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Law of Life: Redheads are Absolute

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“I’m going, to be honest with you two because if our situations were reversed, I want you to be honest with me.”

Tony stares at the two kids trying to figure out if he did something that angered Pepper so bad she used her reality shaping powers to have Tony kidnapped by a giant raccoon man with a metal arm. The metal arm is how he knows it’s Pepper and not the general fucking the Universe usually gives him. That arm was a drooling worthy masterpiece of prosthetics that Tony will forever blame for the reason he got caught so easily. Another theory Raccoon Man is a super soldier and Tony didn’t stand a chance against the messy eyeliner masked man. Of course, Howard would blame Tony no matter the situation. Fuck, Howard is officially a future Tony problem, and a present Tony problem is the two wide-eyed worm holes staring at Tony like he beamed down from the Starship Enterprise as a redshirt. Tony smiles because any press situation should start with a smile.

“I have no idea how to take care of children. In fact, I hire someone to take care me I am so bad at the whole daily living thing. Eating and sleeping who needs it, am I right?” The girl is standing ramrod straight and not even blinking while the boy, probably a couple of years older, is blinking but not much else. Okay, no. The blonde kid is blinking and staring intently at Tony’s mouth. Pepper needs to click her stilettos together to teleport wherever the fuck Tony is and inform him if asking about the kid’s intent staring would be rude. The genius isn’t sure of much right now, but he got a strong feeling that insulting his roommates would be a bad move. Although, his instincts are informing him that pissing the little redhead would be a dumb move no matter the situation. Like earning the wrath of Pepper or Aunt Pegs which Tony has done because bad ideas are stupidly sexy while drunk. Ehh, bad ideas are sexy while sober too. Decision! Tony’s love for bad ideas will also be future Tony’s problem. Ha. Sucker.

“I thought Omega’s were supposed to have some loving nurturing instinct or whatever.” The blonde boy finally speaks only to spout Alpha moronic-ness. Red doesn’t even twitch. Tony’s hoping she is an android because that he knows he could handle.

“Nope. That’s what we in the real world like to call bullshit. Surprise. I can’t cook either.”

Yellow- just so Tony is being fair to Red- nods. “S’fine. I cook.”

“At least we won’t starve. So should we do introductions because that feels like a thing normal people do.”

Yellow rolls his eyes quite dramatically at the word normal. Tony is impressed, a good eye roll takes skill. “I ran away to the circus only to be sold later by my brother to an evil shadow organization, Natalie is a Black Widow in training, and you’re Tony Stark. If this counts as normal for you, I’m real curious to see exactly what you would find strange.” The kid’s rant and the genius would classify it as a rant, even though the words were controlled because Yellow’s dark cheeks and wet eyes spoke volumes. Red, however, was another story. Tony finds himself giving another once over to the small child before him. Red continues to act like one of those green army men Tony “accidently” melted when he was five. It’s creepy. But completely understandable for a baby monster.

“Will she kill me in my sleep?” Tony queries but his gaze is on Yellow rather than on Red or rather Natalie. Nat. Tony is going to call her Nat because it makes him think of Kit-Kat bars. He doesn’t know why his brain is insisting that but Kit-Kat bars are a lot cuter than a scary killing machine.

“Probably not.”

“Я не причиню никакого вреда Омеге моего Альфы.” (No harm will come to my Alpha’s omega.)

“She said-”

“I understand Russian, don’t worry about it Yellow.”

“Yellow?”

“The name I bequeath to you if you don’t give me something to call you.”

“Clint. Call me Clint.” Yellow or Clint, Tony supposed, rolled his shoulders and tightened his worn coat against his chest.

“Excellent.” What was Tony supposed to do now? Howard often proclaimed the importance of discipline and finishing one’s work, but Tony wasn’t sure what he could give the kids to do. Jarvis like to stress the importance of sleep for growing bodies. What time is it? Is it an appropriate bed time or are the rules different for baby spiders? “How about bed time? Sleep is awesome, right?”

“You’re lying you don’t think sleeping is awesome.” Clint’s placid expression drops and is replaced with glaring eyes and baring teeth. However, he keeps his voice controlled still even as Tony knows that something in Clint is threatening to boil over. He flicks his eyes at Nat whose posture has tightened even further.

“You are correct, my little corncob.”

“Corncob?”

“Yup. But my disregard for sleep doesn’t mean it lacks importance for you or Nat.”

“Okay.” Clint nods seemingly relaxing a bit and starts to wear a small smirk. Tony has to fight the urge to ruffle the kid’s hair because that baby smirk is adorable. “But it’s only six.” Tony blinks. “P.M,” Clint stressed. Tony blinks again which cause Clint to give a very serious huff. “Only babies or oldies go to bed this early, and none of us has eaten anything.” Tony takes a moment to think about that when his stomach decides to weigh in on this serious issue by growling loudly. Nat and Clint focus on Tony’s magnificent abs when his stomach again makes its position known.

“I cannot cook.”

“I know. You told us.”

“Well, I give Nat permission to eat me when I die.”

“What about me?” Clint gasps.

“Don’t care. Nat is cuter.”

“I’m cute.”

“Sure. Just not as cute as Nat.”

“On what grounds?”

“On the grounds, that one should always bend to the will of any redhead. Law of Life my corncob.” Nat giggles then stare, eyes wide, at Tony and trembles a bit. Tony simple grins at the girl and gives a thumbs up. She waits for a heartbeat and nods seriously all elation gone. At that moment, Tony decides that he is keeping Nat because he certainly isn’t giving her back to that shadow organization.

“Whatever. I can cook. Remember.”

Tony thinks back a couple of minutes and sees that his brain did indeed register that there would be no starving in the future. Starving would be bad, and Tony knows that Howard would fine someway to blame the whole thing on Tony. After all, Tony should be able to create food out of nothing, right? All Stark genius can create matter from nothing. “Please, magic dinner, O Great Corncob.”

Clint gives another eye roll but heads towards the fridge, so Tony is considering it a win. Tony grabs the notepad he’s been using for communication, a word he uses lightly, with Winter and shuffles over to the kitchen table. He slumps into one of the chairs taking a minute to watch Clint busy himself making dinner. He frowns and bites his lips because Clint is too comfortable making dinner for any self-respecting twelve years old. There should be more staring at appliances and juggling different foods, not swift movements and quick decisions. Nat, however, is worse because the child is still standing at the doorway. What is Tony to do with these children that make his childhood look like a new electric generator?

“Nat, why don’t you come and sit in the chair next to me?” Tony must have done something right because he can feel approval emanating from Clint. The notepad is sitting nonchalantly on the table acting the perfect symbol of the annoying Alpha who was keeping the genius here. Tony, hates it because the paper can’t talk and the Alpha never talks either. No matter how many curse or pleas Tony wrote on it’s pages. No matter how times Tony begged to go home or goaded the assassin to kill Tony and just end everything. Winter never answered. And Tony knows the notes have been read because every note has disappeared, every time. There is never an answer. It’s been long enough, maybe it’s time for Tony to make some demands. “So is there anything you kids want?”

“What?”

“For the seeable future we’re all stuck here and I would like to make our stay enjoyable. So stuff to do? Stuff you need? Stuff you want? Lay it one me and I will write a list for the Alpha.”

“Ножи” (Knives.) Creepy but doable.

“Anything else?”

“V- Vid- Video games,” Clint stutters.

“Great. I gonna put educational books on the list because you two should probably be in school.”

“School is dumb.”

“But necessary.” Clint scowls and Tony takes that as permission to continue. “Nat what do you like to do for fun?”

Nat shifts herself on the chair to come face to face with Tony and it’s fascinating how similar the girl is to one of those Victorian doll made to house souls because the English back then were emo fuckers. Tony couldn’t understand how anyone would want one of those ‘eyes following you around the room’ porcelain doll, let alone why some would make a potentially adorable child into one. Didn’t the world have enough creepy children because if the idea was to get teenagers to swear off baby making Tony was sold. Although, he already had quite a bit of sex so maybe that argument was null and void. “Я не понимаю эту просьбу.” (I do not understand the request.)

“I mean what stuff do you enjoy doing? Like Clint asked for video games. I like engineering and music.”

“Я отлично танцую балет и метаю ножи.” (I am skilled in ballet and knife throwing.)

“Awesome. I’ll just write our list of demands down then we can eat.”

Nat leans a little closer trying to read Tony’s note. “Это очень грубо.” (That is very rude.)

“Yes. Yes, it is. But kidnapping then abandoning me with nothing to do is also rude. It’s what we adults call just desserts.”

“Aren’t you afraid he won’t get the stuff if you aggravate the Alpha.”

Tony smiles very sweetly. “He will if he knows what’s good for him.”

Chapter Text

“Mr. Stark. Mr. Stark. Are you dead? Cause that would suck.”

“Woaleemirsaar.”

“There’s your proof of life Nat.”

“что он сказал?” (What did he say?)

“Don’t know. Can’t see his lips.”

Why are the little minions even bothering Tony right now? Shouldn’t they be off doing minion things like making weird noises at electronic screens or stabbing stuff? Nat seems really into stabbing stuff which Tony is totally okay with because no one has stabbed him or his work. Matter of fact stabbing makes great exercise, all that arm movement, and jabbing motion. Gah! Where is his brain even going? Coffee. Everything will be solved with coffee. “Ooosheeee.”

“What?”

Sigh. Just all the signing and all the needing of coffee. Tony finally makes a serious effort to roll himself onto his back to make it easier for the whole goddamn world to understand him. “I said do not call me Mr. Stark. Like ever. In fact, that’s my first rule, no one in this house is a Mr. Stark. B, I need coffee to live. Where is the coffee?”

“No coffee.” Clint’s scrunches his nose. “What am I supposed to call you, Ma?” Tesla why? Why would anyone want to call him any parent pronoun of parentage? He is a terrible young adult not fit to be a role model let alone raising small humans. To top it off. To top the whole fucking situation off is the fact there is no coffee. No fucking coffee. Why would the universe do this to him? He has done nothing to deserve this. Okay, that’s a bold faced lie but taking away his coffee is a cruel and unusual punishment. Tony will sue the Universe. Somehow. Maybe a robot lawyer would work? “Mr. Stark?”

“Gah! Tony. Call me Tony. No one is Mr. Stark. One rule Corncob. Follow the one rule.” Tony huffs staring authoritatively at the ceiling. “Now why don’t we have coffee?”

“I’m guessing you didn’t put it on the list. We need other stuff besides coffee.”

“No, I put everything we needed on that list.”

“Sure you did. That is if humans can live off of entertainment. Which we can’t. We need stuff like toothbrushes and shampoo. Not to mention we’re almost out of food.”

“Okay. New plan. You make a new list of things like coffee and toothpaste.”

“And food.” Clint waits watching Tony patiently with a look very similar to the one Rhodey wore when Tony was acting like reality wasn’t a thing. Cause reality wasn’t a thing and one day Tony would prove it.

“And food.”

“Good. I’ll even add a coffee machine to the list since you probably want to drink the stuff and not just chew on the beans.” Right. Tony forgot that coffee required a coffee machine and didn’t just materialize. It was a miraculous day when Tony finally taught Dum-E how to make coffee.

“You do that. I’ll just lay on this nice smooth floor until my brain comes back online.” Clint snorts, his blonde head disappearing from Tony’s view only to be replaced with red. Nat blinked then apparently deciding that sitting on Tony’s stomach would afford her some advantage. Tony finds it hard to be irritated since Nat’s serious face is adorable. Probably all part of her master plan.

“Какими будут мои приказы?” (What are my orders?)  

“What makes you think I’m the type to give orders? Typically I’m the guy that ignore orders just for the hell of it.” Tony pauses feeling Nat’s weight atop his stomach and acting far less wary of him. “Aren’t you acting a little impertinent for someone asking for me to give them some orders? You should know to be wary around adults.” Nat snuggles down into Tony’s stomach, and her eyes cast off to the side trying to absorb his words.

“Вы не можете мне навредить. Омеги слабые.” (You are incapable of hurting me. Omega’s are weak.)

“You’re adorable. But trust me on this, anyone can find a way to hurt you for any number of reasons.”

“That’s seriously depression thing to say to a kid. Aren’t adults supposed to hide how fucked up the world is from us, innocent children?”

“Both you and Nat know the world isn’t rainbows and puppies and I’m trying to respect your intelligence by acting appropriately.” Clint nods and Tony gets the feeling that he’s passed another test. Not surprising he is a genius, although people are often harder to comprehend. Tony likes Rhodey’s theory that the genius has too much science sense to make any room for some common sense.

“Lunch is ready.”

“What happened to breakfast? It is the most important meal of the day.”

“We couldn’t wake you.”

“Huh. Apologies, I guess. I work better with coffee.”

“Noted.” Clint snorts out.

Tony would make a comment about snot nosed brats and sass and how there is no coffee for him to deal with anything. But the kid is making food and Jarvis did teach him that one should always respect the food maker. He tries to sit up and finding it difficult because Nat has decided that Tony’s lap is her new throne. She small so Tony has no trouble lifting the little redhead and perching her on his hip. Like Nanna did with him once upon a time. “Now my little warrior, as for your question, there will be no orders from me. I’m allergic to responsibility which means orders are completely out of my wheelhouse.”

“Должно быть руководство.” (There must be a chain of command.)

“Okay, Mimmo. I elect Clint.”

“Fuck no! My dream is to be the laziest arrow man on the planet, and that can’t happen if I get a reputation for hard work or finishing things.” The kid has a point, hard working people often get dumped with an additional amount of work with all kinds of assholes taking advantage of them. Just look at Pepper.

“It decided. We’ll be a democracy. First order of business is to figure out what are goals should be.”

