“Avengers. Go!” Steve called over the comm and at his command they all started forward. Wasp’s small form winging its way across the open ground between the tree line and the Black Knight’s base. Ant-man ran after her at his normal size for the moment. A flash of blue and red told Steve that Spider-man was out of the trees and flipping towards the hangar door. Falcon cast a shadow on the ground as he swooped forward. “And don’t get hit.” Steve added.
They only had three seconds before one of the guards spotted them and raised the alarm, then it was shouting and the strange buzz zip of the Black Knight’s new energy weapons. Steve charged into the assembled soldiers bringing his shield down just in time to keep a sickly green ball of energy from hitting his leg. A breath and then he was flinging the shield to his right where it came between Wasp and another energy bolt, ricocheted off a rock and plowed into two henchmen before hitting the side of the hangar and bouncing to where Steve had run to intercept it.
Spider-man was cheerfully webbing anyone close enough and Falcon was strafing over the chaos taking out enemies with fists and feet. Ant-man started to grow to twice, then three times his normal size. Once the guards had their guns pointed his way he shrunk to the size of an ant in a split second, Steve took advantage of the distraction to take out another four of the guards. Falcon landed on two more and Jan blasted another with her stingers. Spider-man wrapped up the last man standing just in time for the second wave of guards to pour into the hangar.
The fight rolled into the strangely rhythmic chaos that characterized Avengers’ fights; Steve, Falcon, Wasp and Ant-man had been working together so long it took on a ballet-like choreography, Spider-man was the new one on the team but he was learning the dance quickly.
Steve caught his shield in an outstretched hand and looked around. He couldn’t see any guards that were still standing, just unconscious goons littering the ground. He was about to give the order to move deeper into the base when he heard the droning whir of an engine. He whipped his head around to see a sleek black plane was already pointed toward the hangar door and building up speed. “Stop him.” Steve ordered over the comm.
Everyone on the team ran for the hangar door, Ant-man and Falcon in the lead. The plane buzzed past them, lifting off the ground and gaining height as it reached open air. Ant-man quickly increased his size, almost scraping his antennae on the ceiling as he burst out of the hangar still growing in the few huge bounding leaps he took before he managed to reach out and curl his fingers around the tail of the plane. As he drew it in a black shape broke off. A second later the plane exploded in a plume of yellow and black in the palm of his hand. Ant-man yelped and dropped the burning mess, his voice echoing over the comm. “I think someone ejected from the plane.”
Steve barked “Find ‘em.”
He got a chorus of ‘yes’s’ before he sprinted into the jungle. He ran towards where he thought the person would have hit the trees. The forest stretched big and empty before him making him doubt he was going in the right direction. Then he heard yelling. He skidded to a stop in an open area to find Ant-man and Falcon opposing a third person.
“I am the Black Knight! Face me at your peril.” The beta roared.
Spider-man must have reached the clearing right behind Steve because he muttered. “Gee, I would never have guessed.”
Falcon snorted and Steve silently agreed that he had a point. The man was dressed in ornate 16th century armor all painted a matte black and over that was a black tabard with silver edging. The only real color on him was his longsword, if it could be called that; the blade was a silhouette of dark yellow light filled in with a vertigo inducing purple, yellow, gray energy.
Steve stepped up. “You’ve illegally seized control of this area. Please, surrender yourself to SHIELD custody.”
“I will never surrender. You must face me on the field of honor.” The Knight pivoted surprisingly quickly towards Steve and brought his sword up then down in a sweeping arc. Steve blocked and gritted his teeth at the grating shriek from the sword slicing across his shield. He caught a blur of blue and red, the Black Knight’s blade flashed and Spider-man yelped. It took Steve just a second to realize that the Black Knight had sliced the webline Spider-man had swung down on, his momentum had done the rest, pitching him awkwardly forward. He flipped mid air and managed to hit a tree trunk feet first and stuck.
“I shall squash you like the puny bugs you are!” The Black Knight cried with his feet planted and his sword in ready position.
Spider Man hollered back. “You think you’re creative? You’re not. That wasn’t a good line the first time.”
“Or the nine hundredth.” Wasp huffed.
She dived at the Black Knight, rapidly firing her stingers. The Black Knight half turned towards her, throwing an arm out. His black gauntlet caught her in the torso, flinging her back in an uncontrolled spin. Ant-man ran towards her, growing up from normal size. The Black Knight took advantage of his charge and brought his sword around in a low slashing arc across Ant-man’s thigh.
Steve froze. No one knew exactly what the Black Knight’s sword did. Ant-man blanched. Wasp screamed. “HANK!”
The Black Knight turned toward Steve, raising his sword again.
Ant-man, three times his normal size and ten times his normal weight, staggered and fell forward, right on top of the Black Knight.
Wasp slid up to her normal size and rushed to him. She put her hands on his cheeks. “Honey, are you okay? What did the sword do to you?”
“Ow, ow, ow.” Ant-man hissed.
Steve and Falcon hurried around the prone giant to look at his leg. Whatever the sword had done it hadn’t broken the skin. There was a thin black line on Ant-man’s uniform where the blade had passed through. Steve gingerly put his finger against it. “OW.” Ant-man said. The black stuff wiped away like soot.
Steve patted his side. “Do you think you can turn over?”
Ant-man flexed and trembled. “Ah. No.”
“How about shrinking down to normal size? Then Cap and I can lift you.” Falcon asked.
“I’ll try.” The transformation was slow, with Ant-man twitching and cursing along the way. Once he was finished Steve got him under the arms and pulled him to one side of the cleaning.
“Uh, guys. This doesn’t look good.” Spider-man said nervously.
Steve moved over to the Black Knight. It didn’t look good. It looked like the man’s armor had been crushed with him inside. The breastplate had collapsed and one of the leg guards had been driven up and into the betas pelvis. Blood had already pooled on the ground around him and to Steve’s eye it looked like a fatal amount. Falcon carefully searched for a pulse under the neck guard and shook his head when he didn’t find one.
Steve sighed and then turned to ask, “Ant-man, how are you doing?”
Ant-man winced but replied, “Better.”
“What does it feel like?” Spider-man asked watching him.
“The worst muscle cramp you’ve ever had with the worst pins and needles to follow. I think it’s wearing off.” He slowly flexed his leg and winced again. “Yeah. Better.”
“Do you need help back to the jet?” Steve asked.
Ant-man waved him away. “No. Just give me a minute.”
Steve went back to join Falcon studying the Black Knight. Wasp got Ant-man to rest his head on her shoulder and started petting his hair. Ant-man started flexing his leg more and finally managed to stand. After a few minutes he was walking with only a little limp. Spider-man just hung from a branch. He was looking at each of them but not saying anything.
The reverie was broken by two loud explosions.
Spider-man scurried up the tree to look. “They blew up the base.” He reported.
“No!” Steve started running, trusting the others to follow. “Falcon get the Black Knight’s body back to the jet. Wasp, Ant-man, Spider-man with me. We need to pull out anyone we can.”
Ant-man sprinted a bit clumsily. Wasp and Spider-man disappeared into the trees. Steve smelled smoke, then Spider-man’s voice came over the comm. “Crap.”
“That is really, really blown up. And on fire.” Spider-man told them in amazement. “I’m sorry, Cap. We’re not going to be able to get anyone out.”
Steve rushed past smoldering trees to see that the hangar had collapsed in on itself, and judging by the scorch marks on the rocks and trees, the first explosion had been a massive fireball that engulfed the hangar and set fire to everything up to the tree line. Steve closed his eyes with a groan. It rubbed him raw that the people he fought put so little value on human life, their enemies or their own.
He took a moment to mourn the lives lost then opened his eyes. “Everyone back to the jet. There’s nothing more we can do here.”
Ant-man, still three times the height of a normal man extended a hand to the pixie sized Wasp. She daintily stepped on, letting Ant-man carry her back to the jet. Spider-man kept pace with Steve slowly swinging from branch to branch.
Ant-man and Falcon were carrying the Black Knight’s body into the jet when they reached it. One of them, Falcon, Steve assumed, had laid the hilt of the Black Knight’s sword on his chest in the fashion of a medieval knight.
Wasp had resized and strapped herself into the pilot seat. Preparations and takeoff were done in silence. This hadn’t been a good mission, they had fought hard and gained little and it showed in the team’s spirit.
Technically the mission was a success; they had found and neutralized the Black Knight. SHIELD had been tracking the Black Knight for over a year, although it was only in the last few months that they had given a name to the criminal leader. Fury had claimed it was like chasing a particularly well-armed ghost.
To Steve the mission felt more like a failure. The Black Knight would never meet justice for the crimes he had committed. He would also never give SHIELD information about the breadth of his organization or the mind behind the weapons. He must have been a gifted engineer to create them.
Steve was no stranger to being out gunned but it seemed like recently the bad guys were always better armed than the Avengers. The military had all but given up fighting people like the Black Knight. Nick had gleefully picked up the slack, expanding the Avengers. But even so they had reached a stalemate of sorts, supervillains setting up bases and the Avengers methodically taking them out.
Jan startled Steve out of his dark musing.
“Ugh.” She said rubbing her shoulder. “I'm getting too old for this.”
Hank leaned back in his chair. “So am I.”
“Me too.” Sam agreed.
“It's been a hard day for all of us.” Steve said glancing around at them.
“It's been a hard mission.” Peter agreed.
Sam sighed. “It's been a hard year.”
Jan slumped back into her seat. “You know, when you’re coming up on the wrong side of forty a girl has to reevaluate her superhero career path.”
Peter chimed in, “Can I just say, you look amazing for your age.”
She gave him a fond smile. “Thanks, kiddo.” Steve was staring at her with his mouth slightly open. “What?” She asked.
“No. Sorry. I guess I hadn’t thought about it. I mean you’ve been having your thirtieth birthday party for the last five years. I didn’t realize how old you actually are.” Steve ran through the math, Jan had been twenty-three when he met her and, like the rest of them, painfully new to superheroing. That had been sixteen years ago.
“I am choosing to take that as a complement.” Jan said with a playful smile.
Sam was smiling too now. “I think we all acknowledge that Steve is the undisputed champion of looking decades younger than he is, but you, my dear, come in a close second.”
“Back off, buddy, she’s mine.” Hank replied without any rancor.
“Can I just say I find this conversation deeply weird?” Peter asked.
“Can we stop you?” Sam wondered aloud.
Peter shrugged. “I grew up watching you guys. You’re what everyone thinks of when they think of superheroes. Listening to you talk about being old is, yeah, deeply weird.”
“It happens to us all. Some day it will happen to you.” Sam said with benevolent certainty.
Peter screwed up his face in a frown. “No. It won’t. I refuse. I’ll be twenty-five forever and ever like Cap.”
Hank looked over at Peter with a twinkle in his eye. “You know even the longest lived spiders only live thirty years or so.” Peter stuck his fingers in his ears. “In fact most spiders only live a year or two. Also in a lot of species of spiders the female will eat the male after mating.” Peter started going lalalala in an effort to drown Hank out.
Steve and Sam exchanged an amused look. Peter was easy to bait. Most of the Avengers could recite the lecture Hank was giving and had at some point to shut Peter up.
They filed their preliminary reports while still in the air. Nick Fury, with some prompting, had decided that that was good enough for the moment. They would have to give a full debrief tomorrow, but tonight they could go home and rest. Steve reminded Hank to stop by medical before he waved him and Jan goodbye. They left with Jan’s arm threaded through Hank’s, gently guiding him to the hangar exit.
Steve rolled his shoulders and headed to his room on base. He wanted to shower and change before heading back to his apartment and a few hours downtime. Even if he was prepared to wander the streets as Captain America he was filthy with mud and sweat and he smelled like smoke. He was always surprised by the amount of dirt he brought back with him from missions in the wilderness.
His room at SHIELD was little more than a cell, with a narrow bed pushed against one wall, a secure terminal and an attached bathroom. The important thing at the moment was that the bathroom had an unlimited supply of hot water.
He peeled off his armor wincing where dried sweat had stuck it to his skin. He laid it neatly on his bed, then tossed his underclothes into the hamper. He stretched his arms above his head, trying to relax the tight muscles in his back. With a conscious effect Steve put the events of the day out of his mind. There would be plenty of time to pick them apart tomorrow. Yawning, he tapped the terminal to bring up his messages, official and personal.
He set them to auto play and left the bathroom door open so he could hear, he wasn’t expecting much. He had been incommunicado for just over two weeks but most of his friends knew that. Almost all of them were Avengers, or somehow involved with SHIELD or the Avengers. It was hard to stay close to anyone who didn't have insanely high security clearance. Steve turned on the water and waited for it to heat up before stepping into the shower. He tilted his head up letting the water run down his face, his chest and legs.
BEEP. The first was a pre-recorded message telling him that his vote and his money were important to Senator Bell’s campaign. Steve rolled his eyes. He had met Senator Bell and the man’s attitude had shown he wasn’t interested in getting either from Steve. Steve grabbed the soap and a washcloth and started getting himself clean.
The second message was more interesting. BEEP. “Hi Cap, I need to talk to you about something. Call me when you get this.” Steve smiled at the sound of Tony’s voice. Maybe he would take a few days and go visit Tony in Boston and catch up. Steve hadn’t seen as much of Tony as he would have liked since his parents funeral. It seemed like every evil organization had taken the death of Howard Stark as an invitation to unleash their newest evil scheme and it had kept Steve from checking up on Tony as often as he would have liked over the last few years. Tony was so young to be alone in the world.
BEEP. The next message from Clint, whose habit of drunk dialing was legendary, and some people that sounded like Bobbi and Jack shouting in the background. Steve grabbed the shampoo and quickly washed his hair.
BEEP. “Hey Steve, I really need to talk to you.” Tony drew out the really. Steve raised an eyebrow curious now. Two messages in two weeks was a lot from Tony.
BEEP. “C’mon pick up. I need advice.” Tony again. “I -” The swallow was audible over the phone. “I need your help.”
BEEP. “Cap, this is important.” And again. Steve stood there, ignoring the water running over him, giving his full attention to the messages.
BEEP. “Damnit, Cap. Right, sorry about swearing but I need to talk to you. It’s a matter of life and death. Literally. I can’t talk to anyone else about it.”
BEEP. “Hello, Captain Rogers, this is Agent Raines from Munitions reminding you that you are due to recertify on handguns in the next month. You can schedule a time to do this on the Shield intranet site.”
BEEP. “I’m coming to see you.” Tony said. Steve got out of the shower and dried himself off It looked like he had plans for the evening now. He would have to find Tony. Tony was a smart kid and, Steve thought a little guiltily, an easily distracted one. If he was this worked up about something it must be important.
BEEP. “Where the hell are you? I’ve been by your apartment five times today.” Tony sounded upset.
BEEP. “Steve, please. Call me when you get this.” Steve’s hand twitched.
BEEP. “Fuck it. I’m storming SHIELD and I’m telling them it’s all your fault.” Steve checked the terminal. That message was from three hours ago. Steve quickly pulled on pants and a shirt. Hopefully Tony was still around because three hours was more than enough time for Tony to get himself into trouble.
Steve stopped by the holding cells first. It wouldn’t be the first time Tony had been sent to heavy-duty time out. Nick liked to throw civilians in there when they annoyed him and Tony had a talent for pissing people off. Howard had sometimes brought Tony with him when he came to consult at HQ. Steve smiled to himself at the memory of springing a sulky ten year old Tony from the cells and taking him out for ice cream. But Tony wasn’t cooling his heels there, Steve wasn’t sure if he should be relieved.
Reception was more helpful. Mrs. DuLac was able to tell him that Mr. Stark had come in insisting on seeing Captain America right now. Tony had been sent to wait in one of the bland rooms SHIELD kept for that very purpose and Mrs. DuLac didn’t think she had seen him leave. Steve thanked her and jogged up the stairs, glad that Tony was still in the building.
He caught the first whiff of it as he turned down the hall, a sweet ripeness with a tang of blood. Someone was in heat. Steve ignored the smell and the urge to find the omega but the smell got stronger with each step he took. Someone was in heat nearby. He shook his head, whoever it was would be going to find their partner and Steve needed to find Tony. The smell was even stronger when he reached the waiting room Tony had been left in, and when he opened the door it was like a punch in the face. The smell was so impossibly strong and sweet and good, Steve felt his eyes roll back in his head at the promise in it. He slapped his face lightly and ran his hand over his eyes to get his focus back.
Tony was standing on one side of the room while two junior SHIELD agents stood on the other. There was a wet stain on the wall between the two agents and a smashed vase of flowers on the floor. Tony was ranting at them. “No. No. I’m not sure why you fail to grasp this simple word. Two year olds have an understanding of this word. So go the fuck away.”
The agent on the right stepped forward but thought better of it when Tony brandished a potted plant at him. “Come on, pretty boy. I know you’re gagging for it. I could make you feel real good.”
The other chimed in. “He’s just a beta. I’ve got the kind of knot you want.” He winked knowingly at Tony.
Tony looked ready to throw the plant at the man on principle.
Steve’s brain caught up with what his nose had been telling him. Tony was in heat.
Steve shook himself trying to focus. “What’s going on here?” All three of them turned to look at him.
“Steve!” Tony crowed.
“Captain America.” The two agents said straightening themselves.
“Well.” Steve crossed his arms.
“Remedial English.” Tony bit out.
The agent rolled his eyes. “I was just offering some help.”
The other one said sullenly, “I was making a better offer.”
“Offers which I very much refuse.” Tony added.
Steve looked at the agents. “You heard him. Now I’m sure you have something else to be doing.”
The agents filed passed Steve one muttering to the other about how of course Captain America got all the omegas. The other replied philosophically that losing to Captain America was still a bit like losing to, well, Captain America, it wasn’t something to be ashamed of.
Steve shook his head and turned his attention back to Tony. Tony who had filled out in the last few years. He was still short but was no longer whip thin, he had more muscle across his torso, straightening the curve between his shoulder and hips. He looked good. The heat-addled part of his mind said very good, fuckable.
“Hey.” Tony advanced on him. Steve noticed that Tony was looking at him but not at his face. His eyes seemed to bounce back and forth between Steve’s chest and groin.
“Do you have someone to help you through it?” Steve asked. Surely Tony had made arrangements for his heat.
Tony finally looked him in the eye. “What? Oh, no. I wasn’t expecting it.”
Steve opened his mouth to tell Tony he would be happy to escort Tony someplace he could wait it out. What came out was “Would you like to share your heat with me?” Oh god, he had just propositioned Howard’s son, a boy he had known since he was four. His alpha brain pointed out that he wasn’t four now. He was twenty and smelled it. Steve tensed, expecting Tony to fling the plant at him. Tony didn’t. He dropped the plant on the couch as he passed, potting soil spilling everywhere, and made a beeline for Steve.
“I thought you’d never ask. I mean I tried to work out the probabilities when I realized it was starting, before Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum showed up, and I was coming up with vanishingly small.” Tony pressed himself against Steve, muffling his last few words.
“Is this what you wanted to talk to me about?” Steve asked, trying not to be thoroughly distracted by the smell of Tony and the heat from his skin where they were pressed together.
“No.” Tony moved his head away a bit to shake it, then dropped it back on Steve’s chest. “Talk later, sex now.”
Steve blinked a bit. “Do you think you can stay calm long enough to get to my place?” He wanted to get Tony out of SHIELD HQ and into his own space if he could.
Tony dragged in a deep breath against Steve’s chest. “Maybe. We won’t know unless we try.”
Steve grabbed Tony’s shoulders, got a bit of space between them and steered him out.
The trip passed in a fog of pheromones. Steve kept finding his hands on Tony, his waist, his hips rubbing circles on the fabric of his jeans. By the time they reached his apartment door Steve was holding Tony close.
Tony dropped his forehead against the door and breathed heavily as Steve pressed along his back. Steve fumbled in his pocket for his keys. He was distracted by a roll of Tony’s hips, his own hips pushing back in return, his cock rubbing along the top of Tony’s ass in a promising way through their clothes. He heard a door down the hall open and Ms. Mally stepped out. “Oh, hello, Steve.” Whatever she was going to say was cut off by Steve’s growl. Steve had the vague thought that he should be horrified at growling at a neighbor, but it didn’t make a dent in the feeling of possessive anticipation. He hadn’t been with an omega in heat for years, and had forgotten how territorial he got. He pressed Tony further against the door. Ms. Mally looked knowing and she said, “Well, you two have fun.” before she headed down the hall to the stairs. Steve managed to pull his hand away from Tony’s hip long enough to fumble his key out of his pocket and jam it in the lock.
He got them inside and detached Tony, giving him a pat towards the bedroom. Steve closed the door and locked it, door lock, deadbolt, and chain. He debated putting one of the chairs from the kitchen table under the knob to make extra sure the door wouldn’t open. The rational part of his mind said this is a SHIELD approved building and the deadbolt would stop anyone not willing to break the door down. The alpha in him said I’ve got an omega, there will be poachers. Steve grabbed the chair and set in on two legs, back wedged firmly under the doorknob.
When he caught up with Tony he was at the foot of Steve’s bed with his fly undone and his jeans sliding down his hips to reveal red boxers.
Steve jogged to his bedroom, catching himself on the door jam. Tony was half turned away from him, arms over his head pulling his shirt off.
Steve had half a second to ogle his torso before Tony had his shirt off and he was distracted by Tony hooking his thumbs in his pants, pulling them off making Steve’s mouth water. Tony’s scent started filling up the room, so much stronger without the barrier of clothing. Steve heard more than felt the door jam splinter as he grabbed it for balance.
Tony’s eyes snapped up and he swayed forward. “You’re falling behind here, Cap.” Tony got his hands on the front of Steve’s jeans. “We can’t really start this party without you.”
He popped the button on Steve’s fly with one hand and unzipped him with the other. Steve finally got his hand to let go of the door and pushed his pants down. He tried to step out of them and realized he still had his boots on.
Tony stared at his erect cock, licking his lips. “That’s going to feel really good.” Tony shook himself and ran an eye over the rest of Steve, making him blush for still having his shirt on and his pants and boxers slouched around his thighs when Tony was completely naked.
Tony smiled. “Close enough. You can take off the rest later.” Tony turned away giving Steve an excellent view of his ass and slowly walked towards the bed. Slowly, Steve saw, because every step Tony took he was doing something that painted more of his slick along his cleft, showing Steve exactly how wet he was.
Steve groaned and stumbled after Tony. Tony got one knee on the bed and scrambled up giving Steve a breathtaking view of his glistening hole and his pretty little cock swinging between his legs. Steve practically fell onto the bed barely getting his knees onto the mattress and catching himself with one hand. Tony smirked over his shoulder when he realized he had Steve’s undivided attention again and arched his back sinuously. Steve grabbed Tony’s hips and pulled Tony to him, thrusting, letting his cock rub along Tony’s cleft, Tony’s slick smearing over it. Steve felt the clench of Tony’s ass as his hole spasmed, inviting Steve’s cock to slide in.
Steve pulled back and breathed out. “Ready?”
“Yes. Now. I’ve been ready since -” Tony trailed off in a moan as Steve put his dick on Tony’s hole and pushed his way in, not stopping until he was all the way in with Tony’s ass up against his hips. Tony trembled, and Steve could feel the twitch of his thigh as Tony adjusted to the girth. Steve closed his eyes gasping as he savored the wet rippling heat around his dick, how Tony’s hole was a tighter ring around the base of his cock. Steve could hear Tony breathing noisy inhales through his nose and equally noisy pants out. After a gulp he went on talking, “- since you walked into the room. Those idiots. Ha.” Tony let out a sharp breath as Steve drew out quick and thrust in fast.
Steve didn’t need to hear about those two. He thrust again. They thought they could have his omega. Thrust. This one had picked him, not them. Thrust. This one, so tight and wet and strong. A few more thrusts and Steve held Tony to him, by the tingling at the base of his cock he knew he was seconds away from knotting. Tony jerked, but Steve held him fast, humping into him desperately looking for that last little bit of friction, pressure, anything to....
There it was. The tingling exploded into pleasure as his knot swelled up. Tony let out a sound like he had been punched in the gut. Steve still half blind with pleasure took one of his hands off Tony’s hip and groped at his stomach. He ran his hand along Tony’s abs, then lower, and there was Tony’s pretty cock, still hard. Steve grasped it, liking the bare handful. He flexed his hand gently, making Tony yowl and convulse around him. Steve’s eyes rolled back in his head as Tony’s greedy little hole tried to milk every drop of cum out of him at once. It went on and on, heat and squeezing, not begging, demanding that he give up every bit of seed in him. When he could focus past the clench and the smell it was only because Tony's orgasm slowed down. He sucked in a breath as it waned to a pulse every few seconds trying to pull a bit more out of him, sending shivers of pleasure through his knot and up his spine.
Steve cracked an eye open when he felt a shift and heard a thump. Tony’s arms had collapsed out from under him and he had buried his face in the covers. Steve swallowed to wet his throat, then asked, “Are you alright?” Tony moved his arms enough to give Steve a double thumbs up. Steve choked mid laugh as another aftershock of Tony’s orgasm squeezed his knot. When he could think again he carefully maneuvered them onto their sides. As far as Steve could tell Tony was blissed out riding the last waves of pleasure with a pleased little hum.
Steve wallowed in the pleasure until his knot subsided enough to slip out of Tony. Steve rolled onto his back and squirmed out of his shirt, tossing it towards the hamper. He got the rest of his clothing off and threw them in the same direction.
