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He isn’t mad at Howard.

He isn’t.

Steve understood why the man had done what he did, even if he wasn’t pleased with the results. If Steve had been in a similar position, he maybe would have thought of this solution, though he definitely would not have implemented it. Respect for the dead was the first reason that came to mind.

And no, Captain America isn’t dead, but he should have been.

Instead, Steve is sitting here reading over lengthy legal documents that bind him, an alpha, to an omega.

Even when he was in the 40s, Steve had never made plans to settle down with an omega. A beta, like Peggy Carter, yes. But there was never an option at the time to attain an omega. Not that he would have wanted one. He still doesn’t. He misses home, and an omega represents everything that’s out of place with this world: moral decay and decadence that’s insidious. In even having an omega, it’s as if the circumstance is bringing all the wretched feeling of what Steve’s lost along with it.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. The sheer amount of circumstances that have to align for this to be possible is unprecedented. But ultimately, it is binding.” The lawyer is from outside of SHIELD, the organization that Peggy ended up founding, along with Howard, that happened upon what they thought was his remains. The lawyers at SHIELD had already declared the contract valid. Steve thought he would try one more time to see if that was the case.

“So I have to marry this omega? You’re certain?” It’s been a surprise to everyone, including Steve, that Captain America is alive and kicking and able to fulfill contractual obligations.

“In essence, you are already married, though the contract hasn’t started yet. It will be five years before you can have an uncontested divorce. Though you may be able to get out sooner if there is a question of infidelity on his part.” The lawyer taps at the papers with a solid-looking pen before shuffling them and pulling the relevant portion that contains the circumstances under which Steve may divorce the omega.

“Seems like that’s not much of a question.” Steve is peering down at photos of the omega man he’s been given. There’s a certain vanity in the man’s eyes, a bit of rebelliousness that Steve just knows he’s going to have to curb, if he can’t get out of this. He has to believe that his friend, Howard, would have never betrothed his son to Steve if he had known what Anthony Stark was going to turn into.

Because that’s the crux of it. Anthony is everything Steve has been taught that an omega without guidance is, and that’s a problem. Steve grasps at his face, rubbing circles under his already bagged eyes. He’s been going over this for a week now.

“I would take a deeper look at the assets, however. Those won’t go with you if you instigate divorce, though you’ll be left with a settlement out of it, and not an insignificant one.”

“And what happens to Anthony at that point?” He flips to the next page, the writing bleeding together as he tries to parse the terms of divorce.

“He’ll go under conservatorship, and likely another Alpha in his life will take responsibility for him. It wouldn’t be your concern.” This omega shouldn’t be his problem at all. To wake up to this has been worse than he can imagine. Yes, everyone he knows is either dead or quite old, but to be shackled to a pale shadow of his past through Anthony Stark? Anthony, who represents everything he despises about omegas. Vain, flighty, self-obsessed, loose, addictive in personality. It’s too much.

“You’re right. It’s definitely not.” This is something he can dump, get rid of. He’s just trying to think of reasons why he shouldn’t, and the one he’s come up with makes him queasy to think about.

“I’d love to tell you that this contract isn’t airtight, but Howard’s legal team has always been thorough. It’s not a bad idea on his end, all things considered. No one ever expected… well.” Right. No one had thought that Captain America was alive, and thus either of them having to endure the rigid terms of this contract. Anthony could stay married, his assets secure, without ever having them interfered with.

Howard, you sonofabitch.

This all happened because Howard gave his omega son too long of a leash. Anthony wasn’t an alpha. He wasn’t capable of the kind of resilience and focus that alphas were. And it showed.

While technically, when Steve had been in the ice, Anthony and he weren’t married, and Anthony could do as he pleased. The omega had been linked to a string of betas and other omegas, along with a token alpha or two. It was scandalous. In Steve’s day, omegas were married off young, like they should be to curb their appetites. Instead, Tony was allowed to fool around with whomever he saw fit.

Steve was almost interested in seeing how Anthony would react now that Steve was in charge of his life.

There’d be no more of this partying and general irresponsibility.

And that was his reason right there; he owed it to Howard to rein Anthony in. He doubted that Howard would have arranged this entire thing if he knew what his son would get up to when he was gone.

The betrothal had been done in specific to keep Stark Industries, SI, from becoming someone else’s property. Circumstances had allowed Howard, who was previously in control of Steve’s meager estate, to arrange a marriage between his son and the MIA Captain America.

It had taken years to declare Steve to be dead, and in the meantime, Howard had had Anthony with his wife, Maria, and decided to betroth his omega son to Steve to circumvent giving the company to anyone else. Steve had been declared dead shortly after, but the technicality allowed Tony to not marry at all, and generally treated him as an omega widower. This had given Anthony all the rights to SI without any of the issues of an alpha taking it from him.

Divorcees don’t receive the same rights. If you were disruptive to your marriage as an omega, there was still a need for you to be under an alpha’s guardianship. But widowed omegas were usually considered to be steadfast on their own, only needing appointed guardians in a few circumstances. Anthony is, of course, a unique case in every way.

Not that the omega had likely done much to warrant looking after besides his lavish lifestyle. Steve saw that SI had stopped making weapons and had generally increased their market share while investing in clean energy, medical technology, and a host of other, smaller investments. Anthony must have good advisors.

“And the ceremony will take place a week from now?” Steve is still getting used to being out of the ice, and the cold of the conference room nips at his skin. He wants out of here as soon as possible and away from this problem that won’t seem to go away. What he wants is to see what’s left of his home in Brooklyn. To walk the streets and see if he can capture some of the life he had before. He knows it will be a pale imitation, but he can’t stop himself from wanting.

“Yes. At which point you will be required to cohabitate with Mr. Stark. While you must deliver a mating bite, you are not required to engage in intercourse or any other intimate behavior. Though you may do so. Alpha-omega marriages provide default consent.”

No. The very idea of being with an omega roiled his stomach. They were needy and wanton, spreading their legs for whomever if allowed. Anthony looked to be no exception. He’d live with the man, he’d help manage the chaos that is his life, but he won’t be lured in by the siren call of an omega’s scent and body.

“Is, or is not my husband Captain fucking America? Yes? He is. So then get the fuck out of my way—” He can hear the commotion beyond the door to their private room, and he registers that it must be Anthony before the man himself bursts in.

He’s dressed in a suit that wouldn’t look out of place on an alpha, and Steve thinks something must have gone awry for Anthony to think he can walk around with an exposed neck and incorrectly gendered clothes. Maybe things have changed, but it still looks out of place to Steve.

“You.” Anthony flicks off his sunglasses, folds them up, and hooks them onto his shirt. Steve can’t deny that he’s everything an omega should be in physical perfection: well-sculpted features, soft brown hair, even softer brown eyes, narrow waist, and an omega smell that coils around Steve’s senses, rousing an embarrassing sense of lust.

“I’m Steve Rogers, your alpha.” He doesn’t put out his hand, because it’s rude to touch unbound omegas.

“Not yet, you aren’t.” Tony shoves out his hand, as if he already knows that Steve isn’t going to shake it, and holds it there for a beat before returning it to his side, wiping it on his leg as if he’s touched something disgusting. Steve feels the heat of indignity at his back, the sudden desire to see this through, and he knows now that he’s hooked. Steve’s never backed down from a challenge, and there is no problem too big.

“If this paperwork is correct, it’s a foregone conclusion.” Steve taps the sheets scattered on the table, sliding them together as though he’s getting ready to leave.

“Listen. I’m one of the richest men in the world. I can buy my freedom, bucko.” Something about the way Anthony says that makes Steve recoil. Maybe Howard never intended for them to be together, but Steve can imagine that he certainly didn’t think his son would turn out like this. Anthony is nothing more than a fop with expensive and dangerous tastes. Exactly what happens to omegas when left unchecked.

“Only if I agree to divorce or otherwise annul the marriage, which I don’t.” Steve has made a lot of spur of the moment decisions in his life. So far so good on that, and he’s not stopping now. Anthony needs him. He needs someone to bring him in line. It’s the least he can do for Howard’s memory. It may be a shadow of a life, but it is a task that will take up his time.

“So you want this. That’s—what in the fuck.” If Steve is being honest, he is curious about omegas. Before his serum, he had been an omega himself, but Erskine had rightfully fixed that. Steve had never acted like an omega in his life. The serum only validated what had been true all along, that Steve was meant to be an alpha. He’d been so sickly that he’d never even had a heat, nor a strong desire to nest and mate. Steve figured that his body had somehow turned omega in the womb as a defense mechanism for his failing health.

Unlike the first gender, which was coded in the individual’s body, the changes for being omega or alpha were circumstantial based on the parent’s contribution; scientists didn’t always understand what made for the change, but that it had something to do with stress. Every alpha contained the equipment to be an omega and vice versa, but it acted recessively based on whatever hormones were in the parent’s body at the time. Thus, Steve knew for certain that he’d just been placed in a stressful environment and that his temperament was more suited to being alpha.

His new life after his body was altered had been one of relative ease and achieved expectations. Steve had never been the kind of omega who wanted flashy things and an alpha’s knot. He’d never been interested in the slightest, and nor was he capable of heats when he was young, so he’d never gotten married. It was further affirmation that his body now was as it should be.

“Language. I’m agreeing to this because it’s clear you need minding. Maybe Howard didn’t intend for me to be alive and there, but he certainly wouldn’t have intended your behavior.”

“Mr. Rogers, if Mr. Stark is offering you a way out—” the lawyer starts.

“No. I’m not going to take it. Anthony needs a keeper. I would be failing my friend if I allowed him to go on like this.” It’s decided. Anthony is not going to like this, he can already tell. The man is vibrating with pent up energy, tapping his fingers on his leg while his eyes twitch and his brows furrow.

“You can’t be serious. You cannot be fucking serious. This is—no. You’re not staying married to me. We’re not doing this at all, ever. And who are you to say I need a keeper? I’ve been just fine all my life.” Anthony rolls up his sleeves, holds his chin high, and glowers. It looks far too appealing on his features. Steve is going to have to watch for Anthony trying to get him to indulge whatever vices he’s picked up.

“Howard did this so that SI could stay in the family, and so that you could have control over your life. And what have you done with it? Partied relentlessly. Exposed yourself to all manner of people. There’s pictures, films of you cavorting around like an off-leash omega.”

“Oh step off the cross Rogers; how dare you judge me? This is my life. You don’t get to take it from me because Captain Morality disapproves of how I use it.”

“I am soon to be your mate and husband. So yes, I do get a say. More than a say. Things are going to change, Anthony.”

“We’ll see about that. And it’s Tony, you geriatric ass—” Tony whips open the door to the conference room and stalks out of it, looking determined. He won’t have any luck. SHIELD’s lawyers had been thorough. This time tomorrow, they’ll have exchanged mating bites.

Steve sends the lawyer away and spends the rest of his time researching Tony, determined to get this right.

He does not like what he finds anymore than he did at first glance. There’s so much media showing Tony in compromising positions, so much gossip, and speculation. If even half of it is true, Tony is completely feral. Steve knows this is what happens when you let an omega have their way. They get into trouble. They get taken advantage of.

Steve thinks that even if Tony weren’t Howard’s son, he would stick around anyway just to contain the damage that Tony has done to his life, for the sake of everyone in Tony’s.

--

The ceremony is done in a small room at SHIELD with a two-way mirror and a justice of the peace. Gray walls surround them and seem to enclose them in a muffled and stuffy manner. Tony is there, his back rigid with tension, neck bare and exposed. He’s in the same crumpled three-piece suit he was in yesterday, as if he couldn’t bother to put on new clothing for this.

Despicable.

Steve is already arranging a routine for Tony in his head, examining where he’s going to have to interfere with Tony’s life to get the omega man on track. Lifestyle is a special problem. Steve needs to see that Tony is behaving himself in a professional manner by being the best example of an omega example that he can be. He’ll have to cut down on Tony’s spending and maybe even cull clothing that’s not appropriate. Alphas did this all the time for their omegas in his time. Surely it’s not fallen too out of style.

Otherwise, Tony seems to be vibrating with energy. Steve will have to make sure he works out to burn some of that off, because they won’t be engaged in anything together that will help. It makes him wonder if he should offer Tony his body to help with the instability omegas feel when they’re undersexed, but he thinks the other changes will be sufficient to put a damper on Tony’s more promiscuous behavior.

Steve never felt like he was longing for sex when he was an omega. Mostly he spent time thinking about how good it would feel to just breathe. There’s a part of him looking up to the challenge of breaking Tony in. It seems no one has done it for him before, and there’s a certain pride to think that what will come out on the other side will be as close to perfection as an omega can get with the past life Tony has led.

"I, Tony, take thee, Steve, to be my wedded husband.” The justice starts. Tony is staring off into space, hands fiddling with something in his pockets.

There’s dead silence for a moment as they wait.

“I’m sorry I’ve forgotten what you’ve just said.” Tony’s voice is a lazy drawl, and he cocks his hips as he settles back to look at the justice and give Steve a wink. Those heavy eyelashes flutter and Steve finds himself angered.

“I, Tony, take thee, Steve, to be my wedded husband,” the justice repeats.

“Oh yes, we’re at the part where the forces of evil conspire to destroy my life. I, Tony, take thee, Steve, to be my wedded husband, to apparently have and to hold from this day forward, for worse, and much worse, for richer, never poorer, to stay away in both times of in sickness and in health, to supposedly love and to cherish, till death do us part. Peachy?”

“Excuse me for one moment.” Steve smiles cagily at the justice and yanks Tony by his elbow towards the back of the room. The omega lets it happen, though his face is an open ‘o’ of shock.

“Listen here,” Steve says, vibrating, “you’ll repeat those vows, and you’ll do them correctly. This is embarrassing of you. Have you no shame at all?”

“None whatsoever. I’m as shameless as a newborn.” Tony is grinning at him, a dare, and a challenge to Steve’s authority all at once.

“Let me make this clear. The more you disobey, the more privileges you lose. I will find the things you like, and I will take them away. I will find what you love, and it will belong to me. You will come to me for everything you need, including discipline. And while you may never learn to like it, you will learn to appreciate what I give you, as your alpha.”

“Oh, so you’re serious about a ‘conventional’ marriage.” Tony finger quotes the word.

“In every respect but one, yes.” Steve almost reconsiders his strict limit. Tony’s heat will be bad without an alpha, but omegas can go through heats alone. He knows that for a fact.

“So what’s it going to be? No sharing a room? No shared mealtimes?” Tony is prodding him, and Steve realizes he doesn’t want to answer just yet. He’d rather they were married and on their way to their new life.

“For now, I’m going to ask you to contain yourself and get back to the ceremony. I will explain after.”

“Fine.” Tony’s eyes roll back in his head and he slouches back up to the justice. Steve thinks they’re going to have to work on comportment as well.

Things go smoothly as possible after that, Tony mumbling his proper lines as Steve evenly says his.

Steve leans over to Tony first, shuffling his face in between the collar of Tony’s shirt. He smells like expensive cologne, metal, and sweat. It’s a heady combination, and Steve reflexively breathes in deep, taking it all in. His lips bud on Tony’s neck, finding the outline of the gland there before he laves it a few times. The saliva acts as an analgesic on the gland, prepping the area for a bite.

He doesn’t linger, though he very much wants to. Omegas are too tempting by half. The scent is positively overwhelming now, and he wants to keep licking and sucking at the gland. Technically it’s within his rights. He could mouth at Tony’s throat for a good while before laying on a bite, or he could bite Tony, then take him home and scent him to his heart’s content.

That’s not what’s happening here, however, and he steels himself before biting down on the firm piece of flesh. He feels it pierce and a rush of copper stains the inside of his mouth. Tony doesn’t make so much as a whimper.

When he pulls away, there’s something fathomless in Tony’s dark eyes as he stares at Steve. His expression is blank, devoid of happiness or anger. It’s unnerving, but it doesn’t last long because Tony moves in, reaching up to Steve’s open gland with his mouth.

Tony doesn’t lick at all before he bites down, hard. Steve is used to pain, however, and doesn’t let himself mind it, since small acts of rebellion are all Tony will get at this point.

After it’s over, the justice leaves the room, and the certificate of their marriage is laying on the table. Tony looks at it, impassive, as Steve waits for him to turn and pay attention.

When Tony does, he looks at Steve with a sourness that Steve thinks he’s going to see a lot of.

“So what is it that I won’t be getting the privilege of, Cap? Since you seem to think everything you do is by god’s command himself.” A little snarkiness he can ignore. Things will start in earnest when they get home. Routine and structure will cure Tony of these urges to sass and otherwise cause trouble.

“Tony, I’m warning you now about your mouth.” He thinks he’s going to have to do a lot of things about it at this point.

“Yeah, yeah, I get warned about it all the time. What are you going to do, gag me?”

“Do you want to find out?” He’s not above using a gag on Tony, if it’s needed.

“Not really. Fine. So tell me your fascinating ground rules.” Steve pauses here, waiting out Tony’s impatience until the omega focuses. Like training a dog, you have to wait for them to have their full attention on you.

“You won’t be getting my knot, for any reason. I want nothing to do with you in that manner.” Tony has the grace to look appalled, as if he can’t believe that Steve would deny him this one thing. But Steve was wise to how addiction worked. You can’t feed the flames. You can’t fuel the very thing that makes an omega a problem to begin with.

“You are the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and I’ve had some really terrible things happen. So that’s saying a lot. Do you think I’m just going to roll over and let you manage my life? I have people I pay to do that, and they are not you.” Tony jerks his head back and shoots Steve an undecipherable expression, but one that has notes of resignation and anger.

“I’ll be getting on board with them as soon as we’re done here. We’re going to get a handle on your life, stop these accusations about your impropriety in their tracks with your announced marriage to me, and from there we’ll work on rehabilitating your behavior to match your new person. You will change. Howard would have never let this happen if he’d been alive.” Steve thinks he’s getting a headache just imagining what he’s going to have to do to sort this out.

“Don’t you talk about Howard like you know a thing about him at all. And frankly, your idea of getting a handle on my life sounds invasive and downright barbaric. No one treats omegas like you’re talking about these days. Get with the times, Rogers. We’ll be a laughing stock if you don’t.” Tony’s mouth pinches into a downward sneer as he talks.

“It can’t be any worse than it is right now. You are out of control. It would be pure evil to leave you to continue with your own devices when you can be so readily turned to better things. Don’t you have a company to nurture? What about what your friends think of your actions? Have you even thought about having children at some point?” Steve asks. Omegas love children. Maybe Steve hadn’t, but that was just further proof that he was never meant to remain an omega. But Tony, Tony still had an opportunity to bear children after he was brought into line and remarried to another alpha who would take care of him.

“Since you’re not going to be knotting me, children are none of your goddamn business. And my friends know who I am and care for me despite what you may think of me. You and SHIELD pay too much attention to the media. As for SI, fuck you. Just, fuck you. Nurture my ass.”

“Listen, I know this is hard for you, but we do have to work together on this. Don’t make this more difficult for yourself. I will enforce strict discipline.”

“If we work together at all, I’m sure I will find new and less pleasant reasons to hate you. But I suppose that’s my fucking life now.”

“Language is the first thing. You are done with swear words in front of me. Every time you do so, I will take you over my knee and spank you for each one, daily. Act like a child, get treated like one.”

“You cannot be serious. You can’t do that!” Tony is straining at him, his posture erect and bristled with antagonism. His fists are clenching and Steve has a wild hope that Tony will physically attack him so he can put him in his place easier. It’s best to get the rebellion out of the way early. Break them down so they can be reshaped.

“Show me where in the laws that it says I can’t be allowed to use minor corporal punishment on omegas.” Steve had checked. Omegas had gained substantial divorce rights when it came to infidelity and abuse, but a spanking or restraint still wasn’t considered to be excessive. In Steve’s time, omegas could be collared and leashed, and were with regularity. Steve didn’t care either way about the public humiliation. It was simply another tool that alphas had used at the time. There were still plenty of options to pick from these days with Tony.

“Studies show that it doesn’t help an omega! It only hurts us! We’re people with needs just like alphas, not windup toys.”

“And my experience says otherwise.” Steve knows that omegas are the furthest thing from an object. They’re precious, to be cared for, and guided to make good decisions. They have delicate constitutions and they’re not always capable of making the right choices.

“What experience!? You never married!” Tony is yelling now, arms waving erratically, but not at Steve. So Tony has some guise of self-control.

“I had neighbors. I saw the difference in the demeanors of the ones who had a firm hand versus the ones who didn’t. I know exactly how omegas are.”

“I can’t believe you. You just see what’s there on the surface. You’re not even capable of looking deeper at all, are you? Those ‘happy’ omegas you saw, you’re so sure of their being in the right place for them. You wouldn’t even know the first thing about what makes an omega happy.”

“Nonetheless, we’re going to do this my way. And I promise at the end of it, things will be better.”

“I hate you,” Tony says it like the words surprise him as they come out, like it’s a question, not a statement.

“I can endure that.” Steve nods, crossing his arms.

“I will never respect you,” Tony adds in, his eyes narrowing as he lifts his chin in defiance.

“That’s unfortunate, but I’m confident it will change.”

“Then I guess we’re ready to start our new life together.” Tony barrels past Steve and out the door into the hallway beyond. Steve follows after him.

Chapter Text

Things settle in, in that they don’t settle in at all. It's their allowed honeymoon period where normally they’d consummate their marriage, but instead, Steve has been using it to slowly ease Tony into a routine. Steve thought he had his work cut out for him, but he had no idea how bad it was.

Tony lives in a tower, where everything he needs is catered to him and all of his extraneous household duties are done for him.

That is the first thing to go.

When Steve finds Tony trying desperately to make his bed, it’s almost funny, but for the look of sheer fury that Tony is giving the sheets, and then directing at Steve.

Tony should be embarrassed that he can’t make a bed. Or do laundry. Or clean the house.

He also spends an inordinate amount of time in the workshop, ‘inventing.’ When the hours reach midnight, Steve strolls down to the lab, the doors of which open for him automatically, and proceeds to drag Tony out to eat something and go to bed.

The first night it happens, Tony pitches a huge fit.

“This is my job, Steve! It’s what I do. I invent and I bring new products to the market. You’re interfering with the cash cow. You know who fucking hates that? The board of SI. You’re going to get me ousted. I can fucking see it now. Captain America manages to take down an American icon by being an absolute dickwad.”

“That’s three swear words, added to your total count of seventeen today. Get upstairs. Now.”

“Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. And fuck you.” Steve breathes through his nose, and counts to ten, praying for patience.

“Twenty-one.”

“Goddammit. I truly hate you. I didn’t think anything in my life could ever be worse than this, but this defies logic with how awful this is. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. You shouldn’t be here. You should be dead!” Steve lets Tony rant on like that for a time, before he approaches and herds Tony upstairs. Tony is desperate not to be touched by him, just as Steve doesn’t want to touch him at all, and as they make their way up, Tony mutters the entire time.

“You’re going to bed right now—”

“I heard you the first time ass-hat.” Tony’s shoulders are dropped into a curl as he starts to stagger off. Steve stops him on a dime.

“—after your twenty-two spankings.” Tony stops and throws out a hand to steady himself on the wall before turning around and leaning against it.

“You can’t be serious. Oh my god, you are serious.” Steve sits on one of the many couches and pats his leg once. He doesn’t expect Tony to come right away, but he does want him to come over of his own volition. Blinking rapidly, Tony makes his way over carefully, as if he’s picking through some kind of obstacle course. When he comes to stand before Steve, Steve pats his knee again.

“Ok, I’ve never actually been spanked in my life. Slapped, sure. But this is a new one for me.” Tony scrapes his hand through his hair as he stares down at Steve’s legs like they’re a spider he’s found crawling on the floor.

“Layover my legs, brace yourself with your arms on the floor.” Tony tentatively does that, draping himself across Steve. The omega is barely able to make eye contact, lashes hiding most of his eyes as he stares at the floor. Tony is in the pants of his suit from the ceremony and the wife-beater underneath, still. The shirt is thick, almost too much so, but it looks modest on Tony and Steve approves of that. When Tony is finally laid out over Steve’s legs, his chest tilted towards the ground and the juncture of his hips seated comfortably over Steve’s leg, exposing his ass to the air, Steve is satisfied.

“You will count them.” Steve brings his hand down. This gives him no pleasure. It’s pure punishment and he doesn’t make the slaps easy. They’re intended to bruise and warn Tony of the next time he opens his mouth to think about what he’s saying.

His hand comes down and thwacks loudly onto Tony’s bottom. Tony flinches and whines once, saying nothing.

“Count, or I start over.”

“One, you dick.”

“That’s twenty-three, and you will say thank you for each one.”

His hand comes down again, and he curves his hand just so to leave a red mark on Tony’s flesh.

“Two.”

“What do you say?”

“Fucking thank you.” Steve sighs. They’re not going to get through this easily. But the first night will always be the hardest. That Steve knows. He’s never watched horses be broken to a bit before, but he figures this is much the same. You have to show that you’re in control, confident, and that the results will be what you want them to be if you just stay consistent and calm.

He lays his hand down again, and Tony squirms on his lap, hips pressing into the line of his leg. His hand is stinging from the impact, pins, and needles heating up on the pads of his heel and fingers.

“Three. Thank you.” Tony hastens to add. Steve smacks again, hard, and Tony whimpers softly.

“Four. Thank you.” When Steve does it again, this time Tony presses hard on his leg with his hips, and through the fabric, Steve can feel that the omega is becoming erect.

“This isn’t for your personal enjoyment. Calm yourself.”

“I can’t help it. You could pick a different punishment.”

“This is the one I picked because it’s as humiliating as you swearing all the time is. The punishment fits the crime.”

“Then I suppose you’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

Steve grimaces, but spanks Tony again.

“Five, thank you.” Tony adjusts himself, pressing the front of his crotch against Steve’s legs, intentionally or not, Steve can’t tell. He can feel the outline of Tony’s penis now, and it’s substantial enough for an omega. If Tony were genuinely his, he’d have him sated after. But Tony is only his in name and contract. Steve doesn’t want the omega otherwise.

“Six, thank you.” It continues like that until all twenty-three slaps have been delivered, and Tony is whining and humping at Steve’s leg. He’s not going to punish what seems to be a natural reaction, but he’s not pleased by it either. His omega is wanton, immodest. But ultimately an omega should be able to want their alpha, so he’s got to let this slide.

Tony gets up, using the coffee table in the middle of the room to brace himself. His face is red from being upside down and his clothing rumpled, he stands up and looks at Steve with hooded eyes.

“Don’t think this means anything. It’s a natural response for omegas.”

“I wasn’t aware of that, but it’s fine either way. I know you can’t help it.”

“Oh, so you think it’s just my nature to be that aroused and that somehow makes me weaker?” Tony shoves his chin up and holds his posture with his legs spread wider, shoulders squared ahead.

“It makes you omega.” Steve leans back on the couch, and wonders whether he’s going to have to demand Tony bathe, or if he’ll do it himself. There’s no way he’s looking forward to cleaning the omega. It would involve Tony being nude in front of him, and his very nature as an alpha wants that, even as Steve himself loathes the idea.

“And omega is practically a swear word in your book. Tell me, do you get put over my leg every time you say omega?” Neck tightly corded, Tony’s shoulders are tight, and Steve can hear how rapid his heartbeat is. He thinks that Tony isn’t aroused anymore, but whatever he’s feeling, it’s affecting him physically.

“Just because you’re not swearing doesn’t mean you’re not having a smart mouth right now, and if I have to, I can think up punishments for that as well.”

“Whatever, Rogers. I’m going to bed.” Tony trudges off, fists tight at his side.

The next day, Steve contacts Tony’s assistant, Pepper. The woman has a tight schedule, and she agrees to meet him for lunch for about an hour at a cafe near SI. Tony himself is in the basement again, music blasting, though Steve can only hear it through the soundproofing because of his extra senses.

He makes his way to SI, peering at the well-appointed building before turning and entering the cafe. Pepper Potts, he sees right away, a tall red-head beta sitting refined at a table with only water to keep her company. Approaching the table, she spots him and her brow furrows before her face smoothes out and she smiles at him.

He shakes her hand, stretching his out first, and then sits down at the table.

“Ms. Potts, I’m Steve Rogers.”

“It’s nice to meet you. I never thought I would interact with Tony’s husband, but here we are.”

“Yes, here we are. So you manage Tony’s work life?”

“It’s closer to making sure Tony can do what he needs to get done without worrying, which sometimes is like babysitting, which—well, it’s not as bad as all that. He’s incredibly competent in the areas he’s an expert at, and the ones in which he’s not, he doesn’t bother trying to level up. It works for him, for us.”

“I appreciate the position you’re in, where you couldn’t make demands of Tony at the time, but things are different now, going forward. He should be able to manage running a home, and at the same time he should hire more people to do what is necessary at SI,” Steve says, holding his hands out in front of him to show he means well.

“I apologize if there is some confusion here, but Tony can’t change his habits that easily, and everything he does for SI now is necessary. He’s the lynchpin of our entire company. Every new design goes through him. He’s a genius, Captain, not a homemaker.” Pepper sounds concerned, and her smile falters a little.

Steve realizes that this isn’t going to be as easy as he expected it to be. Pepper seems convinced that Tony’s place was doing exactly what he was doing, which he didn’t think he’d encounter opposition to. But here it is in front of him.

He considers what he can do to convince her otherwise. Resistance was something he never expected to see. But he’s a strategist, in the end.

“So you would say that Tony can take care of himself on his own?”

“Well, no—”

“Which means he could stand to learn how to, yes?”

“Tony is a unique omega, a unique person. All of what they say about him, that’s not the whole story.” Her gaze is alert, and she gives him direct eye contact, daring him to say more.

“I’m just trying to help him, Ms. Potts. Truly,” he says, keeping his voice soft.

“If you want to help Tony, then be a good husband to him. A good alpha. Don’t hurt him or force him into things he’s not good at. You’ll see underneath all of his bluster, he’s a good man. A man who has done so much for omega rights in this world. He doesn’t deserve to be treated like a second class citizen.”

“Tony is an omega. They’re always going to be subservient to alphas. It’s in their nature.” As he speaks, he watches Pepper’s face transform. It turns bright red, and her eyes narrow in what appears to be anger.

“If you believe that Captain, then I can’t help you any further.”

“I had hoped we could be on the same page, Ms. Potts. Is there any way to convince you that I mean well for Tony?”

“As long as you think omegas, including Tony, can’t handle their own lives, I think we have nothing more to discuss.” Pepper seems like a brilliant beta, so there could be merit to her views. But he thinks that maybe Tony has hidden a lot of his choices from her. Or somehow fooled her into thinking that it’s not as bad as it is.

“I treasure Tony as an omega. I want to take care of him.”

“Then learn how. He needs more than just rigid protocol and rules.”

“I can see we’re not going to agree, but I’ll take what you said under consideration.”

“I guess that’s all I can ask.” They end lunch then, without eating. Steve isn’t hungry anyway. He wanders up to SI, looking at the tall building that’s all Tony’s. One of many, if the reports are to be believed. Tony has been managing this on his own with the help of Pepper and others, but Steve still thinks that Tony’s life would be better served not having to deal with all of this. Tony will be happy, eventually, with the rules that Steve is putting into place.

As he makes his way inside, he plans out what he’s going to do next. First, is dinner. Tony is going to cook for them. And then after, they will delve into Tony’s finances.

He’s also going to go through Tony’s closet, but that can wait for another day. In the meantime, when he gets inside, he explores the tower. It’s huge, sprawling, and unnecessary. But there’s nothing Steve is going to do about it, given that Tony only takes up a small portion of the penthouse itself. Steve also moves his clothes into the room next to Tony’s, which is a meager amount. But he doesn’t need much.

Tony comes grumbling up the stairs of his own accord at around four pm, and Steve lets him fiddle with things in the kitchen before he approaches.

“You’ll be making dinner tonight.” Tony is digging in the fridge, and he pulls out a smoothie that’s already pre-made for him.

“Yeah, right. We’re ordering in,” Tony says.

“No, you are going to cook,” Steve insists.

“I can’t cook. I burn everything.” Tony slams the fridge door shut.

“Fine, then I will teach you,” Steve grits out. It’s like pulling teeth talking to Tony.

“Look, I don’t know where you get off doing all this, but I don’t have to learn how to cook. I don’t know how, and I know I’m not good at it. I burn water. That’s how bad I am.”

“Fine. You know what? You can order in tonight, but we’re taking care of your finances this evening and you’re also going to learn how to cook eventually. Clear?”

Tony looks like he wants to argue. His lips are pinched in a thin line and he opens and closes his mouth a few times.

“Yes, we’re clear.”

“Good, let’s get to it then.” Steve pulls up a chair to the counter and gestures at Tony to sit down. Tony does, slamming his smoothie on the counter as he settles in.

“So where are your charts and graphs Steven. I thought this would be a presentation on how the poor little omega handles money.”

“I don’t need charts and graphs to tell you that your spending on extravagant items needs curtailing.”

“I don’t know what you’re referencing.” Tony gives him a sloppy smirk, as if he knows something Steve doesn’t.

“You don’t need a budget higher than $150 a month for clothes, first off.”

“My suits are an investment. Everything related to business is already paid for by the company. Next.” Tony waves him off flippantly, and Steve’s anger curdles inside his stomach. He’s trying to remain composed, but Tony’s dismissiveness bites at him, chews through his fine self-control. It doesn’t help that he can scent the man across the table. It’s so good. Too good.

“Fine. A thousand a month is a generous food budget. After this, we’ll be eating in, and we’ll be eating what you cook.” He’s certain Tony is going to pitch a fit over this. But Tony surprises him.

“That’s totally fine with me.”

“You’re fine with it.” Steve’s tone is as bland as rice.

“Look, you have caloric needs that far exceed my own. I can live on coffee and peanut butter. When I can’t cook something, what do you think is going to happen? Hmm? I’m not going to starve. I already don’t need to eat much. It’s your price to pay. Besides, company luncheons are a thing. I’ll be just fine.” By god this omega is insufferable. Everything Steve tries to do, Tony finds a way to get around and make light of how important these behaviors are. A proper omega would clean, cook, and generally be amenable to their alpha. But here is Tony, defying all expectations right out of the gate. Steve is almost impressed if he wasn’t outraged.

“We’re cutting your caffeine intake.” Steve all but snarls. He can’t believe this is his marriage. Having a battle of wills with his omega husband over a granite countertop that cost more than his apartment in Brooklyn when he was young. He doesn’t want any of this. He’s never wanted this, and he feels a twisted sort of hate at Tony for making him have it.

Then divorce him. He’ll likely cheat on you first chance he gets. A sinister part of his brain whispers.

He won’t. He won’t leave Tony like this, because underneath all of this, Tony has to be a good omega. There is an omega in there who can be obedient, tractable, beneath that facade. And as long as Tony abides by the rules of the contract, so will Steve. But if he has to break Tony to pieces to get to the perfect omega, he will.

“I need decaf.” Tony’s composure breaks at this, and he looks apoplectic for a second before it smooths over into his usual smug expression.

“If it fits in the food budget.”

“It will.”

“Now, moving on, you’ve been playing on the stock exchange with large amounts of money for some time.”

“Yeah, so?” Tony says.

“I think you need to invest in less risk-averse categories. How about some mutual funds?”

“I don’t make enough there. And I haven’t lost money in years. I’m a genius, I know how to play the game.” Tony’s hands settle on the counter and his fingers scrunch up momentarily before he removes them again.

“Tony. This is not up for debate. You’ll dump your stocks and look into lower-risk options.”

“Oh, I see, so you want me playing in the Pink Sheets. I’m not on the fucking Exchange, Steve. My company is privately held by myself and a handful of investors. Most of whom I bought out over the years. Do you know what it cost me to get that kind of control? Millions. I don’t have nearly as much money as you think, because I tied it up in making sure no one could take SI away from an omega. It’s mine. My money I make on the stock market is mine. And you may think you own me, but you don’t. SI will still be mine even after you’ve exited my life stage fucking left. As will my stocks. So kindly, fuck off.” Tony is sputtering by the end of his speech, hands smashed on the counter as he leans over and hisses out his disagreement to him. Steve doesn’t think he’s ever seen an omega act so upset before. It’s like Steve is trying to hurt him, Tony is so vociferous in his manner of speaking. Steve is just here, trying to help, and Tony takes it as though he’s done something awful.

“That’s three,” Steve says with resignation.

“Whatever.” Tony looks moderately chastised for a moment before his mask falls back into place. It’s not much, but it’s a start, if Tony is at least deterred by the spankings he’s going to get.

“So far tonight I think I’ve compromised quite a bit in your direction. Don’t you think?” Steve asks, running a hand through his hair. The ground he’s ceded is all a part of ensuring that Tony meets him in the middle, before moving towards the direction that Steve wants.

“I’ll sell my stocks and look into mutual funds.” Tony’s voice is mechanical, and the omega takes a hand to rub his forehead with. Steve feels tension loosen. Tony can be biddable; he just has to knuckle down on making sure Tony follows the rules, and eventually they will get there to a point where Tony is, if not a model omega, at least a passable model of one.

“Can I go now?” Tony’s face is closed, and he looks so very sour. It’s enough to make Steve feel some amount of regret that this is happening. It’s not Tony’s fault he is the way he is. He’s been left unattended for too long after his parent’s deaths.

Nonetheless, Steve goes to bed feeling like he’s accomplished something.

Chapter Text

The next day brings about breakfast, and Steve collects Tony from his bedroom to make it.

“What? You want me to what? I thought this was only dinner.”

“You need three solid meals a day, and while one is from work, you are also expected to make something for yourself in the morning. If you wanted to make more than that for both of us, I won’t stop you.”

Tony is staring at the stove, wearing thin sweatpants and a holey shirt. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes and keeps staring. Steve moves to bring a pan down from the hanging rack and places it on the stove, gesturing for Tony to step up.

After that, it’s a disaster.

Tony first goes for the eggs, cracking them on the counter in a messy crunch that leaves flakes of shell all over, including in the eggs themselves. Then he doesn’t use oil in the pan, using a fork to mix the eggs up, which Steve knows scrapes the non-stick off the pan itself and into the eggs.

Still, Tony is learning, so he says nothing.

In the meantime, Tony goes to unevenly chop some red pepper, leaving seeds scattered in the mix, and he adds them to the eggs, which are already mostly done from the high heat that Tony has left them on. The kitchen stinks of overcooked eggs, and as Tony tries to flip his makeshift omelet, it falls out of the pan and on top of the burner on the stove.

“Start over.”

Tony isn’t looking at him. Instead, his eyes are fixed on some far off point, and he seems folded in on himself in embarrassment. Steve puts a hand on Tony’s shoulder, but the omega shrugs it off, stepping away from Steve and looking wide-eyed at him as if he just realized Steve was there.

“I don’t know how to do this.”

“Add fat to the pan, turn it to medium.” Tony does as Steve says, before stopping and waiting for further instruction.