“Мадам говорит, что демократия это иллюзия, созданная неразумными людьми, что игнорируют превалирующую потребность в сильном лидере.” (Madame says that democracy is an illusion created by the mindless who ignore the greater need for a strong leader.) My what a mouthful.

“Lunch is served.” Tony blinks dumbly, but his body manages to carefully place Nat in her seat before slumping into his own while his brain tries to unwrap Nat’s WHAT THE FUCK statement. Because seriously, who talks like that except crazy cult leaders.

“Bloody hell, I thought you two were adopted from a terrorist group, not from the delusional cult land where drinking the kool aid is literally the last thing you do. Please tell me neither of you drank the kool aid.”

“Obviously not or according to you we would be dead.”

“No mocking Corncob.”

“Я не пила никаких ядовитых напитков.” (I didn’t drink any poison beverages.)

“Of course you didn’t Mimmo. You’re sensible girl.” Nat nods looking pleased and stabbing her fork into her bowl of noodles twirling them with a finesse that Tony probably couldn’t accomplish now, let only when he was nine. But seeing the girl eat relaxed him and Tony shifted his gaze to Clint who was merely shifting the food around.

Probably feeling Tony’s stare, Clint glance up and even bites his lip. “Can I ask you something before we do the whole goal thing?”

“Sure. Shoot away Corncob.”

“How can you stand up against Alpha so easily?” Tony can feel his eyes bulge cause people didn’t usually ask that they just decided Tony was a defected Omega and that was that. It’s what Howard had done. It’s what the media had done, and frankly Tony hadn’t expected anything different from anyone. Except for Bruce but Green Bean was like Tony and hardly counted.

“I’m a super Omega which means you need to be a super Alpha if you want to force me into anything. Although, I’ve found treating me with respects goes a long way.” It’s what Rhodey did and what Pepper sort of does in her completely understandable mindset Bitch Queen of the World.

“There’s no such thing as a super Omega,” Clint scoffs.

“Who’s the genius here? You or me?”

“Котик гений.” (Kitten is the genius.)

“Did you just call me kitten?” Tony asks unbelievably.

“Да, ты котенок.” (Yes, you are a kitten.) Nat states with firm finality, face serious, and arms crossed. And well Tony wasn’t about to argue that particularly since he gave people nicknames like they were mooing cows in a tornado. When it appeared to Nat that Tony wasn’t going to argue with her, she gave another final nod and went back to her food while Tony turned his attention back to Clint.

Clint who was still poking at his food. “Corncob is something the matter?” The kid inhales shakily, and his eyes are slightly wet.

“I just wanted to know if there some trick to beating biology, but there isn’t and I’m stuck. Fucking stuck!” Clint tugs on his hair and banging his head on the table. Tony looks heavenward because Clint is clearly a beta and shouldn’t fear an Alpha the way Omegas do. On the other hand, Tony explicitly knows that bullies and being bullied doesn’t necessarily follow along traditional orientation lines.

“Clint.” Tony waits wanting the boy to look him in the eyes for this. “My only piece of advice is to keep what you want in sight then fake the confidence till you achieve your goals. You got it?” Clint nods. “Good. So what is your goal?”

Clint juts his jaws, eyes fierce and voice strong says “I want to protect those that are important to me. I want to stop bullies.” Tony internally kicks himself because he is going to keep this one too. Pepper will kill him, but at least his cucciolos would be taken care of properly.

The genius pulls the pad towards him then replaced the noodle bowl with the papers but giving Clint a pointed glare that food was to be eaten. Tony quickly makes three columns for each of them and simply place ‘escape’ under his name. “Clint wants the ability to protect people, but there are multiple ways to achieve that.” Tony lifts a questioning eyebrow to the pup.

“Ножи хороши для ближнего боя. Пистолеты лучше.” (Knives are good for hand to hand. Guns are better.)

Clint makes a face and makes several jerking movements with his hands. “No guns.” Tony smiles encouragingly. “I like arrows and some hand to hand moves would be cool.”

“Archery for Clint.”

“Альфа может научить вас драться.” (Alpha could teach you how to fight.) Tony wrote that down, but he wasn’t sure the kidnapper would provide his victims with the necessary skills to escape. Tony had been raised by Howard Stark and Peggy Carter, he knew spies and killers. And the Alpha was like nothing he’d ever seen before. Clint could maybe take him in twenty years, trained by the Alpha himself perhaps a decade. So the likelihood of the Alpha teaching some moves was pretty high.

“Any goals for you Mimmo?” Nat stops breathing, moving, with not a single twitch and wide eyes glued to Tony. He smiles understanding Nat’s reservation, after all, cults have never been known for the whole free thinking agency thing. Tony, however, is all over self-agency and his bots are proof of that. His bots. Tony tamps down on a shiver, his bots were asleep for now and unlikely to wake till Tony got home.

“Я люблю танцевать.” (I like dancing.) Tony grins, remembering her muted glee when receiving some ballerina shoes and a boombox to play classic music. Nat grits her teeth and a murderous expression flashing across her face. “Я не хочу быть больно когда-либо снова.” (I don’t want to be hurt ever again.) There, not much Tony can say to that except try and make the future better. He’s a futurist that at least is in his wheelhouse.

“Right. Archery, ballet, and self-defense lessons. One future Robin Hood and one future ninja ballerina on the list. Great goals.”

“Каковы ваши цели котёнок?” (What are your goals kitten?)

“Umm, escaping?” Which Tony should devise a plan for. Get the Alpha to sympathize with him so he might let them all go. Actual, at this point Tony would just like to know why the Alpha kidnapped him in the first place. The man hasn’t asked for SI secrets or for Tony to build anything. Raccoon Man hasn’t even smacked the genius around due to frustration at the fact Howard refused to pay any ransom.  

“Нет. На будущее.” (No. For the future.) Nat’s eyes shine with sincerity and Tony finds himself opening up to the cucciolos.

“I want to create the first learning artificial intelligence.”

“You’re trying to create Skynet?”

“No, Corncob. JARVIS. I’m trying to create JARVIS.” Tony says as he writes the message to the Alpha.

Chapter Text

Tony can’t see anything in the dark room. He can’t hear the man either but something in the air shifts. Tony can feel the prickling along his arms and neck. A sensation that Tony has only ever felt around Carol, a level five Alpha. He presses a button, that Tony rigged for this very moment, turning on the lights in the common room. “I’ve been waiting for you, Sir. But I find myself disappointed, the rumors of your deeds had painted a more-” Tony pauses to swirl his hand at the other man. “-dashing picture. I’m underwhelmed.” The genius nods, huffing out a breath, and resting his head onto his palm.

The Alpha crinkles the paper, Tony’s message, and apparently trying to understand the mind of Tony Stark by glaring his boots into submission or something. “We’ve met before?” He’s brow wrinkles.

“Yes. We have indeed met when you kidnapped me. I was playing a bit. I got bored waiting for your ass to finally show up so we could talk.”

“Talk?” Silver blue eyes sweep the room and Tony finds himself already frustrated with the man.

“Yes, communication is very important for human interaction.” The genius wrinkles his nose. “So I’ve been told.” Another pause. “By everybody.” Racoon Man takes a step towards the only door, usually electronically locked with no way to open it in sight, resulting in Tony gathering himself from the couch to stand eye-to-eye (he stands on his tiptoes, but nobody has to know that) with the soldier. Glaring daggers the way he’s seen Pepper do a thousand times. “We’re starting with names since I cannot keep calling you Racoon Man in my head. I’m tired of the nickname already. Of course, I could come up with any number of degrading nicknames but I usually save that particular circle of hell for my friends. Which you aren’t, Tarzan.”

His gaze makes another sweep of the room and makes an attempt to escape from Tony, well a couple of steps, but Tony lets the soldier keep the space. “Doesn’t matter.” The Alpha curls his shoulders inwards then takes another step back.

“If it doesn’t matter than give me something you overgrown pet rock.” A soft whine comes from the taller man’s throat and Tony bites back the next insulting nickname. “Anything. Please.” Tony tacked the please on because Rhodey always said it was a ‘magic word’. Magic, really.

“Designation the Winter Soldier project Asset,” he reported voice sterile of any emotions. The same way Natalie speaks sometimes which means Tony was kidnapped by a cult drinking crazy person. Lovely. At least he doesn’t appear to be with said cult anymore. Tony would definitely notice if someone tried to indoctrinate him. He’s smart like that. Cult escapee lets another soft whine, facing away from the genius and exposing his neck in a very un-Alpha fashion.

“Welp the only word I heard that can be used as an acceptable name is Winter. Congratulation you’re name is Winter Wolf because I like alliteration.” Tony can hear Winter whispering his name and letting one or two quiet giggles. It’s cute and Tony has to stop that thought right there before it goes anywhere. Because Tony does not have time for any cute crazy cult ninja people.

When the soldier continues to stay motionless, Tony finds himself voicing a heavy sigh feeling like he just finished a ten day engineering binge. But he can’t remain in this comfortable cage, Tony has a responsibility to SI.

“Winter?” Tony waits for the man to make any sign that he heard the genius but Winter continues he’s best impression of a statue. “Winter why’d you kidnap me? Hell, why the interest in the kids?” More silence and Tony is not sure what he expected from a man whose speech is limited to a five hundred word limit. Sign language, maybe? Does communicating in sign language count towards a word count? Tony has already added learning ASL to his to do list, perhaps he can drop a few hints to the word challenged Alpha that he should pick it up too. “Fuck. Can you at least treat me like a goddamn human and look me in the eyes?” Tony pleads.

Now that was a fucking mistake. Right up there with calling Pepper, Queen of the Strawberry Bitches. Gray eyes meet copper eyes sparking the tension in the room. First, a electrified shiver slides down Tony’s spine then his skin grew hot. His tongue felt fat in his mouth, and his knees shook. “The spider is my pup and the blonde is her brother.” Tony hadn’t noticed but something shifted between them or Winter came to some decision or something. What is clear is the steel in those gray eyes that were now clawing into Tony. The genius stood his ground refusing to kneel or bow his head in submission. Winter saw Tony’s determination and smirked. Another shiver rolled down. Where had all the space between them gone? There had been enough space for Dum-E yet now Winter’s nose was almost touching Tony’s nose. “You’re mine.”

No. Nope. Not happening. Tony pulled away and took a step back. Winter let him but not before brushing a finger along Tony’s jaw. Nope. Nada. He had made this mistake once already with Ty and not a single part of him wanted a repeat of Tony’s late teens. “No I’m not.”

“Mate.”

“I am no one’s mate,” Tony gripes.

The fucker had the gall to snort at Tony’s words. Like Tony was the one living in Delusional La La Land. Which for the record Tony is living in Reality Practical Land. No delusions for him. “You’ve adopted my pups.” Tony curse. How’d the fucker figure that out? Sure, Tony had fallen for Nat’s creepy charms and Clint’s contradictory personality but that did not mean he was anyone’s Mom or caretaker or anything.

“So we bonded. Doesn’t mean anything.” Winter hums confidently. Tony’s not even sure how. One moment the soldier was acting like a beaten dog then the next it’s all ‘I’m the Alpha.’ Just what the fuck?! “If you’re hoping for the Stockholm Syndrome to kick in then you’re going to be waiting awhile Buckaroo.” Tony makes a note that Buckaroo is not an approved nickname, if the new tightness around Winter’s eyes is any indication. “Hey, you still with me?” he says softly.

“I’ll let you go.”

“What! What’s the catch?”

Winter shrugs, his eyes finally off Tony and the tension leaked from the room. “I want you to agree freely and you won’t abandoned my pups.” Another shrug.

“What? You want visitation rights?” Winter side eyed Tony and the genius figured that no Winter had not been thinking about visitation rights but he was going to make the most of Tony’s mistake.

“Yeah. And court you too.”

“No.” Howard would not like some weird Alpha sniffing around the manor. Totally ignoring the fact Tony had no way of explaining said Alpha. Or the kids Tony adopted. Maybe it would be best to leave everything up to Pepper. Yes. Pepper can handle everything. Genius! Winter grins wide and Tony can feel his heart stutter. The asshole gaze pinpoints at Tony’s chest and smirks. Winter being hot didn’t mean anything. “No. I say.”

“Sure.” Sure the soldier says, and it’s it’s just that fuckers luck that Tony loves bad ideas especially when they’re wrapped in excellent technological wrapping. 

Chapter Text

“Mr. Stark.”

“Ms. Potts.”

“I’m glad to see all your limbs are in their proper position and that you’re not dripping any blood all over the Persian rug.”

“Did you miss me?”

“I was bored. Your problems have enveloped my entire life after all.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“Indeed.” Natalie grip intensifies even as her expression remains stoic while Clint presses himself harder against Tony’s back with his eyes hidden behind a pair of sunglasses.

“I see you brought me more trouble to make up for my unplanned vacation.”

“You know me Pep. I live to please.”

“Yes, I always knew I’d have to take care of your bastard children someday.”

“Hey! I in no way contributed to the creation of either of these wormholes. For that matter, I am too young.”

“So you didn’t disappear to hide an unplanned pregnancy?”

“Do these talking, walking, and snarky kids look like babies to you?”

“You science up their age?”

“First, that is fiction, not science. Second, no they were given to me by a crazy super cyborg raccoon.”

“Tony. Why would a crazy super cyborg raccoon give you two human children?”

“He’s an Alpha.”

“Ah. Will they need anything?”

“I’ll take them shopping for clothes and such. But Clint-” He ruffles the blonde’s hair. “Will probably need hearing aides.”

Clint pushes away from Tony, his expression fighting between pale panic and dark embarrassment. “I don’t- I’m not- Who told you?”

“Clint when we talk you spend most of the time staring at my lips, and you’re too young for adult explanation.”

“I know about sex.”

“Okay but that’s not what I said.”

“It’s an imperfection.”

