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A helping hand

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Steve stops and crouches.

There's something behind the trees, something, not quite lurking but hiding, almost waiting for something to happen, something inevitable. He's been stood here for five minutes now, waiting patiently.

He braces himself and grips the knife even tighter. Then-

He pounces from behind the thick tree roots and stares.

There's a small ball of fluff, no bigger than the space he'd create if he cupped his hands. It doesn't appear to be moving but on inching closer, the blond realises the fluff is covered in dirt and-

-blood.

There's a small puddle of blood. A trail snakes out from behind the ball, sadistically paving the red journey of this tiny thing.

After a moment of hesitation, Steve tilts his head to one side and sheaths his knife, dropping his big woven bag to the floor. He shucks off his shirt and trousers quickly and crouches, letting his limbs morph into a familiar stance. He assembles his form-a big alpha white wolf that's nearly waist height with the average male. An unusually large shift.

He shakes his fur out and carefully approaches the ball, crouching gently and finally, bringing his face closer, breathing in it's scent.

Then he jerks back in shock.

It's an omega wolf pup. It must be a shifter who's been newly born and has just discovered his shift, getting lost from its pack, but then getting attacked viciously. Some awful predator perhaps, that saw an easy target and tried to shred it to pieces.

He can see parts of the pup's brown fur missing, clumps ripped out, torn, leaving horrible scabs that would need a long time to heal. Teeth marks litter it's snout that's carefully tucked close into its belly as if to protect itself from more blows. The pups eyes are closed and it doesn't appear to be moving. It's sweet scent is so faint under the blood that Steve actually worries that this omega might already be dead.

That worry spurs him and he whines and pats the ground near the little wolf, hoping for a response. Nothing happens and then Steve whines louder and paces around it before settling on the ground and curling his body around it to hide it away. Ever so carefully, he nudges the omega's tail with his snout and tries to wake it up.

Hello? Can you hear me?

Steve's heart rate is starting to escalate startlingly at the silence but then he thumps his tail with pride when the little one's ear twitches. He sniffs its tail again.

Yes. That's it, little one. I'm here to help you. Can you hear me?

...he-hello...

The white wolf feels his tail lift into the air and wag wildly. Finally! A response!

Hello! My name is Steve! What's your name?

The pup blinks its eyes open and Steve's tail drops again in horror. Tears begin to leak out of the pup's dim brown eyes as it starts to whimper. It's small belly moves up and down with each quick breath but Steve instantly realises the pup's chest is also bleeding from a long cut that runs from the top of its chest to the tip of its belly. It's breathing is rapid and the pup is clearly going into shock.

Hey...it'll be okay.

M-my chest...I-it h-hurts...

More tears leek and the small being sniffs, raising its head to reposition it further into its belly, curling its thin tail around himself. Inside the safe wall that Steve's powerful body provides, this omega shivers and bleeds with a dying scent and doesn't make a move to save itself.

Why have you not called for help?

N-no one would come...I t-tried...got tired...its alright...

Steve growls loudly at that in rage. This pup quakes in pain, calling out while the world carries on and no one gives a damn. Casting a heavy shadow, he leans over the pup and licks the wounds gently, ensuring that as much of the wounds are covered as possible by his tongue. He doesn't want any of these wounds to get infected out here. Alpha saliva is better at healing than a lot of things.

Whines and shivers come from the omega and it starts to uncurl with each lick, it's breathing starting to rest a bit. Steve caries on, knowing that his healing gene will help relieve some of the pain.

...Thankyou...my name is Tony...

Steve pauses in his grooming and steps over the pup completely, licking its tail now. God, what sick brute tried to rip its tail!? If they'd been successful, the pup would've never walked again. Who would be so cruel!?

Tony. That's a lovely name. Are you a newborn omega?

He sends the thought through but keeps licking the wounds clean. The omega sighs and lets its body go totally limp on the forest floor.

Thankyou. Y-yes. I turned last night. But my father and I had an argument so I left. D-didn't like my shift.

How could he dislike it? Were you attacked when you left your pack?

The cub lifts its head slowly and watches his cuts leak more blood sluggishly despite getting groomed by the massive alpha. Instinctively, he lifts a paw at Steve's fluffy underbelly to try and mimic some form of grooming.

He had the pack come after m-me. I couldn't get away in time so they t-tried to s-slaughter me. They succeeded I think. I d-don't think I will survive now.

The alpha stops and circles around again till he is crouched down face-to-face with the omega. Carefully he hazards a lick between its small ears, pushing himself up when the omega whines and drops its head back to the ground as if dizzy. Tony can barely keep his head up.

Tony. Look at me. The alpha commands, forcing his mind speak through, even though the link is fading.

Tony opens his eyes to half mast but doesn't lift his head up. A bad sign.

Thankyou...for not letting me be alone...you're really kind...I was really scared before...

Even the cub's mind voice is dimming. Fading away. It's tail twitches against the ground in gratitude, despite it barely having any energy left to do so and little tears fall to the ground.

I'm cold...

The whisper resonates in the huge wolf's mind and Steve howls in rage, hoping one of his pack members will hear and prepare for his arrival, and opens his mouth wide, scooping up the omega into his mouth. He makes sure to keep it carefully held and applies no pressure around its flank with his teeth. He tastes the sharp tang of blood on his tongue but he pays it no mind and turns around, launching himself into a full run. He doesn't care about his things left behind or his hunt for food or that his pack has limited resources. He will save this omega even if it means he has to cross oceans to do it.

Stay with me Tony. I will help you. You won't die today.

Faster than he's ever moved in his life, he runs to the pack base. Bruce would know what to do. Right now, it was down to him to get the pup to the medic.

 


 

When he arrives at the door to the borrow of his pack, he carefully sets the pup down on a soft patch of grass and stretches out. Once he morphs back into his human form, he bangs on the door hard.

"Bruce! Bucky! Quick, I need some help here!"

While he waits for the sounds of scurrying to get closer, he bends down and pulls Tony into his arms, gently shaking him in his arms to rouse him.

"Tony? Can you open your eyes? I've brought you to my pack home. We'll get you stitched up, don't worry."

A small mewl escapes the pup as Steve holds it close to his naked chest and stands tall, angling himself away from the wind. The front door clicks and opens, revealing Bucky, with bed hair as tall as a cockatoo's. The secondary alpha looks slightly frantic though, like he'd known to expect the worst. Despite that, he tries to hide it with a smirk.

"I swear punk, this better be an emergency, because I did not wake up to be dragged for a morning hunt."

He knows Bucky's trying to diffuse the situation but it gets his back up. Steve bares his teeth and shoves past the soldier's metal arm.

"I take it you heard my call? Where's Bruce?"

The smile vanishes and Bucky's brow furrows. "I did. We thought you'd been hurt so Bruce prepped the medical area. I was gonna come find you to see if you-what is that?"

"This-" Steve lifts his crossed arms up. "-is Tony. He's been hurt badly. He's the reason I came back."

Pity fills his friends eyes when he sees the matted fur, and Steve braces himself because he knows that look. He's seen it enough times in the war. "Steve, we can't help every animal out there. I wish we could but after the last mission, we're low on resources and-"

"Bucky he's not an animal. He's a newborn omega. A shifter. His own pack did this because he was omega I think."

Bucky reels back at that with a snarl before schooling his features and holding his arms out.

"Give him to me. I'll get him to Bruce right now-" but Steve already starts making his way downstairs to the scientist's lab. They'd invested in a small medical area in that lab after the team kept coming back with injuries and they were struggling to find nearby hospitals after missions.

If Tony survives, Steve will invest in twenty medical areas.

He barges through the glass doors and charges up to the scientist, his secondary alpha traipsing after him.

"Stevie, I was gonna say I'll take the omega while you put some clothes on please! Where is the coverage!?" Bucky yells as he rushes behind Steve and whacks his back with a towel that appears out of nowhere.

The blond soldier ignores the punk and holds Tony out to Bruce.

"Please help him Bruce. He's one of our kind but he's been hurt because he's omega. Please, he won't survive otherwise."

Bruce, a short scruffy beta with a kind heart, assesses the trio and then tears his goggles off, tucking them into his lab coat and reaches out to settle a hand on Tony's neck.

"Get some clothes on Steve." He mumbles, adjusting his glasses. "His pulse is low. Blood loss." Bruce looks up. "What's his name?"

"Tony."

Bruce nods and leans in. "Tony? Tony, can you hear me? Move an ear if you can hear us?"

The three wait tersely in silence for a response. Bucky opens his mouth to say something but Steve silences him with a hand. They wait.

Finally, Bruce smiles a bit when Tony's left ear twitches down.

The room picks up and they migrate to the medical bed in the corner which is all set up and Bruce settles Tony on top. In the meantime, Steve takes the towel and wraps it around his waist to save what little remained of his dignity.

At seeing the full extent of the injuries, Bruce swears and settles a blanket over the pup.

"We need him to turn human. I can treat him better that way and see more clearly."

Bucky shakes his head slowly while Steve straightens the thick quilt out more. "I don't think he has the energy for it. And in his current state, it'll hurt to shift."

"If he doesn't, I'm not sure I can save him. I want to increase his chances as best I can. This equipment fits humans only. He needs to shift."

The Winter Soldier tuts and glares. "It's not fair. Scum appear and ruin some poor pup's life just because he's omega. It's not right and someone should go and teach these people-" Steve swings a hand out to grab at Bucky's shirt collar before he can run off and try to harass some innocent bystander on the street.

"Calm yourself jerk. You're not leaving unless it's to get supplies for this pup. Until then-" Steve's eyes darken and he bares his teeth, sharp canines showing. "You wait for me. I'm first in line to tear them apart."

"Alright enough alpha posturing, both of you. Tony still needs to shift."

The alphas break away from their shared look. Steve rests a hand on Tony's head and brushes his fur back gently.

"Tony. Can you please shift for us? We want to help you."

Steve watches with a detached sort of horror as Tony trembles and tries to shift. He's seen this before. It clearly hurts the poor thing to even move, let alone force his bones to change.