“I’ll crack the eggs for you.” Steve proceeds to do so, making a clean break in each one.

Tony moves to scramble them with a fork, and Steve gently grabs his hand, pulling him away.

“Use a spatula.”

“I suppose you know where to find one?” Steve, who has already inventoried the kitchen, does. He pulls it out and exchanges the spatula for the fork. Tony then carefully maneuvers the eggs into scrambling, making sure to get all the yolks broken up.

“Here, I’ll help for today.” Steve grabs another pepper and begins to cut, making sure the seeds don’t get mixed in with the pieces he’s dicing. Tony watches quietly, his eyes far away. Steve’s arms move in a familiar pattern of chopping, the knife in his hand sliding easily back and forth. The vegetal scent of the peppers reaches his nose and he inhales deeply, relishing that the future contains lots of fresh vegetables. Tony should be more appreciative.

Steve then pours the handful of chopped peppers into the omelet and proceeds to break out a bag of cheese to add. Tony is a shadow behind him, clutching the spatula in a white-knuckled grip.

“I need ten hours of uninterrupted lab time today,” Tony blurts as he watches the cheese melt on top of the eggs.

“You will eat lunch.”

“I don’t need lunch. I’m having some of this. This is fine.”

“Are you arguing with me?”

“Steve, please, I don’t need that much.”

“Fine, but you’ll eat all of your food here. One coffee.”

“I can’t eat that much!”

“You can and you will.” Tony has no more to say as the omelet is done and Steve is dishing it onto a plate. His omega looks at it like it’s going to crawl off and bite him in the face, and Steve wonders if all omegas are so dramatic about food. It’s not like he’s ever been around one for long besides himself, and he wasn’t really a great example.

Tony sits at the island counter, new fork in hand as he cuts into the food. He starts eating as quickly as possible, making Steve want to slow him down. But he’s learned at this point it’s better to pick his battles.

As he watches Tony shovel in the food, he thinks of what else he’s going to do in regards to Tony’s life. The man goes to altogether too many parties and events. That needs to change. Tony doesn’t need to be seen everywhere and anywhere. He’s an omega. His company will understand.

Being lost in his thoughts, he doesn’t register that Tony is rushing as he gets up from his chair, but as Tony runs over to the sink, he realizes that there’s something wrong. It’s then that Tony vomits, spilling out chewed up red and yellow into the sink. Tony is hunched over it now, arms on either side as he grips the bottom of the countertop. Steve can smell the sour odor of bile and Tony’s distressed scent.

“I can’t eat that much. I told you.” Tony glares at Steve now, the heat of which is belayed by the spittle that still rests at the corner of Tony’s mouth and how pale he looks.

“Fine, I’ll clean up, but since you’re sick, you should stay in bed.” Steve crosses his arms and leans into Tony’s space, using his alpha stance to make Tony back down. Tony doesn’t respond at all in the way he expects.

“I’m not fucking sick!” Tony’s arms flail out and he slams a fist on the counter.

“That’s one. Do you really want to start your day off this way?”

Tony takes a deep breath and closes his eyes, the lashes on his face a smudge of brown that looks good on his olive skin. While Tony is not the model omega in behavior, he has the feline grace of an omega, unmistakable for anything else.

“I’m not sick. I don’t need to lay down. I need to get to work.”

“You can work from your bed on a tablet, yes? You should lay down.”

“There’s stuff I need to do for the company that can’t be done in my bedroom! Why are you so unreasonable? I don’t understand what I did to deserve this!”

“You don’t? You cavort around, an unmated omega, and you party, drink, have sex promiscuously, and you wonder what you did to have these very reasonable rules enforced? They call you a genius.” Steve all but sneers at Tony, agitated that he has to spell out exactly why things are the way they are.

“Omegas are people! We’re living, breathing, feeling people who get to live our lives how we choose! I don’t need or want a leash, but I’m stuck with you. Why would you put us through this? I can’t be what you want me to be.” Tony holds his arms out in askance, his face taking on a begging quality that gives Steve a shiver, just thinking about Tony submitting to him. It feels like it should feel wrong, and Steve shoves the emotion away, not wanting to examine it or give it credence at all. Alphas have instincts, that’s all it is.

“You are precious, to be taken care of. I’m taking care of you, and I know you don’t see that right now, but I need you to understand that this is going to be hard at first, but when we’re done, you’ll be much happier.”

“No. I won’t. You don’t know anything about me. I’m a person. Not an object!” Tony’s face is flush with rage now, and if he wasn’t so ornery and hard-headed, Steve thinks he might have been attracted to the omega. He doesn’t want one, as so far it’s been so much work. But after all, he does have one. He’d be within his rights to possess Tony. Not that he wants to go anywhere near the man.

“Fine, we’ll compromise. You can spend your time in the lab, but you will come up for lunch, and if you vomit again, you’ll go to your room.”

“You call it compromise, but I don’t have a choice.” Steve resents that Tony’s defeat is his victory. There’s something disturbing about how the man folds in on himself during these conversations.

“Do you want the deal or not?”

“Yes, fine, I will take it.” Tony shuffles out of the kitchen, and Steve is left with cleanup. Yes, it’s best to pick his battles.

Steve settles in to read while watching the clock to make sure Tony comes up as he said. It’s hard to concentrate. He’s not used to these modern lines of furniture, the steel, and simplicity of the design in the tower. While he’s been preoccupied with Tony, he hasn’t had time to think about the past. What he should really do, is reach out to Peggy. She would know what to do in this scenario. But he also knows that when he sees her, he’ll see all of his desire for the life he would have had with her in her eyes. The thought of it passing him by derails him.

So he sticks with the history books that SHIELD has given him, and tries not to watch the clock.

When noon passes by without Tony’s arrival, he thinks that he should give Tony the benefit of the doubt. But as one passes by with no Tony, Steve knows he has to go to the lab and drag him out.

Plodding down the stairs, he finds himself in front of two large glass pane doors, beyond which is Tony and an array of technology that’s dizzying to Steve to think about. The doors open for him, and he finds himself standing in the midst of what looks like schematics hovering in the air without being propped up or sitting on a screen. Tony is at the center of it, his hands waving as he expands and contracts parts of the picture to examine whatever it is he wants to look at.

“Tony.” It’s in a place like this that Steve suddenly feels insecure. Like he doesn’t belong. He is admittedly impressed that Tony does feel comfortable here, and seems to know what he’s doing. He wonders who taught him all of this. Maybe it was Howard, though it doesn’t seem like technology would have progressed that much during Howard’s time. Not if the history books he’s been reading are to be believed.

“Fuck!” Tony trips over something and whirls around to look at Steve, his face guarded and pinched. He’s covered in grease and his jeans are ripped in several places.

“Five.”

“Lunchtime already? Do I have to make something?”

“If you had come up at the proper time, instead of making me come to get you, I would have made you lunch. Now you can make it yourself.”

“I’m capable of making sandwiches.”

“Then show me.” Steve turns around and marches out of the workshop, expecting Tony to follow. He hears the man’s footsteps behind him, and he breathes a sigh of relief that he doesn’t have to drag Tony up the stairs.

Tony is as competent with sandwiches as he said, and he makes a half one for himself, gobbling it down, before scurrying back to the lab. Steve could have asked that he make a full sandwich, or clean up, but so far he’s satisfied with the progress they’re making.

Things drag on like this for the week that they have off of their respective jobs, though Tony is working through it. Despite Steve’s best efforts, Tony destroys breakfast and dinner with what would be impunity, but for the fact that they don’t get to eat in the end. Steve ends up making meals for himself and stops helping Tony. He realizes that the omega needs to fail first to understand why it’s important to succeed.

They discuss Tony’s events, and squabble over how many Tony will attend (half as many as he does), and whether he gets to drink (he doesn’t). Tony barely picks at his food and generally doesn’t eat much of what terrible things he cooks. Steve lets this go on; there’s no other choice besides giving into Tony completely.

At the end of the week, Tony looks ragged and pale.

“I can’t keep doing this anymore. I’m not cut out for it. I’m falling behind at SI and I haven’t had anything decent to eat but the sandwiches I can make. This isn’t working Steve, you have to see that.” Steve almost agrees, but he knows that things have to get worse before they get better. Tony looks awful.

“It would work if you would show more effort. You’re an omega. It’s in your nature to do these things.”

“No, it’s not. You don’t know anything about us! We’re not these automatons who only do housework and cooking! Some of us can’t. Why can’t you see that?” Tony’s eyes look watery as he speaks, and he’s hugging himself, perched on the edge of a couch. Steve’s chest feels tight with stress. His alpha side doesn’t like seeing an omega like this, but he represses it.

He thinks that Tony might be right, that Tony isn’t fitting the mold of a regular omega, but for the life of him, Steve can’t figure out why. He’s tried everything but holding Tony’s hand through all of it. Which he shouldn’t have to do.

“Tony, you are an omega. That is what you are. And omegas are designed to correspond specifically to alphas. We protect, you nurture. We go to work, you take care of the home. This is not difficult to understand.” Steve didn’t think that Tony could get colder, but he looks positively frigid now, his eyes a tundra of unsaid things. Tears are standing in the corners of his eyes, but they don’t fall, and Tony looks like he’s not going to speak at all. But he does anyway, with a look of long-suffering patience.

“I don’t know where you’ve learned these views, but you’re wrong. And you’re going to kill me with these restrictions.” Tony meets Steve’s eyes then, and they’re begging, pleading with Steve to relent. Steve absolutely cannot, though a part of him wants to so badly. He finds he doesn’t like watching Tony fumble through these rules. All of it is distasteful to him. Yet he resents Tony for making him do this.

“That’s a dramatic statement, and untrue.”

“You don’t know anything about omegas, do you? Not a thing.” At that, Tony gets up and stands there, waiting for dismissal. Steve sighs and nods, and Tony retreats to his workshop.

Almost as if it had been timed perfectly, Steve gets a call from SHIELD. The Director, Nick Fury, wants him to come in to discuss what work he’ll be doing for the organization. Steve hadn’t considered what his source of income would be or what he’d be doing in the future, but he figures he’s obligated to work for SHIELD considering that they found him. He doesn’t know what else he would do, to be frank. Currently he’s just surviving off his back pay from the army.

He’s not eager to leave Tony unattended, but he thinks it will be fine for a few hours. He goes down to inform Tony, and only gets a cursory ‘yes, whatever,’ for his trouble.

SHIELD is a nondescript building not far from the Tower, and he finds himself in a barren conference room, much like the one in which he examined the contract between Tony and himself.

The door opens to reveal an agent that he’d seen before, but hadn’t formally met.

“I’m Maria Hill.” She shakes his hand and sits down across from him.

“Is Nick Fury coming?”

“Fury is in DC at the moment, I’m here to get you up to speed.” She lays down a file she’d been carrying and opens it up, pushing it towards him. On the very front, it shows a picture of a robot, gleaming with its gold and red panels.

“What is this?”

“The Avengers initiative. Something to think about, should the need ever arise. Take it home and read it over.” She abruptly closes the file and pulls it off to the side. Underneath is another file, which she also tabs open with a finger.

“For now, we want you on standby with our other operatives. You’ll be working primarily with the Black Widow and Hawkeye, our operatives, as well as Iron Man on a contingency basis. Given your current association with Tony Stark, we’re of a mind to keep you at home more often than not,,” Hill continues.

“Sounds reasonable. This Iron Man is a consultant then? Not a SHIELD operative?”

“Yes. He’s called in when necessary.”

“Who is he?”

“That’s classified, but don’t worry, he’s been vetted.”

Steve leans back and looks at the file further. The other operatives seem competent and well rounded. Iron Man is a mystery, but it’s not his to solve.

Steve heads home feeling a renewed sense of purpose. Tony is still where he left him, in the workshop. Dinner that night is a sordid affair, with boiled down broccoli that is tasteless to the driest, most inedible chicken that Steve has ever encountered. It’s bland at worst, beyond consumption at best. Tony picks at it and Steve is certain he doesn’t eat more than one or two bites.

The next day, he gets a call from SHIELD that there’s an unknown body of slime oozing its way around Central Park. Given the type of crisis, Iron Man is also going to be called in. Steve thinks it’s great that he’s going to have the entire team there for the first time.

He reaches Central Park and meets up with Black Widow and Hawkeye. Both operatives are sheathed in black and stoically silent, but Natasha, the Black Widow, hooks him up with the comms system, and Clint, Hawkeye, informs him of what the situation is on the ground. They’re trying to get the slime contained in a SHIELD approved containment unit. This is just a herding operation, as it doesn’t seem like the slime is sentient beyond its food search.

Iron Man appears in a burst of energy through the sky not long after.

“Miss me Spider Lady and Hawkass?” Steve goes to speak and call out Iron Man for being inappropriate, but Hawkeye laughs and Natasha replies, “I don’t miss that ego of yours.”

Steve realizes he’s stumbled into a well-oiled unit much like the Howling Commandos. Iron Man is just that kind of guy, Steve realizes, and it’s not a big deal.

It takes them no time at all to drive the slime to where they want to go. It doesn’t like being physically hit with anything, and it especially doesn’t like the repulsor blasts from Iron Man.

“Good work team. Iron Man, a word?”

“Captain, what can I do for you?”

“Great work today on making sure that the slime didn’t get near any civilians. Your suit is a marvel. Have you had it long?”

“I’ve only been around a few years. Is that all Captain?” Iron Man doesn’t mention Steve’s compliments on the suit. He seemed rather standoffish. But that could just be because Steve couldn’t get a tone of voice with the modulator in the mask.

“Just good to work with you. I’ll see you around sometime, yeah?”

“Yeah, sure.” The suit blasts off, zooming off to wherever he came from. Steve doesn’t get more than a glimpse at the direction. All in all, an awkward conversation.

He rejoins Clint and Natasha and they all go back to SHIELD for debriefing. Fury doesn’t keep them long and by the time he’s done, it’s time for dinner. This should be a good thing, but today of all days he’s not looking forward to whatever disaster Tony presents to him.

But when he gets home, Tony isn’t there. He’s not to be found in his workshop or his bedroom. Steve thinks he’s going to call Pepper when the elevator opens and Tony walks through.

“Where have you been?”

“What’s it to you?”

“I’m your alpha. You should be informing me of your whereabouts. I realize I never made that clear, but I thought you wouldn’t be so foolish.”

“I went out to dinner.” Tony looks at the floor, unwilling to meet Steve’s eyes. Even if he’s repentant, this can’t happen again.

“Is that within the budget?”

“I haven’t had a solid meal in a week, I needed something.”

“You’re forbidden from going out, even if your friends pay, until you figure out how to cook for yourself. I can’t believe this needs saying, but you’re circumventing the very consequences that will teach you how to take care of yourself.”

“Fine. That’s just fine.” The muscles of Tony’s face are tight, his jaw set, and he looks alert, more so than he’s been the past week. The meal must have done him some good, and Steve feels the sting of guilt that Tony might have genuinely been suffering without food. But he reasons that there’s always the sandwiches he’s been eating for lunch. So he’s not starving.

“You had dinner alone, yes?”

“Are you actually accusing me of cheating on you?”

“Do I need to? I’ve seen the company you keep.”

“You know what? Fuck you.” Tony starts tearing off his shirt, leaving his undershirt on. He yanks his pants off, standing there in tight boxer briefs that leave nothing to the imagination.

“Want to smell me alpha? Want to make sure I’ve been fucking faithful to you?” Tony stalks over, body sinuously graceful as he inserts himself into the space in front of Steve. The scent is so strong and it coils in Steve’s nostrils like a snake. He fights to think above it, his mind clouded with want for what his body is telling him is on offer.

“Oh, you like that alpha? Yeah, you’re just like the rest of them, aren’t you? Lead around by your fucking knot. Are you going to spank me now? I bet you’ll enjoy it, you asshole. You’ll tell your hidebound, stuck up self that you don’t care for it, but I’ll know. I’ll fucking know. It’s about your pleasure. Putting yourself over an uppity little omega. You get off on it.” Steve backs away, darting from Tony who is pressing into his territory with the determination of a dog with a bone and a scent as pervading as spilled perfume.

“Tony, stop. I don’t want–”

“–don’t lie. I can fucking smell it on you. You want to knot me? I’ll fight you every step of the way. You can beat me, starve me, ruin my finances, and even my company. But I will never give you the satisfaction of having me.” Tony’s eyes are glowing in the well-lit entryway, and they look even more backlit with the fervor Tony’s words. Steve can’t help but settle his gaze on the omega, even as he keeps his arms crossed and his body taut with tension. Tony is borderline feral, his lips curved into a sharp enough sneer to cut glass. God help him, but his body is responding to Tony’s threats, his cock stiffening in his pants. It’s taking so much of his thought process to not push Tony down to the floor, grab his neck in a vice grip, and pin him for the taking.

This is dangerous. Tony is dangerous.

“I don’t want you,” Steve says, and it sounds wretched even to his ears.

“Lie.” Tony presses his hips forward and bumps at Steve’s waist, where his hardness is now surely squeezed against his pants.

“It doesn’t matter. I still won’t knot you. You don’t deserve it.” At that Tony’s face morphs into something hurt and vulnerable. He steps away from Steve, touching the front of his chest in a way that looks like he’s reassuring himself of something. The skin around his eyes is pinched now, and his shoulders curl down over his chest.

“I wouldn’t cheat. I may have few other rules in life, according to you, but I wouldn’t be unfaithful as a mechanism for getting out of this marriage. It would cost me a pretty penny to divorce under those circumstances. And it’s not bad enough to warrant that, yet.” Tony shakes his head and brings his hands up to cover his eyes and run them down his face. “Can we be done with this, please.”

“That’s five today, but in light of events, I’ll let it slide this evening.”

“Generous of you,” Tony snorts and then looks afraid for a moment, at Steve.

“Just go to bed.” Steve is done with this evening. He’s exhausted and he feels like he’s betraying himself even now as he looks at Tony and thinks about what Tony would look like nude and splayed out before him. He shoves that thought down, hard, but it keeps rising like there’s air trapped inside of it. Like there’s something substantial to Tony’s claims.

“All right.” Tony grabs his shirt and pants, and walks out, leaving Steve alone with his newfound and unwanted desires.

Steve is left trying to think about how things have changed so much. He’s so tired of everything that’s new and loud in his ears and eyes. He doesn’t want to think of Tony, but when he finally pushes those thoughts away, he feels cold inside.

Sleep is calling him, and he answers in the immediate, trudging off to try and sleep the day off.

He wakes up with a shout, body aching as if he’d just gone into the ice. Visions of swirling dark water flow over his mind, and he clenches up, shuddering.

“Steve?” There’s a knock on the door, and he hears Tony’s muffled voice. It’s hell getting up, his legs feeling shaky and loose like they can’t support his weight, but he makes it to the door. Fingers fiddling with the handle, he opens the door to find his disheveled omega standing there, hand gliding through his hair.

“What is it? Did something happen?” Steve asks.

“I was awake. I heard you shouting.” Tony doesn’t make eye contact as he confesses, and Steve feels a smidgen of something warm in his gut that Tony came to check on him. Even after all the problems they’d been going through, problems caused by Tony, Tony still a good omega underneath all of the problems.

“It’s nothing. You can go back to bed.” Steve keeps his voice soft.

“Fine. Goodnight.” Tony turns to leave and Steve grabs his shoulder, spinning Tony around. In the dim light of the hallway, Steve can see something like fear on Tony’s face, the soft tremble of Tony’s lips and how his eyes flicker, and he lets go.

“Thank you.” Tony’s face tightens at his response, but he nods his head.

“Don’t mention it. Ever. I don’t know why I bothered.” Tony stalks off, and Steve, in the midst of feeling low from Tony’s words, notes the sway of Tony’s hips, the slenderness of his body through the loose shirt and pants that hang off of his bottom. He looks away. Tony may be his husband, but that’s not the nature of their relationship, and it won’t be. And despite Tony’s efforts to misbehave and generally be uncharitable, the omega did show up at his door, concerned. And nothing he said after belays that.

Chapter Text

Even after their moment in the evening where it seemed like Tony cared, it doesn’t get better after their fight. If anything, it’s worse than ever. Tony still can’t cook, and he often needs to be dragged up for lunch, dinner, or off to bed. He swears only a little less and takes his spankings with as much stoicism as he can muster, unabashed at his arousal, and how much it bothers Steve. He gives a leering little smile after that looks more like sharp knives in his mouth than an invitation.

Steve now realizes that Tony doesn’t fit the normal mold of an omega, but he’s still not given up hope that he can alter some of Tony’s behavior so that he is at least acceptable.

One night, after a brutal mission for SHIELD, Tony comes in late again.

 

“This isn’t acceptable Tony. Where were you?”

 

“Nunya.”

“Tony. Answer me.”

“Ok, fine. So the things that aren’t good about this situation right now, is, well, one of them is I’m drunk.”

“You’ve been drinking?”

“That’s what I said. God, why are you so boring? I go into screensaver mode like every time you talk.”

“Enough of this. You’re not to leave the tower unless it’s on SI business, and you’re done having unsupervised time in the workshop. No more sandwiches either. You will learn to cook for yourself. You also haven’t done laundry since we’ve been married. It’s been more than two weeks. You’ll work on that tomorrow until it’s done.”

“Yes, Rogers. Ok, Rogers. I’ll get right on that, Rogers.” His tone drops into a lower register every time he says Steve’s name.

In a matter of weeks, Tony gets paler, slower to move. He picks at his terrible meals and generally doesn’t talk back as much. It’s been a month or so, and Steve has been working with SHIELD to take on some missions, but they have no use for him yet. So here he is, watching Tony turn into a shadow of himself. It concerns him, but it’s like the darkness before dawn, it will get better. Already, Tony isn’t talking back as much as he usually does, opting to stare off into the distance and poke at his food.

When a morning comes where Tony isn’t in the kitchen, Steve waits for an hour before going to look for the omega. He finds himself in front of the closed door to Tony’s room. Steeling himself for it to be locked, he attempts to open it. Surprisingly, it swings open, and Steve sees a lump of blankets on the bed.

He strides over, thinking Tony has overslept, and makes to pull the covers off. Underneath is Tony, shivering in the throes of some illness. Tony is completely curled in on himself and is squeezing his legs to his chest while he pants out little breaths that sound off. The smell is cloying, lovely, and Steve reaches out to the bed to steady himself. It’s bearing down on him, and it’s overwhelming.

“Damnit.” Steve paces around the side of the bed, remembering what it was like to be sick to the point of fever. But this is something else.

“That’s one, Captain,” Tony croaks out.

Steve has to get him to medical, but he doesn’t know who to call or where to go. His mind is running in circles until he realizes SHIELD were the ones who helped him with the contract. They would know what to do and would keep this private.

“I’m getting up.” Tony starts to crawl over the bed, and slides off of it onto the floor, dragging the covers and pillow with him.

“No you’re not.” Steve loops his arms around Tony’s waist and lifts him. Tony whines and writhes in his arms, and Steve plops him back into the center of the bed. He picks up the covers and tosses them back on Tony, who is glaring at him as if he can light Steve on fire with the power of his gaze alone. Tony goes slack then, defeated.

Steve pulls out the brick shaped phone that they gave him and dials Fury’s number. As he waits for the doctor to show up, he stands sentry at the foot of the bed, unable to move. He’s put the covers back on Tony, which has helped with the smell, but now that it’s in his nose, it’s impossible to forget or remove.

It’s shameful how badly he wants Tony, even when he’s sick. He’s better than this. He’s disgusted with himself.

He doesn’t expect Fury himself to show up with a doctor and a few other medical personnel.

They swarm around Tony, hooking him up to the machines they brought with them.

Fury gestures for Steve to step outside the room.

“What the hell is going on here? How come I’m finding your husband malnourished and going through false heat?” Fury looks ready to spit nails, his face contorted into a snarl.

“He’s not malnourished. He eats!” Steve protests, because it’s true, Tony has been eating a little of what he makes. Even if it’s not well-made food, it’s still food.

“He looks frail and he’s going through a stress-induced heat! Now tell me the truth about what you’ve been doing Rogers! Now, before I bench you.” The spittle from Fury’s face hits him, and Steve takes a reflexive step back. There’s a sinking feeling in his chest, and it continues to descend.

“It’s not that serious,” he mumbles. “He’s just stubborn about food. I’m showing him how to cook, but it’s like he’s never fed himself in his life. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to teach him how to be a proper omega at all.”

“A proper omega? Tony Stark is one of the smartest men alive, omega or not, and he fulfills our contracts for SHIELD’s technology. Contracts that should be being fulfilled as we speak. Instead, I’m here, cleaning up your fucking mess. Forget this. You’re coming in for reeducation. This won’t stand. Not with me, not with your team. I’d say that I won’t tell them about this, but they’ll find out anyway. I don’t want to be there when they do.” Steve’s gut is lead, and he thinks he may have done something horrible. He doesn’t know what a false heat is, but stress-induced heat is a more obvious namesake. He was just trying to do the right thing, and he doesn’t know how or why it hasn’t worked, but it hasn’t. He knows that. He just thought he had more time to figure out a different solution or otherwise convince Tony that what they were working on is important. Tony is simply being stubborn about learning.

“All right.” He swallows any protests he might have had. As much as he hasn’t listened to authority in the past, he realizes that he’s out of his depth here and what he’s done has harmed Tony.

“Of all the stupid— if you weren’t Captain Fucking America, reeducation isn’t the conversation we’d be having right now.”

“I never intended—”

“If you think I give a flying fuck about what you intended—just come in, listen to what we have to say and unfuck yourself. This is a different era we live in. We know more now about omega dynamics than we ever have before. We know what makes them happy and content, and it’s not this Captain. It’s not fucking this.”

Fury leaves in a flurry of black cloth, muttering angrily to the elevator. They make eye contact before it closes and Fury shakes his head at Steve, disappointed.

He goes to look in on Tony and he’s met with the hard faces of medical personnel who usher him away from the room. His chest clenches with a feeling that he doesn’t have a name for.

When he thinks about his explanations for why he’s in this situation, they start to feel like excuses. He should have done something different, gotten help. There were ways to get Tony to comply without doing this. He should have pursued those options. That’s what the internet is for, right? He’s let his fear of new technology and the sensation of being out of time to prevent him from getting help. He could have asked his team. Their secondary genders aren’t known to him, but they would have been able to at least point him in the right direction.

There’s a brief moment where he thinks maybe Tony truly isn’t cut out for this kind of life, but he dismisses it when he remembers that other omegas that he’d known lived quiet and fulfilling lives. Tony can do that too. If he wants it. He just has to want it.

Steve wonders if the reeducation will include ways to get Tony to comply. That’s what he hopes.

The doctors stay for several hours, and finally, one of the medical team comes out and stands there waiting for Steve. The beta has a pinched frown on her face.

“He just needs fluids. He’s refused treatment suggestions for the heat, but that should square itself away anyway.”

“Wait, he’s refusing treatment?”

“In his case, I understand. The best treatment would be you knotting him, but we respect his bodily autonomy.” Unlike you, she seems to say. “Otherwise we could give him an article of clothing of yours that’s scented, but he doesn’t want that either. I know what the law says, but I ask that you respect his decision here.”

“But how would that be what’s best for him? I don’t understand.”

“He’s just been bonded, so his next heat would normally come on strong, but his body thinks he’s in danger, so he’s going into stress-induced heats designed to get his alpha to take care of him. We see this in domestic abuse cases all the time, where an alpha aggressor abuses their omega partner less if the omega is in heat. A protective measure.” Steve is horrified. He didn’t think for a single moment that what he was doing would cause this. The beta woman is staring at him, her eyes hard. It dawns on him that she thinks he’s been abusing Tony. He hasn’t–

He hasn’t.

This is just. No. Tony couldn’t have done this deliberately, but it feels like he has.

But Tony can’t have chosen this. Tony couldn’t intentionally go into false heat.

This is just–no, Steve’s not done anything wrong, he knows he hasn’t. But it feels like it. It feels like there’s a breeze block sitting atop his chest. He swallows, and his own spittle tastes foreign in his throat, like he’s been crying.

“So did you want to go ahead and scent him or knot him?” The beta’s voice sounds cursory, but there’s an undercurrent of something in the way she says each option that makes him think that neither is correct.

“He didn’t ask for any of those things?” At this point, Steve would be with Tony in that way if that’s what it took. But Tony doesn’t want that. That pricks at his pride, that Tony doesn’t want him to help in any capacity.

“No. He doesn’t want them.” She folds her arms over her clipboard and looks at him consideringly.

“What should I do?” What should he do? He wants to say he doesn’t know how he ended up in this situation, but he realizes now that he should have at least been making sure Tony got enough food.

“I can’t tell you that. But whatever is going on that’s causing this stress, has to stop. We don’t want to come here again. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

“He has enough fluids, but he needs bed rest, and proper food. I’m not sure what is causing the stress. You would know that better than I, but don’t let him get worked up. Get him what he says he needs and we shouldn’t have any more problems.”

“But he–he doesn’t want good things.”

“I can’t comment on that. But I think you need to prioritize his health. Is what he’s doing harming himself or someone else?”

“Well, it’s harming him because he’s not behaving as he ought to!”

“Ok, let me clarify. Is what he’s doing causing him physical harm?”

“No, but—”

“Then he’s not causing himself harm in the medical sense. May I suggest you do some reading on omega biology and socialization.”

“Fury is having me take a class.”

“That’s good then. Do that. Remember what I said. Whatever he needs that’s not physically harmful is what’s best. Let him decide for himself what he wants to do.”

The doctors pack up and leave then, not a single one of them pays Steve any mind as they go, but he can hear them talking amongst themselves and a few of them look back at him with eyes like flint and lips set in a rigid line.

It turns out that what Tony decides is best is to immediately get out of bed and make his way to the workshop. Steve meets him in the hallway and for a moment thinks to stop him, but remembers what the doctor said.

“Be careful Tony. Just, take it easy, please.”

“You know that’s the first time you’ve ever said please to me. I thought your mommy raised you with better manners.” Steve doesn’t know what to say. So he reaches for what he can.

“Do you want to order in?”

“Already done it. Thai for dinner.”

It’s just his luck that when the food shows up that every item is extremely spicy. Tony also comes up to snatch his portion and retreat to the workshop, leaving behind the scent of his false heat like a beacon of light. It’s maddening, and he tries to overcome the spice levels with copious amounts of milk.

Sometime during the night, he gets a text from Fury telling him to come in tomorrow at 0800 hours and expect to be there for four. Steve thinks that’s fair, though he doesn’t know what he can learn in four hours time. But he knows he wants to learn. There has to be practical knowledge these days on how to manage omegas that he’s just not grasped as of yet. Hopefully, there will be time to figure those things out.

He wakes up at six and goes for a quick run, something he hasn’t done all week. He tries hard not to check on Tony, but he gives in and goes down to the workshop to peer through the window and see the omega still working in the same outfit as last night. Steve doesn’t think he’s gone to sleep, and the idea is aggravating, but he remembers what the medical personnel said and doesn’t interrupt.

He gets to SHIELD in no time at all, and Maria is there waiting. She doesn’t seem any different than before, but she also doesn’t proceed to make small talk with him either. As he goes down the hallway, he spies Clint and waves his hand in greeting. The other man doesn’t wave back, doesn’t break stride, and his shoulder clips the side of Steve’s. Normally that would do nothing at all, but Steve is sensitive to his own strength, so he lets the hit land, relaxing his body so that he doesn’t hurt Clint.

Clint just keeps on walking. Steve turns and looks behind him to see the other man stride away with determination.

“Come on. You don’t want to be late,” Maria says.

When he enters the room, the person at the desk is Natasha Romanov. She has a book and packets of paperwork in front of her that she’s holding down with her palms with a closed-off expression.

“I’ll leave you to it.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank us by changing your behavior.” Yes. He’s going to make sure that he does this right. He wants to do the right thing. It’s so important for him as well as for Tony, so that this doesn’t happen again.

“So how are we doing this. Because I do have a question—”

“You will listen. You will not interrupt. This is already a waste of time. You’re a lost cause, Rogers. Fury seems to think there’s something redeemable here. I disagree, but he wants me to try.” That seems… harsh. He’s made some mistakes, it's true, but he only had the best intentions for Tony. He only wants the omega to be a little less flippant and irresponsible and just conform to what omegas do in the home.

“In 1935 the institution rate for omegas in their lifetime was around 17%. There were 127.1 million people in the United States at the time. Of those, 41% were omegas. That’s 52.1 million omegas. The amount of omega suicides in 1935 were 270,000. Suicide attempts that resulted in institutionalization were at 1.1 million. That is more than an epidemic; it was a disease upon our society. When you have to have whole facilities devoted to the care of suicidal omegas, something is wrong. Do you understand that 8.1 million omegas died throughout the early 20th century?”

“Yes, but I don’t see how that has anything to do with what happened to Tony.”

“I’m getting to it. The current laws at the time deemed omegas to be property. That was only changed in around 1963, though omegas still didn’t have the right to vote on their own until 1967. At that time, suicide rates went down to 200,000 in 1964 and 145,000 in 1968, with lifetime attempts at a stable 750,000. So better, but still not great.

Currently, we’re at 95,000 suicides per year and 1.3 million in attempts. Remember that attempts are better reported now, so you can assume in the past they weren’t. You should know also that the suicide rate for betas and alphas is only 47,000 a year. So what’s changed?” Nat looks at him for a moment, her eyes razor-focused on him.

“I don’t know, omegas are getting better care from alphas?”

“Not the kind you’re thinking. It’s that omegas have more rights over their lives, though they still have less rights in marriage than betas. The behavior that was exhibited by society, including alpha partners of omegas, in the past, was a direct contributing factor in whether an omega would attempt suicide.” Natasha stalks around his desk, prickling the hair on his neck when she walks behind him.

“Ok, I can acknowledge that there must have been something these alphas were doing that caused that, but the situation I have with Tony is different.”

“You know, one of the most damning books for omegas created in 1848 was Advice to Young Omegas on Their Duties and Conduct in Life. It details that omegas should be homemakers, relegated to cooking, cleaning, and pleasing their alpha counterparts. That omegas are to be cherished and stewarded, not allowed their head to take up jobs or gather influences outside the home, unless they’re with other omegas.”

“I’m sorry, but Nat, that book sounds like it knew what it was talking about. Tony is–” Nat slams her hands on the desk, her eyes flashing with fire for the briefest of moments before the cold settles in once more.

“Let’s play a little game. Tell me one time where you’ve done amazing things in regards to Tony. Then tell me something he has done that you didn’t like or made you angry. Next, tell me about some of the bad things you’ve done to Tony.”

“What is this going to do to help teach Tony to be an omega?”

“Nothing in this class is about Tony, Steve. This is about you and what you’ve done. Do you not feel the slightest shred of guilt over the fact that Tony was so ill that he required medical attention? You did that. You.”

“I do feel bad Nat, I do. And I want help in figuring out how to get it right. Tony has to be able to take care of himself.”

“He can take care of himself. He’s a billionaire. He could eat out every day of the year and never put a dent in his money. So what’s the problem if he does?”

“Well, he’s not taking care of himself! You can’t just eat out all the time.”

“Why not?”

“It’s–well–he just needs to–”

“You know what Steve, I don’t really care. Just answer my question.”

“Something amazing, something Tony did badly, and something I did badly.”

“Yes.”

“I make sure that Tony comes up for regular meals, otherwise he would stay in the shop all day,” Steve says.

“Ok, next.”

“Tony refuses to learn how to cook. And I shouldn’t have let him starve to make a point, that was wrong. Though I didn’t realize that’s what was happening.”

“So what should you do instead?”

“I don’t know Nat! I was hoping that you could tell me.”

“I think you can figure this out on your own,” Nat says.

“Maybe—maybe I should have let us order in every so often just to make sure he was eating. But also it undermined his learning.”

“And did you think of having him take a cooking class or helping him cook?”

“Well, no, I just thought—yeah ok. I can see where that might have helped if he actually wanted to cook.”

“What’s the issue with him ordering in if it’s hurting no one? He has the money, he doesn’t have the time to cook, and he’s not good at it.”

“He just—he needs to be a proper omega.”

“Why?”

“Because he doesn’t know any better!” Steve bursts out.

“Why doesn’t he know any better?”

“Because omegas, omegas are not built like alphas and betas.”

“Besides their sexual organs, what makes that true?”

“They’re soft. They need protection! I don’t understand where we’re going with this.”

“Tony isn’t soft.”

“No. No, he’s not. But he should be.”

“Why?”

“Because—because, dammit Nat what are you trying to get at?”

“Play my game Rogers, or get up and get out, and never come back to SHIELD. I don’t think you recognize how serious this is. Fury can and will cut you loose if you fail to change.”

“If Tony would just—”

“This has nothing to do with Tony and everything to do with your actions. The responsibility is on you. You did this. You suffer the consequences. Not Tony. Play it again with me. My little game. One more time.”

“I cut down Tony’s clothing budget, which doesn’t seem to have done anything anyway. Tony always wears terrible clothing that’s unbecoming of an omega, but I’ve been compromising about it since he doesn’t understand. And I suppose what I’ve done to him is maybe restricting his activities too much? He could probably use a friend, I realize now.”

“Good. So in your benevolence, why haven’t you had his friends over?”

“I just thought it was a carrot and stick situation where he would get better if I withheld privileges.”

“It’s not a privilege to socialize, it’s a necessity. People need other people.”

“He has me. He won’t even talk to me but to curse at me.”

“You are not his friend.”

“No, I’m just his husband,” Steve deadpans.

“Look Steve, this isn’t going anywhere. I don’t think you care about what you did, not really. You don’t really want to change. You just keep insisting that your way is correct, when it’s not. Did you feel like a monster when you denied him access to food? Did you feel anything at all?”

“Nat! Watching him in that bed, shaking and shivering, no, I didn’t feel good at all. I really do want to change. I don’t want to harm Tony, please. Just help me, please.” He ignores that he felt unaccountably aroused by the meer scent of Tony in a false heat. How Tony’s body drew his own in like a moth to flame. That’s his secret shame to bear.

“What you don’t want is to be kicked out of SHIELD. If you didn’t want to harm Tony, you’d stop with your senseless insistence that he be something he’s not. He’s a person, not an object.” Her words echoed Tony’s.

“I’ve told you, I don’t think he’s an object. He’s just someone who deserves to be taken care of.”

“If you want to take care of him, let him make that decision.”

“But he’s not capable.”

“We’ve stumbled on it now. Why is Tony not capable of taking care of himself?”

“Well, he has so many pictures in the media of him cavorting around and generally being promiscuous.”

“And doesn’t he get the dignity of his choice here? Even if his choices aren’t what you would have chosen for him?”

“He’s omega, Nat. He needs… They need guidance.”

“I can see we’re not going to get much further today. You have homework. I want you to find three successful omegas and bring their names in. I hope for your sake that Fury is correct, that you can be redeemed, but I’ll be honest, I’m not seeing it, Rogers.”