Natalie tugs on his hand with wide eyes. “Вы не собираетесь выбросить его прочь, ты?” (You are not going to throw him away, are you?)

“No! Course not, Mimmo. There’s nothing wrong with being different. And Corncob, Pepper will buy you a hearing aid, but it’s your choice whether you want to wear it. Does that sound fair?” He shrugs and nods. Tony gives a short breath of relief then turns his attention back towards Pepper. She got a small smirk and contemplative sparkle in her eyes. “Pep?”

“Just admiring your new look. I believe responsible brings out your eyes.”

“Ha ha. Potts very funny.”

“I can’t wait to tell Rhodey.”

“Don’t you dare.”

“What? You want him to find out by tripping over one of them?”

“Yes. Yes, I do. It will be hilarious.”

“Agreed.” Her smirk widens. “You know Stark Senior is not going to approve of your new acquisitions.”

“What Howard doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” Pepper snorts because she untrusting cynical woman. Tony is pretty sure he can hide two brats at his side of the Mansion since Howard never goes there. She probably doesn’t clap at the TV when Tinkerbell is dying.

“Will that be all, Mr. Stark.”

“Yes, that will be all Ms. Potts.”

“You both are wacko.” Clint intones, and well the boy isn’t wrong.

Chapter Text

Howard missed Maria, which wasn’t anything new but the feeling always intensified around Anthony. Anthony who had his Mother’s eyes and her love for music that Howard never understood. Even when his child argued that music was just math, he didn’t understand it. Then again, he didn’t understand Anthony much either. For every robot that the young Omega created that spoke of Anthony inheriting Howard’s genius, for everyone, there were several more instances that said how very much he was Maria’s child. In the end, high intelligence is the only thing the two Omegas have in common. His Alpha would know what to say, but Howard didn’t. He feared that the Omega was too soft to be the child of Howard Stark and Howard, stupidly, let that fear consume him. What could he ever say that would reach his child?

Staring at the strange Alpha squatting in front of Anthony’s room was another moment where he asked himself: What was the right thing to say or do in this situation? Should he ignore the man? Or call security? No that might anger Anthony if he knew the strange hobo, better to ask some questions.

“Good evening.”

“It’s morning.” The man rasps. Whoops. That sometimes happened but Jarvis never made too much noise about it as long as he remembered to eat.

“Well, good morning then.” The weirdo nods. “So have we met before? Because your name escapes me.”

“No. Winter Wolf.”

“You know words are a free resource. You can even say an entire sentence without the government getting wise.”

“Yup.” Okay. This is awkward.

“Do you work for me?”

“Nope.”

“Do you work for Anthony?”

“Nope.”

“Why are you camping outside his room then?”

The hobo lifts his head a little bit higher giving Howard a better look at his face. His eyes are sharp, but there is something about that face that’s familiar. Too familiar. “He needs to be guarded.” True. Anthony got kidnapped (I’m an adult Howard, it’s abducted.) all the time for numerous reason but continuously refused to let Howard hire a bodyguard.

“Why would you do that if you don’t work for either of us?”

“He’s special.” Huh.

“You want money?” He shakes his head no. “Fame?” Another shake. “SI information?” Shake-shake. “SHIELD information?” Shake. Howard kneels in front of the Alpha with his palm up. “Now shake.” The man shakes his hand like a dog. “Other paw.” Hobo shakes his other hand. Yeah, nothing unusual about this one. “I’ll trust you for now.” Winter Wolf nods.

Pegs better be up, Howard needs her to look into this guy for him.

@@@

“Pegs, tell me you found something on the guy?”

“No. Nothing. Are you sure you got the description right?”

“Yes, Carter. Dark hair, gray eyes, about six feet, in his late twenties and carries more hidden weapons than one of your SHIELD goons. He is a player, no way there isn’t something about the Alpha.”

“Howard, what about the name?”

“I told you it’s an alias.”

“Yeah, why don’t we pretend that for a moment I am a better spy than you and you give me the damn name?” Why are Alphas such a touchy lot? It’s not like Howard implied she was incompetent or something.

“Fine. Winter Wolf. Sounds like a D&D character name.”

“Winter?” Why did she say it like that? That does not sound like a positive way to say someone’s name. Leave it to Anthony to bring home a serial killer. “Like the Winter Soldier?”

The clink of the fridge opening pulls Howard away from the phone, why the fuck did the only secure phone have to be in the kitchen is beyond him, to stare at the man in question. Huh. Maybe Maria had a point about the devil and popping up like a creeper. “Hold on Pegs, I’ll ask him.”

“No. Howard, wait.”

“So Winter?” A head pops from the fridge.

“You wouldn’t happen to be called Winter Soldier.”

“My designation.” Winter returns to the fridge and begins pulling out certain items and setting them on the counter.

“Pegs.”

“Howard?”

“He said that Winter Soldier is indeed his spy name.” He pulls the phone from his ear. Peggy sure knew some creative curses. Howard hopes she taught a few to Anthony.

“The Winter Soldier is a fucking ghost with several impossible kills under his belt. We have one picture of him, but his face is completely covered with a muzzle mask and goggles. He is such a bloody unknown we don’t even know who he works for.”

Howard glances back at the ghost. Winter had gotten everything he needed from the fridge and was now rummaging around in the cupboards for pots or pans. “Jarvis will be pissed if he finds you messing with his cooking stuff.”

“Permission.”

“Ah. Proceed.”

“Howard?!” Ah, right. He forgot.

“Hey, who was your previous handler?”

“Alexander Pierce.” He doesn’t even pull his eyes from whatever he is trying to accomplish.

“He says Pierce was his last handler.”

“Pierce? My Pierce?”

“Did you mean Pierce of SHIELD?” He gets a nod. “Yup, he confirmed. SHIELD’s Pierce.” Carter finds that very upsetting and once more Howard can’t have the phone near his ear. “What are you even doing?”

“Engineer food and snacks.” Huh.

“For Anthony?”

“Yes, the zone.” Good, the boy never seems to eat enough. Howard can get caught up in work, sure, but he has no idea how Anthony can concentrate for days while forgetting about the basics. Like food. Howard’s stomach is always interrupting work marathons.

“Howard!” Whoops, he forgot again.

“Yes, Pegs.”

“Don’t Pegs me. What are you going to do about the Winter Soldier?”

“Leave him be. He hasn’t done anything.”

“Howard!”

“Come now, Carter. You have a mole to worry about.” He hangs up the phone.

@@@

Something tugs at his concentration. He ignores it. Something smashes outside his office. He ignores it. An even louder crash reverberates through the walls. Can’t ignore that. Howard pushes himself from the desk and head to open the door. He opens it and finds a gun shoved into his face. But it disappears and is replaced by Winter huffing and appearing a little wild around the eyes. His face sure looks familiar.

“Hey, Winter?” The soldier glances towards the genius then punches some masked person. “Have you ever tried to kill me?”

He kicks another black mask in the chest sending him flying into a wall. A picture frame falls. Jarvis is not going to be happy about this. “No.” Okay, so he didn’t know the man from some failed assassination attempt. But he did know him. The more he watched the man punch one guy and stab another, the more familiar he felt to Howard. Maria would remember, she had a mind for faces which Howard didn’t. People were mostly annoying.

“Have we had sex?” The Alpha stumbles and Howard laughs. He gets a glare from the assassin for his troubles.

“No. Wouldn’t sleep with’cha if ya were the last Omega ever. I’ve got standards.” The disgusted face is hilarious, better yet, it’s the first expression Howard’s gotten from the man. However, the accent seriously niggled at Howard’s brain, but it’s not something he’s heard in a long time.

“Rude. True but rude.” The Alpha shrugs and another goon takes that moment to tackle the Alpha. Winter doesn’t budge an inch and just throws the guy right off himself. “You’re not killing anyone?”

“Tony said no death.” Interesting.

“No sex for me in the future. But what about Anthony?” Winter’s eyes shift to Howard then quickly shift away.

“Not sex.”

“Oh?”

“Mate.” He blushes. Howard didn’t think a ghost could blush. Shit. This is a lot more serious than a curious Alpha sniffing around his child.

“Uh, huh. And what does Anthony say to that?”

“Courting.” The last masked fiend goes down, and Howard steps back inside his office.

@@@

“Aren’t you supposed to be stalking my child, not me?”

“Tony is worried. Aunt said the recent death threats are serious.”

Howard rolls his eyes, he is a powerful Omega with looks and brains. He gets a lot of death threats and most are sent by cowardly Alphas. Hardly something to worry about, not when there is business to be done and money to be made. “Carter always says that. It’s nothing new.”

“He has already lost his mother.” Ugh, Winter certainly doesn’t pull the punches.

“Fine. But I am going to complain bitterly and vehemently.”

“You’re on stage with a camera crew. People are going to think you’re talking to yourself.”

“Eh, I’ve been thought worse things than crazy. I roll with crazy. Or I used to when I was younger.” Howard hears a snort behind his right shoulder, but when he peers back, there is nothing but air.

“You sure played the crazy man with the military brass.”The shadows chuckle. Howard keeps his press smile, but really he’d like to jump backstage and shake the assassin. The only one still alive that would remember that shit is Carter.

“Yeah, I’m all respectable now.”

“Another mission, another mask.”

“Yeah.” And Winter said it completely monotone too. So creepy, as Anthony would say.

Nothing more is said from the shadows, and Howard finds himself bored by the current proceedings. Charity was never his thing, it was Maria’s. She was the one who cultivated a giant charity network, remembered everyone’s name and families too. But Howard couldn’t let it die. It be like if she died all over again.

The next moment shatters the boredom. Howard hadn’t seen the bullet, or heard the gun blast, or sensed any threat nearby. It was sneaky, and the nearby people weren’t even panicking just gaping at the strange genius whose chair magically scooted backstage. However, there had been an attack there was a bullet hole at Howard’s feet.

“It’s a sniper stay low.”

“You got it.” He expects the soldier to rush after the guy before he gets another shot or escort Howard away like the SHIELD guys do. But nope. Instead, the Alpha pulls out a large sniper rifle, a model that Howard has never seen before, laying low to the ground while the gun is pointed towards the sky. “I’ve never seen a gun like that. Did Anthony make it for you?” Winter doesn’t reply, and if there weren’t the whole life in danger thing, he’d think the soldier was ignoring him. “No matter how fancy the gun, some shots are impossible, and there is only one man who can pull that shot off. And surprise, he’s dead.” Again nothing. Ass.

Winter takes a breath teasing the trigger and exhales while taking the shot. It’s super quiet, and no one else seemed to notice a gun just went off. “The target is dead.” He swings up to his feet, pulling the gun with him, and stepping silently away from the stage. When the SHIELD agents finally arrive to investigate, they find a John Doe with a sniper rifle on one of the opposing buildings, dead with a bullet in the brain.

No one can make that shot. No one alive, anyway.

@@@

“Hey, Carter. Do you ever wonder what happened to Barnes?”

“He’s dead. Steve said he fell from the train. You know this Stark.”

“Yeah, but maybe he could secretly fly. That Magnus fellow is always flying and shouting about the superiority of exploding ice people. It'd make sense if Steve wore wings because Bucky could fly.” His head is softly thumping against the kitchen door, and it hurts. It’s hard wood, of course, it hurts, and Howard want’s it to hurt. But he also wants the door to decide not to hurt him or something. Maybe, he’ll pad it like a crazy house door. He needs something soft with Maria gone.

“You’re thinking of Magneto, not Magnus.”

“Sure, sure. What about the flying? Or maybe he was frozen like Steve?”

“Howard. Their dead, they’re all dead.”

“Steve isn’t dead. He’s lost but not dead!”

“Howard!”

“Sorry. Sorry.”

“Are you drunk? Do I need to come over again?” Howard laughs because otherwise, he’ll cry. He never cries, lost the right a long time ago. But, fuck, does he want a drink.

“I would love nothing more than some whiskey to numb everything. But I haven’t had a drink since Maria’s funeral. No more water of life for me.”

“I know losing Maria has been hard-” He laughs again, harder and louder, a little afraid he will wake up Jarvis. If anyone deserves a good night sleep, it’s Jarvis.

“No, Tony came home.”

“For the funeral, I know I saw him.”

“Yes, after Jarvis cleaned him up.”

“What are you saying?”

“His boyfriend, the one I introduced him to for monetary reasons, was abusing him.”

“I bloody well said that something was right about that Tiberius fellow. I told you Stark.”

“I know. But I didn’t care. Not till Maria was dead and Tony came home a sobbing mess.”

“What happened with you, Howard?”

“I got old and bitter and jealous of a four-year-old.”

Her sigh sounds strange on the phone “Howard, why did you really call me?”

“I failed you and Steve. Ana and Jarvis. Maria. I’m scared I utterly failed Tony, and it’s too late to change anything. And I’m projecting that fear onto Barnes because I failed him too.”

“Tony is young, there is still time.” He thumps his head against the door again. “How did you fail Barnes? You weren’t there.”

“Come on Pegs. All the money I spent looking for Steve, I couldn’t drop a dime or two to fund a search for Barnes body. Especially since we both know what he meant to Steve.”

“He fell into the Alps. There is no rational reason to justify a search for a body that will probably never be found.”

“Yeah, so what. Rogers flew that damn plane into the North Pole.”

“And you are the only one dumb enough to be searching for the man.”

“He is alive.”

“Yes, you’ve said.” Another sigh. She always seems so tired lately. Maybe they’re both just getting old.

“What if Barnes survived too?”

“Steve had the serum.” Another tired sigh and now he starting to feel bad calling her so late. But she’s really his only friend. “Howard it’s late. SLEEP.” She hung up on him. Carter has been in this country too long, she’s starting to act like an American.

“Feeling guilty?” A voice. Suddenly. From the shadows. From the goddamn shadows. Who would even? Dark is for sleeping.