Failing to shift, the small wolf whines and coughs out a bit of blood. It's clear he's getting worse.

"I'll shift. Try and push him through." Steve informs them and drops the towel and becomes a huge white wolf again.

He leaps onto the bed, ignoring Bruce's shriek and curls around the pup's head again, like in the forest.

You must shift. Please, it's the only way to save you.

I-I'm trying. It hurts so much-

You must do this Tony. Please, I know it hurts but we want to save you. You have to try.

Drops of blood begin to sink into the mattress as Tony twitches his ears again and tries once more. His whole body shakes from pain and he lets out a strangled noise that starts to sound more distinctly human after a moment. And suddenly there he is in human form.

A young man with familiar brown hair, who looks to be in his late twenties appears before them, flat on the bed and smeared with dirt and scars. Most of his body is hidden under the blanket but judging by the number of cuts on his upper chest, the injuries are likely to be consistent. Steve observes the styled goatee that he seems to be sporting and the long eyelashes that fan over his sickly pale cheeks evenly. He's sweaty and dazed and hot with fever. But still-

Steve feels his tail lift up. What a beautiful young man!

"Hey, hey. Tony? My name is Bruce, I'm a medical expert. I'm here to help."

Tony's eyes flutter open and to everyone despair, his eyes appear glossy, hardly tracking Bucky walking over to Bruce, like he isn't totally there.

"Bruce?...Nice to meet you." His voice is deeper than Steve expected under the rough coughs. An unexpected surprise.

Bruce smiles but reaches for the oxygen mask attached to the canister with a tight grip. Restraint.

"I'm just gonna give you some oxygen and give your cuts a look if that's okay?"

"Okay..." The man whispers, and lets Bruce guide the oxygen mask over his nose and mouth.

"Do you have any allergies Tony? Anything I should know medically?" He asks and puts an Oxygen saturation monitor on Tony's finger to monitor heart rate.

"I don't know..." the man blinks drowsily and lets his eyelids droop, jolting Bruce to shake his shoulders firmly and press a hand over his chest.

"Tony, are you with us?"

"Mmm that alpha? The-the one that found me?"

On que, Steve peeps his wolf head over Tony's head, giving him a large wolfish grin upside down.

He licks Tony's hairline and pants, pleased when Tony releases some of the tension on his shoulders.

Good. Tony should relax. He's got a very strong alpha to protect him.

Tony tries to reach a hand up to stroke the alpha but Bucky firmly pushes it down.

"Relax Tony. You can stroke him later, believe me he's not going anywhere. His eyes are on you."

It's true. Steve is going to watch over this omega and maybe, integrate him into the pack. He's acutely aware of their low resources but he firmly believes this is worth it. The omega needs pack protection otherwise there's a risk he could be kidnapped for breeding or worse. And the fact that it was his own father that caused this-

"Tony, I'm gonna push the blanket down to your waist if that's okay? I'll start with the top."

The omega nods and lets Bruce roll the blanket down to his waist. His thin chest rises up and down with exertion and the long cut is more obvious now that fur doesn't mask it. Steve paws Tony's fluffy brown hair and whimpers. Tony's so thin it looks like he's been starved for years.

This time Tony does reach up to scratch behind Steve's ear. His fingers feel cold and shake against his fur and Steve leaps off the bed to nudge the radiator nearby. Bucky gets the hint and turns it on while Steve resumes his vigil on the bed.

Steve feels a weird sense of closeness, or protection over this man, like Tony has become his responsibility and he takes it gladly. He found this ball of fluff and he must protect it.

Nudging Bruce's hand towards the largest cut makes the scientist huff and shove Steve slightly but he seems to undertstand Steve's urgency. He begins to clean the wounds but it stings and Tony's eyes water. Steve licks the tears away but otherwise can't do much.

He hates feeling so helpless. He hated it back then and he hates it just as much now.

"Bucky, can you go and get some bandages? And some more of this medication?" Bruce hands a list of things for the soldier to get and resumes his work. Once Bucky's gone, Bruce leans over Tony again and asks quietly;

"Tony, I need you to tell me honestly. Are there any wounds down there-that you don't want-that you feel is private?" The words are said and Steve freezes. His body goes tense and hackles rise. He squeezes his eyes shut and prays to whichever god is out there that no one has touched this omega like that. That no one has hurt him so badly that they've ruined that for him.

His naivety shows. Tony's face is a blank stare until suddenly he catches on and shakes his head vigorously, eyes wide. "No, no. I'm fine, they-they didn't do that. My legs are a bit torn up but-nothing else. You can see if you need to."

Steve breathes and licks Tony's shoulder this time. That hasn't been taken from him, thank the lions. It would be awful if that hope and youth was stolen from him before he could experience a heat with a mate to look after him. Show him what it's supposed to be like.

The beta lets out a sigh too and runs hand through Tony's hair. "Good, okay, that's good. I'll just sort your legs out then and after you can sleep. Do you want someone to stay with you?"

Tony says nothing while Bruce finishes sewing up the last chest wound but he looks up hopefully. Steve's chest rumbles like he's laughing and he paws at Tony's hair, earning a small smile from the omega.

Steve's heart leaps and he yelps eagerly over Bruce's laugh.

"I guess Steve's staying. He can keep an eye on you while you sleep and we can talk some more after. How does that sound?"

Bruce gives Tony a gentle look of encouragement like he can say no to any of it and Steve just wants to hug the beta for being so gentle. This is right. This is how omegas should be treated. Like treasures.

Tony nods tiredly and curls his hand around Steve's warm furry neck, perhaps subtly seeking comfort. "That sounds great. Thank you for everything. You've done so much for me, I don't know how I'd even return the favour."

Bruce shakes his head. "You're very welcome. But say that when I've actually gotten you on your feet. Rest up. Steve will be sleeping next to you."

 


 

 

Chapter Text

 After a night of tossing and turning with fever, Tony finally manages to get some restful sleep before dawn. By the time the sun rises, Bruce is already awake and making his way to the med bay. Of course, he has to stop and smile at the sight the alpha and omega pair makes.

Steve's wolf form is stretched and plastered against Tony's side, his furry white paws half resting in Tony's hair. Tony's hair, neck and forehead has a sheen that indicates Steve's been grooming him-scenting him throughout the night by the looks of it. And it becomes really obvious when Bruce takes a step forward. His nose twitches and he laughs.

Tony smells like Steve now. The possessive alpha has probably been trying to stake a claim on the omega without even realizing it. Pack initiation is certainly done if their leader plans to...

The question hovers in Bruce's head. Can they afford to look after another in the pack? They all knew they were low on everything from coins to coffee after the last mission and they hadn't had a lucky break yet. Bruce considers if it's time to call in a few favors or gather the other half, but he files the ideas for later.

He taps the wolf's nose till he wakes and shoves him lightly. "Such an alpha. Steve, he smells like you."

The wolf grumbles, half dazed and gives Tony's neck another lick and Bruce sighs and pulls on gloves, hoping Tony doesn't mind the amount of slobber on his body.

"Shush. He's still asleep. It'd be good to let him get some rest." Bruce rests a hand gently on his forehead and makes a record in his notes, looking pleased.

"His temperatures gone down a bit so the medications' worked. And he's looking a bit better already. Who knows? Maybe the alpha in the room is helping."

Steve grumbles some more but finally jumps off the bed to let Bruce look at the bandages. It's relatively good news, all things considered. A few of the infected cuts seem less red and clean in comparison to the night before. Some others are inflamed and cause Tony's muscles to tense in his sleep when touched.

"The way he's going, he'll probably recover. I don't know about his shift form but..." He looks at the alpha, eyes shining with relief. "No major infections yet. At least he'll survive, I think. He's a fighter, this one."

Steve growls lowly from where he's sprawled lazily on the floor and lifts his head and Bruce nods. Yes, the omega is very strong. They can tell.

"Lets hope he carries on this way. Someone's gonna have to help him learn how to walk and groom, all the shifter norms. His parents won't teach him now and he's gonna need to wait to recover before he can get used to it. So Steve, if you don't mind-" but the wolf is already standing again and pawing at Tony's toes. Bruce takes it as a yes.

"Great. We can tell him after a few days when he wakes up. I think he'll be happy to know he has somewhere to stay."


 

"Okay."

"...Tony. Look-"

"No, it's okay. Really it's-its fine."

Tony has been recovering for a few days and it seems to be going okay, all things considered. But he hasn't been able to shift. Today marks day five and Bruce is concerned that something's wrong behind the scenes. He'd thought Tony was healing just fine but...

"Tony, usually when someone struggles to shift, it means they're recovering from trauma or they're malnourished. That's usually it. And that's reversible." Bruce tries to sound reassuring but both Steve and Bucky are standing behind him, muscles tense and body rigid. The air feels heavy and sour. They're all thinking it. No one wants to say it.

"Tony, something may be wrong with the way your form has recovered. But it's-"

"You mean I won't be able to shift anymore. Even though I've only shifted once." Tony says quietly, eyes staring at the hands in his lap. He's slouched on the edge of the medical bed but it's like he's in a world of his own. He still looks pale and his eyes are dim, like he's-like he knows to expect the worse. Like it's all he's ever known.

Bruce swallows and kneels down in front of him, trying to make eye contact with the younger man. "It's too early to tell. But we're gonna keep trying okay? If you can shift just once-"

"It's not gonna happen. Like I said. It's-it's fine. It's-" Tony laughs out loud and smiles at Bruce but it's weak. "It's probably for the best. I'm omega after all-"

Bucky looks concerned and Steve tenses, clasping a hand on Tony's shoulder. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that." Steve's grip tightens but his eyes soften. "Please."

Tony shrugs and peaks at him from under his bangs, a spark appearing for a moment and Bruce wonders if maybe Tony's beginning to hope. And then he too hopes that there's more life to this quiet omega that has clearly been restricted. That Tony, who has clearly been tamed and trained to know his place can still bite back and still feel his worth.

"But-"

The light dies within a second and the group doesn't know how to react. Bruce doesn't know how to react.