“You don’t think—what? You don’t think I can do better?”

“I don’t think you will.”

“Aren’t you supposed to, I don’t know, support me, as a teammate?”

“When my teammate starves his husband and puts him into a stress-induced heat? No. I don’t think I can support them anymore.”

“So that’s it then. You’re just going to go through the motions.”

“That’s about right.”

“Can you please just try? If not me, for Tony?”

Nat stops and considers him.

“For Tony, then.”

Chapter Text

Steve takes some informative packets containing the statistics that Nat gave him. He thinks that maybe he should read each one again, just to see what he’s missing. This is grave. It’s more far-reaching than he realized. He feels he hasn’t learned anything about how to get Tony to comply, but he does realize he should have made sure Tony was fed and that he has proper socialization.

He vows to ensure those things as he heads home.

The tower is silent when he arrives, and as he looks over all the modernity in it, he longs for when things were simpler. His mother would have helped him with Tony. Hell, Bucky could have probably charmed Tony into doing what he should. Now he’s just left with pieces of his shattered past and his uncertain future.

He trods down to the workshop, where sure enough, Tony is still there in the same clothes as yesterday. He’s not quite at 24 hours without sleep, but he’s getting close. Steve decides to order food in for them, and he calls a pizza place nearby, using his SHIELD issued card over the phone to pay for the order.

When the pizzas come, Steve makes a plate and heads down to the workshop. The doors open for him automatically and once again he is lost in the beauty of Tony’s workshop. This time Tony is hammering away at something, his lean arms beaded with sweat. Steve never realized how strong Tony was before.

“Tony?” The other man immediately stops and turns to where Steve is, looking hunted. His eyes narrow and he wipes sweat off his brow as he stands there, waiting. Steve offers the plate then, without saying anything, and Tony slowly comes towards him, sweet scent muted by the clean smell of sweat and hot metal. As he stands before Steve, he can see the bags under Tony’s eyes and a pallor to his face that concerns Steve.

“Maybe it’s time to sleep after this?” He suggests.

“Maybe. I’m behind on a lot of things.”

“I’m sorry, I know that’s my fault.”

“Oh, you’re sorry now? I should be hospitalized more often.”

“Tony! If you would just learn what I’m trying to teach you, we wouldn’t be in this situation!”

“Give me my plate and get out.” Steve does so, knowing that it’s pointless to argue about it.

Steve doesn’t know what to do at that point. It’s not late in the evening, but it is past dinner time. He decides to go for a walk and a subway ride, maybe towards his old neighborhood. It’ll take about an hour to get there, but it’s worth it. As he boards the train, he watches people. He’s always looking for things to sketch, but today it feels like he has a different reason for looking. Steve is supposed to find the names of three successful omegas. There’s a part of Steve that can acknowledge that things aren’t like they were, which is why it was more important than ever to ensure that omegas have proper deportment. There were more temptations.

He’s startled from his thoughts by a somewhat raucous laugh that dims into a fit of giggles. He watches an alpha-omega couple standing by the doors, smiling at each other over some inside joke.

“No, I’m going to carry it, it’s mine anyway.” The omega is holding a large bag that looks heavy.

“If you insist.” Her alpha looks down at her indulgently.

“I do insist. You think I can’t handle it?”

“I know you can, sweetheart.” The alpha kisses the top of her head and brings his arm up to wrap around her.

Steve’s heart lurches. He never realized that he wanted that, but now that he sees it, it’s all he can think about. He never wanted an omega, but never did he deny that there was some fulfillment to be had in having one. It just never seemed like it was him, to have someone who wasn’t quite a partner, but more like a burden. Tony doesn’t seem to be all that much like what he suspected, yet he does remember the pictures and the profile he read at SHIELD. It’s hard to forget.

Yet here he is, invading the small bubble of intimacy that this couple is sharing and he’s yearning.

Now that Tony is in his life, he’s lost to thinking about Tony standing next to him, holding onto his bag, not letting Steve carry it. The brightness of Tony’s eyes that he imagines is something he’s only seen in pictures, and he wonders when Tony stopped smiling, stopped wanting to be happy. He knows that it’s related to the hard time Tony is having with everything, but surely at the end of it, Tony will recover?

He just hates how it doesn’t feel like Tony will right now.

Tony had told him to get out. Tony doesn’t want what this couple has, the easy affection they’re engaged in. But to be fair, Steve made it clear he didn’t want it either.

Maybe it’s too much to ask that they be friends. Steve has never considered until this very moment that they could ever be more to each other. It doesn’t make him regret his words about not giving Tony his knot. Not in the strictest sense. He just feels some sort of wistfulness about being closer to Tony, and mildly put out that Tony hadn’t even asked for a scented shirt of his.

If Tony had asked for his knot for treatment would Steve have given it to him? Yes, he thinks he would have. And it bothers him that it wouldn’t have been a hardship for him to do so.

He shouldn’t think of Tony in that way, but there’s something about the defiance he exhibits that while agitating his beliefs, it gets under his skin in another way. He has to admit to himself that he wants Tony. It’s hard for him to do that, because when he opens that door, that makes his duty all the harder. How can he enforce necessary rules if he’s busy wanting Tony to like him?

Tony hates him, and yet here is Steve thinking about what it would be like if Tony were shivering next to him, needing him. He is exceptionally beautiful, if Steve is cataloging that sort of thing. Nothing Tony has worn has diminished his lean lines, trim muscle, and a narrow waist with a pert bottom. He could encompass Tony’s hips with his large hands, meet his thumbs in the center of Tony’s back even as his fingers dig into the sides of Tony’s waist.

His brain produces a split-second image of Tony pinned underneath him, a hand at Tony’s neck and one at his hips— he shakes his head, wanting it out even as his mind continues to explore what that would be like.

The conversation between the couple picks up his interest again.

“You making dinner tonight? I don’t really want to cook.” The omega gives her alpha an exaggerated frown.

“Yeah, I’ll make that pasta you like. I picked up some shrimp earlier today anyway.” The alpha ruffles her hair a bit as she ducks away from it.

“You are the best, babe. But don’t touch my hair. I have some white wine leftover at my place if you want me to grab it?”

“Sorry about the hair thing, I know you hate it and I shouldn’t do that. How about I get started on the pasta when we get back, and that should be perfect timing for you to have the wine ready to go in.”

“Sweet. Ugh, I haven’t had shrimp in forever.”

“You mean less than a week ago.”

“Ok true. But it’s not the same when I have to cook it. Mine always come out hard and rubbery.”

“That’s because you’re completely helpless when it comes to cooking. What would you do without me?”

“Find a different alpha to feed me like I deserve.”

“Ha! Guess I’m that replaceable, huh? Harsh, but true.”

Steve tries not to listen in, but with his hearing, he can’t really help it.

Things have changed so much. He can’t believe she talks back to her alpha like that and it’s all a joke to them. He doesn’t know what to think of their relationship, although they seem happy, standing there together with her head leaned on her alpha’s shoulder. Is she what Natasha would define as a successful omega?

He doesn’t really know.

As he disembarks from the train, the couple lingers in his mind, taking up space and forcing him to question his views on food. Perhaps now it’s ok for alphas to do that sort of thing, but in his time it was looked down upon. Steve has always been a good cook. And it was ok to do when it was just him and the Howlies. It’s not like there was anyone else to cook for them.

Maybe it’s not so bad that alphas can do that for their omegas sometimes. Perhaps he should cook for Tony, and that will help him see that it’s not as difficult as he’s made it out to be.

Yeah. That seems like a good plan.

Steve walks around for a while, noting everything that’s changed in his neighborhood. The butcher shop on the corner is now home to a 7-11 convenience store. There’s a new building right next door that looks less modern than Tony’s building, but still has some of the elements that Steve has only found in this day and age. One thing that remains, however, is the church he and his Ma used to go to. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary looks a little more modern with its lights and the school next to it, but it’s still the same church. He remembers Reverend James Carroll, who was always kind to him.

He approaches the doors and pulls them open. Inside, the church looks completely different, and yet somehow the same. It feels the way all churches feel when you go in them for the first time. This isn’t home, but somehow it is.

The door makes a loud thunk behind him and he looks around to make sure he’s not disturbing anyone. There are a few people in pews and he goes towards one himself to take a seat.

It’s been a long time since he’s done confession, but he probably should. He needs advice, guidance that he knows a priest can give him. Ever determined, he gets up and heads towards the old style confessional booths that sit off to the side. The wood of it is dark and old, and deeply carved crosses rest on the sides. He pulls the door shut and sits down. He feels at ease here, and the memories of being a young boy telling the priest about the fights he’d gotten into rise to the surface.

Steve makes the sign of the cross.

“Be welcome.” The priest’s voice has a reverberating timbre, and Steve relaxes all at once at the familiarity.

“Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been—” Oh, he shouldn’t lie. He can’t lie. “It’s been about eighty years since I’ve last been in confession. I’m—I’m Steve Rogers.”

“I’m here for you on behalf of the Church and Christ. I have to say I never expected to hear from you.”

“Yes. Well, um. I’ve had some trouble adjusting. And I got married. I guess, I guess that’s why I’m here.”

“Even an old man like me keeps up with the news. You married Tony Stark?”

“Yes. He’s—Father, he’s so frustrating. He doesn’t do anything I tell him to, and everyone I talk to about it seems to think it’s my fault that he—well, he ended up in the hospital with a false heat. And I’m ashamed I didn’t see that he was that stressed, but I don’t know what to do to get him to be the omega he should. You’ve seen him, I presume. How he acts. I just, I know this is a confession, but I’m in need of guidance.”

“Tony has been given care to ensure he doesn’t end up back where he started?”

“Well, yes, I was trying to get him to cook by having him cook all the meals. But he’s a terrible cook, so he just wasn’t eating. But I don’t know how to balance getting him to behave with his health! Am I supposed to just let him eat out every night?”

“I see. And have you asked God what you should do?”

“Forgive me Father, I haven’t prayed, but I know I should. I just saw the church and I knew I should come here.”

“What are your sins, my son?”

“I suppose I sinned in letting Tony get that sick. But—”

“And how will you make amends?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”

“Have you asked Tony what he needs from you?”

“No. I haven’t. But he doesn’t know any better!”

“Maybe he doesn’t. But God loves sinners as much as those who don’t sin. Who are you to say that God can’t love Tony Stark? Even if he burns water.”

“That’s the joke he made. I suppose you’re right then. I should ask him what he needs. But then if he can’t cook at all, how is that a compromise? That’s just giving in to him. And he needs to learn.”

“We can lead a horse to water, but we can’t make him drink. Your responsibility is to yourself first, and even as Tony’s husband, you are not Tony. You can’t make Tony’s decisions for him. You have to allow him the dignity to fail if that is what will happen. And you have to allow him the further dignity that he may very well be right.”

“You think omegas don’t have obligations to the home.”

“Things have changed so much since I was young. But I’ve seen how much more vibrant my omega parishioners are, as our laws march towards equality. There might be something to their happiness being the result of being given a choice.”

“So Tony can choose to run rampant with drinking and promiscuity.”

“Has he been unfaithful to you?”

“No, but—”

“Has he been overindulging?”

“Well, he drank the other night, which is an overindulgence on its own.”

“His sins are his own, as yours are your own.”

“So just let him… be.”

“I suggest talking to him and asking him what he needs from you and seeing where you can compromise further. Really ask yourself what you need from Tony, personally, as his husband. Otherwise, I’d like you to pray the rosary.”

“Yes, Father. But if you have any advice at all on how to get him to see that he should be the kind of omega people look up to, I’d appreciate it.”

“Son, he’s already the kind of omega that people, and other omegas, look up to. That’s not a battle you’ll be able to fight with him.”

“But not for good reasons.”

“Perhaps. Or maybe there’s more there if you look. But to do that, you have to let Tony make his own mistakes.”

“Ok. I’ll think about this. Thank you, Father. I’m sorry for these and all my sins.” Steve then recites an Act of Contrition, not trusting his own words to define what he’s done.

He leaves the church feeling even more off balance. Everywhere he’s gone, he’s met resistance for what he’s done to Tony. The whole world is telling him that he needs to move. But Steve has planted himself like a tree beside the river of truth, and has told the world “No, you move.” And the world, in its way, has borne down further on him.

The priest provided no clarification on how to get Tony to obey, but he’s willing to accept that maybe he should do what the priest said, for now. Just let Tony make his own decisions, his own mistakes. And further, that he should resolve himself to observing Tony in his environment. Noting how he behaves and whether it’s genuinely as problematic as Steve has assumed.

And isn’t that the truth. He has been assuming from the pictures he received at SHIELD that this is all there is to Tony. He’s now determined to find out more.

He rides the subway back, thinking of the changes he’s going to make in his behavior. He doesn’t believe that it will make a difference, but he trusts the priest’s guidance more than he does SHIELD’s.

It’s late now, sometime after ten when he gets back to the tower. His feet lead him to Tony’s workshop yet again, and from the door, he can see that Tony is sprawled out on his couch, arms askew. Steve goes back up to grab a blanket and takes it back down to the workshop. As he approaches Tony, he hears the other man mumble in his sleep. It’s...sweet.

The blanket settles over Tony’s prone form as Steve gazes down at the omega. He wants badly to carry him to his bed, but Steve doesn’t think Tony would like being touched by him. He’s surprised at how much that stings. Tony should trust him, and one thing Steve can agree on with everyone is that it’s obvious Tony does not.

As he goes upstairs, he contemplates what he’s going to scale back on. The very first thing he thinks of besides the food is that he shouldn’t continue with the spankings. Tony’s arousal is going to bring about his own, and Steve doesn’t think it’s a fair punishment if he’s getting something out of it.

Neither of them can or will do anything about it after. He knows Tony doesn’t want him.

So no more of that.

He supposes he can just let Tony’s budget go back to what it was and just… monitor it. He should see what these events that Tony goes to are like. Whether they are or aren’t appropriate for Tony.

He won’t mention the mutual funds for now. Whether Tony is knowledgeable or not, it’s better to be conservative in investing. It still boggles his mind that Tony can even afford to play on the market at all.

He’s not sure he believes these things will be effective, but listening to the priest is paramount; they always guided his mother when things were difficult. Providing food and clothing when needed for their family. There wasn’t a lot to go around during the Great Depression, but the church did their best.

It’s at this point he realizes he doesn’t have a rosary. But from his memories, he can still pray it. He starts with the Apostles’ Creed and works his way down from the cross.

It takes him a little over twenty minutes to finish it, and as he does, he feels centered, calm. Steve goes to bed believing tomorrow will be better.

The next day he gets up at his usual 0600 and goes for a run. When he gets back, he notes that Tony’s door is opened and the bed is not ruffled in the slightest. Which means that he’s still down in the workshop. Steve decides that he’s going to make this easier on himself and bring down a plate of breakfast for Tony. He’s not looking for a fight today.

He makes toast and eggs with some bacon and makes sure not to put too much on the plate. After he eats his own, he readies Tony’s and brings it down to the workshop.

“Tony, I have breakfast here.”

“What? I’m not sick anymore. I’ve had enough takeout.” Tony spins around to face him from his stool.

“No, I’m—well, I’m trying to help. I know that I hurt you, and that you must think I don’t care, but I do. I’ll do the cooking for now, until we figure something out. Maybe a cooking class, or I can teach you.” He’s still holding the plate, which is rapidly cooling in his hands.

“All this time you knew how to cook, and you just let me suffer?” Tony snorts. “Rogers, I don’t want to cook. I will not cook. Get it through your head.”

“Fine, just, fine. We’ll revisit the subject another time.” He takes a deep breath. “In the meantime, I’m releasing you from your budget and you can also go where you please, but just, please let me know where you are. I’d also like to go to one of your events with you.”

“You’re serious.” Tony jumps off the stool and walks over, peering at the plate. He snatches a piece of bacon off of it and starts chewing, mouth open as he stuffs the entire thing in.

“Do you have to do that?”

“Yes.” He grabs the plate and takes it back to his station, shoveling eggs into his mouth just like he did the first day where he vomited. “So what else,” he says around a piece of toast.

“No more spankings.” Steve shuffles from foot to foot.

“Oh, get a little bit too hot for you Captain? Wanted to slap me with something else?”

“Tony, that’s disrespectful.” Tony throws down his toast and swallows around what seems like a large lump of unchewed food. He bolts up and strides over to Steve, his body filled with serpentine, tempting grace. He’s still wearing his several day old clothes, but it doesn’t matter. Steve feels the telltale tightening of his pants and takes a step back.

“Oh ho ho, that’s it, isn’t it? You want to knot me. You must figure I’m such a slut for it, yeah? Alpha, please, and knot me, alpha. Want me to get on my knees, show you my neck. You marked it, it’s yours. You could take me now right here, on this floor. I’m such a whore you know I couldn’t deny you what’s yours by right. I mean, I’ve probably taken loads of knots, right? You want yours to be the one I remember.” Tony finishes his rant with his breath puffing up into Steve’s face. Every word has his hair standing on end. The scent alone will haunt his dreams. His breathing is shallow and he’s ungodly hard in his underwear, which is thankfully tight enough to keep most of his mass hidden from Tony. But it’s not enough. Tony looks down and a sly smile crosses his face.

“Oh yeah, that’s all of what you want, isn’t it alpha.” That sly smile transforms itself into the toothiest sneer he’s ever seen. “Like I would ever want your knot. If you want it, you’ll have to take it. Show me how much you don’t mean anything you just said. Come on. I’m no super-soldier but I think I can still tear you apart.” His words are vicious, as sharp as a paper cut and stinging wherever they land. Steve feels the warmth of Tony’s breathing on his neck and he shudders.

“Stop it. Just stop. It doesn’t matter how I feel. I won’t take advantage of you.” Tony backs off, slowly, stepping backward and to the side. Steve trembles with relief, his cock pressing so hard against the seam of his pants, he might burst.

“Hmm. Good to know you have a line. Something where you’ll say ‘there and no further.’” Tony’s face is back to casual disinterest, as if he hadn’t just been seducing Steve into having his way with Tony. Tony strolls back to his seat, not seeming perturbed in the slightest. “Well, if you have nothing else to say, you can go.”

Steve collects himself. Tony’s threats are blaring in his mind, but he did come down here with intentions.

“Your next event. I’d like to attend.”

“Are you even sure that’s a good idea? You’ll hate every second of it. You already hate me, so just imagine a room full of me, except it’s mostly alphas and betas, so I suppose you wouldn’t mind me as long as I wasn’t omega. Ok, yeah, fine. I’ll get you a suit. It’s in a little less than a week.”

“Were you even going to go?”

“I thought about it. But it didn’t seem like it was worth arguing the point with you.”

“So why go now, if I am coming?”

“It’s for a charity. Money for omega victims of domestic violence.”

“Why would I not let you go to that? That sounds like a good thing.”

“You say that now, but the act of parting alphas from their money involves having a facade. You don’t like my game face. It’s what you saw in that file SHIELD gave you. That’s the Tony Stark you’ll be going with.”

“I didn’t realize you thought about yourself as distinctly as that.”

“I am many things. Most of them you’ll never know.”

Steve has to try again. He’s shaken by Tony’s display still, his mind roiling with the idea that Tony thinks Steve would possibly ever hurt him like that. Tony put starving and beating in the same sentence, as if Steve were capable of one and thus the other. Same with control over money. He felt out of sorts, out of control. He needed to have the reins again.

“I’d like to try and start over, Tony.”

“What’s the point, you still believe the same things you believed yesterday and the day before. I already don’t like that particular Steve. Do you already have a new Steve to show me?”

“No, I just thought…Well I was thinking that perhaps we could try to get along.”

“Are you serious right now? You put me in the hospital. I’m not going to be chummy with a person who does that.”

“Ok, I guess I understand.” He doesn’t understand, exactly. They are married. They have to make this work, and to be perfectly frank Tony has only demonstrated the same behavior that Steve has a problem with. If the priest hadn’t said that Tony’s sins are his own, he would have had Tony over his lap in an instant.

He’s furious as he walks upstairs to clean up after breakfast. It’s an anger that lingers, and he accidentally crushes a plate in his grip. After that he paces, not sure where to go or what to do. Tony. His mind isn’t helping with anything as it replays the scene where Tony came at him and asked Steve if he wanted to knot him. Yes. No. He doesn’t want…

Okay, he can admit he wants Tony. But he won’t take advantage of him or otherwise let the omega know any more than he already thinks he does. Steve has a sinking feeling that Tony’s keen powers of observation are in play here, and that he knows Steve’s sick mind as well as Steve does. God, Tony offered to kneel. He doesn’t know why that does it for him, but just the thought of it has him hard in again.

Outraged, he tries to ignore it.

But it won’t go away.

He palms the front of his sweatpants, willing his erection to subside. He thinks of Tony when he was sick, and his mind helpfully supplies that sweet-scented smell of heat for his efforts. He tries thinking of church, of his prayers, but instead, his mind shows him, Tony, kneeling in the confessional with him, mouth sloppy and open, his eyes half-lidded, the shadows of the screen playing across his face. It’s at that point his palm turns into a sure grip, and he’s halfway to jacking himself through his pants.

This is ridiculous. He will not masturbate over this. But if he’s going to be stuck with it, he should go to his room.

When he gets there, he has a moment where he tries to keep the lie. But it doesn’t stick, and his self-control evaporates as he shucks off his pants and boxers, lays on his bed, and takes a firm grip around his shaft.

It really doesn’t take long. He tries, oh god he tries to not orgasm in less than a minute, but he’s imagining a warm, pliant Tony underneath him, the omega’s fingers rigidly clutching at his shoulders, head thrown back as Steve spreads his legs wide and thrusts roughly into him. The Tony in his head likes it, begs for Steve, for his alpha, claws at Steve’s chest as he makes needy little moans. And like that, on the coattails of the image of their conjoined bodies, he comes.

The shame sets in as the cold does to the spunk that’s on his body. He’s never wanted an omega. He doesn’t, but he does.

Tony has done something to him.

Steve knows that in his heart it’s not Tony’s fault. It’s Steve’s weakness. But he’s so angry at Tony. Every time he tries anything, Tony ruins it by opening his mouth. He feels defeat as it begins to settle into his very bones, his marrow. It tastes sour and rancid. He’s not supposed to be weak.

His knot taunts him, inflated harder than it has been in a long time. Another spurt of come shoots out, and he grits his teeth at the sensation. He doesn’t always knot, but when he does, the orgasms never usually last this long. His body is wondering why there’s no omega wrapped around him. He doesn’t know what to tell it to stop making him feel the way he does.

More come gushes out of him, and at this point, his hand is a filthy mess. He gives up trying to salvage his boxers and uses them to wipe at the puddle of it.

He lays there for several hours, still thinking about Tony.

The call to assemble is a relief to him. It’s the only thing that means anything at all anymore. Until he remembers that his team hates him. Except maybe Iron Man.

Steve resolves to try and talk to him after they deal with whatever enemy is out there.

Chapter Text

Steve arrives on the scene to the tune of police and military involvement. This time it’s robots. They’re making a mess of the area they’re cordoned off in, easily repelled by the barriers that the police and military have put up, but less easily put down. Bullets bounce off their casing and only serve to deter them from attacking. Otherwise, they’re generally just destructive, picking up anything that isn’t bolted to the ground, and some things that are, and tossing it about.

It’s nothing a vibranium shield can’t handle. Natasha and Clint are already there, the former using an electrified baton and her widow’s bites to short as many of the things as she can while Clint opts for armor-piercing arrows. He must have incredible strength to do a bow draw that packs enough punch.

Neither of them address him as he arrives, and he takes that as his clue to wade in.

He’s bashing away at robotic limbs, heads, and torsos as he hears the telltale shriek of repulsor energy above from Iron Man streaking by. Several bots in his vicinity simply implode, giving him much needed breathing space. The robots aren’t endless, but there sure are a lot of them.

It’s not winding down just yet, but they’re at a steady clip of removing the bots when he feels a sharp pain in his shoulder that’s deep. He cranes his neck around to see an arrow sticking out of his back.

“Oops,” Clint says through the coms. They haven’t otherwise said a thing to him.

He takes a second to yank the arrow out and lets it clatter to the concrete. There’s nothing he can say or do, but the fact that Clint in all likelihood intentionally fired on him is a very bad sign that his team takes what happened to Tony as an affront to them. He feels a sense of misplaced guilt. The pressure he’s been experiencing in his work life seems heavier than he deserves. He made a reasonable mistake; he didn’t abuse Tony. He’s not an abuser. Do they think he is? And isn’t he trying to make things right, even if he doesn’t believe in the methods at all? He should get some credit for even allowing Tony to go back to doing whatever it is he wants. He wonders if Natasha is calling him an abuser, though he doesn’t think she’d go that far.

With Iron Man, they start to make much quicker work of the bots. Parts are strewn everywhere and cleanup is going to be a disaster. It also turns out that the power for each bot is decentralized, leading to crawling limbs and kicking legs unattached to anything else. Steve slams his shield again and again, destroying what he can.

Finally, they’ve worked through every viable piece of robot that’s left to where none of it is moving. Steve for one is glad that they don’t do as much cleanup. He thinks that whatever two-bit villain did this wasted a lot of metal and technology.

When he turns around to look for the team, Natasha and Clint are nowhere to be found. Iron Man flies gracefully down somewhat near him, as it’s the only near clean spot to stand on, and drops to the ground, his feet doing a little running step to deal with the momentum.

“Iron Man.”

“Captain.”

“I suppose you’ve heard then?”

“What am I supposed to have heard?” Iron Man crosses his arms, looking quite judgemental for a man in a robot-suit.

“I… made a mistake, and my husband ended up hospitalized. The team—the team isn’t on speaking terms with me for the most part.”

“Well, what did you do?”

“I honestly just wanted him to be able to take care of himself, but instead he ended up not eating. And now I just—well, you don’t have to listen to my problems,” Steve finishes lamely.

“Hmm. I’m here, I suppose. I could lend an ear.” Iron Man uncrosses his arms and leaves them loose at his side.

“Thank you. I just—everyone is mad at me right now, and I only want to try and do the right thing. But what everyone else thinks that is, doesn’t seem to include anything that I would normally do.” The sense of relief that Steve feels that someone, anyone is willing to talk to him as if he’s a human being is palpable. He hadn’t realized how dehumanized he felt until everyone’s regard had been taken away from him.

“It’s a brave new world out there. Why not try something new?” Iron Man tilts his head consideringly.

“I would, if they had advice about how I can get him to cooperate. I don’t suppose you have any on how to get an omega to do what they’re supposed to do.” Steve picks at the side of his cowl below his ear. The hair gets damp and matted there, and he dislikes how it sticks to his head, slick with sweat.

“I generally let omegas handle themselves.”

“You’re alpha, then?” Steve gestures at Iron Man’s gold and red plated form. Of course, an alpha would pilot the suit. He probably made it too.

“In my experience, it’s generally best to listen to the person in question about what it is they want and need. Just forget that he’s an omega, and treat him like he’s your equal.”

“But he’s omega—”

“Just my two cents, Cap.” Iron Man turns on his repulsors and soars off without answering any more of his questions.

 

Steve comes in with the rest of the team on the Quinjet, the air around them silent and heavy with unsaid things.

Clint in particular looks like he wants to pull Steve’s guts through his open mouth, the way he’s staring at Steve being something close to maniacal in nature.

Nat is still cold, and she hasn’t met his eyes once.

“So while you were starving your husband, did you eat off of his dime? I mean, I just want to know if you’re like every other asshole who tries to take advantage of Stark.”

“I ate from the same groceries. If what I did with them was more edible than what Tony chose to do with them, that’s not my fault.”

“Oh, I see! Tony just did it to himself. Those omegas. Stubborn. Don’t know their own minds. Right?” Even Steve can see that this is a trap. He just doesn’t know what Clint is trying to say, and he’s getting mad that his values are being twisted into something they’re not. He cares for Tony, even if it’s just the way an alpha can care for an omega. Entirely the way an alpha wants to care for an omega,his subconscious whispers. He bats away at the thought and pays closer attention to Clint.

The man’s smile is like a wood chipper; it wants to rend him to pieces whether he likes it or not.

“I don’t know what you’re getting at Clint. It was an accident.”

“Yeah, like the accident we had in the field today, right? Just an accident.” The last word is hissed.

“Is it now?”

“As much as you putting Tony in the hospital is an accident.”

“What do you want, Barton? I don’t understand why there’s this much animosity. Yes, what happened was awful, and things have changed at home, but it’s like this is personal for you, and I don’t understand why. And besides, it’s business between Tony and me.”

“Gosh, you really don’t get it do you. Brightest tactical mind of a generation and he can’t work it out. But it’s okay, I can help you, you fucking knot head. I’m an omega. Yeah. That’s right. Your teammate is a bow-toting, cursing, eat-ice-cream-with-a-fork-for-dinner-if-I-fucking-want, omega.”

Of all the things that he expected, that was not it. Clint? An omega? How on earth did SHIELD give him this job? How did he even get so skilled? Clint had the moves of a beta, and as far as Steve knew, the man presented as one. He couldn’t smell a thing on Clint. Widening his nostrils, he tries to do so now instinctively.

“You won’t get a scent, because I wear the best suppressors on the market. Though I have half a mind to not wear them at all, see how long you last in the field when your prejudices are up your nose and around the corner.”

“Your alpha allows you to do this?” That’s the only explanation he can think of, because he can’t imagine an unbonded omega allowed in the field.

“You kidding? My alpha owes me his life. I was working the job for years before he got the privilege of biting into this. I own his ass. And he loves it. He’s lucky to have me and he knows it.” Clint is all but crowing about his alpha, a fervor shining in his eyes as he talks about the man. Nat is still a brick wall, but he can see she’s listening attentively.

Steve can’t imagine an alpha that would allow Clint to do this, much less encourage the smart mouth that Clint has. Unbelievable. If he didn’t think that Fury would come after him worse than before, he’d recommend that Clint be taken off the team. It feels impossible to reconcile as he steals glances at Clint, who is staring him down, that this man is a shoo-in for the Avengers Initiative.

As if she can read his thoughts, Nat decides to speak up.

“Clint is a better operative than you will ever be. You’re flashy, destructive, and generally anti-authority. We could live without you. Don’t think we need you for a second. Tomorrow, 0800 hours, SHIELD, same room.”

“You hear that Rogers. We don’t need you. We’ll never need you.” There’s an echo of Tony in Clint’s words and it stings in the same way. What type of omega doesn’t need an alpha? He wonders if omegas in this day and age have suddenly become undomesticated. That’s impossible, but of the three omegas he’s seen so far, including the girl on the train, all have been filled with what amounts to pep and vinegar.

The Quinjet lands at the SHIELD building and they all disembark. Steve hits the showers before he heads home, feeling wrung out and still so confused. He’s so tired. Tired of being the center of everyone’s scorn. Including Tony’s, still. Even after all the compromises he’s made.

He rides the train home in a haze and hopes there’s something better waiting for him at home.

When he arrives, for the first time he doesn’t go looking for Tony. He realizes he can’t bear the rejection he’ll receive from his husband. Somewhere along the way, he’s thought that maybe they could have an actual marriage. That maybe it was a mistake to promise himself and Tony that he’d stay away. Now he’s locked into his own words, and he won’t renege on them, but he can’t help but feel hope. Without it, there’s nothing good left.

He makes a steak dinner, carefully defrosting the meat in the sink with warm water. There’s also potatoes and asparagus that he dutifully prepares. When it’s all done, he cuts the steak in half to make sure it’s cooked, medium rare, and takes Tony’s plate down to where he knows the man will be.

When he gets there, the lights are off and there’s no one home. Anger, hot and heavy, erupts in him. He had asked one thing. One thing only. That Tony tells him where he is if he’s going to be somewhere. And dammit, the omega couldn’t even do that.

He stomps back upstairs and sets the plate down hard on the countertop. It thankfully doesn’t break this time, but Steve almost wishes it would.

The elevator doors chime open, and Tony walks in but stops when he sees Steve.

“I just went out for a second.” Fear flits across Tony’s face. Steve’s anger softens a little at it. When did Tony have any reason to fear him? It twists uncomfortably in his gut. It’s not a look he ever expected to see. He doesn’t know what he’s done to earn Tony’s fear, but he wants it gone.

“I made dinner,” Steve tries, coaxing Tony closer, trying to relay that he’s not going to hurt him.

“Okay. I’m sorry. Please don’t—just. If you’re going to punish me, let’s get this over with.” Tony walks forward like he’s on a pirate’s plank. The expression on his face is unimpassioned, drained of personality.

“There’s no punishment. But where did you go?” Steve grips the countertop, asking God for patience. Reminding himself that the priest said that Tony’s choices are his own, and if he wants to sin, it’s Tony’s responsibility to deal with that sin, not Steve’s. It doesn’t make it any easier though when he wants to explode, pull Tony over his knee, and give the omega ample reason to never disobey again.

“I needed something on one of the other floors, and I stopped by to see Pepper.” Steve doesn’t know why he feels such relief. But the idea of Tony going and meeting another alpha, or anyone to be immoral with, leaves him feeling out of sorts. Tony is his, even if he’s not, not really.

“Ok, thank you for telling me. Would you sit and eat with me?”

“Do I have to?”

“No, but I’d like it.”

“I don’t want to.” The indifferent face is back again, like he expects Steve to do something.

“Then you don’t have to.” The words are like pulling teeth. Steve cooked this meal for them, and it’s already getting cold. Tony should be grateful. Yet here he is, throwing Steve’s courtesy back in his face.

“Ok.” Tony drags the plate across the counter closer to him before picking it up. He swipes his finger through the mashed potatoes before licking it and peers at Steve cautiously. “It’s good.”

And Steve, Steve wants to preen. His omega thought the food he provided was good. Maybe Tony would let Steve feed him more things.

But why does that feel so good? His provider instincts must be confused. Steve is alpha. Alphas protect the home. It has to be an instinctual spillover from Tony being ill and needy. Steve isn’t going to be cooking forever. That’s for omegas.

Yet it feels so good. And he lets himself imagine Tony eating the food, maybe throwing in a little moan on a particularly good bite. If he thinks about it more, he wonders if Tony would let Steve feed him.

Tony darts out of the room.

God, this needs to stop. He’s already hard in his pants once more, and he feels an overwhelming sense of humiliation. Tony does not want him. He’s made it abundantly clear.

But it doesn’t stop. Steve forgoes cleanup for the moment and walks to his room, resigned. He takes off his pants quickly, with no falsehoods to himself about what he’s going to do. Settling in on his bed, he grips his cock once more and thinks of Tony.

This time it’s Tony on his knees, like he said he would never do for Steve. In his mind, Tony is at the foot of his bed, knees on the plush carpet there with his open mouth waiting. Those doe-brown eyes are heavy with intent and flash out from under his lashes. Steve takes the offering, cupping Tony’s jaw to bring him closer and feed him Steve’s cock. The Tony in his mind moans when his tongue touches precum, and Tony then takes Steve about halfway in, sucking needily at the tip of Steve’s cock.

Steve doesn’t need any more than that. He comes once again, knot swelling up. It pumps out cum like it’s been promised that it’ll surely impregnate Tony. Again and again, he spurts, and when Steve thinks it might be over, another stream oozes its way out of his fattened cock.

The thought of Tony pregnant with his pups flows over him, and it is startlingly arousing.

Disgusted with himself, this time he gets up for a towel and a wash.

His shame spiraling down the drain, he goes back out to pick up the dishes before heading back to bed.

The next morning he gets up for a run, feeling exhausted from restless dreams that leave him with morning wood that only abates under a cold shower.

At 0800 hours he’s finally at SHIELD, feeling pulled in every direction at once.

When he enters the room, Nat isn’t there, but in her place is quite an old woman. He looks around to make sure he entered the right room.

“Sit! Sit! That lovely girl told me you’d be coming. She’s getting me a hot chocolate. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had one? It’ll be heck on my tummy, all that sugar, but a gal’s gotta live a little.” She has a strong Brooklyn accent, and Steve can’t help but smile at her. Her scent is that sourness that all the elderly have, but with his superior sense of smell, he can tell she’s omega.

“Scenting me? I haven’t been scented in over ten years! Not since my partner Edgar passed on. You are a sweetheart. She said you were trouble, but I can see you’ve got a good soul. But maybe I’m biased because you look just like some of the boys that used to run about in my neighborhood. Oh, the trouble they would find!”

“I surely wouldn’t know what you’re talking about, ma’am,” Steve says, bashful. He lets his Brooklyn accent slip out as well. He was definitely one of those boys she’s referring to.

“Look at you! Pure Irish Catholic boy you are. Well, son, that beautiful girl told me to tell you about where and when I grew up, which was on Hicks and Pierrepont, right near this apartment called Leigh Place. We lived in the apartment next door. Never had a name put to it besides the Old Pierrepont place. The new one was across the street.” Steve’s blood runs cold and hot. Leigh Place is where he grew up. He estimates this woman to be about ninety years old, her skin that fine almost feathered look with a smattering of liver spots. She was around him in his earlier life. There, when he lived in Brooklyn. As he studies the contours of her face, he sees them morph into one of youth. He remembers her now, leashed up behind her alpha, smiling. She was beautiful then, docile and sweet like omegas should be.

“I’m Edith by the by. I always get ahead of myself and forget the niceties, and I certainly know better than that by now. Maybe someday I’ll learn.”

“I’m Steve. Steve Rogers.”

“I knew a Steve Rogers once!”

At that Natasha walks back into the room, clutching a cup of hot cocoa.

“I put some ice in it, just to make sure it cools down. It’s not too full either.”

“Thank you, love. My caretakers will consider you the devil himself, but in my book, you’ll always be a saint.” Nat gives the woman a genuine smile before turning to Steve.

“I trust you to watch her and make sure nothing happens. I’m going to leave the room now. Don’t disappoint me.” She strides out quickly and shuts the door.

“Oh, she’s hard on you honey! But sometimes things are just that way at first, you know? She’ll come ‘round.” Edith had a great laugh, he remembers. She was always cheerful and helped out at church when her alpha would drop her off there. She would sing in the choir. He finds he doesn’t want her to know that the Steve Rogers she knew is the same person. It feels like he started a new life when Erskine gave him the formula, and he doesn’t need to go back to his old one.

“I’m not sure she will, ma’am.”

“Enough with this ma’am nonsense. I’m Edith. Edith Walsh. I took my name back when I ran off from my good for nothin’ alpha, but I used to be an O’Leary, god rest that mean bastard’s soul. Oh pardon! I’ll be saying Hail Mary’s tonight for that.” Steve chokes off a laugh. O’Leary had been her husband!

“But well, let’s get down to business here, shall we? You want to know how it was for us omegas in the past. Well, it wasn’t all peaches and cream living in the heart of the Apple, let me tell you. I was a real looker those days though. All my sisters said so. I was a cat looking to be a canary when I met Conall. He had this way of talking that made me feel like he saw every part of me.

