- Death-Minor Character
- Explicit Sex
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
“No, Tony,” Steve said, trying not to sound too resigned. He had a feeling he’d be saying those particular words a lot.
“I’m an inventor!” Tony said. “I need to invent!”
“You broke your ribs the day before yesterday,” Steve said. “You should still be in the hospital.”
Tony opened his mouth to argue, but Steve just talked over him. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out that you didn’t have to give Tony an inch for him to take a mile. All he needed was an opening, and suddenly he was twelve miles ahead of you before you realized what was happening.
“I know that we agreed that you’d do your recovery here,” Steve said, ignoring the petulant expression on Tony’s face. It wasn’t cute. It wasn’t, damn it. “But that means that you need to be recovering. Which means bedrest. Being in your workshop is not bedrest.”
I stayed in bed!” Tony argued. “I stayed in bed a whole day. And it was…Steve, it was torture. I can’t do that again.”
Tony’s voice was deadpan in a way that was meant to be read as joking, but there was something about the hints of anxiety in his scent that told Steve that he was anything but joking.
“You don’t do well with being cooped up, do you?” Steve said. It was hard to fault Tony for it. He was the same way, even before the serum. Needed to be out doing something, all the time. Keep his hands and his head busy.
“Not really a strong suit of mine, no,” Tony said.
Steve sighed. It was hard to deny Tony anything when he was looking at him like that. Not trying to manipulate him. That Steve would have had no problem with. But it was the edge of panic in his gaze that he was trying so hard to keep hidden that convinced Steve that this was serious.
“JARVIS,” Steve said, hoping that he wasn’t somehow making a terrible mistake. “Is there a couch in the workshop?”
Tony lit up at his words, and Steve shot him a brief unimpressed look while the AI answered in a clearly disapproving tone.
“There is, Captain Rogers,” he answered.
“Can you lock down all the tools, please?” Steve said, and suddenly the roles were reversed. Tony was the one crying foul while JARVIS responded with an approving “Of course, Captain.”
“Mutiny!” Tony shouted dramatically. “This is mutiny, and I won’t have it! Jarvis, I am changing your name. You’re HAL now.”
“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,” JARVIS replied, his tone dry.
Steve stared between the two of them, confused. Was JARVIS malfunctioning somehow? Or did Tony go by something other than Tony?
Before he had a chance to ask, he caught sight of the expression on Tony’s face. He’d picked up on Steve’s confusion through the bond, and Steve could actually feel the moment that Tony made some kind of connection, the epiphany-like nothing he’d ever felt before. Things he hadn’t known were out of place suddenly slotting in, instead of the slow dawning of realization that he was used to.
“Oh my god,” Tony said, and his glee was impossible to miss. “Oh my god, Capsicle. I get to show you everything!”
He laughed at that, bright and joyous and Steve felt himself relaxing even more, the tension lingering ever since Tony had explained exactly how many people had to kill him tried fading in force of Tony’s uncomplicated joy.
He actually rubbed his hands together in glee.
“This is going to be amazing,” Tony said. “I get to corrupt a national icon!”
“Sir,” JARVIS said, his voice full of resignation, and Steve smiled.
This was what he’d wanted. What he’d dreamed about. What every soldier held on to to get through the rough times. The idea of coming home.
For the first time since he’d come out of the ice, Steve felt like he had.
“2001,” Tony said. “We’ll start there. JARVIS, make up a list of culturally essential films. We have seventy years to get through.”
After that they were off to the races, jumping from films to television to music in a dizzying array that should have been baffling. It was the kind of system that only would have made sense to someone like Tony, and Steve was pretty sure if he tried to explain it to anyone else, they’d look at him like he was crazy.
But it worked, was the thing. It really worked.
Because Steve’s world had been topsy-turvy ever since he’d woken up in a room that was all wrong only to find a world nothing like the one he knew. SHIELD’s clearly sanitized, carefully packaged easily digestible dry historical summaries had only made Steve feel even more alienated, even more like a man out of time.
Tony’s whirlwind of information was none of that. It was real. Concrete.
They got through maybe three movies a day, more time spent talking than spent watching. Tony answering Steve’s questions as they came up, JARVIS jumping in when Tony’s explanations didn’t cut it.
