- Dark Themes
- Explicit Sex
- Alternate Universe
- First Time
– – – –
Tony strolled into Stark’s lab feeling better than he had in weeks.
“I’m not sure which is worse… That dopey grin or the obnoxious level of afterglow you keep sporting. It’s been three days.”
Grinning, Tony propped a hip against a fairly empty worktable. “Total exaggeration. I only took one day off for sexnanigans. The rest has been…nocturnal.”
“Right. There were no quickies?” Stark scoffed.
“Well maybe one or two.”
“Maybe a dozen?”
“That’s not even possible.”
“No! You can’t have Jarvis count my sexcapades. That’s totally cheating.”
“Tony and Thor disappeared to Thor’s suite eleven times during daylight hours over the last two days, Sir.”
Tony huffed as Stark started laughing.
Then Stark pointed a screwdriver at him. “How are you even walking?”
“Super soldier serum. Turns out it’s not just for super strength and agility.”
Tony grinned. “Is that the voice of envy?”
“Envy in the sense that you’re getting laid and I’m not,” Stark groused.
Tony cocked his head, considering how Stark had made a distinction about the nature of his envy. “Something you want to tell me?”
Stark gave a start of surprise. “Does anything get by you?”
“Yeah. I can’t afford to be so arrogant as to think I’m going to catch everything, but I did catch how you made a careful distinction about the nature of your envy. And it’s not how I’m up and walking, which is what I’d have expected contextually.”
After a moment of consideration, Stark sighed. “You won’t tell anyone else?”
“I won’t reveal your secrets, Tony, but you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. I’m not prying.”
Stark waved that away. “You know about Extremis?”
“Yeah. There’s not a lot of oddness going on in the world that doesn’t eventually cross my desk. Even stuff we only learn about after the fact are all still data points we need. That Mandarin shit took a while to get to me, but you had it sorted before we even took more than a cursory look.”
“You’d think they’d kick domestic terrorism to your team first off rather than letting it get fumbled so badly.”
“Well, agency pride plays a role in how quickly stuff gets sent to us. Or sometimes it’s more individual teams rather than the whole agency, who then have to be ordered to play ball with Homeland. SecDef, the Secretary of State, the President, and a few others can override an individual agencies decision to keep us out of the loop. And they have to be forced more often than anyone is comfortable with.”
“That’s fucking stupid.”
“Well, it is what it is. That last CIA director who was replaced? Was because he refused to play ball with Homeland or the NSA and there were some fuckups as a result of his insular attitude.”
“You’d think succeeding in a cooperative effort would be better than failing on your own, but what the hell do I know.” Stark looked pensive. “Would have been great if the military had you guys trying to figure out where I was.” He smiled brightly, but it looked fake. “But that worked out in my favor, I think.”
“Rhodes didn’t tell you, then.”
Eyes narrowed, Stark asked, “Told me what?”
“That the military called the search off, and he called in a lot of favors to figure out how to make a request to my team. We don’t just analyze intelligence. We actively profile terrorist groups and cells, and finding the Ten Rings is right within our charter. He shouldn’t have had to jump through so many hoops to get our help. We eventually narrowed it down to a region based on some supply chain patterns. Then my boss got SecDef on the phone and got some SEAL fire team on board to start searching the five likely places they could hide in that region.”
“Did you guys figure out the right region? Is that why Rhodey found me so quickly?”
“Yes and yes. He joined the teams doing grid searches.”
“Was the right location on your list of possibles?” Stark asked intently.
“Yes, but, in actuality, there were terrorists in every one of the locations and yours was last on the search list. They were sending teams into those locations as quickly as they could, trying to clear them. There was manpower to do two locations at a time. They cleared two and were on to the second two when you got yourself out.”
“So I’d have been rescued,” he asked woodenly.