At first, he loved my singing. I would serenade him sunup to sundown. But when I started trying my hand at the speakeasy, oh boy he sure didn’t like that much at all. I loved him though, so I stopped. Though I’d always wanted to be a singer, and I was darn good at it too! Used to sing in the choir at mass.” Steve remembers. Edith’s voice was clear and beautiful, ringing out over the parishioners like a clarion bell. He thinks he agrees with Conall though. A speakeasy is no place for a lady.

“I’m getting away from myself. Conall was difficult to please. He liked his dinner at six o’clock sharp, and if it was off, he’d take his hand to my behind. That’s always a sensitive place for omegas, and it was humiliating! Imagine, me, a grown omega, taken over an alpha’s knee! But he wasn’t a very forgiving man. Oh, out in public he had me leashed and collared, no matter that I despised the thing. And you can bet your bottom dollar that in private? He was a right menace. The spanking was just—well I don’t like to come out and say it, but it’s an awful thing to do to an omega.”

You know that’s what I love about living now, in this time though? I can tell you all of this. Back then, it was shameful. Us omega women stuck together as best we could, and we tried to get some of the male omegas into our clutches too, but some of their mothers wouldn’t have it. Thought they were protecting their children from the worst of it, I think. And maybe they were, what with male omegas being allowed in the army at the time. A lot of us were going through it together. Brenna and Colleen had it the worst. I always wondered what happened to them. We all did our best, smiled pretty outside, but inside, things weren’t right.”

Steve knows, he knows he’s supposed to listen, but this is an overload of all his senses. He’s dumbstruck, afraid, lost. He wasn’t the only omega boy, but he was one of a few. Did his mother keep him away from the other omegas on purpose? Now that he thinks about it, he remembers Sarah steering him clear of sitting near them. They always stuck to their own pew if they could, sandwiched in by betas.

And that was his mother protecting him. Not from the omegas themselves, but from the lives they were living.

His heart aches. He’s so confused and twisted up. The idea that all this was going on in his neighborhood, on his doorstep, the entire time. It almost defies comprehension. But Edith has no reason to lie. No reason to know him or tell him what Fury and Nat want him to hear. She’s just this harmless old omega. Sweet tempered, even if her dreams of being a singer are not ones he’d condone. Even so, her alpha spanked her, just like he had with Tony, and he feels something ugly curdle in his gut.

“I got out though. After years of Conall punishing me for something or other by tying my leash to the bed and tying my hands behind my back. More fool he, I’d been slipping that leash at home since he got me to marry him. He used to be kind, Conall. He used to like me singing. But after we went home, he told me that my voice was for him, and he didn’t want anyone else to hear it. So I stopped, but for church. And even then, he didn’t like that either. It was the church that helped me get out, you know. They knew people. People that could help.”

The ache inside him increases, until his entire body feels taut with an agonized shift of his reality. He knew Colleen and Brenna. And he realizes now, that somewhere he knew that one day he’d seen them, and then one day he hadn’t. What happened to them? Were they part of the statistics that Nat had told him? Had they died? Did they get out? He wishes his mother hadn’t stopped him from getting to know the omega girls. He’s surprised at himself, however, because he’d never really thought about himself that way concerning the omega women. He was always just Steve, who should have been more. Something else.

“I never would have left if he hadn’t hit me, you know? The whole time he’d just been making me miserable over food, over where I was and who I was with, leashing me and dragging me around for show. He’d tell me he was a good husband, providing for me, but I would have rather eaten at the poor house on some days. I should have left sooner. It always gets worse with those kinds of alphas. I didn’t know it then.” Edith is holding her cup, staring deeply into its contents. There’s a little cream from the hot chocolate stuck to her upper lip where she’s been sipping it. If she were his Ma, or his Grandma, he’d wipe it away. He feels like he knows her, like she’s his. If he’d been alpha then, he would have protected her.

Like you’ve protected Tony?

“I ended up in South Williamsburg. Not far enough away from Conall, not really. But he never came looking. I lucked out there. Some of the other girls not so much. The church provided everything for us, which wasn’t much, but it was ours. I took up work as a seamstress, and eventually, I became the head of the group that housed us omegas. Some of them got out of much worse situations than myself. Sometimes–sometimes we couldn’t get them away completely. They’d come to us broken, too broken. And those times… We did what we could. There were no laws to protect us and no repercussions for using corporal punishment on omegas. Say, hey, have you seen that new bill that they’re going to ban the use of any physical punishment on omegas? Why I never thought I’d see the day. About time too. Now well, there are hardly any alphas that spank anymore, but there’s a few out there. That’ll take care of that.” Edith visibly shudders.

“I think I hated the spankings most, and how Conall would always think I liked it on purpose, and how he’d—he’d have me after, whether I wanted or not. It was a long time ago. I wish he just would have done what he was going to do instead of making my body like it. Like he owned me. And at the time, I suppose, he did own me. Never came back for his property though, and twenty years later or so, I wasn’t his anymore. That was the first day I felt truly safe.”

Steve wants to go back into the ice. He wants to un-fly the plane. He wants to go to Brooklyn, find Edith, and take her away. If only he had known. But he hadn’t wanted to see, not at all. All the fine pieces of his conscience grate and grind at him. Conall had been a firm man, someone he’d not necessarily looked up to, but Steve had thought he was a good one. One of the good ones. Steve hadn’t known what lurked underneath that surface. That he’d lay a hand to his omega to hit. That he’d take his omega against her will.

He remembers Tony’s squirming, and the deepest shame comes over him. He’s thought about Tony like that. Wanted it. Just like Conall. He can hardly stomach himself. What kind of man is he? What kind of alpha?

Is this what Fury and Natasha wanted? Did they want him to come apart?

He wants to ask her more questions. To get to the root of all of this, but he finds himself stilled by respect for her, and also at a loss for words.

“What’s wrong over there son? Steve, your name is? Natalie told me. Oh don’t cry now, it’s all over. It’s been said and done.” She reaches a leathery soft hand to pat his cheek as tears stream down his face.

“I’m not a good man, Edith.” Conall eventually hit his omega. Is that what he’s doomed to? The more he polices Tony the more likely it is that he’ll hurt him in some other way? Steve would have leashed him if it had still been the law. He would have been like Conall.

“Oh, I’m sure you’re the best of men. Got yourself an omega you’re trying to do right by? I can see their mark on your neck.” She points one gnarled finger at it.

“He, and yes, he’s… infuriating. And I think I’ve done him wrong.” Steve sniffles and wipes roughly at his face.

“Well if you’re willing to admit your mistakes, he won’t turn away from you.”

“I think it’s too late. I think it’s far too late.”

“Nothing’s ever set in stone, dearest. Just show him you’re the man you are in here,” she taps his chest, “and he’ll be with you, and everything will be right as rain.”

“I don’t think I’ll get the chance. He wants nothing to do with me right now.”

“Have you shared a heat yet?”

“That’s not—we can’t—discussing this is crude, isn’t it?”

“I’m an old lady. What do I know about crude? If you haven’t shared it yet, let him come to you and ask, and promise to do as he wants. And mean it! You’re bonded, so he’ll have to come to you at first, until the bond solidifies.” Steve is incredulous. “What, you don’t think I know a fresh bite when I see one? That thing’s hardly a month old.”

“You’re sure he’ll come to me? Why would he ever do that?” Hope blooms in Steve’s chest. He might be able to make it up to Tony, to be with him as his husband. But then he remembers Conall and how the man used spanking as a tool to get his omega in a state. How is that any different than using Tony’s heat to coerce him to be with Steve? He has to say no. Everything in him shrieks in protest at the idea, but he has to say no.

“Well, the first heat’s too painful without your alpha. It’s meant to bring you closer. Bet you must be wondering then how come I didn’t have children. Weren’t for lack of Conall’s tryin’.” Tony is strong. He’ll want to do it alone, his heat.

“I know there’s ways now of keeping yourself free of pups, but how did you manage back then?”

“Oh, there are herbs you can take to make your bleeding happen. My Ma happened to know. She taught me, and I taught the other omegas. Though, you could only pretend at that for so long before your alpha would think something was wrong with you. Some of us chose to give in and have children. That made it harder to leave. For me, I didn’t last more than a year with Conall.”

“I’m glad you got out. You deserved better.”

“And I got it! I met Edgar late in life. My fifties if you would believe! But he pursued me like I was a fresh plucked spring chicken, and if that didn’t do wonders for my ego. Oh, Edgar was a good alpha. Never a hand raised to me, and he cooked a mean meatloaf. He used to help me make the best nests, if I may be so bold as to say. He used to get me the softest pillows.” Nesting was something that omegas did before heats. Never had Steve realized that an alpha could possibly participate. The idea takes him by surprise with how much he imagines providing Tony with soft, warm blankets and silky pillows. Would Tony like that? He can’t give in to taking Tony during his heat, but he can give him whatever he needs for the nest. That’s what he’ll do.

He thinks he might have liked to meet Edgar, to see a man who treated his omega with care and love. If he could just have one example, one person where he could anchor himself to their actions and know that it was right and good, he wouldn’t feel so confused. It would be nice to see Edith more often, but he didn’t know if that was possible, or if he ought to.

He ends up leaving SHIELD feeling wrung out and lost. Edith had a strict schedule, and her caretakers had shown up quick as can be to get her loaded into the van. Nat had come back, tilted her head at him with those cold, cold eyes, and dismissed him without asking about any of it, including his red-rimmed eyes.

As he heads home, he lays his head against the window of the train, letting the hardness of the pane become punishing on his scalp. He’s exhausted. Everything in his body feels like it wants to slither out of his uniform and into the drains that dot the side of the road. He belongs in the sewers, like so much trash. What he’s done to Tony is cruel and unthinkable now. Steve still believes that Tony shouldn’t be so promiscuous, or shouldn’t have been, but everything else? Omegas are not like he thought. He’d never realized that he’d been so sheltered before.

The day has hardly begun and he just wants it to end.

Chapter Text

When he gets to the tower, he’s more collected, but still jittery and disoriented. He looks around at everything Tony has built, all the little pieces of art and furniture. Tony managed all of this on his own.

Everything here is smooth and sleek. He wonders when he stopped hating it. When he stopped hating everything about Tony. Now he sees just how powerful Tony is to have made it in this world, with alphas like him trying to pull and push him into what they wanted. Tony has never once given into Steve. The strength that has taken astounds him. Before, it was the source of his anger at Tony. Now he can see Tony’s defiance in a new light. Edith showed him.

He wonders too what happened to Brenna and Colleen. He thinks it’s time he goes back to the church. Maybe they know more about the omegas that lived in the area at the time. Nat didn’t ask him about his homework to find three omegas he admired either, so he assumes that next time they’ll go over it. Steve hasn’t had much time to really think about it, but he thinks Edith is on his list. He’s never met someone so strong, except for maybe Tony. Is it wrong to put Tony on the list? Tony still has a laundry list of flaws, mostly related to his sleeping around.

Steve wished Tony had thought better of himself at the time, that he didn’t have to sleep with anyone to be valued.

It agitates him that he doesn’t know anything about Tony now. Who he was seeing before they married, who he’s been with, why? Steve feels that he maybe has some right to that information, but he thinks that Tony will fight him on this too.

When did he stop wanting to try to get Tony to just conform?

In any case, he grabs himself a snack and heads back out, taking the train to Brooklyn Heights.

There aren’t any couples that he listens into as intently as last time on the train, and he feels sort of sad about that. He’d like to see more of these modern relationships.

Before he knows it, he’s at the church, and he’s feeling hopeful. Like he might finally be making progress in the right direction. Maybe if he gets a good working relationship with Tony, Tony will be more amenable to learning things with him, like how to do laundry. Steve had seen the pile of clothing in Tony’s room, unfolded and wrinkled on the floor.

The door opens and clunks behind him. It’s emptier than last time, and there’s a priest or brother at the front of the church tidying up the pulpit. It must be after some event, because he’s carrying some table cloths bundled in his arms.

Steve approaches tentatively, looking for a way to speak with the man. Thankfully he’s telegraphed his intentions well enough and the man he’s now sure is a priest makes his way over.

“I’m Father Jacobs. Not sure I’ve seen you here before. Welcome! Is there something I can help you with?”

“I was wondering if you can tell me anything about what the church did in the ’30s and ‘40s regarding helping omegas.”

“Well gosh, not many people ask about that for that reason, but yes, I think I’ve got some information for you. Is now a good time?”

“If you’re available?”

“Sure, follow me to the sacristy here while I drop these off. We keep the records in the basement, along with all our other old records. Are you looking for a grandparent or great-grandparent?”

“Something like that. I’m looking for two women who would have been around here in the mid to late 30s. I have names, but not exact ages. Just looking to see what happened to them. If they got out, or—didn’t.”

“Well, we can cross-reference with our birth, marriage, and death records. See if they pop up.”

“Thank you, that’s kind of you to do this on such short notice. I just want to know what happened to them.”

“It’s no trouble at all. Not a lot of people remember the past and who was in it these days. I’d like to think they’d be thankful someone took the time to care what became of them.” The priest leads him to the sacristy then, dropping the cloths in a waiting laundry basket before gesturing at him to follow him down some stairs. The ceiling on the way down is low, and Steve has to duck to make it through. And when they get down there, his head is almost at the ceiling. It’s cramped and smells faintly of sewage.

“Sorry about the state of things. We’re trying to get all these records digitized so they can go into storage. They should be down here today going through things. I think they were planning on doing something to be able to find people in the system, but the way we have it is by alphabetical order. You have the first last name?”

“Clarke. Brenna Clarke. She was a Burke first though. Not sure when she got married.”

“Oh! Excellent. The team has already gone through the C section and should have digitized all those. Let’s go bother them and see what we can find.” The priest darts down another aisle of filing cabinets and leads him back to a room. He can hear laughter inside and as the door opens, he’s hit with the scents of a few omegas and maybe a beta. No alphas.

They all go stock still when they see him, their eyes watching him as if he’s going to make some kind of stray movement towards them.

“It’s ok, he’s with me. He’s looking for the omega records.”

“I got this,” the one beta says, standing up and holding out their hand. Steve takes it. “Hi, I’m Aisling, and I work with the Omega Support Network here at the New York branch. We’ve been scanning the old records in and using technology to make them searchable. I assume you have someone you know that you’d like to look up?” He shuffles from foot to foot, eyeing the omegas back, unsure.

“Brenna Clarke, née Burke and Colleen Byrne, née Smith, mid to late 30s, both omegas. Not sure if they made it through the system the church had going here at the time, but they’d be in the birth, marriage, and death records. I’m just trying to see what happened to them.”

“Well, I can help with that. Father Jacobs, we can take it from here.” Father Jacobs pats him once on the arm and leaves, leaving Steve alone with these omegas who are examining him speculatively.

“We don’t get a lot of alpha interest in these sorts of projects. Why don’t you come this way to our computer terminal and we can start the search.” Aisling folds her hands together.

“Lead the way.” Steve still feels like he’s trespassing here. Something about the way everyone is holding themselves around him makes him wary, but not as wary as they look in return.

“Our system is more complex than Father Jacobs knows. We have a computer program that links up names and tries to match the church’s records to the omega network’s records here and in other churches. It’s a machine learning software, which, believe me, I didn’t understand what that was nor care until I saw how it worked. Now we can’t live without it. We’ve been tracking omega family lines for years and it’s just gotten so much easier now with this software. Here, sit down.” She gestures at an older looking chair. It’s orange, of all colors, with metal legs.

“Maybe you wouldn’t mind checking for me. I’m not so great with computers myself, honestly, and I don’t want to break anything.” Steve hasn’t used a computer more than a few times.

“It’s no problem, I can show you how to use it. Take a seat, I insist.” The beta woman is bubbly and sweet, so much so that Steve doesn’t try to argue, but sits down in the cozy chair and stares at the screen in front of him. He puts his hand on the mouse, like you’re supposed to, but he’s not sure where to click. She points at the screen and he brings his pointer there.

“There, just click that, and then type the last name. Now click this,” she points, “And type the first name. And lastly right here, the omega’s original surname.”

“And that’s it?” Seems easier than expected.

“Yup! Now click search and let’s see what pops up. Oh, we have a match. It’d be good if you knew the alpha’s name?” Aisling is leaning over him, her shoulder almost touching his shoulder. It’s a little close, but New York has always been short on personal space.

“Rory, for Brenna.”

“Ok, looks like we have something. Married 1935. Deceased 1945. Oh. She died of asphyxiation in her home.”

“But what did she die from? That’s not an answer.” Steve’s chest is tight with concern.

“Well, we can’t always be correct, but we’re mostly certain that this particular manner of death is suicide. The way it’s written, how it was in the home, and they don’t note what caused the asphyxiation, it was probably hanging. That was common, not mentioning the cause to preserve the family’s integrity. This—this is what we work to prevent now. Things are better, but they’re not all better.” Brenna died, alone, in her house. She would have rather not lived than go one more minute with her alpha. Steve wants to be sick. Brenna gave him a little flower once. Something she had been handing out to the omega girls. He remembers taking it carefully in his hands so no one could see and taking it home.

Steve had always been too sickly for heats and those sorts of things. It had protected him from having to marry, though omega males were not always expected to. Half the reason he thought Erskine took him was because he didn’t have heats or an alpha to bother them while they worked to make him better.

He clicks out of the documents, and back to the search screen.

Colleen and Sean Byrne.

“Oh looks like we have that one too. Married 1936, and it looks like—Ah, there we are. And, ah well, yes this is another common thing.”

“I see she died in 1974. That’s not that young, but not too old either?” It’s not perfect, but it’s better than Brenna’s life.

“Yeah, but well you see here, in 1938 she was institutionalized for a few months, again in 1941, and again in 1947. This institution in particular dealt with deemed problematic omegas. Rape was common there, by the guards. The treatments were what we now define as inhumane: full restraints, denial of nests, heat prevention tactics, non-consensual gland rubbing. A lot of omegas didn’t make it out alive. She must have been so strong to go in three times and come out each time. Those places were death traps, designed to do away with unwanted omegas. She probably had children.” Steve doesn’t even know what these things are. He’s never heard of denying an omega their nest. Restraints, yes, he’d thought, maybe at one point he would have restrained Tony if it hadn’t been made illegal. Now he can’t imagine Tony tied down by a leash and collar, much less a full set of manacles.

“What are heat prevention tactics and gland rubbing?”

“Oh, um, I don’t think I’m the best person to explain. There is the internet, you know?”

“I’m sorry, I just, I didn’t know. I’ll look it up sometime.” Steve is embarrassed. Aisling looks down at him with something like pity and consternation on her face.

“It’s ok, it’s just, ok, well, heat prevention was restraint during heat, so omegas couldn’t do anything to—well. Anything. And gland rubbing is normally a thing that alphas do with their omegas to solidify pair bonds, but it’s also something that feels pleasurable to omegas, so to do it as a way to keep them—keep them docile, is repugnant. I mean, aren’t you an alpha? You’re like mid-twenties. You should know some of these things.”

“I grew up sheltered. I never realized.”

“But you have a mating mark, it’s… hasn’t he shown you how to, you know, with his gland?”

“It’s a betrothal, we didn’t know each other that well. And I don’t think he wants it.”

“Oh, it must have been when you were both young. It’s illegal now, but for those contracts that have been grandfathered in. Well, that’s good of you to not force him. Though you, the alpha, can just plead infidelity? That’s how people usually get out.”

“There are monetary consequences, and uh I just wouldn’t do that.”

“Um, yes, well, I have a brochure for you, if you ever need to call, or you can give it to your omega.”

“Yes, thank you.” He takes it in hand.

“Is there anything else you need?” Aisling is back to her upbeat smile and helpful attitude, leaving behind Brenna and Colleen’s lives as easy as pie. Steve can’t shake it off though. Can’t imagine that while he was in the war, these women were enduring the unendurable in their homes. Things that Steve would have done to them had he stayed in that time as an alpha. Hell, he doesn’t even know anymore what a proper omega is supposed to look like in this day and age.

Other names are swimming in his head, but he doesn’t want to look. Doesn’t want to know for certain that their lives were as sad as Brenna’s or Colleen’s.

“This software, is it accurate? It just seems like it knew everything.”

“Oh yeah, well, don’t tell anyone, but Tony Stark made it. It’s not a secret, but he doesn’t like to have it spread around so much. No idea why, the man’s been a godsend for our charity work. He donated the whole thing to us for free and he donates a ton of money each year.”

“That’s, wow, that’s really nice of him.”

“Well, he’s one of the foremost proponents of omega rights! Of course, he puts his money where his mouth is.”

“Yeah, he does that. He’s a good man.” Steve thinks of Tony in his workshop, working away on software like this.

“Well, anyway, I have to get back to work. Do you need any help finding your way up?”

“No, should be fine, thank you for your time.” Steve gets up from the hideous looking chair and makes sure not to bump his head on the ceiling.

“Yeah, I hope you found what you were looking for.” His hands are clasped together, because if he doesn’t keep them that way, they’ll shake.

“I did, just didn’t much like the answers, but I can’t change that now.”

“Yeah, those were hard days then. Things are better now, but still not great. But the House is about to vote on removing the ability to use any form of physical punishment in an alpha-omega marriage! That’s big news! Have you heard?”

“Yeah, I heard that.” Steve wants to swallow his own tongue. He hit Tony. He can acknowledge that now, that he hit him. Steve had done that with his own two hands.

He makes his way upstairs and looks for Father Jacobs. It’s made easy for him by the fact that the Father is still in the sacristy tidying up.

“Oh! Hello again. Did you find what you were looking for?”

“Yes, but I was wondering if I could just have a bit more of your time.”

“Of course. Would you like to sit somewhere?”

“Yes, I, well… Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

“Ah! Oh yes, ok, um, well, is right here ok? I’d do the booth but we’re already talking face to face, unless you’d like the booth?”

“Here is fine.”

“Sit down, sit down, over here now.” The Father grabs two chairs and pulls them at angles towards each other and sits down.

“Are you always the one in the confession booth?” Steve asks.

“For this month, yes. We’re a little short-staffed. We’ll be seeing a new priest soon. An omega! I’m very excited. As a beta, I always have trouble reaching them, even though we’ve been helping omegas for years. They have reason to be scared though, I suppose. But! It’ll be good to have an omega around to help guide the flock.”

“Then I think we’ve spoken before. I’m Steve Rogers. Captain America.”

“Oh! Oh. Let me—” Father Jacobs bolts up from his seat and closes the basement door and looks outside the sacristy into the church before closing that one too. “There we go, that’s about as private as I can get it. Now, I’d ask you how long since you last confessed, but we’ve divined that already, haven’t we?”

“Yes Father. I have sinned. I laid hands on my husband. I didn’t mean to, I thought, I thought I was doing the right thing by spanking him. It’s been hard adjusting to how everything has changed so much. Omegas are just not like I thought. And I don’t know how to come back from this, this thing I’ve done.”

“Ah, well. You picked a hell of an omega to lay hands on. Oh don’t give me that look, it really is the right word. Mr. Stark is well connected within the community. He’s admired by many. Sorry, I’m not helping much, am I? The way you come back. Well, you have to apologize. And you have to mean it. Understand what you did wrong, and tell him you’re sorry. That’s all you can do. It’s up to him if he wants to forgive you. You can’t ask him to forgive you. What you need to do is forgive yourself. And doing that is a journey that starts with figuring out why you did what you did, and what you need in order to not do it again. Do you understand, son?”

“I do. I don’t know where my thoughts are lately. All I want is for Tony to be… a good omega. To be happy being that. But I don’t even know what a good omega is anymore. I thought I knew. But—” He gestures with his hands in despair.

“Those omegas, you knew them, back when?”

“Brenna, Colleen, and another woman who got out. Edith. It didn’t feel right looking her up.”

“The church helped funnel a lot of omegas out in those days. Many went to the sisterhood. We would trade omegas between the churches, to keep them out of their old neighborhoods. Most alphas never came looking. Too embarrassing to lose your property I suppose. But the ones that did, well, we did our best. There were some good things back then, good alphas who treated their omegas as a partner. But there were many more doing things that we don’t look too kindly on now. Have you any other sins to confess?”

“I feel like I do, but I don’t know what they are. It’s like something wants to come out of me, and it’s tapping at the door to escape, but I have no idea what it means. And I’ll be honest, Father, I’m scared. I’m scared that I’ve harmed Tony permanently and that he’ll never forgive me. I’ve come to want his regard. I think I’ll never have it.”

“Maybe. But through God, all things are possible. You owe it to yourself, and to him that made you, to try to move forward. Don’t get me wrong, that’s hard. It’s a long road, and it’s lonely. Which is why you have to walk with god. And if not god, you have to walk with someone or something. Do you have anyone to talk to?”

“I don’t think so, well, maybe. Maybe one person. But everyone else in my life is upset with me. They wouldn’t spit on me if I was on fire.”

“Then talk to this friend. Confide in them. Maybe something good can come of it. I assume this person already knows your predicament.”

“Yes, he does. And that’s good advice. I’ll talk to him.”

“And say the rosary five times. But spread it out throughout the day, for when you need a bit of strength.”

“I will Father.”

“Also, we had a statue fall in the garden. It’s too heavy for me to lift, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a hand?” Father Jacobs looks at him consideringly, as if Steve would refuse.

“Not at all.” The Father leads him out of the sacristy further into the church, where it opens up into a small courtyard.

“Crushed a couple rose bushes, but hopefully we can get those back up and blooming.” The statue is a saint that he doesn’t recognize, and it’s laying on its side in the garden bed. He walks in and grabs it, hoisting it up, and places it upon its pedestal. He wiggles it from side to side to make sure it’s lodged on tight, for good measure.

When he turns around Father Jacobs has a wide grin on his face.

“So you are that Captain America boy. Well then. You take care of that Tony Stark of yours. Remember what I said.”

“Yes Father.” He walks out of the garden and shakes the priest’s hand once more. He starts to walk away, but turns around and asks: “Father, who is this saint?”

“Saint Anne, Mary’s mother. The patron saint of omegas.” He looks at the statue’s outstretched hands, the fingers of each curling in a gesture of conciliation. And if that isn’t what omegas are always doing, keeping alphas from hurting them or other people.

On the way back home he says two runs of the rosary, which takes up the entire time it takes to get home. He enters the tower with anticipation. He’s going to apologize to Tony. First he’ll make him a nice meal, and then he’ll bring it down, and he’ll say that he’s sorry. He’ll never lay a hand on Tony again and that he hopes Tony can give a friendship between them a real chance.

Thinking of Edith, he puts together a meatloaf recipe his mother knew and does more of his rosary while he waits for it to bake. Tony will either be in his workshop or he won’t. And if he’s not, Steve has to not panic, and just use the telephone he’s been given to find out where Tony is. He knows Tony should tell him where he’s gone, but right now he just wants to get this one thing right. This is a battle he has to win.

He plates the meatloaf and steams some broccoli to go with it. He eats his portion first, needing the fortitude that comes from having a full belly to face this.

When he goes downstairs, Tony is there and Steve breathes a sigh of relief.

He goes in, ready to face defeat or victory, but pinning his faith on the latter.

“Tony?” The music is blaring loud, and he has to shout Tony’s name over it.

“Did the obnoxiously loud music not make it clear that I didn’t want a visit from anyone?”

“Oh. Um. I didn’t realize.”

“Right.” Tony gets up and snatches the plate and sits back down. “You can go now.”

“I wanted to talk.”

“Then talk. I can’t stop you.”

“I’m sorry for spanking you. But I thought I was doing the right thing at the time to get you to be a proper omega. Now I see that there are different ways I could go about doing that. I need you to tell me if and when I’m crossing a line. Otherwise, I don’t know.” Steve watches Tony drop his fork to the plate, letting it clatter. Tony places both palms on his desk and dips his head down as if he’s steeling himself. He turns around.

“First off, I’m not touching anything related to me being a proper omega. Fuck no. Second, how is it me, the victim here, that has to inform you, the abuser, what he’s done wrong and when he’s done it? You should know. I shouldn’t have to tell you. And honestly? You’re crossing the goddamn line right now. Your apology is shit. It’s ‘I’m sorry,’ full stop. Not ‘I’m sorry, but,’ or ‘I’m sorry, however,’ and not even ‘I’m sorry, although.’ It’s just that you’re sorry. That you shouldn’t have done it. That you were thinking this other thing, but it was wrong. That you won’t do it again. And the question that if there’s anything you can do to make it better, along with the commitment that you will do that thing. That’s what an apology looks like Steve. Learn it.”

“I have an eidetic memory, so.” Tony called him an abuser. He’s like Sean. Rory. Conall. That’s what Tony thinks of him. Steve is abruptly so disgusted with himself, he feels his dinner rush back up. He clutches at his stomach, feeling defensive.

“Then I have even less sympathy.” Tony turns back to his desk.

“So that’s it? We just go back to how we’ve been the entire time?”

“Wait, I’m confused. Was it me who hit you? What right do you have to come in here and demand my forgiveness? I owe you nothing.”

For once at a bad time, his Avengers alarm goes off.

“Better get that. Can’t go to battle without our moral and upstanding Captain America.” It cuts him, the insult, and he scrunches his feelings down inside further. He’s messed this up again.

He goes upstairs, feeling leaden throughout his entire body.

Chapter Text

Steve knows that as he’s on his way to meet with Natasha and Clint, that he’s trading Tony’s disdain for theirs.

When he gets there, the team is performing a rescue operation on a building that’s on fire. Natasha and Clint are drawing people from the building one by one, and as he looks up, he sees Iron Man blasting out windows with his repulsors and diving into rooms.

It doesn’t take them that long to get everyone from the building. The fire department is there with its portable cranes and long hoses, sluicing the building with water from the top down. Clint doesn’t shoot him this time at least, but both Natasha nor Clint say anything to him on the coms.

Without being asked, Iron Man drops down next to him.

“Iron Man.”

“Cap.”

“I’m glad you’re still talking to me. I was wondering if I could confide in you.”

“Is this where you tell me you’ve murdered someone and need help moving the body? Because we aren’t that close.” Iron Man chuckles at his own joke and kicks at the ground, dislodging some gravel.

“No, ha, nothing like that. It’s to do with my omega. My priest said I should talk to a friend, which is you, since you’re the only one that’s still speaking to me. I just wanted to get your advice.”

“Ok, I can be that for you. Lay it on me.”

“I tried to apologize to my omega, for spanking him. I didn’t realize how bad it is to do that. He’s… He’s honestly really amazing. I never realized all he does for other omegas. And I broke that trust with him, if I ever had it. And I don’t know how to get it back, if I ever will.”

“Hmm. Well, what did he say when you apologized?”

“That I didn’t do it right. Gave me a whole list on how to do it.”

“So then don’t you think you should try that?”

“Is it that simple?” Steve asks.

“Could be. Don’t know until you try.” Iron Man tilts his head to the side, like he does.

“And you think he’ll come to see that I do care for him?”

“Maybe. Depends on if you follow through with your promises, I suppose.”

“Yeah. I was thinking that he’s going to go into heat soon. And I heard it’s hard for omegas to be without their alpha during. But I don’t think I should spend his heat with him, if he dislikes me that much.” Steve shakes his head.

“I think that’s his choice. Don’t you agree?”

“But I’ve been horrible to him. He couldn’t possibly want to spend it with me. And besides, I’ve never, well, I’ve never been with anyone. I wouldn’t know what to do!”

“Still his choice. If you think he does know best for himself, then prove it.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.”

“But what if I hurt him?” Steve is no longer sure anymore what would make Tony feel pain. Tony is like spun glass, rigid but breakable. Fragile but strong. A contradiction.

“We can’t become paralyzed in our decision making when the call is not ours to make. You have to extend trust to him, that he knows what he’s doing. You give that fear, that unknowable element, over to him, as his partner, his lover.” He shudders, his body going molten thinking about being Tony’s lover and sliding down between those olive-toned thighs into a kind of heaven he’s only read about. But he’s not Tony’s. Though maybe if Tony wants him to be, he could.

“I suppose I have to try. I’ll think about what you said.”

“Ok, well I gotta go Cap.”

“No problem. Thanks again, for listening.” Steve has a lot to go over in his mind.

“I’d say call me any time, but secret identity and all. Later!” Iron Man takes off then, swooping through the sky and soon becoming a little speck.

Steve walks over to Natasha and Clint, who are loitering around the Quinjet, waiting.

“Hey Captain Fuckface, starve anyone today?”

Steve recoils, but before he can say anything, Natasha shuts it down.

“That’s enough, Barton.” Natasha is eyeing him up, her gaze scrutinizing. “What’s changed?”

“I’m sorry, what?” Steve stops, hefting his shield in his arms.

“Something is different. Come in tomorrow, same time and place.” Nat turns and walks into the Quinjet then.

“Yeah, I can do that,” he says, not sure if she can hear him.

The ride back is quick this time, and at least Barton isn’t staring him down like he had before. No, he’s just pretending that Steve isn’t there. Steve thinks that maybe he owes Barton an apology somewhere, but for what?

He’s exhausted when he gets back to the tower, and he doesn’t go check on Tony, because he knows he’s not ready to apologize in the way Tony needs. He has to think about what he’s going to say, to make sure it’s perfect.

Instead, he goes to bed, thinking about how he’s going to talk to Nat tomorrow. He’s found the three omegas per his homework. Brenna, Colleen, and Edith.

The next day he does his run and then goes to SHIELD. He half expects Edith to be waiting for him, but instead, it’s just Natasha.

“Sit down, Rogers.” He does so, waiting for her next word. “Tell me about the three omegas you think are successful.”

“Edith is one. As you probably guessed. But the other two are Brenna and Colleen. I knew them, back when I lived in Brooklyn Heights. Brenna… died of a suicide and Colleen was institutionalized several times. They were so brave, and I never knew.”

“Is that what you’ve been doing when you’ve gone to that church?”

“How did you know about that?”

“I make it my business to know everything.”

“I see. Yes. That was part of it. Did you know that Tony supports the Omega Support Network?”

“Yes. Tony does a lot of things.” Natasha taps her fingers on the desk in front of her and shifts in her seat.

“Right.”

“Today we’re going on a little field trip. I’ll be driving.” Natasha gets up from her seat and walks towards the door. Steve also stands, feeling a little out of sorts with leaving the room.

“Where to?”

“You’ll see. Follow me, Rogers.”

“Don’t you want to know more about Brenna and Colleen?” He asks.

“That wasn’t the point of the exercise, Captain. It sounds like you know them and that’s what I needed from you.”

“Oh, ok.” Steve gets up and follows Natasha out the door. They don’t run into anyone at all, and for that Steve is grateful. They climb into a SHIELD issued Cadillac and Natasha takes to the streets, dipping and winding through traffic as though she drives every day. New York isn’t normally a place for cars. Steve certainly had never driven one until he got into the army.

They go on like this in silence for about ten minutes before Natasha pulls into a nondescript building.

“This is a domestic violence shelter for omegas. They have special visiting days for alphas, but you’ll need to make yourself as non-threatening as possible. A lot of omegas here have been hurt by their alphas, and some don’t feel comfortable around alphas. The omegas you meet today are willing to share their stories. Do you understand?” Steve curls his shoulders inward, preparing to make himself smaller.

“I do.” The thought of Tony in one of these shelters occurs to him, and he shudders internally. What would Tony say? That his husband restricted his eating, spanked him, forced him to do things with his money? Steve has done all those things. He’s just not sure anymore what a proper omega is, but he’s starting to suspect it’s not what he thought.

As they walk towards the building, Steve wonders what he’s going to see today. He doesn’t know if he can bear the scrutiny of the omegas. It’s like they’ll be able to see that he’s hit Tony. They’ll somehow know.

The door opens and they stand in an entryway that looks like it has some serious security. Natasha hits an intercom and tells them her name, and the door buzzes open. It leads to a second room where a beta is waiting for them.

“You’ll have to check in your cell phones and any knives or other weaponry. I know you’re from a government agency, but we can’t have any of those things here. No pictures, no nothing. Understood?” Nat drops a few knives into the bin that she pulls out from who knows where on her person. Steve, who has nothing but his cell phone, drops that into the bin also.

“Ok, great. Now just walk through this metal detector and we’ll be on our way.”

They do so, the machine not beeping in the slightest as they go on through. Steve never thought he would see the day that Natasha actually left all her knives off, but he supposes if she wanted to kill someone, she could do it anyway.

Inside there’s a round table where a few omegas are sitting, chatting with one another. They go on alert as soon as he and Natasha enter, eyes sharp with assessment. Steve is reminded of the omegas in the church basement. Their faces look like they’re waiting for something. Waiting for an alpha to prove he’s just like all the rest, and hurt them. It breaks Steve’s heart to see so many omegas living in fear of what an alpha can do.

But he realizes that even though omegas aren’t property anymore, a married omega has fewer rights than an alpha. They have no protection against sex without their consent, and even though what Steve has done is despicable, it’s not yet illegal. Steve can’t believe what he’s done now. He knows that none of these omegas likely deserved their circumstances, the ones that brought them here.

Even if they had been promiscuous, they didn’t deserve this.

It’s a testament to Tony’s strength that he struggles to imagine Tony here. Tony has always been defiant, rebellious. Once he wanted to curb that. Now he thinks that he rather likes how Tony always stands up for himself, no matter what. It’s admirable.

They sit down at the table, pulling in their chairs.

“Hello, I’m Trevor. This is Angela and Mary.” The male omega holds out his hand, and Steve, not knowing whether he’s bonded or not, takes it by instinct before realizing he should have maybe checked to see if the man was bonded. For some reason, it doesn’t hold as much weight in his mind anymore whether an omega is bonded or not, and if he should touch them. He figures the omega can decide for himself whether he wants to be touched.

They release their grip on each other as Trevor goes to shake Natasha’s hand.

“So you’re here to get our stories, yeah? Well, I can go first, mine is boring. My alpha raped me. Which they don’t call it rape, do they? But that’s what he did. My parents strongly encouraged me to marry him at one point in time. And then later I strongly encouraged myself to leave and ended up here. It’s been hard, but good.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Steve says. He doesn’t know what else there is to say otherwise. Steve would never force himself on Tony.

“It’s fine. If you want to be sorry, just don’t do anything like that to your omega.” Trevor’s eyes are hard, accusatory.

“I would never.” Natasha looks at him as if she is about to suggest that he would do otherwise, but something quells her into not saying a word.

The omega next to him starts to speak.

“My story is a bit more complicated. I’m Angela, by the way. My alpha at the time didn’t start off as bad as all that. He never forced me to do anything. I worked; it’s not illegal for me to have a job, but all the money I made went to a joint account with him. I never saw a dime of it. But I didn’t need to at the time, you know?”

