- Death-Minor Character
- Explicit Sex
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
The trip down to the workshop was one made in silence. Usually Tony would have been all about the chatter, but he had to admit that he was little shaken by what had happened earlier. He and Steve had finally started edging their way around to the conversation that every pair had to have at some point. The one about how things would change now that they were bonded, how to go about fitting two very different lives together. With two superheroes involved, it was no doubt going to be an interesting one. But they’d barely even gotten started before things had gone off the rails.
Steve feral had been something to behold. Tony knew that Steve had had an episode during the whole AIM thing. He’d had JARVIS show him the footage one night when Steve was asleep, clinging to him like a particularly determined limpet. It was brutal, yes. A baseline person might have found it horrifying. But Tony wasn’t baseline, he was a guide. he was Steve’s Guide. And looking at his sentinel despatch the threats with such ferocity and skill was making him feel all kinds of things, but horrified wasn’t one of them. Warm and fuzzy, yes. Aroused as hell. Totally satisfied in a deep, primal part of him.
Tony didn’t think he’d ever been so aroused in his life as when he’d watched that footage.
It was one thing to see the footage, safe at home with Steve wrapped around him like a particularly aggressive teddy bear. It was another thing entirely to watch it happen in front of him.
Tony had been training all his life for this. Ever since he was six, he’d been getting lessons in how to deal with Sentinels in distress. Not just how to help his Sentinel, but Sentinels in general. How to identify them, what a feral episode looked like, what you could try and do to bring them out of it
So, he knew the theory. He’d known the theory since he was six. He even had a little bit of practice. After all, Rhodey had come online in college, and Tony’d had to pull his friend out of more than one scrape with his senses. He considered it karma, what with the situation having been Tony’s fault in the first place six times out of seven (the thing in ’87 totally wasn’t him).
It was different, now. When it was his Sentinel, it was different. It always would be.
Tony had felt it before he’d seen it. The moment he’d mentioned the Tesseract it was like Steve’s mind turned to glass. He was still there, Tony could still feel him. But there was a distance between them, a sheer surface he slid off of every time he tried to reach out.
Then Steve’s eyes had dilated, a growl rumbling out of his chest, sending all of Tony’s hairs standing on end. He found himself burrowing closer to Steve on instinct, the noise resonating somewhere deep in his hindbrain, in the part of him that trusted Steve totally and absolutely with everything he was.
“JARVIS!” Tony managed to shout as Steve pulled his shield out from where it had been resting against the couch. “Search for intruders!”
“Sir,” JARVIS had answered almost immediately, his voice somewhat strained as Steve began herding Tony out of the kitchen and into the depths off the mansion. “There are no intruders present.”
That brought Tony up short for a fraction of a second, which was apparently too long, as far as Steve had been concerned. He’d scoped Tony up in his arms, somehow managing to cradle him just right so that between Steve’s Shield and his back, he was completely covered.
“Security breach?” Tony asked. It had happened before, but Tony was sure he’d managed to patch all the holes Fury had left in JARVIS last time and had given the Director a present in return. If he hadn’t, that was something that he needed to know, and he needed to know it NOW.
“Firewalls are intact, and all systems are operational, sir” JARVIS answered at once. “If I may offer a suggestion?” he said.
“Steve,’ Tony said, making sure to put just the right tone into his voice, giving it just enough empathic weight to catch the sentinel’s attention even in his feral state. “Panic room,” Tony told him.
His father had had it installed. Tony wasn’t exactly the run and hide type. He never had been. Which is why he’d ignored it since moving back in. He might not have been the type to run and hide, but something was up here. It was just as important to keep Steve in as it was to keep everyone else out. At least until he’d figured out what was going on.
Steve corse corrected automatically, his long strides taking them towards the room hidden in the library. Thank god the man was a bookworm, which had given Tony a reason to show it off.
By the time they were both in the room, JARVIS had been examining Steve’s vitals.
“Sir,” JARVIs said, “I believe that Captain Rogers is experiencing a dissociative fugue .”
And wasn’t that a kick in the pants? Because honestly, it should have occurred to him sooner. The odd distance in Steve’s mind didn’t match up with anything he’d experienced before, and even while feral he should have been able to reach him to some degree. Enough to help him distinguish friend from foe and to help lead him to his objective, or warn him of danger.
But the danger was all in Steve’s head. In his memories. And Tony didn’t have the training to be able to reach him there.
The first thing he was going to do was talk to Charles. Given Erik’s, well, everything he was sure that the man would have something to say.
Because he wasn’t going to let that happen again. He had one job, okay? He had one fucking job, and it was to help Steve deal with bullshit like that. Not cause it and then sit there helplessly, unable to do what he was fucking built to do.