The thing that surprised Steve, though, was that he did just as much talking as Tony, if not more. Steve had to learn 21st-century slang, yes. But Tony needed a crash course in 1940’s idioms.
Steve had just gotten through explaining what he meant when he asked for dog soup over dinner, and Tony was having none of it.
“Just…why?” Tony said, staring at Steve in horrified fascination, his forkful of curry hovering above his plate. “No, why?”
Steve rolled his eyes.
“I don’t hold you responsible for the crazy shit from your century,” Steve pointed out. “Even though I know that you’re probably responsible for a lot of it.”
“So’re you,” Tony pointed out, using his fork to gesture instead of actually eating. “You’re a cultural icon. A lot of this is your fault.”
“Eat your food, Tony,” Steve said.
Tony did, fork coming to his mouth automatically. When Steve saw him chewing, he felt something in him relax.
The three days of playing cultural catch-up had taught him more about his Guide than bonding had. And every piece that he discovered just made it that much clearer that whoever was in charge up there had known what they were doing when they’d put the two of them together.
Tony was brave and loyal and so, so good in spite of a world that was determined to see the worst in him. He would give and give and give until he had nothing left, and yet somehow everyone still thought that he was selfish.
Tony needed someone to take care of him. Someone to fight the battles that he wouldn’t. Not because he couldn’t fight them, but because he didn’t think they needed fighting. On some level, he agreed with everything that was being thrown at him.
Steve would take care of him. Would stand between Tony and the world when they kept trying to take and take. Would fight the battle that Tony didn’t even seem to realize needed to be fought.
Steve had always had a thing about sticking up for people nobody else would. He was glad to know that he’d get to put all those years getting his ass kicked on the streets of Brooklyn would be put to good use.
“So?” Tony asked his mouth still full. “What do you think?” he asked, jerking his head towards the plate of food in front of Steve.
They’d spent every day expanding Steve’s culinary pallet. As a whole, Steve had to admit that the food tasted better now. They’d mostly just boiled the hell out of things. Between that, the canning, and the rationing, well, it would be hard for the food *not* to be better.
“It’s pretty good,” Steve said, looking down at the noodles and egg and [other stuff] that Tony had called Pad Thai. “Still think I liked the Shwarma better.”
“A man after my own heart,” Tony said with a smile. “What do you want tomorrow?”
“You know what? I think I’d kill for a piece of good pizza.”
“Definitely a man after my own heart,” Tony said, and Steve could feel just how [besotted] he felt in that moment. Which was good. Steve was feeling rather twitterpated himself.
“Now, Steven,” Tony said, “this is a serious question. A make or break kind of question. Where are we ordering pizza from?”
Steve laughed. It was nice to know that no matter how much things had changed, at its heart, New York was still the same. At least in all the ways that mattered.
“I don’t suppose Totonnos is still around,” Steve said, a little wistful.
“Actually…” Tony began, and Steve sat up, eager.
“Sir,” JARVIS said, interrupting Tony, “there’s a call for you. It’s Agent Coulson.”
Steve felt himself stiffen, his lip pulling back without his permission. It had been easy to forget, for awhile. About the world outside the mansion. Steve’d been so busy getting caught up in Tony he’d [forgotten] about the rest of it.
He found himself reaching out with his senses, listening for signs of Coulson nearby. There was nothing, of course. The house itself was full of the usual sounds, the grounds full of squirrels and pigeons, the street at the edge of the property full of traffic and people bustling around the city, the same as always.
The mansion was the first piece of territory Steve had ever had. He was going to defend it with everything he had, should the need arise.
But Steve shook off his instincts, much more easily than he would have in the beginning. It was a mixed bag, so far as he was concerned. As much as he was happy about having better control of himself, mostly for Tony’s sake, because Lord knew the man was pushing every button he could find and a few Steve hadn’t even known he’d had, it meant that their nesting period would be over soon. And Steve wasn’t sure he was ready to face the world. Wasn’t ready to face the future.
The little bubble the two of them had built together was the most safe Steve had felt in a long time. And he wasn’t sure he was ready to face whatever was on the other side.
Tony’s feelings weren’t anywhere near as mixed and complicated. He groaned loudly and let his head fall onto the table before lifting it up again, clearly intent on banging it again.