It was fine for so many years. I’m in my late 30s. I never wanted for anything. My husband signed for my birth control and expensive heat suppressants so I could do my job traveling doing software installs for a healthcare company. My money paid for all these things, but as with everything, you need your alpha’s permission to use your own money if you opted for a joint account. And even then your alpha can close down your individual checking account without you present.”

Steve thinks that Angela leads a good life so far, and it sounds like her alpha took care of her as best he could. While he wouldn’t take Tony’s money from him, he understood the need to work together to ensure a good future. He wonders what went wrong for that to change.

“I was twenty-nine when he told me that it was time to settle down and have a child. That my job was expendable. Thing is, I was making almost $25,000 more a year than he was. I never realized how much this bothered him until he said that what I did wasn’t that important. Nothing was more important than raising our family.”

Steve feels a sudden rush of too much similarity between himself and Angela’s husband. No, Steve never intended nor intends to make Tony bear his children, but the idea that Angela, who seemed to be a hardworking omega with a good head on her shoulders, had her money and job taken upsets him. Tony makes more than he does, he knows that, but Steve controls his birth control. He remembers signing the sheets that allowed it when he signed the contract, but he hasn’t thought about it since. There’s something wrong with how these laws put Steve in charge of Tony’s body. Steve has decided to stop controlling so much of what Tony does, but it hadn’t occurred to him that an alpha could choose to keep doing that, no matter what the results were. And that feels as wrong as spanking Tony had been.

“I wasn’t ready. I was on the cusp of a promotion and another raise. My job was my life, and it meant everything to me. But David, he wanted what he wanted. So he cut off my birth control, my heat suppressants. I tried to get him to reconsider, but he wouldn’t. I tried to avoid him during my heat, but he was there, and I just… well, I couldn’t say no in that state. So I was pregnant within three months.”

Her husband also raped her. He waited until she was in the throes of heat and he took advantage. In the same way that Steve would be taking advantage of Tony. He feels so sick to his stomach.

“I tried filing for divorce, but the judge issued a marital estoppel because I was pregnant. It said that because I agreed to the marriage, and the life of the fetus was potentially in jeopardy otherwise, I couldn’t go back on my marriage claim. There was no way to escape. I had no money, no job, and here I had this baby that was going to be born into this, this life. David wasn’t a bad alpha, a bad man. I know that. He was doing what he thought was right. But what he did, it’s wrong. I don’t regret being pregnant, but I lost my entire life.”

Steve looks into Angela’s eyes as she’s telling the story, and he’s drowning in their blue depths. He’s choking on his excuses, his reasons.

“So I ran. I’m still running. David can’t find me and Madison here. I’m working on divorce proceedings now, but David, he keeps trying to find me. I don’t know why I agreed to this meeting today. I think I did because I didn’t want to be scared anymore. David can’t walk in here and get me. He can’t take my money again. He can’t take my daughter. She’s an omega, and this isn’t the life I’d want her to live. I’m doing this so she doesn’t have to live this way.”

Steve had stayed silent and patient throughout Angela’s story, but the idea that an alpha had stolen her hard-earned funds, had coerced her into a pregnancy, something about it got to him. He’d controlled Tony’s finances. What if he had been coercing Tony and he had also taken away Tony’s money? He wasn’t as bad as David. He’d never tried to force Tony into a pregnancy, but something niggled at him that Tony should have the right to try and get away if he felt he needed to.

A $150 budget for clothing was no better than what David had done to stop Angela from living the life she wanted. Her job was respectable, like Tony’s.

“Thank you for sharing Angela,” Natasha says, breaking him from his thoughts. He can smell the fear in Angela, but the determination as well. Trevor sits silent at her side, his hand on her shoulder.

“Some of us here, we help through the heats, as best we can. We don’t have a knot, but it’s better than nothing. We don’t need alphas.” Trevor is glowering at him now, as if he’s specifically offensive to them.

“I understand.” Omegas being with omegas were common when he was young. Some omegas wanted to spend heat with their kind. It was allowed and encouraged when an alpha couldn’t get time off work. It looks like that hasn’t changed much.

“I’m Tracy. I was a betrothal baby. They grandfathered us in, you know. My alpha was much older than I am. Something like twenty years? I was given to him when I was sixteen, the age of omega consent in my state. Maybe someone else would have been fine with it. Sometimes I think I just complained too much about things.” Angela puts a hand on Tracy’s arm as if to say that what she said isn’t true.

“Well. I had nothing to lose. I’m twenty one now, and I got out a half year ago. Thankfully the alpha isn’t contesting the divorce. I guess he loses interest in them when they’re past pubescent age. He has another betrothal that he purchased that he wants to make good on. They’re commodities you know. There’s about three years worth of betrothals left before they’re all gone and done. Alphas like to buy and sell them.”

Steve is nauseated at the thought of older alphas taking advantage of young omegas. And even further repulsed when he thinks about what a betrothal means. If he hadn’t been so sickly, would his mother have betrothed him? He doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to know.

“Alex got me off of a family friend who was supposed to take care of me. My parents thought that he would be there for me, as we’d known his family for years. But when he got into some bad debt, he traded me off to Alex. My parents could do nothing. I could do nothing. I have a hard time thinking of what Alex did to me as rape. Not like Trevor. He—he was kind to me. Built me nice nests, was with me through all of my heats, bathed me, and fed me. But I was just an object to him. He would tell me that I was cherished, loved. But I existed in this narrow space for him.”

Those words run through him like refrigerant in his veins. He’s always said that Tony was cherished. That Tony needed minding. But instead, he’s thinking of himself as Alex and he’s revolted. Alex said he loved his omega, but he so easily gave her up when she became inconvenient. And there was no protection for her to ensure that didn’t happen.

“I wasn’t able to work when I was with him. I have no job experience now. He got me birth control, but not suppressants for the heats. Those he wanted. Sometimes, sometimes I was tired. The doctor said my body was reacting poorly to being in heat so much. It happens sometimes with omegas, since we’re built to be pregnant a lot of the time. The suppressants work by making your body think it’s pregnant, which is important for us like it isn’t for betas. Alex… he wanted what he wanted. I just wanted the choice, you know? Just the choice would have been nice. To have some time without a heat, or try to work. But he always steered me away from those things.”

Steve would never stop Tony from working. Never take his money. But he sees how his limiting Tony has been just one form of mishandling.

“The new thing now is that omegas can be traded between families. As long as you have another omega to replace the one, you can trade. It used to be an uncommon thing, but it’s coming back now that betrothals have been outlawed. There’s entire markets built on trading omegas for marriage. Can you imagine someone doing that to their daughter? I’m lucky I got out without being pregnant. Not everyone is so lucky, sorry Angela.”

“It’s ok. You’re not wrong.” She rubs her hand up and down Tracy’s arm. Trevor is still sitting there with his arms crossed defensively.

Steve is once again overwhelmed with information. He never thought that things were this bad for omegas. He should have known. He just had never felt like an omega himself because he’d never had heats.

“So what’re you doing here anyway?” Trevor asks. Natasha remains silent.

“Uh, I’m just trying to understand more about omegas. I have a betrothal to one, and I’m trying to do right by him, but it’s been hard for me to understand what to do. I was taught some different things. And I just don’t want to hurt him.”

“So you did something stupid, and you’re here to try and un-stupid yourself. What’d you do?” Trevor sounds accusatory.

“Um, I feel foolish talking about it. I mean, I feel just as horrible as those alphas in your stories. I don’t know where the line between them and myself begins and ends,” Steve says.

“I’ll be honest. You’re all the same in the end. I’ve never met one alpha in my life who hasn’t crossed the line at least once.” The other omegas stay silent beside Trevor as he speaks.

“So there’s no hope?” Steve asks.

“Not for us. Maybe things’ll get better between you two, but you can’t ever know what it’s like to be us. To experience what we’ve had to go through and come out the other side. I’ll never trust an alpha again. None of you deserve that trust.” Trevor tightens his grip on his crossed arms, his eyes stormy with repressed anger.

“Well you’re here aren’t you? You’re trying? That’s more than our alphas would have done,” Tracy says.

Steve steels himself and agrees to admit to his crimes. Even if Trevor can’t find it inside of him to be forgiving.

“I spanked him. I never knew what it did to omegas, and how it was used. I controlled his finances, his whereabouts. It wasn’t even my money. I’ve never touched him besides the spankings. Never coerced him into sex. I wouldn’t do that.”

“You’re using past tense, so you’re already better than half the alphas of the omegas that come through here,” Angela says, though she looks resigned and irritated.

“I don’t know why I’m here, but I think listening to your stories has helped,” Steve murmurs, trying not to incite further censure.

“We know you’re trying. It’s hard to change. We had to give up our lives to get out. As long as you don’t make him give up his, you’re doing the best you can,” Tracy says.

“I think I’ve not been doing the best I can. I’ve let thoughts of what a proper omega means cloud my senses towards right and wrong. The things I’ve tried to impose on him… I can’t see doing it now, but I can’t unsee doing it.”

“Well as much as we’d like to be here to steward your alpha-breakdown, we have to go. You won’t find forgiveness here. You can’t just change your behavior or your thoughts on one aspect. You need to see that omegas are equal, and we don’t deserve, under any circumstances, to not be able to make decisions for our lives, even if they are bad ones. That’s our right. Do you get it?”

“I’m trying to understand, I am. I think I know the specific things I did were wrong, but when I look at omegas, all I see is someone to be protected, and that doesn’t feel wrong to me.” Steve shifts in his seat and tries not to look at Natasha to see what she’s thinking about all this. Her face is as impassive as usual.

“My husband thought he was protecting me too. But here I am,” Angela says.

“You should let him go, your omega. He deserves better than you. We all deserve better than you. We’re leaving.” Trevor stands up and takes Angela’s hand, helping her stand.

He and Natasha push in their chairs and leave out the secure front door.

They get into the car, and Natasha sits there for a moment, not turning the key in the ignition.

“If someone had asked me to bet on you, I would have bet against you. But something is different about you this past week. I don’t think it’s going to be a perfect journey, a perfect change, but you have done more than I expected.”

“If I had known any different, I swear I wouldn’t have done most of the things I’ve done.”

“You were once an omega yourself. How did you ever justify doing to Tony the things you did when you knew what it was like?”

“I never knew what it was like. I was too sick for heats, so I never had to marry or spend them alone. My mom kept me sheltered. I see that now. I never talked to the other omegas. I wasn’t like them.”

“But you were like them.”

“Maybe.” He wasn’t. He was an alpha. That’s what he is.

Steve gets back to the tower feeling like a used towel. The stink of fear of the omegas he met clings to him like a bad cologne. Raped omegas, coerced omegas, scared omegas. All the things his instincts cry out to fix. His thoughts linger on Angela, whose alpha controlled their finances with such an iron fist, that the money she earned was something she was never allowed to touch.

Steve would never do that to Tony completely, but he realized he had made it impossible for Tony to make his own decisions financially. It had never made more sense than when he realized that omegas need a way to get out, always.

The tower is quiet, and he proceeds to make a quick dinner again, something comforting. Chicken and dumpling soup seems like the right play. He rolls out the dumplings as he cooks the chicken, before tossing in chopped vegetables. A bit of cream and adding the dumplings, and it’s almost ready.

He makes a bowl for Tony with some bread on the side and heads down once more. It seems that Tony hardly ever leaves his workshop these days, and Steve wonders if that’s where he feels the most safe.

Tony turns when the door opens, and gets up automatically, going for the bowl and plate of food that Steve has brought.

“Oh, that looks good. You getting tired of providing for me yet?”

“No. I like making you food. I like it when you eat what I make.”

“Hmm, maybe there’s hope for you yet, Rogers.”

“I wanted to try apologizing again, if that’s ok?”

“Fire away.”

“I am sorry for hitting you. It was wrong, and I won’t do it again. I thought I was enforcing discipline, but I realize that it was hurting you and wasn’t helping at all. Is there anything I can do to make it better for you? I would like to commit to doing that.”

“Wow, it’s almost as if you had a template. Good job. Yeah, there’s something you can do for me, but for now, I forgive you.”

“You forgive me?” Steve feels a stirring of hope.

“I do. There’s something I wanted to ask you for, however.” Tony taps his fingers on his desk.

“What, anything.”

“I want you to spend my heat with me.”

Chapter Text

Steve’s mind grinds to a halt. This is exactly like Iron Man told him. Every part of him cries out to refuse Tony, to say he’s not worthy. That he doesn’t want to be Tracy’s husband who just wanted the heats as if they were his by right.

“Ok Tony. Is there anything I need to do in the meantime?”

“It’s coming up in a couple days. I need things for my nest. If I could be on suppressants, I would, but a fresh bond means a strong heat that could burst through the suppressants anyways. Better to just get it over with. We’ll discuss it more as we get closer.”

“It’s in a couple of days, isn’t that close already?”

“Fine, I suppose. I’ll go over the rules with you.”

“Thank you,” Steve says in a rush of relief.

“Don’t thank me yet. The first is that I’m going to say a lot of things I don’t mean during heat. You are not under any circumstances to assume I mean them when I’m done with heat. Is that clear?”

“I don’t know what you mean at all. Why would you say things you don’t mean?”

“Heats cloud my better judgment. Things I might say would be asking you to breed me. I don’t actually want your babies, just so we’re clear. But in my heat, I might ask for it.”

“Ok, I don’t understand why or how, but I agree with what you’re saying.”

“I suppose that’s all I can ask for. Next is that when we’re done with the heat, I won’t want you again. This is it. One heat and we won’t share anything else again.” Steve’s heart, that he didn’t know belonged to Tony now, breaks. This is all he’ll get with Tony. One chance to be his partner and take care of him. There are no more chances after this. He’s irrevocably ruined any possibility that they’ll be together.

He swallows.

“Ok, I understand.”

“Do you? Just because I ride your knot once, doesn’t mean I want you again. Can you live with that?”

“I suppose I have to. But I’ll do my best to convince you otherwise I suppose.”

“Hmm, when did you start wanting me then?”

“Less than a week after I married you.”

“We’re more than a month in. That’s a long time to pine about things and do nothing to get in my good graces.”

“I don’t know how to do that Tony. I’m trying, but it seems like I’m doing the bare minimum.”

“Yes, I can see that you’ve given it some amount of effort. You’re a good cook, at least. Look, there’s a credit card on the counter up there. Go find me nice soft things. Tomorrow is the charity gala you said you’d attend with me.” Steve’s heart skips a beat as he thinks about getting pillows and blankets for Tony’s nest. Will Tony like what he picks out?

“Tomorrow? Is there anything I should wear?”

“Already taken care of. Check your closet and try it on tonight. Make sure it fits.”

“Ok, Tony.”

“And lastly, you should meet JARVIS. JARVIS?”

“Sir.” A disembodied voice comes from the ceiling and Steve ducks slightly as if something might come swooping towards him.

“He’s my AI butler. I wasn’t going to introduce you because you’ve been a total asshole, but it seems like you’re losing a bit of that with all the efforts that SHIELD has been making.”

“Wait, you know about my classes?”

“There’s not a lot I don’t know, Steve. Did you enjoy your time in church? I don’t know what you confessed to the priest. That’s just a step too far for my privacy invasions.” Tony smiles, and it’s more unguarded than Steve’s seen in the past.

“I didn’t realize you knew everything.” Steve smiles back, bashful.

“I know a lot more than you think, but not everything.”

“So this JARVIS, how does he work?”

“He’s in every part of the tower, including your room, but only if you ask him to be. You can ask him for anything you need. He’ll tell you to the best of his ability. Like, you don’t have to constantly check on me in the workshop. JARVIS knows. Not that I don’t love when you bring me food, but sometimes your loitering outside the door gives me hives.”

“You love it when I bring you food?” His little fantasy of feeding Tony might not be that far off. He can see them sharing Tony’s heat, Steve pressing sweet berries to Tony’s plump mouth. He wants to kiss the juices on those lips, lick Tony’s mouth clean. His thoughts of Tony have never been stronger, and it’s like his body is a live wire now that he knows in a couple days time he’s going to be sharing Tony’s heat.

And Tony might beg to be bred, which sends Steve’s mind into paroxysms of arousal just thinking about Tony pregnant. Even though he knows that he wouldn’t be able to get Tony pregnant, that doesn’t stop his body from thinking that it wants to try anyway.

“Of course, you pick that out of all of what I said. Yes, I enjoy being fed. Happy?”

“Very.” He found he meant it. “So, JARVIS. Why didn’t you introduce us before?”

“Really? You really want to ask that question?”

“I guess not. I’ll go get the nest things for you?”

“Sounds good.” That was a dismissal if he ever heard one. He did as Tony said and found the credit card, but he didn’t know where to go or what to buy. Taking a risk, he dialed Natasha, who had been programmed into his phone.

“This is Nat.”

“Natasha? It’s Steve.” He paused, waiting for her to say that she didn’t want his call or that he was barking up the wrong tree, whatever it was that he wanted.

“What is it?” She sounded mostly normal, but Steve couldn’t honestly tell.

“Tony’s heat is coming, and he asked me to spend it with him. He wants me to get things for the nest, but I don’t know what to get.”

The line is silent for a moment.

“I’ll meet you in the Tower lobby in twenty. Don’t think this changes things between us. I’m doing this for Stark.”

Steve tidies up the kitchen and sets the dirty dishes he used to the side. There’s no time to clean them all off now. He sets the pot to soaking, and by the time he’s done, he figures he should go wait in the lobby.

When he gets down, he sits at one of the tables there and watches the ebb and flow of traffic. He pulls out his phone to fiddle with, as he has nothing else. He’s nervous, uncertain what Natasha will say or do. Really, this is the first time they’ll be able to have a conversation about everything that’s happened thus far.

Natasha walks in wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, something he’s never seen her in before.

“Ok, let’s get this over with, Rogers.”

“I’d like to make sure I get Tony the best nesting material. Won’t that take some time?”

“You and every other alpha. I know just the place.” When they pull up to a store that has big, shining letters that say ‘nest,’ Steve feels rather foolish.

“It’s a tacky name, but this is the best place to go.”

“Will you come in with me?”

“As if I’d leave you to your own devices, Rogers.”

Inside looks like the plushest place that Steve has ever seen. There are example nests built everywhere, on top of platforms, and on the ground. There’s nest ‘bundles’ where you can buy everything at one price. Some of the nests are ostentatious, while others look homey. Steve is overwhelmed with choices, and he stands there, slack-jawed.

“Come on then. Let’s find a salesperson.” Natasha grips his arm and pulls him along.

“Hi there! Welcome to Nest! Can I get some sample swatches started for you today?” Steve looks agog at the woman who stops in front of them. She’s omega, and she smells bonded.

“Yes, whatever your finest is,” Natasha replies for him. “Keep it together Rogers. I’d almost think you actually care about what goes into Stark’s nest.”

“I do care. Why would you think I don’t?”

“You hurt him. That happened a little more than a week ago, now. I have yet to see what changes you’ve wrought in the meantime.”

“I still think omegas should be cherished and protected, but I guess the way I do that has changed. I like to feed Tony, and I like that he’s… defiant. It looks good on him. I don’t touch him, I promise I won’t touch him anymore. I know he doesn’t really want me, like that.”

“Hmm, I suppose that’s something. Now try not to buy everything.” The sales rep comes back with a stack of fabrics in her arms. Steve reflexively reaches out to touch them.

“Here, let me help.” Nat starts going through the pile, rapid-fire, pulling fabric left and right. She makes three piles, most of which go into the first pile. “Ok, none of these.” She shoves the first pile away.

Steve then reaches out to touch the first swatch in pile three. It’s buttery soft, almost a suede.

“That one is our vegan suede, very popular when it’s cold out.” So maybe not that one, since it’s summer.

Steve latches onto the next one, which feels like silk. It ripples in his fingers and he immediately knows that he wants some of this one. But in a blanket or what?

“This one. What does it come in?” Natasha is silent beside him, letting him run the show.

“Pillows and blankets. It’s best as an accent piece, while going for something else like Egyptian cotton with a high thread count as the base. We have something that’s a four thousand thread count, but it is expensive.”

“If that’s the best base, we want that. Is it in these swatches?” Steve asks.

“No, let me go grab a piece for you. One moment,” the salesperson says.

“You’re taking this rather seriously. Do you like Tony?” Natasha asks.

“Yes, of course I do. He’s… he’s pretty amazing. Did you know he developed software for the Omega Support Network? And he donates to charities often.”

“Yes, I knew those things.”

“I just didn’t realize how generous he is.”

“Knowing he’s a good person isn’t the same as liking him.”

“Well, he’s got that attitude, where he’s so very stubborn. It reminds me of me, I guess. And he’s beautiful. Too handsome for his own good, if you ask me.” He shuffles from foot to foot. If you had asked him where he’d be today, he never would have thought he’d be here. And less than a few weeks ago, he would have insisted that Tony be the ‘ideal’ omega. The type of omega he’s come to realize doesn’t really exist.

“Would you have him another way?”

“No, yes, no. I don’t know. I can’t imagine him differently, but part of me still thinks that he could come to enjoy some of the softer side of things.” Steve rubs at his neck, ruffling the hair on the back of his head.

“A nest isn’t soft enough?” Natasha tilts her head in askance.

“It’s pretty soft,” Steve says.

The salesperson comes back with a cloth that feels so soft and tough at the same time. Something sturdy with which to build the nest. Steve gets a few blankets and pillows of it in muted colors, along with the silk in pillows and blankets. They also look into the nest pads and pick out one with a firm base so that Tony can build atop it with ease.

Steve looks at the card in his wallet that Tony gave him, but realizes he wants to get this for Tony on his own dime. The government had given him back pay, and SHIELD did pay him for his services. When the total comes up to over two thousand dollars, Steve grimaces, but pays it without comment using his card.

Thankfully they have everything on hand at the store in muted colors, so they load up the car and head back to the tower. Natasha takes him to a special parking garage that he didn’t realize was in the tower at all, and they haul their stuff up the elevator.

“Thanks for the help, Natasha.” He hopes they’re on better terms after this, but he’s not going to force the issue.

“You’re welcome, Rogers. You don’t deserve him, but if he wants to give you a chance, then we can too.”

“He’s not giving me a chance Natasha. After his heat is done, he said he’s done with me. This is all I get. But it’s fine. It’s going to be ok, because if this is it, I’ll make sure it’s good for him.” Steve wrings his hands together and then crosses his arms.

“You might be a better man than expected, Steve. Keep this up, and Clint won’t even try to shoot you anymore.” Natasha glances at him, her red hair brushing her shoulder as she shakes her head.

“I should apologize to him, shouldn’t I? He’s a good agent. That’s all that really matters.” Even if Steve thinks deep down that someone should be looking out for Clint.

“I’ll say something to him,” Natasha says.

“You don’t trust me enough to handle my own problems?”

“Clint trusts me. If it were up to him, he’d never forgive you. Intervention is necessary.”

“Ok. I guess I have to trust you on that too.” She nods and then turns around, going back the way she came on the elevator. Steve is left alone with a ton of blankets and pillows.

“JARVIS?” He’s leery about the AI, but he figures he better get over it, since there are only so many connections to Tony he’s going to get.

“Sir is in the workshop. Shall I inform him you’re here with the nesting supplies?”

“If you would, please.” It’s weird talking to a disembodied voice in the ceiling, but his week has been weirder still. He’s gone from thinking the things he was doing were ok to do to Tony to realizing they weren’t ok to do to anyone. Even if omegas needed minding in a hands-off way. Steve still thinks that Tony shouldn’t have been so promiscuous or free with his body, but there’s nothing he can do about that now.

He hears Tony before he sees him, and the omega comes into the living area with a big grin on his face. It’s something he hasn’t seen before, and he’s thrilled to the bone to have Tony here and happy. His omega should always be happy. Steve should feed him more. Maybe Steve should learn new recipes from this era, like the Mexican food Tony likes to order sometimes, or the Thai. He doesn’t like spicy food, but he knows Tony doesn’t mind it.

“Looks like you got quite the haul. A nesting pad? Interesting. I’ve never made a nest before, but this looks good. Oh, and uh, I’ll need some things scented by you, if you wouldn’t mind sleeping with a blanket and some pillows from here.”

“Not at all, Tony. I’ll just take these ones?” He pulls the silk ones out, thinking it’ll hold the scent a bit longer. The natural fibers should absorb his scent and give Tony the comfort he needs.

“Yeah, that seems good. Real silk? Rogers, you really did go all out for me.” Tony’s smile is cheeky, secretive like he knows something Steve doesn’t. Steve really wants to kiss him. Just gather the omega up in his arms and fasten his lips around Tony’s. He has to stop himself from thinking it, because he only gets one chance at convincing Tony to stay with him, and even then, if Tony kicks him out after, it’s done. It’s over with.

“Whatever you need, Tony.”

“Whatever I need? I do like the sound of that. Ok, model your suit for me. We can deal with this stuff in a bit.”

“Alright.” He feels trepidation at the idea of showing off for Tony, but he goes to his room quickly, discarding clothes across the floor of his room as he reaches for the suit that he knows should be in his closet. When he pulls it out, he can see that it’s a deep navy, almost black, with a brighter navy button down for underneath, along with a vest. There’s a brown belt included, and he spots a new pair of brown loafers as well. There’s delicate stitching on the edges of the suit that gives it an interesting pattern, but otherwise is understated as the rest of it is.

Steve shrugs the top on, buttoning quickly. The pants go next, and he tucks the shirt in. Sports jackets have always been difficult for him with his broad shoulders, but this fits him perfectly snug. He wonders where Tony got his measurements from. Lastly, he ties the navy silk tie around his neck and steps back to check himself in the mirror. He could use some cufflinks, but he can pick those up tomorrow.

Slipping on the loafers, he goes out to meet Tony.

“Oh yes, you do clean up nice Captain.” Tony circles around him, admiring every angle. Steve stays stock still, preening just a little at Tony’s inspection.

“Like what you see?” The question is a little aggressive, but he wants Tony to want him too. He dreams about the man, even if sometimes it’s only in sensations and the wistful shadows of touch that he imagines.

“I do. I’ll be looking forward to your knot in the next couple of days.”

“Tony!”

“Still upset by my brash nature? You’ll have to get used to it, sunshine. I’ll be begging for you come my heat. What will you think of me then, I wonder?” Steve tries to balance the sensation of Tony saying he’ll beg for Steve against the idea that Tony will beg at all. These things seem incongruent sensations, and they won’t reconcile. Steve feels momentary jealousy and agitation at the thought that Tony has spent time with other alphas and betas. That he’s taken knots and other men’s cocks freely, as if his body was to be used. Steve doesn’t want to use Tony, he wants to worship him.

It’s just so hard though, to think about Tony defiling himself. But he shouldn’t say anything, because he knows Tony will come down hard on him.

“I can’t say what I’ll think. It’s hard to imagine.”

“Hmm. Evasive answer, but fine. Let’s get this nest settled, shall we?” Tony hefts up a bag of pillows and drags another to his room. Steve grabs the pad, which is a lot heavier and follows behind.

“Where do you want this?”

“I cleared out this corner over here.” Tony points to a spot where indeed there’s no furniture. He tucks the pad into the corner and goes back for the blankets.

Tony is tucking the pillows against the wall when he gets back, and Steve unbundles the blankets to help. Tony snatches a large one and lays it down on the pad, tucking the edges into the sides under the pillow and smoothing out the surface. The base is one of the cotton ones, the four thousand thread count.

“Oh, this is nice. This must have been expensive.” Tony holds the blanket up to the air and examines it, rubbing his thumbs along the seams at the top where he’s gripping the fabric.

“You needed the best. I have the card for you by the way. I didn’t use it,” Steve admits.

“Why not? I have more money than God.” Tony gives him a questioning look.

“It didn’t seem right. I wanted to do this for you.” Steve shrugs.

“Mm, good alpha.” And holy mother of God, that should not do it for him, but it does. He swells with pride that he’s taken care of his mate, his husband. He wants to tackle Tony down onto the mattress, press his body up against the omega’s, and rut into him. Instead, he goes for another blanket to cover his thickening erection.

“I’m setting aside the ones you want me to take.” Steve grabs a few silk pillows and a nice silk blanket. Tony is already pressing the other silk one into a corner while he tosses more of the silk pillows here and there. The nest is looking more complete, and Tony crawls into it on his hands and knees, giving Steve shivers down his spine just thinking about Tony doing that in the nude.

“Come join me in the nest. I’m going to sleep here tonight and the next, until the heat comes. I’ve been running cold the past few days and it’d be nice to feel warm again.”

Steve all but lunges for the bed after tossing his suit jacket aside, sidling up to where Tony is and plopping down next to his omega. He wants to hold him, to open his arms, and let Tony sink into them, but he waits for permission.

“Let me in, Steve. I know how hot you run. JARVIS told me.” Tony graces Steve with his back, pushing on his arms with it so that Steve is forced to open them. He does so, letting them fall around Tony’s smaller frame. He tucks the omega back to his chest and breathes in the scent of Tony. It’s sweeter, like ripening fruit, and with the hint of metal and something that is Tony’s exclusively. There’s no cologne today, but the whisper of it on Tony’s skin is still there. He latches his chin over Tony’s shoulder and presses the rest of his chest against Tony, careful to avoid his hips so that he doesn’t alert Tony to his body’s aroused state.

“Steve, I want you to soothe me using my gland, and stop hiding your hard-on for me, I can smell how much you want me.”

“How do I do that? I don’t want to hurt you or make you uncomfortable.”

“What’s uncomfortable right now is that my gland is aching and I want to know what you’re packing so when I do go into heat, I know what I’m going to get. Indulge me.”

“Ok, Tony.” Steve shuffles in closer, pressing himself against Tony’s backside. He can’t help but jerk into it, his cock finding Tony’s ass a perfect slot for itself. Tony groans and pushes back, leaving Steve feeling helpless with want. He brings his hand up to touch Tony’s gland, but Tony smacks it away.

“Mouth. Suck me.” Those words make Steve shiver and he leans forward, thankful that Tony’s gland is on his left side and they’re laying on both their right sides. He brings his lips closer, feeling the heat radiating off of the little pucker of flesh. He licks once, and the taste hits him. He jerks, like a puppet on wires, and sucks.

It’s so profound a sensation, his brain turns to liquid silver; Tony is moaning underneath him. The gland tastes like electricity, jolting his mouth over and over. Steve grabs at Tony’s hips and presses his cock to the back of Tony’s ass. His omega is crying out, needy, as Steve laps and suctions at the gland, persistent as a bulldog. Instinctively, he hooks his left leg around Tony’s, pulling it back and pressing his thigh and groin deeper onto Tony.

His omega needs him, is crying for him, and he wants so badly to strip Tony and give him what he’s calling for right here and now.

“Alpha, alpha please!” Tony starts to beg, and Steve’s fragile sense of control is shredded as surely as if claws had been dragged through it. He pulls off Tony’s neck for just a moment.

“Tony, sweetheart, what can I do?”

“Touch me, oh god, please, I want to come so badly. I’ll be so good, I promise!”

“You are already good, Tony. Shh, sweetheart.” Steve latches back on once more and moves his hand around to touch the front of Tony’s pants. He’s met with Tony’s hard cock, which isn’t sized like he is, but is firm and warm with arousal. He rubs at it and is rewarded with sweet little keening noises from Tony. His omega is so gorgeous, so beautiful. How could he ever hurt him?

And like that, his erection starts to subside, thinking about Tony being hospitalized because of what Steve did.

“What’s wrong alpha? Don’t you want me?”

“I do, I do. But I hurt you. How can you bear to do this with me? I’ve been so cruel to you.”

“I don’t want to answer that. Just forget about it for the moment. I need you. Please.” Steve feels like he’s his own shadow, flickering in and out. But he has to be strong for Tony. So he buries those thoughts and presses on Tony’s gland once more, gripping Tony’s cock firmly in his hands as he works them over Tony’s pants.

“Inside, inside.” Tony grasps his hand and helps guide his fingers under Tony’s elastic waistband. Underneath, there’s warm curly hair, and Tony’s even warmer cock resting up against it. Steve reaches down and grips at the hardness, twisting his fingers around it. Tony cries out and Steve sucks harder at the gland, wanting him to enjoy this as much as possible. His omega is so pretty, writhing up against him. Steve wants this forever, his sweet pliant omega giving it up to his alpha. To think he had never wanted one for himself before. He’s engulfed with desire for Tony, and it sears into his skin, red hot and burning.

Tony’s reaction incites something powerful in Steve. He can pleasure his omega. He’s wanted. Needed. Tony is rutting against his hand, precum oozing out onto Steve’s fingers.

Steve’s hips are snapping against Tony’s as he grinds his cock down onto Tony’s ample ass. He can’t wait to pull Tony’s pants off, have that gorgeous mound of flesh exposed to his ministrations. He’s going to lick every inch of Tony he gets his hands on, see if his slick tastes as good as his gland. It’s probably better than.

It doesn’t take long before Tony is thrashing in Steve’s grip, and his omega gives in and comes, curling up and away from Steve just the slightest amount, his shoulders curving forward as a little whine emits from between his lips. Wet, hot stripes of come coat Steve’s hand, and he tries to cup at Tony’s tip so he can catch it all and leave Tony’s pants at least somewhat clean. He mostly succeeds, pulling his hand out to see the puddle of spend there. Instinctively, he laps at it, noting that it’s almost sweet, and it tastes good.

He starts to lick his hand clean as Tony relaxes minutely next to him.

“Omega bodily fluids taste better when it’s time for heat. I suppose to get our alphas to like it better. The more orgasms an omega has, the more chances for conception. In heat, the orgasms contract the cervix just that little bit to let a lot of come pass by. Sorry for the biology lesson, but I figured you deserved to know,” Tony says after a time.

“Thank you for that, and for letting me do this with you.” Steve is still lapping at the come, finding it more and more appetizing. Soon his hand is clean, and he tucks himself behind Tony stiffly, waiting for Tony to realize he’s actually here and dismiss him.

“You’re welcome. You don’t deserve it, but I needed the relief. We’re done after this, ok? I want you because your bite is on my neck. No more, no less.”

“I understand Tony.” But inside, he feels close to disintegrating. He can feel pieces of himself splinter and crack at the thought that Tony will never want him like that. Steve picks himself up off the nest, looking down at Tony’s curled up body. Standing up, he realizes he’s wrinkled his suit a bit. He’ll have to hang it up in the shower with him to get the creases out. But it was worth it.

“You can go back to your room now. Sleep in the blankets and pillows you have so I have something for my nest tomorrow.” Tony isn’t looking at him, his eyes unfocused, pointed at the direction of some pillows.

Steve leaves, wondering if he’s ever going to be ok not being with Tony Stark.

Chapter Text

When Steve wakes up in the morning, he wraps the sheets around his prone form, trying to get the last of his scent rubbed off onto them. It’s the day of the gala, Saturday, and he’s got his suit ready in the shower for steaming. It’s 0600 hours, his usual wakeup time, and for once he doesn’t feel like going on a run. He doesn’t want to leave Tony that unprotected for that long.

It’s probably his alpha instincts. Instincts he never knew he had. He realizes now that so much of being an alpha was never taught to him, because he had never been born an alpha. His mother was a beta, and his father an alpha, but he died in the war. If his father had any complaints about marrying a beta woman, his mother kept that to herself. As for Steve, he doesn’t see how he could be with anyone but an omega now, with anyone besides Tony.

He lazes in bed for an hour, feeling indulgent even as he luxuriates in the soft fabrics, thinking of Tony and the tender orgasm that the omega had in his arms.

He wishes he hadn’t ruined everything.

Staying wrapped in the blankets had been his plan, but his morning erection hasn’t gone down at all, and he doesn’t want to get them messy just yet. He figures there will be tons of fluids in their nest by the time the heat is done.

Their nest. Tony’s nest. A warm little light bubbles up in his chest and he feels the excruciating sensation of loss when he remembers that it’s transitory. All of this won’t last and he’ll be left with nothing but his mistakes.

He’s so sorry. Sorry that he ever laid a hand on Tony. That he ever tried to control his habits, his clothing, his money. Speaking of, he has to tell Tony to do whatever he wants with his stock market investments. He needs to take back everything he said to Tony in the beginning. Does Tony even know how much Steve wants him now? It’s all he thinks about.

He’ll never get to hold him close after a long day of work, or tuck Tony into his bed. At least he can do little things, like feeding Tony or making sure Tony has dates for his events. Maybe even scent clothes if that’s what Tony wants. Anything to make him happy. Tony is in his veins now, coursing through him with every beat of his heart.

The time he had spent with Tony in the nest had driven him desperately to his room, and once the door slammed he had torn off his pants and fisted himself to completion within seconds.

Now he just feels dirty, like he’s an intruder in his own body. It’s insistent, this little niggling thought in his brain, that all his orgasms belong to Tony, but it won’t go away. Instinct tells him he should have been inside Tony last night.

Good thing that instinct isn’t all Steve is.

He’s wise enough to know what's happening now has to do with Tony’s pre-heat. He doesn’t know how he knows, but he does.

Steve finally gets up to take a shower, using the cold water to dampen his desires. It’s effective enough, and he steps out, toweling off his hair and body. He looks in the mirror and sees someone he doesn’t know anymore. Was he really the alpha who had come in and decided for another person what their life was going to be from now on?

He had. He was that man. He was Rory, Sean, Connall, Angela’s husband. He was all those men and when he saw himself reflected back, he shinks back from it.

Steve turns the shower back on hot and closes the door to the bathroom to let his suit unwrinkle. He stares at his room and feels emptiness threaten to swallow him whole.

“JARVIS?” He hopes the AI answers because he feels ashamed at the need to go and find Tony otherwise.

“Mr. Rogers.” The smooth British voice flows out from everywhere and nowhere at once. How elegant Tony’s technological marvels were just as elegant as he was.

“Where’s Tony, if you can tell me?”

“Sir is in the nest.”

“Does he want his blankets now?” The AI pauses for a moment, before responding.

“You can leave them by the door.”

“Ok, I can do that. Thank you.” So Tony doesn’t want to see him.

“Belay that, you may deliver the bedding personally.” Steve perks up despite himself. Tony changed his mind.

He rushes to get ready, tossing on a t-shirt and shorts, grabbing the bundle of pillows and blanket, and rushes over to Tony’s closed door.

Once in front of it, he knocks carefully, as if anything more forceful will send Tony a message that Steve doesn’t deserve to be with him.

“Come in!”

Steve tentatively enters the room, allowing the door to open slowly. He’s greeted with the sight of Tony in boxers and a t-shirt cuddled up amidst his nest. Tony added all the blankets from his bed too, it seems. He’s in a swirl of fabric, and he looks breathtakingly adorable. His hair is mussed in every direction and he looks at Steve, wide-eyed.

“Tony? I have your blankets and pillow.”

“Oh, good. Yes. Bring them over.” Tony scrambles up, and Steve tries not to look at his bare legs, his bare everything.