"I have no pack, I don't know what to do or-" Tony doesn't blink but Bruce can see the tell-take shimmer of tears. The omega swallows and looks back down. "-or where...where to go."

The four are silent in the lab, a quiet hum of machinery in the background to remind them that something needs to be said. Bruce is just about to suggest a private discussion with Steve when out of nowhere, since he's barely said anything, Bucky nods his head and folds his hands behind his back.

"You could stay here. I think it's a great idea, in fact-" he claps Steve's shoulder and starts to smile. "-our leader has already integrated you. You've already been scented."

The penny drops and they all stare at Bucky's shear audacity but then again, Bruce figures Bucky's always been especially good at reading Steve. Their leader had probably been planning this from the moment he first saw Tony. Gazes are exchanged while the omega touches his neck briefly, clearly just remembering the new scent that's been lathered on.

"Bucky, you-you're absolutely right." Steve shifts his slowly broadening smile over to Tony again and kneels beside Bruce.

"Tony, will you do us the honour of being our omega? We'll treat you right, I promise?"

"...We've just discussed how I may never be a wolf and you want to integrate me? Why?"

Steve let's a bit of red seep into his eyes and he leans into Tony's personal space. He clearly wants absolutely no confusion over this.

"You are worth it. Omegas are precious but that has nothing to do with anything. I believe you are worth pack. And as your new leader, you're going to have to trust my say."

"...we've literally only just met." Tony replies but he squeezes Steve's fingers in his hand gently. There's doubt in his eyes but hidden under that is a quiet glimmer of hope. It's a silent answer in itself and Bruce sees Steve take it eagerly. He smiles and squeezes back.

The fragile feeling in the air disperses. Bucky turns around and heads for the door, hands in his pockets like they've just finishing talking about dinner rather than Tony's new life, but Bruce can already see the soldiers' mind running at a mile a minute.

"I'll go hunt then. We're gonna need some food for our new pack mate. He's still recovering."



Bucky watches their newest recruit. He isn't pleased with what he sees.

The new omega hasn't been integrating much since he arrived. Confining himself to the med bay, he gives one word answers to Bruce and doesn't complain about anything or anyone.

It's not good. Even Steve isn't sure what to say and he's easily the most socially aware in the pack. Numerous awkward attempts at bringing it up have failed. Tony doesn't say anything more about his family either.

After another week of no action, Bucky decides enough is enough and drags Steve back down to the medical bay where Tony is sat upright in his bed and drawing something on a piece of parchment. The omega is generally looking a bit pinker these days and his fever broke the night before so Bucky is confident that this is the best time to bring up another attempt at shifting. Tony isn't gonna feel better if he's stuck in bed and constantly worrying about whether he'll be a wolf or not.

Thus Bucky finds himself walking up to the busy omega with their pack leader in tow. Tony's clearly concentrating deeply because he doesn't look up when the door opens and if anything, he leans over the parchment further. Bucky coughs lightly to get Tony's attention and notes how surprised he looks. He also notes how quickly Tony stuffs the parchment under the bed sheet over his lap and yanks it up.

Interesting. The omega likes drawing things but doesn't want the alphas to know. He gets invested deeply. Does Bruce know?

Bucky lets his shoulders relax and let's his arms fall casually against his sides. Appearing threatening will get him nowhere and besides, Tony is pack now so Bucky needs to look after him. He smiles and nods his head at the new pack-mate.

"Hey, how's it going?"

Tony smiles but his expression is grim. "Good. Bruce said my fever broke yesterday so I'm out of the danger zone."

Steve grins warmly from the foot of the bed. "That's excellent. Keep it up. You must be exhausted though so we should probably let you get back to slee-"

"Have you tried to shift since our talk?" Bucky cuts in, not missing a beat. The alphas had discussed this before and they had agreed to not upset Tony but the issue still stood. Bucky wasn't going to let Steve avoid this just because it wasn't necessarily going to be good news.

The mood sinks instantly and Tony looks past Bucky's shoulder. "No. No I haven't."

"Do you wanna give it a try?"

"Bucky-"

Bucky holds a hand up to stop Steve. He wants to hear what Tony says.

The omega sighs and shrugs. "It's too early in my recovery to try it."

"I spoke to Bruce and he's assured us you should try to shift whenever you can. Until you finally do."

"No no, it's definitely too early. I'm not ready."

"Tony, just try." He says, folding his arms. Stubborn can be out-stubborned.

The omega looks back and forth between the alphas before squeezing his eyes shut tight. He remains that way for one whole minute before he opens his eyes and shakes his head gently.

"No luck." He whispers and fiddles with the bed sheet, looking just about ready to crawl back under. Knowing how Steve is, Bucky expects Steve wants to probably cuddle him under it or something.

But that's why Bucky's here. His mission is simple and he is not Steve.

He takes a breath.

"What's that you were drawing earlier?"

Suddenly he feels Steve's hard gaze on him but something tells him this is important to get out in the open. There's something about the way Tony was looking at the parchment that Bucky needs to understand. Something that may help Tony if he plays his cards right.

Tony shifts uncomfortably and looks at him warily. "Notes." He mumbles.

Bucky sticks his hand out. "Can I see?" He says and hears Steve step forward.

"Bucky, its fine if he doesn't want to show you-"

"Then I want him to tell me that and I'll respect it. He can say no." He retorts but keeps his body totally facing Tony who's looking cautious but also...curious.

Slowly, Tony reaches under the blanket and pulls them up, leaning over to hand them to Bucky. His body is hunched slightly in submission but there's something in his brown eyes, something fierce that catches Bucky off guard and only he can see it because Steve is behind them. But it's there.

Tony looks ready to fight.

Perfect.

He glances at the drawing before smirking sharply. "You know, I'm disappointed. What even is this?"

Tony hunches further inwards but his eyes flash with something. So Bucky keeps going.

"You gonna explain this? Can you even draw? ...What? Nothing to say? You gonna sit there and take it?"

"Bucky!" Steve shouts but Bucky ignores him.

"Or are you gonna fight back? You some kind of wannabe? You think you're-what? You're actually smart? You're going to have to do way better than that to-"

A bark stops him short. He drops the parchment and is instantly on the bed.

He curls his arms around the shivering pup and pulls it into his lap. The pup is buzzing with a nervous energy so Bucky instantly runs his warm hand over the fur to sooth him. No more anger.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean any of that. But sometimes a shift can be triggered by anger. And you're very brave so I needed to give it a try. But looks like it worked."

The pup continues to shiver but whines softly and Bucky lifts Tony up and gently rubs his cheek into Tony's fur.

"I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I promise you, that's the last time I'll ever talk to you like that. Ever. I didn't mean any of it."

"Buck." The Winter Soldier looks up and takes the small woolen blanket from a smiling Steve and wraps it around Tony gently. Then Steve runs upstairs to get Bruce because Tony has indeed managed to finally shift. Tony makes a content sort of purr and shudders in his blanket cocoon, letting Bucky hold him in his arms loosely. It's comfortable for them both.

The two wait quietly on the bed for Bruce and Steve to return and the silence drives Bucky to internally panic at what he's just done. He may have ruined a friendship with Tony before it's even started. God, he always thinks about the mission first-why cant he think of the consequences instead!? Hell, he might've-

A small lick on his cheek pulls him out of his thoughts and he startles. Then he looks down and smiles.

Tony, the small fluffy omega wolf, is licking at his metal arm and barking quietly at his reflection.

They'll be absolutely fine. Tony's already forgiven him.

"You know, in all honesty I actually wasn't expecting you to be able to draw so well. You're practically as good at Steve! Was that a robot you made or-?"


 

One, two. One, two. One, two-

The pup concentrates and waddles slowly on all fours, placing each paw down carefully and slowly pacing around the huge alpha, sat peacefully with legs sprawled out in the centre of the big empty training room.

Tony's been staying with them for about three weeks now and in that time Steve has learned a fair amount about the omega. He's learnt that Tony likes to build things (and take things apart. Bucky still misses his favourite chair). He's learnt that Tony likes to eat berries and sweet treats that give him an enormous amount of energy to do twenty things at once! Tony doesn't like to be idle. He's learnt that Tony lives for coffee and seems to have developed a concerning addiction, although he denies that he even knows what coffee is. Must be Bruce accidentally spilling coffee beans in a mug every night, clearly!

He's also learnt that Tony's mother passed a long time ago but that his father is very much alive and dislikes omegas intensely.

Tony's omega shift was delayed for some reason which made his father wary and finally, when he shifted at the late age of twenty-eight, his suspicions and fears were realised and he cast Tony out, hoping to have the omega killed quickly in the forest. Tony had tried running in his new form and did very well until he tripped on a thick tree root. The pack had caught him and bitten and scratched him, hoping to end his life to please their head alpha. One beta by the name of Yinsen had convinced them that the omega was dead, ending the onslaught early and so, they'd run off. A short while later Steve arrived. The rest was history.

The thought that a father wanted their son dead was sickening and none of the three members of the Avengers pack could understand it. But Tony seemed to take it, much like how he seemed to take everything, including his injuries, in stride. The shear level of resilience-it was incredibly praiseworthy.

So Tony, are there any other shifters you know?

I have this friend called Rhodey. He knows about my father and has always checked back with me.

Steve tilts his head.

But?

But he's really far. His pack is military. I only saw him when my pack went to meetings with the army.

And what was your pack's occupation?

Tony pauses abruptly and looks at the alpha with fierce eyes.

They're war profiteers. They build weapons and supply the war.

He grunts and turns, circling around Steve again with soft steps.

Sometimes this happens. Tony shows a brief glimpse of-of hatred towards his old pack. And while he's been here for some time, he's yet to even reveal his full name. The whole topic is hidden behind closed doors. But Steve needs to know more. They're pack now and Steve has looked after him-he's making an effort. Surely that means something?

You don't agree with it?

They take lives. My father wanted that for me too.

To take over?

But only if I was alpha. He said that if I was beta I could work within the pack, but if I was omega...well, you've seen what happened.