“Winter. No. No on your entire existence.” The Alpha is close, leaning on a nearby wall all relaxed, and without shoes. He always wears boots when Howard see him.

“My entire existence, huh?”

“Yes.” The soldier huffs a small laugh, it’s small, but it counts as an emotion. A real emotion. “You’re acting like a real person.” And his hair is pushed up with a pink hairband. “Why aren’t you hiding your face? Isn’t that like a requirement for you assassin types?”

“Not at home.”

“Oh, you think of the Manor as home. That’s good. Really good.”

“You should go to sleep Stark,” Winter smirks, and for the first time Howard can see it, see him. Not a feeling or a theory but the actual man.

“Sure, I’ll get right on that.”

“And Stark.”

“Yes?”

“There’s no reason to feel guilty. You had no reason to believe I was alive. But hurt Tony or the pups, and you won’t live long enough to feel anything.”

“What? Pups?” He Circles around the kitchen but the man disappeared once more into the shadows. “Bucky?” Howard whispers.

“Bucky’s dead Stark.” Comes from the shadows. His heart is thudding loud in his chest, and the shadows no longer look empty. Sleep. He’d been told to sleep. He could do that. Sleep. Sleep was good.

@@@

“Stew’s good.”

“Uh, huh.”

“New project going well?”

“Uh, huh.”

“Met your new boyfriend.”

“Uh, huh.”

“Did you know he was Bucky Barnes?”

“Uh, hu- What?!”

“Yeah, took me awhile to see it. But it’s definitely Barnes.”

“What? He? That asshole!”

“You should go easy on my old friend.”

“You know what? Fuck that Alpha. I don’t care who is was or will be. He’s the idiot who’s all stupid and sincere about starting a fucking life together. Like I could ever pull that shit off. Fuck him.”

“Not at the dinner table.”

“And you’re fine with some random Alpha just cause he used to be Rogers’ BFF?”

“No. I’m fine with him because only a strange Alpha could keep up with your level of craziness.”

“I am not crazy. Probably! Jury is still out. I’m barely twenty.”

“Of course, son. Jarvis approves of him too.” Tony blinks.

“Oh. Okay.”

They spend some time eating before Howard speaks again. “When do I get to meet my grandbabies?”

“Who told you?” Anthony shrieks.

“Barnes.”

“I said- Ugh.” Anthony slumps into his chair and thumps his head against the table. “Fine. We’ll schedule a play date, but you work around their schedule. Understood.”

“Okay.”

“Natasha likes Ballet, mixed martial arts, and knives. Clint likes archery, video games, and gardening.”

“Okay.”

“You will learn Russian and ASL too.”

“Got it.” Maybe Carter was right, and he hadn’t screwed everything up. Makes sense, she was one smart woman.  

Chapter Text

“When were you going to tell me? I’ve been calling you Winter Wolf like your some twelve-year-olds power fantasy character in World of Warcraft.”

“It didn’t matter.”

“Of course, it matters. It’s your freaking identity. What about your friends and family?”

“They’re dead.”

“Howard is alive. So is Aunt Pegs and Uncle Dummy.” Winter, he insisted he still be called that and Howard wasn’t going to argue, Anthony was doing enough for the both of them, rolled his eyes. He could have told Winter that was a mistake and to backpedal quickly, but he didn’t. Partly not to lose any brownie points with Anthony and partly because Howard was a dick. “What about Steve?” The scary girl, Natalie or Natasha, was frowning slightly and the circus kid, Clark-no Clint, was scowling fiercely. Maybe, they understood something he didn’t.

Winter tries to hold his poker face, but trepidation is shining brightly in his eyes. “What about Stevie?” Mistake number two by the way Clint’s scowl deepens.

“Oh, I don’t know. I’d be living our life together completely ignorant of who you really are, Barnes, and Steve Rogers would just show up one day asking for his Bucky.” Anthony sneers the word ‘Bucky’ and Winter flinches. “And we’d be over, just like that, while you and Captain America head off into the sunset. But I’m just the Omega, right? Keep your bed warm until the real thing shows up.”

“No!”

“No?”

“No. Because Bucky is dead-”

“Until Captain America comes back.”

“No, he is dead. Rogers or no Rogers. I will not abandon you Antoshka.”

“Liar,” Anthony hisses. “I’ve seen those goddamn movies, and I know what people have said too.” The younger man shakes his head and holds himself close. “Why’d you have to give me hope? I was fine on my own.” He runs off, and Winter quickly follows after him. Leaving Howard with the two children.

Anthony don’t abandon me with them. I can’t handle children. Howard screams internally as he tries to smile reassuringly at Natasha and Clint. “Are they always like that?”

“Они очень страстны.” Nat spoke. Howard learned quickly that the girl refused to speak English, even though she seemed to understand the language fine. Maybe, it was just around him. Makes sense with the whole doesn’t trust anyone vibe she gave off.

He turns to Clint, but the young Beta shrugs a shoulder and then huffs an annoyed sigh. “Yeah. Tones has a lot of issues so what happens most of the time is he’ll dramatical question Yasha’s dedication, and Yasha will vow his everlasting love to Tony. It’s all very romantic and really annoying.”

“Ah. I see.” And so the long awkward pause begins and stretches for far longer than Howard is comfortable with. What is he supposed to do here? Anthony had told him about their interest, maybe start a conversation with the boy. The boy at least speaks English. “Anthony told me you like archery, Clint. That’s an unusual hobby.”

“Yeah.” That’s it. Doesn’t he at least earn a sentence for trying? He’s trying. Wait, questions! Interviewers are always asking questions to get the conversation moving along.

“Why did you pick archery?”

“It was my act in the circus.” Circus? Did kids actually run away to the circus? Howard always figured that was an urban legend or something. Whatever. At least he got a full sentence out of the child this time. It’s a win.

“But you’re not there anymore. Why keep it up?” Clint stares incredulously at Howard. Was Howard not supposed to ask that? Potts often gave interviewers a list of questions not to ask, but Anthony hadn’t given him anything like that. Curses.

“I like arrows.” The boy says it all forcefully like he thinks Howard would object or something. Why would he? As hobbies go archery sound pretty healthy compared to Howard’s hobbies when he was young. Drugs are bad and make you stupid. Archery is probably good for cardio or some such shit his quack was always squawking about. “And it’s something I’m good at.”

“Find a way to turn it into a job, and you’ll be set for life.”

“Is that what you did?”

“Nope, I had to be all sensible and responsible and use my powers for good instead of greed like I originally planned.”

“You have money.”

“Yes, I do. But greed isn’t just about money. Sometimes it’s about lust and power.”

“Я хочу, чтобы власть. Много власти.”

“What?”

“Nat said she wants lots of power.” Well, that’s not creepy at all. What kind of little kid wants power? Aren’t they usually satisfied with chocolate or robots? Anthony, at least, never seemed interested in power.

“Okay. There two ways to gain power legally; money and politics, technically, you can do that illegally too. Please, don’t. Do illegal shit. Or at least don’t get caught. Anthony will probably give you the money, he’s soft like that.”

The redhead blinks and nods. “Да. Он мягок. Но он силен. Это редкое сочетание, и я восхищаюсь о нем.” Anthony was completely right. Howard should have learned Russian years ago. Like when Vanko went to the red side. But mostly he wants to understand this little girl. She reminds him of Pegs and Peggy was always worth listening too.

“Clint, please.”

“I am not a human google translate.”

“The first translators were human, so…”

“You’re kind of a dick.”

“No ‘kind of’ about it, kid. I am a dick.”

“Yeah, well.” Clint splutters.

“You need to work on your zingers kid.”

“You’re a weird adult. You don’t mind I like arrows, and you take Nat’s word seriously.”

“Kid. If I’ve learned anything from all my fucking mistakes, it’s not to sweat the stupid stuff, and you always take women like Nat seriously. No matter the age. That is a basic survival skill 101, my friend.”

“You are far more shrewd than many would believe, aren’t you,” Nat says. The redhead spoke English. Ha! Howard has no idea what he did right. Luck. He’s betting on luck. He’s always had good luck. Maria would be proud. “I could learn much from you.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, young lady.”

“Really? Aren’t adults supposed to be moral and stuff? Not definitely encouraging a young conqueror to take over the world.”

Howard and Natalie face each other then return to face Clint. “I’ll be a fair and understanding dictator.”

Clint snaps his fingers, his face lighting up. “Ha! You like the shadows. No way you’re serious.”

“She can just have a puppet ruler to do the whole people in the light thing.”

“What?”

“Yes, I choose Clint.”

“No! Clint is having a job with arrows and highly productive laziness. Rulers can’t be lazy! Or people will riot. I would not survive the rebellion, Nat.”

“Sure, you will. Nat will ensure it.” Nat smiles sweetly, and Howard laughs at Clint horrified expression.

“Natalie will ensure what exactly?”

“Tones! Nat is trying to make me the puppet ruler of the world.”

“Mimmo, you are fully capable of finding a willing puppet. Don’t torture your brother.”

“Yeah! No torture. Torture ain’t cool. Wait. You don’t want to say anything about the whole world conquering thing.”

Tony shifts Natalie, right Natalie got to remember that, on his lap. “No starting a war with Pepper.”

“Understood.”

“There you go Clint, everything is taken care off.”

“Haha. I hate you all.”

“What happened to Winter?” Anthony glares, and Howard knows that maybe it wasn’t the right time to ask. He just wants his baby to be happy.

“What does it matter? Sooner or later he’ll walk out on us.”

“Anthony, Winter isn’t me, and you are not Maria.”

“No, of course not. Because if Captain America was found, maybe I get a Father who wasn’t drunk and lived in this century, not the last.” Nothing he said is a lie. And really, what is Howard supposed to say? All of this is on him.

“Don’t you think he’ll pick you over Steve?”

“No. Who would?”

“Winter Wolf.”

“That name is still stupid.”

“But you picked it.”

“I like alliteration!” Anthony rubs his nose, and Howard has to stifle a laugh. Because the gesture is just, so Jarvis and the mumbling under the breath is Pegs all the way down. “I am going to prove you all wrong.”

“What?”

“I’ll find Captain America when Barnes leaves me for Capsicle I’ll prove to all that I was right.”

“That is one of the dumbest things you have ever said.” Flying fucks! Did Barnes have to materialize out of the air like a goddamn spector? He was a real person again he should fucking act like it. Natalie is smirking at Howard, and he just knows she is going to make a game out of it. The evil little fey. “But I also find it adorable.”

“You are not allowed to say anything like that until I find Cap and prove myself right.”

“So I can’t call you my adorable котенок or doll until I’ve apparently run away with Rogers?”

“Yes.”

“Я люблю тебя, Антошка.” Anthony scowled hard.

“What did he say?”

“I love you,” Nat translates.

“That’s sweet.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Anyway, Anthony. Do you have a plan for finding a man I haven’t found for decades?”

He rolls his eyes. Howard often wonders where he picked up the particular gesture from, not from him. Certainly, not Jarvis or Carter. “I’ll just find his heat signature.”

Now it’s Howard’s turn to frown and frown he does with the full force of his goddamn age. “There isn’t anything powerful enough to scan all that ice.”

“True. But there will be when I build it.”

“If I can’t-”

“Tones can. He’s a genius.” Clint smiles up proudly, and well Maria always said there was no point in arguing with a child. Probably should heed the advice now that she can’t impart her wisdom no more.

And maybe Anthony can build it. “I’ll have it done in two weeks.” Impossible.

“If I don’t leave you for Rogers will you finally agree to be my mate?”

“Ha! I’ll take that bet.”

“Sure, doll. Whatever you say.” Eh, it will probably work out. Winter looks loving, rather than annoyed, at Anthony’s antics. It’s a good sign. Maria had definitely loved him for his more chotic side.

Chapter Text

“Do you have all your books?”

“Yup.”

“Lunch?”

“Yup.”

Tony nods and brushes a hand through his hair. “Right. Everything will be fine. My babies will be fine. The school is top notch, and the Maria Stark Foundation donates a good chunk of change. Push comes to shove I’ll throw some money around to get my way. Yeah. A completely controlled environment is ideal.”

Clint smiles up at Tony’s oiled, stained face.

“Yeah. Just remember not to blemish the Stark family name, and you will be all right.”

“Howard.” Tony bites out.

“What? The little pipsqueaks are Stark now. They have a familial responsibility to the name. You know this Antony, don’t be naive that they can escape the burden simply because they are children.” Howard waves a hand imperiously at Clint and Natalie. The two ‘gremlins’ in question exchange a look. Nat does not enjoy the new nickname.

“Well, that’s where you are wrong. I registered them as Clint Barton Wolf and Natalie Barnes Wolf. Pepper even got the school to sign a nondisclosure form regarding their connection to Stark International.”

“Impressive.”

“You bet. I’m not letting the public anywhere near my babies unless they say otherwise.”

Howard snorts contemptuously and rolls his eyes. “If the Fates allow it,” the older Stark mumbles before leaving the room.

“We could just not be spent to school,” Clint pleads.

“Education is important. You know this Corncob.”

“School sucks.”

“No argument here. But this school has some the most diverse programs. Sure it’s one of those snobby Alpha schools-” Tony stops waving his hands and turns to Nat. “Mimmo I informed the school you are an Alpha and Clint is your Beta. I’d figure your natural disposition and confusing scent, no one will question your orientation.”

“Понял.” (Understood.)

The genius smiles. “You’ll be in the same class so if you have any problems, Clint, Nat will put a stop to it. Further, if there is ever a moment you need to come home because you are having a bad day just call me on your cell phone.”

“I’m having a bad day.”

Tony huffs, but he’s still smiling and even ruffles Clint’s hair. “Are you having a bad day or are you scared for your first day of school?”