Tony hummed and stretched and flipped onto his back. “That was amazing. Ready for round two?”
“Uh.” Steve stuttered. “Already?”
Tony rolled up with remarkable grace for someone who had been knotted less than five minutes before. He got a leg over Steve’s hips and straddled him then pressed down rubbing Steve’s dick between his legs. “You feel ready.”
Steve was, his cock was fully hard again just from Tony rutting against him, letting Steve feel his cock slide through the mix of slick and cum that had dripped out of Tony’s hole to smear across his thighs. Steve swallowed and stuttered “Whatever you need.”
Steve watched entranced as Tony’s dick moved across his abs as Tony pushed his hips forward to let Steve’s cock slide out and tease against his cleft.
“I think this will do.” Tony told him as he reached his arm behind his body out of Steve’s line of sight. Not that Steve had to wonder what he was doing as Tony’s hand closed around his cock. Tony shuffled on his knees getting himself high enough to line the head of Steve’s cock with his hole. Steve felt a bit smug as Tony’s tried and failed to seat himself and had to raise himself another couple inches before he can work the head of Steve’s cock inside him. The thought didn’t last long before he was caught up in Tony slowly, slowly sinking down onto his cock. Steve looked away from his cock disappearing into Tony to catch his breath and saw that Tony’s eyes had gone from open to half open. In fact the further down Tony got on his dick the more his eyes closed. By the time Tony is all the way down, completely wrapped around Steve’s cock, his eyes are shut and his lashes are fluttering against his cheeks.
Tony stayed in place for three harsh breaths before he started moving, just a little at first, up an inch, down an inch. After a few times Tony went for more, Steve could feel the cooler air of the bedroom on two inches of his cock before Tony slid back down. Tony kept going a little harder and a little faster. Then the strokes started to smooth out as Tony got more height. Steve was lost in the feeling of his cock being consumed then released, every release adding a little more smell of heat into the already saturated air. He barely noticed it at first, the little catch as Tony tried for even more height and the slightly awkward downstroke. The next one Tony managed to raise smoothly but when he dropped his hips he had to wriggle to get Steve’s cock at the right angle to sink back down. Steve grabbed Tony’s hips the next time he rose to keep him from overbalancing himself.
Steve realized guiltily he had been been letting Tony fuck himself on his cock without helping at all. He adjusted his grip on Tony’s hips, drew his knees up so he could plant his feet flat on the bed and started meeting Tony stroke for stroke. Tony’s mouth made a little oh the first time Steve’s hips met his then settled into a dizzy little smile.
Steve lost his sense of time, creating space between him and Tony then destroying it. When he looked at Tony’s face again the smile had turned into a frown and there was a little crease on Tony’s forehead.
“What’s wrong?” He blurted out finding a frown of his own.
“Nothing. Just trying to find...” Tony trailed off and Steve realized that Tony was trying to shift his hips in Steve’s grip. He loosened his hands and felt Tony changing the angle, eyes closed again as he focused inward. Whatever he was looking for he must of found it because on this thrust he shuddered when Steve’s cock pressed into him. “Right there. Just keep going right there.”
Steve kept going, making sure to slide in at the same angle over and over loving the way Tony shamelessly shivered and clenched around him. Tony seemed to shake himself apart with a long groan and Steve felt his knot pop as Tony’s inner muscles tried to suck his brains out through his dick for the second time.
When they unlocked from each other after the second round Tony slumped sideways off him ending up sprawled half on top of him with his face in the covers again and muttered something about nap time. Steve agreed and prodded Tony until they were both under the covers.
Steve rolled out of after checking that Tony was still asleep. He didn’t bother to put anything on as he padded to the kitchen. He filled a pitcher with water, found a glass and took both back to the bedroom. Digging through his discarded cloths he found his SHIELD communicator. Blushing he paused to watch Tony pushing at the covers in his sleep revealing his chest. Steve punched in the status code 333 which was the signal to put him on the heat list making sure any interruptions he might get from Shield would truly be a matter of life and death. Tony shifted restlessly against the sheets, flipping over to look at Steve through heavy lids. Steve breathed in and the renewed scent of heat swamped him. He dropped his communicator and slipped into bed as Tony pulled him close.
Steve woke slowly if he could trust his memory it was Friday and they had been in his bed for days. Somehow after the last round they had managed to get under the covers. Steve took a deep breath, slowly pulling air in through his nose to taste the smells on the back of his Tony. He smelled himself and Tony, and the hollow scent of drying cum and slick. Tony still smelled a bit like a promise, just an echo of it. The smell and the weight of Tony at his side was enough to make Steve’s dick rise again, albeit slower than before. One more time, one more time sliding into that heat, one more time being held and milked before Tony’s heat was truly over.
Steve rolled to his side to spoon against Tony, who made a omphing noise but stayed as he was. Steve found the knob of Tony’s spin at his neck and slipped his arm under the covers to follow the curve. He let his hand flatten over the broad plane of Tony’s shoulders, running his knuckles along the arch of his low back. Finally he used two fingers to explore Tony’s cleft. It was slick, had been for days. Steve delved deeper finding Tony’s hole, it was looser now than when they had started. Tony was so stretched he wouldn’t grip as hard, feel as tight this last time Steve took him, he wouldn’t because Steve had stretched him, left a tangible if fleeting mark on this omega.
Steve let his fingers slip inside Tony. He shivered with arousal in the warm air as he thought about how the fluid now coating his fingers was a mix of him and Tony, of his cum and Tony’s slick.
Tony started to roll his hips, not much but enough to let Steve know he was ready for another round. Steve scooted close enough to press himself along Tony’s back. After a little graceless fumbling he got himself lined up and with barely any effort his cock sunk into Tony. He rested there, completely inside Tony feeling his blood pumping through his body. In his foggy state the decision to move or not seemed to be one of the great questions of life, Steve let the moment stretch each breath sighed into Tony’s neck telling himself that he would move on the next breath.
When Tony shifted and sigh suddenly Steve couldn’t not move. He didn’t move far, just enough to let him slide a few inches out and a few inches back in then again. Stopping now was as impossibly hard as starting had been. The air under the covers had gone past warm and was teetering in that place that pinked skin and started sweat pricking at his skin without tipping over into too hot. He fell into a hypnotic rhythm of a slow count in and a slow count out, getting lost in the sensation of heat and pressure changing to less heat less pressure. Eventually he felt steady enough to fumble a hand around Tony’s hip, wrapping his hand around Tony’s erection, and after rubbing the pad of his thumb over the head he let his hand stroke Tony in time with the push of his hips.
His other orgasms had been like a string snapping. This one was like watching an ice cube melt. Pleasure building in imperceptible increments but obviously moving towards the inevitable release. He pulled back a little farther this time and relished every inch of sensation before he bottomed out. Tony came. Steve’s knot popped as Tony pulsed around him and Steve felt his pleasure ebb replaced with weariness.
He let his arm relax, releasing Tony’s spent erection. Tony patted his hand gently and slurred, “Thanks, Cap. You fucked the heat right out of me.” Steve decided to sleep instead of thinking about it.
Steve chivvied a groggy Tony off to the shower and went about remaking the bed. He buried his nose in the sheets taking several long breathes before putting them in the laundry hamper. He got a new set out and had finished making the bed when Tony emerged from the bathroom, at some point he had grabbed one of Steve’s shirts and was wearing it now. Steve swallowed, Tony’s heat was over but he was still hitting all of Steve’s alpha buttons. The heat fog would wear off in a few days but until then Steve would hover and Tony would be biddable and wouldn’t that be a change of pace.
Tony grinned at him. “You have a fantastic dick. I feel you should know this. I mean really amazing. I’m saying this when I don’t even have it in me. “
Steve flushed and decided that was probably Tony’s way of saying thank you. Tony relaxed lazily down on the bed and stretched. Steve’s eyes tracked the bruises and not quite bruises on his hips and thighs. Steve was embarrassed but grateful to have shared Tony’s heat but without the fog of pheromones he wondered again why Tony had sought him out. “So Tony,” Tony cracked an eye open at him. “You said you needed to talk to me.” Tony blinked at him. “You left messages. I assume they weren’t about this.” He gestured awkwardly between them.
“Oh yeah, no. I think Obie might be trying to kill me.” Tony said and folded his arms behind his head.
“What?” Steve took a step towards the bed instinctively glancing around trying to pinpoint any threat to his omega. He got himself under control enough to ask. “Why do you think he’s trying to kill you?”
Tony cocked his head at Steve. Slowly he said, “You know, the first question I would ask would be why someone is trying to kill me.”
“Ok, why would Stane try to kill you?” Steve asked impatiently.
Tony pulled an arm out to flip his hand back and forth. “You’re missing the point.” Steve really didn’t think he was. “You,” he pointed at Steve, “aren’t surprised that Obie would try to kill me.”
Steve grimaced. “He has never impressed me as a good man.”
“There’s a bit of difference between being someone you wouldn’t invite out for drinks and a murderer.” Tony replied, propping himself up on an elbow to look up at him.
“What did he do?” Steve pressed.
“You know I’ve been moonlighting in the Stark Industries R&D department, right?” Tony settled back onto the bed.
Steve blinked. “No, I didn’t, I thought you were working on your MBA.”
“I finished up a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, Obie comes to see me most nights when I’m there.” Tony shrugged, putting a small wrinkle in the sheets. “We joke it’s a meeting of workaholics anonymous.” Steve nodded. Neither Howard nor Tony, or Maria now he thought about it, were good at being idle. “I’ve been working on this new smart house idea in between some other projects, so I had rigged up cameras all around the lab. He brought me coffee and we talked and he left. I was going back over the footage later and it looked like he put something in my coffee.
Steve sat on the edge of the bed to sit next to Tony. “That’s not a lot of evidence.” Tony frowned and Steve continued hurriedly. “It’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s just that’s not much to go on.”
“That’s what I thought. So I ran through a bunch of the lab and security camera footage from the week before. And to be fair I didn’t see him putting anything in my coffee on the other days. I did not see him getting the coffee at all. Either the footage from the security camera is mysteriously not there or he has his back to the camera and you can’t get a clear view of the coffee cups.”
Steve nodded slowly. “That’s a bit suspicious.”
“Add that to a little unanticipated vomiting and joint pain and I decided to invade SHIELD.” Tony looked away. “You’re the one person I know I can trust.”
Steve took Tony’s hands and squeezed his fingers rubbing his thubs over the smooth skin. Tony had lost his parents at seventeen and it looked like one of his father’s closest friends and his godfather might be plotting against him. Steve didn’t want Tony to be alone in the world, but fate seemed to have other plans. “Did you go to the hospital?”
“Yes and no. I stopped at a clinic and asked them to run some blood tests before I went to SHIELD. I was expecting to be back after I talked to you. I didn’t really expect to be holed up for...” He trailed off looking at Steve.
“Four days.” He supplied.
Tony whistled. “Wow. That was a long one. That beats my previous record by two days.”
“Are you feeling ok?”
Tony gave Steve a filthy, satisfied grin. “Oh, yes.”
Steve could feel the blush rise in his cheeks. “I meant from whatever Stane was giving you.”
“I think I’m good. It stopped after I stopped drinking the coffee.” Tony patted Steve’s leg.
“How soon can you get the test results?”
Tony grinned. “Nowish.”
It was almost nine o’clock on Friday night, but when Tony called the clinic the phone was answered on the second ring by an alert, friendly man. Steve had insisted Tony put the phone on speaker and Tony had humored him. “This is Tony Stark, you should have some test results for me.”
“Of course Mr. Stark. If you would please enter your pin I can transfer you to a physician who will discuss your results with you.” Tony entered the first fifteen digits of the magnetic constant backwards. “One moment.”
It had better be. He had gone to one of the most select clinics in New York for their speed and discretion. Tony counted four breaths before another voice came on the line. “Good evening, Mr. Stark, I’m Dr. Rosenbaum. I hope you’re feeling well.”
“You have no idea.” He grinned at Steve then looked back at the phone “What did you find?”
“Well, in general you are in good health but we did find traces of Genquist in your blood.” The doctor was politely inquisitive while taking care to be completely non-judgmental.
“Fuck.” Tony swore, then winced.
Steve sat forward in his chair. “What’s Genquist?”
Of course Steve wouldn’t know what it was.
The voice on the phone asked. “Mr. Stark?”
“Yeah, go ahead.” Tony told him.
“Genquist is a fertility drug. It’s used to jump start heat in omegas and regulate the reproductive cycles of betas.” Rosenbaum explained professionally.
“So that's why...” Steve trailed off, a blush rising on his cheeks.
“We had a very fun few days.” Tony nodded. “Anything else?” Tony said towards the phone.
“No, Mr. Stark everything else looked normal.”
“’Kay, thanks, bye.” Tony didn’t wait for the doctor to respond before hanging up.
“Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew.” Tony scrunched up his nose and shuddered.
“Tony, what?” Steve was up and in his space. Not touching him but definitely in Tony’s airspace.
Tony felt his mouth filling with saliva to keep bile from rising up his throat. “He wasn’t trying to kill me, he was trying to have sex with me.”
Steve came even closer, his voice grating. “By drugging you. That has to be illegal.”
Tony nodded. “It is, very.” He caught himself unconsciously moving closer to Steve and went with it.
Steve’s arms came around Tony’s waist. “So let’s get him arrested.”
Tony was warmed by the way Cap wanted to protect him and his arms around him. He pointed out. “I don’t have any proof that he did it. I mean, I know he did it but I don’t exactly have evidence.”
Steve grimaced. “We need evidence. If we don’t have something solid Stane will wriggle out of it.”
Tony put his hands on Steve’s chest and leaned back to look him in the eye. “Speaking from experience there, Cap?” Tony hadn’t realized that Steve and Obie had such a history. He had never seen the men interact, but that itself should have been a clue. Both of them were close to Howard, but thinking back it had always been Obie or Steve around. Obie coming to his mother’s parties and letting Tony sneak an extra bit of cake, Cap coming to Sunday dinners when he wasn’t out saving the world. But he couldn’t think of anything they both showed up for.
“I had more than one conversation with Howard about Obadiah Stane. I never came out the winner.” Steve was still scowling.
Tony patted his chest. “Don’t worry. I’m on board the whole Obie is a creepy fucker bandwagon.”
“The question is what do we do now. We can’t get him arrested and making this public wouldn’t help anything.” Steve chewed his lip and stared into the middle distance. His hands were still on Tony’s hips gently kneading.
“I wonder what his next move will be.” Tony mused. “He probably won’t try the forced heat thing again. He has to suspect I know about it.”
Steve’s eyes focused on Tony again. “You need protection.”
Tony shook his head. “Won’t work.”
“What if he tries to hurt you?” Steve stuck out his chin stubbornly.
“I can’t live with bodyguards 24/7 and I can’t explain why I need them all the time I’m near him.”
“Then don’t explain.” Steve said as if it was that simple. Tony was very tempted to agree to whatever Steve said, but the idea of having bodyguards following him around everywhere was just ludicrous.
Tony stared at Steve’s shoulder. If bodyguards wouldn’t work what would? What would serve as a big ‘Fuck Off’ to someone trying to heat cheat him? Tony smiled. “I have an idea.” Steve looked at him expectantly. “We should get married.”
“What...” Steve was stared at him open mouthed. ”What?”
“Hear me out.” Tony slid a hand around Steve’s arm even though he didn’t look quite ready to bolt. “While I may be an amazing fuck, I’m pretty sure Obie socialites has lining up for that. So if sex wasn’t his endgame, marriage probably was. If he became my alpha and husband before I turned twenty-one he could make a good case to the board to let him keep running the company and I would never get a foot in the door. If I went into heat and had sex with him he could probably have convinced me during the heat fog that it was a good idea to marry him.” Tony shuddered. “He probably would have professed stuff, claimed he loved me so I would go along with it.”
Steve’s arms tightened around him which gave Tony a lovely view of his chest but not a lot of mobility, but if his alpha wanted him here, here he would be. “I guess that makes sense.”
“If you’re an amoral control freak, it’s a great plan, better even than the heir tragically dying before he can inherit.” Yeah. Tony decided he should avoid any more mentions of dying. He wiggled a little to encourage Steve to relax his grip. Tony tried to soothe Steve by patting his chest and running his hands over Steve’s shoulders. “Hey, I’m alive and Obie wasn’t actually trying to kill me.” Steve frowned but loosened his arms so Tony continued. “Obie will either decide to keep working on plan A or go to plan B. I don’t like either of those plans. I prefer plan C. C for Cap. If we get married plan A goes out the window, so does plan B. He can’t get me to marry him if I’m already married. And mom’s Will was pretty standard, Obie will get the company if I die before I’m twenty-one and not married. If I do get married, everything would go to my spouse. So I marry you and suddenly there is a big Cap shaped wrench in all his plans, killing me or marrying me won’t help him.”
Steve chewed his lip. Tony resisted the urge to drum his hands on Steve’s chest while he gave him time to think. Steve’s eyes flicked around the room as he thought.
Finally he relaxed and looked down at Tony. “Alright.”
“Awesome.” I’m going to marry Captain America.
Since it was Friday night, Steve suggested that he and Tony stay in for the weekend. Heat feelings plus the threat Obadiah represented made him want to keep Tony here where Steve could keep an eye on him, where no one but Steve could see him. Tony agreed with a surprisingly sweet smile, then curled up on the couch to check his phone. When Steve went to make dinner Tony abandoned his phone to talk Steve’s ear off about his smart house project, then about a cell phone he was designing, and then his latest missile design. Tony rhapsodized over Steve’s pasta and Steve smiled more than he had in a month.
When it was time for bed Steve grabbed one of his pillows and the last clean set of sheets he owned.
“Are you doing what I think you’re doing, Cap?” Steve suppressed a smile. Tony sounded put out.
“What do you think I’m doing?”
“It looks like you’ve taken leave of your senses and are making up the couch to sleep on.” Tony had his head and hip cocked to better convey his extreme consternation. Steve thought Tony had no right to look as adorable as he did when he did that.
“Gold star.” Steve told him.
Tony added a pout. “You’re going to make me sleep on your couch?”
Steve pretended to be occupied fluffing a pillow but watched Tony out of the corner of his eye. “Of course not. You’re my guest. I’ll take the couch.”
Tony sighed and hung his head theatrically. “I happen to know that your bed is really comfortable and fits two people. I know this because you spent the last four days screwing me into it. What do you want? A promise that I won’t bite? A promise that I will?”
Steve paused with the pillow in hand. “You want to sleep with me? I mean in the same bed.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to condemn you to the sofa. It’s got to be a foot too short for you.”
The couch was between the bedroom and the apartment door which was good. But the nearer he could be to Tony the calmer he would be. He looked at Tony. “I guess if you’re comfortable with it.”
“You don’t have designs on my virtue?” Tony asked, tapping his foot.
“... No.” Steve choked. Really where to start with that comment?
“Well, too bad. Come to bed, Cap.” They settled into Steve’s bed. Tony rolled to his side so his back was to Steve. Steve stared at the ceiling until he fell asleep.
Steve was up and answering his communicator before his conscious mind registered that it had gone off. “This is Rogers.”
“Hey, Cap.” That was Sam’s voice. “I wanted to give you the heads up that Tony Stark has been reported missing.”
“Oh.” Steve said glancing at the bed where Tony had started to sleepily steal the covers.
Sam paused then said. “I was expecting more wailing and gnashing of teeth, maybe even a call to arms.”
Steve felt the flush creeping up his neck. “Tony isn’t so much missing as temporarily indisposed.”
Steve could hear the wide smile in Sam’s voice. “Oh.”
“Was that it, Sam?”
“Yep. I thought you might be concerned about the whereabouts of Stark Junior but apparently you know exactly where he is.”
Steve went back to bed. Tony, still mostly asleep, curled towards him.
The weekend was pleasant, or as pleasant as anything could be with Tony in a confined space. Neither Steve nor Tony suggested leaving, Steve knew it was the heat fog keeping them close but it was nice having Tony underfoot, cozy.
It was Sunday night when Steve asked, “So what are we going to tell people?”
Tony, who was poking at his phone, raised an eyebrow but didn’t look up. “Tell what who?”
“About us, getting married.” Steve clarified. Tony might honestly not know what Steve was talking about.
Tony looked up at him. “Our eyes met across a crowded room, I asked you to dance.”
Steve smiled and pressed on. “People are going to wonder why we’re doing this.”
“Well, I’ve had a crush on you since I met you.” Tony stopped playing with his phone but didn’t put it down.
“You were four.” Steve reminded him.
“And already had a taste for the finer things in life.” Tony leered playfully.
Steve felt a flutter of arousal and let it fade. It felt strange to be aroused by Tony now that his heat had worn off. “Ok, so you’re chasing your childhood crush. What am I doing?”
Tony paused, tossing his phone from hand to hand to give Steve a look, then shrugged his shoulders. “Midlife crisis? Marrying a hot young thing to reclaim your youth?”
Steve pursed his lips. “How about you need someone to look after you and I’m a soft touch?”
Tony looked at him through one open eye. “Will your friends believe that? I mean, it’s the truth but will they believe it?”
Steve sighed. They would. “I’ll tell them something.”
“We should be in love.” Tony said, staring off into space. Steve reflected that if they were getting married they should be, whenever Steve had imagined his wedding it was to someone he loved. Tony continued. “The press is going to go insane.”
Steve respected the press as a vital part of the democratic process, some of them didn’t make it easy though. “Well at least they’ll be talking about something interesting instead of speculating on boxers or briefs.”
Tony grinned, flashing white teeth. “That was a great article. I didn’t know there were such things as underwear analysts before I read that.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “I don’t think they were licensed.”
“What about the actual wedding?” Tony asked.
Steve ran through a couple of scenarios in his head. “Private ceremony, public reception. Don’t let Stane know it’s happened until it’s a fait accompli. Can you handle planning it?”
“Sure.” Tony nodded. “How hard can it be?”
Steve kept his mouth shut.
Very hard apparently. Tony had thought that it would be simple. He had given himself the entire morning, after Steve trotted off to SHIELD, to get everything set up. After all, lots of people managed to have weddings, multiple times even. It should be straightforward. He was a genius, it shouldn’t take him more than 4 hours to arrange everything. Applying his personal motto he went searching for manuals, there had to be some out there. He went to check on Amazon, pleased to find he hadn’t been wrong. There were manuals, lots and lots of manuals. From the Dummies Guide to Planning Your Wedding, Tony didn’t consider himself a dummy, to Modern Bride magazine. Tony idly wondered if there was a Post Modern Bride magazine or a Futurist Bride magazine. When in doubt, google it. Tony turned to the unfettered internet, it had to be more helpful. He could use his google-fu to find exactly what he needed. He typed in ‘how to plan your wedding’. After an ominous six seconds a page of results came up one to twenty of twenty-four million. Tony tapped his fingers against his lips. He picked up his phone and called Steve.
“Hey, babe.” He said when he heard the call connect.
“Hi, Tony.” Steve sounded nervous.
He started scrolling through the results on his laptop screen. “Have you told Jan yet?”
“No, why?” Steve or at least his voice relaxed.
“Because if anyone knows what this season’s hot ethically responsible centerpieces for the fun and modern wedding are it would be her.”
Tony could tell Steve was smiling when he said. “I’ll ask her to call you.”
Steve disconnected the call and slid his phone into his pocket and looked at the door in front of him. He had asked the members of the Avengers currently in SHIELD Headquarters to meet him in the conference room and he was running late enough that he knew he was the last one there. Steve reminded himself that these people were his friends and generally some of the best people he had ever met. He squared his shoulders and pushed open the door.
Jan gave him a little wave from her seat next to Hank. Natasha and Wolverine nodded their greeting and the rest greeted him with a chorus of ‘hello’s and ‘hey, Cap’s.
“So, I have news.” He looked around at the interested faces of some of the world’s best superheroes and couldn’t find the words.
After a pregnant pause, Clint kicked back in his chair and said, “Don't worry, Cap. It's not that big a deal.”
Steve wondered how Clint knew. “It's not?”
Clint waved a hand breezily. “I mean who hasn't fallen into bed with a super villain before?”
Bobbi looked speculatively between Clint and Natasha. Natasha just raised an eyebrow at her.
“I haven't.” Wolverine muttered.
Jack rolled his eyes. “And if you could remember more than the last five years that might be impressive.”
Wolverine sneered at him and Jack smirked back.
“So who was it? The Porcupine or Mother Night?” Clint continued.
Peter chimed in, “I always thought Princess Python had a fantastic ass.”
Steve knew this wasn’t what he should be talking about, but he wanted to know. “Why do you think I slept with a super villain?”
“Well you're on a mission then you're on heat leave. Come on. Who was it? Inquiring minds want to know.” Jack told him leaning forward, chin in hand.
“You're betting on this, aren't you?” Steve asked, resigned.
“Hamilton is acting as bookie.” Natasha told him.
Steve sighed, shrugged and tried to get back on track. “I didn't share a heat with a criminal.”
“Then who?” Bobbi asked.
Steve bit the bullet. “Tony Stark.”
“Wait, wait. Little Tony Stark? About so high” She held her hand level with the table “and has at least 3 screwdrivers on him at all times?” Jan asked.
Wolverine asked. “Howard Stark’s kid?”
“Yes.” Steve spread his palms in front of him.
”So you just asked us here to tell us you hit that?” Peter asked “Because that could totally have been in an email.”
Steve felt a bit like he was falling. He licked his lips and said, “Tony and I are getting married.”