“Well, probably not,” Tony admitted. “Word was going to spread quickly that the US military was in the region and you’d have been killed or moved. If the latter, we’d have had to start over again. The ordering of the targets was always risky because it could bring greater risk to you if we got it wrong, and we did get the wrong search order.”
Stark shook his head. “But you got it right. You figured out where I was being held—in general. And Rhodey never stopped—” He blew out a breath. “He never told me.”
“Did he tell you about the general he got court martialed?”
“The search for you was called off suspiciously fast. Then Rhodes’ request to involve a civilian intelligence group was denied. It was odd. My final analysis submitted after you were brought back was that someone had been paid off to cancel the search and get in Rhodes’ way. In retrospect, that would have been Stane behind the bribe. Rhodes got AFOSI all up in that investigation, with backing from SecDef. NCIS and Army CID were involved too because it was their people primarily involved in the search and an Air Force general shouldn’t have been able to corrupt the search and investigation like that. I the end, the Air Force general was found to have taken a bribe. He pled guilty and was sent to prison—where he will be for another fifteen years or so. Almost a dozen other people across the three branches of service were dishonorably discharged for granting favors to this general.”
“I can’t believe he didn’t tell me any of that.”
“I can’t speak to why, Tony. I think he should have told you that he did literally everything he could to make sure they kept looking. He never gave up on finding you. But I can see why he might not have told you about why they were already in the area.”
“Because it didn’t matter. The only things that were significant was that you accomplished something astonishing in the worst possible situation under horrible conditions, you saved yourself, and your friend never gave up on bringing you home.”
Stark looked a little emotional, and Tony knew he was about to deflect in a major way, so he decided to throw him a life preserver. “So why’d you bring up Extremis? Did you actually get it stabilized?”
The nod was a little jerky, but clearly he was getting it together. “Yeah, and gave it to myself. It made healing from the surgery better. Probably made it possible at all. People think you heal from major surgery in a couple months, but my sternum is fragile. I’d have been healing for a year.”
“So you have super healing?”
“Of a sort, yeah. We had to remove some of the niftier features to stabilize it, but healing was pretty much intact. I won’t handle some things, but it’s spot on with injuries.”
“Well, that’s handy. You’re going to love the possibilities when soreness doesn’t last more than a few minutes. And,” he held up a hand as if about to drop the most important part, “not that I’m trying to prod you into anything, but the super soldier serum comes with a side order of a very short recovery period. Like a few minutes when properly…incentivized.”
Stark’s eyebrows shot up. “Is that right? Well, I guess I’m now really glad I kissed Steve. At least we’re moving that along though the pace may be glacial.”
Tony’s mouth fell open. “Wait, what? You kissed Steve? When? Where? What happened?”
Stark’s grin was mischievous. “I kissed him on the mouth, of course, I don’t think he’s ready for more than that yet.”
“How very literal of you. It was here in the lab, wasn’t it?”
“Oh my god! How do you know that?”
“He’s more comfortable here than in your penthouse because he barely spends any time up there because you’re always down here. And he’s like a patriotic puppy. He wants to be where you are. Except right now when he clearly wants to be downstairs trying to beat Thor’s head in.”
Stark threw up his hands.
“This you noticing every damn thing is going to get old.”
“It’s kind of my job.”
“It’s awesome. Now, stop avoiding the subject! What happened?”
Stark chuckled. “Well, he was really bent about Thor throwing you over his shoulder and hauling you off to his den of iniquity.”
“Oh come on. The shoulder thing only happened once and Steve wasn’t even there.”
Stark blinked. “Wow, really? Thor really threw you over his shoulder like some sort of caveman?”
“More like a Viking,” he said with a grin.
“That was too easy.”
“Mm-hm. Don’t be mad when I walk through the door you throw open.” He made an impatient come-on gesture.
“So Steve was all upset because Thor was going to bespoil you or some such shit.”
“I am! And I quote, ‘I know how men are.’”
“Oh my god.”
Stark laughed. “Which came up because I was trying to ascertain if his irritation during breakfast was that it’s his grandson or some latent homophobia.”