“Scared for my first day of school.”

“That’s what I thought.” Tony laughs. “Everything will be fine Corncob.”

Clint’s shoulders slump, and he heaves a sigh. He feels a hand brush the back of his head and a tap on his forehead. Clint glances into Ma’s whiskey eyes and vaguely remembers another set of paternal eyes once upon a time.

“Just remember that your Father is stalking you like the creepy ninja security blanket of an Alpha that he is.” Tony sighs fondly.

There is a soft thump from the shadows causing both Tony and Clint to smirk.

“Мне тоже.” (Me, too.)

“Of course, Mimmo.” Tony shifts over to Nat and thumps his head against hers.

“Are the Grand Young Masters, ready to leave Young Master?”

“I think so Jarvis.”

Clint sighs heading towards the car ready to get this day over with already. People could be so people like. And tiring. He didn’t need anyone telling him how much of a freak he was, it was his style after all. But people could focus on the dumbest shit. Just saying pleasantries could be tiring and nothing like shooting arrows. Most people couldn’t even understand how awesome arrows were in the first place, not even Ma or Nat. Of course, they make up for it by making him arrows (Tony) or participating in target practice (Nat).

A smaller hand grips his own and Clint shift his gaze down to Natalie. She gave one of her rare smiles. At least he had Nat.

@@@

Useless. Every single one. Teacher is especially useless.

There is an introduction.

She speaks Russian.

He signs.

The others gape.

Mother has requested only this. Only this.

No escape.

The others watch them. Even during lessons.

Some gawk as he flicks paperclips into the trash can.

She’s been making indents in her hand.

This is not a world ruled by Death.

Yet the fear remains.

A soft touch on her hand. She clenches it tight.

“Are you okay?” he signs.

She smirks. She signs, “define okay.”

“Well my usually no internal bleeding probably doesn’t work anymore,” he signs.

She shakes her head no.

He’s smiling.

He smiled even in the Red Room.

Black and blue. He smiled.

Was the smile carved into his skull?

“Are you okay?” she signs.

“Tired,” he signs back.

She pats his cheek.

The others are still staring.

She clutches his hand. It’s real. It has to be.  

@@@

“Stalker Dad. Can you come out?”

Natalie has a bunch of his shirt fabric gripped tight in her hands and Clint can relate. He keeps trying to count his heartbeats, keep his mind of the multiple entry points, all the various spots for hidden weapons, how open his back is to the kids behind him and the lack of defensible positions. It’s only been two periods, but already there is a sharp stabbing pain above his eyes.

The Winter Soldier of Myth and Legend, who he calls fucking Dad now, reforms from the shadows. The former weapon intense gaze sweeps across the (barely) hidden alcove, and already Clint can feel some of the tightness in his chest residing. “Bad day?” Winter kneels down.

“No. Or maybe. I don’t know. I could use a hug.” Clint stretches out his arms and makes a small grabby motion with his hands like he used to. Winter stiffens, and Clint can feel Nat stiffen behind him as well. “You were normal once Buckaroo, you can give me a hug. No one cares.” The boy knows the former weapon doesn’t like that particular nickname, but he doesn’t care. All he wants is a little bit of comfort.

“Um, sure.” Winter slowly reaches for Clint. Taking every moment between heartbeats to check their surrounds. Finally, one flesh and one metal arm wrap around the boy, and Clint heaves a sigh of relief then drops his head against Winter’s neck. The Alpha is still tense but relaxing bit by bit.

Clint feels his new Father’s heart vibrations traveling along his head. At some point Winter slips onto the grass, pulling Clint onto one side of his lap and making room for Nat to wiggle her way into the embrace. They are both a little awkward but Nat’s humming some soft lullaby and Dad is making a small circular motion with his fingers; it’s indeed comforting.

@@@

“You were gone for an entire year. I mourned you, my Prince.” Some kids shouts and signs. Rather smoothly, too. Clint stands blinking at the strange masked child, but he can feel Nat freeze at his side, probably reaching for a hidden blade.

“Wade!”

“Peter!” Clint blinks again and takes a step outside the classroom.

“You should leave them alone. They probably don’t want to be bothered for now.” An another kid with large framed glasses steps forward from behind the weirdo. Where does the school manage to find such wackos?

“Peter. I had a dream.”

“Was this during first period or second?”

“Fourth, actually. More importantly Petey. My dream.” The masked stranger continues to sign as he talks rather smoothly too. “Where I fought the great powers of brainwashing lead by a sexy cat with my two sidekicks, and he was one of my sidekicks.”

“Wade.”

“Yes, Petey?”

“How could you mourn his loss, if you were asleep the entire time the new students were gone?” Peter pushes his glasses against his nose and Nat makes another tug at Clint’s shirt. Yet Wade doesn’t answer the smaller boy right away instead he signs Peter’s words.

“Love, magic, rainbows and chemical-x.”

“Of course, silly me.”

“I’m not your sidekick.” Clint finally manages to voice.

“Too good to be my sidekick,” Wade whines while pressing his hand to his chest. Only to signs his words again ending with the same gesture.

“Nah, I’m her sidekick.” Clint gestures back at Natalie.

“You spoke? Awesome. What else can you do?” Wade asks.

“I like archery.” Nat makes a sharp tug at Clint’s shirt, and when he glances down, she makes another sharp gesture with her hand. “Nat likes knives.”

“Yeah, pointy things are awesome. I keep my katanas in my locker because the teacher was nervous of the stabbing things.”

“Sad.” Nat pipes up, and Clint grins.

“You get me, scary child.” Wade nods seriously.

“Wade.” Peter sighs from the now bouncing Wade.

“It’s a compliment. Jessica always perks up when I call her the scariest thing since Discord made every-pony forget their true selves. Now she’s got competition.”

“You bet. Nat is the scariest thing since running out of pizza bites.”

“My. That is a might power. We ran out of pizza bites last Saturday, and Logan refused to buy more. I thought I would perish.”

“Oh no. What did you do?”

“We had some frozen chimichangas. So I persisted.”

Clint sniggers. “Good thing. Who's Logan?”

“My kind of not-Dad guardian person.”

“I’ve got one of those. And sort of Mom-not-mom, too.”

“Petey, too.”

“Wade means my Uncle Ben and Aunt May.”

“Cool.”

“Well, then. Scary Nat and Sidekick Clint would you like to throw pointy things with Petey and me?”

Clint shifts his eyes over to Nat and cocks a brow the way he's seen Tony do. She nods.

“Sure. Sounds fun.”

Chapter Text

Winter was sprawled along Tony’s college couch, his leg bouncing in rhythm with the song reverberating inside the workshop. Tony, himself, was going from project to project in different parts of his space. Mumbling incoherent sentence fragments under his breath creating a dance of his own enhanced by the ethereal quality of the holoscreens. It was beautiful. It was safe. And it was something purely his own in the now.

Winter frowns. Another rhythm was inbound. His ear twitched reacting to soft shoes stomping down concrete steps, a hand slips in between the couch cushions where a handgun lives but kept his eyes closed. The steps got louder, and soon Winter heard the soft electronic beeps of the workshop’s locked door. He didn’t like the number of people who had access seem to be growing with each day.

“Tony, my boy. I heard you’ve added to the Stark family.”

“Obie. What are you doing here?” The music disappeared, and Winter gripped the gun tighter.

“As I said, I wanted to meet the new addition to the Stark family.” The soft shoes move about the room, and he can hear a few things being moved. Something about the voice felt wrong, but the former assassin felt it was not yet time to reveal he was awake.

“Are they with Jarvis?” the new voice inquired.

“I’m curious to know how you managed to discover my dirty little secret?”

The man chuckles. “Ah, you know me, my boy. Have to have a finger in every pie.”

Winter swallows another growl and breathes heavily out his nose. Something niggles at his brain, a forgotten memory but it’s drowned out from the ringing signaling a nearby threat to his pack. ‘Obie’ was a threat.

“Sure. Mimmo. Corncob. Would you mind coming into the main room? Someone wishes to meet you.”

The threat shifts away from the couch and Winter takes the opportunity to swiftly remove himself from the sofa and enter the shadows. To observe. The threat is old but has sharp eyes. Winter especially doesn’t like how the threat watches Tony possessively.

Clint and Nat step into the workshop taking their places beside Tony. Both pups eyes sweep the room-good- yet only the little spider made eye contact with Winter. He gives the child a small, proud smile and raises a single finger for her to keep her silence.

She tips her head in a silent acknowledgment.

“They’re both bigger than I expected.” The threat chuckles weakly. “It was good to meet the both of you.” The threat is surprised. He was expecting someone else. No, he wanted another Stark heir.

“The boy is Clint Barton Wolf, and the girl is Natalie Barnes Wolf.”

“Wolf?”

“Yup. I named them after their father.” Tony tilts his head and scrunches his nose adorably. “Although, I named their father too. Whatever that’s worth.”

“You named their father?”

“I had too. He wanted me to call him the Asset. Which is not a name on any planet or in any diverging timeline.” The threat’s eyes widen, and the false grin falls for a moment. He recognized the Asset. Winter would have to do some research into this ‘Obie.’ “Of course, the name I gave him isn’t much better.”

“I’m sure the name is fine.” The Threat nods and turns his attention to the pups. “What sort of hobbies do you two enjoy?”

Nat says nothing simply staring up at the man and refusing to speak a word. The child is smart using her age to ‘shyly’ hide behind Tony while her hand reaches for a blade. Clint recognizes the Threat as well stepping forward and smiling dopily. “Video games mostly. Nat doesn’t really do anything. Doesn’t talk and just stares, ya know. Mr. Stark rescued us from some scary dudes. Probably had some negative impact. Totally sad. Right, Mr. . .” Clint trails off.

“Obadiah Stane.”

Clint smile widens. “Totally sad. Right, Mr. Stane.”

“Yes, it’s always sad to see someone so young damaged by this cruel world.” Obie gives a sympathetic smile. “Is school going well at least?”

Clint frowns and gives a lethargic shrug. “Kids are a little mean cause of my deafness. But I do all right.”

Threat’s face twitches before smoothing out into a placid smile. “I’m sure everything will work out.” He gives another nod. “Time for me to leave. It was lovely.” Another annoying fake smile before the threat finally leaves. But his familiarity with Tony implies his soon return. Winter might have to eliminate this Threat, and he keeps a sharp eye on the man until he leaves the workshop only then does Winter step out of the shadows.

“Damage?! Who is he to call my Mimmo damaged? And what was with the whole cornfed shucks routine by Clint? And the whole Assassin act. Don’t think I didn’t you see you reaching for your blades Nat.”

“I don’t like him.” Winter gives a sharp nod in agreement with Clint.

“Okay. Fine. The first meeting didn’t go so well. But how does that explain the whole brain dead routine staring Corncob?”

Tony crosses his arms giving his full attention to Clint who bows his head.

“I figured that it be bad if that Stane guy developed any interest in us.”

The genius rubs his chin and tilts his head. Something shifts in his gaze and the Omega kneels in front of Clint. His hands on his knees, eyes trained on the boy and the small twitches, a sign of the genius overabundance of energy, stop. “Why?”

Clint starts pulling at his ears with his left hand as his right index and middle finger jerk. “He looks at you like you are something to be possessed. Something to be owned. Like his obedient golden goose.”

Tony slowly closes his eyes. Such they remain for a deep breath then another. “Natalie do you agree?”

“Mother, he is a threat.”

“I see. What about you Alpha? Do you agree?” There is a strange timber in Tony’s tone.

“Yes.”

“That’s it?” Tony raised a single brow.

Winter shuffles his feet and glances away for a brief moment. “He knew me as the Asset,” he paused. “Can I kill him?” he pleads.

“Oh my, Tesla! Stop making potential murder adorable. And what is with the puppy eyes? What kind of scary ninja horror tale assassin can pull off the puppy eyes? I always knew they were a source of evil.”

“So can I kill him?”

“No. Honest living for you all.” Winter doesn’t like the answer, but it is the spiderling that clicks her tongue in annoyance at Tony’s refusal.

“But I can investigate.”

Tony eyes slowly shift away. “Did you recognize Obie?”

“Maybe. A feeling.”

He eyes slowly shift back to Winter. “There’s been something fishy going down at SI lately. All signs point to an inside job. Obi-” The genius bites his lips.

“Don’t worry.” Winter vaults over the couch and kneels near his sun. “I’ll stand by you.”

Tony smiles but his eyes soften with melancholy. There is a memory reflected in those whiskey orbs, but Winter isn’t privy to which one. Not even if it’s happy or sad. Did he once more say the wrong thing? What does he have to do to finally say the right thing?

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

“Can someone please explain to me how in the Wright Brothers’ name did I end up in this forsaken ice wasteland?” Rhodey stomps his foot, not wanting to break his death grip on himself. For fuck sake, he was wearing more layers than an onion, but he was freezing everything off.

Bruce and Tones glance up from the machinery to give Rhodes one look and each other another.

“This is the natural progression for Tony. Bruce was bribed and crazy. Triplett is SHIELD and crazy.”

“Hey! I was given direct orders by Director Carter. Ignoring that would have been crazy.”

Rhodey ignores Triplett continuing his rant. “But none of that explains my presences in finding a capsicle.”

Tony stands up, brushes his knees and straightens to give Rhodes the most soulful eyes. “I asked for my big brother’s help. You promised Rhodey.”

“I don’t remember making any such promise to die out in the middle of nowhere.”

“I pretty sure you did when you signed up for the military,” Triplett smirked. Tones nod and pulled from one of his many pockets a phone. A few swipes later Rhodes' voice floats from the machine.

“Sure baby bro. I’d love to help you find Cap. Important to prove zombies wrong,” he slurred. Rhodes is sure he only made that promise because he was asleep. But you couldn’t argue with your past self. Well, he could, but then he’d look crazy.