Clint fell backwards in his chair, Jan clutched at Hank’s arm, Peter went wide eyed, Bobbi open mouthed, Natasha and Wolverine were unimpressed, and Jack started laughing his head off.
“Married? Like married, married?” Peter asked.
Bobbi smiled. “Is there another kind of married?”
Hank blinked. “This is very sudden.”
Wolverine looked at Steve with narrowed eyes and a menacing set to his jaw. “It had better be.”
“Yes, it’s recent. Very recent.”
Sam finally spoke up. “I think I speak for all of us when I say, why are you doing this?”
Steve opened his mouth, closed it again then said, “Someone is trying to hurt him. Getting married will stop them.”
“Who?” Natasha asked. She carefully adjusted the cuff of her shirt.
“I can’t say.” Steve flashed them all an apologetic smile.
Jack smiled back. “You can, you really can. And while I haven’t meet the pipsqueak in person, I’m always up for beating sense into people who threaten defenseless omegas.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t tell you anything else.” Steve knew he had to stick to his guns on this.
Jan leaned forward. “Tony is alright, isn’t he? This must be very scary for him.”
Clint, who was perched on his toppled over chair, replied. “I’m sure he finds the prospect of marrying Steve terrifying. Why, I’m getting the shivers just thinking about the bachelor party.”
Steve blinked. “I wasn’t really planning on having a bachelor party.”
Clint’s bright, “Sure.” was unconvincing especially when Sam made a ‘call me’ gesture at him and Clint responded with a double thumbs up.
“Well, congratulations.” Bobbi told him with a soft smile.
“Thanks.” Steve let a smile spread across his own face.
The others added their own best wishes too.
When that last Avenger left Steve, let out a breath, which made it hard to yelp when a hand clapped his shoulder.
“At ease soldier.” Nick Fury said amused.
“Nick, have you been here the whole time?”
Nick grinned. “Yep.” Steve tried to understand how the man managed it, then gave up. Nick clapped his shoulder again. “Now you're going to tell me exactly what type of trouble Tony is in.”
Steve weighed the odds of being able to put Nick off like the rest of them and decided they weren’t in his favor. He explained what he and Tony knew and what they suspected.
Nick pursed his lips. “You realize that Stark Industries is one of the largest weapons suppliers in the world, including several contracts with SHIELD.”
“Yes, Nick.” Steve nodded.
“And you realize that this thing with you, Stark Junior and Stane could get very messy.” Nick was carefully watching for a reaction.
Steve did his best to look open and honest. “Yes, Nick.”
“And you know that you just made a group of very driven people very, very curious about what threats there might be to the kid.”
He let his lips quirk up. “Yes, Nick.”
Nick threw his arms wide. “Why not just point them at Stane and hide any of the bits of him that are left once the dust settles?”
Steve frowned. “Whatever I may think of Stane, everyone deserves a fair shake. If I, or anyone else, finds proof of crimes committed, I will happily drag him to the courthouse. If we don’t find anything, well, Tony was drugged and someone is responsible for that.”
Steve waited out the silence that followed. One of Nick’s favorite tactics was to give people lots of time to consider their actions. Steve was certain in the choices he was making.
After a minutes Nick got up, said, “Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials,” and headed out the door.
Steve dropped down into one of the chairs. That hadn’t been as bad as he was expecting. Now he just had to survive his bachelor party, get married and figure out how to deal with Stane. And, he remembered, he needed to ask Jan to call Tony.
Jan didn’t call him, she showed up at Steve’s apartment with a very serious looking portfolio and a gleeful smile. She’d also brought coffee. It was the cheap mass marketed stuff, but it was still an effective caffeine transport. She set it down on the table and wrapped Tony in a hug that was surprisingly nice. She pulled back and patted his hair. “OK kiddo, let’s get you married.”
After several hours of discussion -- that was mostly Tony saying simple, simple, we want to keep it simple and Jan saying elegant, traditional, memories to last a lifetime, and Tony responding simple is elegant, traditional is simple and do people really forget their own weddings? -- Jan called a halt saying that they had a start but Tony really needed to work out the guest list pronto. They had agreed that since the reception was public they could have an event planner manage most of that, telling them it was just a party for Tony Stark and his five hundred closest friends.
Tony asked, “Were you like this for your wedding?”
“Of course. For an omega Hank was amazingly uninterested in planning our wedding.”
“It was a lovely wedding.” Or what he could remember of it had been nice. At eight years old he had been preoccupied with robots. He did remember managing to snag five of the chocolate puff pastries before his dad caught him and told him to lay off.
Jan smiled at him. “I can’t believe you’re getting married. Howard would be so proud.”
Tony swallowed. He was surprised by the flare of anger he felt at those words, Howard, his mom, had left him alone. Alone and at the mercy of Obadiah Stane. Certainly Howard hadn’t been planning to die but the man could have listened to Steve about Obie. After all, how shitty did a person have to be to get on Captain America’s bad side? Tony shook his head. He could be as pissed at Howard as he wanted later, for now he had to deal with current mess.
He gave Jan a weak smile. “I think he would be thrilled that I’m marrying Steve.” Howard had like Steve.
Jan half grinned and hummed into her coffee. “Now, about the flowers.”
Two days later, Tony found himself in the office of Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, asking, “Are you going to kill me?” Tony didn’t think he was, but Fury was a hard man to predict. The only reason he had gone with the two agents that appeared at the door of Steve’s apartment and gotten into the nondescript red car was the text Steve had sent him an hour earlier. It had read ‘Fury wants to talk to you’. Now Tony was wondering if Captain America had left out valuable advice like ‘run’.
“From what I see, threats on your life are what got us here in the first place.” Fury mused from behind his desk.
“That’s not a no.” Tony pointed out.
“No. You’re not here so I can kill you. In fact, I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to tell you exactly how you can avoid a shallow SHIELD sanctioned grave.” Fury gave him a snake like smile.
Tony glanced around the office, seeing no good escape routes, he gave Fury a bland smile. “I’m always open to learning new things.”
“Cap has explained that this marriage is so he can stand between you and danger. Now, that is something he excels at. To my, and everyone else’s, consternation he does not excel at relationships. Opinions are divided as to why. Sam Wilson will tell you that he can’t fully trust someone outside of SHIELD and apparently the dating prospects in SHIELD are slim. Janet Van Dyne would say that he hasn’t found someone who can match him yet. My personal theory is that he doesn’t pick people who can give him what he needs.” Fury paused openly waiting for Tony’s reaction.
“I didn’t realize all Steve’s friends were so vocal in their opinions of his love life.”
Again, Fury smiled like a snake, all smiling lips and hard eyes. “I’ve developed very good hearing. Even though you’re doing it backasswards you are the first person to go with him to the altar. There are a couple of people that I think Steve wanted to go there with.”
Tony realized that Fury was trying to bait him. Wow. Tony flashed him a grin. “Their loss.”
Fury’s mouth tightened. “Since you are getting his protection I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some reciprocity.”
Tony leaned back in his chair and let his legs fall apart slightly. “Oh, Steve is getting all the perks.”
Fury’s hand curled into a loose fist. “Boy, you signed up to be his husband so he’d damn well better be. He had also better be the only one getting those perks.”
Tony snorted startled into an honest answer. “Who the hell is going to cheat on Captain America? He’s perfect.”
“There are a few people who found it upsettingly easy to step out on Steve Rogers.”
Step out? Tony felt like he had stepped into a 30’s style gangster film. Fury would make a convincing mob boss, threatening the dashing young hero. Most SHIELD agents were a fedora and a tommy gun away from looking like prohibition era gangster. And, really, were those people nuts? Steve’s dick alone would make up for a horrible personality and Steve’s personality would make up for a tiny dick. Who would cheat on Steve? Because once he was married, Tony wanted to be able to rub their faces in it.
Tony held up three fingers. “I solemnly swear I will be faithful to Steve for the duration of our marriage.”
Fury drummed his fingers on his desk. “I’m afraid it’s going to require more than that to ensure your continued existence.”
Tony quirked a smile. “What are your demands?”
“I was going to ask you to behave like a mature responsible adult.”
Tony opened his mouth to tell Fury he was a mature responsible adult, thank you very much, but Fury kept talking.
“But clearly that’s too much to ask.” Fury sneered at Tony’s still splayed legs. “You will respect him. You will make sure your cohorts respect him too. You will give him your time and your attention. And you will send SHIELD a copy of whatever pre-nup you expect him to sign for our review.”
Tony looked at him sideways. “You’re very protective of him.”
“I take care of my people.” Fury told him.
After Fury let Tony go he was accosted by two SHIELD agents. Really there was no other word for it. One stepped out in front of him. The other sidled up from the right to flank him.
“Mr. Stark, we would like a word with you.” The first one said.
Tony laughed. “You understand I already got the shovel speech, right? And Director Fury was very thorough.”
The agent didn’t seem surprised or inclined to get out of his way. “No, Mr. Stark we wanted to be the first to welcome you to the SHIELD family.”
Tony squinted at him. “What? Are you going to invite me to the company picnic?”
“No, sir,” the man paused, then reassured him. “That happened in June. We'll make sure you get an invitation for next year. The next official get together is the Hallowe’en party.”
Tony boggled. He chewed on the tip of his tongue as he thought about that, then couldn’t help asking, “Is it a costume party?”
The agent shook his head. “No, apparently something happened in 1983 and 1997 that made Commander Fury ban dressing up.”
Again Tony wasn’t sure he wanted to know but he couldn’t not ask. “Fury let the same mistake happen twice?”
“I believe time travel was involved.” The agent waved a hand as if to brush the topic of time travel away as unimportant. “Anyway, I wanted to give you a flyer for the spouses' auxiliary.”
Tony took the bright pink piece of paper. “Er. Thanks?”
The agent nodded and walked away. “Is this for real?” Tony asked the empty air to his right. The second agent had slipped away without Tony noticing.
Sam caught up with Steve in the hallway about a week after his big announcement. “Hey, Steve. Do you have a minute?”
“Sure, Sam.” Steve said, slowing to an aimless walk. “What’s this about?”
Sam dropped into step beside him and smiled. “You.”
Steve nodded. He had expected something like this, not looking forward to it, but expecting it.
Sam went on, “You know, I always thought Howard convinced you to do the craziest things, but I think Tony has topped him with this.”
“You don't approve?” Steve went cold. Sam was one of his best friends, a friend who had stuck by him for years, a friend he couldn’t bare to lose.
Sam gave him a pained smile. “I just want to make sure you're not setting yourself up for heartbreak.”
“I don't love Tony.” Steve replied quietly, not sure it that made things better or worse.
“Yeah, you do Cap.”
Steve looked away. “Not like that.”
“I know. He's been like your nephew.”
Steve nodded. “Outside the Avengers, he’s the closest thing I have to family. I can’t leave him alone. Not if I can protect him.” Sam had to understand that, Sam understood family.
Sam stopped walking and waited for Steve to face him before saying. “You know he’ll leave once whatever is going on has blown over.”
Steve tried to swallow his heart break and met him eye to eye. “Everyone leaves, Sam.”
“So that’s it. You’re going to stay together for, what, a couple of years and then get divorced?” Sam asked harshly.
Steve rolled his shoulders looking back and away trying to settle the mess of feelings in his gut. “I just want to be with someone. So what if it doesn’t last? I just want some time when I can go to sleep next to someone and wake up with them. Someone who’s there, sharing my life. I want a year or two when I’m not coming home to an empty apartment.” Sam, Jan and Hank were wonderful friends but they had their own lives and Steve wanted someone to call his own. If he weren’t so lonely maybe he would have looked harder for another way to protect Tony. “Maybe I’m taking advantage of Tony, but I just want a little time to pretend that I can be somebody’s alpha.” Steve realized he was breathing hard and took a few breaths to calm down. The thought crept into his head and dug in. “Do you think I’m being selfish?” Was he taking advantage of Tony’s need?
Sam grabbed his shoulders. “No. No. You’re saving him. And I can’t blame you for wanting a bit of a life. Just don’t get in too deep.”
“I won’t.” The words sounded empty as soon as they left his mouth. Steve felt his ears burn as the lie hung between them.
Sam looked at him then shook his head with a sad smile. “Yeah, you will. Just remember we’re all here for you when it ends. And don’t do anything stupid.”
Steve nodded and pack the unsettling thoughts away. He would have what he could and when Tony left he would still have the Avengers. “Thanks, Sam. I glad I’m blessed with such good friends.”
Sam smiled slowly. “Now about the bachelor party.”
“The one that I said I wasn’t having?” Steve asked with small smile.
Sam waved a finger in the air. “That’s the one.”
“You and Clint already have it planned, don’t you?”
Sam spread his hands wide. “Of course. Does eight o’clock next Friday work for you?”
When Nick Fury called a meeting, people came. Heads of State, leaders of industry, the greatest minds of the free world were all at his beck and call. On a good day, all the Avengers would show up when he called them together, on a phenomenal day they would all show up on time.
Steve, who was always on time, would usually spend the five or ten minutes it took them all to trickle in sketching on his notepad. Peter, surprisingly, was already there when Steve came in. He slid a newspaper across the table to Steve. “Hot off the press. I thought you’d want to be the first to know.” It was folded back to show an inside page with an article titled Has Anthony Stark had a nervous breakdown?
Steve scanned the article. The author cited Tony’s low profile since graduating business school and the invitations that had gone out, and somehow came to the conclusion that Tony was not all there which the author used as justification to speculate on what an emotionally unstable heir would mean to Stark Industries and the Stark fortune.
“I never realized how much planning a wedding looked like a mental breakdown.” Steve said, dropping the paper in the middle of the table.
“Clearly you haven’t been around enough brides or bridesmaids.” Peter told him seriously. “I used to do wedding photography on the side and those women...whew.”
“Would you be willing...” Steve trailed off, not sure if he should ask.
Peter smiled. “Try and stop me.”
Sam came in and glanced at the paper. “Should we be worried about Tony’s mental state?”
Jan, coming in behind him, said “Tony’s doing fine.” She was pulling Hank, who still had a lab coat on, in after her.
Nick swept in. “If we could stop talking about Captain America’s wedding for a few minutes, I acknowledge how difficult this is going to be for you all but we do have the minor matter of the Black Knight to discuss.”
“Of course, Nick.” Steve said.
The others shuffled to their seats.
Nick clicked the remote and the video screen behind him flicked on with the picture of a young man. He had light blond hair and dark blue eyes and was handsome in a bland sort of way. “Avengers, meet the Black Knight, Leon Cornington. The first record we can find of him is when he enrolled at Oxford, studying medieval literature. According to his teachers he was a middle of the road student and generally unremarkable. He went on to get a doctorate in medieval literature and got an associate professor position at the University of California. He left England but never showed up in California. He’s been listed as a missing person for the last five years.”
“He seems to have turned to a life of crime.” Sam said.
Nick looked around the table. “Do you know what this means, people?”
Jan sighed. “I owe Bobbi ten bucks. I thought he would be French. His armor was in the French style.”
Nick brandished the remote at her. “Don’t make me crack down on gambling again.”
Steve groaned. “Please don’t, Nick. You remember what happened last time you tried that.” Gambling at HQ was more about being right than money changing hands. SHIELD attracted some very competitive people and when they had been forced to stop gambling they had found other ways to compete. It hadn’t been pretty.
Nick shrugged the question off. “I’ll ask again. Do any of you know what the Black Knight’s history tells us?”
Steve said. “That he probably wasn’t the one who created the weapons.”
“Teachers pet.” Peter whispered.
“Unless he had a wholesale personality shift and increased his IQ by a hundred points or so he couldn't have engineered them.” Nick continued. “The best mind’s SHIELD employs can barely understand how they work. Every time I tell them to build us replicas they start babbling and end up whimpering.”
“So there is still a mad genius on the loose. How do we find him and politely tell him to stop?” Peter asked. “Or, you know, beat him up.”
“Whoever created the weapons must have close ties to the Black Knight's organization. They were the only ones with access to this type of energy weapons so he, she, they, it is probably a member, a high-ranking member. With the Black knight dead, his organization will be falling apart. We need to pull up every root and turn over every stone to find this guy.” Nick sat forward in his chair. “Which means I need Wasp and Ant-man to be ready to head to Hong Kong.”
“But -” Jan started out of her chair.
Nick threw up a hand to cut her off. “Only for three days. I’m not man enough to make you miss the wedding. And Cap, you’re taking a day trip to Oregon tomorrow with Jack, Wolverine and Spider-man. We've got a line on a small installation there.”
Tony stepped out of the cab and strode forward, the paparazzi, reliable as ever, turned their cameras on him and started shouting. Tony gave them his glorious bastard smile but didn't stop walking. He stepped through the club door and surveyed the room, it was as crowded as he expected for a Friday night. It was, after all, the place to be if you were a partying celebutante. He relaxed when he didn’t see anyone who knew him well enough to expect a hello. Perfect. No one would feel slighted when he didn't stop and talk to them.
Tony pressed up to the bar and waved a few bills to get the bartender’s attention. "There's five hundred bucks in it if you can show me a quiet exit."
The bartender snatched the money from his fingers and gestured towards the back of the club. "That hall. Go past the restrooms. The next door is a storage room that also has a door to the kitchen. When you hit the ovens turn right. That's the door to the alley. Keep going right and you'll hit the street in a block. You should be able to pick up a cab quick."
"Thanks." Tony followed the bartender’s directions and was pleased that he did in fact get a cab in under a minute. Tony had pulled this trick a couple times before. Mostly when his cronies didn't understand that he needed a night in the lab. He would announce to them all that they were going to some club or other and then when it was good and packed he would make his escape. That way he could say that he had been there but whoever was asking must have missed him in the crowd. This time the point was just to feed the press. Obie was being extremely upbeat about Tony dropping off the radar and hadn’t pressed him to get back in the spotlight. With his new paranoia, Tony didn’t trust Obie not to use Tony’s low profile to initiate another scheme. Hence the walk through to show the press he wasn't missing, depressed or had run away to live in a yurt somewhere. It would probably only make page six of the trashier newspapers but it was something. Anything he could do to get on page one seemed like a bad idea at the moment, anything newsworthy would probably mean he was drunk or arrested, or both. Either state had the unfortunate likelihood of someone calling Obie to take him home.
Tony missed his lab, Steve’s tiny apartment didn’t have enough space for Tony to do anything. Designing and coding were good, but Tony wanted to build stuff, put it together, pull it apart. On a whim he asked the driver to stop at a big box electronics store. He'd get a few things, tear them apart and make something. It wouldn't be impressive, these places didn't have the parts for that. So, something whimsical. With no clear plan, he grabbed a couple of camcorders and some servos.
Steve quietly slid his key into the lock and pressed the door open slowly to keep it from creaking. Stepping into his apartment he found the lights still on, so much for not waking Tony up. From where he was he could see Tony sitting cross-legged on the living room floor doing something.
“Hi Tony, I didn’t think you would still be up.” Tony cocked his head at Steve and he clarified, “It’s four in the morning.”
Tony blinked, then shrugged, looking back at Steve with a sly smile. “So, how was your bachelor party?”
“Er.” Steve suddenly couldn’t meet Tony’s eye.
“That good?” Tony asked.
Steve coughed. “Ah, yeah. It was good.”
“Were there strippers?” Tony asked without sounding upset at the idea.
“So, what are you making? Other than a mess.” There was what looked like three dissembled camcorders attached to a tripod. Messy wires connected them together and a thicker bundle of wires ran down the tripod into Tony’s laptop. The camera on the tripod tilted down seemingly on its own.
Tony patted it and said. “Don’t worry. He still thinks clamshell phones are impressive.”
“It can hear you? It can understand you?” Steve marvelled.
“Oh, yeah. It’s just a basic AI, and when I say basic I mean the most advanced on the planet with some voice recognition.” He turned back to the camera thing and told it. “Track Steve.” The camera rotated back up and fixed it’s lens on him.
“So what …?”
Steve took a step to the side. The camera followed him. “Okay ...”
“I had this idea for my smart house, that instead of relying on motion sensors I should use cameras to track motion because that opens up a whole range of predictive programming along with a more flexible interface.”
Steve waved a hand. The camera bounced side to side to follow it. He stepped closer and moved his hand all the way around the tripod forcing the camera to turn 360 degrees. He tried moving his hand faster but the little thing kept up. Then he moved his hand slowly to see if he could trick it that way. It patiently swiveled after him. He looked up at Tony and had to smile. “Neat.”
“I know.” Tony grinned.
Monday morning was grey and drizzling when Steve woke up. Tony had moved during the night and was pressed against Steve’s side. For the first time in a long time Steve didn’t want to get up and go to work. But today was the trip to Oregon to track down the rest of the Black Knight's organization. Steve let himself have five minutes just to lay there and enjoy the shifting light from the rain on the windows and the contrast of the cooler air on his face and the sleepy warmth under the blankets then with a sigh he sat up and pulled the covers back. Tony made a half awake humphing noise and pulled the comforter around himself. Steve smiled fondly at him before heading to the bathroom. When he came back Tony was curled in the middle of the bed with the comforter completely wound around him.
Tony, not seeming really awake, rolled his head to look at Steve. "Hmm..Whe're you goin'?"
"I have to be in early this morning." Steve told him as he pulled clothes out of the dresser.
"Ok. Why?" Tony asked more intelligably.
"Uh.” Steve paused trying to think of something he could tell Tony without revealing classified information. ”I have stuff to do early."
"Classified stuff?" Tony asked with a yawn.
Steve sighed. "Yes." He hoped Tony would respect there were things Steve just couldn’t tell him.
"Fighting bad guys?"
"Maybe." Steve hedged.
"When will you be back?"
"’K. Go kick some butt." Tony said then flipped the covers up over his head.
The flight out was pretty quiet. They were all fully briefed and suited up so the only things Steve had to do was to keep Peter from getting caught in the crossfire of Jack and Logan’s inevitable pissing contest and flying the jet.
The base was in an abandoned industrial park on the outskirts of an equally abandoned town. The warehouses had seen better days and tufts of determined weeds were pushing through the seams of the concrete slabs.
If the Black Knight’s organization was anything like the other criminal enterprises over the years it was a cult of personality and when the leader was removed the underlings would fall to infighting if they didn’t out and out flee.
Steve gave the order for Wolverine, Jack of Clubs and Spider-Man to explore in a loose line. Even halfway into the complex none of the buildings they passed showed signs of recent use. If Steve had to guess he would have said it was more than three years since anyone had been in them. Not too surprising since the best intel they had said that the base itself was under the complex not in it. Steve noticed immediately when Wolverine slowed down and started scenting the air, nostrils flaring.
Wolverine snarled, eyes flicking back and forth. “It’s an ambush.”
Steve looked around and strained his hearing. Just on the edge of the muffled quiet of the complex he heard the clack of footsteps on concrete, first two, then ten, from the north, then more from the south and the east. After only five seconds it second like more than one hundred people were closing in on them. Steve swore. This was not what they had prepped for. They were supposed to be investigating and picking up stragglers. There had been no activity here since the Black Knight died. “Abort mission. Jack, Spider-Man head north east. Wolverine and I will go south.”
“There’s no one to the west.” Spider-Man said.
Jack grabbed his arm hustling him away. “Can you spell west? T-R-A-P.”
“Hurry. The more they close in the harder it will be to get past them.” Steve and Wolverine ran side by side in the narrow alley running between two buildings. Steve flung himself against a wall and Wolverine jumped as a black uniformed man swung out across the mouth of the alley, fired twice while turning and disappeared on the other side. Two expanding energy plumes in sickly blue shot down the alley. One barely missed Steve before hitting the wall, the other smoothly arced down the alley falling to the ground and making an oddly wet splat. Steve heard trickling and glanced back to see the concrete wall liquefying where the energy had hit it. Looking back at the mouth of the alley he saw more of the Black Knight’s troops gathering.
“Up!” He yelled.
Wolverine nodded, jumped and drove his claws into the wall using them to haul himself up the side of the building. Steve took as much of a running jump as he could in the alley and hit the opposite wall feet first. He pushed off the wall hard and twisted his torso propelling himself across the alley again hitting higher on the opposite wall. Slower than he liked he jumped higher and higher bouncing between the buildings. There was the telltale fizz splat of the blue energy hitting the walls around him. He was almost to the top when a well timed shot forced him to twist mid leap. He flung out his arms sure that the building was too far away. Even as his stomach clenched he started calculating where he would hit the wall and what he could grab to stop from sliding all the way to the ground. Before he missed the top of the wall by inches a hand grabbed his wrist and yanked with enough force to pull him half on to the roof. Ignoring the pain in his hips and legs from smacking against the lside of the building he scrambled the rest of the way on the roof. “Thanks, Wolverine.”
Wolverine grunted. “Let’s go.”
Steve jogged across the roof. “Spider-Man, Jack, what’s your status?”
“Enjoy the lovely view from the roofs too.”
“Met us at the jet.”
Steve and Wolverine raced along the tops of the warehouses twice doubling back when the gaps between buildings were too big to jump. The men with the concrete dissolving guns clearly knew where they were, every time they jumped or got too close to the edge another ball of blue energy would barely miss them. The shots tapered off as he and Wolverine neared the edge of the complex which Steve found ominous. The buildings thinned out here which had made them easier to track not harder. Then he saw Spider-Man and Jack coming in from the left flinging themselves on to the same roof Steve and Wolverine had come to. “Something’s wrong. They’re planning something.” Steve called out signaling them to stop.
“What?” Jack panted.