The huge alpha observes the omega pace around him softly and mentally shakes his head. A thick bandage has been wrapped around Tony's body to keep his cuts clean while he learns to walk as a wolf and his tail is wrapped carefully to ensure it heals properly. Bruce still isn't sure if there'll be any permanent damage but Steve prays for none and works towards it. All other bandages have been removed but clumps of fur are still missing and the pup is abnormally small, like he's been starved. His pack has not looked after him at all and his body shows it. And his breathing has been off for a while now. He runs out of breath quickly and wheezes quietly in the corner whenever it happens. The pup's stamina is way off and these thoughts make Steve's heart ache. Tony's had a difficult start as a shifter but by the looks of it, he's lived a difficult life.

You must've been scared.

Tony's observing the ground carefully, keeping an eye on the floor for anything that could trip him up.

Of?

Of what your shift would be. Both your parents were shifters so you must've known you'd be one.

Tony stops again but keeps his head down, ears flat and tail low.

I...I was. Between my father and his work mate, I was sure I wouldn't make it past twenty. My fathers work mate, Obadiah Stane absolutely hates me. He has a beta son so I think he wants him to take over. I was a threat I guess.

A thought strikes Steve and he lifts his head to watch Tony carefully. He wants to kick himself for not realizing it earlier but-

Tony...a week ago you told me your father wanted an alpha son because he was friends with a lead alpha from the war.

Yeah. He was really impressed by that alpha. He wanted that alpha as his son instead.

Steve blinks. He isn't sure he's breathed for the last minute.

What's your last name?

Excuse me?

Tony? What's your last name?

Tony jumps and nearly trips at the alpha's growl. He shivers and steps back a bit.

It's Stark. My name is Tony Stark.

Steve blows out a breath and tosses his head back, ears up and teeth bared with a snarl. Howard Stark had cast his son out because of Captain America, the legendary alpha shifter.

Tony was a Stark. The Stark family. His old mentor's son.

A small whine escapes from behind him and he jumps to all fours only to see the omega trying to limp and scuttle away from him and leave the room quietly.

Within seconds he reaches Tony and tucks his snout firmly under the omegas belly, lifting the pup and carefully balancing him on his snout in the air.

Tony shakes and squirms but Steve tilts his head, keeping the pup high in the air.

Let me go! Please, I'm sorry okay? I don't even know what I did.

Tony continues to apologize, even when Steve ignores him and sets him back down on their original spot. He stands tall over Tony, a huge alpha wolf dwarfing a small newborn omega pup and watches him with icy blue eyes.

You don't ever need to be afraid around me. I won't ever hurt you or ever let any harm come to you. You're mine to protect Tony, I found you.

He sets a paw on the pup's head and watches it's tail start to wag. He's not sure Tony even realizes he's doing it but it's happening. Tony's happy and showing it as a wolf for the first time.

Tony keeps watching him with big brown eyes but squeals when Steve leans down and butts him gently, urging him forward.

Keep moving. I want those leg muscles stronger. Then we'll go have dinner with the others.

Okay, okay! One, two, one-hey, stop swishing your tail in my face! Steve!


 

A ball of fluff tumbles through his bedroom door in a whirlwind of movement and Steve stands and stares at it in amazement.

Tony is jumping and bouncing around him eagerly, bandaged-tail wagging high and body thrumming with energy. He shoves against Steve's boot and scrapes his paws against it. It's the cutest thing Steve has ever seen.

"What's going on? Hey-okay, okay. You're very happy today, what's-"

"Bruce says he's pretty much all healed. And I promised him that if he could run on all fours without falling, I'd let him look at my arm." Bucky says as he appears and leans against the doorway of Steve's bedroom.

Steve laughs and leans down to pick Tony up, who's been trying to climb up Steve's leg and was starting to roll over his shoe, obviously trying to get his attention. Holding Tony carefully in crossed arms, he brings him close to his face and smiles when Tony licks his hand and nuzzles his neck.

"No wonder you're so happy. That's great news." Steve breaths out and smiles as Tony's fur tickles his face. Tony is clearly hyper right now and he wants to share the news with Steve.

The alpha's heart warms at the thought.

The pup leans away for a moment, shakes his fur out and proceeds to butt his nose against Steve's. It makes Steve realise that perhaps, Tony's actually gotten a bit bigger. The pup feels a bit heavier too, now that he thinks about it.

From the doorway, Bucky laughs at the duo, eyes bright with something Steve hasn't seen for a while, and steps forward, revealing a bundle of clothes from behind his back.

"Come on Tones. You can use Steve's bathroom to get changed, then you can tell him everything Bruce said." The soldier says and takes the bundle and leaves it in Steve's bathroom. Tony huffs and turns his head away and starts to bury himself in Steve's arms, not wanting to be disturbed. It looks like a cloud of fluff in Steve's arms and not for the first time, Steve worries that Tony may disappear under that much fluff. He strokes Tony's fur, marveling silently at the softness. His heart still aches however, when he comes across the patches where there's nothing growing. He prays that Tony's fur grows out fully soon. Hopefully Bruce has told Tony.

"Tony, go and change." Both alphas ignore the whine from the pup as it snuffles and suddenly leaps out of Steve's arms and bolts to the bathroom.

Once the bathroom door shuts, the smile fades. Letting his gaze fall serous, Steve steps forward. "Full recovery?" Steve means to say it confidently, but it comes out as a quiet question.

Bucky looks on sternly, smile vanishing and nods. He understands. They'd all been worried.

"Full recovery."

"Steve! Have you seen Bucky's arm!? It's amazing, who designed it!? And I'm better now too! I can't believe it!" Tony's voice floods through the door loudly and Steve tilts his head back.

"It's fantastic! I'm really glad Tony! It's great news!"

The bathroom door swings open and Tony storms out, tugging his shirt fully down and ruffling his hair. Then, to everyone's surprise, he launches himself at Steve from behind. Steve bends forward from the sheer momentum but manages to grasp the arms around his neck. His jaw goes slack and his eyes go wide. In the corner of his vision he sees Bucky do the same.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you-"

"Y-you're very welcome."

"Thank you, thank you. And thank you Bucky! Oh, and I need to thank Bruce, hold on!"

Between blinks, Steve feels Tony detach from him and tackle Bucky too. Then he dashes out of the room and runs down the stairs to the lab. It's strange to see Tony so damn energetic all of a sudden. He can be somewhat frantic but this-this is-

"He's never been that happy before has he? I bet if he was wolf right now, he'd start flying because his tail would be as fast as a fan."

Steve closes his mouth but his eyes stay wide. He shakes his head slowly and stares at the door, mind spinning with...something.

"No he's not."


 

It's been three months now and Tony has grown. He now reaches past Steve's knee and is able to run swiftly. His fur is starting to grow out now and although there's a long scar on his chest, it's fully healed and not causing him any bother. He's healthier than before and sturdier with curious bright eyes and a shiny brown coat is starting to become prominent, the patches starting to disappear. The only concern Steve has is with Tony's breathing. Sometimes he becomes breathless after too much movement and seems to struggle with long periods of action. It's slow progress but Steve still thinks there could be some improvement. It certainly doesn't stop Tony from doing what he wants. And as a human...

Tony's stunning. He's twenty eight and looks beautiful. He keeps his goatee well maintained and his body is looking healthier than before, light muscles all around and stronger ones starting to shape his abdomen. He's not as skinny as before and his skin is starting to take on a golden hue. Steve seems to recall that Howard married an Italian shifter so Tony's blood is mixed and it shows. All in all, very pleasing.

Which is why Steve doesn't let him leave the pack burrow often. And he certainly does not allow him to leave on his own.

"Come on Steve, I just want to go once! I won't make it a habit, I just want to see what it's like."

The leader of the pack raises an eyebrow and takes a sip of his drink, grimacing. He's accidentally drunk Bruce's herbal tea.

He pushes the mug away and folds his arms, leaning back from the dining table. "I said no Tony. You are too young to be going out and hunting by yourself. And the forest is not safe for anyone."

Tony tosses his hand up and huffs. "Bucky agrees with me you know. He says-"

"That you need to be trained first, not go off wildly on your own. You should listen more carefully."

The omega rolls his eyes and swirls his coffee. Steve winces when he spills it on the table. It's pretty expensive stuff.

"Sometimes you gotta run before you can walk."

"That literally makes no sense."

Suddenly Tony leans across the table and grabs Steve's hands. He tilts his head down and lifts his eyes up, lashes moving demurely. A highly submissive gesture.

Steve's eyes twitch. Sneaky omega. Where did he even learn that?

"Please Steve? I promise I'll be careful."

With an easy smile, Steve leans in and presses his forehead against Tony's. The omega blinks in surprise at the equally submissive gesture coming from the alpha.

"No."

Tony gapes and falls forward when Steve stands abruptly to make another coffee for the omega, feeling smug as ever. He feels for Tony though and hopes he'll stop leaving his mouth open like that. Bugs might fly into his mouth.

"Did you- was that-did you just-?"

"Hmmm? What was that?" Steve hums.

"Did you just submit to me?"

Steve shrugs and presses a filled mug into Tony's hands from behind. He keeps Tony's hands around it with his own and leans down to whisper into Tony's ear.

"You're more than just a wolf in the woods. You're my friend and I know you're doing really well and I know you don't see what I'm doing but I'm just worried about your safety. What if you get hurt? What if someone finds you? What if it's your old pack?"

He leans back and waits for Tony to turn around and see what he's trying to say without saying it.

That he cares about Tony a lot. That a part of him loves him in a way.

They stare at each other for a brief period of time, reading each other carefully. Then Tony curves his lips into a smirk and nods at Steve, pleased.

"You look good when you're protective. I can see why Bruce and Bucky keep you around. Good for the righteous soul. Guardian alpha is here to protect all."

Steve groans and steals the drink he just made from Tony, ignoring the satisfying whine he gets back. He finds Tony is a lot more sassy than before now and in a weird sort of way, he hopes this is truly Tony expressing himself. Initially Tony had been far too quiet and far too shy, making a big effort to not be seen or heard. Now he doesn't stop talking, waving his hands and telling his new pack members about a new trap he made for hunting, or an idea he has to improve Bruce's lab. It's brilliant when it's not overwhelming.