“I gather it wasn’t the latter?” It wouldn’t be shocking from someone from Steve’s era, but he hadn’t gotten that vibe, and he really didn’t want to deal with those kinds of issues with Steve.
“Nope. He just didn’t want a visiting god getting his glowbaby dirty.”
“You are so horrible, you know that?”
“It’s a gift,” Stark shot back with a grin. “And then he’s sitting there admitting how he’d been attracted to men before but had been too afraid to act on it—”
“Well, it was the 40’s.”
“—and I couldn’t help myself!”
Tony snorted. “So you jumped him.”
“I kissed him. And he froze like a deer in the headlights.”
“Oh.” Freezing was never a good sign.
Stark grinned. “Until I started to pull away and then he got with the program.”
“See? I told you he was into you.”
“Do you ever get tired of being right?”
“So…” Tony prodded. “What happened?”
“He asked me out on a date.” Stark’s expression was…complicated.
“Well, he’s an old-fashioned boy. He’s not just going to throw you over his shoulder, take you back to his cave, and ravish you.”
“Ugh. Thank you for turning my life into some sort of tawdry historical.”
“I’m just delighted to know that you’ve read a tawdry historical.”
Stark flipped him off. “The making out is great, but I really need to get laid.” Stark thunked his head against the table.
“I’m sure you can work him up to frottage and blowjobs just like that,” he snapped is fingers, “if you set your mind to it.”
“You’re a terrible grandson…trying to get me to blow your grandfather.”
Tony rolled his eyes. “I don’t want details, but, yes, that man is dire need of a blowjob.”
“I said I’d be patient.” Stark was pouting. “And I meant it, but I don’t need your afterglow reminding me of what I’m not getting.”
Pondering this morning’s wakeup call, Tony let the good feelings bubble up in him until he was really glowing. “You mean that glow?”
“Holy shit. That’s a lot of literal after glow. You can do it on purpose now?”
“Well, we weren’t only fucking during those eleven daytime excursions. Turns out this particular energy has some kind of healing potential. I don’t really get it. Thor tried to explain it, but it has something to do with balance. He tends towards analogies that don’t make a lot of sense to me. I got his sword analogy just fine, but then he started on something about a pool or a well and something called a bansera… I just did what he told me to do even though the analogies were crap.”
“The glowy energy is the one Bruce said wasn’t harmful, right?”
“Well, this I have to feel. Steve was so busy keeping me behind him that I didn’t get to see what it was like.” He spread his arms wide. “Come give Uncle Tony a hug.”
“Seems like if you keep going the way you’re going with Steve, it’ll be Grandpa Tony.”
Tony gamely crossed the short distance and pulled Stark into a quick hug.
There was a bright flash of light and Tony could feel the energy being drained away for a few seconds.
“Oh,” Stark said pulling back, looking a little dazed. “That did something.”
“Uh, maybe we should go see Bruce.” Tony was worried that he might have inadvertently hurt Stark.
“Do we have to? I don’t want another lecture about uncontrolled experiments.”
In reply, Tony only said, “Jarvis, tell Bruce we’ll meet him in medical.”
– – – –
Bruce stood with his hands on his hips, looking more than a little irritated. “I can’t believe you conducted another—”
“Uncontrolled experiment,” Stark finished. “Yeah, yeah. But I didn’t know that’s what it was. It was a hug for fuck’s sake.”
Tony propped up a wall, trying to stay off Bruce’s radar. He did not want the guy in charge of needles annoyed with him.
“But you were hugging so you could see what the energy felt like. The energy that you know helped pull down the barrier separating me from Hulk.”
“Which is a good thing!”
“It was an unforeseen outcome! Which means anything to do with DiNozzo and glowing is inherently an uncontrolled experiment. Jesus, Tony.”
Stark held up his hands. “I’m fine.”