“Shh..Hear that?” Steve could hear the splat of the energy weapons and the strange seeping sound of liquefying concrete, a lot of it.
Spider-Man crept to the edge of the building they were on and peeked over. “These guys seem to know something about load bearing walls.” He mused.
Steve peered over and got a quick look at what was happening on the ground before he had to duck back to avoid a shot to the face. “They’re weakening the supports so this building will collapse.”
“Not just this building.” Jack reported. “All the ones around us too.”
“Jack, can you hit the wall on that building there at an angle?” Steve pointed to north corner of the building opposite where the men below were concentrating their fire.
“When I say I can hit that, I can hit that. And I can hit that.”
“They’re all focused on the other side. Take that one out and it will collapse the whole building.”
“It won’t stop them.” Wolverine said.
“No, but it’ll be a distraction. Spider-Man, web the goons on this side of the building so we can get down. Once Jack’s in the air we run like hell.”
The others three nodded. “Go.”
Steve, Wolverine and Spider-Man dropped over the side of the building. Four armed men were in sight, three fell quickly and the fourth only got off one wild shot before being hit by Steve’s shield. Above them Jack had already launched himself into the air. Steve set off running , not looking back, knowing the others would follow.
Jack was distracting to watch in a fight. He had somewhere acquired the ability to hurl himself end over end like a truncheon and become invincible while doing it, promptly dubbed himself the Jack of Clubs and made enough of a mess that SHIELD had brought him in. Steve had had trouble watching him do it until he got used to the particular unlaws of physics he followed during the throw. Jack would start running at a slow jog and suddenly catapult himself off the ground, gain momentum and spin rigid lengthwise until he smashed into whatever he was aiming at. Then he would shake himself loose and get up to do it again.
There was a boom and a crack that signaled Jack had hit the building then a cacophony of wrenching metal and crumbling concrete as the building listed and collapsed. Steve saw Jack’s black shape fly past from behind them heading towards the jet. Steve really hoped that Jack’s aim had improved enough he didn’t hit the jet this time. He ran harder, the distraction wouldn’t last long. They piled in the jet as fast as they could. Steve slid forward almost missing the pilots chair in his haste to start the emergency vertical take off. Shooting straight up they were just out of range when the first energy balls were fired on them.
There was a moment of silence then Jack said “So....”
“They saw us coming.” Logan said crossing his arms.
Steve glanced away from the flight controls. “That was a trap. A really well planned one.”
“No, really?” Jack asked. “What makes you think that? The fact that they let us wander into the middle before surround us?”
Spider-Man added. “Could be or that a place looked completely abandoned since the Black Knight’s death, three weeks ago was suddenly swarming with goons.”
Steve nodded. “Mostly that they were well informed enough to know exactly where we would have to end up if we ran on the roofs and were well coordinated enough to carry out a plan to catch us there.”
Logan raised an eyebrow. “What do you think?”
Steve frowned which gave Jack time to cut in. “That someone decided they look good in black and stepped into the Black Knight’s oh so fashionable armor.”
When Ant-Man and Wasp reported in it was the same story. Their surveillance revealed that the Black Knight’s operations in Hong Kong barely paused with his death. The recruitment, corruption and thuggery were going on like they always had. Someone had stepped up to fill the power vacuum.
Steve had the unfamiliar thought that he wished he had stayed in bed this morning.
The word meek is used to mean someone's omega child, similar to son and daughter (Tony is Howard's son and also his meek).
As planned, the wedding was a small affair. Steve had balked at the idea of another tux fitting and so was wearing his dress uniform. It hadn’t occurred to Tony that SHIELD had dress uniforms, unless they were part of the gaudy gang SHIELD agents seemed to always come in grey suits and black leather, Tony wasn’t entirely convinced the dress uniform hadn’t been invented for this occasion.
Apparently Captain America getting married was serious business to all SHIELD agents. The neighborhood around the church had acquired a sharply dressed quality that made Tony think every third person was a SHIELD agent. The man and the women having coffee in the bistro were either agents or routinely took guns on their dates. The man walking a recalcitrant bulldog definitely had an ear piece and the omega working the flower cart, an honest to god flower cart, had nine customers in the last hour wearing grey suits. When Tony asked Hank how SHIELD could justify over a hundred agents monitoring a wedding that already had dozens of superheros in attendance Hank had shrugged and told him “They all volunteered. Half of them think a super villain is going to attack. Even if they don’t it’s kind of like a royal wedding. They ant to be able to tell their grandchildren they were there the day Captain America got married.”
Wherever the uniform came from it looked good on Steve. The monochrome navy jacket and slacks outlining his height and breadth of his shoulders against the paler colors of the chapel. It helped Steve didn’t seem to know how to slouch only to stand proud and tall, ready to face the world. There wasn’t any rank insignia but there was a finely made pin looking like Captain America’s shield attached to his collar. Tony would have shown up in one of his many suits but Jan had insisted on a new suit with a more delicate neckline and fitted waist. Tony had stood in front of the mirror in the dressing room, pursed his lips and fluttered his eyelashes, he looked like someone’s sweet little omega bride. Well, two out of four wasn’t bad.
Since his father and mother were dead, and Obie had disqualified himself by being a scheming rat, Nick Fury had somehow gotten drafted into giving Tony away. That made no sense to Tony but Sam and Clint and Bobbi had all nodded along when Jack suggested it. They eyed each other as the music started. Fury held out his arm and said. “Remember boy, you break him and I’ll break you.”
Tony nodded. “Noted.” He slipped his arm through Fury’s.
The walk up the aisle to Steve was blessedly short. The chapel was small but still only half full. Most of the Avengers, past and present, had made it, along with a few of Steve’s close friends. Tony suddenly felt very alone. There was no one there for him, Rhodey had tried to get leave but with only three weeks notice it had been impossible. Tony hadn’t invited any of his friends from MIT or Harvard to the ceremony. He had invited them to the reception of course, because they were the type of friends you partied with, not the type you invited to your clandestine wedding with Captain America. Tony was sure the Avengers and SHIELD could keep a secret, his friends not so much. Since he couldn’t think of a person he could trust that could make it to the ceremony Tony had decided to forgo attendants. That didn’t stop Jan, Wolverine, Clint and Jack from taking up the first pew on the groom’s side. Sam had been asked to officiate and accepted with a reverent joy. Fury passed Tony off to Steve and sat down leaving Tony at the altar with the one person that was there for him, Steve, who had always been there for him. Sam started “Dearly beloved we are gathered here today ...”
Tony patiently agreed in all the right spots. There was a barely muffled snort from someone when he promised to love, honor and obey. Then Steve pulled out the rings, plain bands, Steve’s silver and his gold. Somehow, as Steve slid the ring on Tony’s finger, he was sure their simplicity was a statement. A statement more profound then ‘oh crap the wedding is in a week, we’ll have to take what we can get.’ But Tony didn’t know what the statement was. Sam told them to kiss. Steve leaned forward to peck him on the lips. Tony grabbed his neck to pull him into a real kiss, their first. Steve followed for a moment then took control, sliding one hand into Tony’s hair and the other around his waist, and Tony was pretty sure he saw stars.
The reception was as big and loud as the wedding wasn’t. Tony’s event planner had had to rent out a ballroom to hold the three hundred quests. Over five hundred invitations had gone out to various business associates, nominal friends and other hangers on. Tony was sure more people would have come if the invitations had included anything about Tony getting married; everyone thought this was just a regular Stark party. Tony entered on Steve’s arm still in his wedding suit, one of the hotel staff helpfully handing him a mic. Tony surveyed the room already half full of people in evening were, light reflecting off of glasses and gowns. Now he had to tell these people and the world what he had done. Tony licked his lips as Steve squeezed his hand, and tapped the mic to get everyone’s attention.
“Good evening everyone, I suppose you’re wondering what brings us together today. Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today.” There was a smattering of laughter across the room. “Earlier today, I had the great good luck to marry Captain Steve Rogers.” The room hushed, Tony heard a glass smash on the floor. “He is one of the best men I have ever known and I am deeply honored to be able to call him my husband. This party is to celebrate our union and I hope you will all join us.” He had planned this speech to be short to the point and completely true. There were a few claps, then a few more, and then the whole room was applauding.
The next two hours passed in a blur of handshakes and well wishes of varying levels of sincerity. Tony noticed that some of the generals in attendance seemed particularly smug. Tony was sure they were thinking that the marriage would mean more favorable terms on Stark Industries contracts. They would learn. Then there were more of Howard’s business acquaintances lamenting that Howard wasn’t here to see his meek get married. Tony gritted his teeth behind his smile every time they told him it was so good that he had married, that Steve was a fine man who could take care of the business, and let Tony focus on starting a family.
Steve pulled him aside after the seventh iteration of the conversation. “Tony, you don’t expect me to take over Stark Industries do you?” Steve looked as nervous as a virgin on prom night.
Tony laughed. “If there is ever a time when I need a shield thrown at Stark Industries I will ask for your help. I might make you a senior VP of shield throwing. Maybe I could get the Board to create a position of Chief Patriotic Spandex officer. Those sound like good jobs for you. Other than that you’re off the hook.”
Steve nodded, relieved, then said, “You know my uniform isn’t spandex right.”
The only fitting response Tony had for that was, “Yes, Dear.”
“Do you want something to eat?” Tony realized that Steve had been guiding them towards the buffet for the last five minutes.
“Not really.” Food got in the way of schmoozing at shindigs like this. “I could use a drink.”
Steve started towards the buffet then turned back. “You’ll be okay on your own?”
“Yes, Cap, I’ve been dealing with these people my whole life. I’m fairly sure a few of them remember the streaking incident when I was twelve. If I can look them in the eye after that I can do anything.”
Steve hesitated. “If you’re sure.”
Tony made a shooing motion. “Go, eat. And get me a drink.”
Tony was chatting with a couple of up-and-coming computer nerds when a large hand settled on his shoulder. “Gentlemen. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow Tony for a few minutes.”
Tony was very careful to keep his expression open and carefree. Going by the looks on the geeks faces he didn’t manage it, although he didn’t know what sort of look Obie was giving them over his shoulder. The geeks beat a hasty retreat as Tony turned to look at Obie. “Hey, Obie.”
“Tony, Tony, Tony.” Obie said, shaking his head. ”Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tony waggled his eyebrows. “Whirlwind romance and all that.”
“With Captain Rogers.” Obie said.
It wasn’t a question, but Tony answered it anyway. ”Yeah.” Tony couldn’t help hamming it up. He let out a love struck sigh. “He’s amazing.”
Obie gripped his shoulder a shade too tight. “Well, congratulations, kiddo.”
Tony tried to read his expression. Obie looked a bit worried, but sounded genuinely happy for Tony. For a moment he forgot himself and spread his arms out for a hug from his godfather. Obie obliged, wrapping his arms around Tony. Then he remembered that this was the man who had tried to heat cheat him and pulled away.
Obie didn’t seem to notice Tony’s volatile mood. “Why didn’t you tell me? We could have put together a big ceremony. Made it a day to remember.”
Tony wondered again who these people were that forgot their own weddings. “Steve wanted a small ceremony.”
“Of course he did.” Obie agreed, smiling.
Steve appeared at Tony’s elbow with two champagne flutes. “Good evening, Mr. Stane.”
“Captain Rogers.” Obie said, with an affable smile. “Tony was just telling me how you decided to have a small wedding.” Tony caught the faint stress on the word you.
Steve handed one of the glasses to Tony. “Well, weddings attract attention. We wanted to keep the rabble out if we could.” And since Obie hadn’t gotten an invite it was clear that Steve considered him as rabble.
Obie nodded. “Of course. You wouldn’t want the scrutiny of the masses on such a happy day.” Tony peered at him, Obie had just implied his marriage to Steve wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. Steve didn’t say anything; he just gave Obie a light smile. “So, Tony tells me this was a whirlwind romance. It’s amazing how relationships can spring up like that, even when you’ve known someone their whole life.”
Tony wasn’t sure, but Obie might have just accused Captain America of sleeping with him while he was under age.
“Yes, amazing how without any outside influence whatsoever you realize the kid you knew is now a man and a very beautiful one at that. “ This last part was said to Tony with a goofy smile. Tony tilted his head up for a quick kiss.
Obie was still smiling, but the lines around his eyes got deeper. “A worldly man like yourself realizes that Tony has a lot going for him, beauty, brains, money.”
Steve bobbed his head. “I don’t know anything about his money, but Tony certainly is brilliant.”
Tony noticed his jaw had dropped and shut it. This was like watching bull fighting or some other blood sport, Steve had deflected Obie’s gold digger barb and come back with any intelligent person would choose me over you.
“Indeed. Have you given any thought to what you’ll do now, Captain Rogers? You’ve been focused on your career for so long I’m sure it will be nice for you to make time for family.”
Tony wasn’t entirely sure, but it sounded like Obie had just told Steve he was incapable of being promoted passed Captain. Tony was in awe.
Steve’s smile tightened. “Tony and I are still discussing how we’re going to balance our careers.”
Tony waved a hand. He felt like he was announcing the end of round one. “We’ll work it out, won’t we dear.” He gave Steve a besotted smile.
“Of course, pumpkin.”
Tony bit his lip to stop from laughing. Pumpkin!
“Congratulations.” Obie said, mostly to Tony. “Why don’t you two stay here and have fun. I’ll go deal with the reporters.” With that parting shot Obie left.
Steve bit his lip. “Tony.”
Tony cut him off. “So the verbal brawling is surprisingly hot, but I can see why mom and dad didn’t let you in the same room together.”
Steve looked at where Obie was disappearing into the crowd, then back at Tony. “Sorry. It’s just when I’m around that man I forget my manners.”
“As I said, surprisingly hot.” Tony took a deep breath. “You know, I booked the penthouse suite.”
“Oh?” Steve asked, finishing his champagne.
Tony pressed up close to him. “And this is our wedding night.”
“Oh! You want to ...”
Tony pressed even closer. “Want to have sex with my husband on my wedding night? Yes, yes I do.”
Steve’s face shuttered for a moment then cleared. “Yeah, ok.”
Tony started to chug his drink and was thrown by the sweetness of it. “In fact, I want to have sex with you Steve, even if you are the rat bastard who brings me ginger ale instead of champagne.”
They made a slow escape from the ballroom, getting waylaid four times before they could leave the room. It would have been five but Clint accidentally tipped his drink down Ms. Fulton’s dress with a wink in their direction.
Tony was about to swipe the keycard to the suite when Steve touched his wrist. “Do you mind?” Steve started to blush. “Could I?”
Tony looked at him blankly then at the key.
“It’s our wedding night and all.”
Tony looked at the key again trying to figure out what Steve was asking. It was a key, to a door. Tony cross referenced door with wedding night in his mind and figured it out. “Are you sure you can, what am I saying, of course you can. Yeah, sure.” Tony put his arms around Steve’s neck while Steve bent to get an arm behind his knees and swept Tony up into a bridal carry.
Once Tony was sure Steve had a good grip he swiped the keycard through the door lock and pushed the door open. Steve stepped over the threshold into the room, then stood there. Tony shifted a little, he didn’t want to lessen what Steve was getting out of this but the pregnant pause was getting awkward. Steve looked at him a bit helplessly and set him down.
There was another pause before Tony decided he needed to take charge of the situation. He wrapped his hands around the back of Steve’s neck and stood on his tiptoes to get Steve within kissing range. It was a nice kiss. The second one was nicer as Steve got with the program and joined in. For a while it was just that, the slick slide of lips, tongues and teeth with the lovely warmth of Steve’s hands as he held Tony’s waist. Tony shucked his jacket one arm at a time so he could keep an arm anchored around Steve’s neck the whole time. The man, his husband he reminded himself, was ridiculously tall. Tony’s feet started to hurt from standing on his toes and he dropped back to the floor. From there it was easy to keep going down to his knees. Steve stared down at him so Tony winked up at him and got to working undoing Steve’s pants.
He worked Steve’s dick out, curious about that he would find. During his heat he had been a bit out of it and very intent on having Steve’s cock in him as much as possible. He hadn’t really been taking in details. Now he was in his right mind and wanted to get a good look at Steve’s equipment. Steve wasn’t hard yet but, Tony snickered, he was rising to the occasion. Tony wrapped a hand around Steve’s cock and gave it a few strokes, getting used to the feel of it, the girth, the slightly different feel of the skin around the base where Steve’s knot would form. Tony felt himself slicking up at the memory of that knot inside him. Steve wasn’t circumcised and as Tony worked the skin back he wondered if that had always been uncut or if his foreskin had regrown as a side effect of the super solider serum. Tony shook his head, now was not the time to ask, now was the time to run his tongue over the head of Steve’s cock and find out what he tasted like. Steve groaned and jerked. Tony licked again and Steve’s hands came to rest on Tony’s shoulders. Tony took that as a sign to continue. He let his tongue run over the shaft trying to learn it’s topography by feel. He satisfied himself with his knowledge of how the slit bottomed the space between the glands at the head of Steve’s cock and moved on tracing the veins with his lips and tongue. He lost himself in learning the texture, the resistance and the smell of Steve. He had just found an intriguing little rough patch between two veins on right side and was repeatedly running the flat of his tongue over it when Steve shuffled back a few inches, just enough that Tony had to detach. Tony arched an eyebrow at him, silently asking why Steve had interrupted his exploration.
“If you keep that up I’m going too knot in the next five seconds.”
“Right. Clothes off.” Tony hastily pulled off his dress shirt while Steve shed his jacket and shirt at impressive speed. Tony had to stand to get started on his pants and was disappointed to lose the view of Steve’s dick until he realized that he had traded it for a view of Steve’s magnificent pecs. Tony decided he needed to start a list, it would be called Parts of Steve to Explore With His Tongue because he really wanted to lick those too. Steve distracted him from applying tongue to nipple with a hand under his jaw guiding him up for a kiss. It was hot and messy and almost made Tony miss how Steve’s hands were working his belt off and making a very quick job of getting Tony’s pants off.
Tony broke the kiss laughing because there was no dignified way to get his shoes and socks off. Once they were both naked Tony grabbed Steve’s hand and walking backwards led him to the bed. When he felt the bed pressing against the back of his knees he pulled Steve in for another kiss, winding his arms around Steve’s neck and one leg around his calf which resulted in some very nice friction. Steve's large hands cupped his ass and a finger ran down his cleft tracing his hole, following the rim and spreading his slick in tiny circles. Tony pushed with the foot that was still on the floor trying to topple them back onto the bed. It didn’t work. He tried again but Steve didn’t budge.
Tony broke the kiss. “Work with me here.”
Steve licked the corner of his mouth. “It feels really good when you do that.”
“Fine we can do that or you can lay me down on this bed and slide that huge cock of yours in me and feel me writhe when you pop that great big alpha knot of yours.” Tony grinned as he felt the world tilt as Steve picked him up and pressed him down into the bed.
“When you put it like that.”
Tony gasped as Steve rolled his hips rubbing their cocks together. Swallowing he got out. “I know exactly where you’d like to put it.”
Steve choked against his shoulder. “That’s really corny.”
Tony opened his mouth to show Steve just how corny he could be. Steve distracted him with a kiss. He was getting good at that and it had only been five hours since their first kiss. Not good enough for Tony to miss the pillow pushed under his hips but Tony had to give him credit for doing it without breaking the kiss. When Steve did pull back he drew it out suck on Tony’s bottom lip before releasing it with a slick pop. Steve looked Tony straight in the eye as he rested the head of his cock against Tony’s hole. He clenched already imagining what it would feel like to have it in him again and nodded to Steve. With concentration he made his muscles bear down instead as Steve pushed forward. He shivered as the tip of Steve’s dick stretched his hole wide around it, then a little less as the head popped in. Tony groaned letting instinct take over, clenching around the head.
“Ready?” Steve panted.
“More.” Tony nodded.
Tony’s eyes closed as he focused on the feel of Steve pressing another inch in, pulling out until just the head was still inside him then coming back pressing a little more in opening him, driving the sensation deeper into Tony’s body filling up those places Tony didn’t know were empty until he had someone inside him. After a short eternity of more heat, more fullness, Tony felt Steve slow to a stop with his balls against his ass. Steve’s hand caressed the side of his face until he opened his eyes. “You ok?”
Tony laughed a bit in wonder starting up into Steve’s blue eyes. “I’ve told you you have a wonderful dick haven’t I? I feel like I should add you are very good at using it.”
“Thanks.” Steve looked a bit bemused and a lot horny. “Ready?”
Tony decided the best response to that was to tighten his legs around Steve’s back and try to pull him an impossible inch closer. Steve rocked back then forward rubbing Tony in all the right ways, striking every nerve. Tony reveled in the motion thrusting his own hips up as much as he could to meet Steve. It just kept getting better the slide of Steve’s dick in and out keeping him open, driving him toward release.
Steve suddenly paused mid stroke half in half out. Tony tried to keep going but Steve caught his hips in one hand and stopped him. “Wha...?” Why was Steve stopping? Tony was just about to come.
Steve panted above him. “Tony, I’m about to knot.”
“Will you let me knot in you?”
God, Steve really was an old fashioned guy. Asking before knotting had gone out of style years ago. “Yes, please.” Tony told him and reached an arm up to pull Steve in for a long kiss.
Steve’s hips stuttered forward and back twice while Tony attacked his mouth then Steve stopped cock buried inside Tony and Tony felt the base of Steve’s cock swell inside him. If Steve had been filling him up before this was something totally other. As Steve’s knot stretched him it seemed to uncover more and more pleasure points, exponentially increasing the sensation of heat and pressure. Tony whimpered, breath hitching and he came twisting and clenching around the knot. He let the crash of pleasure over take him as his muscles spasmed around Steve’s cock.
Too soon the waves sensation got far enough apart that Tony could think about other things, like the flushed face inches from his own. Steve looked glassy eyed and very pleased.
“Hey.” Tony felt another pulse of pleasure and Steve bit his lip. “Are you okay like this or do you want to move?”
Tony thought about how he was half folded under Steve with his knot tying them together, sweat dripping between them, the tension in his legs still wrapped around Steve’s back. He thought of having Steve over and around him as well as in him until his knot went down enough to pull out. “I’m good.” He said pulling Steve down for more kisses.
Tony didn’t admit to himself that he was awake until something thumped down on the covers on top of his foot. “What?” He called, not bothering to crawl out, turn over, or even open his eyes.
“I thought you might like to see today’s paper.” Steve’s disembodied voice said from somewhere beyond his warm nest of blankets.
“Why?” Tony wiggled his foot to dislodge the honest to god real newspaper.
“We made the front page.”
“Mm … okay.” Tony had been expecting that.
“I also got breakfast. Well, room service.” Steve added.
Tony flipped the covers off his face and looked around. Steve was laying out plates on the table by the window. Tony yawned, stretched and threw the covers back. He grabbed the paper on his way over and shook it out. “I thought you said we made the front page.”
“We did.” Steve said as he got the silverware laid out. He glanced up at Tony and rolled his eyes. “And put some clothes on.”
“This just says ‘Captain America Marries’. Obviously I’m not important enough to get top billing. Let’s see.” Tony started to read the article aloud. “Last night America was shocked by the news that Captain Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America and a long time bachelor, finally married. Captain Rogers married Stark fortune heir, Anthony Edward Stark, 20, in a private ceremony yesterday. There are very few details about the ceremony or the courtship but it is clear from the photo (inset).” Tony broke off to look at the picture. It was of their kiss at the wedding. “Oh, that is a nice photo, make Peter give us a copy.” He went back to the article. “That the couple is very much in love. The Post would like to join the rest of America in wishing our Captain the best in his new married life. And it goes on.”
“Tony, clothes. You can’t eat naked.” Steve reminded him.
Tony rolled his eyes. “Well, that’s just not true.”
“I’m holding the coffee hostage until you put pants on.”
“Fine.” Tony hunted around the room and finally located his pants on the closet floor. “That was a nice article.”
Tony couldn’t see Steve but he could hear the shrug. “I suppose.”
“I mean usually the press are a lot more bitchy. Especially if they think you’ve been hiding things.” Tony got his pants on and went to get his coffee.
“If you say so.” Steve was already digging into his scrambled eggs.
“Don’t you pay attention to them?” Tony asked.
“I try not to.” Steve shrugged.
Howard had often complained about the press and Tony’s own experience was mixed. Ignoring them had never occurred to him. “You are a very strange man.”
Steve finished up his briefing with Nick and headed home. He arrived at his apartment to find Tony sitting at the kitchen table with several unopened boxes of takeout piled next to him and a laptop in front of him. Steve wasn’t sure what he expected to change with their marriage but he had the vague thought that Tony would stop hiding out in his apartment. “Have you been here all day?”
“I went shopping earlier.” Tony replied, poking at a few keys.
“What are you planning to do until you turn twenty-one?” It wasn’t that Steve minded having Tony around, he just knew how Tony liked to keep busy.
Tony gave him a faux innocent look. “I’m going to cook and clean and keep house like a good little omega.”
Steve looked pointedly at the takeout containers and then at the coffee cups littered throughout the kitchen.
“I’m going to figure out what the hell Obie is doing.” Tony tapped a few more keys, then clicked something and closed the laptop.
“Can’t you just wait until you inherit the company and then fire him?” Steve asked. Tony’s birthday was only seven months away.
Tony sighed. “You’re cute. No. I’d have to convince the Board of Directors. Anyway, I’ve been thinking and it’s got to be bigger than that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Suppose he hadn’t drugged me. What was the worst that would have happened?” Steve shrugged and grabbed one of the takeout containers. “I would have taken control of my stock, making me the majority shareholder but he’d still be CEO.”