"I don't care. You still aren't going."

"Steve, you're thirty one. You're literally only three years older than me and you started hunting when you were twenty one! How is it less safe for me?"

"Because I shifted when I was sixteen. That was five years of learning how to be a wolf and growing first. Our shifter forms don't grow the same way we normally do. It's faster but requires a lot of effort. We have to control the animal instincts and learn how to be efficient. You're still learning and these forests are not safe. Plus I can defend myself."

The two glare at each other, neither prepared to back down when suddenly, Tony's face lights up. Here comes another idea and Steve braces himself for it. God, he wishes Tony would just drop it.

"You could go with me."

He sighs. "...Tony..."

"No, listen! You're an alpha, I'm an omega. If we're seen hunting together, people will assume I'm with you. No one will hurt me or try anything with me."

Steve has to hide how impressed he is. He hadn't realised Tony understood what he'd been trying to say. That as a young beautiful omega, he was greatly at risk. He also hadn't thought Tony would want him to go with him.

"Plus, you can do all the actual hunting, you know, the whole pouncing and stuff and I can watch and learn. And you could teach me how to fight. Would that work?"

Tony's shoulders are down and he leans back with folded arms but he bites his lips and fidgets and Steve can tell this is important to him. That Tony's desperate not to be totally reliant on others. He can understand that.

Pride floods his heart. Tony never fails to impress him.

"Okay."

A tentative grin spreads across Tony's face. "Yeah?"

He nods. "But I teach you to fight in hand to hand combat as well as shift fights."

"Yes!" Tony whoops and jumps out of his seat. "Oh this is gonna be awesome! I can't wait to tell Bruce and Bucky! Can we go soon?"

"We can go in a few weeks time, provided you get lots of rest tonight and eat plenty before each practice session. I don't want you passing out while we run. We'll spare everyday for three weeks first before I take you hunting." He says and steps off his chair to wash up the cups when he feel arms wrap around his waist, a warm breath between his shoulders.

"Thank you Steve." Tony says quietly into his shirt and tightens his grip. Steve has to stamp on his inner alpha when it purrs, absolutely delighted. They are not mates. Tony is pack and a close friend. Nothing more.

He clasps Tony's wrist and squeezes gently, hair falling over his eyes and hiding his burning cheeks. "Anytime Tony."


 

Chapter Text

They start practicing to fight and it leads to a lot of time outside in the garden. Tony is taught the basics of a hand to hand fighting style that Steve knew in the army and he's slowly taught to fight as a wolf.

Three weeks brings them to Tony's first hunt and the omega has no issues telling Bucky and Bruce how excited he is. Steve would find it cute if the whole affair didn't worry him so much.

Tony had been hurt in the forest once before. It wouldn't be pleasant to go back there again in Steve's opinion.

Nonetheless he takes Tony to the forest entrance and spots a rabbit. Ah they're already in luck!

Steve drops his hunting bag down and starts to strip. "Watch and learn. You can shift now too and leave your clothes by mine. Follow me."

Steve feels like he's being watched as he yanks off his thin shirt and pants and tucks them into the bag. When he turns, Tony is no where near ready. His mouth is slightly open and his eyes are blown like he's dazed.

Steve lifts an eyebrow and puts his hands on his hips. "Tony? You said you wanted to learn?"

Tony shakes himself out of it and they shift. Then Steve jerks his head at the unsuspecting meal.

That's our dinner. We need to catch it so first thing we need to learn is how to not be seen. This is what we do. Do as I do.

He crouches low and watches Tony do the same. Together they crawl forward by inches.

How can you move so quietly? You're huge! Big fat alpha!

Tony quips playfully in his mind and Steve huffs and bats at his hunting partner.

I'm not fat! And I'm quiet because I've had years to perfect this. Now hush. We need a meal tonight.

Feeling the omega nearby, he focuses and prepares to pounce. Minutes later, he jumps and feels the rabbit jolt under his paws. He carries it back quickly to his bag and morphs back to human form, holding the rabbit out in one hand and fishing for his knife with the other. Tony remains in wolf form and trots up to him, tilting his head.

"I need to kill it humanely and quickly. Once that's done, I'll tie it to the bag hooks with this rope here. The more hunting we do, the bigger the meal obviously. That's why most packs choose to make their bases and build homes near forests."

The wolfs barks, seemingly satisfied and bounces off, disappearing into the jungle and Steve swears, dropping the tied up rabbit and morphing back. His ears twitch and he growls.

Tony! I told you to stay with me! Where-

Here! Look!

The blond stares in wonder as Tony jumps from behind a large tree root and walks up to him, carrying a similar looking rabbit in his mouth.

Wha-how?

Tony sets it at Steve's feet and licks at his alpha's flank.

Did I do okay?

Steve continues to stare before carrying the rabbit over to the other one. Tony follows, tail slowly starting to droop.

I made a mistake didn't I? I shouldn't have left.

Steve growled and turned sharply, snapping at the omega.

No you shouldn't have! I told you to stay near me at all times. No more hunting.

Tony's ears fall and his tail falls to the floor.

Sorry. I just wanted to try for myself.

Between the two of them, this was bound to happen sometime. Tony would one day want to try things alone and Steve would have to allow him that. Or at least not blame him. How else was Tony going to learn to be a wolf? How else would Tony learn to survive?

Steve's blue eyes look at the quiet omega and gleam for a minute. Then-

You did an excellent job. I don't know how you were that quick, but that was fantastic, looks very neat. Let me watch next time though, okay? And no running off like that, not even for a minute. Please.

Tony's head shoots up and his ear twitches.

There'll be a next time?

Surprised, Steve just barks out a laugh and leans over to pull the omega over to him. He forces the omega flat on the ground and to Tony's horror, sits on him, trapping him and leaving just his head and paws free. He laughs some more when Tony scrambles and squawks under him.

Steve, no! Stop, you know you're too heavy! This is threatening, help I'm being threatened!

Steve leans over and licks Tony's head and ears cheerfully, flattening some of his fur over his eyes. Tony snuffles and glares under his pseudo-bangs.

Hardly threatening when I'm grooming you. See, you have so much to learn.

Come on Steve! I-

Shush! Someone's coming our way.

Tony's ears strain to hear and Steve gets off Tony but remains stood over him, not letting him leave his sight. He will not risk Tony wandering off now.

Twigs snap and voices are heard.

"Hell I bet the cub was crying even after we handed it over. Newborns look so pretty when they cry."

"You bet. Can't wait to get my hands on another one. Wait, do you smell that?"

"Wolves? Oh geez yeah, I can smell them. There's two, an alpha and-oh that's an omega."

"Just one alpha? Easy."

This was exactly what Steve had been dreading. He knew there were nasty people out there that hunted omegas for a whole number of reasons. Many wanted them removed from society like Tony's father but some people wanted them for...other reasons. Those people were sick and needed to be dealt with as far as Steve was concerned.

Such people were also usually trained by organisations or individual packs to fight and it often led to bloodshed and wars. Hence their need for breeders.

So it was a damn good thing that Steve was a trained warrior, a soldier fresh from war. Officially, the strongest shifter in the country.

Tony, get down. Stay under me! If they attack then run straight home.

He feels Tony's body stiffen. He smells the rising fear from Tony and with it, a dampening resignation. It makes him clamp down on his own ever-present fear because the last thing he wants is for Tony to think he'll get hurt. That this will take them back to the start.

Are they going to attack us?

They might. But remember, just turn around and run to the burrow. I'll come find you.

But I-

"Oh there they are! And look at that, if it isn't the Captain of the Avengers pack. Or should I say, the scraps of the Howling Commandos?" The ring leader of the three men says as they all come forward and face the two wolves.

Howling Commandos? But isn't that-

Hush Tony!

Steve growls and mentally groans when he hears a mimicking growl from Tony who's trying to slip out from under him and stand his ground. Steve bats Tony back under his fur and swears he'll teach Tony combat twice a day now if he's so damn eager.

The short, filthy looking runt of a man on the leader's left starts to laugh.

"Oh, look at that! The Captain has an omega! And it looks very ripe, exactly what we were looking for right?" The bastard laughs. "And its newborn! Wonder how it'll look chained up next to the other one!"

"He's perfect. The Herr will be most pleased. Especially if we bag the Captain too. Maybe the Herr will want to breed this one himself."

Steve howls loudly and immediately charges forward, wasting no time going for the legs of the leader and crunching down hard enough to feel a break in the bone. The leader shrieks and the tall, grunting man on the left charges to try and take Steve down. He fails when Steve dodges under him and bites sharply on the leader's arm that reaches out to him. And that's when Steve sees the symbol on the shoulder-the last thing he focuses on before going ballistic. For an instant, he sees red.

These men are Hydra.

Enough.

Steve spins around and charges towards Tony, picking him up quickly in his mouth (which strains a bit at the effort because Tonys' grown so much). He runs and runs and runs, eyes a deep red and darting everywhere, looking for his hunting bag with his girl. He wants to take these guys out without all the fur. He has to. He needs to...

Steve, holy shit, you're insane, how are you so strong-?

Steve ignores Tony's shock for a moment because he sees his bag in the distance. He changes course and suddenly they're back at the entrance of the forest next to his huge bag. More of a potato sack really.

Placing Tony down carefully, he closes his eyes and concentrates, letting his body change back. Suddenly he's on two legs again and while he waits for the tell-tale sounds of the scum that are coming, he prepares.

He gets his gear on, a tight, dark blue soldiers suit with a silver star and stripe over the chest and shoulders. He tightens up the straps and checks it over, listening for the sound of footsteps. They're getting closer.

Tony's watching him warily, head tilted to the side and tail stood tall. He's ready for a fight even though he's shaking and it makes Steve want to hug him. Tony really is so damn brave. He kneels down and gives Tony a warm smile and pulls the brown wolf into his arms, hugging him tight.

