted than his tantrums. If anything, he was probably looking for tools to take the door off its hinges.

Pepper stood up then, hand to head, before walking away from Tony’s door.

“Don’t you dare leave! You can’t leave me like this in here!” Tony was almost screaming, the rage palpable to everyone. The door vibrated with the impact of Tony’s fists slamming against it, each bang making Steve flinch.

“He needs help.” Nat looked at Steve, and he could feel his lips twitch involuntarily at the grimace on her face. Steve turned to Bucky then, pleading on his face. He had to try.

Because this was ridiculous. Every three months everyone in the tower went through this. Tony was apologetic after, showering Pepper with gifts and the like. He’d make Clint some more arrows, or construct an interesting fabric for Widow’s skin-tight outfit. Heck, he’d even repair Bucky’s arm. Such was the extent of his apparent regret. Yet without fail, Tony had violent ruts. Ruts that he did nothing to appease.

He didn’t rent an Omega for fear of how he would act. But not doing so was making it worse. And if Steve had to hazard a guess, it was more about losing control than it was about the hormones themselves. Tony’s life was a cycle of exercising control to the point of losing focus and restraint. He opted out of so many of the options that might have helped him, he couldn’t help but act out. Steve knew Tony had trouble accepting help in any capacity. He suspected that Tony was afraid of what people might find out about him. Which was something he must have learned at Howard’s knee. But not even Howard was as prone to spiraling into poor decision after poor decision as Tony was.

“Nat, I don’t think he’ll accept my help.”

“So we’re just going to keep enabling him until he hurts Pepper? Or someone else? I thought you were better than that.” She stalks off at that, leaving Steve and Bucky looking at the closed door. Tony was growling now; he’d likely sensed the two Alphas on the other side.

“It’s just a few days,” Bucky says. But even he doesn’t seem to mean it.

--

“There’s six pills. Spaced out a week each. He should take them with food. When the last pill hits, he’ll go into a dry heat. Are you ready for that?” They’re at the diner again, JARVIS on blackout. Bucky is obviously agitated. It’s been a week since Tony’s rut, and he’s made the apology rounds per usual, his worn-out face gracing each of their doorways as he mumbles through his sorries and his won’t-happen-again’s that everyone knows will mean nothing come three months from now. This time it feels worn out, the exhaustion seeping into everyone, including Tony.

Steve can’t imagine that Tony likes himself very much right now.

Pepper has a hair extension in from where he got a hold of a large tuft of her hair. She also has an entirely new set of heels for every day of the month. Steve thinks it’s vulgar to buy someone’s forgiveness, but he understands that Tony doesn’t know how to be emotionally available and he can’t promise he won’t do it again. Now that Bucky is on board, Tony won’t have to deal with these erratic mood swings in rut. His heat will make him tractable. Steve imagines that Tony will be sweet, the kind of Omega who wants to cuddle and be touched. Tony hasn’t had enough of that in his life.

Maybe Tony was always meant to be an Omega. It’s possible something happened in the womb. He wouldn’t have put it past Howard to give his Omega wife a sufficient dose of hormones to ensure the designation of his child. He’s heard stories of it not being as good of an idea in practice, but if anyone could have worked that out, it would have been Howard.

“I’m ready for this Bucky. We’re doing the right thing.” Bucky stills for a moment before reaching into his pocket and pulling out an orange bottle with a white cap, label dirty from being rubbed, and tossed around in pockets.

“Talk to Tony, ok?” He smacks the bottle on the table in front of him, and Steve makes to swipe it away before Bucky can change his mind. Bucky grabs tighter to the bottle as Steve closes his fingers around Bucky’s fist.

“And if he says no?” Steve locks eyes with Bucky, trying to suss out what his friend might be thinking. These pills are the key to what Tony needs. If Steve has to, he’ll go elsewhere. He knows that about himself now, that it’s become critical to help Tony even if Bucky isn’t involved. But having Bucky at his back would be preferable.

“Then give the pills back and we’ll think of something else.” Bucky releases the bottle to Steve, slouching back down into the booth as if he regrets it. Contemplative, Bucky rubs his jawline, scruffing his hands against his 5 o’clock shadow.

In Steve’s hands is Tony’s future. Their future. These six little pills are going to free Tony.

“I’ll try, but you know how he is after his ruts.” Steve thinks that Bucky is beginning to understand, even if he doesn’t want to. This is what Tony needs to have happen to him. As an Omega, he’ll be more stable and emotionally even. Once he’s bonded, hopefully to Steve, it’ll alter the dynamic of the Avengers for the better. A bonded Omega is a happy Omega, if they are treated well and loved. Omegas are the heart of a group, and they’ve sorely needed one to provide harmony in their ranks.

Steve intends to ensure that happens, no matter who Tony picks as his Alpha.

But right now, Bucky wants Steve to promise to return the pills if Tony says no. And he can’t.

The only promises Steve makes are to Tony.

--

This is what not restraining your dreams feels like, thinks Steve.

Once a week. A day is all the space he needs to get Tony to take the pills. Steve crushes them up and adds them to Tony’s favorite foods that he delivers to Tony personally. It’s so easy, that the means seem to justify themselves.

He stops by this little Italian place that Tony loves and orders a carbonara for Tony and spaghetti and meatballs for himself, one serving for here and another to-go. He’s not picky, and nor is Tony when it comes down to it.

