Clint, patently, is not the kind of omega who wants to bond over heat stories, and Natasha's quite possibly the only person Steve's ever met who is utterly null. Bruce...Bruce has his own identity dysmorphia to deal with, and Thor's been politely incredulous about the whole concept of fixed genders in the first place.
Steve still walks into team breakfast as if he's trespassing in no man's land.
Twenty feet above a Manhattan street, Tony says, "Call it, Cap." His voice is as sharply direct as an order, clipped, and Iron Man's head is tilted down to Steve's as he waits. He's not even twitching his fingers.
The plan in Steve's head is perfectly balanced, constructed to take advantage of every angle and cover, use his team's strengths and protect their weaknesses, hit hard and fast where it hurts. It's informed by years of combat experience and a strategic vision Steve employs as easily as his shield.
"Cap?" Clint says.
"Could you-" Steve swallows and broadens his shoulders, taking up space. "Thor, eyes in the sky: watch for reinforcements. Hawkeye, they'll be around the corner in four, bunched. Stance on the cafe roof, billboard for cover, and take out the red caps first, they're the leaders. Black Widow, you're with me, we need to hold the line at the crossing. Whatever happens, don't let them get into open space, they can't use the forcenets if they're cramped. Let's go."
He's readying his throwing arm when the comm unit pings.
"Steve?" Tony says.
Steve rips the earpiece out and slams it into the asphalt, shuddering.
"I don't think you're understanding me here," says Tony. "I am not asking you if it's acceptable for us to eat at your pathetic, unprofitable excuse for a restaurant. I am telling you that the sign you have in the window is unconstitutional, illegal, and definitely insulting to the people who saved your ass two hours ago. Take it out and burn it."
Steve mutters, "It's okay, it's fine-"
"It's not fucking fine!" says Tony. "What is this, the forties?" His eyes widen. For the first time in a week, he looks Steve in the face. "Sorry. No offence."
There's a crack in the sidewalk paving.
"Screw it," says Tony. "Take-out."
Clint says, "Screw you, alpha. I'm beat and I'm starving. Table for six. He's paying."
They clean out the menu, but Steve can barely touch his salad.
Tony and Pepper split up.
alpha relationships are so last year," Tony says, chin high, sunglasses
pushed up the bridge of his nose, suit sharp as a knife.
Steve calls Pepper that evening. He says, "I'm sorry." He says, "It was my fault. It's - can we talk?"
"I can't speak to you right now," Pepper tells him.
Clint gets, sixteen different explosive arrows, a revolving pre-loaded quiver, and something that looks like a batarang. Bruce gets a brand new revolutionary particle accelerator. The suit gets an upgrade. Nobody sees Tony for a week, and it's a month before Steve sees Pepper and Tony together. They're at the coffee bar around the corner, both of them sitting bolt upright, in silence.
Tony walks into Steve's SHIELD office without knocking. He takes his sunglasses off and snaps them closed, flips them onto the desk and slams down into the spare chair.
Carefully, Steve straightens the pile of papers on his desk. He's rolled his seat back two inches, and if he drops his hand down, he can touch the edge of his shield. While he's not hiding, the neatly cornered blanket on the couch and the canteen trays make it more than obvious where he's been spending his nights. And his days.
Tony's left the door open. Kicked it open and jammed the trash can against the hinge to hold it there.
"I don't do collars and hand feeding went out with the ark," says Tony. "I haven't got time to knot and kids give me hives. And I'm twenty years too old for this shit. But you're stuck with me, Steve Rogers, so man up. Maybe I'm not the alpha you wanted, but I'm the alpha you've got, and you can at least look at me when I'm talking to you."
"Right," says Steve.
When he looks up, Tony's staring back. Steve's eyes drop before he even thinks about what he's doing, a reflex instinct he has to fight to conquer.
Tony's sigh is exasperated, gusty. "Jesus Christ, Cap," he says. "A little help. I'm trying to work out what you want, here."
The shield rim cuts into his fingers, Steve's grip is so tight. He takes a deep breath. Then another. "The only thing I wanted from you was your dick," he says.
"Yeah, I got that," says Tony.
Steve chokes out a "Sorry," and locks his knees against the underside of the desk. It hurts to stay still. He's itching for Tony's touch, aching for it, his hands, the scrape of his stubble, his teeth, his skin, a rising fever nearly as bad as the heat had been.
"Right. And you picked a fucking cave in the Pamirs to go into heat. No lube, no towels, no water, nothing. Nothing. Any omega past puberty would know better. Except you." Tony's finger stabs the air between them, accusatory.
"We coped," says Steve.
"You call that coping? I could have really hurt you!" Tony yells. "Steve, I couldn't even feed you! Next time. Next time, I want two week's warning. In writing."
His eyes are narrow, his shoulders braced, he's practically spitting with fury, and every etiquette lesson Steve's ever had beaten into him tells him he should be on his knees begging for his alpha's mercy.