Before he had the chance Steve put his hand in the way, and Tony’s forehead hit his palm instead of the wood.
Tony raised his head up just enough to give Steve a dark look, and Steve just looked at him.
Tony’s safety was his first priority. Always. No matter what, Steve would protect him. Even if that sometime meant protecting Tony from himself.
Even if it often meant protecting Tony from himself, as Steve was beginning to suspect would be the case.
“I’m in seclusion,” Tony whined. “Tell him to fuck off.”
“He’s contacting you as the Keep’s representative.”
Tony groaned again, louder and even more petulant than before.
Steve ignored him.
“Put him through, pleas, JARVIS,” Steve said.
“Of course, Captain Rodgers.”
A moment later one of the glass windowpanes was full of Coulson’s face, and he looked at them both with his usual unreadable expression.
“Sentinel Rogers,” he said, giving Steve a polite nod. “Guide Stark.”
Using those titles instead of any of their others made it clear that this was Keep business. About their role in the Pride, rather than SHIELD getting involved.
“Sentinel Coulson,” Steve returned the greeting.
Seeing the man in his space wasn’t as grating as it could have been. Having Coulson in the mansion when Clint had come to help them fulfill their bond had been almost unbearable. The only reason Steve had been able to tolerate it at all was that the man was bonded himself.
There was none of that protective imperative now. Though Steve was certain it would be a different story entirely if the man had been in front of him. It still might end up being a different story. He still hadn’t talked to Tony yet. Not really.
“How are the two of you settling in?” Coulson asked.
“Well,” Steve answered at once. “Things are making a lot more sense than they were a week ago.”
And god, wasn’t that the truth.
Coulson’s smile was a barely there thing, but it reached his eyes and made him look younger.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Coulson said. “There were some concerns given the…unique circumstances of your bonding. I’m glad to hear that things are progressing well.”
“Unique” was putting it a little mildly as far as Steve was concerned, but he wasn’t going to complain. From the outside, putting a man from the 1940s together with someone on the bleeding edge of technology probably seemed like a bad idea. But it worked. It worked perfectly.
“Guide Stark, how is your health?” he asked, turning to Tony.
“Fine. I’m totally fine!” Tony said, jumping on the opening at once, and Steve groaned, putting his head in hands. They’d been having this argument for the last three days. Tony was insisting that he was more than ready for physical bonding as well as the spiritual sort, and Steve, despite everything in him screaming otherwise, had to tell him it wasn’t happening.
He could still smell pain on Tony any time he shifted the wrong way. And until that was gone, things were going to stay exactly the way they were.
“In fact, I am so fine that I am totally okay to start having sex. Like, right now!”
Steve could hear someone out of view of the camera laugh at that, and he knew it was Clint. Steve just rubbed at his temples, hoping that maybe that would somehow make the nonsense stop. He wasn’t hopeful, though.
“Yeah,” Clint said through his chuckles. “You’re totally fine.”
“Sentinel Rogers?” Coulson asked him.
“Hey!” Tony protested. “I am right here! And capable of answering for myself. I just did so, as a matter of fact.”
“Forgive me for not trusting you, given your track record with these kinds of issues,” Coulson said, his voice dry.
Steve smiled a bit at that as he looked up at Coulson. He hadn’t known the man long, but he certainly had his respect. Coulson was the one who’d introduced him to this new world, treating him as a Sentinel first and foremost for all that it was obvious he looked up to the image of Captain America. He was the first person who’d been honest with Steve in this new world. And it seemed like he’d been looking after Tony while Steve had been in the ice. That would have earned him his gratitude for the rest of his life.
It hadn’t been long, but Steve could already feel the beginnings of a bond forming between them. The kind that formed between members of the same pride. He had no doubt that it would snap into place the next time they met face to face. Even now, over the video call, he could feel the beginnings of it stirring.
“He’s still in some pain, but he’s been resting,” Steve said. “The pain isn’t getting worse, so I’m inclined to believe him.”
“Tony Stark? Resting?” Clint said. “Wow, Phil. I take back all those times I made fun of you. Clearly, Captain America is just as awesome as you were always telling me he was.”
