Here’s a teeny update for you, hot off the keyboard.
Part one, two, three, four, five
Tony sat across from Barnes at the big table in Bruce’s lab, Bruce just off to left. After his terse explanation, Steve had excused himself from the room and headed for the shower. Tony huddled over a cup of hot cocoa. He felt shocky and cold, and there was a nagging sense at the back of his head that he was missing something. That something was 240 lbs of omega, but Tony pretended that he didn’t know what was bugging him.
Barnes had a mug of his own, but he was just toying with the handle. Tony could smell the butterscotch schnapps in it from the other side of the table, and for a moment his mouth watered. He wanted it so badly that he could almost feel the tingling numbness spreading down his chest. Shaking it off, he ducked down to take a sip from the cocoa.
“I guess this has happened before?” Bruce asked into the tense silence. Even stacked against Steve’s obvious unhappiness, he was still curious. Like usual, Steve was a scientific curiosity. Tony had very mixed feelings on the whole mess. When Barnes didn’t respond, Bruce tentatively pointed out, “He’s been awake for over five years.”
Tony had thought about that too. Most omegas went into heat once a year, and most were pretty regular out of puberty. He tried to think back to all of the falls he’d known Steve, and carefully examined each absence. Could he have been hiding it by sneaking off for a few days? Who had gone through his heats with him? Not Barnes – he’d been brought in barely 18 months before. Tony found himself stewing in agonized jealousy mingled with anger, and hurt. Steve could have told him.
Mouth twitching up in a humorless smile, Tony reminded himself that he hadn’t been very open the one and only time Steve had tried to talk tendencies with him. At the time, he’d thought he’d been justified in shutting the conversation down – and he was, he didn’t owe that to anyone – but now… well, maybe it would have gone differently if Tony had known.
“It’s only happened once, ‘sfar as I know,” Barnes grumbled, finally taking a drink from his cocoa. He gulped it down despite the heat and thumped it hard back to the table. “Thought it was a fluke.” He shrugged his shoulders awkwardly. Barnes had a natural – really, almost unnatural – grace in combat, but when he was out of the field, his shoulders moved stiffly and unevenly.
“Sounds like it’s not a comfortable subject,” Bruce said. “But if you can give me some details, I might be able to help him. Not,” he hastened to add, “the details, just…” He twisted his thumbs together over the table and tried to give Barnes an encouraging smile.
Barnes grunted. “We were on mission. He was acting weird, but he’d gone almost a hundred hours without sleep so we just thought… Even supersoldiers have limits, right? And then when we were 60 miles behind enemy lines, he just…” Barnes waved vaguely in the direction of the common room – at least where the common room would be if it weren’t two floors below them. He shifted uncomfortably. “We tied him up, gagged him, kept watch. Three days later, we completed the mission and went back to camp.”
Tony’s jaw dropped open and his blood turned to steam in his veins. “You tied him up and gagged him?” He hissed.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Barnes said, but his eyes were glued on the table and his shoulders curved slowly inward. “We have all the consent forms, and ….” Barnes waved at the computer monitors around the room as if they encompassed all the progress omega rights had made in the last several decades. He directed a faint glare at Tony. “But we weren’t savages. We weren’t going to… Christ. It wouldn’t have mattered anyways. I was the closest thing to an alpha in the unit, and I couldn’t have held him down.” He lifted his chin like he was daring Tony to suggest it had been a failing on his part.
“You don’t leave an omega tied up and gagged for three days,” Tony said stubbornly. His spine had slowly uncurled throughout Barnes’ excuses, and he found himself thrusting his chest out.
Barnes curled further forward, chin tilting down and to the right. His eyes went glassy and he got very still. Before Tony could decide what to do with the submission – he didn’t want it, he hated it when glimpses of The Asset peeked through Barnes’ bristly exterior – the door opened. Steve stepped in, freshly showered and still damp. His shirt clung lovingly to his chest and stretch tight over his abs, transparent in splotches where he hadn’t quite caught all the water.
“They didn’t have a choice,” Steve said. He didn’t look the least bit abashed that he’d been eves dropping. He crossed his arms over his chest, set his feet in a solid stance, and watched Tony. “Stop bullying him.”
“I’m not –”
“– He’s not bullying me,” Barnes finished with an affronted huff.
Righteous rug torn out from under his feet, Steve hovered uncertainly. His arms relaxed, but his hands didn’t make is back to his sides. They tightened and relaxed on his ribs, giving him an air of vulnerability that was severe odds with all the muscle Tony didn’t think was on display by accident. Steve looked between the three of them, and then to the fourth mug sitting covered to Tony’s left. Tony nudged it toward him, and he finally relaxed enough to creep closer.
“How are you feeling?” Bruce asked once Steve had appropriated the mug and clambered onto a stool.
“Frustrated,” Steve hissed, and then winced. He tried to give Bruce an apologetic smile, but it came out an uncomfortable grimace.
Tony caught himself leaning toward Steve’s side and forced himself back. Charged silence fell. At a glance, Tony could tell that Bruce was fit to burst with questions, and Barnes wanted to be absolutely anywhere else. For his part, Tony wasn’t sure if he would have been happier in caveman mode, dragging Steve back to his lair by one leg, or far away from the whole mess.
Steve made an unhappy noise. “I never went into height before the serum,” he said finally. He squirmed on the stool and dragged one fingernail over the lip of the cup. “I was too skinny and too sick. I didn’t care – it wasn’t something I really wanted anyway. After the serum?” He looked down at his mug. His shoulders jumped in a short burst of laughter. “One would assume that an alpha would be free of heats.”