He went to go collapse onto his chair, but Steve’s hand around his wrist stopped him before he had a chance to get started. Instead, Steve tugged him over to the ratty couch he kept pushed over to one side.
Steve cuddle him close, burying his nose in his favorite spot at Tony’s temple as he gently pulled him closer, incredibly careful with his ribs.
“We have to stop meeting like this,” Tony said, sensing his Sentinels’ distress. It wasn’t Steve’s fault he’d reacted the way he’d had. Frankly given everything Steve had been through, it was kind of a miracle that he was as stable as he was. Tony didn’t think anyone else would have coped nearly as well in this situation.
“It’s your fault, you know,” Steve said, and it wasn’t until he read the man’s amusement that he realized he’d said all of it out loud.
Running over the words again quickly, making sure he hadn’t let anything slip he hadn’t meant too, he decide3d to let it be. After all, Steve was right. He was the one who’d triggered him in the first place.
“I know,” Tony said, self recriminations and loathing even stronger than usual. He’d fucked this up. He’d already fucked this up. And every terrified thought he’d ever had had been right on the mark. He was a shitty, shitty guide. Steve deserved so much better.
Before he could fall too much farther down that bottomless hole, he felt a warm wave of reassurance crash over him.
“It’s your fault that I’m coping at all, Tony,” Steve clarified. “Jesus, I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
And there was a darkness there, a deep depression, a it should have been me that Tony was intimately familiar with. And that shit needed to stop right now.
Tony spun around so that he was straddling Steve’s lap, ignoring his protests, and kissed him, long and hard, pouring everything he felt into Steve. No hold bared. All of it, even the3 dark, fucked up bits he’d been trying to keep under control. After all, Steve deserved to know exactly what he was getting into. Needed to know exactly how much he meant to Tony. And with the two of them, words tended to get in the way.
Steve opened up for him, both his mouth and his mind, pouring everything he was back into Tony, the bond between them shining brighter and stronger than ever. Steve’s absolute certainty that everything was worth it, all of ti, if meant that Steve could have this. Could have Tony.
“Christ,” Tony said when he pulled away, resting his forehead against Steve’s own. “Look at the pair of us.”
“A matching set,” Steve said, his voice warm and wrecked, reaching out and lacing his fingers into Tony’s own, taking something raw and painful and turning it into something sweet.
Here, open as he was, with all his shields down, he couldn’t deny it anymore. The truth was resonating deep in the core of him, a place not even his insecurities could reach.
A matching set. The two of them, together. Whole at last. He was made for Steve, just like Steve was meant for him. Captain America might have seemed like some kind of impossible ideal, but Steve Rogers was real. Real and stubborn and human and perfect. And to deny the bond was to deny Steve. Something Tony could never do.
This was his Sentinel. And he had been more than worth the wait.
“Yeah,” Tony said, his throat tight. “A matching set.”
They sat like that for a moment that seemed timeless, wrapped up in each other both physically and mentally. Tony had thought that not being able to have sex would have put a damper on things. After all, bonded sex was supposed to be all the rage, and guide classes were full of locker room talk about exactly how much better sex was with a Sentinel. But this…this was nice. A different kind of intimacy, one he had almost no experience with. Just being held. Because Steve wanted to hold him.
There were exactly four people had had that with before Steve. His mom, Jarvis, and Charles and Erik. This kind of open, unhurried love wasn’t something he was used to. This unconditional affection.
He’d run from it, a little. Because he was scared. But this? Steve? He was more than worth the wait.
And if anyone tried to take it from him…
Tony shook off the thoughts before they could turn his mood sour, but it had been enough to break the moment for him. And they did need to talk. This was an important discussion, and it was about time they had it. Steve was his partner, after all.
And huh. That was new. Because Tony? Tony’d spent the last three decades with no one to share his fears, shouldering it all on his own. But now? Now Tony had someone he could count on. Someone who wouldn’t think he was overreacting. Someone he could actually, you know, trust. Someone to share this burden with.
“You okay?” Tony asked him.
Steve’s answer was a warm smile and a soft kiss. But when he pulled back, Tony could see the edge of wariness lurking in his eyes, could feel it.
“I’m okay,” Steve said. “We need to talk about this. I can feel how twisted up it has you, and I don’t want you dealing with it on your own.”
“You come first,” Tony said, immediately. “You always come first. And if this is going to be too hard on you-“
“At this point I think not knowing is going to be worse,” Steve said wryly. “And honestly? I think a lot of that was surprise. I just…”
“Thought you were done with all that,” Tony said softly.
“Now that I know, I can brace myself a little better,” Steve said.