Tony grins. He’s won, and the genius knows it too.

“Fine. I promised. But this is still the dumbest thing ever.”

“You don’t even know the half of it,” Bruce murmured.

“What does he mean by that Tones?”

Triplette is the one who actually answers. “Apparently Barnes has been found, fell in love with Tony, and Tony is afraid that if he says yes to the man Captain America will show up to sweep Barnes off into the sunset.”

"What?" Rhodes isn't sure he heard right.

“The science is solid tho,” Bruce pipes up.

“Oh, well the science is solid. All my worries are gone. Not like this is a goose chase fueled by smoking the Caterpillar's pipe. Really, Tony?”

The genius plays with his phone and purposely avoids Rhodey’s gaze. The soldier narrows his eyes, this was guilty Tony, and Tony never felt guilty over his crazy. He came by the crazy honestly after all. So why is Tony feeling guilty?

“What are you keeping from me Tones?”

“He actually doesn’t like the name Barnes, and he used to be a super ninja of a brainwashing cult.” Tony shifts his feet and licks his lips. “Ah, I also adopted his two pups already.” He flicks his eyes up and waits for a beat. “And he says he wants to be my mate,” Tony finally whispers.

Rhodes knows this is all Tiberius Stone’s fault. Sure he doesn’t have any definitive proof but blaming everything on the Alpha seems the most logical choice. Although, the part about being a brainwashed ninja doesn’t sound good. “And what, you wanted me to trip over your new pups when I eventually came to visit?”

The genius lips twitch into a small smile. “Nooooooo. Why would you think that?”

Rhodey lets out a small laugh. “Because you're evil and Pepper only encourages that behavior.” Bruce snorts from his science corner.

“You’ll like them Rhodey. They’re both perfect.”

“Sure. And what about your new Beau?”

“He’s not my new anything. He’s going to run off with Captain Perfect the first chance he gets.” Tony pouts.

Rhodes not sure Tony is an objective source on the matter and leans to the side to give Banner an inquiring brow. Banner shakes his head. That’s what Rhodey figured, and Tony probably knows it too, or the genius would have retreated into his shell, not fund a search for a humanoid Holy Grail.

“Uh, huh. But you do like him?”

“I have eyes, Rhodes.”

“I mean his personality. Don’t be contrite.”

The genius scowls and pouts some more. “I’m not. I’m shallow Rhodey. Obviously, I’m only interested in his metal arm, super serum abs, and what he can possibly do with his tongue. It has nothing to do with how elegantly he kicks everyone’s butt or how cute he is trying to figure out something on TV or how annoying it is when he just disappears in the shadows.” Tony’s ranting slows, and his volume lowers. He lifts a wrist, eyes lidded, and smile softly. “Or how he’ll gently press his lips against my wrist.”

“Uh, huh.”

“Shut up.” Tony face turns scarlet.

“You two done with your heart to heart because the computer found something,” Bruce said reasonably.

“Excellent.” Tony laughs. “I’m on my way to proving you all wrong.”

“You know someone who doesn’t know you, would question why you would want to definitely prove that your lover will run off with another man.”

“Nobody asked you Triplette.” Tony huffs.

“Sure.”

Chapter Text

“Ladies and gentlemen I present to my newest and possibly greatest innovation.” Dum-E loudly objects with various beeps from the corner with Butterfingers and U in agreement if their swaying claws were anything to go by. “Hey. Maybe I’d change my mind if anyone of you dunces could make a decent smoothie or cup of coffee or if Dum-E would stop drenching me with the fire extinguisher." Dum-E makes another shrill beep. “I was never on fire. The key word is fire, you drunkenly constructed arm of bolts.”

“Mom.”

Tony swings back around, waving his hands and bouncing furiously on his toes. “I present JARVIS.”

“Young Master, as it were, I am neither new or an innovation.”

Tony rolls his eyes. Everyone was blankly staring at him. They just did not understand how awesome today is. A fully functioning learning AI that made the bots look like puppies. Well, they were puppies, but that wasn’t the point. “No. Not Jarvis. JARVIS. Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.” He waves his arms some more encompassing the workshop. Now they had to get it.

“You built another useless AI.” Howard scoffs.

“It’s what I’m interested in building. Weapons are boring and quickly losing their place in the world. Computers are where the future is at.”

“Don’t be naive Anthony. Weapons will always have a place in the world and computers were initially developed by military funding. And SI is a weapons company.”

“Not for long,” Tony mutters.

“Excuse me?”

“Young Master, I have a few errands I must run. Could you perhaps reveal this Just A Rather Very Intelligent System?”

“I’m calling him, Jarvis Jr.”

“Of course, Grand Young Master Clint.”

“Oh, right. I guess I should get this show on the road.” Tony waves his arm as a signal for initiating the program and grins wide when he hears the corresponding beeps from the speakers. “Come now, Jay baby. Say something to wow the people.”

“I rather think that my general presence is ‘wowing’ but you’ve hardly programmed such ‘high’ standards for human interactions for me.”

“It has my voice.”

“They, Jarvis.” Tony frowns. Sure none of his babies were human, and JARVIS hadn’t reached full sentience yet. But it always seemed so disrespectful to Tony. Many of his innovations weren’t sentient nor would they ever speak but they still had their own life to them.  

“Of course, Young Master. They have my voice.” Jarvis’ brow twitches. He turns towards Howard, placing his hands carefully on the curve of his back, looking perturbed. “I would have you remember Sir that I objected to being a disembodied voice throughout the Manor.”

“Don’t look at me. Anthony built the system.”

Tony raises his hand. “In my defense, I was never a part of that discussion.”

“It was before you were born.” Howard snorts.

Jarvis seems ready to make another objection when Clint interjects. “Jarvis Jr since I’m the eldest by sheer luck. You have to listen to my every lazy whim.”

“Why? Natalie doesn’t.” Winter smirks.

Clint taps his index fingers against purses lips. “True. But somebody must bear the responsibility of my laziness.”

“I’ll shall endeavor to leave up to your expectations Elder Brother.” Clint grins up at the ceiling. Tony will have to inform him that although the speakers are there JARVIS does not reside in the walls.

“Master Stark.”

“What? I told you. Be mad at Anthony. Anthony.”

Tony giggles. “I’m going to put AI’s into everything.”

“Everything? How many are planning on making Anthony?”

“Don’t know. More? Jay is my science AI, then there is going to be FRIDAY for Pepper. Technically I started programming Jocasta before JARVIS. Oh and I’m going to figure out how to build a synthezoid. With superpowers. I haven’t sketched out all the details, but it doesn’t matter because artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence integrated into everything, the Manor, the su- the other things, and electronics. Hive AI minds too. First cleaning bots so Jarvis can take a break-”

“I do not require aid Young Master.”

“-but they could also clean up damaged areas or take on dangerous jobs like mining. NASA has the whole space bot thing, I might make an AI to help with that. Their contribution to robotics could use some serious work. The possibilities are endless. Everything gets an AI.”

Howard rubs a hand contemplatively along his chin. “What about military applications?”

“Search and rescue only.”

“Anthony, be reasonable.”

“Nope. Not happening. No weapon AIs.”

Howard’s eyes flick over to Nat. “Okay. They are your inventions. Do remember to get the patents.”

“Pepper is on it.”

“Good. Good.”

Tony blinks. This had gone better than he had predicted. Sure he expected the others to act as some form of distraction for Howard, but the elder man had hardly raised a fuss. Just a couple of jabs regarding the weapon industry. Weird. Maybe the old man was up to something.

“Speaking of military, I’ve been doing some research into prosthetics-”

“I wonder why?” Howard drawls.

“And. And I've also made some progress there. Especially in removing the whole brain surgery aspect.”

The CEO takes a step back and whirls around towards Winter. “You’ve had brain surgery.”

The soldier apparently deciding that JARVIS wasn’t exciting enough for him and playing fetch with the bots with one arm while Nat swung around on the metal one. Rude. Although he does dignify Howard with a response, a simple shrug. Tony can plainly see Howard's fingers twitched in frustration. It makes younger genius giggle, which causes Winter to gift him a small smile. Yup. Enough of that.  

“Whether he remembered or not is immaterial Howard. Doesn’t change the fact that those metal bits got into his brain and spine somehow.”

“Well, fuck.”

“Not in front of the children.”

Howard waves the words away. “Now, Anthony, what is your idea for connecting an artificial limb to the brain without any invasive surgery?”

“Telepathic Nuron Mesh.”

“Telepathic?”

“It follows a similar concept, okay. It’s just a word.”

“Sure, Antony.”

Tony narrows his eyes. No mention that Tony was living in a dream world or scoffing at his futile attempts to bring the future into the present. Nothing. He was right. Howard is up to something. Maybe he discovered Tony's secret projects.

Chapter Text

“Why did I want to be a CEO? Why? Sure money is swell. And boy do I mean swell. Money means cars, Beta and Alpha dames, toys so many toys. But is it worth having my brain liquefied at room temperature working at a job a monkey could do? Maybe Anthony could build a signing monkey for me. Pepper would probably veto it. Damn that sadistic woman.” Howard smacks his head against his desk. Makes another smack. Repeatedly hitting his head against the desk will solve his boredom because he’ll transform himself into a stupid signing monkey. By destroying brain cells. Genius! Which Howard is. A genius. Again he bangs his head on the desk.

“Stop, or I’ll shoot you in the leg.”

Howard freezes. Spends a moment debating whether it was worth it to continue or not. It wasn’t. Damn that armless hobo. “Barnes why are here?”

“Bored.”

“Well, that makes the two of us.” Howard flops his head changing his viewpoint to gander at Barnes. The hobo has camped out in the corner of the room to clean his armory. For reasons. “Is it necessary to do that here?”

Barnes heaves a heavy sigh, looks up, and raises a single brow then returns back to the ridiculous amount of gun parts. Like that explained everything. And maybe Anthony would have understood. Howard didn’t. But. But now he had an excuse for Pepper why the paperwork wasn’t finished when she finally swung by. Genius. Did Howard mention that? His beautiful genius.

“Stop.”

“Stop what? What could I possibly be doing that you find annoying?”

“Your obnoxious thinking.”

“Well. If you find my thinking bad, how are you going to live happily ever after with Anthony?”

Barnes gives a very dead stare that would make any undead horde jealous. Raised a pistol he’d been clean and snorted. “Глупый. (Stupid). Comparing a yowling cat with a beautiful symphony.”

“Did you just call me an idiot?”

Barnes gives Howard a deliberate slide glance before slowly sliding his eyes away. Howard was a genius and had a fucking company to prove it.

“You did.”

“Howard!” Anthony slams right through without a knock or pleasant ‘how was your day.’ Not like that was anything new but Howard was a hopeful man. Some days, anyway.

“Anthony your Ass of an Alpha called me a moron. A moron! Can you believe it? Me being viewed as anything beneath highly intelligent.”

“Did you know?” He is quiet. Never a good sign.

“Did know I what? If this involves your Aunt Peggy, I would rather die horribly than mention anything that happened in Belgium.”

Anthony doesn’t take the bait another bad sign. He slams some images of weapons and files atop the paperwork. His face of stone. “This.” He jabs at one image, in particular, the newest Stark missile, in the hands of people who certainly not the American government. Unless they went through a fashion phase. Anything was possible after all.

“I would be quite worried if I didn’t recognize one of my designs. Seriously worried. Call your Aunt worried.”

“Howard.”

“Yes, dear?”

“Don’t play games.”

“What game do you think I’m playing Anthony?”

“These are Stark weapons, our weapons in the hands of a terrorist being used to harm innocent people. We have a responsibility to fix this.”

“Fix what, exactly?” Howard leans back and carefully watches Tony’s reactions. His eyes are a little wild. “These things happen Tony. Weapons get stolen, and people die.”

“Stark Industries is about protecting American soldiers, not-”

“You’re being naive Anthony. We make weapons that kill America’s enemies. And because we make the best, sometimes our enemies get a hold of the tech. Nothing can be done. It’s not our problem.”

“Not our problem? How can you say that? Those weapons are our responsibilities. That blood is on my hands.” Howard can see those unshed tears and knows that his boy is too soft. People die. Sometimes quick, sometimes slow, sometimes peaceful and sometimes a tragedy. And holding the weight of the world will only result in you drowning in the ocean of regret.

“It isn’t. We can’t control the world, Anthony. And people. People suck. They claw and scrape and kill for their own benefit. And anyone who gets’s in their way is collateral damage. Even after all these years, you don’t have what it takes to be a Stark.” You’re just too fucking soft.

“Stark men are made of iron. I understand that. But this isn’t bloody right. You have to do something.”

“No, I don’t. It’s business, not charity. Anthony.”

Anthony jaw ticks. His eyes harden. He gives a polite nod and leaves. Howard can hear the unsaid declaration. That he is a bully. Just like Steve. So much like Steve. Tony never even met the other Alpha, Captain America. All he had were stories. And yet Howard has never met anyone that reminds him of Steve Rogers like Anthony does.

There’s a soft clunk sound near his head, and Howard knows it’s a gun. Probably loaded. He doesn’t even have to look. Another sign of the reckless life his lead.

“Why does Antoshka say that?” The room’s temperature drops several degrees.

Howard could use a drink. Maybe a Balvenie. Not that he is going jump off the wagon, as the masses say, but Howard can dream. “Something I used to tell him when he was a child.” There is another soft cluck and Howard peers over his shoulder to see an empty room. No sign that the Winter Soldier ever graced Howard with his presence. “Cheers. To another day breathing.” Yeah, a drink would be damn good.

Chapter Text

He flies that plane. Crashes into the ice. Doesn’t expect to wake up. Not completely sure he wanted to wake up. Steve has never been sure about the future. Not the way Bucky was- is. Or was.