The tips of Coulson’s ears turned red, and Tony’s eyes lit up with unholy glee. Steve gave the man an apologetic smile. He had no doubt that Tony would be using this fact to make the Agent’s life a living hell for the foreseeable future.
“The Alpha pair will be calling on you as soon as you’re fit for visitors,” Coulson informed him, and Steve’s eyebrows rose.
He wasn’t as up on typical pride behavior. After all, his time as a Sentinel had been spent traveling all around the country, and then he’d been abroad in Europe, fighting his way across German, dealign with HYDRA and the Nazi’s. Still, it struck him as unusual that the Alpha for the area would come calling so soon after seclusion. He’d expected to meet them when they went to the Keep to register their bond formally and to undergo evaluation, but this struck him as odd.
Tony’s heart rate picked up and Steve turned to face him, sending a gentle inquiry down the connection between them. He got back a feeling of overwhelming fondness that Steve tended to associate with family, as well as a mix of excitement and apprehension. Then a quick flash of guilt as he looked at Steve. There was a good deal of exasperation, but above all of it was how pleased Tony was at the prospect of a visit.
There was a lot to unpack there, and Steve wasn’t going to do it in front of Coulson. Still, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t going to happen as soon as the call ended. Clearly, Tony’s relationship with the Alpha pair was a little more than just the typical one.
“I’ll be by at the end of the week to assess when that might be,” Coulson said. “Now, is there anything that the two of you need?”
“No,” Tony answered immediately. “Now go away please and don’t come back.”
There was something that Steve needed to ask about. It was something that had been bothering him ever since he’d met Tony. And honestly, if Coulson hadn’t been around, Steve wasn’t sure he could have left it alone this long.
“Any word on the attack on Tony?” Steve asked.
Coulson gave him a long look.
“As a representative of SHIELD,” Coulson said, clearly choosing his words with care, “speaking to two people involved in the incident, and who are both associate with the agency, all I can say is that we are investigating the situation.”
“And as a Sentinel?” Steve pressed.
“Rest assured that I will do everything in my power to make certain that you and your guide are safe, Sentinel Rogers,” Coulson said, his words impossible to doubt. “He is safe.”
For now, Steve heard the words unsaid. Tony’s history made it clear that safety was something Steve was going to have to be vigilant about.
“You’re handling the investigation?” Steve pressed him, and he could see Coulson’s brown eyes light up with pleasure as he nodded. “Then it’s fine. I trust you, Sentinel Coulson.”
Tony turned and stared at him, not bothering to hide his shock. Coulson, it seemed, had frozen in surprise. Steve could understand it, he supposed. As a nesting Sentinel, he’d as good as told Coulson that he trusted him with his guide.
He’d basically named the man his Beta without having seen him after his bonding. For someone he’d known only a week, it was practically unheard of.
Steve had never really been one for convention. Neither had Tony, from what he knew. And it was clear that he and Barton were close, for all that Tony tried to pretend otherwise.
“I’ll be certain not to betray that trust, Captain,” Coulson said, obviously fumbling for words. Then he quickly offered a polite goodbye before shutting off the call, but not before he heard Barton’s cry of “Holy Sh-“
“Oh my god, I have never seen him so rattled,” Tony said, a look of pure glee on his face. “You are my new hero,” Tony told him seriously. “To see Coulson that rattled is a gift I never thought I would receive.”
Steve rolled his eyes and reached out, pulling Tony close and pressing a kiss against his temple, leaving his nose there for a minute, just taking in the reality of having a guide in his arms.
Nesting was almost over. Which meant that it was time to talk about what would come after.
“SHIELD,” Steve said at last, and felt Tony stiffen in his arms. Ah. So he had been reading that right after all. “You don’t trust them?”
“Fury is a spy. Fury is the spy,” Tony said, and while he wouldn’t meet Steve’s eyes as he ran his fork across his plate, rearranging food rather than eating it. “His secrets have secrets.”
Steve let out a small snort of amusement. That was probably true. He certainly seemed like the type. But he said nothing. He knew that if he gave Tony enough space, eventually he’d fill it. Tony seemed incapable of dealing with silence.
“I don’t,” Tony said eventually. “I had to fight to get to work on the Tesseract. Way too hard.”
Steve froze, that word freezing him in place.
“What,” he said, his voice closer to a growl than anything else.