Tony licks at his face once but waits for him to say something. He also licks the star on his stealth suit. An explanation would probably help.

"Tony, I have something I need to tell you-"

Shouting in the distance cuts him off and without hesitation, he trades Tony for his old girl in the bag, pulling out the large round disk and stuffing Tony in the bag. He stands tall but gives Tony a wink when he sees the wolf poke his head out of the bag and look at him.

"You'll see. Watch and learn Tony. This is how you fight." He says, pulling his cowl over his head.

The men appear. Captain America charges.

 


 

 They've been walking home for fifteen minutes and it still seems to be big news.

"Holy shit, I just-"

"Language."

"Oh go-sh darn it! But seriously! You're Captain America!?"

"Yes. What gave it away?" Steve mumbles, rolling his eyes as he hefts the hunting bag higher over his shoulder. He's feeling fed up by now and it didn't help that the short stumpy one wouldn't stop trying to run away. They were stinking up the forest with their filth and sweat.

"You-your suit, uh, your shield, which, by the way, really does bounce back, that's so awesome!" Tony bounces on the balls of his feet, eyes wild with excitement. "You're so quick and strong and you fought in the war-"

"The Howling Commandos worked together-"

"Right! That too! You're old pack and-" Tony stops and steps in front of Steve, eyes wider than ever and so so brown, it's the colour of chocolate. Which reminds Steve, as soon as the pack can afford it, he'll get some for Tony to taste. He's sure Tony would like it.

"You're name. Holy shit, you're name! That's a give away too!" Tony yells, like he's solved the worlds greatest mystery, solved enigma for all Steve knows because Tony won't stop beaming at him.

"Tony okay, listen." Steve sighs out. He rubs the bridge of his nose, knowing this is going to change things. "I knew your father from the war. He made my shield and he was my friend. Was, okay? He's not now, not after what he's done. But I have to say, I really didn't expect you to be so happy after finding out about me. I mean, it's basically my fault your father-hmf!"

Tony gives him a bland stare and raises an eyebrow, keeping his hand firmly over Steve's mouth. All the excitement has disappeared within seconds. Now he looks unimpressed at best. The alpha blinks and waits, stunned by the shear boldness of his omega.

"I know what you're going to say. And I want you to know it's really not your fault. Really." Tony's voice drops to a soft whisper and he lets his hand fall to splay his fingers over the star on Steve's chest.

"My father is-not nice. But you've always been there for me, right from the very moment you found me. I could never blame you for my father. I could never blame you for anything. Any of you." Tony's gaze softens even more and he drops his eyes to the ground, voice hushed and neck bare. "Not after everything you've all done for me. Everything you've done for me. Thankyou so much."

Steve curses under his breath and on instinct, pulls Tony into his arms, giving him the firmest hug yet. He feels his own muscles ease at the warm breath on his neck where Tony is burying his nose and inhaling softly. He turns his nose and breathes in Tony's scent too from his hair. He smells many things, lingering fear and shock from earlier, an unusual level of smugness that the rogues were dealt with, and an impressive amount of courage. But above all, a large amount of safety and contentment around him. Thank god Tony knows how much he cares. Thank god Tony doesn't blame him even if he can't seem to stop thinking about it. He's so glad and he knows that one day he'll take Howard down for what he's done and give Tony his birthright. In the meantime he'll keep Tony safe, after all-

Tony was his. Steve had been the one to find him.

His lips twitch into a smile when Tony tightens his arms. They're both thinking the same thing, Steve just knows it.

He's mine.

 


 

It takes a few months before Tony is finally allowed to hunt on his own and it's only because Tony eventually manages to beat Bucky in a head-to-head (even if he plays the innocent omega card and only manages to trip him up once). Of course, Steve only lets him go once before accompanying him again. That forest is not good for his stress levels and if he had his way, he'd move the pack to Central America.

But the pack carries on. Bruce works on fixing more items in his lab to sell for a profit while Steve and Bucky hunt. Tony assists everyone and overall, everyone is very content.

Or at least that's what Steve likes to think. Despite their best efforts, they're starting to seriously deplete their funds which compromises pack life and their defenders against any attacks. As a war pack, they're trained to expect attack at any time and while it's unheard of for one pack to attack another's burrow, Steve wants to be prepared so he calls a meeting.

They're spread on the old sofas of the living room around the carefully carved wooden table and it's impossible to ignore the anxious waves coming from his three pack mates. Tony's scent adds confusion to the mix and it makes Steve's heart sink to have to say that they're struggling. This isn't what he promised to his pack or Tony.

The alpha clears his throat and leans forward, clasping his hands between his legs and rubbing them together.

"Most of you probably know why I've called this meeting. We can see it and I'm not exactly able to hide it." His eyes dart over to Tony who's tilting his head and frowning. It's not unexpected; Tony hasn't really had time to notice since it's only been four months.

"We're running low on supplies. Money, food and weapons are down and it's pretty serious."

Bucky's eyes flash. "How serious?"

Steve sighs and pinches his eyes shut. "I'm not sure if we can last the month to be honest. I thought the forest would be more stocked and the town would need Bruce's help more. I didn't expect this."

When he opens his eyes, he scans the room. Tony is looking suitably concerned but Bruce and Bucky are thoughtful. Steve feels his shoulders ease slightly because he knows that Bucky and Bruce know what's coming next. They had discussed this before they bought this plot of land and this was a contingency they had planned even if it wasn't ideal.

"Steve, is it time?"

He nods. "I've already sent a word. They should be here by the end of the week. It should be enough to buy us some time before we come up with something else."

Tony, who'd had his lips pursed in thought, looks up sharply. "What? Who's coming?"

"The other half. Of our pack."

Tony gapes and looks around the room. "You mean there's more pack members?"

Bucky scoffs. "Of course. You thought we were just a pack of three? This place is too big for just us. Have you seen all these rooms?"

"B-but I thought-then where have they been!? It's been months!"

"They've been on a mission. You know about my past as Captain America, the Howling Commandos was a military pack. The Avengers is half military, half war. So sometimes we split up to take on missions while the others maintain the burrow. It works but sometimes missions are long."

The mood lightens and Tony continues to ask Bucky questions. It's obvious how excited he is to meet more pack but at the same time-

"A-are they very strong? Like Steve and you?"

Bucky laughs and shrugs. "I dunno. Two of them are too birdbrained to do much so let's see. But we love em all the same."

"They won't harm you Tones." Bruce quirks up obviously sensing the omegas discomfort.

"Well...that's good. Great even." Tony says but its lacklustre. Steve tries not too worry too much about it however. Tony's probably uncomfortable around huge wolves but their pack is kind and he won't tolerate any stupid comments from the others. Not that he'd expect it honestly.

"They'll arrive soon enough and we'll sort it out. In the meantime, let's just carry on. Do the best we can."

He smiles and tries to appear strong for his pack. They'll sort it out, he knows it.

They have to.

 


 

"They're on their way! I've just got the message so they should be here tomorrow."

"Bucky calm down! The place is tidy enough and there's enough food for all of us plus more! You've done more than enough, you're exhausted! And look at Tony!"

Steve spins sharply from the stove. Bruce is pointing at a sleepy Tony who's trying to keep his eyes open and failing miserably. Bucky isn't too much better and the two look ready for a three day nap. Steve let's the spoon clatter into the pot and strides up to Tony to catch his shoulders before he falls completely off the stool. The omega blinks slowly at him and smiles.

"Thanks."

Steve huffs and barks at Bucky from above Tony. "He's exhausted! Did you take him with you on a midnight hunt!? You know he's still growing! What if he falls ill!?"

"Steve-"

"No-he's not to be dragged around like that and you're not to go on a hunt unless you're at the top of your game! Bucky I swear if this happens again-"

"Steve!"

"Shush Tony! I'm not happy with you either! You know how I feel about the forest! It's-" Steve swears and throws up his hands. "Do you both want to kill me sooner?"

"Alpha?" Tony says after a short pause where the entire kitchen has gone silent enough that their inner wolves can probably be heard. If that's true then Steve is sure they can hear his alpha side barking his head off.

He blows out a breath. He needs to calm down. "Yes Tony?"

He looks down at the omega. Tony shuffles around on his stool till he's facing Steve's waist. Then he very deliberately makes eye contact before dropping his head and exposing his neck to the alpha.

"Sorry alpha." He whispers and holds his position.

The blood drains from Steve's face, Bucky swears and Bruce rapidly leaves the room. It's all it takes to get Steve to drop to his knees in front of Tony and cup his cheeks in his hands. Gently, he guides Tony up. The omega swallows and tucks his hands under his thighs on the stool.

"Tony? Where did you learn to do that?"

"I-I thought-"

Bucky cuts in, appearing behind Steve. "Tony. Where did you learn to do that? Who taught you?"

Tony tries to look back down but Steve ducks down. This is important.

"Tony? It's okay, we just want to know. You haven't done anything wrong."

The alphas wait patiently until finally Tony speaks.

"My father taught me. He said it was good practice for-for alphas."

Silence. No one breathes. The tension weighs down the entire room and it takes everything Steve has to not go out and kill someone. Preferably Tony's father.

"What?" Bucky bites out because how can he stay calm either? They both know-

"Howard. Howard taught me. I thought you might appreciate an apology." Tony's not crying but his voice has gone rough and he's blinking rapidly.

"Tony. Promise me you will never, ever do that again."

Tony sniffs and looks down when Steve lets go of his face. "I don't know what I did wrong." He says quietly.

Steve looks at Bucky and together they nod. Fear and anger swirl in the air from the omega and his alpha.

"Tony, that gesture means you are offering yourself up to the alpha. When you bared your neck to me, you gave me permission to do-to basically do whatever I want to you."

Tony's head shoots up. Steve can't help but feel a twinge of pity. There's so much Tony doesn't know that no one has told him. The pity though, it's also drenched in anger towards Howard. 

Tony must smell it because he jerks back and ducks. "You-oh."

"Yeah."

"...S-Sorry."

With a sigh, Steve stands up and combs a hand through Tony's hair. It's not his fault. He really doesn't know.