He keeps punching. Feeling the weight of the bag as it swings back.

Skinny him never worried about the future. Never sure if he was going to make it the next year. Not that he expected to die. He live. Make it to the next year. And the year after that. Until Erskine. Until the war. Until he never had to worry about too cold nights or air caught in his throat. No. Instead he could lift up tanks and swim miles without needing to come up for air.

For the first time, the future was real.

Except he missed his date and instead chose a giant ice bath. Saved the day. Saved the world. Didn’t get the girl but Bucky came back from the dead. At least according to Howard’s son. Which was a strange trip all on it’s own. Howard’s son, Tony, was the complete opposite of the ice. All fast talk, all rapid movement, and fierce eyes. Reminded him of Peggy. Too much of Peggy.

Another forceful punch and another bag goes down. Breaking and the insides spill everywhere. Like how he can’t. Just grab another one and start the whole process all over again.

Peggy. Peggy who is now married. She has kids. An entire life that wasn’t with him. Steve isn’t sure if it’s better or worse that she remembered him. Built an entire organization in his memory. SHIELD. Which is great. He could work for Peggy again. Like before. Get a team. Like before. Everything could be like before. . . Except.

“Except Bucky is nowhere to be seen. Peggy is married. Howard has a kid. And there is no clear enemy to punch. Why the fuck did I wake up?” He leans his head against the punching bag, his fist barely sting, and he’s hardly lost a breath even after all this time.

What the fuck?

“Hey, Captain America are you okay in there? Cause Nat is worried. Ow. Violence is bad. Fine I was worried. I’m going to tell Mom.”

Steve slight turns to take a peek at two children. One with a goofy smile dressed in purple. The other one is a girl with piercing green eyes. He makes eye contact with the girl and she smirks. He isn’t sure what to make of that. Or someone like that. Reminds him of Bucky. “I’m not really Captain America at the moment.”

“Oh. Is it a possession thing. You’re only Cap when you possed the shield because that’s where your power is from. Or! Or it’s the shield that is Captain America and his spirit possesses you.” The girl smacks the boy in the arm with a strange air of professionalism Steve never seen a child pull off.

“Aww, Nat. What did I say about violence?” The boy starts to pout and whimper. “You’ll protect me, won’t you Captain America?”

Steve glances at the girl who is still smirking. “Are you the older brother?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Steve looks the boy eye in dead in the eye and gives him his best ‘I’m Captain Serious and Honest’ face. “Can’t help you. I’m the younger brother, and there is a code for such things.”

“What?” He turns to the girl, whose smirk has only gotten wider.

“Sorry. You’re on your own.”  

“Arrows! You are Nat as a blonde man with giant boobs.”

“Nat?”

“My sister, evil personified. I’m Clint by the way.”

“I’m Steve.” Steve waves his hand bit. Suddenly feeling awkward.

“We are aware.” Clint nods and rolls his eyes at the same time. There is an awkward pause, which makes Steve feel a little better since he isn’t the only one feeling out of place, as Clint rolls on the balls of his feet. “So are you going to run off with my Dad into the sunset like one of those cowboy movies? Cause Mom thinks you will and I kinda like having parents that are relatively normal.”

Steve blinks. Because what. Why would he go anywhere? This is his home. Or close enough to it. “I am not a cowboy. Also, interfering with any mate relationship is wrong. Ma taught me better than that.”

“Mom and Dad aren’t mated.”

“Oh. Then how are you two. . . You know. . . Here. Existing.”

“You can have sex and not be mated with your partner.”

Steve rolls his own eyes. He knows that. He has heard the stories and the jokes. “I was in the military.”

“Sure, Cherry Boy.”

He can feel his face flush red and both children are smirking now. But he keeps his mouth tight. “Whatever. Where are your parents?”

“Dunno. Dad doesn’t like people knowing where he is and Mom sort of doesn’t exist in this reality.” Clint shrugs.

Steve isn’t sure what to make of that. Not even sure which question he should ask next. Maybe just ignore it. Pretend it never happened. Yeah. He could do that. “So. Have you seen Bucky?”

“Weren’t you paying attention?”

Steve looks away then back. “No.”

“Right. As I said. My Dad doesn’t like people knowing his location. For that matter, he doesn’t go by Bucky anymore either. Mom named him Winter Wolf because he likes alteration.”

“That is a terrible name.”

“Eh. I like being Clint Wolf. Gives the impression that I’m not to be messed with. Which is good. Because I am lazy. Also, CW. Like the TV channel. Get it.”

“No.” Wait. “Your Father is Bucky?”

“No. My Dad is Winter Wolf formerly known as the Asset, formerly known as Bucky. Two completely different people. I mean really. Pay attention.”

Bucky’s kids. He always wanted a family. Steve was in the way, but he always knew that his brother would one day have his family. Wait. Again. Why would Bucky’s Omega be worried about Steve? “And why am I running off with my brother?”

“You cannot serve two masters.” Nat jabs Clint’s side and the boy leans over whimpering.

“Mother is afraid that Father’s loyalty to you trumps his loyalty to his mate. Thus when you invertible leave to find your place in the modern world Father will follow. Breaking Mother’s heart.” Her voice is smooth and once more professional nevertheless Steve senses an underlying threat to her words. Maybe it’s the fact she is no longer smirking and stands, similarly to Steve, as if she already survived a battlefield.

“I promise I’m not going to break your Mother’s, heart.”

A soft laugh comes from the far end of the room, and Steve watches as Tony’s eyes sparkle in mirth and smile mischievously. “What have you been saying to Captain America Mimmo?”

Nat smiles shyly. “Nothing.” And her arms wide in the international sign of innocence and wanting to be snuggled. Tony smiles beautiful, lifting Nat into the air and peppering her nose with a soft kiss. Clint was right. The girl was evil personified.

“You know she’s evil.”

“I am aware Captain. But she is just too cute.” Tony turns arching an eyebrow at Steve. “You got a similar pass for the same reason. Isn’t that right?”

Steve shrugs and smiles his most effectively blinding smile. “Maybe.”

“Bleeding out on the floor here.”

“You are fine Corncob. Come now. Jarvis wants us all together for a family dinner.”

“Will Bucky be there?”

Tony snorts. “Who knows.”

And Steve is sure now. Bucky is avoiding him. And mental shouts, ‘Jerk.’

Chapter Text

Tony was stilled pissed at him. Why was Tony still pissed at him? Jarvis wasn’t too happy with him either and kept giving him the look. The British Butler Glance of Utter Disappointment. Here’s hoping the Butler didn’t teach Tony that look. That would not end well for anyone. More importantly, it would not end well for Howard. Probably won’t end well for the grandkids either. But their young, they will survive.

“Left hallway or identical right hallway? Left is Tony’s side of the mansion.”

Second question: Why was Rogers avoiding him? And more stupidly, why was Rogers avoiding Peggy’s calls? He didn’t die in the ice like planned. Big deal. Howard knew he wasn’t dead. Obviously. Steve should have known that. Because Steve should have known, he should have planned to deal with the changed world, i.e. the future. Does he blame Howard for waking up in the future? Probably. Dumbass is stuck now. Should suck it up and join SHIELD already.

“Annoying Anthony sounds good.”

Why was he wandering the halls like an old person who lost his mind and got confused whenever his grandkids came by? Why? Usually, he would work in the lab, but it hasn’t been the same. Not since Maria died. Not since he created Stark Industries. Really it was watching Tony’s love of engineering bear fruit.

“So I shall annoy Anthony and blame it on my age.”

“No.”

Howard blinks. He curves his body back and stares at the plain plaster ceiling. Maybe he should paint it pink for shits and giggles. When he leans forward, Winter is still there acting as a sentry for Anthony’s room. Not that Howard expecting him to disappear. This time. But he needs something to distract him from the ghost wandering these long halls with him. And this particular ghost he can talk to, and nobody will think he is crazy.

“Winter why are you here and not somewhere else?”

“Cause.” Winter shrugs.

Howard wished the ghost had said more, but Winter hardly spoke much in front of him. Anthony insisted that Barnes could hold an actual conversation with multiple syllable words even. But this insistence of tight lips seemed different than Howard’s usually interaction with the man. His dead expression appeared sad. As much as someone with no emotions could seem sad.

“So why are here and not with Steve? I remember you two being welded together back in the golden days.”

“There is your answer right there.”

“What? You’re not besties anymore.”

Winter finally looks him in the eye. Apparently having something important to say. “Bucky Barnes is dead.”

And yet his mouth spews crap. Lovely. “Bullshit. You are fucking alive with most of your memories kind of intact. All you’ve done is change. Well, news flash. After what Steve has gone thru, he is a different man too. Both of you need to take a page from Pegs’ book and deal with your bloody shit. You especially.” Howard pauses making sure he had his attention. “If you are serious about showing Anthony you are mate material. Or does my Son mean nothing-”

Howard doesn’t even get to finish his thought, Alphas really, when he feels pain spike along his back. Conclusion, Barnes shoved him into the wall using his cheating super speed. Cheater. The arm pushed against Howard’s throat isn’t very polite either.

“Mine. My mate.” Winter growls and his eyes flash. Of course, that could be a hallucination from the lack of oxygen. Who knows.

Howard smacks the arm and makes his ‘I’m Howard Fucking Stark face’ so the almighty Alpha would release him. Instead, what he got was a less pressure from the arm, but he was still very much against the wall. Really what will the children think? “Yeah? But Anthony is not gonna mate no coward. Have you met my Son? He has a heart of gold and a will of iron.”

That seems to get through Barnes thick skull because he finally released Howard from his death grip. Finally. But now the sad is coming in full force with a- gasp- sad puppy eyes. God Howard did not sign up for any of this shit. He can’t drool over Steve’s abs or waist anymore without feeling like a creeper. The humanity!

“Bucky is dead. And I’m scared I’ll die so he can come back.”

Did Howard mention he was not paid for this because he was not getting paid for this. Damn Maria for turning him into an honest woman who can’t drool over men who are half his age. He missed her all the time. But damn her too. “I am going to pretend I am a real person for a moment and give you some advice. Bucky, the Winter Soldier, and Winter Wolf are not three separate entities living or dying in one body. They are all you, just a you that changed and grew for better and worse. Humans are like that. Growing and changing and learning and collecting new perspectives. Only when that stops, does that mean you are dead. You meeting Steve again is not going to erase the last seventy years any more than Hydra erased your time as Bucky Barnes BFF of one Steve Rogers. Okay?”

“Bucky is supposed to be better.”

“No. Bucky is supposed to be human. And being human includes the good and the bad.” Howard smiles. Tries to do that happy vibe thing that Omega’s are supposed to be able to do. Not sure if it’s working, but Winter does appear less sad. God. This whole situation makes him feel old. Old and tired.

“Bucky?” So Barnes isn’t the only super soldier that has learnt the ‘Speak of the devil’ teleportation power. Whee!

“Steve, why the fuck are you here?” Howard is trying to rub the tired from his eyes. Worked when Maria did it.

“I’m looking for Tony.”

Oh. My. Fuck. Please, no more telenovela drama. Just because Mrs. Jarvis loved the stuff doesn’t mean it should become his reality. Just no. Potts has a had a hand in this. Didn’t Anthony mention she had reality warping powers? “Steve, why are you looking for Anthony?”

“He is umm-” Steve face reddens a bit and peeks shyly through his lashes. “He’s going to take me shopping. Show me the wonders of the future. Isn’t that swell?” He beams.

Howard can literally feel a chill behind him. Like Siberia has taken residence behind him and is just waiting for an opportunity to take down Steve. Oblivious Fool. “Steve I say this with the utmost fear of a certain individual. But Anthony is spoken for.”  

Steve shrugs and smirks. “He isn’t mated, so he hasn’t made a decision yet.”

And Barnes leaps through the air growling, loudly, tackling Steve to the ground. Howard is sure he heard floorboards crack. Not to mention the increasing damage to the hallway from all the rolling around and smashing into walls. There is a crash from a painting falling. There is more growling from both Alphas now. SO Howard, the genius that he is, takes a step back. Then three more steps just for good measure.

Their both growling now, in that way Alphas do, that Howard suspects are some form of communication. Not that Howard understands anything. He wished Peggy was here to translate and make bets. Maybe stop the two before serious damage is dealt. Definitely going to pull the security feed and turn it into a home movie for her birthday.

Barnes finally manages to get Steve’s arms pinned behind him with a blade at his throat. “Mine. My mate.”

“You both realize that my son is a strong, very independent Omega, trained by Carter who does not appreciate Alphas fighting over him like his a trophy to be won. Now, me personally, I love that caveman act. Fell in love with Maria when she single-handedly took down two other Alpha who were bothering me and who don't have basic language skills like understanding the word no. But then she also apologizes for stepping in when I hadn’t asked for help. Of course, she then made that sexy growl noise you Alphas make. God, she was perfect.”

Barnes huffs, smacking Steve’s head into the floor and gives him the middle finger. Holding the finger very deliberately in Steve’s face. Mouthing something before disappearing like the ghost he is. Steve nimble rolls to his feet like a gold medalist. Not that Howard was jealous. Although-

“Why are you smiling? He gave you the finger before disappearing assassin style.”

“He called me Punk.”

“So?”

“So we’re good.”

“Right. I forgot how crazy you are.”

“And don’t you forget it.”

“Just stay away from Anthony.”

“Now Howard, do you prefer Bucky to me as a son-in-law?”

“Yup. And don’t you forget it.”

Chapter Text

Tony has never had what other people might call a healthy relationship with sleep. He was never sure if sleep itself and no interest in Tony as a person or if the problem lay with Tony himself. Whatever is was, didn’t change the nature of the relationship or at least Tony perceived it. A fight is violent no matter to motivation, and that was what sleep was for Tony. A battle. Falling asleep was always a struggle. Waking up was always a violent strike.