“Right.” Steve dug into the bag for chopsticks.
“Now even if I went nuts and got him fired.” Steve frowned. “Don’t give me that look he’s a good CEO. It’s not that bad for him. I mean he takes his millions in stock and goes to sulk while dozens of fortune 500 companies fall over themselves to offer him jobs as CEO.”
“That doesn’t sound like a fate worse than death.” Not something that Steve could see himself doing but a lot of people would love to be in that position.
Tony grabbed another of the takeout boxes. “Drugging me is a risky plan. It says he is very nervous about losing any control of the company.”
Steve pondered that. “So he thinks, he knows, that letting anyone in will be bad for him, very bad. Something much worse than job hunting.”
Tony frowned tapping his fork against the container of fried rice. “I think prison time is about the only thing that would worry Obie.”
Steve nodded slowly. That made sense. “So he’s probably been doing something illegal that will come to light if he loses his grip on Stark Industries.”
“If he’s been doing something wrong I need to know.” Tony grabbed another takeout container and opened it with enough force to rip one of the flaps off.
It didn’t surprise Steve how much this upset Tony. Stane maybe a close family friend but in the end the Stark family and Stark Industries were inseparable. Howard had build the company, had been it’s life’s blood for more years then most men had been alive. As far as Steve knew Howard had never considered letting go or letting up when it came to Stark Industries. Hell, Howard and Maria had been coming back from a business trip when their plane had crashed. Tony was the same way. Steve had never heard Tony say he wanted to do anything else but build things for Stark Industries. Steve wasn’t sure which act from Stane hurt Tony more the assault on his person or the abuse of his company.
“So what are you going to do?” Steve asked.
“Investigate. I need to figure out what he’s doing.” Tony stabbed at the chicken.
“Can’t you hire someone to do that for you? Some who has experience with this sort of thing.” Steve admitted that he grew up in the era of melodramas but this really did seem like something for a private detective to handle.
“I don’t know what sort of thing it is.” Tony said, stabbing another piece of chicken. “No, it’s my name on the building, my name on everything we ship.”
Steve started to get nervous. He respected Tony’s desire to take responsibility but he didn’t want Tony going up against Obadiah Stane. “At least wait until you’re in control of the company.”
Tony shook his head. “And while I’m waiting, Obie will come up with another scheme or bury the evidence.”
Steve bit his lip. “Just tell me you’re not planning on marching into Stark Industries and demanding an audit.”
Tony snorted around a mouthful of orange chicken. “Like that would find anything the last three haven’t. I’m going to hack the servers.”
“You’re going to hack the servers of a multibillion dollar company with close ties to the military?” Steve knew he didn’t have the greatest grasp of computers but that sounded … hard.
Tony waved his fork, with a piece of chicken in a loop. “I wrote half of the security software. Genius, workaholic, insomniac, remember?”
Steve caught his wrist. “Tony, I need you to promise me you’ll stay away from Stane. If you have to investigate, do it from a distance.”
Tony started to bounce the fork up and down. “Tricky, since R&D and Stark headquarters are co-located and Obie seems to suddenly be going on a lot fewer business trips.”
“Tony ...” Steve started.
“But I have a plan.” Steve raised an eyebrow. “Hey, it’s a good plan.” Tony defended pulling his hand away from Steve to spread his arms wide. “I’m going to build us a little love nest.” Tony grinned.
Steve took a second to think about it. “Well, that makes as much sense as some of your other plans.”
Tony waved his fork at Steve again. “Whenever reporters mention that we’re staying here they use the word cozy which is code for cramped like a shoebox.”
Steve huffed. “My apartment is not cramped.”
Tony made a show of looking around the small kitchen. “I’m not going to dignify that statement with a response. So along with cooking and cleaning and, I don’t know, doing my hair like an omega should, I’m going to set up house in Stark Mansion.”
“You realize I wasn’t around during the fifties or the sixties, right?” Steve had missed the era of June Cleaver-esque house omegas.
Tony ignored him. “People who don’t know me will think I’m distracted by getting married. People who do will think I’m distracted by my smart house project. Also that place is old enough that no one will think twice when I gut the wiring and upgrade the data line to the best money can buy. Which gives me a place to work and an excuse to be there instead of at Stark Industries.”
Steve turned that over in his head. “That is actually not a bad plan.”
“I am a genius.” Tony popped a pea pod into his mouth.
“You shouldn’t be alone though. If you really think Stane is plotting something you need to have someone with you all the time.”
“I’ll work on that.” Tony nodded.
Steve let it drop. He was pretty sure pushing harder now would irritate Tony.
Switching gears he told Tony, “Nick asked if I wanted some time off for a honeymoon.”
Tony looked at him blankly. “Would he give you some?”
“Not now.” Steve smiled. “He says it’s our fault for having the quickest marriage in the history of Starks.”
“Well that’s just wrong. I know there was a great-aunt out there somewhere who had a shotgun at her back for the ceremony. Apparently she knocked up someone with a old fashioned father.” Tony told him with fake seriousness.
Steve rolled his eyes. “Nick says I need to stick around until this mess with … um ... the current mess is sorted out. But after that he seems to think we should take some time.”
“That man is taking an interest in our relationship.” Tony mimed a shiver. “I’m scared. Hold me.”
Steve started on a carton of beef and broccoli. “You didn’t have to look him in the eye while he talked about not letting work get in the way of a healthy marriage.”
“And that is why Fury is single.” Tony cocked his head. “He is, isn’t he?”
Steve nodded. “As far as I know.”
Tony started tapping his chopsticks on the orange chicken container. “I wonder if he gives that speech to all the Avengers when they get married.”
“I hope so.” Steve felt it was important that one’s boss displayed a sincere interest in them, he could just do with less interest in or advice about his love life.
“I can’t see Jan putting up with it.” Tony mused.
Steve felt a twinge of something. “You like Jan quite a bit don’t you?”
“Yeah, she’s awesome.” Tony must have seen something in Steve’s face. “Not like that. She’s fun but very taken, and reminds me of my father. Which isn’t really a kink I want to explore.”
Steve gaped at him. “God, Tony, stop.”
Tony smirked. “Right, back to the point. You in a lei and a Hawaiian shirt. What? Do you think Hawaii would be too cliché for our honeymoon?”
“Who cares?” Steve laughed. “You’re already my pretty stay-at-home omega.”
Tony hunched down in the booth of the trendy Manhattan coffee shop. He had promised Steve he wouldn’t go to the mansion alone and he had been going stir crazy in Steve’s tiny apartment. So he had relocated himself and his laptop to this hipster coffee bar. He had on a jacket and a hat which he hoped would be enough to stop anyone asking ‘Hey, aren’t you Tony Stark?’. At least the waitress was responsive to a hundred bill and an order to keep ‘em coming.
So he had coffee, an internet connection and a burning curiosity about the person behind the user name vpotts, employee of Stark Industries. Investigating Stark Industries was like trying to debug a million line program. Even finding where to start looking was a challenge. Stark Industries was into a lot of things, weapons sure, but also airplanes, agriculture, construction equipment, satellites, and healthcare. Tony decided the best place to start was the books; he was going to follow the money. Which was great in theory, but Stark Industries was a multibillion dollar company, it was still a huge amount of stuff to plow through. He had nearly gone cross-eyed looking for anomalies, and finally he thought he may have found one. But it also looked like someone may have caught him doing it.
Tony had been browsing through several of the invoice records for the Hong Kong office yesterday Today when he went back to look all but two of the records had been viewed by vpotts. It had taken him about two minutes to realize that while he had masked the fact he had accessed the files, he hadn’t prevented the backlog flag from being reset. That wasn’t exactly something this vpotts could search on, so whoever it was must have picked up on the same pattern he had or they had opened every invoice record for the Hong Kong office for 2007. Tony did a quick check of the files vpotts had accessed. Nope. Mostly the same files he had looked at. Tony opened a few of the ones on the list he hadn’t looked at. They had the same pattern of slightly too large quantity orders for aluminum and zinc. Tony hummed, then deliberately flagged one of the Italian profit-loss reports for the last quarter for the attention of vpotts.
He switched back to looking at contractors. He had gone over the blueprints of Stark Mansion and sketched out changes, renovations and wiring. If he wanted his smart house to be good it would need high speed cable throughout the whole place and his house was going to be awesome. He decided while he was at it he would add a new secure server room and a state of the art machine shop. Maybe SHIELD had an approved list of contractors, ones that had sworn only to put the bugs Fury ordered in and no one else's.
The next day after Steve had left to do whatever he did at SHIELD and Tony had rolled out of bed at the unwholesome hour of nine o’clock, when he went to check the file again, he found vpotts had reviewed it and flagged three of its ancillary reports as backlog. Very interesting. It was time to find out more about this vpotts. A quick check of the HR database revealed vpotts to be Virginia Potts, hired right out of college a few years ago by Stark Industries’ accounting department. Her file photo showed copper penny hair and an attentive smile. More interestingly her email showed no communication with anyone about mysteriously flagged records, as far as Tony could see she hadn’t told anyone. Tony cracked his knuckles. He had some digging to do. By the time he had pulled up her LinkedIn profile Tony was almost convinced that Virginia Potts was real. It was hard but he was almost there. She looked a bit too perfect on paper; her high school and college transcripts showed excellent grades in challenging classes, with a double major in Accounting and Management with an Art History minor. Her extra curricular activities were just as impressive; student council, business club and Honor board. That had made Tony pause. After she had been hired by Stark Industries she had glowing performance reviews and had been fast tracked to managing her own team of bean counters. Two weeks of getting next to nowhere had given Tony the idea that he maybe, just possibly, needed another set of eyes to figure out what Obie was doing. Potts was by all accounts smart, capable and honest. Tony grinned. Such character traits should be rewarded, it was time for Virginia Potts to get a promotion.
Three days later Tony rolled up to Stark Mansion’s gates to meet his new personal assistant. She was dressed in a black blazer and skirt and carrying a slim black briefcase, not a hair out of place, although her flushed skin was starting to clash with her hair. She looked serenely calm while managing to project an aura of seething rage. Ms. Potts, Tony was pretty sure if he called her Miss Potts he would be savaged by the extremely angry woman, was annoyed with him.
She nodded curtly at him. "Mr. Stark."
"Miss Potts." Tony couldn’t resist saying back.
Her face got redder clashing even more with her hair. "I'm afraid I will have to decline your generous offer of the position as your assistant."
The words were nice but with that tone all Tony could hear was 'screw you and the horse you rode in on.' "Come on. It’s a good job. Triple the pay and a corner office.”
“It is not on my preferred career path and no one seems to be able to locate that corner office or your office for that matter on a building plan.”
Tony smiled. “We’re working off site for a while.”
“Again, sir. I must decline.”
“At least come see your office.”
She looked at him through narrowed eyes for a moment, then nodded.
“Great. This is Stark Mansion by the way, home of the Stark family for time immemorial and by that I mean my great grandfather built it in the 1890’s as a ‘screw you’ to all the old money types.”
“I would never have taken you for nouveau riche.”
Tony chuckled. That was positively catty. Tony stepped into the empty echoing foyer. “It’s a work in progress. I’m having the whole thing redone, you know as a little wedding present to myself.” Now she looked thoughtful, maybe bring Steve up hadn’t been a good move. “Anyway, I’ve chosen colors for the dining room and the kitchen but the living room has me stumped.”
“You mentioned an office.”
“Right. We’re working out of the basement.”
“Yep.” He led her down the stairs and keyed in his entry code. So far it was pretty bare. Bare concrete ceiling, bare concrete floor, bare concrete walls. Tony had set up a desk in the middle of the room with three computers, four monitors and cables running to the server room. Potts looked unimpressed.
“And this would be my office?”
“No.” Tony waved a hand. “Your office is over there.” He pointed. “In the corner. I haven’t gotten furniture yet.”
“That’s what the tape is for.”
She walked over to inspect the tape going so far as to grind the pointed heel of one of her shoes into it. “Well, Mr. Stark, as rewarding as it would be for me to be the personal assistant to, I believe your official title is, Senior Research and Development Monkey, I don’t think this is going to work.”
“But then you’ll never know.” Tony waggled his eyebrows at her.
She narrowed her eyes. “Know what, Mr. Stark?”
“What’s been going on with the invoices in the Hong Kong office.”
Her mouth dropped open. “That was you?”
“Tricking the servers to let me authenticate as admin on the network then dropping into a root shell to - you know what it doesn’t matter. Let’s just say I’ve got complete access to the accounting system.”
“There’s something rotten, etc, etc, and I need someone to help me find out exactly what it is.”
“Why don’t you go to the board?”
Tony pursed his lips.
“Right. I’m going to need a computer and a desk and a chair.”
“Great. I need to pick some furniture for the study too.” Potts blinked at him. “What? Interiors don’t design themselves.”
“This will not be a normal job, will it?” She asked.
“I don’t know what normal looks like.” Tony told her cheerfully.
It took a week but they fell into a steady routine. They would meet at Stark Mansion at ten and try to make sense of the vast amount of invoices. Order something in for lunch around two. Tony would leave at whatever time meant he would be home when Steve was, usually that meant leaving Potts to work for a few more hours. Tony did most of the designing, planning and shopping for the house in the quiet hours between one and three in the morning.
Walking into the basement one morning he said "I can't keep calling you Miss Potts."
"No, you can't." She agreed, juggling her coffee and briefcase.
Tony continued. "and just Potts sound British for something sort of bad." She didn't take the bait about calling him Stark. Too bad. Tony had nineteen responses to that and counting. "I could call you Virginia."
"I'm not sure I feel comfortable being on a first name basis with you, Anthony."
"Well I do want you to be comfortable." Tony waggled an eyebrow. She pursed her lips and arched an eyebrow at him. He stepped back and gave her a sideways smile and a shrug. She rolled her eyes and it was awesome, their first silent understanding. They understood that Tony was going to flirt with her because that was who Tony was, but they also agreed that it was not going to go beyond that, ever.
"What does your family call you?" Tony tried.
"Ginny." She sighed, looking away.
"It doesn't suit you." Tony waggled a pencil at her. Where had he gotten a pencil?
"I know." She agreed.
Tony drummed his fingers on his lips. "But I think they’re on the right track. I'm calling you Gin."
"Then I'm calling you Ant." She said, over her shoulder as she set her stuff down on her desk.
"We’ll see who breaks first.” Tony grinned and turned on the monitors on his desk before dropping into his chair.
Tony groaned when he saw the gates to the mansion, the paparazzi must have gotten wind that he was coming here most days. With the quiet wedding and no public appearances by him or Steve since, they were probably out for blood. There were only five of them, Tony was pretty sure he could ignore them long enough to get inside. He stepped out of the cab onto the curb, the questions coming thick and fast.
“What's it like being married to Captain America?”
“What are your honeymoon plans?”
“Do you have a china pattern?”
“What was the best wedding gift you received?”
“Boxers or briefs?”
Tony slowed. This was not the kind of press reception that he was used to. When his mother had herded him through throngs of reports they had asked questions like ‘What do you think of the situation in Somalia?’ and ‘Do you feel any moral responsibility to help rebuild bombed areas of Afghanistan?’, and once ‘How do you explain to your child that you murder people?’. His own run-ins with the press where less serious but not less awkward, whatever they implied, punching Justin Hammer had been completely justified.
“Is it hard being married to the leader of the Avengers?”
“What are your plans for the future?”
“What jeweler did your wedding rings?”
“What’s your favorite color?”
An eager young beta in a beret and black turtleneck waved a microphone in his direction and asked “What are you doing with Stark mansion?”
“Renovating.” Tony said looking at him sideways, then added, “I want to build a nice home for my husband.”
The beta nodded his head hard enough that the beret started to come loose. “What are some of the challenges of renovating your family home?”
Tony stared at the building, with the lights off inside the windows looked like holes. “Picking curtains?”
“Really, what kind of style are you going for?”
Tony put some words together and let them come out of his mouth. “Neo-retro without being hipster. So no irony, I guess.”
A lanky omega with artistic stubble asked “If you could be a fish what kind would you be?” Tony was willing to bet that he was from TMZ.
“Dolphin.” Tony told him with a smile.
The man grinned back. “That's not a fish.”
“Fine then a penguin.” Tony replied flipping his hand in the air. He gave the press one more smile then walked into Stark Mansion.
When he got to his basement lair he did a couple quick google searches.
“Gin, I think the internet is broken.”
“What did you do?” She asked, not looking up.
“They’re being nice.”
Gin pushed her chair away from her desk and looked at him with indulgent eyes. “Who’s being nice and what does it have to do with the internet being broken?”
“Everyone is being nice because the internet is broken?”
“The other way around. The internet is broken because everyone is being nice.”
“I mean listen to this ‘Captain America’s young husband had a sterling academic career and vibrant social life at MIT before enrolling in Harvard business school at the tender age of eighteen. Captain America certainly married one smart cookie.’ Vibrant social life. Ha. It’s like they didn’t read the police reports. Honestly it was a good thing I was a minor when I was there.”
Gin rested her chin in her hand. “Tony, either explain what you mean in detail or don’t explain at all.”
Tony thought about that for a moment. “So, did you find anything more in the Hong Kong invoices?”
When Steve walked into his apartment this time he found Tony surrounded by newspapers. There were pages everywhere and the oily sharp smell of ink. Steve leaned back against the wall by the door and watched Tony rifle through the thin sheets. "Hi, Tony."
Tony looked up from the sheet he was refolding. "Oh, hi, honey." He picked up another paper and started to pull it apart.
"I thought you didn't like newspapers." Steve said.
Tony wrinkled his nose. "I don't."
Steve moved closer. Stepping over pages from the Post, the Times the Wall Street Journal. "They why do you have all of these?"
Tony sighed and put the paper down. "I thought the Internet was lying to me."
Steve turned that over in his head. “Doesn’t the internet ‘lie’ a lot?”
"Apparently the press really likes you. The entire fourth estate has some sort of man crush on you." Tony gave a little thrust of his chin. When Tony didn’t say anything else Steve made a go on gesture with his fingers.
"I haven't found a single article that disses you, or us or me. Except the Onion and they don't count." Tony added.
Steve shook his head, he wasn’t really following this. "What did you expect?"
"Them accusing you of being a cradle robber, them accusing me of seducing a national icon. Someone saying it’s all a publicity stunt, people pulling up Howard's unsavory past. People bring up my unsavory past. I mean the worst thing I can find is the rumor that you got me pregnant by accident and that is generally followed by ‘and of course he did the decent thing and married the kid’."
"Reporters aren't bad people, just a bit intense." Steve told him.
Tony squinted sideways at him. "You understand the press thrives on finding the slightest flaw in a public figure and discussing it ad nauseum."
Steve shook his head. "They never do that to me."
Tony stared at him for a minute. "Well clearly that just proves you are, in fact, flawless. But how long until they start in on me?"
Steve rolled his eyes. "Tony, you're twenty, how much of a sordid past can you have?"
Tony pursed his lips. "I'll ask you to remember, when it comes up, that whatever the pictures might look like, the goat was completely unharmed by the end of the night."
"Ok." Steve agreed, unsure of what else to say.
“And you’re going to help me pick out curtains.” Tony waved a finger at him.
“Why?” Steve looked at his curtains. They were white, plain and had been there when he moved him.
“I told the reports curtains were a challenge.” Tony replied.
“They judge you on this stuff. And they adore you. They'll say I'm a terrible person if I let Captain America live in a house with substandard curtains.” Tony looked at him with wide brown eyes his dark eyelashes contrasting with his pale eyelids.
Steve looked at the coffee cups on the table. “How much caffeine have you had today?”
“Not enough.” Tony started stacking the papers in a haphazard pile. “Anyway, to complete my descent into domestic drudgery I thought we could have a home cooked meal.”
Steve saw the box and plastic wrapper next to the stove. “Frozen pizza?” He asked.
“Yep. It’s what mom and dad would make when the staff had the night off.” Tony got up. “Do you have anything to drink?”
“Water, tea, milk, Gatorade.” Steve shrugged. “You’ve seen what’s in the fridge.”
“Anything alcoholic?” Tony asked.
“There's some beer left over from poker night.” Steve pointed to the cupboard that served as the pantry.
Tony pulled one of the plain white cans out and paused. “Steve, this just says beer on it. In big black comic sans.”
Steve shrugged. “I think Jack left it here.”
Tony got very still. “Think carefully, have you ever seen him drink it?”
Steve gave this some thought and finally said “No.”
Tony put the cans back in the cupboard with exaggerated care and got a coke out of the fridge.
Steve had finished the boat he was sketching by the time the rest of the Avengers made it to the conference room.
Nick strode in, “Eyes front, people.”
Everyone turned toward him. Nick spread his fingers wide on the table top and announced, “We’ve finally managed to get some footage of the man taking over the Black Knight’s organization.” Nick clicked the remote and a low quality video started playing on the screen behind him. It was a man in black armor with silver filigree, wielding a glowing green sword.
“The Black Knight?” Clint asked. “I thought he was dead? Like really most sincerely dead.”
Steve frowned at him.
Nick gave them all a very disappointed look. “We’ve got a body in the morgue that says so.”
Peter twirled his pencil between his fingers. “I hate hereditary villains.”
“What about it seems like a good idea? Honestly.” Bobbi said, still looking at the video.
“I don’t know. Who would think ‘Hey, the Avengers have just taken down my father, mentor, random person in the street. I should do what he did, that seems like a valid career path.’?” Clint said, kicking back in his chair.
Peter held his pencil so the point was toward Clint and made slashing motions like he was waving a sword. “I think it's the Inigo Montoya syndrome. You know, you kill my father, prepare to die.”
Clint plucked the pen out of Bobbi’s hand and before that went any further Steve asked. “So we've got a copycat, and the original Black Knight's organization is loyal to him?”
“Extremely.” Nick drummed his fingers on the table. “Are you sure you got the real Black Knight the last time?”
Steve shrugged. “Well, he called himself the Black Knight and had a glowing sword.”
“Whoever this new one, is we have a lead that he’s setting up shop in Siberia.”
“Oh, Natasha will have fun. She always likes beating up those Russian ex-special ops guys.” Clint said bouncing with anticipation.
“Black Widow is on another assignment.” Nick said.
“But it’s Russia. She’ll be so disappointed that we went without her.”
“I’m not pulling her off her current assignment.”
Steve would like to know what that assignment was. Technically Natasha was only a part time Avenger, the rest of the time she was a SHIELD agent to be assigned at Nick’s whims. Usually he would at least tell Steve where she was going and how long she would be gone.
“We don’t have all the intel yet, but we will in a week. Cap, Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Wasp, I want you ready to go when we get it.”
“Nick,” Steve asked. “How long will this mission last?”
“A week, a week and a half, it depends what gear you guys get your asses in.”
Steve would have to tell Tony he was going on a mission. Steve would have to go on a mission and leave Tony alone. There hadn’t been anything suspicious since Tony was drugged, but it still made Steve uneasy to think of Tony alone in the same city as Stane.
Obie’s voice crackled as it echoed through the workshop from the speaker phone. Tony decided he needed to add more mics in the upstairs hallway, the kitchen, the garage, and basically everywhere. What was the good of having an AI in the house if it couldn’t hear you talk? “Tony, why do you need a personal assistant?
Tony glanced at the ceiling, then at Gin and waggled an eyebrow. “To assist me, personally.” She rolled her eyes at him.
A deep sigh sounded over the line. “Tony, remember when we talked about impropriety and the appearance of impropriety?”
Tony made the note about mics on the blueprint and flipped over to a circuit diagram. “Rings a faint bell. Gin, what are those tiny bells?”
“Tony you’re married and this country, the Board of Directors and the shareholders expect you to be faithful.” Obie continued placidly. Tony rolled his eyes, why did everyone assume he would cheat on Cap? Obie’s tone softened. “You know if you’re having trouble you can talk to me. I know you had a whirlwind romance, if it’s not what you expected or what you wanted, we can fix it.”
Tony tipped his head back to stare at the ceiling. “No, Obie I’m fine. Steve is … well Steve is swell. And the truth is Gin just makes really good coffee.”
“Tony -” Obie started.
Tony cut him off and doodled an airplane wing. “Really. Was there anything else or did you just call to shake your finger at me?”
“Do you have those missile designs?” Obie asked.
He flipped through the files until he found the right one. “They’re not ready yet.”
“Ok. Say the word and I'll have the guy up in Grand Forks finish them up for you.” Obie had a pet engineer tucked away out there that he like to taunt Tony with when he didn’t think he was working fast enough. Tony knew he was doing it but it got him every time right in the ego.
“I’ll have the first draft for you by tomorrow. Bye.” Tony cut the call.
“Swell?” Gin asked.
“Well, how would you describe America’s star spangled man? I mean, I could say that he’s great in the sack but he snores so I kick him out of bed afterwards, but people don’t want to hear about Captain America’s sex life. Unless they do and those people are a bit upsetting with the crazy eyes.”
Gin leaned forward and asked with a suppressed smile. “He snores?”
“No.” Tony sighed.
“Drat. You know I don’t see why you don’t just ask Mr. Stane for help with this. He has Stark Industries best interest’s, and yours, at heart.”