“Did you have any plans for today?” Steve asks, hoping he can get Tony to spend some time with him. Maybe Steve can bring him food or other things he wants. He wants to primp Tony’s nest for him. What if he went back to the store and got more blankets. Would Tony like that?

“Just going to work on some things on the tablet here. I need you to prep food for the next few days. Easy things to make, because I’m going to be hungry and not very capable of feeding myself. Lots of orange juice, fruits, cheeses, cold meats. Finger foods mostly. Can you do that?”

“Of course. I’ll go to the store, buy some fresh things.”

“I like Whole Foods best. Prepare to spend an arm and a leg there though.”

“Best is good. I’ll do that.” Steve is desperately grateful for something to do. A grocery trip won’t take all day, but it’s a good chunk of time.

When Steve gets back, Tony is still in his nest, tapping away at a Starkpad. The glow backlights his face in a soft shade of white and Steve is struck by his delicate features. The beard shines under the light, looking just this side of grizzled, though that’s a trick of the light.

“Is there anything else I can get you, Tony?” There has to be something that Tony wants that Steve can acquire. Maybe Tony will let him into the nest again. Maybe he can give Tony another toe-curling orgasm. The sweet little moans and keens from Tony still haunt his waking hours. He’s been half hard in his pants for most of the day, just ready to please Tony.

“Hmm, no. I’d like to be alone now. Go do whatever it is you do during the day.”

Steve takes his leave, feeling restless. He picks up some of his art materials, charcoal pencils and paper pads, and settles in to start drawing. It’s not surprising when he ends up seeing Tony on the page. Tony’s hands, Tony’s face, Tony’s body. Steve doesn’t do him the disservice of trying to draw him nude because he hasn’t seen Tony without boxers or a shirt, but it doesn’t stop him from imagining the curves that exist under the fabric. For hours he draws, pencil swiping this way and that, scritch-scratching across the page.

The light around him slowly changes, growing dim with the sunset, and inside, the lights automatically turn on. Steve is suffused with fervor for what he’s been drawing. Tony, over and over. Tony in his workshop. Tony eating dinner. Tony in his suits. He looks back and realizes he has over forty pages of Tony in various stages of completion.

Steve knows he’s obsessed. That he’s gone beyond simple desire and is hurtling headlong into the territory of infatuation.

He breathes in and out, letting his body slacken and his head fall onto the page in his lap. Crouched over his drawings, he closes his eyes.

His life seems so meaningless in the way it did when he first woke up from the ice. The contract had given him purpose. He was meant to guide Tony and change him for the better. But Steve had never known Tony enough in the first place to know what was better. Nor had he understood that there was never any one kind of ‘true’ omega. All the omegas he’d thought to be models of propriety were nothing but mirages, things he thought he saw when he was young that disappeared the closer you looked.

The war had taken all of the time he would have had to learn how omegas worked, how they functioned. He’d only had a singular view that omegas were as unattainable as they were vapid.

Trevor’s hard eyes rise to the surface of his thoughts and they superimpose over Tony’s. He doesn’t want Tony to look at him that way, to hate every alpha including him, for the betrayals of his gender.

But all he’s done is ruin things.

His life since waking up has been a series of mistakes that if he could take back, he would. He owes Tony a thousand apologies. One for every minute he let Tony live like a veritable slave.

He’s hunched over like that, hands crossed behind his head when he hears shuffling into the room. He looks up to see Tony standing there, wrapped in a blanket, staring at him.

“Is everything all right?” Steve asks, so that Tony doesn’t ask him the same question.

“Yeah. It’s time to get ready. I’m cutting it pretty close with my heat, but it’s still a good idea to go.”

“Ok Tony, whatever you say.” Tony shuffles away back to his room, dragging his blanket with him.

Steve doesn’t want to go anymore. He wants to stay here and guard Tony. It’s only now that he’s seeing how dangerous this might be. Someone might try to claim Tony for his heat. Someone who isn’t Steve. Tony is mine. His insides simmer with anger.

Tony is his. His to fuck and take care of. To nurse through his heat. His alone. If this is all he gets, then he’s going to make sure that they share this. He’ll stay close to Tony throughout the night, and make sure any other contenders don’t get close.

Steve doesn’t expect Tony to renege on his word, not at all. But he knows how other alphas can be, now. He doesn’t trust anyone else.

Steve gets up and goes to his room to get dressed. It takes less time than the last time, familiarity making his movements quicker, and at last he throws on the sports coat, carefully buttoning the front.

His dress shoes acquired, he goes to wait in the lobby by the elevator.

Tony comes out wearing an understated heather grey suit with large, light blue plaid lines, and a powder blue shirt with a light blue silk tie. It’s a good contrast with his navy suit. He notes that Tony is wearing what looks like Keds or plimsolls, and Steve almost opens his mouth to say something about it before Tony levels him a look as though he knows exactly what Steve is going to say.

“Things have changed when it comes to dressing up, Captain. It’s cool to pair sleek with casual. Besides, this is a judgment-free zone. I demand it.”

“Judgment free, got it.”

They go down to the parking garage, though it’s not the same floor that Natasha had used. This one looks private, and Steve can see all sorts of different cars lined up. They’re flashy, curved lines and futuristic angles.

“I know this might not be the ideal time, but I wanted to say you can do whatever you need to with your money, on the stock market. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Don’t worry Rogers, I didn’t listen to you in the first place, and it’s not like you ever checked.”

Steve chuckles. That’s just like Tony. He can’t even be mad.

Tony hops into the driver’s side of some kind of sleek sports car as Steve gets into the passenger seat. A month ago, he would have insisted on driving, and probably killed them or ruined the car itself.

Tony is a good, if enthusiastic, driver. He zips through downtown and controls the multitude of variables in a way Steve finds admirable.

Steve takes a moment to look at Tony, gorgeous in his well-fitted suit. The front is unbuttoned as he drives, showing his nice heather-colored vest. The pocket square is a bit more ostentatious, or at least loud. Like Tony, Steve smiles.

They arrive at the gala, and Tony exits the car fairly quickly as a doorman pulls open Steve’s side. Steve steps out, and Tony comes around the side, swooping his arm to hook Steve’s. There’s a photographer who is crouching off to the side, taking picture after flashing picture.

“Smile, sunshine,” Tony says, his face beaming in that false way Steve has only seen in pictures.

The show has begun.

As they make their way into the gala, Tony snatches a stray champagne glass from a tray and hands it to Steve, grabbing one for himself.

“Ok, rules, I introduce myself and then you. You leave my side to get drinks, or unless I say I want to be alone. People are going to be vicious tonight. It’s been a month since my marriage and this is the first time they’re seeing me or my husband. As far as everyone knows we’ve been enjoying our time together.”

“But you don’t smell like me.” It makes Steve nervous. He should have asked if he could scent Tony before they left. He’d all but forgotten it’s a thing he could do. It’s not like he didn’t know these things about omegas, it’s just that now that he’s come around to wanting Tony, all of it seems so new and fresh.

“You mean I don’t smell fucked. I sprayed some beta cologne before we came, and that will have to do,” Tony says before he takes a large sip of his glass, tilting it back quickly before smacking his lips. “Ok, to battle.”

And battle it is.

There are alphas, betas, and a few omegas who approach them, each holding their fangs barely at bay as they make snide suggestions about what Steve and Tony have been getting up to while Tony has been out of the spotlight. The alphas are the worst. Steve wonders if that’s how he comes across to people. Arrogant, conceited.

He’s grabbing Tony another drink when he returns to find Tony in the company of a single alpha. The man is tall, like Steve, and blond, but after that, the similarities end. From across the room, Steve can see this man leer at Tony, noting the way he tilts his face just so to catch the scent from Tony’s gland. Steve sees red, and blackness creeps into the corner of his vision as he stalks over to them.

He smoothly presses between people to get to where Tony is, brushing shoulders and forcing a path open for himself. His hearing is sharp, and he catches the drift of the conversation before he arrives.

“As I was saying, Tony, it’s lovely to see you out in full force tonight. On the cusp of heat and no alpha in sight. You need a hand sweetheart? You always loved it when I helped out.”

“I’ve never needed your help, Ty. You really think poaching Captain America’s omega is the brightest idea you’ve had?”

“Ah but darling, I can smell that he hasn’t touched you. You’re as fresh as you were the first time you came to me. We had some good times, didn’t we baby.”

“Good times for you. Disappointing for me. Steve is traditional. He wanted to wait.” At that, Steve finally makes it there, Tony’s drink clutched in hand. He passes it to Tony, who takes a large gulp from it, and if Steve doesn’t feel the same way right now. Alcohol has little effect on him, but he drinks his cocktail anyway, the taste doing something for his self-control.

This ‘Ty’ would look good out cold on the floor.

“So good to meet you. Do I call you Mr. Stark? Mr. America? Or just Captain?” Ty holds out his hand, his oily smile still lingering at the corners of his lips. Steve looks at it and realizes he has to shake it. He grips at it hard, not hard enough to break bones, but close. Using his strength, he yanks Ty closer, the man’s face showing evident strain under the handshake.

“It’s good of you to offer to help. But we’re covered here.” As he releases Ty’s hand, the other man whips it down to his side, grabbing at it and rubbing with his other hand.

“I can see that. Good luck Tony. You’re going to need it.” Ty looks red in the face as he strides off to destinations unknown.

“I had a handle on that. I don’t need you to defend me.” Tony is looking up at him with well-disguised upset. If Steve didn’t know what Tony looked like when he was pissed, he might not have seen the way Tony’s eyes twitched and his mouth got tight.

“He’s right, you don’t smell taken. I should have done something about that before we left, but I forgot to say anything.”

“Excuse me? Just because I smell a certain way doesn’t give Ty an excuse for his behavior. And it also doesn’t give you an excuse for yours. Now the next time I have to be alone with that jackass, he’s going to be mad, and he’s going to try and take it out on me. And where will you be? Hmm? You just made things worse.” He did, he did exactly what he wasn’t supposed to do, didn’t he? He was so mad at the idea that this alpha had been Tony, had been where only Steve is supposed to go, that he just reacted. Steve can’t protect Tony every day.

Steve still tries to defend himself, even as he knows he’s messed up.

“I didn’t—”

“Don’t make a scene. I’ve been fine without you for years. I’ve dealt with the Tiberius Stone’s of this world as long as I’ve been alive. Why would you assume you knew better than me? What is it with you and your abiding sense that you always know what’s best for me even though you never ask?” Tony sounds congenial and casual as he hisses these words at Steve. No one else can hear them amongst the crowd, and Tony keeps smiling as if everything is alright.

Steve sighs, his chest heaving. He’s such a fool.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I thought I was protecting you, but you don’t need protection. I just—the way he was talking to you. I couldn’t stand it. And I know I shouldn’t have done what I did. I should have just left it.” He doesn’t say what he really wants to ask, which is whether Ty has had Tony or not. If Ty has been where he’s going to be in a day or less. The heat scent is light on Tony, but still detectable to others. Ty knew that Tony was going into heat and that thought galls him.

“Fine. You’re sorry. You’re always sorry, you know that? It’s just for once I’d like to be in a situation where you don’t have to apologize and instead do the right thing. Is it too much to ask?”

“No, Tony. I know you can handle yourself. I just thought—well I thought maybe I was supposed to help you. But I realize now that it doesn’t help. Though I honestly hope you don’t have to see him that often, or ever, alone. And that I can be by your side.”

“He’s a businessman, and I tend to interact with them fairly regularly. It should be fine. Just… don’t do it again.”

“I’d like to make it up to you Tony. I really would.”

“We’ll see. For now, let’s get out of here.”

“Already?”

“We’ve made our appearances. There’s no point in staying. I called in my donation earlier.”

“Ok.” He escorts Tony off the gala floor back to the front entrance. Or it’s more like Tony takes his arm and leads him instead. Steve finds he doesn’t much mind it.

When the car is brought to them, they both settle in their respective seats and let a blanket of quiet come over the car. All Steve can hear is the roar of the engines, Tony’s and his breathing, and the sounds of the city.

It’s while he’s sitting there that he notices the smell has changed. Tony has undone his tie and is scratching at his neck, right over the gland.

His heat has started, or it’s just about to.

Steve feels his pants tighten as his cock takes a firm interest in the proceedings. Steve gently rests his wrist over the lump in his pants and tries to not breathe. Every time he does, he feels his dick expand a little more.

When they make it to the garage, Tony parks the car and freezes in the front seat.

“Rogers, I don’t want you to think that I don’t care about what you were trying to do. But you have to ask. It’s straight out of my childhood fantasies to watch you defend me from another alpha. It really is. But in reality, things are so much more complicated.” Tony looks at him, desperate for him to understand what he’s trying to say. Steve thinks he gets it. It’s Tony’s choice to deal with the world how he needs to. It’s Steve’s job to be supportive and focus on Tony, and Tony’s needs.

“Next time I’ll leave off and have you deal with him. You’ve already dealt with me so well.” And isn’t that true? Tony has taken all Steve tried to put on him and tossed it back in his face. His omega is even better at defending himself than Steve is. Maybe that’s what omegas were supposed to be. Defenders of the home, the nest, as fierce as any alpha. Any alpha would have to earn the right to mate with such an omega, and Steve knows he hasn’t. He’s going to get to be with Tony for his heat, and he knows it’s not going to be enough for him. Steve is going to want more.

There’s a bit of hope inside him, that Tony will see him as a viable mate after all is said and done. He doesn’t know what his life will look like after, otherwise. Can he spend every day looking at Tony and not being able to have him? He would have to.

“Can I tell you about it? About what happened between Ty and I?”

“Of course.” He almost regrets the words as soon as he says them. Does he really want to know?

“I was fourteen, in a school with mixed genders. Ty was older by a few years, and we used to makeout behind the football field shed. He gave me a few handjobs. Somehow my dad found out. Pulled me out of school and put me into an omega finishing school. I learned later that Ty was just angling to get into my house over the summer and steal research from my dad. That was the last time I was foolish with an alpha.”

“I’m sorry that happened to you. That never should have happened. You deserve better.”

“I know. But I guess I just wanted to feel something good.” Tony gets out of the car then, and Steve follows. There’s a little trail of scent that drags behind Tony, and Steve floats on it to the elevator and up into the penthouse.

Tony stops in the middle of the entryway, looking down at the floor. He kicks at some invisible fluff there and looks up at Steve.

“I think it’s almost time. Come to the nest with me?” Tony asks him like Steve is going to say no. He could never say no to Tony.

“Yes,” he whispers, afraid to break the agreement between them by even mentioning it.

Tony turns and walks towards his room, already starting to unbutton his jacket and his shirt. They get inside and Tony disrobes quietly, without fanfare or any shyness.

“There’s a few more rules. And I wanted to remind you of rule one.” Tony pulls his jacket off and lays it on his bed. He untucks his shirt and throws it down next to the jacket. Steve watches him with hooded eyes.

“You may say things that you don’t mean, and I can’t hold them against you. I remember.” Steve starts to take his clothes off too, loosening his belt and unbuttoning his shirt.

“Good. The undershirt stays on. I have scars. I don’t want you to look at them.”

“I wouldn’t care, Tony,” he promises.

“I care. They’re mine. I don’t want you to look.” Steve knows he can’t press, but it’s devastating to him that Tony doesn’t want to share this intimacy. He’ll respect it, even though it makes him feel awful that Tony is afraid of what Steve might think.

“Ok, I won’t.”

“Good. Great. No biting my gland a second time. I know it’s traditional in the first heat, but I don’t want it. No matter how much I beg, you can’t do it. Can you do that for me?” Tony is down to his undershirt and boxers, and he pulls a leg up to take a sock off before doing the same with the other leg.

“I can. I have a lot of control.”

“I know you do. Time to put it to good use.” Tony hooks his fingers over his boxers and Steve tenses. What he wants is Tony naked for him. He’ll settle for this, happily.

They’re both watching each other, tense, but Tony, ever the brave one, strips down first. His cock is half hard and it bobs as the waistband catches it, revealing a neatly trimmed mound of flesh where his pretty pink cock rests over his balls. Steve’s mouth waters and he licks his lips, thinking about getting his mouth around Tony.

Steve steps forward and reaches out for Tony’s face. He wants to kiss Tony, but he’s not sure if the other man will let him. But Tony surprises him and steps forward, letting his chin rest on Steve’s outstretched hand.

Steve reels him in, drawing those plump lips of Tony’s ever closer until he locks his own onto them. Tony hums and it vibrates his whole mouth as Tony flicks his tongue out between his lips to taste Steve’s. The kiss turns hot, open-mouthed, and deep. They’re lapping at each other’s lips now, sloppy tongues catching the edges of each other’s mouths as they seek out tongues and teeth.

This is their first kiss. Even at the marriage ceremony, they’d only bitten each other. Now, as Steve strokes at the gland where he made Tony his, he feels for the first time that they’re one. There’s hope here. Small and tentative, but blossoming nonetheless.

Tony pulls off first, groaning, and kisses Steve’s palm that was holding his cheek. He lets go, dropping Steve’s hand, and in a movement that’s almost shy, turns around, revealing his perky ass for Steve’s purview as he struts over to the nest.

Steve shucks his boxers, his cock stabbing straight forward, eager. The kiss has lit parts of him aflame and left him feeling like molten gold.

Steve follows Tony over, and Tony flips around on the bed, his eyes catching on Steve’s groin before widening. Steve stops in front of the nest and waits for an invitation, enjoying Tony’s eyes on his body. In a move that seems calculated, but is only his desire to present to Tony, he takes himself in hand and jerks it a few times, watching as Tony’s eyes blink and then avert.

“What do you want Tony? I’ll give you anything.” Tony cracks a smile, oozing confidence and charm. His legs are knee to knee, but he spreads them now, revealing his cock laying gently on his belly and his balls resting pert underneath. Steve can see the shadow of Tony’s crack, but nothing more.

“Suck me off, alpha.” Steve immediately gets down on his knees in front of the nest and crawls towards Tony’s groin. He feels powerful, like he can do and be anything for Tony. Hooking his arms under Tony’s thighs as he rests on his chest, he pulls Tony down just a bit to angle him just perfectly at Steve’s mouth. Tony squeaks as he moves, legs flopping open helplessly.

Steve doesn’t wait; he can smell the beginnings of slick and the musky scent of Tony. He devours it all, taking Tony down to the root in one long suck. Tony cries out and humps at his face. Steve lets him but presses Tony’s hips down with his hands. He curves his fingers over them, feeling the delicate bones press against his fingertips down to the hollow where Tony’s legs meet his groin. There’s a heat to Tony, rising off his body like an invisible mist.

Steve makes his blow job filthy, saliva dripping everywhere, coating Tony’s balls in cool liquid. Tony engorges more while he’s seated in Steve’s mouth, and Steve swallows every bit of his length down. Tony is rough in his throat, and it feels good to force his muscles to open up for the assault. He can feel the outline of the glans on his tongue, the velvet slide of skin over Tony’s cock.

He can hold his breath for quite some time, and he uses it now. Tony’s little groans and moans fill his ears as he works Tony over. His lips are caressing the base of Tony’s cock, pressing down on the layer of fat as the wiry texture of Tony’s hair tickles at his lips.

He pulls off Tony, panting, trembling with his own need. He grinds his own cock down on the bedding underneath, feeling the slide of his own skin, back and forth, his knees bending so he can get more friction.

There’s spittle connecting his mouth to Tony’s cock, and it spasms up in front of him, tapping the bottom of his chin. Steve looks up at Tony’s face, seeing his omega staring back at him slack mouthed, a vision of need and arousal. They lock eyes, and it’s like a shock to the system, like a cold limb being plunged into hot water, almost painful. It’s overwhelming, the intimacy of it, the way Tony looks and looks at him. It pulls out all of the suffering that throbs inside him, that he lashed Tony with. And there’s this moment, this little prickle of awareness, as he’s entwined with Tony through their mutual gaze, that he can no longer bear it. Tony is gutting him with those brown eyes, scooping out his tender insides with them, and Steve cannot, cannot stop him.

So if it feels like he’s fleeing all his fears and frustrations as he falls on Tony like a wave, he is. He’s hiding inside Tony even as he takes him in. He can’t bear to have Tony see him, his ugliness. To catalog with those cutting eyes all the ways in which Steve’s failed him. He settles for this, the basest of desires, letting his tongue work in conjunction with his mouth, laving and bathing Tony’s cock. He ruts himself against the nest, his cock stupendously hard, big, and pulsating with suppressed want. This is for Tony. All of him is for Tony.

“Steve, Steve I need your fingers. I want to fuck myself on them.” Tony reaches down and grabs at Steve’s hair, gently guiding him up and down. Steve is helpless to challenge that. He pulls his arm loose from under Tony’s thigh and reaches for his hole. He finds it wet with slick, already producing just enough for Steve to get his fingers in without hurting Tony. Tony’s hole is furled, and the gooey essence that leaks from him squelches lewdly against his finger. Tony opens ever so slightly, and Steve presses his advantage, delicately tracing the strong muscle, feeling every wrinkle and contraction. Just the tip of his finger is dipped into Tony’s beautiful heat, and Steve’s desire is sent soaring. Slowly, so slowly, he presses in.

“Hurry up. You’re taking too long.” Steve lets out a breathless chuckle and obliges. With one finger in, he feels Tony’s ass quiver and clench around him. There’s enough room for two, and he slips another in beside it, the pads of his fingers glancing off the soft walls of Tony’s insides.

Tony is so hot there, a little furnace around his fingers as he pumps experimentally. It’s excruciating, waiting to get his cock in there. But this is about Tony, and what Tony wants. Eventually, he’ll need Steve’s knot, and Steve, as is his duty, will fulfill Tony’s every need. He aches to put his cock in Tony. Positively thrums with the need to do so.

Tony gasps as Steve moves, back arching like a bow, body trembling. Steve feels like a child’s balloon, let go to drift through the air and reach ever-higher for the sky. He can already feel his rut coming on, as that’s what it must be. His body forces him to accommodate his omega in all ways, to be everything Tony will require.

He loves it. More than he expected, he appreciates how he’s built to make love to Tony.

Tony is whining now, head thrown back on his pillows, his hips doing little circles while Steve holds him steady, his fingers sliding, hooking Tony open. Steve moves his other hand and traces his fingers over the flushed pink skin of Tony’s cock, and smiles to himself. He reaches up, makes his grip firm, encircles Tony’s cock, and strokes him, up and down, twisting his palm firmly over the head. Tony’s cock is slick with Steve’s spit. He wants to make it slicker, and then he’s sliding it straight into his mouth, tasting salty precum at the tip.

Steve is sucking again, licking and flattening his tongue against Tony, the soft, sensitive skin sliding so well. Every breath he takes smells like Tony; musky and thick with the sweat of sex. He presses down again, taking Tony all the way in, and listens to the man gasp. He keeps his fingers pumping, pumping away, as he presses his nose to the dark curls of Tony’s mons.

“Please, Steve!” Steve groans around Tony, his own cock pressing down harder.

Tony starts hardening even more in Steve’s mouth, and he knows that Tony is getting close. He sucks more forcefully, not breathing in anything but Tony. Tony whimpers, a little broken sound, and Steve can see his head fall back, hair sweat-slicked to his forehead, the elegant outline of his beard tracing a well-groomed path along his chin.

“Oh god, oh god, that’s it, fuck, baby, fuck me harder.”

Steve does, jamming his fingers in and pressing down on a spot he’s found that makes Tony gasp and moan. Tony clenches around his fingers, and Steve wishes, how he wishes, it was his cock.

Tony clamps down on him hard, his ass milking at Steve’s fingers. Tony is coming then, a cry that sounds torn from Tony’s throat.

Steve’s throat is tight and fitted around Tony’s cock as it starts to jerk and twitch into his mouth. Sweet little spurts of come spray the inside of his throat, and he swallows and swallows, pressing his wet fingers inside Tony. Tony is thrashing, or trying to, but Steve is holding him back, holding him down. Keeping him steady.

On the last burst from his cock, Tony gives a little mewl.

Tony finally stops arching his back and collapses back to the bed, sweat-stained and exhausted. Steve pulls off and out, and immediately brings his fingers to his mouth.

God. Tony tastes so good, he wants to go down between his cheeks and lap at him. Clean him from top to bottom with his tongue. But he respects the distance between them and pulls up to lay beside Tony, opening his arms for the omega to fall into.

Tony does and his breathing begins to even out.

“Stay with me,” Tony asks.

“Always,” Steve promises.

Chapter Text

It’s dark when Steve wakes up. Tony is a tangled pile of limbs next to him that’s shaking and shuddering. The cloying smell of slick rises up from the bed and permeates Steve’s senses. Steve feels unmoored, a lost ship floating, ghostlike over the water.

Steve reaches down to touch Tony’s fever-hot skin in askance, wanting to know if it’s time. It’s just a touch, a single stroke to Tony’s shoulder, but the omega groans and arches into it, shoving himself towards Steve’s hand.

“Tony? Tony, wake up.” Tony is beautiful like this, open and needy. He never thought he’d want to see an omega vulnerable like this, but there’s something so real, so electric about Tony in this moment. His skin is aglow, sweat beading on his forehead as he huffs little breaths in and out.

Steve’s only met with soft little whimpers of need as he touches Tony, and Steve reaches down again, petting Tony’s hair, drawing his hands down Tony’s face to his neck and shoulder. The olive-toned skin is sweaty to the touch, hot and silken. It feels intimate, like Steve is a thief, stealing something precious for himself that doesn’t belong to him. But he can’t stop himself, with how much he wants to touch Tony, to feel his skin and cries as though they’re one endless stream of sensation.

Steve hears a siren song, pulling him to the depths of an ocean of pleasure, and it molds around him like liquid heat. Steve must rise, to meet his omega at the edge of Tony’s need, and beyond it.

Tony’s eyes fly open when Steve rests his hand on Tony’s warm shoulder. They blink rapidly, and then refocus on Steve, not cataloguing anything, as empty and consuming in turns.

“Alpha.” Tony says it like a breath, wispy with unrepressed longing. “I want to sit up. I need—” Steve presses his arms under Tony’s torso, fingers catching on the fabric of Tony’s shirt as he rolls his hands underneath. Tony’s body is light, and it’s effortless to lift him, hold him. Tony splays his arms out on either side, helping Steve push Tony the rest of the way up.

“It’s started.” Steve withdraws his arms, and Tony rubs his hand on his forehead as he speaks.

“What can I do?” Steve asks.

“Kiss me. Hold me.” Steve approaches cautiously, and Tony looks up at him, eyes hooded and stormy with need. “Kiss me,” he repeats.

Steve reaches over and cups Tony’s cheek, drawing him closer, ever closer. Tony crawls with it, letting Steve guide him, limbs dragging over the bedding and coming to rest straddling over Steve’s lap. Steve keeps his hand gently glued to Tony’s cheek as they breathe in each other’s recycled air. Back and forth, steamy and warm in Steve’s lungs.

Tony’s eyes flicker up and down Steve’s face, searching for something. Steve tries to be whatever it is that Tony needs, whatever signal the omega gives him for what comes next, and he waits as keenly as a fisherman for a fish to bite.

Steve breathes deep and lets his chest fall deeper into himself. His cock starts to take an interest in the proceedings, and he can feel it perk up, the sensation hot as sparks. He doesn’t dare look however, not with Tony here in front of him, breathing and breathing out his nervousness and anxiety. Tony’s eyes are maddeningly close, the heat having wicked color from his eyes, what’s left of the brown bleeding into the black, leaving pinpricks of light in their wake. It’s utterly captivating.

Instead he hovers closer, closer, letting the warmth of his breath bounce off of Tony’s face and back to him in a loop of soft heat. Tony’s lips are parted in askance, and there’s just the barest hint of saliva on them. They look soft, plump, and pink. Steve’s eyes dance back up to Tony’s, waiting for permission.

“Kiss me,” Tony whispers again, and Steve surges up to meet him, taking Tony’s mouth in a sweet kiss, pressing his tongue inside with a tenderness that he’s never felt before. He brings his hand up, gentle and warm on the side of Tony’s neck, and he can feel Tony’s pulse throbbing under it. It makes his own race, and Steve rubs at it, against his neck, trying to keep a rhythm with it. He kisses Tony again and again, lapping up every press of the other man’s lips. They’re warm, soft, and tremulous like the wings of a moth.

Steve is relentless on Tony’s lips, as sweet as a reprieve. Their kiss is hot, and delicious, a push-pull that he’s never experienced. Tony’s arms come up to rest his elbows over Steve’s shoulders, and he feels Tony gently hold him, crossing his arms behind Steve’s neck. Steve takes his hands, leaving Tony’s face, and drags them down to Tony’s ribs, feeling Tony shudder as he does so.

Tony presses into the kiss, needy, soft. Steve reaches up to stroke Tony’s hair, and over his ear, his cheek, his chin, and Tony lets him, leaning into the touch as Steve explores. He holds Tony like Tony is the only thing holding him up, the scaffolding of his person. Everything turns deep and a comfortable kind of sloppy as their lips work each other over.

Steve wants to learn the shape of Tony, and he takes his hands back down to Tony’s ribs, gliding up and down Tony’s sides, and then begins to move his hands to the middle of Tony’s chest.

Tony immediately pulls off, stops, and grabs his hands.

“Not there. Not the chest. I have scarring.”

“Tony, I don’t care about that. If that’s why you have your shirt on—”

“I said no.” Tony looks at him, eyes shifting back and forth as he waits to see if Steve is going to respect his decision. Steve really wants to prove to Tony that he means it. That Tony is beautiful and perfect in his arms, and there’s no need to hide. But that’s not what this is about. He lets his hands drop to Tony’s sides, unwilling to let go of Tony.

“Okay. Okay, Tony.” He glances his fingers off Tony now, methodically memorizing him as best he can with the limitations presented. His hands glide over Tony’s back, up and center to meet his spine, and then down to press the tips of his fingers to the divots of flesh above Tony’s ass. He makes his touch firm, unhesitating. He wants Tony to know what he’s seeking and knowing.

Has he ever felt more alive? Steve is certain as he stares into Tony’s eyes, that he hasn’t. Under the soft light of the room, Tony’s eyes are as fathomless as an ocean, and Steve is washed upon the shore like so much driftwood. Steve has lived a half-life, a ghost wandering through the halls of his own existence. He slides back out to sea, afloat and too far from shore, where Tony is the only thing he can hold on to. It’s like Tony contains every secret of Steve’s that Steve doesn’t know himself, and Steve is losing himself in Tony. Steve is simply Tony’s alpha, and Tony is his omega, the perfect and equal compliment to him.

Steve tilts his head forward, pressing their foreheads together, noses lined up just perfectly that their tips touch and tease. Tony blinks, his eyelashes brushing at Steve’s cheek, a teasing sensation of shyness before Tony flows forward to meet Steve at the apex of their lips. There’s a feeling like a freshwater spring, bubbling and rising inside of him.

Tony is his.

Emphatically, categorically, his.

Even if this is all there is between them, Steve is sharing it with Tony, and nothing can take that away. He shivers, just thinking that Tony might still ask him to stop, to go. And Steve would have to. But he’s hopeful that Tony won’t. That Tony will keep him here in this twilight place, where time doesn’t dwell, where for once he’s thinking of nothing but this moment, here.

Tony pulls away after a few puckered kisses.

“I want to ride you.” Tony’s body jerks forward, his cock bumping into Steve’s, and just like that, all his focus drops into his cock, and reveals his own desperation to be used. With it comes a certain pride; Tony trusts him for this. Trusts him to be the alpha he needs to see him through this heat. He’s denied the other man affection, care, all in the name of correcting behavior, when that was never how it was supposed to be. Steve is a protector, an instrument of Tony’s pleasure, the truth of which now comes down on him like a lash, driving him to give.

“How do I make this easy for you?” He pulls Tony’s arms off his shoulders and wraps their hands together, offering Tony a point of balance to rise up on his knees. The tip of Steve’s cock brushes against Tony’s sack, soft and pliant, before Tony settles over Steve’s cock like he’s on a saddle. Steve lets his cock bend, nestling between the crevice of Tony’s legs, slick and the promise of heat teasing at his cockhead. Tony rubs experimentally a few times, before reaching his hand back and gripping Steve, making Steve gasp. The contact is like a small explosion going off in his body, and he drinks in the experience like wine, a starving man at a banquet of sensation.

Steve rotates his hips just so, catching against the rim of Tony’s ass before glancing up to find Tony’s wide eyes dancing back. The heat calls to him and captures him like water in oil, Steve struggling for sanity when all he wishes to do is bury himself to the hilt. Tony’s lips are incredibly appealing, and he makes for them, fleeing his own mind for the refuge of Tony’s mouth.

“Don’t distract me Captain.” Tony veers away, eyes crinkled with good humor and a sultry little smile creeping into the corners of his mouth.

“It’s Steve.”

“It’s Captain if I’m riding this ship.” Steve tries to suppress a laugh, and be stern, but he can’t.

“I am not a ship, Tony!”

“I don’t know. It feels like you’re on the open seas to me.” Tony rolls his hips, a thick squelch and the scent of Tony wafting up from in between their legs.

“Tony!” Steve is trying so hard to protest, but it’s sexy and amusing all at once.

“Ahoy, Captain!” Tony slides some more, and then Steve’s cock hooks and he’s sliding inside Tony, oh so carefully. Tony stops laughing and moans, loud and wanton, and Steve clutches at Tony’s hips, not certain if he’s trying to pull Tony up or down.

“Steve, ah! Need you.” Tony needs him. Needs him. Steve can tell that Tony wants him to fill Tony up with his big alpha cock, that’s so thick and hard, there’s no room for any thought that isn’t Steve. Steve is going to do it, pull Tony’s hips down on him and rock into that sweet, tight heat. He groans at how tight it actually is. Tony’s muscles are almost a vice on him, and he’s wondering if he should pull out, and starts to do just that before Tony grabs at his shoulders.

“No. Inside. I want you inside me.” Tony’s eyes are clenched shut and he looks pained. Hasn’t Tony done this before? Steve tries to press in just a bit, but Tony’s breath hitches and he grunts.

“Tony, is this hurting you? I can stop—” Oh god, Tony’s channel is so very tight, like silken velvet over his cock, soft and taut.

“No. No,” Tony says as he shoves at Steve’s chest, pushing him down to his back. Tony crawls over him, powerful and sleek, his face single-minded in its intensity. “Mine,” he growls. And oh, that’s unbearably beautiful to hear out of Tony’s mouth. He’s Tony’s. He belongs to him. Steve makes an uncharacteristic whimper at the effect it has on him.

Tony reaches behind himself once more, grasping Steve’s filthy wet cock and lining it up at his entrance before sliding down, down, down, taking Steve all the way into him in one full glide. It’s like Tony is being poured over him and then everything in Tony constricts all at once, and Steve is gazing at Tony as the omega’s head is tilted back, his mouth slack with effort and pleasure and something like pain. Tony’s ass flutters helplessly around Steve, and it’s overwhelming.

“God. Steve, you’re so big, god how are you so big?” And Steve, Steve is wondering how Tony is so unbelievably tight. He hopes against hope that he’s Tony’s biggest, that if he couldn’t be first, he would be last and best. It’s an ugly feeling, jealousy, and Steve wishes he was above it, but when it comes to Tony, he’s not. He’s as low as any animal, and it shames him even as it drives his desires higher.

“For you sweetheart. I’m hard for you,” Steve promises. Then Tony moves, and Steve lets out a sound like Tony is killing him. For all he knows, Tony could be, because the sweet, slow drag of it, the way every inch of him is sensitized, attuned to Tony, overwhelms him even more. He’s raw, alive, as Tony pulls up and slides back down. Up again, and an excruciating glide down to his base. He can’t last like this. He’s not sure he needs to.

“Tony, baby, sweetheart, I’m going to knot you. Can I knot you baby?”

“Fuck, Steve. Breed me. Make me take it. I want—I want you to fill me. Please? Please, please, please, please.” Tony’s breath is punched out as he rides Steve. Steve can barely hold himself back anymore already. Every cry from Tony’s lips drives Steve to new and greater heights. His balls are clenched in desperation, the need to fill Tony taking him excruciatingly higher. Tony is so slick and wet and hot inside. He feels himself start to grow inside Tony, and he throws his head back at the mind-bending sensation. Pleasure roars between them, coursing and flowing back and forth like some underground river.

Tony’s inner walls tremble and clench around him as Steve expands. The sensation is unreal and he can feel himself slowly locking inside of Tony as his balls tighten and his groin tenses. Tony is still scrunching his eyes closed, taking every little bit that Steve has to offer, until Steve feels as fierce as hunger, as a fever.

He feels the pop more than hears it, but hear it he does. Steve is not so much a fool that he doesn’t know what it is.

Tony has never taken a knot.

His omega has never been with another alpha in the way he’s with Steve right now. Tony is his. All his. Steve grunts as his knot is completely slotted in place and he starts to come, shooting and shooting into Tony’s needing ass.

There’s a storm inside Steve, and he feels the very moment, the very second that Tony’s body seizes up in an answering orgasm to his knot that takes them both up, up, and up. He’s plugging up Tony with his knot, and every single cell inside of him knows only the shape of Tony. And Tony, Tony writhes on Steve, his body twitching and jerking, Tony’s cock spurting and drooling come.

Tony thrashes, a deep shudder rolling through his whole body. He hunches forward, body rigid.

“You’re perfect, Tony. You’re mine.” Steve says it, because it’s true.

Steve keeps coming inside Tony for what must be minutes. It goes on and on, scooping his insides out and pouring them into Tony. It’s a sensation he knew could happen, was possible, but the experience is heart-stopping, mind-altering. His body feels like it’s expanding to fit the whole universe and his world is exploding outward and inward at the same time. If there are seams to his person, they’re coming undone and Steve is falling to pieces inside Tony.

Tony howls, there’s no other word for it, and Steve grips at his hips harder, trying to hold them both together from shaking apart. Tony’s face is scrunched up with what looks like a painful desire, his body hunched and his skin shining with sweat.

Finally it eases up, and he watches Tony slump onto him. It’s euphoria now, his mind floating up into the atmosphere where he can barely breathe and the roaring of blood in his head is an endless river. He’s never known a feeling like this in his life. Never knew that loving Tony would be like this. There’s a hole inside him that’s slowly filling itself, a leaking faucet of comfort that drips into him with warmth and depth.

“Tony. You’ve done so well. You’re perfect and mine, and I’m so pleased with you.” He praises Tony instinctively as he pets Tony’s shuddering sides and flanks.

Beautiful, he thinks, lightheaded.

Tony looks up and his expression is hopeful, the kind of sweetness that closes a hand around Steve’s heart and squeezes, and as Steve repeats his endearments, Tony melts onto him, laying flat across Steve’s chest and tucking his head underneath Steve’s chin. The new position tugs gently at his knot, but it feels so, so good as it pulsates inside Tony.

Everything smells like them now, a mouth-watering flavored combination of their scents.

