Tony isn’t even surprised anymore when he wakes up to sticky sheets and a flagging erection. Faintly annoyed, yes, but mostly resigned to this new quirk of his body after two weeks of wet dreams intense enough to put even his teenage self to shame.
Yawning, Tony rolls over onto the dry side of the mattress and grabs a couple of the strategically placed tissues from the nightstand, grimacing when he kicks off the covers and cool air wafts over the damp briefs sticking uncomfortably to his cock.
“Ugh,” he grumbles, peeling off his ruined underwear and cleaning himself up as best as possible before flopping back down into the pillows and throwing an arm over his face.
He’s still painfully aroused, but Tony’s intent on ignoring the warmth pooling low in his belly, knowing full well what, or rather who, his thoughts will immediately turn to if he gives in. Dreaming about Steve is one thing, Tony doesn’t have any control over that, but actively, consciously touching himself to the memories of what he and Steve have done together?
Tony tries to avoid doing that, however hard it may be. Pun totally and completely intended.
As if on cue, Tony’s phone blinks with an incoming message. He doesn’t have to check to know it’s from Steve. It had started a couple of days after Steve’s departure, two texts every day, one to say good morning and another to wish him a good night. There are more, sometimes, pictures from wherever Steve’s at that day, nature or cities or food or drawings or other little insights into Steve’s life, but always those two in the morning and in the evening. Every day, without fail.
Tony isn’t sure what Steve’s playing at, but Steve doesn’t seem to expect any answers, which is just as well, because Tony isn’t planning on sending any. He reads Steve’s messages and allows Steve to see that they’ve been read, that has to be enough.
Especially considering that Tony’s never even given Steve his number. Fucking SHIELD. And people say Tony is incapable of respecting personal boundaries.
The phone goes off again and Tony huffs, reaches for it and unlocks the screen, and promptly forgets how to breathe for a moment.
Steve’s sent his standard morning message, but followed that with a picture of himself, a first, standing in front of an Iron Man mural somewhere, pointing at it over his shoulder and grinning excitedly, looking like a giant dork with his wind-swept hair and goofy expression.
Tony’s cock gives a hopeful twitch.
“Seriously?” Tony demands incredulously, glancing from Steve’s smiling face to his dick and back. Sighing, Tony curls a hand around himself, the phone with Steve’s picture propped up on the pillow next to his face, murmuring a sulky, “Asshole.”
His orgasm, like all the ones involving fantasies of Steve, leaves him panting and boneless, but also strangely hollow.
“You know,” Pepper calls from the top of the stairs, her heels clicking her arrival as she descends into the workshop proper, “ignoring the files I send you to sign doesn’t magically make them go away. What ignoring my emails does, however, is irritate me which, in turn, leads to me coming here to kick your ass and-“
A shiver cuts her off mid-sentence, actually causing Tony to look up from the gauntlet he’s tinkering with to frown at her. “Pep? You okay?”
“It’s freezing in here,” Pepper complains, arching a concerned eyebrow in Tony’s direction as she walks across the room to go adjust the thermostat and turn off the fans Tony’d dragged out from some storage closet to get a nice current flowing.
Tony pouts at her. “I was hot.”
“Are you all right?” Pepper asks, the worry line between her eyes deepening as she moves to where Tony’s sitting at one of his workbenches. “Are you sick? Do you- oh my- Tony!”
“What?” Tony groans, throwing up his hands. “What did I do?”
Pepper gapes at him for a moment, then shakes herself out of it and says, kinder now, “You’re in heat, Tony.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Tony snorts, rolling his eyes and turning his back on her. “I’m on suppressants, a break to flush out my system isn’t scheduled for another five months.”
“Yeah, well,” Pepper says, startling Tony by poking one of her talon-like nails into the bonding gland on his neck, making him gasp and shudder involuntarily, “scheduled or not, you’re in heat. I’m a beta and even I can smell you, Tony.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Tony swivels his chair around to glare up at Pepper. “I’m not in heat.”
“Really? Okay, then, let’s see,” she begins, holding up a hand to count off on her fingers. “Irritability? Check. Swollen glands? Check. Fever and hormones? JARVIS?”
“Sir’s body temperature as well as his hormone and pheromone levels are currently elevated. Everything points to an unscheduled heat, I’m afraid.”
“It’s a glitch,” Tony snaps before Pepper gets the chance to gloat at him. “Why would I suddenly go into heat? That’s what the suppressants are for, to prevent this exact scenario from happening. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Pepper shrugs because of course she doesn’t have the answer either, stepping between Tony’s legs so he can press his face against her stomach, protesting that he doesn’t need to be coddled but leaning into her touch nonetheless.
“I’m not in heat,” Tony mumbles into her blouse.
Pepper doesn’t say anything to that, just keeps scratching the back of his neck and drops a kiss to the top of his head.
Tony is in heat, and it’s agony.
No other heat, not his very first one or the stronger than usual ones during the suppressant breaks or the one in a cave somewhere in a desert in Afghanistan, has ever been quite this bad.
And no matter what Tony tries, nothing brings the relief he so desperately needs.
Cold showers to help with the fever are right out, the water pressure too much against his oversensitive skin, even on the lowest setting. Drinking hurts his throat, raw from screaming in frustrated pain, and food makes him nauseous. The sheets, despite being expensive Egyptian cotton, feel like fire where they rub against him with every tiny shift and breath he takes.
Tony’s sobbing, vibrator buried deep inside him and a hand wrapped tightly around his aching cock, his belly smeared with the results of climax after climax that just aren’t enough.
There are people he could call, alphas who’d be more than happy, ecstatic, to share a heat with Tony Stark, but the idea of one of them touching him, even just being physically close to him, makes Tony shake with revulsion and fear. They’re not right, they’re all wrong, wrong wrong wrong, Tony doesn’t want them, Tony wants-
Too exhausted and worn out to question what he’s doing, Tony heaves himself out of bed and, on wobbly legs, shuffles over to his closet, rummaging around until he finds it, way in the back, stored away on a whim and covered in protective plastic; Steve’s pillow, from their one night together back in New York.
Steve’s scent is faint but there, thankfully still there.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Tony’s dimly aware of how pathetic he is, pining after some alpha he’s been with twice, like a damned teenager, but right then, finally feeling that emptiness inside him being filled with his nose pressed into Steve’s pillow and his hands working furiously on his cock and inside his ass, Tony really doesn’t give a fuck.