Tony looked at her. How could he explain that Obie didn’t seem to have either in his heart? This was the man who had made time for him when his parents weren’t there. Obie had always been willing to look at Tony’s latest designs when he was a kid, even if they were crap. He still remembered the day he had declared to his mom and dad that he was going to go into the family business, making bigger and better explosions. Maria had laughed at him. Howard, the beta that had given birth to him, had patted him on the head and told him that wasn’t the sort of work for an omega. Tony remembered being furious, he'd stormed out in his eight year old ire and ran into Obie. Obie had told him that he could be whatever he wanted to be, no matter what his parents said. Obie had patiently sat as Tony had explained his idea for a new remote detonation trigger, Obie had rightly pointed out that the trigger might fail at low temperatures. After that it had been their thing, their secret. Tony would send Obie blueprints and Obie would come back with constructive criticism. Over the last couple of years it had gotten a bit dull because all Obie every told him was that the weapon he designed was too expensive for the Army, or that the Air Force wasn’t interested. How could he explain to Gin, an alpha, that Obie who had always been the first to tell him he could do anything he wanted, no matter his gender, was also the person who had turned Tony’s gender into a weapon against him? The one person he had always thought was in his corner really, really wasn’t.
All he could say was, “No, he doesn’t. Not in this.”
“You think he’s involved in whatever we’re hunting?” Gin looked crushed.
“I think that he might be.” Up to his neck in it, the bastard.
“But … he’s one of the best CEO’s out there. He’s ...” She trailed off, making a vague circular motion with her hands.
“Let’s just leave him out of this for now.” Tony made a note on the missile blueprint.
Gin, showing off the crease between her eyes, said. “If you’re sure.”
Steve looked at the clock, 11am. He had promised Tony he would go to the mansion that morning to take a look at what Tony had done so far. The idea had been that they would get breakfast together at a little cafe Tony liked then Steve would get the grand tour. They hadn't set a specific time but Steve was pretty sure he was late. He hadn’t factored in getting a call at three in the morning and rushing to Philadelphia to deal with mind controlled giant slugs with Jack of Clubs and Wolverine. By the time they had dispatched the slugs, dealt with the mind controller and gotten back it was 10am. Steve had taken ten minutes to shower, then fifty minutes to debrief, so now he was late. Steve hated being late. He tried to decide how annoyed Tony would be with him. Flowers? Steve wasn't sure Tony would know what to do with them. Chocolate? Not quite the right tone. Donuts? Those would probably work. Steve made himself presentable and left in search of a bakery.
Steve gave the reporters a cheery wave as he walked past them through the mansion gates. He glanced around at the yard and felt disoriented. Whoever had been looking after the place had kept the ornamental bushes trimmed the way they had been when Howard was alive. Steve had memorized the shapes when he slipped away from Howard’s parties escaping press of people. The grounds were the same and the angles of the house were the ones he remembered seeing every time he walked up the drive to visit Howard. This was the place he had first met Tony. Tony, who had been four at the time. Here it impossible not to remember Tony’s eight birthday party, and sitting across from a sulky thirteen year old at Thanksgiving dinner. Steve had never felt more like a creepy old man. Even if nothing had started before Tony showed up two months ago, Steve had been born in 1918, ninety-four years ago. If he didn’t include his own personal ice age, he was still over twenty years older than Tony. Tony made him forget that, had a way of ignoring so thoroughly the age difference Steve had to ignore it too. But coming to his old friend’s home, his in-laws house? Steve slowed to a stop as he tried to incorporate that thought into his worldview; Howard Stark was his mother-in-law. Steve honestly had no idea what his friend would have thought of that if he were alive. A plastic sheet over a pile of lumber sitting by the side of the house caught his eye and he got a grip. Tony was making this place his own. Tony was here and Howard was gone. If he weren’t Tony would never come to Steve for help, never would have had to. Steve had to believe Howard would approve of Steve keeping Tony safe, he had always made it clear that no one messed with his meek.
Steve took a breath, tightened his grip on the pink pastry box, and walked into the mansion.
It looked, well, it looked like a disaster, but Tony had said he was gutting it. He had to step around a pile of drywall in the foyer. He followed the sound of voices to his left was a much more finished room. There he overheard Tony arguing with a red headed alpha.
"Do you think the curtains match the carpet?" Steve bit his lip, and Tony continued unaware of his presence. “If I go with the cream it might clash with the blue accents in the carpet.”
The alpha looked up. Her eyes glinting when she saw Steve. “Hello.” She said to him then to Tony. “Tony, it looks like there’s someone here who is morally obligated to listen to you talk about curtains."
Tony turned to smile at Steve. “Gin is bitter because I added fabric consultant to her job description. You two haven’t met yet. Steve, this is Gin, she’s helping me with my investigation.” Steve held out his hand to shake. “Gin, this is Mr. Apple Pie, himself, America’s golden boy, and my husband, Steve Rogers.”
“It is an honor to meet you, Captain.” She gave his hand a firm shake.
Steve smiled. “Oh, call me Steve. Gin, was it?”
“Ms. Potts, Virginia Potts.” She replied, a little wide eyed.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Potts.”
Steve noticed the smirk she gave Tony and was about to ask when she said, “I’m going to lunch. Please get him to pick his curtains before I get back.”
“Ooh, pick me up a sandwich.” Tony told her.
Steve remembered his box of donuts and offered them to Tony. “I brought breakfast.”
Tony looked at the box then pulled him into a kiss.
Steve didn’t know what to say when Tony broke the kiss, he wasn’t sure what prompted it in the first place
“I reward proactive behavior.” Tony looked like he was going to reward Steve some more when a distant twanging sound caught his attention. “I should introduce you to JARVIS.”
“Who’s JARVIS? Did you finally get a bodyguard?” Steve asked hopefully he had been reminding Tony, but Tony hadn’t hired anyone.
“No, he’s more of a houseguard. Say hi, JARVIS.”
“Hello, Master Rogers.” A distorted voice came from hidden speakers.
Tony made a tada motion with his hands. Steve just looked at him. “You’re not impressed.” Tony frowned.
“No, your intercom is very nice.” Steve tried to reassure him.
“Intercom. Intercom he says. Yes, my intercom is very nice. What is even nicer is the Artificial Intelligence that I built that can listen to and understand our conversation enough to know to when to introduce itself.”
“That’s an AI?” Steve asked.
Now Steve was impressed. “Why did you create an AI?”
“This is a smart house.” Tony told him like that was the obvious answer.
“I thought smart houses just had things on timers, lights, heat.”
“No, those are dumb houses.” Tony spread his arms wide. “Stark mansion is going to be a smart house. JARVIS will e the brains and be able to track everyone in the house, respond to voice commands. He’s fully wired into all the house systems.”
“So he’ll know if anyone comes in or out?” Steve asked, wanting confirmation. If Tony didn’t have a bodyguard maybe his AI would at least be an adequate security system.
“Yes.” Tony wagged his head at him. “C'mon. Time for the tour. This is the first floor, shocking I know.” Tony gestured around them. “This is the living room,” Tony bounced through an open door, Steve followed. “And this is the kitchen. Here’s the parlor, a den, billiard room, the conservatory. I think this room would make a good gym. I've taken over the basement for my workshop. I'm thinking underground parking too. Upstairs, there are a bunch of bedrooms and a library and the study. Then up a level are more bedrooms.”
“This place is huge.” Steve hadn’t been here since before the funeral. Trailing after Tony he was stunned again by the amount of space Stark mansion took up in downtown New York. “What are you going to do with all the space?” Tony blinked at him. “It's nice but won't you rattle around in here.”
“You’re moving in too. Maybe I should give Gin a room.” Tony wandered forward like he hadn’t said anything strange.
“I like my apartment.” Steve told him.
Tony looked shocked. “But it's tiny.” He held up two fingers a little apart for emphasis.
“It's big enough for me.” Steve defended. It might be small but it had all the space Steve needed.
Tony chewed his lip. “You don't like the mansion.”
“It's great. Just big.” Steve placated.
Tony tugged at his arm. “You haven’t even seen the ballroom yet.”
A/N: The word meek is used to mean someone's omega child, similar to son and daughter (Tony is Howard's son and also his meek).
Steve tapped on the door to the Director’s office. “Nick, can you spare me a moment?”
Nick put down the file he had been reading and waved at him to sit down. “Of course, Cap. What’s on your mind?”
Steve chewed his lip. “It’s about Tony.”
Nick made a production of opening the bottom drawer of his desk and pulling out two glasses and then a bottle of whiskey. He unscrewed the bottle and pour a generous shot into each glass. “Tell me your woes.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Not like that.”
Nick raised an eyebrow. “You sure?”
Steve drummed his fingers on the desk. “Tony is convinced that Obadiah Stane has been doing other unsavory things.”
Nick nodded. “It seems likely.”
“I mean, Tony suspects Stane is doing illegal things with Stark Industries.” Steve clarified.
Nick sat back in his chair. “Go on.”
“Tony has been looking for evidence. Poking around in the financials.”
Nick’s expression didn’t change. “He’s a precocious kid. Has he found anything?”
Steve shrugged. “Nothing concrete. He thinks he’s on the trail of something, but he doesn’t know exactly what it is.”
Nick sipped from his glass. “And?”
“I’m worried that Stane might try something. If there is anything there to find, Tony is going to find it, he’s very driven. If Stane realizes Tony is looking he might ... I’m not sure what he’ll do, but it won’t be good.” Steve stopped drumming on the desk before he dented anything.
Nick pursed his lips staring Steve down for half a minute before asking. “You really think Stane would stoop to murder?”
There was a lot behind that question, but for the moment his answer was, “Yes, I think he would.”
Nick set down the glass. “So what do you want me to do about it?”
“I would feel better if there was someone watching over Tony. He’s so focused on this I’m afraid he won’t notice an attack until it’s too late.”
Nick picked up his glass but didn’t drink. “You want me to assign him a bodyguard?”
“Yes, sir.” Steve said relieved.
Nick set the glass back down. “You want me to have one of my highly trained agents babysit your husband because he might find something in the bowels of his company that would incite a well respected businessman to break any number of laws to trying to keep him quiet him?”
“Yes, sir.” Steve nodded. Someday Nick would learn to stop asking these kinds of questions of Steve.
“Christ.” Nick gave him a look, then got up and walked out of his office. There were three agents outside in the hallway, each hurrying somewhere. Fury pointed to a fresh faced young man and said loudly “You there.”
“Sir?” The man answered attentively.
“What are you working on?” Nick asked.
“The Medesto files, sir.” The man said promptly.
“Not anymore. You’re going to be helping Captain America with his separation anxiety by bodyguarding his husband while he’s off in Siberia.”
The agent asked calmly. “Is Captain America going to Siberia or Mr. Rogers?” Steve was impressed by the man’s sang froid in the face of Nick’s abrupt order.
“I’m the one going to Siberia. Tony is staying here in New York.” Steve gave the man a polite smile.
The man nodded. “When do I start, sir?”
Nick waved a hand. “Start now. Cap will fill you in on the details.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you.” Nick raised an eyebrow at the man and shook his head.
Steve smiled. Nick might be a gruff man but he would do anything for his people. “Thanks, Nick.”
Nick nodded and went back to his office.
Steve held out his hand to the agent. “I don’t believe we’ve met, Steve Rogers.”
The man gave him a sideways look but shook his hand firmly. “Phil Coulson, Junior Agent. And may I say it is an honor to meet you in person, sir.”
“Thanks Agent Coulson, call me Steve.”
“Sir, there is someone at the gate.” JARVIS’s synthetic speech broke Tony’s concentration.
“Oh, who?” Tony blinked rapidly at the screen full of numbers.
“Unknown, sir.” JARVIS replied without inflection.
“Is it one of the contractors?” Tony asked.
“Doubtful, sir.” JARVIS responded.
“Is it one of the suppliers?”
“Is it a delivery boy?”
“Are they bigger than a breadbox?” Tony asked throwing up his hands. There was a shuffle from Gin’s corner of the room that Tony thought sounded amused.
“Yes, sir. Assuming the average size of a breadbox point 7 cubic feet.”
Tony sighed. He needed to spend some quality time with JARVIS’s predictive algorithms. To be useful the AI needed to extrapolate the relevant facts and tell him, not make him play twenty questions. “Is the intercom working?’
Tony was half expecting JARVIS to say ‘Doubtful, sir’ again but this time he said, “Yes, sir.”
“Bring up the video then.”
The wall mounted screen Tony used for JARVIS’s interface cut to an overhead and a front view of a man in a suit standing by the front gate.
He swiveled his chair to look at Gin. "Anyone you know?"
She shook her head. “No, cheap suit. Do you think Mr. Stane sent him?”
Tony shrugged. "JARVIS, intercom. Hello?"
"Hello.” On the video feed the man’s posture straightened another inch. “I'm Agent Coulson from SHIELD, I'm looking for Mr. Stark."
Gin and Tony exchanged looks. "Why?"
"I would be happy to explain if you would let me in." The man said, looking to his left then back. Tony realized the reporters were probably still hanging around.
"Do you have ID?" Tony asked.
Tony sent Gin up to meet Coulson at the door. When they came back into the workshop together Coulson was trailing after her with narrow eyes and tight lips that implied frowning, how ever much he wanted to, would be unprofessional. Tony was sad he had missed whatever alpha posturing his assistant had done to cow the other alpha.
“Mr. Stark. Junior Agent Phil Coulson of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.” Gin introduced him.
“Mr. Stark.” Coulson held out his hand.
“Why are you here? Don’t tell me. I’m on the decorating committee for the holiday party?” Tony asked.
“No.” The man gave him a small smile. “I’ve been assigned as your bodyguard, Mr. Stark.”
“Wha ...” Tony said, mouth hanging open.
“Director Fury made the assignment.”
Tony shook his head. “Does Steve, I mean, Captain America know about this?”
“Of course, Mr. Stark.”
Tony grabbed his cell phone and called Steve. He didn’t wait for a hello. “Steve, why is there a baby SHIELD agent here?” Coulson coughed. “Sorry, Junior SHIELD agent. Claiming to be a Fury sent bodyguard.”
There was a dull thump and a crackle before Steve replied. “He’s there already? He was only assigned half an hour ago.”
“Yes, he’s here. Why is the one eyed wonder giving me a bodyguard?” Tony spun his chair to look at the ceiling.
“I asked him to.” Steve said like that wasn’t at all insane.
“Steveeee.” Tony sighed out.
There was another thump this time followed by a grukking sound. “You haven’t gotten one of your own and I told you I’m going to be away for a bit.” Steve told him in his I-am-being-perfectly-reasonable tone of voice.
“But -” Tony started.
Steve turned away from whatever was making the noise on the other end. “Please, I need to know you’re going to be safe when I’m not around.”
Really, Tony didn’t have any defense against Steve earnestly asking for what he wanted. “Ok, fine, he can stay.”
“Thanks, Tony. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Yeah, bye.” Tony disconnected and turned to Coulson. “You can stay.”
“Thank you.” Coulson said without changing expression.
Tony waggled a screwdriver at him in half hearted warning.
“This is quite a setup you have.” Coulson said as he looked at the mess of computers, monitors, crates and bits of Tony’s projects scattered around the basement.
“Lovely isn't it? Access to Stark Industries mainframes, near real time analysis provided by JARVIS. Say hello, JARVIS.”
“Hello.” JARVIS chimed.
“You can use that computer.” Tony pointed to an old laptop that he thought was leftover from his MIT days. “Now, most importantly, what do you think of this as a curtain material?” Tony held up one of the fabric swatches on his desk.
The agent blinked twice before answering. “It's nice?”
“Oh come on.” Tony held the fabric out toward him. “What do you think of the pattern?”
“It's striped.” Coulson said.
Tony sighed. “That is not a thought. If I wanted a statement of fact I would have asked JARVIS.”
Gin pointed out from behind him. “You did ask JARVIS.”
“You were no help either. How can two such put together people not have an opinion?”
“One of the unsung benefits of working as a SHIELD agent is the fact that you never have to wonder what to wear in the morning.” Coulson told him before slowly walking the parameter of the room.
Dinner was seemed surreal in its normality to Steve. Steve was watching for signs that Tony was upset that Steve was leaving him on his own for at least a week. Tony didn't seem to care. There were no barbs, no huffs that Steve was going to miss this or that. Tony had made his home cooked meal of frozen pizza again and talked cheerfully, maybe a little too cheerfully, about his renovations and a satellite he was designing. Tony just rambled on, not needing Steve to say anything which was good because knew he couldn’t say anything about the mission and didn’t know enough about satellites to keep up with Tony.
Steve convinced Tony to sit on the couch with him and watch a movie. It was nice to have Tony slumped against him as the fairy tale story of the movie unfolded. When it was over, Steve turned on the news and Tony retreated to the kitchen table with his laptop. He was still there when the news finished. He was still there after Steve took a shower and put on his pajamas. He was still there half an hour later when Steve decided he didn’t want to sleep without him tonight.
Steve padded into the kitchen. “Tony, are you going to come to bed?”
Tony jabbed one of the keys with his finger. “I’m gonna crack this.”
“It's ok, Tony. You're good at this. You'll figure this out.” Steve let his hands rest on Tony’s shoulders.
Tony drummed his fingers hard on the laptop case. “I'm not just good.” He tipped his head back and pointed a finger at Steve. “I'm a frigging genius And I. Can't. Find. The. Problem.” He bit out.
“Everyone has bad days.” Steve tried to soothe.
“This should be simple.” Tony pouted up at him.
“Come to bed. Things will look different in the morning.” Tony paused staring up at Steve with his mouth open. His head snapped forward and he started typing furiously. “Tony ...” Steve sighed.
“I've been assuming that it's been a problem with my code not finding the anomalies in the data. What if it's a data problem? That the data is being changed between runs?”
“Shouldn't you expect things to change?”
“I did. I also expected the system to log those changes. But if the changes aren’t getting logged ...” Tony trailed off, flipping through windows at a speed that made Steve dizzy.
“Well, if you're looking for changes between today and tomorrow you have time to sleep now.” Steve pointed out.
“You just want to get me into bed.”
“Yes. Yes, I do.” Steve told him.
“Five minutes.” Tony said. Steve tried to convey all his skepticism in one look. “Really. You can time me.”
When Steve had left, Tony had seen him off with a kiss, enough he hoped to encourage Steve to come back quickly.
Steve had been gone over a week now and the novelty was starting to wear off. The first night Tony hadn't slept, just gotten into the groove and worked the entire night. It had been awesome. Coulson and Gin hadn't agreed the next day, when they had to deal with his caffeine habit but he had gotten more done in that stretch than he had in the whole week before. He and Gin were also pretty excited since they were finally getting somewhere. The accounts were definitely being changed, not hugely and not consistently, but something was definitely cooking the books. That night Tony had gone back to Steve's apartment and slept the sleep of the Just curled in the center of Steve's bed. The next day hadn't been as good, he and Gin had sat down to try to figure out why the books were being changed. Again it was just so much information, mind numbing and tedious. At 10, when Tony finally wandered back to Steve's apartment, it seemed empty.
Facing down a metaphorical stack of computer files the next day Tony told JARVIS he was getting an upgrade. With JARVIS's help it was easier to visualize the frauds, then the problem became only having three days worth of information. Assuming this had been going on for three months, they only had a fraction of the data. Tony thought sourly that it was more likely it had been going on for the three years since his parents died. Maybe, given Steve's dislike of Obie, it had been going on longer than that.
The seventh day, Obie called and invited Tony to dinner. Tony fobbed him off with the excuse that he was going to play Risk and Skype with some friends from MIT.
Gin was at her desk looking through some printouts, Coulson standing by JARVIS’s monitor doing something with the video feeds, as Tony paced the basement. “This sucks.”
Gin peered up at him over her files. “This is good, this is a start.”
He drummed his fingers on the wall. “It's tiny.”
“We just need more time to get more information.” Gin said, gesturing toward the server room.
Tony scowled and shifted a box off the top of one of the crates. “That's going to take forever.”
“Rome wasn't built in a day.” She told him. “At least now we have some leads.”
“But it burned in one. The longer we sit and wait, the more time Obie has to do whatever the hell he's doing and if, no when, he realizes we have actual evidence, I don't know what he'll do but it will be bad.”
“You think Mr. Stane is involved with this?” She gasped.
“Yes, a fraud this big, this embedded in the systems. I can think of two people who could have made it happen and one of them is dead.” He thought about telling her the rest of it, about the drugs and running to Steve for help, but it wasn’t something he wanted to share with an alpha, even one he trusted.
She dropped the file onto her desk with a thump. “So what do you suggest we do?
Tony snapped his fingers. “The backup servers. They should be taking snapshots every night.”
“Ok. So hack those.” Gin rolled her eyes.
Coulson glanced over at her. “Please don’t encourage risky behavior from Mr. Stark.”
“I can't.” Tony groused.
Gin pursed her lips. “You bragged yesterday that you could hack the CIA.”
“The backup servers are disconnected. They run on a separate network inside Stark Industries, which is not connected to the wild wild web. The only way to access them is to physically get inside Stark Industries New York.”
“If they’re backup servers, shouldn't they be off site?” Coulson finally turning away from the monitor to the conversation.
Tony waved a hand. “Copies are created and sent to the off site facilities.”
“So, why not go to one of those facilities?”
“They're in Alaska and Australia. I can't go without tipping our hand and it will take too long. No, we need to get into Stark Industries.”
“I really can't allow that.” Coulson folded his hands behind his back.
Tony pulled himself up to his admittedly unimpressive full height and stared at the alpha. “How are you going to stop me?”
Coulson opened and shut his mouth.
“Come on, Gin. We have some servers to copy.” Tony grabbed eight ultra high density drives and put them in Gin’s briefcase. Gin got to her feet.
Coulson followed them and Tony sing-songed. “Have you figured out how you’re going to stop me?”
“If I can't talk you out of this, I'm going to go with you.” Coulson fell into step beside Gin.
Tony smiled and headed up the stairs. “Charge.”
This mission didn’t start with Steve calling, “Avengers. Go.” It started with Wasp secretly winging her way into the Black Knight’s Siberian base. The objective was to get the new Black Knight and get out, preferably without alerting anyone. SHIELD had acquired rough blueprints of the base from a source Fury was deliberately vague about giving Wasp directions to a ventilation shaft that, if all the hatches were opened, would land them in one of the maintenance areas. Hawkeye had been dropped off to scout the area around the access hatch. Not to remove any guards, he would get their schedules down so he, Steve and Mockingbird could drop in without being noticed. Each of his check-ins so far had been good but with increasing length and vitriol devoted to the cold weather.
Mockingbird and Steve had been waiting with Agent Clethal at the evac point, but once Wasp had signaled she was in they had started towards Hawkeye’s position. “Does this place make you want to yodel?” Mockingbird asked breaking the silence.
Steve laughed, his breath clouding white in the air. “Not even a little.”
“How are you holding up?” She asked kindly.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”
“He’s your husband, an omega and, wonder of wonders, only tangentially related to SHIELD. You’ve also been staring off into space a lot more this mission.”
Steve smiled. “I miss him. He was telling me about this thing he was trying to do with the pressure sensors in his kitchen and at the oddest times I find myself wondering if he got it working or if he’s fiddling with them and swearing at his house. It will probably be the first thing I ask him when I get back.”
Mockingbird bit her lip, smiling. “I think I speak for the American public when I say ‘aww’.”
Steve blushed even though his cheeks were already red from the cold.
“You know we looked into it. Anyone who might be threatening him. Sam, Jan, even Logan, everyone really. We didn’t find much.”
Steve sighed, not sure how to take that.
“I mean your hubby has pissed off a surprising number of people, but not in the way that leads to violence.”
“Well, that’s something.” Steve nodded. “And thanks for taking the time to look into it.”
“Yep. It’s not gambling debts or drugs either, and his scorned loves are more bitchy than homicidal, so we’ve got nothing.”
Steve’s mouth twisted at the mention of scorned loves; he wasn’t jealous, he just wasn’t looking forward to joining their number.
Mockingbird bit her lip. “Are you sure the situation is what you think it is?”
“Someone is trying to manipulate him.”
She looked away. “Are you sure Tony’s not manipulating you?”
“What?” Steve asked thrown.
“Is it possible?” She pressed.
“Alright, alright.” She held up her hands.
Steve paused, trying to put his explanation into words. “It’s just not how Tony would do things, how he asks for things. He’s used to asking for things. He’s not spoiled.”
Mockingbird didn’t comment.
Steve continued. “He’s very up front about things, when he wants something, he asks for it.”
“So, if he wanted this to happen he would have walked up to you and said, I want to marry you and have your babies, and live happily ever after with you in my creepy talking house?”
Steve laughed a little he imagined Tony doing just that. And some day Tony would probably say that or something like it to someone who wasn’t Steve. “Yeah, he would.”
She shrugged, looking away. “I had to ask. I hope whatever it was it got dealt with.”
“So do I.”
They paused at the nearest rock ledge, close to the base now. Two minutes later Wasp’s voice came over the communicator. “That’s the last of them. You guys are clear to come in.”
“How do things look on your end, Hawkeye?” Steve asked quietly.
“Now is good. The next patrol isn’t due for another twenty minutes.” Hawkeye’s voice crackled over the com.
“Let’s go.” Steve and Mockingbird ran forward towards the hatch, Hawkeye meeting them, coming in at an angle. It took them less than a minute between the time the hatch opened and closed behind them and that counted the time to tie the rope they were repelling down.
Hawkeye whispered, “Any idea where we go from here?”
“North and up.” Wasp told them.
“Right. Wasp scout ahead, let us know if you see anyone coming.”