“How about I wait for the test results to ascertain that instead of relying on your intuition? The same intuition then led to hugging.”
“Look, uncontrolled experiments are practically my jam.”
“This is not the time to remind me that you jury-rigged a particle accelerator in your workshop.”
“Whoa, really?” Tony asked, briefly forgetting that he was trying to be unobtrusive.
“It was just the one time.”
“It was stupid.” Bruce, for all that he was pretty agitated, didn’t seem very Hulky.
Stark held out his hands in a surrender gesture. “Do we need to give you a moment. I love Green Bean but there’s not enough room in here for him.”
“Actually,” Bruce snapped, “he’s fine. He says you’re better now. I am the one who is upset. Because even if it has a good outcome, you can’t take stupid chances, Tony. You matter too much to everyone to be careless like that.”
Stark looked more than a little bewildered. “Yeah, okay, Bruce. I’ll be careful.”
Bruce huffed and turned to his monitors. “Hulk keeps saying the fire in you is better now. Want to tell me what he’s talking about?”
Stark’s eyes widened in alarm. “Oh, Christ, did that hug remove it?”
“I may have given myself Extremis.”
Tony would never forget Bruce’s utterly befuddled expression at Tony admitting to having experimented on himself. Again.
Finally, Bruce managed to unclench his jaw. “If you and Steve ever get your heads out of your asses and fall into bed, I hope he gives you a really unfun spanking.”
“Hey!” Stark protested.
Tony gave up blending into the wall because he was laughing like an idiot.
Bruce took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. “I’m sorry. It’s not nice to rip someone’s denial away.”
“Oh, there’s no denial,” Tony chimed in. “They’re all up in that.”
“Is that right? I figured it would be at least another week.”
Stark crossed his arms. “I can’t believe you figured it out too! You! Who barely takes your head away from a microscope.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my powers of observation, Tony. But you’d have to be a blind idiot to not notice the sexual tension between you and Steve. Even Hulk noticed. Granted, you’re not as obvious as,” he waved in Tony’s direction, “and Thor, but literally no one is as obvious as those two.”
“Hey” It was Tony’s turn to object. “He was feeling me up in the first five minutes after we met. I never even got the chance to try for subtlety.”
“Uh-huh.” He waved them both away. “Sleeves up. I need blood.”
It took more than two hours for them to determine that Tony’s energy hadn’t removed Extremis, but it had altered it somehow.
Bruce pulled away from the microscope. “I can’t explain it, but it’s still there, still working, but it’s more…in harmony, for lack of a better term, with your physiology. If I didn’t know exactly what to look for, I wouldn’t even be able to find it. And the samples I saw from Pepper are quite different from this.”
Stark had been pacing around, looking pensive. “And that’s a good thing, right?”
“I think so,” Bruce admitted. “But now I need to monitor both of you more closely.”
Tony completely agreed with that sentiment.
Bruce shot Stark a look. “I take it no one else knows about this? About you and Extremis specifically.”
“Hell no. I’d have—”
“You don’t have to explain,” Bruce said quickly. “I get it. The fewer people who know, the better, but that means you have to be willing to actually tell me the minute you feel even the slightest bit strange. You have to get Jarvis to agree to notify me if you’re unwell, including overriding any privacy protocols you have on that front. Because the only way we can keep something a secret is if we have safeguards in place to prevent issues that would blow the secret wide open.”
“Yeah, deal. I promise,” Stark said readily.
“No, I mean it. I’m gonna be totally up front about this because I don’t need anyone else finding out about it.” He slung an arm around Tony’s shoulders. “The two Tonys are going to be models of good communication about how we feel. Physically.”
“And you,” Bruce pointed at Tony.
“Whoa, what’d I do?”
“Do I need to spell it out?”
“Fine. No more hugging when I’m glowing. But, in the interest of the full disclosure, there has been a lot of glowing while fucking going on and nothing bad happened.”