Steve says, every word precisely placed, "What makes you think there's going to be a next time?"
"I didn't order this," Steve says, bemused.
"Don't look at me, dude, I'm just the delivery guy," says the delivery guy. He's not actually the delivery guy, he's the duty staffer, but the cardboard box in his hands smells sweetly savory and comes with a small bag of fortune cookies tied to the top. "Rogers, Steve, right? Yours." He drops it on the desk and salutes. "Sir," he adds, and then says, "It's an honor. Have a nice evening!"
"Thanks," says Steve.
Alone, he pokes at the box. Opens it. There's nothing inside but enough boxes of Chinese to feed a small army.
He hadn't realized how hungry he was.
Two days later, he has a cashmere blanket, an Italian coffee machine and a new appreciation for teriyaki steak.
"Give me an order," Iron Man says.
Steve's frozen. He's standing in the middle of the riverside boulevard, Hoboken, New Jersey. There are AIM assault vehicles screaming up all four lanes and the median, a breakout attack from a back door none of them had anticipated. Lightning flashes over the Hudson, where Thor and Hulk are battling a mechanized Leviathan. Clint's picking off fleeing AIM speedboats engine by engine. Somewhere in the depths of the warehouse, Natasha's battling to disarm the transmission driving the beast mad. SHIELD agents are struggling to evacuate the buckling waterside condos and apartments.
There's only Steve and Tony.
He can't hold back an army by himself, but he can try.
Iron Man's standing right in front of the advance. He's not moving. A rocket bursts at his feet. "Give me an order," Tony hisses. "Captain."
"Win me fifteen minutes, Captain, we need to evac.," Fury snaps through the comm unit.
Steve doesn't have fifteen minutes. Another rocket arches towards them: he ducks, but Tony doesn't. "Tony," Steve says. Begs. "Tony, move. Please." He's throwing the shield now, catching radiator grills and windshields, bursting tires, but there are too many vehicles for him alone and Tony still isn't moving. The next rocket almost takes Iron Man's feet off and the armor's gouged with shrapnel.
"Iron Man," Steve screams, every instinct at war. Fight!"
Tony howls with glee, blasting off with both repulsors already blazing.
He's not sure how he ended up back at the Tower. They're all dazed and battered. Clint made it back limping, and Natasha walks with a stiff, careful stride. Ribs battered, and strapped so tightly he's breathing in shallow, careful inhalations, Steve's achingly tired. But there's pizza, and Thor picked the movie channel, which means explosions, although Bruce is curled up asleep on the carpet.
Tony's sitting on the couch, so burned out his hands are motionless on his tablet.
They could have done better. One of the waterfront apartment buildings collapsed on a SHIELD emergency vehicle, and only four of the occupants made it out alive. The Port Authority lost two boats and three officers. No one believes AIM won't strike back. The atmosphere on board the Helicarrier was fraught, the sickbay crowded and the intel departments scrambling to find out how they missed a warehouse that hid two thousand cultists and an eighty-meter apocalyptic sea monster.
Steve's just tired. He should go back to the carrier, but the thought of dealing with Fury's wrath and the internal politics of every SHIELD division is exhausting. Instead, he's hesitating by the door.
"Captain!" Thor rumbles. "Too long have you been absent! By your generosity, join us tonight!"
Natasha glances up. "Sit, Cap," she says.
Steve does. He folds to the floor, utterly relieved for a few minutes not to have to hold up his own weight, and leans against the edge of the couch. Tony's two feet away, but he doesn't move, and Steve's too weary to care right now. He watches the screen through half closed eyes and tries not to think about the casualty figures.
A little later, Tony gets up. He only goes as far as the kitchen, Steve's watching, and he comes back with two bottles of beer, whistling faintly. When he sits down, safely separate, Steve closes his eyes again.
After a minute or two, Tony taps him on the shoulder with a bottle, heavily damp, and then passes it down. Steve lets him. He takes the second as well. And then Tony's fingertips are, so gently, stroking the back of his neck and it's perfect, a comfort Steve's never felt before and needs so very badly. He rolls his head into Tony's touch.
Tony shivers, just a little. His fingers hesitate. Then he starts up again, even gentler.
Steve falls asleep.
"Hey, Cap," says Tony, hustling through the bedroom door with an armload of boxes.
"-Tony?" Steve says, from the bathroom. He'd been brushing his teeth. It's six o'clock in the morning. He's still got his toothbrush in one hand and his shield is by the bed, on which Tony's unloading... an armful of towels, a flask, two mugs, a laptop..."What?"
"Sorry?" says Tony, looking up. "Bit much?" He surveys the boxes. "Maybe I did overdo it on the snacks," he concedes.
"It'll be fine," Tony says. "I've got a plan." He pulls out a knotted tangle of straps. Then two cuffs.
Steve's "No!" is explosive.