“If you need to stop, you tell me, okay?” Tony said. “Just say the word, and we’ll talk about something else. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I’m great at talking a lot while saying nothing at all. It’s a particular skill of mine.”
“I like your voice,” Steve said.
“Good,” Tony said, feeling a little wrong footed. People had said a lot of things about how much he talked None of them had ever said that. “Because you’re going to be hearing a lot of it.”
Steve smiled, then sighed and let his head fall against Tony’s collarbone for a moment, taking a deep breath, his exhale warm against Tony’s skin. After a moment, he pulled his head up, wrapping his arms around Tony as he held him close.
“SHIELD,” Steve said again, and this time Tony could hear his own reservations echoed in Steve’s voice.
“SHIELD,” Tony said in agreement, he sighed and let him lean further back against Steve, taking comfort in the arms around him as he tried to articulate everything that had been bothering him.
“I’m the expert on energy technology,” Tony said, reaching up and running a thumb over the arc reactor. “And that’s not me bragging. That’s a statement of fact. If SHIELD was just studying the Tesseract the way they said they were, why didn’t they call me in?”
Steve’s grip had tightened at the mention of the Tesseract, his body tense beneath Tony, but his breathing remained even and his thoughts clear.
“I thought you said you were working on it,” Steve said.
“They didn’t want me to be,” Tony said. “They didn’t even want me to know about it.”
And he almost hadn’t. If Pepper hadn’t stepped in to oversee his contract with SHIELD personally after the whole almost-dying his old PA was spying on him thing, it might not have ended the way it did.
“I discovered an element,” Tony said, and then his mouth twisted in distaste when he realized he was wrong. “Well, I created an element, at any rate.”
“Starkium,” Steve said, and it was clear that he’d been doing some reading when the pain killers he made Tony take knocked him out on his ass.
“Badassium,” Tony corrected with a grin.
“You named an element Badassium?” Steve asked.
“Tried to,” Tony said. “But when I went to patent it, they wouldn’t let me,” he said with a pout. He was still a little bitter about it. So sue him.
Well, they had sued him. That was kind of the issue.
“The element,” Steve said, gentle but firm, guiding Tony back towards the topic at hand.
“Right,” Tony said. “So, an element. I made it, it’s mine. I own it. Well, I mean, not really. You can’t own an element. I mean, honestly, with the idiots at the patent office, you probably could patent one. But I own the patent on how to create the element, and no one else has the equipment to manufacture it in a different way. So, I am literally the only way to get access to this element.”
“And SHIELD wanted it,” Steve said, his voice hard.
“Yeah,” Tony said. “SHIELD wanted a lot of it.”
“Why?” Steve asked.
“That,” Tony said, “is an excellent question. And, you know, exactly the one that I should have asked. But I wasn’t exactly in the best headspace at the time,” Tony said.
“Almost dying can do that to you,” Steve said, in a knowing tone of voice. And Tony remembered Steve’s emotions right after waking up, all, of god, less than a week ago? And he knew that Steve knew.”
“So, I was ready to hand it over to them basically no questions asked. All because of some really, really obvious manipulation.”
*Iron Man, yes. Tony Stark, not recommended.*
He hadn’t even wanted to be a part of his super secret boy band. But as soon as Fury told him he wasn’t welcome? That had cut more deeply than it should have. And Tony had been desperate to change his mind. Desperate to prove that after all he’d been through, everything he’d done to redeem himself, that Tony Stark was worth it too.
“Pepper, though,” Tony said, and the warmth at that memory still gave him something. “Pepper had my back. She was in charge of my SHIELD contract, and she’d made it very clear that I was going to be involved in any project they needed my tech for.”
If Tony had been anything other than giddy at being alive, that heavy weight no longer crushing him, he would have demanded it too. After all, it was what had driven him to create Iron Man in the first place – people misusing his tech for things that he didn’t believe in.
“So, before I had a chance to do something incredibly stupid, Pepper took fury aside and just eviscerated him in just the calmest, most rational way ever. And he didn’t have a choice.”
“I can’t wait to meet Pepper,” Steve said. “She sounds like a real firecracker.”
“Pepper’s great,” Tony said with a grin, wistful at the thought of what could have been.
Except it wouldn’t have been. No matter how much they loved each other, even if Tony hadn’t been a guide, the moment he put on the suit it never could have ended any other way.
“The element,” Steve said gently, pouring reassurance to Tony through the bond. “It was for the Tesseract?”
“Yeah. And once I understood that, there was no way in hell I was going to let them do *anything* with it until I understood it better.”
He couldn’t be responsible for something like that. Not even during his most hedonistic days had he been that reckless. He’d seen his fathers notes, had seen reels of what weapons powered by even a fraction of its power. That SHIELD had even been considering doing something without further study was terrifying.