Bruce closed his eyes. “Of course there has been. And really, do you two even sleep? Thor actually looked fuck stupid last night.”
“Is that a judgy tone?”
“No. It’s a fuck-drunk Asgardians are no one’s idea of a fun dinner companion tone.”
Tony pressed his lips together and tried not to smile. He’d had to make some calls last night and hadn’t been able to join everyone for dinner.
“But since you’re here… I finished analyzing the tissue and blood samples Thor provided, and it definitely clarifies that the part of your DNA I couldn’t figure out is Asgardian. I would actually say you’re more like him biologically than you are like Tony or me.”
“Oh.” Which begged the question, did the serum activate some latent genetics, allowing them to almost take over his human DNA, or did Hydra have access to Asgardian DNA somehow?
“Except for the plant DNA. There’s nothing like that in Thor’s genetic makeup.”
Stark pulled away and stared at Tony. “Wait. You’re part plant?”
Tony groaned and buried his face in his hands.
– – – –
By the time they were entering the elevator, Tony was so done with this day. He was about to ask Jarvis if he knew what floor Thor was on, but Stark directed the elevator down.
“Jarvis, 42nd floor, please.”
“Are we going on a field trip? Because I was hoping Thor and Steve were done beating each other up. I need some recreation time.” He was probably a little too into this fling with Thor, but he’d always known sex was part of his coping mechanisms, and he really wasn’t ready for dealing with his issues in any other way right now.
“I want to show you something. It’s actually why I called you down to my lab in the first place before the radically mutating hug got us diverted to several hours in the med bay.”
“Is this going to traumatize me? Because I’m delicate, and I’ve had a rough day.”
The elevator doors opened. “You tell me.”
Tony stepped out and glanced around. “It’s completely empty. So it’s only traumatic in the sense that I feel like this floor is naked.”
“Floors 41 and 42, as well as a few others in the building, were still unoccupied. Pep had planned to move the administrative offices for a recent acquisition onto this floor, but I’m thinking about diverting that to another building and setting your little crop project up down here.”
“Really? Huh. It’s a good hiding place, really. The lower 55 floors are known to be business offices, and you wouldn’t stash something top secret down here.”
“Right. They’d expect it to be up in the lab areas, which blueprints show as having the high security. I figured we could do the security upgrades ourselves. We’d lock these floors out completely to all but the rear elevators, and then the tower AI always makes sure people don’t get off on floors they’re not authorized for.”
“What about a small software division? Hire a few legitimate employees who do the administration side and make it look real, and keep the analysts behind locked doors.”
“I guess I could write a program or something really quickly.”
Tony shot him a look. “I wasn’t trying to give you more work to do. Pen writes apps for fun and does absolutely nothing with them because she doesn’t have the time to support them and handle the business side of it. Plus, getting paid for that kind of thing while working for the federal government? That’s a delicate little tap dance.”
“And she’d be willing?”
“I’m pretty sure she would be. Tickled pink, actually. She codes to relax but hates anything else associated with managing software. She developed her apps to meet her own needs, and some of them are pretty slick.”
Stark drummed his fingers over his sternum. “And if they’re any good, it might be self-supporting. Okay, let’s look into that.”
“But I don’t think we’d need two floors.” The space was huge.
“I thought to convert the one below this into apartments for your team. Make people think it’s business offices and that way all the people aren’t getting off on 42. And I get to put in secret stairs between the two floors.”
“Your exuberance over all the clandestine stuff is…”
“I was gonna say it’s cute.”
“But put all the overt security on 41. Make anyone thinking about trying to break in believe that that’s the proverbial golden goose. Assuming they’re even remotely successful at bypassing security, they find a bunch of residential units—”
“Get confused and we’ve got time to lock 42, not to mention 56 and above, locked down tighter than a frog’s butt.” Stark rocked back on his heels, hands in his pockets. “I like that.”
Tony grinned. “Yeah, me too.”
“I love a good plan. Especially when it’s mine.”