“The Tesseract,” Tony said. “You know, the glowing cube with terrifying scientific properties that I’m trying to get to make sense.”
Steve growled, reaching out and pulling Tony to him so that he could better defend him. The Tesseract. The Tesseract. They’d found it.
It hadn’t just been the bombs that Steve had been trying to get rid of when he’d put the plane down in the ocean. It had been a lot of things. Knowing that the cube had been lost at see with him had been comforting enough when he’d put the plane down.
A flash of blue behind his eyes, Bucky falling, falling and Steve was too slow, couldn’t reach him. Schmit, holding the cube and dissolving into dust. The damage the HYDRA weapons had caused, the death and destruction they’d been responsible for.
And Tony was studying it.
No. He wouldn’t lose Tony. Couldn’t lose Tony. He had to protect him. He had to keep him safe.
“-in hindsight, you know, probably should have done that a bit differently, but I’ve always been really good at putting my foot in my mouth,” Tony said, and it wasn’t until he heard that voice and the world began to come back into focus that Steve realized it had gone out of focus in the first place.
They were…actually Steve didn’t really know where they were. Somewhere in the mansion. That much was a certainty. His shield was in his hands, and he had Tony behind him in a corner, his body between Tony and the rest of the world.
A feral episode. His positioning made that clear. But Steve had had feral episodes before, and while he definitely been thinking differently, he always remembered what happened. This was more like a fugue, almost. He reached out with his senses, checking to see if there were any threats. But the mansion sounded the same as it always did. No foreign heartbeats, no strange smells. No threat.
“Seriously, just ask Pepper. Or Rhodey. Or the Washington Post,” Tony said. “I am an expert in, you know, saying exactly the wrong thing.”
“Tony?” Steve said, still disoriented and feeling off balance.
“Oh thank god,” Tony said, and he sagged against Steve’s back. Scanning their surroundings once again, just to make certain that he hadn’t missed anything, Steve turned around so that he could face Tony. He could feel Tony’s concern through the bond, and he smelled like adrenaline and anxiety, his heart beating faster than it normally did.
Steve reached out and pulled Tony against his chest, feeling his control fraying at the edges, his senses strangely raw in a way he’d never felt before. he buried his nose in Tony’s hair and took a deep breath, taking in the Smell of grease and hot metal and coffee and soft cotton. The smell that over the last four days had come to mean home more than anything had before. He dropped his shield pushed his hands under Tony’s shirt, needing that skin under his hands but know that he needed to be gentle. Needed to be so, so gentle.
“…okay, Steve,” Tony said, still talking, somehow knowing exactly what it was that Steve needed without having to say a word, the constant babble of that dear voice coupled with the steady beat of his heart and the whir of his arc reactor doing more to calm Steve than any babbling brook every could have.
At last, when he didn’t feel like the world was about to fall out under his feet, his leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Tony’s mouth, the taste of him the sweetest, most perfect thing that Steve had ever tasted.
In control again, the terrifying fog in his brain easing enough to let him focus, Steve pulled back staring down at Tony, the man’s concern so palpable it was almost a physics presence.
“You back with me?” Tony asked him, reaching up and cupping Steve’s face with one broad, calloused hand. Steve closed his eyes and let himself lean into it for just a moment, taking comfort in Tony’s presence both in front of him and the comfort that he was pouring into Steve from their bond.
“I’m here,” Steve said, opening his eyes. “What…what was that, Tony? What happened?”
Steve had lost more than enough time already. He didn’t want to lose anymore.
“You had a feral dissociative episode,” Tony said, his brown eyes warm and full of concern.
“What?” Steve said. Most of the individual words made sense, but all together? He had no idea what the hell Tony was saying.
“Oh Jesus,” Tony said, staring at him. “Fuck, okay. Umm…so, Sentinel’s don’t process trauma the way baselines do,” Tony said.
Steve nodded. That much he knew.
“Baselines, they get PTSD.”
Steve stared at him in confusion, and he watched as Tony grasped for a term that would make sense for him.
“Shell shock,” he said at last, the words like a revelation. “There were a lot of people with shell shock after World War I, right?”