"Not for you," Tony says shortly, velcroing the first set to Steve's headboard. "This way, you get to decide. I've got it all sorted. Jarvis is on cams, Bruce'll play guard-dog, and he'll only come in if you're asleep - you got 3.4 hours last time, so that should cover us. I know it's a bitch, but I'm gonna have to piss sometime, because, seriously, not into watersports."
Speechless, Steve watches Tony buckle the cuffs around his own wrists.
"He promised not to peek. And I figure if it works for you this time I could set up some kind of dumb waiter. Or maybe some kind of automatic release - five meter distance or something."
"Is this some kind of experiment?" Steve asks. He's not really comfortable with the idea, but he's prepared to go along with it, if Tony asks.
Tony looks up, incredulous wide eyes. "Can't you smell you?" he says. "Steve, you're about twenty minutes from full-blown heat."
"What?" Steve yelps.
He crashes back against the bathroom door, misstepping, but Tony doesn't even blink.
"You've got it wrong," Steve says. He doesn't feel any different. There's the usual low-level, dissatisfied burn, the usual tug and draw that's purely Tony's, the one he's learned to assuage with surreptitious touches. Combat's good for concealing that particular need. He'd had to turn up the shower a little, so his temperature must have been elevated, but -
Tony glances up again, sharp, bright eyes and competent hands, and Steve's wet.
"Fuck," he says.
"Told you," says Tony, but he's not smug. He tests one of the straps, and then takes out a key-coded padlock. "Had to build in a radio release," he says, "Just in case. But you set the code when you lock them. How could you not know? I've been-" he looks away, wipes his palm down the side of his jeans. "I've known for a week."
"They had us on suppressants in the army," Steve says, faintly. He's starting to feel a little weak in the knees, but his heart beats triumphantly, alpha, alpha..
"Ah," says Tony. He was still for a moment. "That explains a lot. That stuff really screwed people up - there were some major court cases in the sixties. I kind of thought that was why you weren't using, you know. We should have had this discussion. Too late now, but I can fix you up with the good stuff."
"That's illegal," says Steve.
"Not since the seventies," says Tony. He shrugs. "Plus. You're my omega, Steve, you can do what the hell you want." He's pulling his t-shirt over his head, unselfconscious. The cuffs on his wrists catch against the fabric and his muscles flex as he tugs.
Steve's mouth goes dry. His fingers dig into the wall behind him, the plaster cool and crumbling against his skin.
Tony's hands go to the top of his jeans. He hesitates for a moment, head down, shrugs, and unbuttons. When he shoves his jeans and his underwear down, he doesn't bother to hide the half-hard pitch of his dick.
Jerking off the wall, Steve's hips move before he can stop them, and he's breathing fast.
"So," Tony says, spreading himself out on the bed, hands busy with the straps, knee up as he stretches, the heavy fall of his balls exposed. "Lube's on the side, towels on the bed, don't forget to set the padlocks. I'm all yours, Captain."
"You're just going to...lie there?" Steve asks.
"Yup," says Tony. He wriggles his hips. His dick wobbles, hard against his belly, pre-come glistening in dark hair.
Steve's seem that move before, in bars and barracks, alphas mocking the instinctive urge of a desperate omega. It's a cognitive shock to see an alpha present the same surrender, but Steve's body, the omega body he's fought and suppressed and denied, is surging with triumph. He's hard, wet, shaking, the heat running through every vein in his body. The familiar need to be filled, wanted, taken care of, owned, has crashed into a heat-fuelled imperative, but running underneath the urge of the heat is a burgeoning and satisfied sense of possession.
No-one told him this was what it was like to be bonded. No-one ever said it ran both ways.
Maybe it's just Tony.
For the first time ever, in heat, Steve feels powerful. He lets the robe drop and watches Tony's eyes widen, stalks towards the bed and loves the hitch and shuffle of Tony's hips against the mattress, the scrabble of his feet as he widens his thighs.
"Up to you," Tony says, his voice strained, "But I'm totally up for getting fucked. Sometime in the next two days. Just remember I don't self-lube."
"I hear you," Steve says. He climbs over Tony's body on his hands and knees, looking up, and Tony watches him all the way. Steve's smiling. Tony's not. He's panting a little, and his eyes are half-lidded and dark. When Steve settles, rolling himself luxuriously against the swollen heat of Tony's dick, letting the head of it drag and pull through Steve's own slick, catch and rub against his hole, Tony's head goes back and his hands fist.
"Ignore me," Tony mutters. "I'm not here. You do what you want."
Steve says, "Alpha." He lets his hand curl around Tony's face, softly tender against the scratch of stubble. Tony still looks strained, and that's Steve's fault, he hasn't been looking after his alpha the way he should have been. Tony needs someone to drag him out of the workshop and make sure he eats, needs to be part of a team, trusts Steve's judgment in combat. Needs it.
Steve says, "Knot me first, Tony. Then we'll talk."
He snaps the padlocks open.