Steve wants to bite Tony again as Tony nuzzles at his neck. But he remembers what Tony said and instead just runs his tongue over his teeth, reliving the first time he bit into Tony at their wedding. Tony had tasted so good, he remembers, but at the time he hadn’t wanted to think of that at all. Now it’s all he wants to remember, to cherish that singular moment that bound Tony to him. He wants to rewind—no, he wants to unmake—everything he’s done to Tony to keep himself from this moment.

Finally the swelling allays enough to slip out, and Steve feels his cum leak out onto his belly. Tony sighs with relief and rolls off of Steve, falling to Steve’s side in a huff.

“Can I mark you?” Steve asks, tentative. The idea of Tony wearing his scent has his cock twitching, ready for more whenever Tony will allow it.

“Go wild,” Tony says. Steve scoops up some of his spend and reaches for Tony’s glands on his neck, rubbing it into them with quick caresses of his thumb. He shyly takes some of Tony’s essence that’s left on his stomach and pushes it around his own glands. Tony watches with half lidded eyes and his eyes widen just a little bit as Steve smears his glands.

Steve leans over and gently kisses Tony’s pliant, willing mouth. Everyone will know that Tony was with Steve during his heat. The scent will carry with Tony wherever he goes, and it’s a comfort to Steve, that Tony will smell like him. More, it’s outright possessiveness at the thought of everyone knowing that Tony rode his—Steve’s—cock. Steve swallowed Tony’s cries. Steve had Tony Stark on his knees, begging for his knot. These thoughts coil darkly in his mind, swirling around his desperation to make this last. It’s just barely begun, and Steve is both sated and so terribly wanting of more.

“Sleep now?” He has to reign it in, maintain control. He’s the alpha, the one who should keep it together. Yet all he feels are the jagged edges of his self-mastery grinding and sanding themselves into dust.

“Sleep,” Tony confirms.

The next time they wake up, Tony is crawling on top of Steve again.

“Steve, Steve please,” Tony mumbles. Steve instinctively lifts Tony up and off him and places him on his hands and knees. “Steve, please, I’ve been so good,” Tony cries.

“You have been. Such a good boy. Good omega. You want me to mount you, don’t you. Take my cock like a good little omega?”

“Steve, yes, please, please, please.” Tony is chanting now, his words coming out in soft little mewls. As Steve positions himself behind Tony, he can’t resist looking down between their bodies. Steve groans when he sees Tony’s wet hole dripping spend and slick between his perfectly curved cheeks. He reaches out to touch the pucker of Tony’s hole as Tony tries to back into it, moaning and looking for friction.

Steve couldn’t hold himself back if he wanted to, and Tony can’t wait any longer. Steve takes what is offered.

Steve enters him in one long stroke, pressing and pressing until he’s seated fully into Tony’s sweet, pink hole. It astounds Steve how Tony can take all of him, his cock being as thick as it is. He feels like he’s hardly in control of himself at the moment, and he pulls out and slams into Tony with a grunt.

Tony cries and pleads some more, and that’s all it takes.

His restraint snaps and he fucks into Tony with everything that he has. Tony tries to move his hips into the brutal fuck that Steve is giving him, but Steve grips Tony tightly and angles him just so. The slapping flesh as Steve drives into Tony is obscene and hungry, and Steve feels feral, with no thoughts other than Tony, Tony, Tony.

“You would look so beautiful swollen with my children,” Steve says from out of nowhere, the realization crashing into him as he thrusts so deep and perfect that he can feel the engorged head of his cock as it hits bottom. Tony screams with pleasure and Steve can feel Tony clamp down on his cock, his omega coming hard. Steve doesn’t pause in his fierce, powerful rhythm. He rides out Tony’s clenching and clutching at his cock.

His pistoning hips then begin to stutter, the first sign of his impending knot. Steve keeps his pace punishing, plunging into Tony’s needy ass in an attempt to drive anything and everything from Tony’s mind but Steve.

“Want your— children, Steve. Want you— to fuck them into me.” The words are broken by Steve’s thrusts. Steve feels almost helpless as he nails Tony once, twice, and three times before he pushes in as deeply as he can go, and knots Tony with a violent slant that Steve didn’t know was inside him. Tony keens, stuffed as full as Steve can manage, fuller even than the first time Steve took him. His cock pumps and pumps away at Tony, sluicing his hot channel with so much come, Steve is all but swimming in it. He falls forward onto Tony, his sweat-slick chest pressing onto Tony’s equally sweat-streaked back, and it’s like gliding down a long slide, slipping into deep water.

He lays there, planked over Tony, not pressing his body down hard on Tony’s slighter one, trying not to think about how awe inspiring it would be to breed Tony, and get him fat with Steve’s children. Right now though, he could easily crush Tony. He’s already bruised Tony’s hips with how hard he’d pummeled him, he knows, and he wants to see the petal-shaped bruises of his fingers on Tony.

He flips them to the side, taking Tony’s body with him. He pets down Tony’s sides, and notes those bruises already forming. Cupping Tony’s ass, he thrusts into him just a little as his cock spasms again. Tony gives a thready moan, and Steve reaches back up and around with his right hand to grip the base of Tony’s throat so he can feel the vibration of it.

“Tony?”

“Mm. Steve.” The breathless way Tony says his name hums down his throat where Steve is still holding him. God. Tony is so beautiful. Steve takes his other hand away from Tony’s ass and wraps it around him, covering, protecting. It’s instinct, he knows, to make sure Tony is safe. He takes his other hand away from Tony’s throat and threads those fingers through Tony’s wet hair on his forehead.

They fall asleep like that, Steve slipping out sometime during their snooze, his cum leaking over the both of them.

Tony wakes up again, pressing his backside to Steve’s already hardening cock. It slips around in Tony’s crack as Tony backs into it, needy.

“Mm, baby, do you need me again?”

Tony’s only answer is a moan. Steve pulls Tony into his arms and breathes in their combined scent. It’s a heady aroma, and Steve finds himself licking at Tony’s gland on his neck. He wants to bite into it so badly, but he remembers himself and keeps to laving and nibbling.

Tony is a squirming mess, and Steve somehow finds a way to put Tony on his back, hands still clawing at Steve’s body.

Tony’s body is wound up like a spring ready to burst into motion. Steve has to ride it out, match the frantic need of Tony’s heat that’s burning under his skin. Tony’s nipples are straining, little points through the fabric of his shirt, and his cock is slapped flat to his stomach, almost an angry red. Steve pulls his eyes back up to Tony, and the omega’s face is ravenous and hungry with desire.

“Steve, please!”

Steve surges forward and kisses Tony roughly, mouthing at his lips, then chin, and throat. He moves down in a wave, taking first one nipple, then the other into his mouth and plucking at them with his wet lips. Tony never said he couldn’t do it through the shirt, so he hopes he’s not crossing a line.

Tony cries, and it sounds so sweet from his lips, that Steve wants to chase it down, and he does so, moving back up to Tony’s mouth.

Steve’s cock is hanging hard against Tony’s bare thigh, and it twitches now, his need becoming insistent that he makes a valiant attempt at conquest of Tony’s body. He tries to ignore it for a time, giving Tony slow, languorous kisses that soak up Tony’s wordless pleas. Tony’s hands reach for him, dragging down the sides of Steve’s body, his arms.

“Beg me to take you, sweetheart.” Steve hovers above Tony’s mouth, the words breathless and soft.

“Steve, please take me. I’m yours.” Tony’s body is shuddering against him, battering at the windows like a storm.

“You’re so pretty when you ask for my cock. Ask again?”

“Steve, please! Knot me, knot me, knot me until I’m so full.”

That’s all it takes for Steve and he has Tony thrashing underneath him, gripping at his forearms, entreating with every fiber of his being to be taken. Tony is made for him, and Steve feels an overriding sense of belonging as he aims himself for Tony’s greedy hole and plunges in with a squelch of fluid. Tony is fucked out and wet with his cum, as he should be, and Steve glides through it like he was born to be this for Tony. Just this. His skin prickles with sweat as he seats himself, and Tony whines at the intrusion.

Steve leans over once more, and kisses Tony as though Tony might break while he starts to fuck into him with something akin to reverence. He is Tony’s first. There may be others after, not if he can help it, but that feeling, the sweet popping of Tony’s flesh, is all his.

Steve makes a noise into Tony’s mouth that’s primal, base, and all too animal as he starts to ram himself deeper and harder. He pulls off with a slick pop from Tony’s lips, and Tony gasps out for air.

“Mine. Say you’re mine.”

“Fuck, Steve, I’m yours, I—” Steve sweeps forward and kisses him once more, lapping up Tony’s admittance. Tony mumbles something against his lips, and Steve pulls back just that much to hear it.

“Always loved you,” Tony whispers, and it’s only through Steve’s superior hearing that he catches it, and he swells with the confession.

Tony’s words take him by surprise, and his body tenses with it, orgasming on just hearing that alone. All meaning is lost inside Tony then, and his mind ascends into a different plane. There’s just the perfect sensation of Tony around him, as though he’s pushed his soul inside of Tony for safekeeping.

“So perfect, love you. Tony!” He whites out as the spasms hit, and he curls over Tony, pumping more and more of himself into his omega. He doesn’t realize he’s said the words back to Tony for at least thirty seconds, and the world drops out from under him. He looks down then, at Tony, unsure of where he stands, but Tony is still somewhere else, lost in another clenching orgasm of his own. So Steve just studies his face as his mouth opens and closes, and his eyes tense shut. It’s hell, waiting for Tony to come back to him, to reality where Tony didn’t just say that he’s always loved Steve.

But he did hear it.

And Steve said it back.

And hell, he means it.

Tony’s eyes blink open, fluttering, and refocus on Steve. They look panicked, scared, and Steve takes a shuddering breath.

“No, Tony no, it’s ok. Shh, sweetheart.” Tony starts to squirm underneath him, but he’s locked together with Steve by the knot, and there’s no escape for the omega as he whines and tries to pull away from Steve. “Tony, stop, sweetheart, shh, stop struggling.”

Steve hitches his hips up to try and follow Tony’s body as it tugs at him. It hurts, just that little bit, and he can’t imagine how it must feel to Tony, how upset he must be to try and get away. But he can’t allow Tony to hurt himself, so he gropes at Tony’s shoulders and presses his hips down to pin Tony.

“Shh, that’s right, you’re so good, my perfect omega, so perfect.” Tony keens, and Steve watches tears leak out of the corner of his eyes. “It’s ok, I’ll take care of you. I’ve got you.” Steve doesn’t want to remove his hands from Tony’s shoulders, so he leans down and kisses the tears away, one and then the other.

“Don’t. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.” Tony shuffles his head just a little and gives Steve pleading eyes. Steve drives himself that much deeper into Tony as he comes again, and it’s sensation beyond what his body can contain.

“I do mean it Tony, you’re amazing and I—I love you.” Steve feels the raw sensuality of Tony beneath him, how Tony’s pulse is fluttering inside his hot channel. The heat between them is scorching, and he feels that in the warmth, and he can’t tell where he ends and Tony begins.

He’s been holding himself up for so long that it’s easy to fall to his elbows, chest pressing down onto Tony. He feels something between them, something hard, but Tony pushes him back up and away before he can get a handle on what it is.

His knot loosens just that little bit, and Tony lurches back to pull off of it, sliding up the bedding and out from under him, pushing further away from Steve. It hurts to be pushed away from Tony, but he lets it happen, because he knows Tony needs the space from what’s just been said. He watches as the omega curls up in the corner of the bedding, nesting as he holds his stomach and tucks his legs up.

Steve doesn’t know what to think, and he wonders what it was he felt on Tony’s chest, but he’s not about to press his luck.

The morning light is creeping through the curtains, and he figures that it’s time to replenish themselves with food, so he slowly gets up from the nest, trying not to spook Tony. There’s no reason to throw on clothes, as he’ll be needed again soon for Tony.

It’s easy to gather up the necessary supplies in the kitchen: fruit, cheese, and juice to drink. He brings this to Tony, who is still curled up in the nest, though he’s started to doze just a bit.

“Tony?”

“Steve,” he breathes out and props himself up. Steve walks into the nest and kneels down in front of Tony.

“Let me feed you?”

Tony rights himself, and looks at Steve, suspicion writ on his face. It makes Steve feel the terrible weight of how he’s hurt Tony before. He wants so badly for Tony to trust him, so he holds out a blueberry like an offering to him. Instead of snatching it, Tony leans forward, eyes still discerning, and takes it with his lips, twining his tongue around Steve’s fingers and sucking the berry into his mouth.

Steve reaches for another, a raspberry this time, and offers it up. Tony licks the tips of Steve’s fingers and sucks the tender flesh of the fruit from them once more. Steve feeds Tony like that, piece after piece, making his way through the cheeses and fruits. When Tony finishes, he hands him the juice to drink, which Tony obediently swallows.

Tony goes back to laying down, and Steve cleans up the dishes, coming to settle in the nest with Tony, scooting close, but not quite all the way to him. He doesn’t want to spook Tony, who seems melancholic and aloof now.

“JARVIS, get those curtains. I don’t want to see daylight until this is over,” Tony mumbles.

They sleep then, for an hour or two, Steve doesn’t know, until Tony wakes up again and starts crawling over to Steve.

“Want to ride you,” Tony mutters and shoves Steve down onto his back, clamoring over him to do as he pleases. Steve lets his body stretch out, loving the fight in Tony, the single-minded way he pursues his pleasure with Steve.

“Ride me then. Show your alpha how good you are,” Steve says, curving his arms back to rest under his head and watching Tony with hooded eyes. Tony sits up, hands pressed against Steve’s stomach, as proud as though lit from the inside, expanding and bright with triumph. Steve knows that Tony’s hole is fucked open, waiting for his cock, and Tony obliges, sliding down him sharper than a blade.

Steve doesn’t want this to end, and he wants to stay here with Tony, both of them addled by the sweet sickness of heat that’s overtaken Tony. Nothing he’s ever done or had with anyone before has come close to this feeling of wholeness, completeness that he feels with Tony now. Tony is perfect. He’s everything. Steve doesn’t feel so alone in this world anymore, because of Tony. The creeping sensation of the ice has receded with the introduction of Tony’s warmth.

Tony is looking down at him as if he’s a ruler on a throne, shifting his hips forward and back, rubbing his abused hole around the circumference of Steve’s cock. Steve’s hands settle at Tony’s hips, gripping him as if Tony could somehow float away and grounding himself even more so. Steve is dehydrated, his muscles standing out in stark contrast to Tony’s softer and leaner curves. Tony splays his fingers on the muscles of Steve’s abdomen, working them over as if he’s tuning some instrument.

“Alpha?” Tony looks at him, some quiet need on his face, something painful and sad twisted in the depths of his eyes.

“Omega. You’re so good. You’re so sweet and perfect.” Steve knows that Tony needs affirmation, and he sits up so he can rub at Tony’s arms and shoulders, certain that his omega will feel the warmth in his words and gestures.

“I’m good?” Tony asks, hesitant and coltish, even as he sits pinioned on Steve’s cock. Tony’s face is brittle, like glass that breaks with a touch. There’s a sadness in Tony, buried deep and hard to see, but easy to feel. It’s untouchable, even with Steve’s hands over Tony’s skin. But Steve tries to reach it nonetheless, to eradicate it.

“So good. Beautiful, the way you take me all the way in. Going to knot you, breed you, and keep you full. So full of me. Ride me, sweet omega. Be a good boy.” Tony groans at Steve’s words, and his face relaxes into a delicate expression of longing, as fragile as new ice. Tony rides him then, bouncing himself up and down on Steve’s cock like he was made for it. Steve reaches for Tony’s erection, helping his omega along so that his own orgasm, which is sneaking up on him rapidly, is timed with Tony’s.

Tony’s body twists up and bends forward as he comes, his ass leaking around Steve as his cock spurts onto Steve’s chest. Letting go is easy, and Steve knots Tony right there at the climax of Tony’s orgasm, burying himself as deep as he can go and releasing streams of come.

Tony hunches forward, spent, and Steve grasps at Tony’s shoulders to hold the omega up just enough to keep him from crashing down completely.

“So good for me. You’re taking my knot so well. I’m proud of you. I’ll take care of you Tony. I’ll always take care of you.” Once Steve starts whispering these endearments, he can’t stop. Tony hitches a sob and Steve’s mind blanks with concern, rising up to clutch at Tony.

“Sweetheart, what is it? What’s wrong?”

“I’m not good. I’m bad. You want to punish me. Punish me, alpha.” Tony is sobbing, great heaving breaths coming out of him, his body trembling and shaking.

“What? No! No, you’re so good, you’re doing so good for me. Baby, please?” Steve tries to catch Tony’s eyes, to no avail.

“I can’t cook, I won’t stop working, I don’t sleep, I refuse to listen to you. I’m bad. I’m so bad.” Tony squirms and tries to get away, the knot tugging at his body as he twists and claws at the bedding around him. Steve clutches him tight, willing his omega to be calm, to know that Steve isn’t mad at him at all.

“All those things Tony, they don’t matter. Not anymore. You’re good as you are. I was wrong. I was so wrong. You’re a sweet little thing, look at you, so perfect for me. I love you.” But Tony doesn’t stop crying, and the gut wrenching sounds coming out of him are alarming to Steve’s ears. Steve tries. He frantically tries to comfort Tony and bring the omega around with more endearments, but Tony only seems to cry harder as Steve caresses his face and shoulders.

When the knot deflates, Tony slips off and crawls away to the corner again, little hiccups sprouting from his mouth as he shudders and shakes. Steve can’t stop himself this time, and he goes towards Tony, crawling carefully into his space. Tony mewls and tries to burrow into the bedding, but Steve covers Tony’s body with his own, offering protection instinctively as alphas should.

In the darkness and the pressure from Steve’s body, Tony finally starts to calm, his breathing only slightly labored. Steve is at a loss. It’s one thing to know he’s hurt Tony, but it’s fully another thing to see the fruits of his terrible labor. Watching Tony break as a result of the poor treatment wrenches something in him.

When Tony’s breathing finally evens out into sleep, Steve pulls off of him, ready to move back in an instant should Tony wake up and find him not there. The entire thing leaves him pensive and scared.

What if it’s always like this between them? If the wounds that Steve has inflicted on Tony are too deep for Tony to reconcile, then what of their relationship? Steve isn’t sure that this can be a one time thing for him, not anymore. He needs Tony. He’s certain of it now. There isn’t a way back for him anymore to be as alone as he was. There is only forward, and Tony being that future. He’s so selfish, he knows. But life isn’t as meaningful without someone to share it with. And it’s become Tony for him. He was so wrong about omegas, about Tony.

He tries to sleep, but he can’t do that when he sees Tony’s tear-stained eyelashes flutter in his sleep and sees how closely guarded Tony keeps his body. As though someone might hurt him.

It’s three hours this time before Tony wakes up, and when he does, it’s like he’s forgotten everything that had happened before and is reaching for Steve as if Steve has salvation for him.

“Bite me, Steve. Claim me. Fuck—”

“Mmm, sweetheart,” Steve whispers into Tony’s neck, right near his gland. He sucks on it, swirling the lovely skin around his mouth, trying to bottle the flavor in his memory.

Steve takes Tony on his hands and knees again, fast and hard, brutally fucking into Tony’s ass, making it red with hard use. It’s just what Tony needs, as the omega comes with a howl, clawing the bedding underneath his fingers as Steve knots him.

Then Tony sleeps again, and Steve is left alone with his thoughts. He thinks on how badly he misjudged Tony’s level of promiscuity. He’d never even taken an alpha’s cock before now, and Tony willingly ceded that to Steve. Tony is so beautiful and sweet like this, needing him and presenting for Steve. He’s afraid of what happens after, though he holds out hope that Tony sees how much Steve has changed and is willing to give him an opportunity.

The next time Tony wakes up, he’s growling and vicious. Tony pounces on Steve, his teeth sinking into Steve’s shoulder in a crushing bite that would leave terrible marks on anyone else. Steve feels somewhat sad that the way Tony is bruising him now will disappear as if it had never been there at all. Tony claws at his chest, face twisted in a snarl, his eyes possessive.

Steve grasps Tony by the hips, flips him around, and pushes the head of his cock against Tony’s hole, gasping as the muscles flutter under the pressure. Tony gives a breathy little growl, and the sound of it causes Steve to lose control completely. He thrusts forward, feeling Tony’s body give way and let him be seated at the root of him. Tony cries out, ecstatic, and Steve seizes the omega’s hips to pull his cock nearly all the way out before plunging it back in again. Steve grasps Tony’s hair and leans forward towards his neck, savaging his throat with kisses.

Tony makes adorable, sensuous little noises: little mewls, low moans, high-pitched little cries. Tony is taking Steve so well, hips shoving back to meet Steve’s urgent thrusts, rocking upwards until he attains a perfect rhythm between them. They’re glossed with sweat, an almost pearlescent sheen of it, and he licks a hot stripe across Tony’s neck as he takes Tony’s cock into a fist. Tony promptly makes a desperate keening noise, throbbing with unrepressed need as he snaps his hips back.

Tony is so tight now. Clenching and squeezing as if he wants every drop of Steve’s come and he’s determined to have it as deep as possible.

Tony is incredible, skin so soft and firm, so warm and yielding. It’s then that Tony starts to come, cock jerking in Steve’s hand, threads of spend spitting their way out. Tony is gripping his cock now, and it feels electrifying, which is when Steve surrenders to the sensation and comes with Tony, letting go of everything.

He whites out in a haze of feeling, the tidal wave of it crashing over him, burying him deep into his pleasure. He collapses over Tony, cold sweat prickling at his skin and sliding his chest across Tony’s back.

It takes a bit, but his knot works its way out of its own accord, and Steve falls to the side, Tony laying down on his stomach next to him.

“Would you like a bath sweetheart?” They’re both filthy by this point, and Steve thinks it’s time to rinse off the numerous bodily fluids that coat their bodies.

“Mm, want to stay filled with your come.”

“I can give you more, after. Come bathe with me.” Steve tries cajoling his omega. Tony peers out from beneath his lashes, brown eyes flashing with some unknown emotion.

“Ok. We can bathe.”

Steve kneels, leaning down to hook one arm under Tony’s legs and the other under his back, lifting the omega into his arms and holding him close. Tony’s thighs are slick and his midsection is flaky with spend.

They make it to the bathroom, Tony’s eyes slitted with exhaustion as Steve puts him down, helping him stand on wobbly legs. Tony leans against the wall as Steve makes to fill the tub with water.

When the water starts to heat, he guides Tony to sit down inside the tub, the omega wincing when the water touches his backside.

“Hurts.” Tony turns his head to look at Steve, his eyes pleading Steve to do something about the pain. Steve thinks about it for a moment, before knowing exactly what he’s going to do.

“Shift to your knees.”

“Ugh, I’m old, I don’t want to.”

“You’re not that old. But here, here’s a towel for padding.” Steve slips a folded up towel into the water as Tony rotates to kneel on it, the water sluicing off of him as he pulls his legs apart and presents. The tub is large enough for both of them, and Steve slips in behind him, hands steadying himself on Tony’s hips. There’s a beautiful pattern of bruises there, and he presses his fingers until they indent Tony’s skin while Tony twitches his hips backwards, arching his back into Steve’s grip. His hole is wet with water and slick, and he watches Tony’s rim pucker and squeeze out a dollop of come, and a wave of possession grips him. He reaches over and wipes it up with his finger before leaning forward and rubbing it into Tony’s gland.

Tony arches his neck to the side, allowing access, and begins to purr with pleasure. Steve drags his hand down Tony’s back and grabs at the swell of Tony’s ass, dimpling the skin and pulling at his rim again. It’s pink and glistening, and Steve leans down to lap at it, letting the analgesic from his saliva take care of the sting. He fucks his tongue in while Tony lets off a long and low moan, and Steve pries the tip of his tongue in, forcing it past the taut muscle.

“Oh god, Steve!”

He sucks at Tony’s hole, devouring Tony’s ample slick, which tastes mildly salty and sweet at the same time. Tony thrusts his hips back into Steve’s face, rocking into his mouth, and tilting himself up and down. Steve eats him out with vigor, tongue flicking back and forth while he suctions at Tony. He pulls away, admiring his handiwork, Tony’s skin glistening like silver in the light.

Tony drops his hands into the water, which comes up to their thighs.

“Better?”

“Much. It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

“Good.” Steve kneads at Tony’s ass, gripping the pliant flesh in his palms, wondering what Tony might need next that he can provide.

“Steve, I want to be alone. May I?” Steve’s taken aback, but realizes it might have something to do with whatever is going on with Tony’s chest. He likely doesn’t want to take his shirt off in front of Steve.

“Of course. I’ll be in the nest.” He gets out of the tub and grabs a towel, wiping his body down with it. He’s not clean, exactly, but he did get most of his groin washed off.

The nest is warm, and while it’s not very clean, the fabric is still soft and pliable. He lays there for a while, thinking about Tony and how an omega’s heat is not the terrible thing he thought it was. He’d been under the impression that it was a burden for an alpha and an omega to endure. But this has been anything but. It’s the most intimate thing he’s ever experienced in his life, something he feels like he was born to do.

He loves Tony. His vitality, his indomitable will, the way he always has a comeback, and never backs down. Tony is strong and brave.

Tony comes after a time and lays down, curling up next to Steve. Steve puts his arms around the omega, tucks his bottom up against Steve’s groin, and settles in. This is where he should be. His sense of completeness is resolute, immovable.

The day passes slowly after Tony’s bath, Tony waking up every few hours to climb Steve and be knotted. Steve isn’t nearly as tired as a regular alpha would be, the serum keeping him going for hours. He’s in a state of perpetual arousal, his cock leaking and hard as it waits for Tony’s body. He loves every second of it. The feeling of being useful, of being wanted and needed. He doesn’t need anyone to tell him that these are alpha instincts and that they’re good and right. So much of what he understood an alpha to be has changed just by the very fact of Tony being an omega. He’s meant to provide, protect, and love his omega unequivocally. Anything that doesn’t follow from those instincts is to be questioned.

He’s so much happier like this, feeding Tony and just being in the other man’s presence.

Finally, Steve can sense that they’re on the tail end of Tony’s heat, the smell lessening and the slick that Tony produces drying up.

Tony is more cognizant than he’s been in days, but he’s still underneath Steve as Steve undulates and presses deep into him.

“Mm, alpha.” Tony’s head is tilted back, his eyes fluttered shut, mouth parted in a plea.

“Omega. Sweet, perfect, lovely omega. You want my knot sweetheart? You’re still so tight, want to fill you right up again until it spills over.”

“Mm yes, knot me.”

He lays Tony out before him on the bed on his stomach and rubs Tony’s wet hole with a free hand. Tony keens, whining and pushing his ass up into Steve’s hand, squirming.

Tony’s hole is oozing slick now, and he’s canting his hips back in askance. Steve leans over him on all fours, the head of his cock gliding against Tony’s wet thighs.

“Inside me, please. Now, now, now.” Tony is a broken record, and the omega tilts back to try and catch Steve’s cockhead on his rim, succeeding just a little before Steve reaches down and helps him the rest of the way.

“Good boy. Such a good boy, begging so pretty for it. Can you plead just a bit more, love? Want to hear you.” Steve is sheathed tight into Tony, the sound of his cock moving in and out loud and wet, like Tony is sucking him off. He stops spanking in favor of gripping Tony’s hips, kneeling on either side of Tony’s body.

“Alpha, alpha please. I’m so good, please I’ve been so good, I promise! I’ll do anything you want, anything—” Steve groans and comes, plastering his hips to Tony’s as he pumps away at his ass. The knot takes so beautifully, Tony contracted around him like a vice. Tony moans and whines, bucking up against Steve and trying his best to get closer.

Steve slips out again after his knot deflates, and Tony collapses to the bed, falling into deep slumber.

It continues like this for days, until Tony’s body is covered in bruises and his gland inflamed and red from how much Steve is sucking at it. Steve manages to keep Tony’s energy up by feeding him, giving him water and juice, and bathing him when necessary. He often licks at Tony’s battered hole to impart the pain-dulling qualities of his saliva, which is more a privilege than a chore.

As Tony starts to come down from his heat, he becomes more needy. Steve has spent hours kissing his omega, hands traveling down his supine form to rest at the juncture of Tony’s hips. He takes Tony slowly, the glide of his cock smoothed by slick and spend, his cock swollen with use as much as his own pleasure.

Finally, Tony wakes up lucid.

“Tony?”

“I shouldn’t have brought you here. Into this. I don’t know what I was thinking.” Tony hugs his knees to his chest and looks away from Steve.

“But I’m your alpha. Isn’t this where I should be?” Steve feels uncertainty creeping in.

“You don’t even like me.” Tony gives him a look then, his face as hard as a clenched fist.

“How can you say that? Everything I did, everything I do, is for you. Even though they were the wrong things to do, it was only with you in mind.” Tony has to understand him, and see reason. They just spent Tony’s heat together, and it was meaningful, beautiful. Why would Tony want to throw that away?

“So that’s what I’m left with? An alpha who has good intentions, but flawed execution? I think I deserve more than that.”

“You do, and I’ll try, I promise I’ll try and be what you need. I want to be that alpha.” The delicate soap bubble of his happiness is threatening to burst, or maybe it already has.

“You make these promises, but I’m not sure I should believe them. I’m better than ‘good enough.’ I am better than ‘try.’ I deserve good things. And you have been the furthest from good. I want you to leave.”

“Tony, stop please, don’t do this.” He’s not above begging. He’s not, if it’s Tony.

“Don’t do what? Throw something that could be good away? You did that already. This is what’s left. And I don’t need you constantly around me to remind me of what we never had.” Tony gestures at them as if Steve can see the lingering smear of cruelty that Steve has put into their relationship.

“But you said—” Tony said that he had always loved Steve. Which in retrospect is interesting in that Tony has never acted as though he loved Steve and their marriage is only a few months old.

“Don’t. Just don’t Steve. Do not go there. I said you can’t take anything I said during heat seriously. Are you going to renege because you don’t like the consequences?”

“No, Tony. I’ll just go. If that’s what you want.”

“Since when do you genuinely care what I want? Don’t answer that, I don’t want to hear it.”

“I don’t know what to do Tony. I do care. I’m so sorry.”

“I know what you think of me. Tony Stark, slut extraordinaire. Tony Stark, incompetent omega that can’t cook anything to save his life. Who spends money like water flows.”

“I don’t think of you that way. I promise I don’t care about those things anymore.”

“I just don’t believe you. Just go. Leave.”

“Tony, please—”

“Are you going to disrespect my wishes now? Isn’t that what you always do?” Steve freezes, torn in pieces over what he’s supposed to do and what he wants to do. He hears all the advice he’s gotten in his head from the doctor, Natasha, the priest, and more.

He snaps his jaw shut and gives a terse nod.

“Ok, ok Tony. I’m leaving.” Steve gets up and walks to the door before turning around to glance at Tony. Tony is staring off into the distance, not paying attention to Steve at all. He turns and leaves, feeling the sting of loss.

Chapter Text

Steve feels cold. He’d been in the ice before, felt the touch of grime on his skin until it sank in and glazed his soul. This feels like shackles. Like steel armor that locks around him and refuses to let go.

He’s staring at a plate of food. It’s lasagna, and he spent hours making each part of the recipe from scratch. There’s nothing better to do. He’s aimless otherwise.

The moment comes to take the food down to Tony and he hesitates. Every second he gets with the omega cuts at him like a sharp razor and his head feels like it’s being squeezed with a vice. But the moments apart are worse than that.

He’s been discarded like a bad dream, shed like a snake’s skin from Tony’s life. In the end he is left with the things that he has done.

He loves Tony. He knows that now. And Tony, in the throes of passion, had loved him back. Even if it was fleeting.

But that moment is gone. Eradicated as surely as waves retreat from the shore. The loneliness is immense, throbbing, and it clamps around his organs, twisting and winding them ever tighter. He’s meant to be with his omega. There is very little purpose for him without Tony. This world is filled with new, meaningless things. Even from the beginning, the contract had given him purpose. And then slowly, slowly, it was Tony who became his reason. Steve doesn’t know how to be a person that doesn’t love Tony. Not anymore.

A part of him wants to die, but that would leave Tony alone.

He steels himself, picks up the plate of food, and goes to Tony in his workshop. The doors open as easily as they always have, and Tony doesn’t turn around. He never turns around now.

Steve sets the plate down next to him as Tony ignores him. This is how it’s been in the week since. Steve takes the old plate of food with him, noting that Tony enjoyed the chicken and rice.

If this is all he gets of Tony, the scraps, he’ll take it. It’s better than nothing at all.

Tony doesn’t say a word.

Steve quietly goes back upstairs, feeling like he wants to cry.

Cleaning the kitchen should be a good distraction from his thoughts, but instead he’s hyper fixated on everything that led up to the heat and what happened after. Not to mention what went on during. He’s been inside Tony. In a way no other alpha had been. Tony was his, for all of a couple days. Tony’s body belonged underneath him, around him. He remembers every whimper, every scream. He remembers holding Tony while he trembled and squeezed tight and broke while Steve was inside him. He remembers gathering the pieces in his arms, Tony’s long, sweat-slick limbs akimbo and lean torso slippery with fluids. He doesn’t know how Tony managed to keep his shirt on, but he did, only managing to have it ride up to his chest before Tony would instinctively pull it down.

They had made love, in the end. Endless, passionate, encompassing. Their bodies were aching with use, the flex of their muscles a sweet pain to both of them. Steve’s cock was almost oversensitive and numb, and Tony’s insides couldn’t be much better. A contradiction to be sure, but that’s the closest description to what it felt like.

Then, as surely as it ended, Steve woke up to Tony sitting up in the darkness, and then… Now Steve was here. Lonely. Alone. Empty.

What remained of Steve was forever lost inside Tony, and he was never getting it back. And to think, he was content with that. It wasn’t a bitter pill or a disappointment. Tony deserved the world. He deserved a better man than Steve. If Steve was Tony’s consolation prize, then Steve would willingly carve pieces of himself off for Tony to have. If that was what he wanted.

But it seemed Tony didn’t want anything more from Steve at all.

The dishes are put away and the counter is clean by the time he’s done circling the wagons of his thoughts.

He stands there, silent and brooding, unsure of where to go, or what to do. If he sketches, he’ll draw Tony. If he runs, he’ll think of Tony. Nowhere is safe.

He’s so very, very lucky when the call to assemble goes off.

He dresses as quick as he can and makes his way to the rendezvous point. There are mutated animals running about; large pigs that have escaped from a research facility where they’ve been growing them larger than grizzly bears. Which, why pigs? They’re clever animals capable of escaping their pen, and it seems with the increase in size, they’ve become even more intelligent.

Not sentient, which would be a whole different problem to deal with, but smart enough that the police aren’t cutting it.

There’s also the fact that there’s at least ten of them wandering about, knocking over trash cans and breaking into stores. He almost laughs seeing a pig bust into a coffee shop straight through the windows and go for the pastries.

Clint and Natasha are there, each of them trying to wrangle a pig down with their weaponry. Clint’s pig looks like a pin cushion, the skin thick enough to prevent most arrows from going in too deeply.

“These things aren’t reacting to tranquilizer darts effectively at all. I’ve got it hit with the stuff we would use to keep Cap knocked out and it’s hardly making a dent.”

Clint’s pig is stumbling around, knocking into street signs and parked cars with impunity, but it’s not falling over. Steve tosses his shield at the pig’s head and it cracks into it, causing the animal to slump over. He isn’t sure if it’s dead, but at this point they’d take anything.

“Thanks Cap’n.” It’s the first time Clint has spoken normally to him since they met.

“This is ridiculous,” Widow says over the coms. Her pig is reacting to her widow’s bites not at all. If anything, it’s making the animal more agitated.

“So are they fire proof and bullet proof?” Steve asks.

“The standard issue guns don’t make a dent. They’re getting thicker rounds, but they figured we would be better for containment.” Widow sounds strained as she replies.

“How were they even supposed to slaughter these things if they were bred to be eaten?” Clint asks the obvious question they’re all thinking.

Steve tosses his shield at yet another pig and it bounces off of its skull with a resounding thwack, but doesn’t stop the beast from flipping its head at Steve, turning tail, and diving down an alley.

“Damn.”

The pig comes running back when it’s faced with officers with high voltage cattle prods, and a second toss of the shield knocks it out. They need to work faster than this, or all the animals they did knock out will wake up.

“Is Iron Man coming?” They could really use his repulsors right about now.

“I called him around the same time as you. He should be—” Widow’s pig goes down in a blaze of white light, and Steve hears the hum of the thrusters above his head. Really, they should have just sent Iron Man to take care of this, rather than have the whole team here.

“What is this? We’re getting called for every little thing now?” Iron Man is already tapped into their coms.

“I think Fury said something about team building,” Widow replies.

“Over bacon. I like it.” He repulsors a pig to the head, and it drops immediately. From there it takes less than two minutes for Iron Man to get each animal downed. What was the point of all of them coming out here again? Ah, yes. Team building.

Oh well. At least he would get a chance to talk to Iron Man.

The police moved in at that point and started loading the bodies of the pigs onto trailers. Iron Man dropped down and started to help lift, and Steve shook his head from his thoughts and started to help as well.

“We’ll meet you back at SHIELD Rogers! I think we’re done here,” Natasha says. Clint waves at him, and Steve’s heart jumps up in his throat to think that things might be ok between them at some point. He still has to apologize.

When they were finally all loaded up, Iron Man is standing there with his hands on his hips, looking as incredulous as a robotic face can at the strapped down pigs.

“Bizarre,” he said.

“Very.” Steve wipes at his face.

“So how’ve you been?” Iron Man turns to him, and asks so nonchalantly, that Steve warms instinctively. They were friends, weren’t they?

“I’ve been better, in all honesty. I feel like every time I complain about my life to you, and you just listen. I should be a better friend.”

“Well, I don’t have much of a life outside of this myself, so it’s good to hear about other people’s problems.”

“Well, if you say so. It’s—it’s my omega. We haven’t got on very well for most of the time we’ve been married. It’s always to do with that, isn’t it? I’ve been—I’ve been awful to him. And I know that. We shared his heat though, recently, because I did say yes to him, like you suggested. But now he wants nothing to do with me, and I know that he’s not wrong in the sense that I’ve been cruel to him. It’s just, now I want him. I want him so badly I can’t even think straight. I think I’m in love with him.”

“Look, I’ll be honest with you too, since we’re friends, but you seem to have this opinion of omegas where they’re inferior to you. How can your omega want to be with you as an equal if you can never see him that way?” Steve had never thought of it that way before, but he realizes that Iron Man is right. He’s always seen Tony as someone who needed caring for, but not someone who can be responsible for the caring of himself. He’s questioned Tony’s decisions, his life, everything about him. It isn’t possible to easily apologize for that. For woefully underestimating and undervaluing someone’s faculties.