He never consider it to be taken quite so literally tho.

“What the fuck!” Everything hurts. Everything hurts. Hurts. Hurts. Hurts. Where is he? What happened? What? What? Where? A cave? Wire? Why are there wires in his chest? Where? Jarvis. Rhodey. Winter it hurts. His chest. What happened to his chest? What the fuck is in his chest? The world keeps sipping and walls, they are encroaching. It’s all too fast. Somebody make it stop. Make everything stop.

“Tony, don’t move.”

Tony tried to get up to move. But he couldn’t. There is a weight on his shoulders and on his chest. Nothing smells right. The pressure. He can’t move. Pressing down. He can’t breathe. Jarvis, he can’t breathe.  He tries to throw off the weight. But he can’t, it’s another wall. The wall. Encroaching walls and he can’t draw breath.

“Captain let him go.”

“But Sam.”

“No. No buts. And you Mister Stark, please do not waste my hard work. Relax.”

“Tony. Not Stark.”

“I’m Sam Wilson. Call me Sam, Tony.”

Tony takes a shaky breath trying to get his brain working. The sluggish motions of thoughts just wouldn’t do. Not in this situation. But at least now he remembers the attack. And the abduction. He traces a finger along the wires to a car battery. A. Car. Battery. “Despite my best efforts I do not run on batteries.”

Sam smiles wide, his beautiful teeth on show. “Nah, man. It’s for the magnet that’s keeping the shrapnel from reaching your heart and killing you.”

“Sam! Couldn’t you have put that more delicately?”

“You always gotta be straight with engineers.”

“He is an Omega.”

“Yeah, but he is an engineer first.”

“And he is right here. Nor is he happy about the car battery. I need something better. I need an arc reactor.”

Steve who is strangely sitting on the floor with his back against the wall projects his most stubborn posture and huffs very deliberately. “No. We need to escape.”

“Yeah? How do you plan on achieving that with both legs broken.”

“I’ll be fine in a week or two.”

Sam fully expressed ‘bullshit’ with a cock of his head. And well, Tony couldn’t blame the guy. It was hard to imagine that the spastic Alpha could be Captain America.

Tony ran another line around the circle of his. . . change. A magnet might prove an issue with the chip, and he wasn’t sure how far along JARVIS was learning to create or squish an algorithm to make it work. He might have to make his own way out, but he'd give his baby time. Enough time to get rid of this. . . battery for something more appropriate of Tony Stark.

“It’ll be fine Sam. JARVIS will locate us if I take too long. Probably.”

Steve perks up like one of those meerkats trying to find what’s up. It be cute if Tony didn’t think there was a lecture coming. “Why would Jarvis know where you are?”

“I might have, maybe just a little bit, made myself bait. It happened. Let’s move on.”

“You made yourself bait.” There is this look like Steve can’t comprehend Tony at the moment. Which is just rude.

“So what?! I get abducted all the time.”

“Tony.”

“What it’s fine.”

“God. Bucky is going to kill me.”

“What why?”

“Because he definitely is not going to blame you for this mess. Which means I get the short end of the stick.”

“Is this an Omega thing?”

“What? No! It’s a Bucky thing.”

“How this a Bucky thing?”

“You wouldn’t understand?”

“I wouldn’t- I wouldn’t understand. Do you realize who the genius is here?”

“Guys. No fighting. Bigger problems.” Sam gestures at the guys with guns.

And yes. There are men. With guns trying to look very threatening. It’s rather distracting.

@@@

Clint is nesting up in the space behind the kitchen cabinets. A space only a few people knew existed because Mom had built it for them. For Nat, Dad, and himself. To hide and to keep in tuned with their inner ninja as Mom put it. He was also working on building secret tunnels under the mansion since Nat and Dad preferred the ground. Not today. His sister was curled near him, every couple of beats widening her eyes carefully, but Clint just let the tears run their course. It seemed easier that way.

“Jarvis. Anything new?”

“No, Sir.”

It’s been more than a week, and Howard hasn’t said anything. Neither has Jarvis, but that can easily be laid at Howard’s feet too.

“What about the children?”

“They have been good, Sir. Early to rise, early to bed, and completing all of their homework.”

“Good. Good. Anything about Anthony?”

“Their Mother has all but vanished, their Father slithered back into the shadows, and the one person who should comfort them is dithering around the situation.”

“So they haven’t asked anything?”

“No. Sir. Clint has made several inquiries. But I have been unable to lift his spirits since I too am in the dark about the Young Master.”

“What? Are you implying I’m keeping some secret? Because I don’t know anything. Anthony could have just run off on us for all I know.”

“Liar!”

Howard swivels towards Clint’s hiding spot grabbing at his chest with wide eyes. “Didn’t I say no assassin antics? I did. Didn’t I Jarvis?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“It’s not Assassin antics, it’s spy antics. And Mom gave permission.”

“What are you doing up there?” Howard jabs his finger right at Clint’s, and Clint heard Nat snort behind him. It was hard to take the man seriously when he had to bend his neck all the way back to get a look at the lot of them.

“Spying. We want to know what happened to Mom. And don’t say ‘runoff’ because he would never do that to us. Never.”

“Fine. Tony has been kidnapped for an unknown motive, and not even Obidah has heard anything. Nor Pegs. Which raises the question of a secret spy organization’s worth if they can’t even find my fucking son.”

“I may have a rough location of Sir.”

“Gads! Jarvis, I’m going insane, I’m hearing an omniscient voice.”

Jarvis stifles a heavy sigh and a dramatic eye roll. “That is Jay Junior, Sir.”

“Right. Well, then. Lead the way my British hallucination.”

@@@

Today might have started a little high for Tony. Steve’s leg heals through, as he said, pure Brooklyn stubbornness which Tony was sure was bullshit. Sam had managed to snag and squirrel away a gun or two. Tony managed to, brilliantly he might add, completed a miniaturized arc reactor and a bomb that sent the cave to Timbuktu. He was in a good mood. Keep that in mind.

Next, of course, was to carry out the plan.

Steve managed to quickly take out the guards. Sam easily guide the group through the maze. From a map, he created inside his head. Inside his head based on the guard's movements. Tony had already decided to keep him before the bomb went off. Oh! The explosion went off beautifully. Sam spotted the searching military helicopters. Tony knew Rhodey would find him. Anywhere.

He saw Rhodey. And. . . him. And he was in a good mood. Okay. A good mood. So without thinking, he just leaped into his arms. Just one giant motion. The idiot caught him. Easily, of course. But it doesn’t mean anything. Okay. Not. A. Thing.

“You should just let me down now, Winter.”

Winter just snuggles his head against Tony’s neck, ignoring him, and starts some purr-growl noise nonsense. While Steve, Sam, Rhodey, Howard and the pups watched. Yeah. Just watching while Tony dies slowly from embarrassment. Not that he is that. Embarrassed. It’s just he meant to leap into his loving Rhodey’s arms. Yeah.

“They’re all watching, you know.”

“Don’t care.”

Well, Tony doesn’t care either. His flushed face is from the heat. That’s a thing. Bruce said so. Okay. Winter has started nipping at his neck. Tony can even feel his ears burning red.

“I didn’t know the infamous Tony Stark had a mate.” Sam is smirking next to Rhodey, who is also smirking. The traitors. Tony is going to leave them both out here to die.

“Oh, they're not mates. Tony is still available.” Steve pipes up. When he makes eye contact with Tony, he smiles shyly, but it slowly morphs into a puppy-dog like grin. As if the man forgot Tony’s Aunty Pegs is Peggy Carter. And she already warned Tony a long time ago never to fall for his innocent act. Of course, that now raises the question what the man is after.

It must be something good because Winter’s purrs have picked up into full growls now. And both Corncob and Mimmo are staring rather intently. Tony runs a hand through Winter's hair. He looks tired but still smiles up at Tony and leaves a small kiss on his wrist. “Pups. No killing.”

The two of them nod, which is something, but their eyes don’t bother leaving Steve’s face. But they’re good pups, so Tony is pretty sure they're not going to do anything too bad. Even as they stalk towards Steve and drag him off. Howard sniggers. “I warned the man. But he just didn't listen.”

“Warned him about what?”

“Nothing much.” Howard flaps his hand about and grins. Winter must be in on it too because he went back to cuddling. “By the way, Anthony, when are you going to declare Barnes, your mate? He kept his word and hasn't run off on you.”

“And you seem happy up there.”

“I happen to like the weather up here honey buns.”

Winter smirks with all his Alpha arrogance. Tony lets him. Cause he is a nice guy like that. “Mine. Mate.”

“Sure. I can live with that.” Tony thought that Winter’s responding smile was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. But that was probably the heatstroke talking.

Chapter Text

“It was now the beginning of the end for those two wayward pups. Although, their journey began with desperate tears and no hope in sight. Many a trial lay on their path yet happiness was theirs.”

“Clint? Who are you talking to?”

“The audience, of course.”

“The audience?”

“Yes. I figured it all out.”

“Uh, huh.”

“We are character’s in a movie.”

“A movie.”

“Duh. Do you have any other explanation for our current situation?”

Nat starts blinking. She then starts thinking, thinking carefully about what Clint said. She wasn’t too sure what qualified as normal, but she supposed he had a point. Being adopted by a warm family was certainly fanciful. “Okay. You are right. Someone like you could only ever exist in fiction.”

“If anyone is a storybook character it’s you.”

She snorts and side eyes the fool.

“It’s the truth.” Clint huffs and pouts a little. “Whatever. My point was that Mom is a fanciful character.”

Nat pulls some cookies and places them on a cloth between them. Clint absentmindedly reaches for one as the two siblings watch their Mother trying to escape his new invention. Father kept circling the mechanical arms pulling on his mate while Mother instructed them to pull gently. Uncle made himself useful by hanging upside down from the newest invention hole.

“Mom!”

“Corncob?”

“Why build a flying weapon, if you don’t like weapons?”

“It’s a flying prosthetic.” He tries for a serious tone, but no one could take him seriously with all that wiggling, panicking Alpha circling him and Dum-E beeping happily. But Mother’s uncharacteristic tone was probably due to Howard making a similar query. How Howard going to accomplish selling anything that makes 'pew pew' noises would be an exciting show to watch, seeing as Stark Industries no longer made weapons.

“Sure, Mom. Instead, it’s a very expensive skylight machine.”

“Snort. Good one kid.”

“Shut up, Steve. And Corncob, I already have its perfect use. JARVIS is included with every purchase.”

What?

“Oh, I get it. Very nice Tony.”

“Thank you, Steve.”

Natalie did not like this.

“I predict doom,” Clint whispered eyeing both Uncle Steve and Mother warily.

@@@

Tony had been carted off to his room like a child. Sure, Wolf had princess carried him which was nice, he loved listening to Winter’s heart beating strongly. But the direction was completely the wrong way. It was away from his workshop. His beautiful workshop with his babies. His babies.

“All the babies and pups have gone to bed, and Jarvis really doesn’t want you staying up past seventy hours. Especially when you are still recovering from being bait.” Tony could feel Winter’s voice rumbling in his chest sending small shivers along Tony's arms. He supposed Winter had a point. Not that Tony was gonna admit as much. No, he much rather puff up his cheeks, cross his arms and just enjoyed ridiculously high body heated super soldier.

What he didn’t enjoy was the simple act of Winter dropping him unto his bed. Then turning to stalk away from Tony. He always leaves. It’s something of an annoying trend even if he never goes far. Sitting outside his door like some guard dog. Tony has heard his many small discussions with Howard. (Well Howard blathered while Winter grunted.) Frankly, he is tired of it. Something is supposed to change right? At the end of any adventure, the hero is supposed to get the girl. And this case it’s either himself or Sam. Because ‘Capsicle’ was useless.

So he grabs Winter’s hoodie hood and grabs it tight, waiting. And Winter just does everything wrong. He is staring at Tony. Watching him, like Tony is someone special or crazy. Maybe, Winter is finally getting annoyed with Tony’s antics. “You like me. Right?” Smooth. Just the smoothest of smooth. “Because you abducted me first, so you have to take some responsibility for your actions.”

“Okay. Not even till death do we part.”

“What? You’re going to stalk me, even down in the underworld.”

“Without hesitation.” Winter drops himself on the bed yet not breaking eye contact with Tony. Tony’s eyes must have expressed his disbelief because Winter’s mouth twitches into one of his many almost smiles. “If anyone should be worried, wouldn’t it be me?”

“What? Why? Why do have any interest in me at all when you’re all-” Tony flaps his hands at his stupidly perfect eyes and smiles, gestures at his sexy arms (the both of them) and finally smacks his hands on the bed because Winter is patient, sweet, and can cook. Why would he want anything to do with him?

“Sorry, I didn’t understand that.”

“Shut up! I can words. And you totally did. Understand. That is.”

“Yeah.” Winter links their fingers together.

It’s cold and feels smooth. Tony loves to watch the joints move and running a slight touch along the many plates that is the mechanical skin. “I just don’t understand why. All you could have known about me is that I yell at inanimate objects that trip, spilling all of my god’s gift to humanity.”

“Words can seem a bit cheap. When they're easily given and easily taken. Yet when you have none, they are almost mythical.”

“And what? My glorious rambling info dump convinced you during a moment of insanity that I was some divine figure of awesome.”

“Exactly. Your expression, your babbling, and the sound of your voice.”

“Crazy Alpha.”

“Howard said you need crazy to compliment your crazy.”

Tony shoves him, but the two-ton ass just smirks and makes kissy faces. “How come you never talk with Howard like how you talk to me? He never believes me when I tell him.”

“Words are a valuable commodity. Only for you and the pups.”

Tony bites his lip. He pulls his mate’s wrist up and gives a soft kiss.