“When a Sentinel gets stressed, they have feral episodes or zone. That’s fairly common. For a while, people thought that was the extent of it. But it turns out that the whole ‘protect the tribe’ imperative has some serious consequences. Especially in places where territory was, you know violated and devastated. It doesn’t happen as often as it does with baselines, and the pressure has to be intense, but Sentinels do get PTSD. It just manifests differently.”
“So…that’s what a feral dissociative episode is?” Steve said.
“Yeah. You were triggered and the Sentinel instincts sent you into a feral episode because of the perceived threat.” Tony looked up at him in concern. “The dissociation thing – that’s just a PTSD hallmark.”
Tony’s was lavishing him with calm, and Steve could practically hear his brain humming. Support, yes. But first and foremost, Tony was about solving the problem.
Steve appreciated that. Growing up as sick as he had, there was only so much sympathy he could take. And he didn’t need Tony to tell him how invested, how concerned he was. Not with the bond making that clear. Problem-solving was what Steve needed right now, more than anything.
“Did SHIELD talk to you about this at all?” Tony asked, his brow furrowed with something in between concentration and concern.
“Tony, I’d been awake maybe two days when I went looking for you,” Steve said. “SHIELD really didn’t have time to talk to me about much of anything.”
“Fair enough,” Tony replied before he sighed. “Right, okay, I have an idea but I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
“I find talk therapy useless, personally,” Tony said. “It’s hard to make yourself vulnerable to someone who doesn’t understand, and when you’re smart enough to get away with talking circles around them until they get frustrated enough to give up.”
“Speaking from experience there, Tony?” Steve asked, trying to find some levity in the situation.
Tony just gave him a look.
“You cannot deflect with me,” Tony said. “I am the master of deflection, and I won’t allow my own weapon to be used against me!”
Steve filed the comment about deflection away for later, certain it would come up at some point. Tony, he was realizing, said a hell of a lot. It was just that people always thought he was joking when he did it.
“So?” Steve prodded gently, “What’s your solution?”
The idea of talking to someone about this, about all of this, was tempting. But his situation was just so surreal he didn’t think that there’d be anyone who could help him get a handle on it. Not in any kind of meaningful way. And he wasn’t sure he wanted to make himself that vulnerable with anyone but Tony, especially if there wasn’t the payoff of help at the end.
“Trauma therapy has a few different common treatments. There’s CPT, where you basically go over every intimate thought and detail of the worst moments of your life and dissect them until over and over until you learn to live with them,” Tony said.
Even without the bond between them, Steve could tell how he felt about that one. And given how many times Tony’s confidence had been broken and his biggest personal tragedies covered gleefully by the press, Steve didn’t really blame him.
“Not a fan?” he asked wryly.
“No,” Tony said, not even trying for glib.
“What else?” Steve asked. Now wasn’t the time to press. That could come later.
“EMDR,” Tony said, throwing out yet another acronym that meant nothing to Steve. “With that one, you don’t’ actually have to talk about the memory with the therapist. You think about the memory, do your best to relive it, and then the therapist offers additional stimulation, basically trying to overload your brain so that the emotions get separated from the memory.”
“I don’t think overstimulation is going to help me,” Steve said. If anything, it sounded like it would just make things hard.
“There’s a version that high-level guides specialize in,” Tony said. “One designed for that exact reason. It’s a similar idea, but they separate the memory manually, for lack of a better word. Without the need for additional stimulation.”
That actually sounded like something that might work.
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Steve said carefully. He really couldn’t afford to keep doing that. A feral episode was one thing, but getting trapped in a memory that wasn’t even happening? There was a very real chance that he could have hurt someone. Not Tony. his instincts wouldn’t’ allow that. But if there’d been any mundanes around, that could have been an issue. Especially if he looked at a civvie mundie and saw HYDRA. There wasn’t really a way that could end well.
“When Charles and Erik come around, I’ll ask them about it,” Tony said. “You good now?”
Steve nodded. He had an explanation for what had happened, and a plan of action to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again. That was all that he needed.
Well no. It wasn’t quite exactly all he needed. There was still something else they had to talk about.
“Shield has the Tesseract?” Steve asked.
“They should have left it at the bottom of the ocean,” he said darkly. “What the hell are they thinking?”
“Come on,” Tony said. “I’ve got something to show you.”