“You’re right, but—I don’t know why I do that?” He searches his heart, but he’s too nervous to come up with any explanation.

“Look, you need to figure it out. You can’t change unless you know what it is you need to let go of. And your omega shouldn’t have to wait for you to do that to live his life on his terms. He deserves better than that. And while you may be my friend? He deserves better than you, and you know that.”

“I know, I know he’s more than deserving of a better husband. I know I’ve been cruel, wretched to him. And I regret it, every day. But I just don’t know why I feel the way I do. Please, if you have any insight at all, I need him—I don’t think I can do this, live in this world, without being able to be by his side. When I woke up, the only thing I had was this contract, and I didn’t even want it. I thought he was vain, flighty, insipid. But he’s none of those things. He’s strong, clever, indomitable of spirit. He’s fought against everything I’ve tried to do to him and never given in. Not really.” Iron Man pulls his hands up to his face, a very human gesture. He hears the metal click as his fingers slide down the sides.

“Ok, we’ll try to reverse engineer this. Why do you think omegas are what you said: flighty, insipid, vain?”

“Because—because they need alphas. Or I thought they did. I don’t—it’s that they’re weak, they’re not capable of—no that’s not right. It doesn’t feel right to say anymore, but I thought they were weak.”

“Why are omegas weak? Think back. What omega did you know that was weak?” He thinks of Edit, Brenna, Colleen. He thinks of the other nameless omegas he saw and all of their names, faces, lives. Once, he had been—no. But, yes. He had been an omega. An asthmatic omega with scoliosis and other ailments. Weak. Needing help. With Bucky always looking out for him. Was it…? Did he hate himself? No, he was always meant to be alpha. But he had been omega. And if Erskine hadn’t come along… He’d be an omega, and likely dead. He never would have gone to war with Bucky, met Peggy, met Tony. He can’t conceptualize a world in which he’d never done these things.

“I think—I was an omega. I was so broken, physically. I needed medical treatments all the time. Treatments my mother could barely afford. And I was a burden on everyone. My mom, Bucky. I couldn’t even have proper heats, I was so useless. No one would ever want me. I didn’t want myself. If you’re asking who the weakest omega I knew was, it was me.” He looks at Iron Man desperately. Needing some kind of confirmation that the man inside the suit understands him. Knows exactly what Steve is talking about.

“I get it, yeah. You wanted to help. To be a part of something. And the world kept telling you that you couldn’t. Couldn’t join the army. Couldn’t have a normal life. Couldn’t help nor save your mother. And that got to you. It’d get to anyone. But what you don’t understand is that you’ve always been strong despite those things. The most important strength has nothing to do with our bodies, not really. It’s what we carry with us that helps us endure the hard times. And I think somewhere, you forgot it wasn’t about your gender. Do you think that’s about right?” Steve’s throat is dry and he feels once more like he’s about to cry. He’s punished everyone around him, every omega, for the fact that he felt weak. He survived Erskine’s experiment when he was an omega. It had nothing to do with his gender. It never did. His being alpha may have changed who he would be with ultimately, but it hadn’t changed him. What he’d done to himself, the things he’d chosen to believe, they were ultimately the culmination of every injustice his weakened body had heaped on him. And instead of being strong, Steve had broken, and began to believe something false. He felt so stupid. Craven, even. How could he justify this to himself any longer?

“I’ve really messed up. I think—I think I’m a horrible person.”

“No, you’re a good man who’s made a mistake. A bad, long term mistake that you should really look into not continuing anymore, but just a mistake.”

“It would be just a mistake if I hadn’t harmed other people in the process. But you don’t understand how badly I’ve harmed Tony. I’ve really hurt him. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I took something that was supposed to be precious between us, and I crushed it under the weight of my own cowardice.”

“And sometimes there’s no coming back from that. But the thing is, it’s not your decision to make. It’s his. I’d ask you if you told him any of this, but it sounds like you’re having a revelation right now. So just level with him. Ask him to forgive you. The worst he can say is no. And if he doesn’t, you still have to work on forgiving yourself.”

“But I need him. You don’t understand! He’s everything now. And all those things I did to him, they don’t change how much he’s under my skin and in everything I do and think!”

“You’re in love,” Iron Man says it with something like awe.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to say. I want his rebelliousness. His steadfast refusal to cave. I want the sassiness of his mouth and the way he can just cut you down to size like it’s nothing. He’s so blindingly beautiful I want to worship him. And he’s so clever. The things he’s built, I could only dream of. He runs his own company. He’s everything that an omega should be. Tony’s my standard now. And yes there are different omegas, who lead equally as valid lives, but him, he’s—he’s something else. I can’t explain it. And I know, I know I don’t deserve to have him. And selfishly I think about how he’s married to me, stuck with me. But even then, I can’t get him to love me with just that. And I think if he asked, if he really asked, I’d let him go. Even though it would kill me inside. There’d be no purpose after him.”

“There’s always this. There’s SHIELD,” Iron Man protests.

“That’s not a life. I could see taking care of Tony, feeding him, loving him, being whatever it is he needs me to be, for the rest of my life. I can let go of these antiquated roles I thought I was supposed to take and just let myself feel, for once. Do you know how much I like taking care of him? It’s become the highlight of my day to be able to bring him something to eat. It’d be pathetic, maybe, but for the fact that I love it so much I don’t care. I don’t know when caring shifted from telling him what to do to enabling him to live the life he wants, but it’s happened, and it’s not going away. You can’t tell me anything in this world will be able to replace it, either.”

“No, I can’t tell you that,” Iron Man says quietly.

“So what do I do? What in god’s name do I do?”

“It’s just what I said. Tell him this. Ask him to forgive you. And if you are very, very lucky, he will.”

“I’ve had my fair share of good luck in this life. Maybe I’ve run out. I don’t know. I deserve to have it run out. I don’t deserve him.”

“Love isn’t about deserving. It just is. And if he wants you despite these things, you just be damn sure you live up to it. Do you think you can do that?”

“I’ll do anything,” Steve chokes out.

“Then do it. That’s all I’ve got for you Captain.”

“Thank you, just, thank you for listening, for being there. I’ve been a selfish friend, and you’ll have to let me know how I can repay you. How I can be better to you.”

“Oh I wouldn’t worry about that much. We’ll figure something out. Probably soon.”

“I mean it, Iron Man. Don’t think I’ll forget.”

“I don’t think you will. But remember what I said. Okay?” Iron Man’s thrusters turn on and he starts to hover off the ground.

“I will. And thank you, again.” Steve feels like a burden he’s been carrying has been lifted. The catharsis is profound. He hasn’t apologized to Tony yet, but he feels like he can. Like things can possibly be okay.

He feels this uplifted all the way to SHIELD, through his shower, and the moments before he goes to seek Natasha and Clint out. He’s going to use this opportunity to apologize to everyone who he’s inadvertently hurt with his behavior.

Barton and Natasha find him first, almost like they know he wants to meet with them.

“Let’s go somewhere private,” Natasha says. He follows them to an empty conference room and settles into a chair. Both of them are wearing SHIELD issued relaxing clothes, though Hawkeye clearly has something against sleeves, and has ripped his off the t-shirt.

“I wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Clint, I never should have implied you were less than at your job because you are an omega. You’re a great operative, and I’m glad to have you at my back. I had prejudices against omegas, and I realize that now. Is there anything I can do to make it right?”

“It’s about time you figured it out. Just treat Tony with respect. And me. But I suppose if you don’t treat me well, I’ll just shoot you. Added incentive, that.” Clint is cleaning his fingernails using a knife as he threatens Steve. It’s not necessary, but it is endearing.

“So you’re going to do right by Tony?” Natasha asks then. She’s sitting next to him within arm’s reach.

“I’m going to try. If he lets me.” Steve clasps his hands together. Natasha reaches over and pats him on the shoulder.

“Do that, and we don’t have a problem,” she says, searching his eyes for a confirmation. He tries to give it to her, not looking away from her scrutiny.

“Don’t do that, and I suppose you won’t be our problem anymore,” Clint affirms, putting the knife back inside one of his many pockets.

“I promise I’ll make my best effort. I mean it.” Steve looks at them both meaningfully.

“Well, if that’s the case, then Fury wants to see you,” Natasha replies.

“Checking up on my lessons?”

“Making sure they stick,” Clint says as he gets up, stalking over to the door. Natasha follows him and Steve also gets up to leave.

“I’ll take you to Fury.” Natasha gestures for him to come as Clint salutes goodbye.

They walk down the halls together silently, and Natasha leads him to an unmarked closed door and gestures at it before walking away. Steve opens it and walks into the office, which is unassuming and filled with paperwork. Behind the desk stands Fury, wearing the same thing that Steve has always seen him in.

“Captain. You’re looking well.”

“I’m holding up.”

“What’s wrong now? Don't tell me you did something to Stark you shouldn’t have. Fucking damnit didn’t we go through this?”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that! I didn’t do anything besides what’s already happened, I promise. I just—I shared his heat with him. I think it went well.” Steve waves his hands at Fury’s inquiry, trying to promise with his body that he’s not a threat to Tony anymore.

“Good, because if I find out from Stark or anyone else that it didn’t, there won’t even be words to be had. Now, did you learn your lesson?”

“I think so. I treated Tony like he wasn’t my equal, and he more than is. If anything, he’s my superior.”

“Tony is your superior. He’s our top contractor for everything besides weapons. I know what’s in his file, but I also know what’s not said there. When he escaped in Afghanistan, he quit making those weapons. Damned inconvenient, but I have to hand it to him, it was brave. He’s already gotten a lot of flack for being an omega and leading a company. This almost tanked him. He didn’t need anyone knocking him down any further.”

“Understood, Director. I’ll do my best to take care of him.” Steve is dismissed then, and he heads home, thinking of what he’s going to say to Tony. He has so much to apologize for. As he descends the stairs he prepares what he’s going to say. He knows that perhaps it has no bearing on the outcome of their relationship. Perhaps he should let Tony go. It kills him, but he’s considering it.

Whatever happens, he’s standing in front of Tony’s workshop. He sighs, and walks in.

Chapter Text

The lab is the same as it always is, and that’s a comfort to Steve. It’s bold and beautiful, and everything that Tony represents. He’s there currently, tittering at some piece of technology. Tony doesn’t turn around, though Steve thinks that the other man knows he’s there.

This is the hardest thing he’ll ever do. He doesn’t know what is going to happen, and if Tony agrees to what he’s proposing, where he’ll end up. Knowing the right thing to do and acting on it is beyond difficult; it seizes his body up in paroxysms of fear and want. He wants to turn back, leave, pretend as if he’s not going to do this. He wants to unravel history, go back to the first moment he saw Tony and stick out his hand in greeting instead of what he’s done.

“Ok, you got me. What is it this time?” Tony sighs and turns around, setting his tool down on the counter.

“I wanted to apologize for being a horrible partner to you. I’m sorry. The things I did, which are numerous, were unacceptable. I thought I was doing right by you, but I was wrong. I want so badly to make it up to you, for us to be able to work past it, but I understand and respect if you can’t do that,” he pauses, knowing what he has to say next, and hating it. “If you want to, we can divorce. I’ll claim infidelity on my part.” His throat is so tight from the admittance, he wants to choke on those words. To bring them back and never have said them. But Tony deserves a clean slate. A chance to break free from all Steve has done to him.

Even if that means Steve is left with nothing.

“You mean that? If I wanted to leave you, right now, you would let me go.” Tony is assessing, his emotional state inscrutable to Steve. The anticipation now is almost worse than when he walked in. Tony holds Steve’s future in his hands.

“Yes. If that’s what you wanted.” And oh, it hurts. His chest is tight and his limbs are starting to tense with the truth of what he’s saying. He doesn’t want Tony to go. He remembers how sweet Tony was after he’d been knotted. How pliant and lovely he was in the bath. The kindness that Tony exhibited when he checked on Steve’s nightmares. Tony cares. Like Steve’s mother did. Tony is a good person. Steve wants all of that surrounding him again and again, like drowning in syrup, the air bubbles of his breath unable to find their way to the surface. His heart had beaten against his rib cage like a trapped bird during Tony’s heat, just wanting to be free to love Tony like he deserved. His brave, strong omega, to have endured all of what Steve has done and still come out like this.

Tony sits upright in his chair, eyes gleaming with intention as he lays his palms on his knees, looking like he’s preparing for battle.

“Do you know why Howard did what he did?” The question stuns Steve momentarily.

“He wanted the company to stay in your hands, right?”

“Yes. But he also wanted a piece of you. Something of yours to own, even if it was through me. And I couldn’t help but want that too. When I was young, all I knew is that a husband, an alpha, would take care of me. And that I had you, even if you weren’t there. That when Howard was drunk and angling for a fight, if my husband had been there, I would have been safe. I dreamed of you. I wanted you more than words can possibly express. And for some reason, even when I became an adult, the idea of you stayed in my head, rent free.”

“Tony, I’m not the husband you deserve. You should have so much more than me.” Steve gestures, open handed at Tony, despairing. He feels as if he’s on the edge of a frozen pond, forced to go forward and not knowing how thick the ice is. He doesn’t really understand what Tony is trying to say.

“You’re not wrong. You’ve been a terror on my life since you’ve shown up. But you are mine. And I don’t let go of my things that easily. I deserve to have you make it up to me. I want you to grovel, and then I want you to make me feel as good as I need, because it’s justified after your behavior. You don’t get to get away from me. You don’t get to leave me behind.” Tony’s voice is a growl, and he’s taking steps forward, one after another, to stand tall in front of Steve.

“Whatever it is you want Tony, I will give you. I promise.”

“I want everything, and what’s left after that too. That’s all mine. I should probably cut you loose, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.” Tony’s eyes are dangerously bright, piercing through layers of Steve’s confidence. He has no choice, whatsoever, he realizes. He belongs to Tony. He’s come so far from not wanting this, to needing it with every fiber of his being, to becoming something that subsists on giving Tony what he needs and wants. Tony’s confession makes him shudder with fear at being cast aside, but deep down, he’s alight with hope.

“Please. Don’t,” Steve chokes out, begging.

“Kneel. Show me how sorry you are with your mouth.” Tony reaches up to caress the side of Steve’s jaw, fingers trailing over the edge to rest on his lips, one forefinger sliding between them to break the seam of saliva and enter the parted flesh. Steve feels every glance of Tony’s skin on his, the slow drag of his fingers over stubble and the soft wetness of his own mouth tasting the flavor of Tony’s skin.

Steve drops to his knees, hands reaching up to frame Tony’s hips, his thumbs dimpling over the sharp bones.

“I’m so selfish Steve. You’re going to find that out. But just remember that you wanted this, before you knew anything else.” Steve gazes up at Tony, who looks inscrutable, distant. Steve just wants him to come back down to earth, to where Steve dwells, if only for a moment before he becomes the sun Steve orbits once again.

“I’ll always want this,” he promises.

“Just remember,” is all Tony says before he deftly unbuttons his pants and pulls his zipper down, pants sliding off with a soft shucking sound. Steve reaches for the waistband of Tony’s underwear and pulls, Tony stepping out of his garments, the pads of his bare feet smacking the ground. The omega is already beautifully hard, and Steve can smell slick leaking, scenting the air with arousal. Tony’s cock bobs once, and Steve seizes it in a soft but firm grip, milking it so a bead of precum surfaces on the slit, which he laps up to the sound of Tony’s groan.

Carefully, Steve reaches between Tony’s legs, his fingers trailing between plush thighs to reach Tony’s entrance. He finds it, hot, wet, and grasping at Steve’s fingers, the taut rim of his ass trying to suck Steve in already.

“Steve, please, don’t make me wait. I can’t—” Steve swallows him whole while pressing a single digit to the tight circle of Tony’s ass, the rhythm of sucking and circling Tony’s hole in seamless tandem. Despite the liquid warmth of Tony, the little circle of muscle holds Steve at bay for moments before Steve presses in. But once inside, it protests the removal by suctioning onto Steve as though Tony’s ass never wants him to leave. The push-pull reminds him of Tony’s heat, and even like this, Tony’s hole is so greedy to be filled. If this is all Steve is good for, it’s enough. It has to be enough.

He doesn’t deserve more.

Tony’s cock is a firm weight in his mouth, resting solidly on his tongue as he slides his mouth up and down. Tony is mumbling, his words indiscernible but for begging and Steve’s name, his jaw slack with pleasure. Tilting his head down, Tony’s eyes widen at the sight of Steve, and he lays a gentle hand on Steve’s head. Steve looks up at him, his brilliant omega, the one person who he’ll always regret hurting and will do anything to bridge that pained gap between them.

“I’m going to need you inside me. Take me over to the couch and fuck me until all I can think of is you.” The words tremble through Steve, and he shivers all over before standing up and looping an arm around Tony’s legs and middle, sweeping him into a bridal carry. The couch isn’t far, and he carefully tilts Tony onto it, the omega falling to the cushions on his hands and knees with his legs spread, a thick film of fluid coating his supple cheeks.

Steve can’t help but put his hands everywhere, Tony’s soft flesh calling to him to cover, to protect. It’s too easy to drape himself over Tony, hands reaching down and under to grasp at Tony’s wet and leaking cock as Steve positions himself at Tony’s entrance.

“Will you listen to me as an equal, Steve? Will you agree to be my partner in all things?” Tony’s chin is tucked up by his shoulder as he turns his head to look at Steve, who’s chest to back with Tony, Tony’s eyes dark with promise and so close to Steve’s that he can’t look away.

“From now on to always.” It’s instinctive, his pushing forward to lock lips with Tony, and Tony welcomes him with parted mouth and hot breath pushing life into Steve’s spoken commitment to their future.

“Then take me, and empty me of every hurt you’ve ever done to me and fill me with something better.” Tony pulls away the barest amount, letting his lips brush over Steve’s cheek as he tells Steve what he wants in a soft whisper of demand. That’s all Steve wants, but he just doesn’t know how.

“Tell me what to do. Tell me how to make this right.”

Tony chuckles, and it doesn’t sound mocking, but lighthearted in a way that Steve is surprised Tony can still be.

“Right now? I want that fat alpha cock in me, and when you’re buried knot-deep, I want you to spank me. Make me squirm on you.”

It’s like a bucket of cold water has been dumped over Steve, trails of cold gliding down his torso and reverberating back up again. He backs up, immediately prying himself off of Tony, and finds himself creating space between them.

“I hit you Tony. I hit you. And now you want me to do it again?” Disgustingly, there’s a part of him that wants to give Tony exactly that. This dark side of him that enjoyed it the first time when he had Tony over his lap, the omega’s erection pressed into his leg, and the only thing between them was the fabric of Tony’s pants. Which he imagined more than once removing that layer, wondering how red Tony’s ass would be, how much heat he could feel coming off the abused flesh.

He loathes himself for it. Regardless of Tony’s arousal, there had been no consent. He was just like every other alpha who took what he wanted without asking.

Tony flips around and sits on the couch, sighing as he levels Steve with a withering stare.

“I’m asking for it. I want it, because it feels good, and because I want you to know there’s a difference between what you did to me and what I’m asking you to do to me right now. You have to know that. Don’t be so zealous to do the right thing that you do the wrong thing again. I understand if it’s too much for you or you don’t genuinely want to do this. And if that’s the case, we don’t have to. But I suspect that you like it, and Steve? In the right context, I like it too. I’m not interested in letting your former bigotry rob us of more things. This is ours if we want it, do you understand?”

“How can you want this after what I did to you? I just don’t understand.” Steve brings his hands up to his head and rubs his hair forward as he looks away from Tony. He wants to do this for Tony, he does, but he hates how there’s a part of him that wants it for himself, selfishly. Somewhere inside, the alpha he wants to be is still entwined with the alpha he was not so very long ago at all. What if he does this and he continues to hurt Tony after? What if he’s never really changed at all?

Almost as if Tony is a mindreader, he stands up and grabs one of Steve’s arms, preventing him from bolting as his instincts are telling him to.

“Steve, it’s not wrong to share this with me. Maybe I’m a bit of an asshole and I want to punish you a little by having you do this. I don’t know. I know it’s wrong of me to have that desire, but it’s there, so full disclosure. But truly, I want you to do it because I want you to remember that it was wrong when you did it to humiliate and punish me. And that we’re two consenting adults now, who deserve to have good things. Is it so wrong to want to eradicate those memories with better ones? You’re not laying hands on me, Steve, you’re freeing me from the past. So do it to free yourself as well, to free us.” Tony ends his speech clutching Steve’s hands in his and gently pulling them towards his body to get Steve to face him. Steve is forced to look deep into Tony’s eyes once more, where he can catalog the determination, the want, and the kind of bravery that makes Captain America look like a coward.

“I don’t know if I can hurt you again like that.” Steve is already halfway into agreement; Tony is in his very bones at this point. He can’t extricate the omega from his decision process anymore. He wants the world that Tony promises—the one where all this pain that he’s caused he gets to slowly scrub down from the walls of their relationship, and when the surface is clean, what’s left is just them, happy, whole, partners. The knife twists at the thought that he should fall short of that in any capacity.

He won’t.

If this is what Tony wants, he’ll scrape out his insides to give it to him. He’ll purge those memories with every touch he lays on Tony’s body. Even if every slap isn’t as cleansing for him, he hears what Tony is saying, and he thinks he sees what Tony means.

“You won’t be hurting me. I promise.”

“Ok, ok Tony.” Steve wonders that this is his life now, but he doesn’t hate it. He remembers the first time he saw Tony and how the first thing he thought was that he needed to control him, to rein him in. Instead, he’s here, and he has a chance to have what he realizes he’s always wanted to have. A partnership, a life where he can trust and respect his lover and be cared for in return. It was here in front of him all along, and he gratefully places his hands on Tony, gently helping him move into a presenting position. Tony smiles at Steve, happy to comply and eagerly flipping his body around to accommodate.

He gazes down at the scene in front of him, Tony’s arched back with a deep curved spine and precious dimples above the base of his back leading to rounded and pert flesh that reveals a pink-puckered hole. Tony flexes and squeezes his ass once, his crack swallowing the view before his hole reappears and a smidgeon of slick trickles down, down to the deeper dusky color of Tony’s sack and even further as it disappears down the side of Tony’s cock.

“I never would have forgotten how beautiful you look like this. Not ever. And seeing it again is a privilege,” Steve breathes.

“You can say all that while you’re inside me, can’t you?” Tony peers over his shoulder and wriggles his hips temptingly, impatient. Steve chuckles and shuffles forward, hands grasping at Tony’s hips.

“So slick for me outside of your heat, Tony. Do you need anything? Any lubricant?”

“Quit stalling. Can’t you see how much I need it?”

“Shh,” he admonishes. As Tony kneels in front of him and Steve pets along his flanks, he feels Tony’s confidence giving way to nervousness. Steve doesn’t want that, so he lines himself up, the head of his cock crowned by pink muscle, and presses in. He starts to move his hips in languorous ellipses, barely punctuating each thrust as he pushes past the tightness of Tony and into the hot, velvety depths of him. Tony makes a frustrated noise that’s closer to a whine than a squeal, and uses his leverage to push back onto Steve, shortening the thrusts that Steve had intended to keep rhythmic.

“Fuck, Steve, harder. I know you can do it harder—” He rails Tony then, spiking each thrust up just that little bit to send Tony’s ass bouncing and his arms bracing against the couch. It feels incredible; Tony, tight but yielding, his hips rotating just so to take Steve’s plunging into him all the way to the hilt, skin smacking lewdly while Steve grips his hips with dug-in fingers. It’s different and also the same as Tony’s heat. Tony is cognizant, mouth open and spittle on his lips, but his moans are little punched out things unlike the sweet whining of Tony in desperate need. He misses it. Tony all deprived and wanting of Steve, making Steve sure of his place in the world.

But this is also its own sweetness.

Steve is here because Tony wants him to be. Not because Steve is convenient or available, but because he requires that Steve be the husband Tony deserves. What they’re doing is filthy, but as Steve runs his hands down Tony’s back and leans over him to get just the right angle to strike, so it’s intimate too. Steve is free in his purpose, loose and ready for a future that involves taking care of Tony and making sure he’s never unsatisfied. Hope is like a flame inside him, and it’s stronger than his despair, more enduring than the way he loathes himself for what he’s done. Maybe it’s selfish; it is selfish, but if Tony isn’t going to make him let go, he won’t.

Tony is so clever and smart, and Steve always saw that, but he never appreciated how unique and special Tony was until it was pressed in his face by everyone around him. He was so dense, so foolish. And he regrets every second, every moment of bringing harm to Tony. He knows deep in his soul now, that omegas are as worthy as anyone else of making their own choices, and he never should have taken away Tony’s.

His thoughts cause his tempo to stutter and Tony turns his head to eye Steve with a soft glare.

“Get out of your own head Steve. All you are is mine right now.”

And just like that, love levels him.

His face must be one of affection, because Tony smiles at him and settles in. Steve then pulls Tony up onto his knees, back to Steve’s chest, and shortens his thrusts just so, hooking his arm around Tony’s collar bone and throat to hold him tight as he uses his other hand to stabilize Tony’s hips.

“Oh god, Steve, just like that, fuck, make me take it, so good for me—” Tony babbles on, while Steve grunts and groans his way into Tony’s loosened hole, reveling at the control he has over Tony’s pleasure. It’s his to give, his love and care to fill Tony up with.

“Knot me, spank me, c’mon, make me yours—”

Steve can hardly bear Tony’s begging, and with a final twinge of concern that dissipates as Tony tacks on a “please,” he drops Tony’s front to the couch and lets himself climb ever upward to his orgasm.

Like magic, all it takes is a few long, pulled out thrusts where he looks down to watch his cock disappear into Tony’s body before his knot begins to swell. He can hardly tear his gaze away as he watches Tony’s now-red hole struggle to take the burgeoning flesh while he presses himself in for the last time. But it takes, the knot popping into Tony like a stopper, and as Steve starts to come, he raises his hand and smacks it down on Tony’s right cheek.

Steve feels molten, like he’s melting and warping inside, changing to become something better. And Tony, Tony whines so pretty, tugging at the knot before pressing his ass back again. Steve rewards him with another slap on the cheek, and he kneads his hand into Tony’s malleable flesh, gripping the skin and using it to help pull Tony back onto Steve further.

His orgasm is pounding through his body, a rush of blood and fractured lust. He wants to watch Tony come. He wants to watch him writhe.

“More, I need more, baby.” Tony is clutching the fabric of the couch for dear life, rocking his hips back onto Steve as he lets off sweet little mewls of pleasure.

“Give you anything, everything.” And with that, Steve starts spanking Tony in earnest, each whack of his hand stinging him and leaving Tony red and wriggling. He can barely stand the gentle tugging of his knot, and he uses one hand to grip Tony tight to him as he continues slapping. He’s overcome with want, even as he unloads himself in Tony, the sweet tension of his groin unfolding itself moment after moment.

“Fuck yes, please, please alpha, let me come?”

“Omega, always, anything you want, anything.” Steve bites back an I love you, not knowing where he stands. He reaches down and around to grasp Tony’s leaking and taut cock, jerking it gently forward as Tony gasps. It takes nothing at all before Tony is spasming in his hand, cock pumping between Steve’s fingers as Tony shudders and lets out a low, raspy groan like it’s being torn from his throat. It reverberates up Tony’s body, Steve feeling every rise and swell of it.

It takes minutes for both of them to calm, Steve running his hands over the bright red of Tony’s cheeks, admiring the look of them as he soothes the flesh, while Tony shivers his way through oversensitivity from Steve’s knot and cock pulsing inside of him.

“Thank you, that was exactly what I wanted. Ugh, yuck, I shouldn’t have come on the couch like that. Now there’s nowhere to lay.”

“I’ve got you.” Steve hefts Tony up and sits back on the clean spot of the couch, cradling Tony in his lap.

“Mm, that’s nice. You were good. You did exactly what I wanted. Now doesn’t that feel better, alpha?”

“It does. I think it will always feel this good to take care of you. It took me so long to notice. To understand.”

“There’s a lot of data that supports alphas being caretakers, providers, not controlling bastards who deny food and perpetrate control and humiliation.” Tony sounds dark and chastising as he says it, and Steve can’t be mad, because he knows what he’s done.

“I’ll do better. I will,” he whispers into Tony’s neck, arms wrapped around him, hands stroking at Tony’s lightly-furred chest.

Slowly, Steve’s knot deflated, and Tony pulled himself off with a soft shucking noise that makes his cock jerk with arousal. Tony is stuffed full of his spend, and Steve loves that if anyone were to come down to the workshop, the smell of Steve would be all over Tony. An indelible mark that Tony was his.

“I have to tell you something. And I don’t want it to change anything. Don’t let it.” Tony turned around and his face was blank, impossible to read. Consequently, Steve’s insides went tight with worry that Tony was going to leave him. Tony said he wouldn’t, but wasn’t that truly what Steve deserved? To be given nothing?

“Nothing could make me turn away from you. Tony, you’re it for me. There is no alternative or anything in my life that I live for right now. Captain America is a mask, an idea made tangible. I wear the suit, but it doesn’t wear me. And that means I need you to come home to, to ground me in this world of things I don’t understand. The only thing I comprehend—and even then you continue to astound me—is you.”

Tony pulls his clothes back on, stepping into his pants with quick efficiency, seemingly unconcerned by the filthy amount of come that’s leaking down his legs. Steve would have licked it up, pressed dollops of it back into Tony, remind him of what Steve had done to him. He feels an outpouring of affection that Tony trusts him enough to tell him another secret. He hopes that there’s nothing else standing between them at some point, that Tony trusts him with his entire person.

“Fine. That’s—if it’s as you say, then it’ll be alright. It has to be,” Tony says, almost to himself. “JARVIS, the suit.”

“Sir—”

“The suit.” And with that, the walls behind Tony peel away, objects already flying out of it towards Tony. He watches as metal clamps around Tony’s arms, his torso, legs, wrapping him in red and gold, until finally the mask, Iron Man’s mask, settles on his face.

Time stretches out, Steve recalling every time he’d ever spoken to Iron Man. The things he’d told him. The things he’d inadvertently told Tony. How he’d always believed, imagined, that Iron Man would be an alpha, or even a beta. He’d never for a second thought that his competent and kind teammate would have been omega. And worse, even more so, it’s Tony. His Tony, who he’s supposed to protect, keep safe.

“Say something.” The modulator on Tony’s voice sounds exactly like Iron Man. He can’t deny what his mind doesn’t want to be true.

Tony is Iron Man.

“How could you hide this from me?” Steve’s voice comes out flat, uninflected.

“Steve, don’t do this. You know I’m capable—”

“—All those times you were in danger. My god, you could have been hurt! And you hid it. All those times you lied about going out, you were just coming back from the fight.” Steve gets up from the couch and grabs for his clothes, his anger a heavy ache in his mind.

“You were in equal danger! And I’m just as capable as you are!” Tony is striding forward, and Steve walks the rest of the distance to meet him, to stare into the glowing eyes of the mask and see how he had missed this, how he’d failed to know that it was Tony underneath all of it.

“You’re omega,” Steve roars into his face, and Tony flinches back, the suit whirring and clicking.

“Yes,” Tony hisses. “I’m omega. I thought we were over this. I thought you of all people would understand!”

He feels… he feels betrayal, bone-deep and sorrowful. Iron Man had been his one friend throughout everything. The one person who had listened. And it had always been Tony. Did Tony laugh at him, through all of his mistakes and lack of knowledge? Had Tony sat there and pitied him when Steve had come to Iron Man with his problems?

“I have to go. I can’t be here.”

“Don’t you dare leave me. Don’t you dare step out now, Steve.”

But Steve is already walking away, his shirt in hand, his pants resting on his hips as he zips himself up. He can’t take this. His body vibrates with fury, fists clenched and his vision narrowed to a tunnel.

He makes it up the stairs and breathes a sigh of relief that Tony hasn’t followed. If Tony had, he knows he would have yelled more, and as upset as he is, he’s more heartbroken than anything. Logically, he knows that Tony couldn’t have told him earlier. That there was no good time to make Steve aware of what he’d been up to.

How many people know?

He assumes SHIELD is aware of something, maybe even Natasha and Clint are in the know. They’d all kept it from him, and he knows, he knows deep inside of him that they were all right to keep Tony’s secret. That Tony was right to not tell Steve.

Mostly he hates himself for being the man that Tony couldn’t confide in.

And then there’s the danger of it all. Tony is only human. He’s not a trained assassin or a soldier. He’s vulnerable, breakable. After all, Steve had been the one to bend him almost to cracking by starving him.

Steve realizes he shouldn’t have walked away from Tony. That he has no excuse for his temper. His anger is like grief, a mark of weakness, as infectious as fear. He doesn’t know what to do with it all, where it’s supposed to go, how he’s supposed to cope.

Instinctively, he wants to stop Tony from being Iron Man, but it’s not any different than Clint. Clint is human, omega, and he serves with SHIELD. There’s no good reason for Tony not to as well, other than Steve’s trepidation and how every fiber of him cries out to protect Tony. The suit doesn’t feel like enough. Tony flies through the air, and he could fall just as easily.

He’s going to have to go back down there, to where Tony is, and apologize to him.

It tears up his insides, cramping his body with bitter dislike. If he could ground Tony, if he could tell the man that he can’t endanger himself like that, Steve thinks that he would. But it’s wrong. He knows it’s wrong, and he has to fight his instincts to control Tony’s behavior. This is yet another thing that he would dictate for Tony, but it’s not the right thing to do. Even if everything is screaming at him that Tony needs to be safe.

He needs to call Nat. His phone is in his room, and he snatches it from the nightstand before dialing one of the few numbers that are saved in it.

“Did you know?” She answers on the second ring and he doesn’t give her a chance to greet him.

“About Tony?”

“Unless there’s other secrets that everyone is keeping from me, yes, about Tony. About the suit,” Steve growls into the speaker, waves of indignation roiling through him once more.

“Yes. And you have no right to be angry with anyone who’s involved.”

“It’s unsafe Nat! He’s human and vulnerable. He’s not you, or Clint, and he’s not a super-soldier. How am I supposed to shield him if he’s out there in the trenches with us?” Steve paces the length of his bedroom, distraught.

“Tony doesn’t need your protection. Maybe he wants it, but he is capable of making his own choices, and always has been. There’s no way you could stop him from being Iron Man, so you either choose to accept it, to accept him, or you walk away. And I don’t think you’re capable of the latter at this point.”

“So I get no choice in this, no input as to what he’s doing?”

“No. You don’t. He’s his own person, and you can ask if he’ll be more careful, or if he’ll hang up the suit, but you need to be prepared that the answer is ‘no,’ and that he’ll be Iron Man as long as his body lets him. Tony is a hero. He stands as proof that omegas are the equals of every other sex. You had better think carefully before presuming to try and take that away from him.”

He sighs into the phone, broken.

“Steve, you will get through this. And you’re not prevented from trying to keep him safe. You do help him, on the field. You’ve been there for him, as his alpha. I know this is hard, and that you’ve already made so much progress. But there’s just a little more left for you to do. Take that step, go tell him you’re sorry, tell him you respect his decision.”

“It’s one thing to know something consciously, but all of me is screaming that Tony is defenseless, exposed. I’m supposed to be his alpha, his source of support, and safe harbor. What purpose do I serve besides this? And I can’t even do it, Nat.” Steve chokes back something like a sob, realizing that he’s overcome with emotion. But even as he breathes through his fear, he feels it detach. Nat is right, he knows she’s right.

“There’s more to your relationship than that. Let him in. Let him guide you and be your sanctuary. Tony has always been volatile, difficult to work with, but since you’ve shown up, he’s been more focused and engaged. For some reason, throughout all of what you’ve done to him, he’s held out hope for you. Don’t betray him now, not when you’ve come this far.”

“I love him, Nat. I know what I’ve done, and I know what I deserve, but I can’t help it. And he’s just out there, in the sky and on the field, and there’s nothing I can do. I know I have to accept that. Tony is capable of taking care of himself, and he always has been.”

“Then why are you talking to me? You have somewhere to be.”

“Yeah, yeah ok.” His insight into this is as pitiless as a red-hot knife. Tony is his own person. He can’t control what the other man does. Steve can rant and rail against this all he likes, but Tony won’t stop. Steve wouldn’t either. He hadn’t stopped when he was an omega, and he plunged a plane into the ice, not considering for a moment his own life. He understands the call, the pull to help others. He can’t deny that to Tony.

He plods down the hall, through the living area, and down the stairs to the workshop. The doors don’t open for him and he places his hands on them, head down and leaning against the door.

“Tony, please.”

“Sir doesn’t wish to be disturbed.” JARVIS must have a speaker nearby because it sounds like he’s speaking right into Steve’s ear.

“I just want to apologize. I shouldn’t have gotten upset. I need to see Tony.”

“The doors only open in case of emergency.”

Steve thinks on that for a moment.

“This is urgent. I really need to see Tony.”

And with that, the doors slide open, revealing the scattered parts of the suit, papers, and other tools and projects on the floor, along with Tony, who is sitting in his chair, the face mask of the armor in his hands.

“JARVIS! What the hell, man.”

“It’s not his fault. Tony, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for how I reacted. I’m still mad, but that’s on me, and I don’t want to take that out on you.”

“This is yet another way you try and tie me down. I can’t have that Steve. I won’t have it in my life.” The chair spins to face him, Tony’s face streaked with tears and his eyes red. Steve’s heart aches.

“I know, and I never meant to hurt you. If this is what you want to do, I can’t—won’t—stop you. No, I don’t like it. I’m not sure I ever truly will. But—but if this is what you need to do, I understand it. Better than anyone. I’ll be by your side. Just don’t do this alone, without me.”

“And how do I know you mean it? That the next time we’re out there, you won’t get in the way?”

“You don’t, but…” Steve trails off, swiping his hand through his hair. Admitting his feelings has never been more difficult. Captain America is supposed to be brave, forthright. Steve feels like something of a coward in comparison. It’s like looking over a cliff and feeling that yawning need to jump. So he does.

“I love you, Tony. And I can’t promise that I won’t make mistakes, but I will promise to come back and try and fix them. All I can hope is that that’s enough.” Steve takes a step forward and holds out his hands in placation. He watches Tony’s features melt like wax too close to flame into something fond and resigned. Tony gets up and comes over to him, body close enough to scent and feel the warmth emanating from every pore. Steve breathes in deeply of Tony, every bit of essence and air that comes from the man tickling his senses and calming him.

“I shouldn’t, but god help me I do love you too.” Tony reaches out to trail a hand down Steve’s cheek, “you’ve been awful to me, and maybe there’s a part of me that always felt like I deserved that. I’m more comfortable with discomfort than I am with being unequivocally loved. I don’t think that I made a good decision with you, but I made the right one for me. Don’t prove me wrong, Rogers. Be better.”

Steve swallows. He looks into Tony’s dark amber eyes. He promises himself.

“I will. I’ll be what you need.”

Tony smiles, and steps into his arms.