Steve clamps down on his inner alpha that preens and bounds with delight that his omega has submitted. If he had just returned that offer with a response-

Stop. Enough, Stop!

"Thank you for the apology. Don't ever do it again." He grits out, trying desperately to force himself to calm down.

He leaves before he can hear Tony's response. He doesn't specify which apology he means.

 


 

Chapter Text


Steve spends the next few hours confined to his room. He doesn't want to be around any of the others, especially not Tony, not after what had happened that morning. Every time he replays the image of Tony exposing his neck, he feels hot to his core which always follows up with a sickly nauseous feeling. It makes him want to jump of a cliff because he shouldn't feel this way.

A knock shakes his thoughts and he startles.

"Hello?"

"Steve? Can I come in?" It's Bucky.

"Sure. Doors' unlocked."

His second in command steps through the door and folds his arms, watching him with a careful poker face.

A silence drags on between them until Steve starts to fidget.

"What? Why are you staring at me like that?"

Bucky sighs. "So you feel guilty?"

"How'd you know that? Can't you see how incredibly not guilty I am?" Steve retorts, unimpressed. It's not hard to work out, he knows.

"Don't you think you were a bit harsh with him earlier? He's only a pup. He's still learning."

He knows. Of course he knows yet- "I don't like what he did."

"Don't like what he did or what you felt from it?"

Steve looks up sharply. "No." His eyes gleam red. "It's not what you think."

"Then why do you smell like you want him? There's lust all over the place-hey!" Steve tries to push him firmly out the door but Bucky doesn't budge. Irritation builds up in him as he has to give up. Why does he surround himself with such stubborn wolves?

"I don't. It's utterly wrong, what he did. That kind of behavior is not acceptable. I won't allow it."

"So you're happy with how you dealt with him? You don't care that you embarrassed him at the end there?"

"Bucky-" he pleads, eyes scrunched tight at the thought.

Bucky doesn't relent. If anything, he glares and keeps going. "You made him feel small Steve. He's downstairs feeling ashamed and upset and he doesn't even fully understand why. He didn't know."

"I know, but I have to get rid of that behaviour. It's highly inappropriate. He cannot-"

He pauses when he hears something from outside the room. It sounds like someone's sniffling and then he hears footsteps walk away quickly. Horror sinks into his gut and settles when he watches Bucky whips his head out the door.

He looks furious when he faces Steve again.

"You wanna take a guess at who just heard you?"

Steve hides his face in his hands and scrunches his eyes tight. He's made Tony upset without even meaning to. That wasn't-it wasn't Tony's fault, he made Tony cry!

"Don't blame him for your problem. You'll never become his mate if you act like that. Don't abuse his trust."

He looks up in surprise. Is he that obvious? "Bucky-"

The alpha sighs and lets the glare fade to something softer and sad. "Come on Steve." He says gently. "You know you can be better than this. I know you can." He clasps Steve's shoulder. "If you wanna be more for him, it starts now."

While he didn't want to discuss it with Bucky, he feels glad to know that his friend understands him. Bucky's aware of his attraction to Tony but more than that, Bucky obviously cares about Tony too. Tony and Steve. It gives Steve hope.

"You think I can fix it?"

At that, Bucky scoffs and punches his shoulder lightly. "Punk, what can't you fix? He adores you. Go and get 'em tiger!"

 


 

The four sit awkwardly around the dinner table and don't say a word. The rabbit stew is eaten but Steve is fairly certain no one tastes a thing. It's been a while since breakfast obviously but Steve hasn't yet apologized to Tony. When he'd gone to look for him, Bruce said he was asleep in his room and didn't want to be disturbed. A few knocks on the omega's door did nothing to progress the situation.

Sensing the tension, Bruce coughs lightly and takes another bite. "So, Tony. Fancy joining me at another go at engineering that generator? You were a great help yesterday. You really know a lot more about engineering than I do."

Steve watches his omega. His eyes are downcast and he takes small bites of his meal. He doesn't look up at Bruce and merely shakes his head. The air has gone clammy with embarrassment.

"No. I'm still pretty tired. Thought I'd just go to bed."

"You've slept a lot today. Maybe Steve can take you to the town for a while? It's not very late." Bucky tries to add casually, dangling the bait as subtly as he can. Tony absolutely loves to go to the neighbouring town. Steve knows how much Tony loves the hustle and bustle and the business deals that go on and he also knows how much Tony likes to explore the new gadgets and gizmos from some of the sellers. Bruce had once told him that Tony had come home and just talked about their town trip for a solid hour. Bruce had then confided in Steve that Tony had said his pack never really took him anywhere so even town was an exciting new place for him. Steve had taken Tony every other day for a month after that, despite his protective instincts going haywire.

Steve clears his throat. "Of course. Would you like to quickly visit? I can get my things?" He adds in a light tone but feels his smile slip away when Tony shakes his head without so much as a glance.

"No, thank you alpha." He says quietly. Steve spots Tony's hand shake when he lifts his spoon. Guilt weighs down on him for what he's making Tony feel.

"You don't have to thank me. Anything for you Tony." He adds kindly and tries to make eye contact to smile at him but it doesn't help at all.

Tony helps clear the table and leaves silently, with just a small goodnight.

He doesn't even look at Steve once.


 

The night is cool and the room is a perfect temperature. His bed feels warm and comfortable and smells fresh from being washed and dried. The burrow is silent. Yet Steve can't stop tossing and turning, back and forth.

After explaining to Bruce what had happened after he'd left, the three pack mates had discussed what Steve could do. The conversation hadn't really helped despite their assurances that Tony would soon feel comfortable around him again. It didn't slip past him that Bruce felt he'd messed up too.

Sighing, he yanks off his bed sheet and sits up. He closes his eyes and knots his hands in his hair. First, Tony is embarrassed and hears what he said to Bucky earlier. Now he feels humiliated and won't look at him. It stabs at Steve's heart because he vowed to look after Tony and never make him feel that way and yet, he's done just that. All because he overreacted and couldn't stop picturing that image of Tony submitting.

Shaking his head, he stands up and heads to his door. He'll just pick up some clothes and get some water to help clear his head, maybe go for a stroll around the burrow too. There's no way he'll get a good nights sleep like this and with their other pack-mates returning tomorrow, he won't be getting a clear sleep schedule for a long time. They always want to catch up.

Grabbing his clothes, he opens the door and takes a step-

He freezes, one foot hovering in the air. He takes an instant step back and drops the clothes to the floor without hesitation.

His omega lies there in wolf form, sleeping quietly outside his bedroom door. He barely makes any noise and is curled up tightly, clearly trying to blend into the floor unnoticed and Steve internally panics. He nearly stepped on Tony!

What on earth is he doing here? He'll fall ill, sleeping out here like this. Or someone will hurt him by mistake because they won't see him!

Kneeling carefully by the wolfs' side he brushes Tony's fur back lightly. The fur feels cool under his fingers and gives Steve an idea.

Smiling to himself, he slowly picks Tony up and carries the small wolf to his bed. Tony's snuffles and shifts but adjusts contently in Steve's arms, paws resting on lightly on Steve's forearms. The sight makes Steve's heart warm and he sets Tony down gently on the right side of his bed. It's lucky that he has a double bed as the leader of the pack because it means he can entertains guests, not that he ever has. Normally he sleeps on the right because it's more comfortable on this bed but doesn't shift Tony from where he's placed him and decides to let him be. The pup deserves a good nights sleep.

Making himself comfortable on the other side he pulls the covers up and settles it so that Tony's head pokes out from under the blanket but his body is covered. Observing his nice guest under the moonlight shining through the window, he ponders why Tony felt the need to sleep outside his room. He can only come to one conclusion which is that Tony must want some comfort from Steve but feels uncomfortable around him so he didn't ask. He's stepped out of his room many times before and has never seen Tony rest there. Yet tonight he has and it can only be as a result of the incident from the morning.

The alpha brushes the omegas soft fur back, smiling when he hears a faint purr. Tony doesn't ever need to be ashamed of asking for comfort. He's always welcome. Steve would give him a lot more if he could.

In that moment, it hits him that he does indeed love Tony a lot. Somehow, the omega has pawed his way into his heart. From the moment he found the pup to where they are now-close friends who look out for one another, Steve feels an enormous sense of pride and contentment. If he ignores this recent issue, Tony has really become close to him.

Steve's smile stays soft and he pulls the pup close to his side, watching it snuggle into his body heat. Making sure to keep brushing Tony's fur, he vows to ensure Tony knows he's sorry.

 



When Steve wakes up, it's to arms wrapped around his waist and hot breaths tickling his side. He closes his eyes and huffs out a laugh.

Tony's drooling on him, his face is tucked against his muscles on his side and his arm is curled around his waist. Tony's even managed to entangle their legs together.

Steve decides he doesn't mind one bit but knows Tony will probably be shocked when he wakes up. So Steve carefully extracts his legs and detangles himself from Tony. When he steps out of the bed, he takes a moment to appreciate the preciousness of the moment. After, he pulls the blankets back over Tony and takes some clothes to the bathroom. Once changed, he checks himself in the mirror and leaves the room, giving one last soft glance to Tony. He closes the door with a click and makes a note to bring some food up for his omega.

With a broad smile on his face, he turns and bumps right into grey, black and metal. Rubbing his elbow he makes to apologise but Bucky beats him to it.

"So you found him last night? I was worried for a minute that he'd actually end up sleeping in the corridor all night." Bucky says lightly and pats him on the back.

"You knew?"

"Yep. I wanted to get some water and noticed something perched outside your door. Didn't have the heart to wake him though but was gonna knock on your door after. When I came back up from the kitchen though, he was gone so I either assumed you'd found him or he'd gone back to bed. By the look on your face and the distinct smell of happy alpha-omega on you, I'd say he's fast asleep in your room." Bucky finished with another pat on his back, beaming. "Good for you punk!"