They snuck their way up three levels. The further they got the slower they went, having to hide from more and more people. After half an hour, they ducked into an unoccupied room to regroup. The room was long mostly empty and had mirrors along three of the four walls. Steve recognized a training room when he saw one and hoped a class of goons wasn’t scheduled to show up soon.
“We can’t keep going in circles. We need to figure out where this Black Knight is.” Steve told them.
Hawkeye perched on a stack of mats. “We could grab someone, get the what’s what and leave them tied up in a corner.”
Steve grimaced. They would have to find someone with enough clout to know where the Black Knight would be in detail but at the same time someone who wouldn’t be missed for a while. It would be a tricky person to find.
Wasp volunteered. “I could do some more recon? See if I can get eyes on him?”
Steve was just going to tell her to do so when the door opened. Hawkeye rolled behind the mats he had been sitting on. Mockingbird curled herself behind a basket barely bigger than she was. Steve slide behind a handy changing screen and Wasp zipped up to the ceiling to hide in the rafters, leaving the room looking deserted.
The Black Knight himself, in full armor, walked through the door. He shut it behind him and walked to the center of the room. Standing he spread his arms and called out, “Enough of this sneaking about! Come out and face me!”
Steve moved out from behind the screen, Hawkeye and Mockingbird popped up silently and Wasp drifted lower. When the Black Knight turned he was face to face with the four of them.
“Oh, Captain, Captain, this will not do. Try to overcome your plebeian roots.”
Steve stepped forward. “I’m proud of who I am and where I’ve come from.”
“But you fight without honor.” The knight gestured to them, the metal of his gauntlet clicking. “Four against one. A true knight would face me in single combat.”
“I’m not a knight.” Steve pointed out. “I’m perfectly happy with four against you.”
The Black Knight held up his gauntlet to reveal a small device in his hand. “With this I can call every soldier in this base to me, if you want a battle of the multitudes.”
Steve sighed. “What are your terms for this battle of honor?”
“Why Captain, the first one to die loses.” The Black Knight’s shoulders shook with amusement.
“How civilized.” Hawkeye commented.
“Are you prepared?” The Black Knight asked, drawing the hilt of his sword and in a silent flash the blade came to life.
Steve swung his shield onto his arm and took a few steps forward. “Ready?”
They advanced slowly matching each other step for step. The Black Knight slashed forward with his glowing sword, Steve easily blocked with his shield.
The knight stepped away, putting space between them. “It’s flattering that you and your followers spend so much time hunting me, when there are others to fight closer to home.”
Steve cocked his head.
The Knight stood back and let out a booming laugh. “You did not realize that I am only a piece in the larger plan?”
“You have weapons unlike anyone else we’ve seen.” Steve said circling to the right.
“How pedestrian. You miss the larger pattern.” The knight turned keeping his face towards him.
“What pattern?” Steve had a few guesses, but he wanted to see how much the Black Knight would reveal.
“That I have unique weapons is hardly unique.” The Black Knight swiped lazily with his sword, scraping his energy blade against Steve’s shield again.
“You said there were enemies closer to home. You mean England?”
“No, soldier, not my home, yours.”
The Black Knight bowed his head to nod and turned the action into a charge. Steve slid and swung his shield around for a glancing blow on the man’s back, the man reared and pivoted slashing his sword up forcing Steve to scramble back a few steps.
The Knight cocked his head. “It is possible.”
“Yes or no?” Steve pressed forward, lashing out with a kick in the knight’s side.
The Black Knight spun away before it could connect. “I think I’ve answered enough of your questions. I think you should answer one of mine. Do you care so little or so much?”
“Care about what?” Steve asked as he circled right.
“Why that pretty little thing you married.” The knight brought his sword up, trying to catch Steve’s leg.
Steve hopped back and had the rather inane thought that at least before he was married it was only SHIELD people that wouldn’t let the subject drop, now it was villains too. “Of course I care about him.”
The Black Knight brought his sword to the ready position. “But you painted a target on him. Is it because you can’t live without him or because you can?”
“I can protect him.” Steve whispered. He wished there weren’t mirrors all around the room, then he could have thrown his shield at the Black Knight’s head without risking flying glass everywhere.
The helmet tilted to the side. “Really? Because you’re here and he’s half a world away.”
“No one would dare!” Steve shouted.
The Black Knight laughed. “You obviously think more of my fellows than I do. The master keeps them in check, but I know they would like to snap your sweetheart.”
“You’re lying.” Steve blocked hard trying to push the knight sword back into his helmet.
“It was not very chivalrous of you to mark him for your enemies.” The Black Knight teased, backing away.
Steve had thought that Tony would be safe, safer for marrying him, he hadn’t thought about his own enemies. He hit the Black Knight with all his rage, rage at villains for existing, at Tony for not realizing what would happen, and himself for his hubris that he could keep Tony safe. The Black Knight staggered under the blow, his foot caught on his tabard, sending him flat on his back, his sword falling across his chest, glowing blade slapping over his heart. The Knight’s body bowed as much as it could in the armor, gauntlets scrabbling at his breast plate. Steve dropped to his knees beside him, drawing the sword away. The Knight’s armor clanked quietly as the man inside twitched. Steve tried to find the catch to release the helmet, before he could, the Black Knight went limp.
“Well, crap.” Hawkeye said.
Steve sat back and sighed. If Ant-man’s description was correct, the sword had probably caused the Black Knight’s heart to seize. “Let’s see who this is. Fury will want to know.” Steve located the catch where the helmet met the breastplate and worked it off. Steve searched for a pulse and wasn’t surprised when he didn’t find one. The man had blond hair, was blandly handsome, and was the spitting image of Leon Corington.
“I did not see that coming.” Wasp said, winging down to perch on Steve’s shoulder.
“Alright,” Steve sighed. “Let’s get out of here.”
Back in the jet, the Black Knight’s taunts played over and over in Steve’s head. Had the Black Knight just been pushing his buttons or had the beta actually known something? Had someone just been waiting for Steve to leave long enough to go after Tony? The eighth time he started drumming his fingers on the console Clint spoke up. “You know all villains are assholes, right? I mean, it’s pretty much a prerequisite to become a villain. Do even your nearest and dearest want to punch you? Then you might be a villain.”
“I know.” Steve stared out the window.
“So don’t be surprised when they talk smack about your brown eyed boy. Because you know they’re assholes.”
“I’ll try to remember that.” He nodded.
After an hour, he gave up on his pride and called SHIELD HQ. Agent Neumont took one look at him and patched him through to Nick. Nick saw his face and yelled at the people around him. “Who told him? I told you we were going to locate Stark before telling Captain America!”
“What happened to Tony!?” Steve yelled back.
“So what? We’re just going to walk in?” Coulson asked.
“Yep.” Tony told him.
“And they’re going to let us in?” Coulson kept scanning the streets.
The car pulled up in front of Stark Industries Headquarters and the three of them piled out. “Yep. You see that name up there? The one in really, really big letters?”
Gin trailed after him. “Do you have a backup plan?”
Tony shrugged. “Pull the fire alarm.” He pushed through the glass doors into the lobby of the building. Coulson started a nonchalant walk to the elevator bank as Tony made for the reception desk. “Hi, Sandy.”
The pleasantly middle-aged omega woman looked him up and down. “Hello, Mr. Stark. It’s a pleasure to see you again.” She winked at him. “Finally.”
“How could I stay away for long when I have such beautiful faces to greet me?”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “You disappear for three months and think you can come in here with a smile and think all is forgiven?”
“Sandy, you know I’ve been busy.” Tony clapped a hand over his heart.
Jerome leaned closer to them. “If I had what you have at home, I certainly wouldn’t come in to work.”
“Well, you know me. I can’t stay away.” Tony grinned, then said, “Actually I need to talk to Obie. Do you think you could get me a few minutes with him?” He could feel Gin staring at him.
“I suppose I could call up to Kate and see if there are any openings today. Although why you didn’t have your assistant call ahead to arrange it ...” Sandy trailed off, looking politely at Gin.
“I do anything Mr. Stark requests of me.” Gin replied, equally polite and wide eyed.
Tony waved a hand. “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I just need like 15 minutes.” He gave her his best smile.
“Of course.” She picked up the phone and dialed an extension. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks!” Tony leaned on the edge of the reception desk.
“Excuse me, Mr … Stark.” Tony turned to find a security guard behind him with a firm grip on Coulson’s elbow. “This man says he’s with you.”
“Oh right. Yes. He’s a consultant. I’ve been working with.” Tony swung back toward the reception desk. “Hey, John could you make a visitor badge for Mr. Cole Phillips here.”
“Of course, Mr. Stark. Right away.” John said.
Sandy covered the phone mouthpiece with one hand. “Kate says the best she can do is fifteen minutes at 3:30. He’s schedule is very full today. Unless it’s urgent?” She let the question hang.
“That will work perfectly.” Tony told her. Sandy turned back to the phone, giving Gin a smug look.
John handed Coulson a slip of paper in a cheap plastic sleeve to pin to his jacket, then looked at Tony.
“You don’t need a new badge, do you, sir?”
“Nope. I’ve still got mine.” He flashed the laminated card at him.
“You aren’t taking your husband’s name?” John asked, then clapped a hand to his mouth when Jerome glared at him.
“Not right now.” Tony waved a hand.
“What do you mean?” Jerome asked.
“I ran it by the lawyers before the wedding and they still haven’t given me a straight answer about how much legal wrangling it would take to get everything sorted out under Rogers or even Stark-Rogers.” Tony lied.
“Doesn’t your husband mind?” John wanted to know
Tony shrugged. “He knows I’m his. And so does everyone else.”
Sandy hung up the phone. “You’ve got half an hour with him at 3:30.” She glanced at Gin. “Done and done.”
“Sandy, you are amazing.” Tony gave her a small smile and shifted so he wasn’t between the two women.
“Thanks, dear.” She propped her chin on her hand. “So, what’s it like being married to Captain America?”
“Oh, like being married to any other alpha who’s handsome, sweet, strong, polite, funny, honest, and amazing in the sack.” Sandy smiled. John sighed and Jerome cooed.
“You’re a lucky omega, Mr. Stark.”
“Yes, yes, I am. Now if my meeting with Obie isn’t until 3:30 I’ve got some time to show Mr. Phillips here a couple of my ideas for improving long range submarines.”
“Mr. Stark, the newspaper said you were pregnant?”
“And?” Tony asked, eyes flicking between them.
Jerome leaned forward. “Well, are you? It’s been three months.”
“No, I’m not.” Tony said.
“Oh.” His face fell.
“It’s a big decision, Steve and I just want to make sure the timing is right.” Not that they had ever talked about kids.
“Oh, with his job and all.” Jerome nodded.
“Saving the world does play havoc with his schedule.” Tony agreed, not mentioning that he had his own career to think about.
“I’m sure.” Sandy said.
“But I bet he remembers to call when he’s going to be late.” John grumbled.
“He does.” Tony said. Because Steve did, even if his calls tended to follow the script: I can’t tell you where I am or what I’m doing but I’m probably going to be two hours later than planned. Steve was really good at this husband thing.
Coulson cut in. “If you will excuse us, I was very much looking forward to picking Tony’s brain on submarines.”
Tony gave them all a smile. “A pleasure as always, but it’s time for me to earn my keep.”
The three of them made it into the elevator before Coulson asked “What was the point of that?”
“You needed a visitor badge and nothing starts gossip faster than looking like you’ve something to hide. If I had snuck in without talking to them Sandy would have been on the phone to Kate instantly trying to pump her for information. And John and Jerome would have sensed a shift in the wind and got on the phone with their peers to gossip, and within five minutes flat everyone knows I’m here and trying to hide it.”
Coulson raised an eyebrow. “I thought SHIELD was the only place that worked like that.”
“No. That’s everywhere.” Gin frowned. “And why did you ask for an appointment?”
“Well, now we know Obie is busy with meetings and won’t come looking for me. And if he wants to find me he knows we have a meeting at 3:30.”
On either side of him Coulson and Gin both said, “You’re not going to that meeting.”
“Of course not.” Tony agreed. He hadn’t planned to.
They went up to the 18th floor where some of the more theoretical R&D was done. Tony hung around just long enough so everyone would know he had been there, then led Gin and Coulson to a set of stairs. They went down and down and down.
“Where is the backup server room anyway?” Gin asked.
“Sub basement H, sector 7-G.” Tony said, rounding the landing of another flight of stairs.
Coulson snorted. Tony held a hand up for a high five but Coulson didn’t respond.
“When we get there, what do we do?” Gin asked keeping up, even in heels.
“I’m going to download as much of the data as I can onto disks.” He raised his briefcase. “These are the densest drivers I can find so I can probably get a month and a half, maybe two months, of data on them.” They reached the landing with the door marked H. “Here we are.”
There was a key swipe panel next to the door. “Ok, give me a minute to crack this.”
“Would this help?” Coulson asked handing him the ID badge of the security guard who had hauled him to the reception desk earlier.
“You sneaky bastard.” Tony said approvingly.
Coulson nodded. Tony swiped the card through the reader and pulled the door open. “7-G is going to be that way.” Tony pointed, “and try to think of a good story if we run into anyone down here.”
“Mice?” Gin suggested dryly.
Luckily for their cover story they didn’t meet anyone. The door to the backup server room had a much better lock, requiring a swipe card reader and a retinal scan. Tony pulled out a screwdriver and a bit of tin foil. “This is going to take me a few minutes to open. Keep watch. And come up with a better excuse for being down here.”
Coulson suggested, “Really big mice.” Before moving to the end to the hall.
Tony poked and twisted and crossed and prodded the guts of the retinal scanner until it sent the all good signal out of sheer confusion, the door snapping open. “Come on.”
Coulson and Gin jogged back and slid into the room. Tony felt a swell of pride looking at the room. There were row and rows of racks and racks of servers, all quietly whirring away, the combined noise a dull roar. Tony found a terminal and started typing, it took him longer than he liked to find the information he was looking for. Gin stood by him watching the door while Coulson roamed along the aisles. Tony had just hooked one of his own drives up when the door swung open again.
Obie stood there flanked by four Stark Industries security officers. Tony scrambled to keep the door from opening all the way. “Hi, Obie. What brings you down here. I thought you were busy today.”
Obie grinned too wide. “I am. But when you decided to show your face I just had to come and say hello.”
Tony motioned frantically with the arm behind the door for Gin to move away, to hide. “I was going to come see you. I had an appointment and everything.”
“Since when have you bothered with appointments?” Obie asked, with a knowing grin.
That may have been one of the flaws in Tony’s plan. Obie stalked forward pushing the door all the way open with a bang. “And do you want to tell me what you’re doing now?”
Tony waved a hand. “Emergency maintenance.”
“The servers need maintenance like you need a hole in your head. Where are the people you came in with? That assistant of yours and,” Obie sneered. “The consultant.”
“Upstairs.” Tony told him. “I left them making out in one of the offices in R&D.”
“Find them.” Obie barked at the guards. “They’re here somewhere.”
The guards fanned out through the servers, leaving Tony and Obie locked in a staring contest. There was a loud scuffle, a grunt and a squeak. One of the guards emerged from a row of shelves with Gin in a fireman’s carry. He dumped her unceremoniously on the ground.
“Asshole.” She spat at him.
Obie loomed over her. “Where’s the other one?”
“I left him sleeping it off in R&D.” She told him.
Obie sneered. There was a minute with no sound but the drone of the server fans, then a grunt, a thwap, a sheerzer, a crunch, a smack and a dull whump. Three guards dragged Coulson forward with his arms locked behind his back. One guard had trickles of blood running down his face as if someone had bashed him into one of the server racks hard, Coulson himself was bleeding from a split lip.
Obie narrowed his eyes. “Where’s Adams?”
One of the guards said, “Unconscious, sir. This one,” he gave Coulson a little shake. “Got the drop on us.”
Obie’s cell phone started ringing. “Damnit. Take them to subbasement E and lock them in somewhere. Make sure they don’t escape.”
“Sir?” One of the alpha guards asked.
Obie cheerfully said, “They’re going to disappear.”
“Sir, it’s easier to hide corpses than people.” Replied the same guard with bright eyes and a little twist of his head.
Obie snorted. “However much of a little prick he is, Tony is more useful alive than dead.”
“The other two, sir?” Tony stared really starting to dislike this man.
“We need something to keep Tony on his best behavior.” Obie pulled out his cell and strode away down the hall.
One of the guards broke away from Coulson and pulled out a gun. “Come on.” When Tony and Gin hesitated he waved the gun a bit. “There are a lot of places I can shoot you that wouldn’t be fatal.”
Gin glanced at Tony. He nodded and moved forward slowly. They were led quickly up three flights of stairs. Gin and Tony were waved into the room at gunpoint, then Coulson was shoved in head first. He rolled to his feet in a smooth movement and watched the door as it closed and locked. Gin took a couple ragged breaths then straightened herself, looking around at the small cement room. “It’s nice, but I think I prefer my office.”
Tony burst out laughing.
Coulson lips twitched up before saying, “Empty your pockets. We need to know what our resources are.”
Between them they had five cell phones, none of which got reception, even Coulson’s sleek black SHIELD number, another small device Coulson called an emergency alert which, yes, he had activated thank you very much, a couple of wallets, gum, a paper clip, a hair tie, two pens, five mismatched screwdrivers and a small wrench.
“Well, with this stuff I can pick the lock.” Tony said.
“But what do we do about the guards?” Gin asked, biting her lip.
Tony grimaced. “Could we lure them in?”
“Maybe.” Coulson said. “They’re well trained. They might not fall for it.”
The lights in the room flickered. Tony eyes snapped up. The lights flickered again and then a third time. “Ok. That’s bad.”
“How bad?” Coulson looked at the lights then at Tony.
Tony grabbed two of the screwdrivers from the pile. “Somewhere between major system failure and smoking pile of rubble.”
“What!?” Gin cried.
Tony pointed a finger. “Those lights have at least three, maybe four levels of redundancy built in. If they’re flickering that means none of those fail safes are kicking in.”
Coulson glanced around the room. “Objectively speaking our best chance is to open the door and attempt to disable the guards.”
“Great plan.” Tony did not want to get shot by some thug Obie had put on the payroll.
“Tony, you said the lights were failing.” Gin bit her lip.“Can you make them fail here and in the hallway?”
“Probably.” Tony nodded. “Why?”
“Night vision. If our eyes are used to the dark and theirs aren’t, it would give us an advantage, right?”
Coulson tipped his head at her. “Have you ever considered a career in law enforcement, Ms. Potts?”
“No poaching!” Tony called as he took his screwdriver to the panel next to the door. He started stripping wires, pulling and twisting. “This will pop the lock and kill the lights in the hallway.”
Coulson positioned himself by the door. “You two stay in here until the coast is clear.”
“Yeah, no.” Tony told him.
“Mr. Stark -” Coulson started.
Tony looked over his shoulder at the alpha. “Talk all you want, you’re not winning this argument.”
“Stay back at least.”
“Like hell I will.” Tony stabbed at the panel.
“Fine.” Coulson huffed. “Kill the lights in here, then on my signal do the rest.”
Tony twisted and pulled and the room snapped into blackness, sound becoming clearer as vision faded away. Tony could hear Gin breathing fast but steady, Coulson was taking measured breaths and shifting slowly from foot to foot. It seemed like hours but was probably minutes before Coulson gave the command in a calm tone. “Now.”
The door clicked open, the guards in the hall exclaimed and there was a whooshing of air to show that Coulson had opened the door and charged through. Tony stumbled through the lighter patch of darkness into the hallway, only able to make out forms in the dark. He almost tripped over someone’s leg on the floor and prayed that it wasn’t Coulson’s. He barely registered the fist coming toward him before it hit and slid into and along his face. He let his momentum carry him down and back then lashed out with one of his feet getting a glancing kick to someone’s knee cap. The person pitched forward over him and Tony drove his fist up as hard as he could into the Alpha’s chin, head snapping back and he fell on top of Tony. Tony crab walked away and ran into someone else’s legs. The person grabbed his right arm and wrenched upwards, making Tony yelp. Once he was on his feet, the person twisted his arm behind him painfully. Tony went on his tiptoes trying to lessen the excruciating pressure on his elbow and shoulder. Then they fell way, just released and were gone. Tony stood still trying to get his bearings. He could hear a couple people breathing heavily but no more fighting.
“I’m going to turn on a flashlight.” Said a light female voice. The flashlight beam flared to life pointing at the floor, quickly flicking between bodies on the floor. Tony was relieved each time to see the Stark Industries security uniforms. “That was all of them. We should move.”
Tony hesitated until he heard Coulson whisper. “Go.”
Tony went. When they finally reached a section with working lights Tony was surprised by what he saw. The flashlight wielder was a pretty young alpha woman in a button up blouse, pencil skirt and sensible heels. “Who are you?”
She looked at him with her head slightly cocked. “That depends on who you ask. At Stark Industries, I’m Natalie Rushmore, assistant to Kate Longmure. At SHIELD, I’m Agent Natasha Romanoff.”
“Oh.” Tony considered that. “Do you know what the hell is going on?”
“The situation is as follows. Agent Coulson’s screamer went off at Stark Industries. Director Fury contacted me with the directive to locate you. Shortly thereafter a virus was unleashed on the mainframe and systems for this building, there have been an increasing number of system failures.”
“So what you’re saying is that something, probably your boss, scared Obie so much he activated a fucking self destruct on my building to cover his getaway?”
“I’m not saying that.” She pursed her lips. “But as conjectures go those are good ones.”
“Fucking fantastic. I need to get to level three. That’s were the main server rooms are.”
“My orders are to remove you from the premises.”
“Too fucking bad. I’m not going to let my building and all of the evidence against Obie go up in smoke.”
“Stane -” Agent Romanoff started.
“Stane will be running like any sane person with Fury after him. So I’m going to the third floor. If you want to come along to make sure I’m not eaten by one of the elevators be my guest.”
Agent Romanoff made a move toward him but Coulson held up a hand. “Are you sure?”
“Reasonably.” He replied.
She looked at Tony, then looked Coulson up and down. “Understand if he does get hurt I’m throwing you under the bus when Fury asks what happened.”
“Understood.” He nodded.
“And,” She said, without a pause. “I’m pointing Captain America in your direction.”
Coulson shifted closer.
Despite what he had said the elevators weren’t really an option with everything on the fritz. So the four of them ran pell mell up the stairs. They spun out on to pandemonium. People were furiously typing on computers while screaming and shouting. The flickering lights were getting even worse and the sound of water rushing in the walls made Tony think that the plumbing was now freaking out. Tony bellowed “What’s going on?” Then they were all shouting at him. “Fuck, ok. Everyone out. We’re shutting down the system.” There was more yelling. “Gin, go pull the fire alarm. We need everyone out of the building. Power, water, air conditioning it’s all gonna stop.”
“Right boss.” Gin turned on her heel and strode down the hall.
Tony had just commandeered a computer when the alarm started wailing. No time to be elegant he crashed through the system firewalls until it let him access that little undocumented feature that let him cascade a shutdown on all the servers in the building and cycle them back up at a specific time stamp. It had been incredibly useful when he was testing the system but he had never imagined using it on the real servers. Bit by bit the computers, lights and everything went dark and silent. Tony sighed and started to drop his head forward. A shooting pain went through his shoulder. “Ouch.”
Agent Romanoff appeared at his side. “Mr. Stark, I think it’s time to leave.”
Tony looked at the wall clock. It had stopped at 3:30. He laughed. “Yeah. We’ve got stuff to do.”
Tony hoisted himself out of the chair. They went down through the empty lobby and out into the street. It was a madhouse, police cars, fire trucks, an ambulance or two and a lot of SHIELD’s favored model of nondescript sedans. Add to that Stark Industries’ employees, gawkers and the arriving press and Tony could feel the headache coming on. He decided to write the day off entirely when he looked up to see Director Nick Fury bearing down on him flanked by Romanoff and Sam.
“Anthony Edward Stark! What the hell have you been doing?”
Tony looked up at him and thought what the hell. “I’ve been investigating my company.” He looked pointedly at Agent Romanoff. “Just like you’ve been doing.”
“Get in the car, Stark.” Fury gestured to the black car idling at the curb.
“Sorry, but as you can see I’ve got things to take care of here.” Tony gestured with his left arm at the people and vehicles in the street.
“Get in the car.” Fury growled. “I have some things I need to be able to say.”
Tony twitched and started walking backwards away from him. “As the one who had a near death experience today, I decline. I’m not prepared to have any heart to hearts with you for at least let’s say a week.”
Fury glared. “I don’t have anything to say to you. I have things I need to be able to say to Captain Fucking America. Things like ‘yes, I know where your husband is’. I need to be able to say that ‘yes, he is in SHIELD custody’, I need to be able to say that medical has looked him over and he’s fine.”
Tony gave him an innocent smile. “Well why didn’t you say so.” Fury ground his teeth. Tony turned. “Gin, can you handle things here?”
He jaw dropped then when he didn't say anything else she visibly straightened. “Yes, sir.”
“Tell the head of IT that I did a cascading shutdown and that he should try doing a test style reboot then clean and reconstruct.”
“Yes, Mr. Stark.” She nodded.
Fury cut in. “Stark, I can find a doctor who will sedate you.”
Tony turned away then turned back. “Oh and tell Kate she’s fired.”
“Yes. Mr. Stark.” Gin replied in a professional voice then added a shaky rush “And just so you know when I’ve got this cleaned up I’m going to yell at you. I’m going to yell at you a lot. There will be a good twenty minutes of yelling, Tony.”