“Which is how you wound up studying the Tesseract,” Steve said.
“But how hard I had to fight to become a part of that project…how little access I still have to all the data,” Tony bit his lip and shook his head. “I don’t like it. I really don’t like it.”
Tony could feel the crystal focus of Steve in his mind, could feel the way he sorted through the information as it slotted into place. Not at all how Tony’s own process worked, but familiar enough to feel comfortable.
“You’ve been changing the data, haven’t you?” Steve asked him.
Tony nodded. There was no point in denying it. “Yeah. Jane and I…she’s the other person working on the study, well, she’s actually the one who brought it up.”
Jane Foster was one of Tony’s favorite people. He’d still been kind of messed up with it came to SHIELD, but there was no love lost when it came to her and SHIELD.
“She’s never given them clean data. Ever. She doesn’t trust them at all. I just helped her do it better. Enough to look usable, enough that they shouldn’t blow themselves up by accident, but not enough to do anything useful.”
Really, Jane was just the best. If Tony hadn’t been so miserable after the almost dying thing, they totally would have become the best of bros. He would get around to changing that as soon as he and Steve were out of isolation.
“Is it safe to trust Coulson?” Steve asked, and there was something pinched about his expression.
“Yes,” Tony said immediately, and then kind of wanted to scour his tongue. “I mean, the guys’ a really upright Sentinel. It would be hard to be anything else with that stick so far up his ass. And for all that Barton’s a pain, he’s alright.”
“But?” Steve said.
“They and Natasha are the only Sentinels and Guides in the program,” Tony said. “And even then, they only hired him because he wasn’t online when he joined. It’s policy not to employ Sentinels and Guides.”
And christ, the day he’d found that out still had his stomach in knots. Steve obviously knew what that meant, if they way he jerked upright was anything to go by.
“What?” he said, his voice broken.
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Tony agreed. “Really, really rotten if an organization all about Homeland security wants to keep them far away. I mean, the rest of alphabet soup is all over Sentinels and Guides. If SHIELD wants nothing to do with them…” Tony shook his head, all his hairs on end. “Honestly? I think the only reason Phil stays is because he feels like he needs to.”
“That it explains it then,” Steve said, and for all that he was rigid beneath Tony, and not in the fun way, his voice was still soft.
“Explains what?” Tony asked.
“That bullshit profile they put together on you. Natasha, the other Sentinel, she wrote it, didn’t she?”
“Yes?” Tony said, wondered what exactly that had to do with anything.
“If she’d had any training in profiling at all, her profile wouldn’t look like that. Just being a sentinel should keep her profile from looking like that. It’s obviously wrong on any number of fronts.”
Tony stared at him, confused.
“A mundie can let prejudice get in the way, but a Sentinel? No. Which means she fucked up on purpose. She was trying to keep you out of the program,” Steve said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
And when put like that, it was obvious. Because there was a reason Tony had trusted Natalie Rushman, and it wasn’t just because he was dying and she was attractive. She was a Sentinel, first and foremost, and for all that Tony had been sure that she was hiding something, his instincts had told him to trust her anyway.
He’d thought they’d lead him astray. But if he shifted his frame of reference just so…
“Fuck,” Tony said, feeling stupid. It wasn’t a feeling he was used to, and it wasn’t one he enjoyed. “Fucking hell.”
Tony gave the information a moment to sit, let it process. And once it had, he knew how to respond.
“I’m going to kick her ass,” he said. “Super spy or no, I’m going to find a way.”
Steve laughed, but Tony could feel the urgency thrumming beneath it all.
“What?” Tony asked, shifting so that he could see his Sentinel’s face, not yet familiar enough with his emotions to interpret properly.
“My need to protect the tribe is going crazy,” Steve said matter of factly. “Has been ever since you told me about the tesseract, but it’s only gotten worse on top of all the SHIELD stuff. Whatever it is they’re doing…” Steve’s blue eyes were hard, now.
Tony’s relief was so great it was practically palpable in the room. He knew that his time in Afghanistan, that what Obie had done to him had fucked him up. A part of him had been worried that maybe he’d been jumping at shadows, seeing ghosts where there were none.
To have Steve’s sentinel instincts backing him up? It meant that he wasn’t as crazy as he felt like he was. After all, it wasn’t paranoia if they really were out to get you.
“We’ll figure it out,” Tony said, turning so that he was straddling Steve’s lap instead of sitting on it, taking Steve’s face in between his hands. “We’ll figure it out, you and me.”
“You and me,” Steve said, a small smile cutting through the tension that still filled his thoughts. “Together.”
“Together,” Tony echoed.
He liked the sound of that.