He could only laugh at that.
Stark grabbed him by the arm and steered him back toward the elevator. “I can tell you’re eager to go find your little electric toy for your afternoon conjugal, but one more stop back by the lab. I have something else for you.”
“It’s not alive is it? I don’t like living surprises.”
Stark laughed. “No puppies for you then. But, no… Just a little present.”
“God, Tony, you don’t need to get me things. You’ve already done so much.”
“This is more…aspirational.”
The elevator doors opened on the 79th floor and Jarvis automatically granted Stark access to the lab. Stark pulled out a big white box from a cabinet and plopped it on a table in front of Tony. “I thought about red, or maybe red white and blue, and, of course, I thought about red and gold, but this seemed a better fit.
Confused, Tony opened the box to find a dark blue and black outfit of some kind. He touched it, finding it to be very solid. “Is this body armor?” It was incredibly low profile. Barely thicker than some of Tony’s wool suits.
“Yep. Top secret SI designs. We kept up with defensive gear for the military, but they can’t afford the cutting-edge stuff, even if we offered it at cost. We develop it and then try to work up the least expensive alternative we can for the US armed forces. But this…” He reached out and ran his fingers over the blue. “It’s what Steve’s new armor will be made from.”
Tony pulled it from the box, finding it to be flexible but it also held a somewhat molded shape. The shoulders and various other places had leather accents. He shot Stark a questioning look.
Stark propped his elbows on the table. “While I was making discreet inquiries about HELIOS, I was also asking about the future of the Avengers Initiative and what we could do with it. I assume they’ve mentioned to you that your next logical cover identity is to be one of the Avengers?”
Tony hesitated. “It was brought up, yes.”
“Is that something you’re interested in?”
Running his hands over the surprisingly light body armor, Tony considered how to reply. “Maybe. If it was in good hands.”
“We can make that happen. I know you’ve got some sort of plan in the works for Fury and SHIELD, and that you recommended someone else run the Initiative…”
“Yeah. I’m just waiting for the right moment to deal with Fury.”
“And I’m not asking for details, but we can start doing the groundwork to get the initiative up and running again.”
“You think it’s important that this be in place sooner rather than later?” Tony clarified.
The lack of jokes, witticisms, or deflections told Tony just how strongly Stark felt about this. “Then let’s get moving.”
“Do we start with Congress?” Stark prompted immediately.
“I was thinking the U.N.”
“Yeah, maybe the head of the security council.”
“And you’d be able to get her on the phone without tipping our hand to Fury?”
“Well… She doesn’t have any idea who I am, but Hermes did an off-book favor for her when her granddaughter was kidnapped last year.”
“You’ve only been here two weeks and you’re already the most useful person I’ve ever met.”
Tony burst out laughing. “You asshole.” He folded the suit back into the box. “I know you’re going to hate this, but just deal. Thank you.”
“Yeah, okay. You get to be appreciative this once.” He nudged Tony’s shoulder. “It should fit perfectly. You haven’t gained or lost an ounce in a week, and I was waiting to be sure before I kicked off fabrication. It’ll have give so you can move, but the fit is important.”
“You monitoring my weight that closely could be creepy, but I find it oddly endearing.”
“It’s like you’re my twin.”
Tony snorted. “Now the hard part… I’ll have to come up with a name. It can’t be Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Tony.”
Stark laughed, looking happy in a way that Tony thought was new. “Did Coulson ever tell you what Peggy Carter’s project codename was for the vigil she kept over your mom and you?”
“No.” The topic change felt like a non sequitur, but he figured Stark had a reason to bring it up. Looking into those details had been very low on Tony’s priority list considering everything that had happened. “Why?”
“She called it Project Sentry. And the more I get to know you, the more I think Sentry is…you.”
“Huh.” Tony looked back down at the blue body armor. “Sentry…” he murmured, trying the name out, feeling like it fit. “I can live with that.”
– – – –