“See ya.” Tony gave her a wave.
Tony slid into the car next to Agent Romanoff. “So was Kate incompetent, oblivious or in on it?”
She cocked her head then replied. “Yes.”
Tony carefully shook his head. He saw on of the news camera pointed in his direction and flashed it the peace sign through the window. If Steve was somewhere watching the coverage of this it might reassure him.
Steve was off the jet and running as soon as the door would open. Fury had patched through to tell him Tony was fine but Steve need to see Tony. He need to see for himself that the Black Knight had just been taking verbal potshots at him. A serious young agent was standing next to the hangar door and Steve slowed just a bit. “Where?”
“The east conference room, Captain.”
Steve picked up the pace again making it to the room in record time. He pushed the door open to see Coulson, Nick and Sam at the table but most importantly Tony interrupted mid gesture. Steve skidded to his knees in front of Tony. He went to pull Tony into a hug but stopped when he noticed that Tony’s right arm was in a sling. “Are you ok?”
Tony wrapped his left arm around Steve’s neck pulling him into a one armed hug. Steve carefully put his hands on Tony’s back. “I’m fine.”
Steve hugged Tony closer and he flinched. Steve let go and glared at Nick. “You said he wasn’t hurt.”
Tony laughed. “Clearly Director Fury’s version of fine included a wrenched shoulder.”
“I’ve been shot and still come into work the next day.” Nick said leaning back in his chair.
Sam caught Steve’ eye and smirked. “You weren’t very shot, more like a graze.”
Nick ignored him “Anyway, Tony was just telling us about his brilliant plan to sneak into Stark Industries.”
“I had Gin and Coulson with me.”
“Tony, you said you were going to stay away from Stane.” Steve made a move to grab his shoulder, thought better of it and pressed a hand to his cheek instead.
Tony looked away and bobbed his head slightly from side to side. “I didn’t expect him to come after me with armed guards. Clearly I underestimated that man’s level of crazy.”
Steve ran his hand down Tony’s chest. “What did Stane do to you?”
“Just locked me in a room. I think he was going to kidnap me.” Steve was horrified. “But on the bright side he’s still not trying to kill me. Just you know kidnap me.”
There was a rather loud “Oh” from behind them from Bobbi. Tony continued. “And did you know that Fury had a spy inside Stark Industries?”
Steve turned to Nick. “Who?”
“Agent Romanoff.” Nick said looking at his fingernails.
“Wait. That’s what she’s been doing?” Clint asked. “Wow, Stark. What did you do to rate the big guns?”
“Nick?” Steve asked.
“Agent Sitwell said that Obadiah Stane’s behavior has been becoming a bit suspicious. That and Tony’s accusations gave me a reason to get some better intell.”
“Seems a bit superfluous now?” Tony muttered.
Natasha said as she stepped into the room. “It wasn’t superfluous during the fight.”
“We would have won.” Tony said all bravado.
“Fight, Tony?” Steve hand clenched into a fist next to Tony’s leg.
“There were guards. Anyone, especially Obie, knows better than to think a lock will stop me.”
Steve closed his eyes. “You really are ok, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I’m fine. The doctors check me over and gave me painkillers and this thing.” He raised his right arm with its sling minutely. “And took blood samples. Though I have no idea why.”
“They’re being thorough.” Steve rubbed Tony’s leg gently.
Tony pursed his lips. “Or they’re vampires.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “None of the SHIELD doctors are vampires.”
“Why were you at Stark Industries anyway?” Steve asked.
“So I told you I thought someone was rewriting the books? I went to get the backups so I could figure out the pattern.”
“What was the pattern?”
“I don’t know yet. First there was getting locked in a room, then there was the nasty virus released on the Stark Industries mainframe both of which I’m going to blame Obie for” Tony paused “and punch him.” Tony looked at Steve with puppy eyes. “I think I deserve to punch him in the face for the day I’ve had.”
Steve glanced at Nick.
Nick frowned. “We can’t locate Stane.”
“Wait, what?” Clint asked.
“Apparently he had an exit strategy in place. I have ops monitoring but so far it looks like he’s fled into the night.”
Steve sighed. Knowing they had proof Stane was corrupt was good but if they couldn’t find him Steve couldn’t haul him into court like he had promised.This was turning out to be a bad day.
There was a light knock on the open door. Everyone turned to look at the man in the lab coat. He swallowed visibly. “Excuse me. But I need Mr. Stark to come back for a few more tests.”
Nick nodded. “Good. That will give the rest of you time to explain exactly why we don’t have the new Black Knight in SHIELD custody.”
“I’m going with Tony.”
Nick made a swishing motion. “The doctors here are good and they’re even better when they don’t have a super soldier watching their every move.”
The doctor said. “Actually.” Then looked like he wished he hadn’t when everyone in the room turned to look at him again. “I think Captain Rogers should come too.”
“Of course.” Steve agreed. He held out a hand for Tony to help him out of his chair. Tony stared for a moment before taking it.
The doctor led them to an exam room in the depth of SHIELD medical and had Tony lay down in an exam chair and pull up his shirt.
“You’re doing an ultrasound?” Steve asked.
The doctor smiled. “Yes.”
Tony shivered as the doctor spread gel over his lower stomach. “Why are you doing an ultrasound? I wasn’t hit in the stomach.”
“We just need to take a look at something.”
Steve couldn’t help thinking about the typical reason an omega would get an ultrasound but Tony wasn't be pregnant. The doctor held the wand steady over Tony’s belly and turned the screen towards them. In black and white they could see the outline, a large head with a clear profile connecting to a round body and a delicate curled hand. Steve went numb.
“Congratulations.” Steve heard over the buzzing in his ears. “You’re three months pregnant with what looks like a very healthy baby.”
“No, no, no.” Tony said shaking his head.
The doctor looked uncertain. “You weren’t expecting this?”
“No, I have a birth control implant. It was supposed to be good for seven years. Seven minus five is two not zero.” Tony stared at his stomach.
The doctor offered “Though it’s rare sometimes those implants fail.”
Tony looked sharply at him. “Can they be sabotaged?”
“There are some drugs that would burn the implant out but you would have noticed the side effects.”
“Like what?” Tony prodded.
“Vomiting, joint pain.” The doctor pulled the wand away and the image blinked off the screen.
“I thought those were sideffects of Genquist.”
“No.” The doctor frowned.“That causes insomnia, paranoia and irritability.”
“I’m going to have to punch him in the face and kick him in the balls.” Tony said to the ceiling.
Steve’s throat was dry and his eyes were wet. He asked “Who’s the father?” As much of Tony as the doctor.
“What?” Tony shouted.
The doctor was looking very uncomfortable now. “It’s yours, Captain Rogers. We did a quick DNA test to make sure there were no anomalies and you are definitely the father.”
“I’m sterile.” Steve felt the tear trickle down from his eye cold along his cheek.
“What?” Tony shouted again.
“Clearly you two have some things to talk about.” The doctor fled.
“What do you mean you’re sterile?” Tony turned on him letting his shirt fall down onto his gel smeared stomach.
Steve tried to make sense of what was happening. “I tried to have kids. It didn’t work. The doctors told me that I was sterile.” He said helplessly.
Tony kept yelling. “And you didn’t feel like you should tell me this, oh, I don’t know before we got married.”
Steve gritted his teeth. “Why?”
“It’s something you tell your spouse.” Tony pushed up against him.
“It’s not like it was going to be an issue. We’re going to get divorced soon anyway.”
There was silence. “Fuck you. Just fuck you.” Tony slammed the door on his way out leaving Steve standing there. He wasn’t exactly sure what just happened, only that it left him clenching his jaw and tasting bitter hurt on the back of his tongue. Maybe he should have told Tony. He hadn’t wanted to see the pitying look like he had gotten from Sam or the disappointed on he had gotten from Amanda. That look had been the beginning of the end of their relationship. They had been trying for over a year, five heats but every time a week or two afterwards Amanda would tell him it hadn’t taken. Finally, they had gone to their doctors. Steve’s had told him that the Super Soldier Serum had made him sterile. Steve had told Amanda and she had looked devastated. Their relationship hadn’t ended then or the next week or the next month but soon she was tearfully telling Steve that she needed things he couldn’t give her. That she had decided to take up her sister’s offer of a place to stay in Los Angeles and she hoped Steve had a good life. She had been the first to leave him but not the last. Not for the same reasons but Steve always felt he was starting any relationship in the hole. Tony was going to leave him too. Steve knew this. They had only gotten married so Tony could keep Stane from fucking up his life before he turned twenty one. Steve had known it would last a year maybe two and Tony was young people hadn’t been asking much about when they planned to have kids. Those things let Steve pretend for a while that he could be a proper alpha husband and not feel too guilty for not telling Tony.
But now, Steve scrubbed his hands through his hair. Tony was pregnant and mad at him and didn’t need the sort of fly-by-night protection their marriage had given him anymore. Steve could feel more tears on his cheeks.
Tony stormed out of SHIELD HQ. The trick was keeping up your momentum which was why he didn’t pause when Coulson got caught up in his wake on the second floor and followed him through reception and out onto the sidewalk. “What?” Tony wheeled and yelled in his face.
Coulson didn’t even twitch. “I’m still assigned as your bodyguard.”
“Fine!” Tony snapped as he hailed a cab.
Tony went back to the mansion. He checked in with Gin who seemed to have things well in hand and be only slightly hysterical. Tony walked around his workshop for a bit but couldn’t focus on any of his projects. It didn’t help that all the fun stress relieving things like welding or hammering required his arm to be feeling about 1000% better. Giving it up he went to sulk in his bedroom.
"So, kid." Tony felt awkward talking to his stomach. "How would you feel about only seeing your father every other weekend and on major holidays?" Tony paused imagining only seeing Steve when they handed the kid off instead of curling up next to him every night. "No me either."
Just because Tony wanted Steve didn't mean that he couldn't be mad at him. Who could he yell at about Steve? Gin, she didn't know Steve well enough. Coulson definitely like Steve better than he liked Tony and anything he said would get back to Fury. Jan, she knew Steve and probably wouldn't rat him out to Fury.
Tony called Jan. Impatient at the five rings it took her to answer Tony got right to the point. "Knotters suck."
"Hi, Tony." Jan said resigned.
Tony continued on his theme. "Steve sucks."
There was a pause then she said "Don't be too hard on him, Hun."
"He's a liar."
"Maybe I'm not the one you should be talking to about this."
"He thought I cheated on him. Fucking Alphas." Tony rolled on.
Another pause then she said "I can send over Hank for you to commiserate with. You know a little omega bitch fest."
Tony snorted. "Would he be any good about it?"
"He could give the details of insect reproductive cycles and how some of them eat their mates." Jan told him with a hint of amusement.
"Didn't think so.” Tony sighed then asked “Do you know where Steve is?"
It took her a minute to respond. "Isn't he answering his phone?"
"I haven't called."
"Ah, some of the guys took him to a bar."
"They're celebrating?" Tony asked incredulously.
He could imagine Jan holding up a hand when she said "I'm not sure what the plan was. It's either ‘yay baby, let's drink’ or ‘sorry about your first big fight, let's drink’. The consensus was that alcohol needed to be involved."
"Fine." Tony huffed.
Jan asked softly. "Tony you know Steve is a good person right?"
Tony pushed his head harder into his pillow. "Yes."
"Whatever he’s done, he’s always tried to keep you safe. Just remember that."
"I'll think about it." Tony told her and hung up.
Steve watch Jan as she set her phone down next to her beer. “What did he say?"
She shrugged. “Apparently alphas suck in general and you suck in particular."
Steve dropped his head into his hands. "Oh god. What do I do?"
“Come on. Cowboy up!" Jack told him with a jarring slap on his back.
Steve twisted to look at him without taking his head out of his hands."I … don’t understand how that will help."
Sam rolled his eyes. "He means you should figure out what you want and go for it."
"Ok..." Steve drew the word out.
Sam sighed. Enunciating carefully he asked "He's pregnant. Do you want the kid?"
"Yes!" Steve nodded.
"You seem pretty worked up about him, do you want Tony along with the kid?"
"Yes." Steve nodded again. He chewed his lips then said slowly “I think I might be in love with him a bit. I...I want a chance to see if I could love him a lot."
"Great. So you just have to convince Stark he wants that too." Jack smacked the table for emphasis making the glasses jump.
"How do I do that?” Steve asked. “He was really mad at me when he left SHIELD." Tony’s ‘fuck you’ played over in his head.
Jan sighed and smiled. "Talking to him is a good start."
"And if that doesn't work apologize." Jack added. Jan shook her head at him.
Sam patted Steve’s shoulder. “Be honest with him about what you want.”
Steve nodded first to Sam then to himself. He would gather his courage and go talk to Tony. He would.
After several minutes Jack stood up, walked around behind him and pulled his chair out with him in it. "Come on. Off you go. Leave the alcohol to the people who can get drunk."
Steve caught the edge of the table as his chair tilted back. "You don't think I should wait? It sounds like he's still really upset."
Sam shook his head. "Sooner is better. Before it festers or he starts making plans."
"Right.” Steve let go of the table.
Steve carefully opened the door to his apartment. He was not prepared for what he found. All the lights were off. The silence was eerie. Steve walked through the kitchen and peered into the living room. There was a blanket on the couch but no Tony. Steve shuffled into the bedroom. The covers were a mess, all twisted up but Tony wasn’t there either. Steve walked back to the kitchen. He pulled out one of the kitchen chairs with numb hands and dropped into it. For the first time in almost three months Tony wasn’t there when he came home. Steve hadn’t thought about it but Tony must have planned his schedule to always be there when Steve got back. Tony had been there waiting at his kitchen table with take out, talking enthusiastically about his plans for his house, or about his quest for just the right curtains. Steve thought about Tony’s energy, about his determination to figure out what Stane was up to even if it would have been safer to turn a blind eye. He thought of how his heart swelled at Tony’s sleepy morning smile and how his heart clenched when the Black Knight had taunted him. He thought about how empty he felt at the idea he may not have any of Tony. He realized that he might be more than a bit in love with genius, crusader, cover hog, Tony Stark.
Steve got to the mansion and nodded to the two obvious SHIELD agents outside the door.
Steve felt a little silly as he whispered to the empty hall "JARVIS?"
"Sir," the AI replied at its normal volume. Steve winced.
Keeping his own voice low he asked "Do you know where Tony is?"
"He is in the master suite." JARVIS stated.
Steve realized he didn’t know where it even was. "Which one's that again?"
"Up the left staircase straight ahead."
"Thanks." Steve followed JARVIS's directions and found a note taped to the door. It read. I’m mad. You're sleeping on the couch.
"JARVIS can you tell me, quietly, if Tony is asleep."
"Yes." JARVIS answer in a low tone.
Steve realized his mistake. "Do you mean you can tell me or that he’s asleep?”
Steve shifted from foot to foot. The mansion looked a lot different from his last tour of the place, a lot more finished. "I don't suppose you know where there are blankets?"
"There is a linen closet twenty feet down the hall on your left containing twelve blankets. There is a closet in the nearest guest room containing four."
"Thanks, JARVIS. That’s enough." Steve grabbed some blankets and went to find the couch.
Tony woke up. Rolled to his side and dearly wished he had left those pain pills on the nightstand and not downstairs in the kitchen. Steeling himself he got up and started his quest for coffee and pills. He saw the neatly folded pile of blankets at the end of the couch when he stumbled down stairs.
He followed the clinking sounds to the kitchen and found Steve rooting through the cupboards. “Morning.”
Steve stood up holding a frying pan he found defensively in front of him. “Oh. You’re up. Ah. Good morning.”
“We should talk.” Tony said.
“Look put the frying pan down. My arm hurts to much to throw anything at you.”
“Oh. Drat do you have?” Steve looked around.
“Over there.” Tony nodded to the end of the counter
Steve grabbed the pill bottle and a glass of water and set them carefully in front of Tony.
Tony popped a pill and sipped the water. “So...” Steve kept staring at him. “You knocked me up.”
“Yes, um sorry?” Steve said.
Steve didn’t seem all that with it to Tony. “Are you going to do the decent thing and make an honest omega out of me?”
“Of course.” Steve nodded then stopped frowning. “Wait, we’re already married.”
“According to you for only the next nine to twenty one months. Unless this” He waved at his stomach. “makes you want to cut and run now.”
“No, I...Tony. You’ll leave me.” Steve told him with painful honesty.
“Did I miss a memo? Because I don’t remember scheduling my divorce.” Tony took another sip of water.
“Tony, you only married me to keep Stane off your back.” Tony snorted into the glass, off his back literally. Steve frowned and went on. “You’ll be twenty one next May. After that you wouldn’t have needed me. You would have found someone you liked better. Who could …” Steve trailed off.
“I wasn’t planning on divorcing you.” Steve sighed and gave him a sad look. “Fine. I wasn’t really planning at all. There’s this stuff with Obie and then we were married and then I was poking Stark Industries with a stick, I didn’t really think about getting unmarried.”
“I didn’t want to think about it.” Steve said quietly.
Tony set the glass down. “We need to be in the same time zone about this.”
Steve bit his lip, blew out a breath and looked Tony straight in the eye. “I like you, Tony.”
Tony let the silence stretch before making a go on motion. “But...”
“No but. I like you, Tony. If you’re willing I want to try to make this work.”
“This?” Tony prompted.
Tony cocked his head. “Is this because of the kid?”
“Yes.” Tony winced. “Not like that. I’m not saying that we should try because you’re pregnant. I feel like I have a chance. A chance to be a good alpha.”
“Steve, you’re a good Alpha. It doesn’t matter if you can’t have kids.” Tony decided Fury was right Steve didn’t chose good people if they let him get away with thinking these things.
Steve smiled but looked a second away from tears. “A lot of people will say that but not a lot of them believe it.”
“Alright. I accept.”
“Accept what?” Steve asked.
“Well you just offered to make this marriage real. I accept. Let’s act like we’re in love and it’s not going to end and see where that gets us.”
“Just like that?” Steve looked at him.
Tony looked back. “Just like that.”
“You’re not doing this because of the kid, are you? I don’t want you to feel pressured because of it.”
“Well you know if I was pregnant without a husband my parents would throw me out onto the streets penniless.” Tony mocked.
Steve set his jaw. “I’m serious. Don’t think that just because I got you pregnant you have to do this.”
“Steve, do you remember what I said at our wedding reception? You are the best man I know. You’re amazing. I’m greedy enough to want all of you that I can get.”
Steve smiled and shook his head. “When you put it that way.”
“You do realize this means we’re moving in here sooner rather than later, right? There is no room for a kid in your place. I’ll have to redo one of the guest rooms as a nursery. Oh damnit.”
“What?” Steve asked stepping closer.
Tony moaned. “This means I have to pick out another set of curtains.”
Steve started laughing.
Tony sighed dramatically at him and put the back of his wrist to his forehead. “You mock my pain.” He stepped closer so he could lean against Steve, into the solid warmth of him.
Tony hadn't expected to be back at SHIELD HQ so soon, but Steve had pointed out that Tony needed to see a doctor. SHIELD had all of Steve's medical records and if Tony was carrying a little super soldier that they needed to make sure the doctors were completely informed. Tony had sighed and agreed.
Steve also seemed to have forgotten about the concept of personal space. In the cab he had been pressed up against Tony shoulder, hip and thigh. He opened the door to SHIELD HQ for Tony and guided him in with a hand on his back. He stuck so close to Tony that he managed to step on Tony’s toes twice as they walked across the lobby.
After the second time Tony jabbed Steve in the stomach with his good elbow. “Ok. You’re going to need to back off big guy.”
“Sorry, I just …” Steve trailed off.
“I know, I know you can’t keep your hands off me but if we end up giving Fury a show one of us is going to die of mortification and I can’t promise it will be him.”
Steve squeezed on eye shut. “Tony, I never thought I would have to say this but please don’t talk about sex and my boss in the same sentence.”
“Well maintain a workplace appropriate distance and I won’t have to.”
“Alright.” Steve ran a hand down the side of Tony’s face then back a full foot away.
Mrs. DuLac smiled misty-eyed at them as they passed.
The doctor look a bit nervous when he met them in the exam room but calmed down after they started asking questions like 'can you tell us the sex and the gender?' and 'how did he get pregnant and what are the risks associated?'
"I consulted with my colleagues about it last night and we think it has something to do with the super soldier serum."
Steve frowned. "I thought that the serum made me sterile."
"No exactly.” The doctor flipped open a thick folder. “Mr. Stark, both your parents were betas and I see from your records that Howard Stark was your carrying parent."
"Yes. The plan was for Maria to get pregnant but Howard got knocked up instead." Tony had heard that fact several times during his childhood.
"What do you know about your mother's involvement with project rebirth?" The doctor asked.
"Just the basics. He worked with Doctor Erskine on the project."
"Well..." The doctor drawled.
Tony was pretty sure he knew what the doctor was going to say so he cut him off. "I've always assumed he was exposed to one of the early batches. I mean why else would he look fifty when he's closer to one hundred?”
"Do I need to tell you that's classified?" The doctor asked.
Tony rolled his eyes. "Do I need to tell you it's obvious?” Tony paused then added “I could never decide whether mom took the serum on accident or on purpose."
Steve rubbed Tony’s shoulder. “He would never give me a straight answer about that either.”
"Howard was exposed to the serum but not to the vita-rays. For a long time he and everyone else assumed that it hadn't had any effect. Then he noticed he wasn't aging as quickly as he should." The doctor explained. “One of the things that make the super soldier serum so hard to reproduce is that it alters the DNA along with body chemistry and we don't have the original samples for the only two successful subjects to compare to the altered DNA. When looking into Captain Rogers’ infertility originally we speculated that because of the genetic changes an embryo would need a specific chemical environment to survive. One that a normal bearer wouldn’t be able to provide.”
Tony followed the logic. “So that’s why dad couldn’t get pregnant. Mom’s sperm had the same type of genetic changes. But mom could get pregnant because his body could provide the right chemical environment.”
“And some or all of those genetic changes were passed on to you. Your body can
sustain the pregnancy.”
Tony looked down at his stomach. “So what does that mean for the kid?”
“We’re doing a full genetic sequence and so far there are no red flags and the baby looks very healthy but this is uncharted territory for the most part.”
Tony bumped his shoulder against Steve’s. “Hey, I came out ok.”
They got the other stuff worked out like the next time Tony was expected for a check up, next week, and vitamins for Tony and an ultrasound picture that Steve wouldn’t stop staring at.
Fury caught them before they could escape the building. Tony though he must have been laying in wait. “Ah, Gentlemen so kind of you to remember that you have debriefings. Cap, I need your input on what the Black Knight told us. Mr. Stark, Agent Sitwell will be talking to you about what happened at Stark Industries and what Obadiah Stane might do now that he is persona non grata.”
Tony stared at him. “There’s seriously someone going around calling himself the Black Knight?”
Fury smiled. “That’s classified.”
Tony nodded. “If I were fighting someone called the Black Knight I wouldn’t admit it either.”
“Tony.” Steve admonished.
“It’s staggeringly unoriginal.”
“And yet despite being perfectly ordinary he still manages to be a pain in the ass.” Fury commented.
And don’t think Tony didn’t know that Fury was talking about him as much as the Black Knight. “Really, what does he do? Ride after you on horseback?”
“Agent Sitwell, there you are. Please take Mr. Stark away.”
A familiar combination of yellow and steel caught Tony’s eye and he ducked passed Steve and Fury into the conference room. Laid out on the table were about twenty small arms. There were twelve blaster style energy weapons, the hilt of a sword, a few salad plate sized disks, a rifle with a bulbous end on a thin barrel, a cube made of sliding metal plates and a group of neatly arranged wires connecting two small and one larger blue hoops.
Tony asked "What are these?"
"Weapons.” Fury growled. “Highly classified weapons. Which means you have fifteen seconds to leave before I kick you out of here myself."
Steve made discontented little noise behind Tony and Fury added. “Fine, I won’t touch him, Cap. But get him the hell out of here.”
Tony ignored that as unimportant. He ran his finger along the edge of one of the disks. "No, I mean where did you get them?"
"Oh here and there, and other goddamn classified places. And don't touch those."
Tony shrugged off the hand Steve put on his shoulder.
Tony picked up a white and burnished steel blaster sighting along it. Then rotating his wrist to feel the weight of it. "These are crappy materials."
"Yes, now put it down." Fury ordered.
Steve carefully pulled the blaster away from Tony. Tony let him picking up one of the small blue hoops instead. “Geez are these insulated at all?”
“Tony, you need to leave. These are all dangerous weapons.” Steve told him.
Tony snorted let the hoop fall back onto the table. He flicked the bulb on the rifle with his finger and there was a hollow ping. He turned to Fury appalled. "These backfire a lot."
Fury’s expression went from angry to angry and curious. "Yes, how do you know all that?"
Tony glared at the man. "I designed them.” He gestured to a palm sized black and purple lump. “Well not that one because that one is complete crap. Now” Tony made sure he was speaking slowly and clearly. “Where did you get them?"
Fury’s jaw worked for a moment before he asked slowly "You designed them?"
"Yes.” Tony nodded not breaking eye contact. “I designed them but they never made it into production. The board decided they weren't viable product lines. Did Obie sell these to SHIELD without telling me?"
Fury looked, well Tony couldn’t figure out that expression. His mouth was flat and his eyes were hooded. "Not to SHIELD."
Tony took a breath and looked at the ceiling then very calmly he said "I. See."