Now comes the tricky part, which is getting the pill into the food without anyone noticing. He can’t do it in the tower, so he’s decided to eat at the restaurant. The waiter brings his dish and a bag with his and Tony’s food. He plops it in the booth next to him and proceeds to crack open the capsule and use his fork to stir it into the carbonara.

No one notices that he can see, and he thinks that this might be doable for the long-term. Once he’s done with his dish, he pays, grabs the bag, and makes his way to the tower.

Every time Tony’s rut happens, Tony mopes in his workshop for at least two weeks before he shows his face around the common areas again. That’s about how long it takes for his shame to wear away and for the others to stop avoiding Tony themselves. Tony is still there when Steve asks JARVIS for an update on Tony’s location.

Heading down in the elevator, he clutches the bag close, hands sweating on and fingers crinkling the brown paper. He likes to think this is the turning point, but he knows that he’s committed as soon as he realized that Tony will be healthier and happier this way. The future has an inevitability about it that makes him feel confident, content.

Steve has considered offering the choice to Tony, but he can’t trust that the man will be reasonable. In the end, even Bucky will support him. This is a kindness to Tony.

The doors open to the room and there’s Tony, hunched over equipment that has streams of wires hanging from it. He’s filthy, jeans slung low on his hips, his boxers peeking out the front and back of his pants, soldering iron in his hands. There wasn’t much to say about the tank top he had on, because at this point it was mostly grimed from working in the bowels of some machinery. Tony keeps spare shirts on hand like he did terry cloth, but he so rarely changes into them. It warms Steve to think that sometime soon, he’ll be peeling those off of Tony, bathing him, and tucking him into Steve’s bed.

Tony would grumble and whine, but acquiesce like the darling Omega he is. And then Steve will placate him with a knot. It’s the perfect vision.

Steve watches Tony wipe his face with his forearm, streaking more grease onto his cheek.

“Sir–” JARVIS tries to announce Steve’s presence, but Tony barrels on with his work.

“JARVIS, electricity to subsystem B5, ping the server to test the latency while running five hundred thousand tasks on the processor.”

“Sir, it’s still at 20ms and a max out of tasks at three hundred thousand and change.”

“Dammit! My processor is leaking voltage. JARVIS, I think this thing has fallen prey to cosmic rays, the kind that do not turn you into a superhero. Why does hardware have to be persistently hateful?” Steve smiles as Tony kicks the side of the machine and continues mumbling, something about seducing someone on the compiler team.

“Tony,” he calls. Tony perks up, dropping the stained towel he’s wiping his hands with.

“Oh, gimme gimme.” He trots over to Steve, making his grabby hands, which is unfairly adorable and makes Steve want to pet his soft-looking hair. Steve watches avidly as Tony demolishes the carbonara, noodles disappearing so fast that Steve can’t believe he’s even tasting the food.

This is a critical moment. The beginning of everything that is to come. Effects should come slowly, a submissive gesture here and a subtle softening of Tony’s sharp angles there. Steve thinks of how beautiful Tony will look when he fills out. Tony hasn’t been eating enough, but as an Omega, he’ll be more apt to accept the care he needs. Steve is going to feed him until the anemic look of his frame goes away and is replaced by something lean but soft.

Then there’s the issue of sleep. Tony doesn’t get nearly enough of it. Steve is going to fix that too, restricting the amount of caffeine Tony takes in. When he’s malleable from the hormones, they’ll work on all these things. Steve can’t wait to start.

His plan of attack involves delicate touches to the arms and shoulders, his fingers drifting closer to where Tony’s glands are. The first pill shouldn’t be immediately noticeable to Tony, but Steve will see the results when he caresses him. These will be light, tender, and quick movements. Nothing lingering. Only grounding.

“Steve, that was fucking amazing. Are you going to eat that? What is it? Oh, did you get any garlic bread? You gotta try that next time–”

“I’m working on it Tony.” Steve suppresses a laugh and takes a bite of his food, thinking of all the future nights ahead of him with Tony that will be just like this. Besides when they’re fighting as a team, the only other time that Tony is amenable towards Steve is when he’s eating.

But soon that’s over, and Tony is eying him up as a contender. Alphas can’t really help it, and Tony and Steve have been in a dominance fight since day one. Tony is twitching now, hips shifting on his chair and his lips vibrating with unspoken words. Likely insults, knowing Tony.

“So, what, did the island nominate you to talk me out of my self induced isolation? I said I was sorry. And it’s also not your business how things are between Pepper and me.”

“I’m not here for that. I just wanted to have dinner with you.” It’s the wrong thing to say. Tony tilts his head and narrows his eyes.

“Yeah, right. Well, dinner is done. So you can go now, thanks, and goodbye.” Tony gets up and goes directly back to what he was working on. It’s cold of Tony, but it’s nothing less than he expects. It will not get him down though. He’s riding a high, a victory.

“JARVIS, deactivate B5.”

“Sir, may I suggest that this isn’t the best use of your time? Lay people do precisely ten things with their computer, and none of those are streaming ten copies of a HD movie at once.” JARVIS makes Steve smile. That sass is all Tony’s doing.

“Now that these transistors have pissed me off, no, I don’t think I will be stopping–Christ, Steve you’re still here? Do you need to be dismissed?” Steve chuckles, and Tony gives him a perplexed look as if Steve has a sudden case of brain damage. Maybe he does, because normally this gets Steve to fight with Tony.

“Ok Tony, I’ll see you later.” Steve strides out of the lab with a broad smile on his face and the refreshing determination of once more having a purpose.