“Whoever this ‘One’ asshole is obviously never met you,” Barnes muttered.
At least it got a fleeting smile out of Steve. “We never told anyone,” he said so quietly that he could have been talking to his chocolate. He straightened up with reluctant effort and looked at Tony straight in the eye. “I attacked them, Tony. It was like I was outside of my body, like I had no control. If I’d been alone with anyone…” He shuddered, face going pale. “It took every one of them to hold me down long enough to get me restrained, and then I just started…”
“Keening,” Barnes provided softly. “Worst noise I’d ever heard.”
Steve flinched, and then turned the motion into a shrug. “We were behind enemy lines, and I was too far gone to understand why making noise was bad. If they hadn’t gagged me, we all would have been killed or captured. So that was it, and then it was done. No big deal.”
Tony just stared at him, trying to process it. No big deal? Not only had he gone into heat in an uncomfortable environment to begin with, but he’d gone through three days of heat gagged and bound? Tony tried to picture them stuffing him into a tent and how much strain it would have been on everyone involved. He felt an uncomfortable shudder lodge in between his shoulder blades and tried to knock it loose without success. It sat there, clutching at his spine and ratcheting up his general agitation.
Drawing in a deep breath and letting it out as a heavy sigh, Steve took a gulp of his cocoa. He set the mug down very carefully, and then nodded to himself and looked up. Miserably, he said, “Just put my room on lockdown. Though someone might want to tie me up. Just in case.”
“No,” Tony hissed without thought.
Barnes straightened up as well, though he didn’t say anything one way or another. His eyes fastened on Steve’s unhappy face. At the opposite end of the table, Bruce shifted uncomfortably. He made an aborted gesture to touch Tony’s arm, and then hummed.
“You can’t actually tell him ‘no,’ Tony,” Bruce pointed out gently.
Tony glowered. “I know that,” he snapped. Heat settled just behind his sternum, and then flushed up his face. He met Steve’s wary gaze. “You don’t have to,” he tried to explain, but his tongue felt clumsy and it was struggle to hold the nausea down. He kept flashing back to a dirty cave and scrape of sandy grit at the corners of his mouth.
“I could hurt you,” Steve said softly. “I could hurt you badly.”
Aiming for light and teasing, Tony said, “Who’s the alpha here anyway?” He missed light and teasing by about six miles, and ended up somewhere in the territory of annoyed and desperate. He drew in a calming breath, banishing the specter of hot sand and the scent of burning metal. “If you want to do it alone, I’m not going to stop you. But you don’t have to, and hey – convenient, willing alpha on hand. What more you could ask for?”
For a second, Steve looked like he had an answer to that question, but he let it go. Tony couldn’t express how much he hated the idea of Steve – of anyone, but especially Steve – going through heats like that. He knew they would have tie him up if Steve decided to ride it out. Any omega in heat was enough of a handful, but a supersoldier? A locked door wasn’t going to keep him isolated, and Tony didn’t have a supersoldier-proof vault to stick him in. He felt Bruce’s eyes on the side of his face, but he didn’t return the gaze. Tony’s opinion on Steve’s heat matter exactly not-at-all-percent, and what he wanted mattered even less. He noticed that his knuckles had turned white on the mug, and then noticed Barnes’ noticing him. He let the mug go.
“How long will this…” Steve made a vague gesture down to himself. His lips curled as he continued, “Interrupter last?”
Bruce shrugged. “For a typical omega, the effect varies from just knocking the cycle off by a few months, to a kind of a reset, and they might not go into heat again for a year. For you?” He spread his hands as if to prove they were empty. “I’m honestly a little surprised it’s lasted this long.”
Steve nodded miserably. He looked over at Barnes, who just looked back at him with a tight jaw. Tony finally realized that between the two of them, Steve would probably prefer Barnes. The only reason he’d come to Tony in the first place was that he’d been the only option. Barnes was only slightly a-ten, but Steve might not care. Physically, Barnes would be more likely to keep up with him. Tony surprised himself with the surge of anger and jealousy that thundered out of him. Barnes hadn’t been there to walk Steve through the complexities of living in the 21st Century, or to answer his weird questions on every random topic from “What’s Lulcatz?” to “What’s your opinion on Ronald Regan?” Barnes hadn’t been the one Steve had come whimpering to, or the one who’d spent most of the day on the couch with him.
My biology does not control me, Tony reminded himself sharply. He’d lived his life by those six words, and it wasn’t not the time to go the easy way so he could blame it on pheromones later. He kept quiet, and tried to stay still so he didn’t inadvertently interrupt whatever silent communication best friend thing they were doing. Bruce caught his eye, and they did some silent communication science bros thing themselves. Bruce’s eyebrows wanted to know if he was okay. Tony lifted a shoulder uncertainly. Bruce nodded sadly, his lips pulling together and then down.
“I want someone on hand to restrain me if I go too far,” Steve announced. “And maybe you and I should talk alone for a while.”
Bruce nodded agreeably, but he didn’t move until Barnes slid off his stool and grabbed him by the sleeve.
Blush, Bruce said, “Oh, right. There’s… Jarvis has the consent forms. If you. Well…” He gestured awkwardly between them. “You better have them on file before.”
Steve tried to give him an encouraging look, but mostly he just looked frightened. “Thank you, Bruce.”
“Sure,” Bruce said. He pushed his glasses up his face and let Barnes lead him out of the room.
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