Steve waves his arm away and gestures for them to go downstairs. As they make their way, he explains. "I couldn't sleep and that's why I opened my door. At first I was surprised but then I thought, 'why not?'" He says. Bucky looks as happy as he does.

As they prepare breakfast for the group, Steve tells Bucky about how Tony was lying on him when he woke up and how happy he was. Thankfully, Bucky is encouraging and supportive. Finally, he asks the question that had plagued Steve the whole night.

"Are you attracted to him Steve? I have an idea but..."

He says nothing. He doesn't need to. Bucky just beams at him when he sees his reaction. He knows that he's blushing and his face has lit up and he's leaving happy pheromones all over the place. It's hard to deny what he genuinely feels. One day, when they're close and have known each other long enough, Steve will ask Tony to be his mate. For now, he'll just continue to look after Tony and give him as much as he can. And he's more than happy to do so.

Bucky clicks his tongue and laughs. "Punk, you are smitten! The others are gonna be shocked when I tell them."

That makes Steve's mind stutter. It's too soon. "Don't tell the others yet please. I'd rather tell them a little further down the line. It's something I've only just come to grips with so...give me some time."

Bucky nods and promises, leaving the room feeling light and carefree. Finally, Tony enters the kitchen and peaks up at Steve. He looks bright red but doesn't seem upset. If anything, there's curiosity in the air and disbelief. Of course, Tony is probably very stunned.

"Hi Steve." He says quietly, but glances at him quickly. The alpha smiles warmly and hands Tony a hot plate of food. Tony is surprised and sets the plate down to try and help the alphas out but is guided to sit down and eat by Steve. He rubs Tony's back gently and pushes the plate closer.

"Here, eat up. I made it fresh."

"He's not lying! " Bucky yells over the sizzle of his pan.

Tony swallows and nods but keeps watching Steve hum around the kitchen. Not before long, Steve and Bucky are sat at the table with him, munching on berries and hot bread.

Steve is mid bite of some oats when Tony coughs lightly. "Steve?"

"Yes?" He chirps happily around a mouthful of oats.

"I'm sorry about last night, I didn't mean to-"

Steve stops him with a hand. "No need to be sorry at all. In fact, I owe you an apology. I'm sorry about yesterday. I overreacted and was out of line. I did not mean to make you upset. I just had some personal issues to deal with. Absolutely not your fault."

The response goes down well, he thinks. Tony looks to be pondering his response, watching him carefully before nodding and returning Steve's smile tentatively. "Okay. As long as you're not angry with me?"

"Not at all. You've done nothing wrong."

Tony nods and soon they're back to eating together and laughing when Bruce nearly stumbles into the door, still sleepy. He informs them that the other pack-mates should be arriving at noon and Bucky promptly proceeds to panic that the place isn't tidy again and Tony agrees to help Bruce in the lab for a bit. For a short while, things go back to normal. Steve knows that the minute the others return, the whole place will get flipped on its head. He hopes Tony will be able to adjust to a larger pack.

Once they've finished eating, Steve politely requests Bruce and Bucky to leave him and Tony alone for a moment. It's time to address the other issue.

"Can I ask you a question, Tony?"

"Yes?" He seems calm enough but his eyes dart from side to side and he starts chewing his nails. He's probably well aware of what Steve's gonna say.

"Why did you sleep outside my door last night?"

Tony looks up at him and pauses his nail-biting to chew at his lip. "I, that was a mistake. I didn't mean to wake you-"

"If you wanted to sleep near me you should've just told me earlier. I opened the door and nearly stepped on you! You know how terrible that would've been?"

Despite the firm tone, Tony starts to smile, obviously amused by the image. So Steve mellows.

"I didn't think it was okay. After our...this morning I couldn't sleep and I wanted to apologise again so I went to find you but your door was closed. And I just..."

"You just?"

"I had a nightmare." Tony says with a blush starting to appear on his cheeks. "But I fell asleep really quickly after that and didn't wake up in the night." Tony sighs, smelling slightly of embarrassment. "Thankyou for letting me sleep next to you. I promise it was just a one-off."

"What was the nightmare about?"

The omega doesn't look at him. But his hand shakes. "It's not important. I was fine after."

"It is important. What was it about?"

"You know when those thugs came to us in the forest? The ones who you sorted out as Captain America? I dreamt that..." The omega's voice fades and Tony's eyes lose focus and he appears lost in a memory. Steve stands up and reaches towards him because he does not like that look.

"Tony?"

"I dreamt they tried to breed me."

Silence fills the room and for a moment, it's unbreakable.

Steve says nothing, his expression dangerously calm but he sticks his arms out, eyes turning a deep alpha red. "Come here omega."

"Steve-"

"Now."

Tony slides off his seat and trudges towards him, letting his alpha pull him close and completely envelope him. Steve is pleased when Tony loosens in his arms.

"They will never hurt you. I won't let anyone touch you unless you allow it."

Tony inhales and burrows into his chest. "I'm alright. I was just a bit agitated when I woke up, that's all."

Steve nods, tightening his grip and feeling the red tinge disappear from his eyes. "Not a problem. If you sleep well when I'm near you then you're more than welcome to share my bed anytime. It's a big bed and I don't mind nightmares."

A smile spreads across Tony's face and he looks up at him. "Thanks. I appreciate it Steve."

Steve nods and brushes Tony's hair away from his eyes. "Whatever my omega wants. Now, fancy a trip to town? We have some time before the others arrive."

Tony's already pulling away and running out the door yelling; "I'll get my things!", by the time Steve has even finished the question. He can't help but smile even if he wants to destroy something.

 


 

In town, Steve takes Tony to all his favourite stalls and lets him have a look. Tony never asks to buy anything but Steve always wants to get him everything. Sadly, with their low amount of funds, Steve has to be quite frugal. However, when they walk by a tailors stall he spots something on display. Or rather, he sees Tony spot it and follows his eyesight.

Tony keeps looking at the item, eyes running over it. If Steve didn't know any better, he'd keep walking by but he knows that look. Tony really, really likes it.

He gets an idea and points to it. "Tony, what do you think of that?"

It's a red coat with thin gold lining on the seems. On closer inspection, it looks incredibly stylish and unlike any design Steve has seen. The length is similar to Steve's own blue and white one, however the red and gold is more striking and intertwined in an artful way that would suit most well.

"It's really nice. Now c'mon, lets go see-" Tony points to some seed stall he's never cared about and tries to pull Steve along but he doesn't budge.

"Why don't you try it on? You're going to need a coat for the Winter and it's important to get a good quality one."

Tony gapes at him before shaking his hands and waving the idea away, laughing nervously. "No, I have a coat. And I can just shift! I don't need-Steve!"

"Hi, can my omega try this on?"

"Of course sir." The frail elderly beta woman smiles and gestures for him to try it. She seems to have a humble amount of clothes and little business in the stall, hence the prices are higher but not nearly as high as they could be for the products such as the coat. Steve takes the coat and hands it to Tony who stares at him but then looks down at the coat. Steve watches him run his hand over the material, his mouth open in awe and makes a mental note of the price.

Suddenly, a thought occurs to him and his smile dims. He sees Tony with new eyes. 

The omega has nothing of his own that he can put any value on. His clothes are simple and, in no way embellished. His room in the burrow is almost as empty as when he was first found. Even his blanket is an old one in the burrow.

Tony doesn't even have any gifts from his pack from shifting for the first time. From either of his packs.  It's made ten times worse when Steve reflects on all the times Tony has looked at Bucky's silver necklace or Bruce's microscope with a soft gaze. Or when Tony had first seen the chain settled around Steve's neck and asked him where he got it.

That moment when Tony had looked down because Steve had told him it was a gift from his mother after he shifted. When all Tony got was cruel words and scars. Even now his breathing isn't perfect. 

Steve watches Tony slip the coat on and watches wistfully. It really suits Tony, the colour, the cut and material looks polished and sophisticated and makes him look a bit regal. And it fits him very well-it's flattering to the slight curve of his waist and shoulders.

Tony doesn't say anything, but he's admiring himself in the mirror, trying hard to be subtle but doing a slow turn in front of it. He keeps looking at the picture he presents and preens slightly. Steve nods to himself and pulls out his coin purse. His inner alpha purrs with glee.

"What-Steve no! Honestly, it's fine!" Steve ignores him and pays for the coat there and then. Yes, it's expensive but Steve has not bought Tony anything expensive and flattering like this and while they don't have a lot, Steve would still like to give Tony something of his own. Tony has no gifts from him which is not right if he wants to provide for him.

And he saw the way Tony was looking at it. The thought helps him smile.

"Thank you young man. You take good care of your omega now. He's a sweet one, he is." The kind old woman says warmly and it makes Steve feel even better that he bought the coat from her. His chest puffs out and he holds himself tall. He watches Tony spin in the coat and smile happily when he thinks Steve isn't looking and lets the sight warm his heart.

"He really is."

 


After browsing multiple stalls and listening to Tony thank him repeatedly, Steve decides to buy Tony a sweet roll, along with groceries and head home.

They set foot in the house and instantly Steve knows the others have arrived. The entrance smells exotic from travel and there's loud chatter and booming laughter coming from the living room. The whole pack is here.

"Tony, you ready to meet the others? I can put the stuff away while you say hello?" But Tony's gaze darts between him and the area where the noise is coming from and upstairs. He shifts on his feet and bites his lip.

"M-maybe you should see them first. You're the Alpha and I'm a new pack-member. Maybe you could tell them about me first?" Tony requests and looks at him hopefully.

"Okay. If that's what you prefer. Tell you what, why don't you sort these things out while I go see them. Then you can come back down and I'll introduce you."

"Yes, that's perfect! Lets go with that." The omega agrees eagerly and heads upstairs, barely managing to avoid tripping from the amount of items he's carrying. Steve sighs and rubs his eyes before going to meet the others.

As soon as he steps into the living room, he's bombarded by a massive being. Thor's laugh booms in his ear as he's swept up in a huge hug by the man.

"Steven! It has been too long since we last spoke! As our leader, I expected you to be more interested in our whereabouts."

Clint snorts behind him and gestures for Thor to drop him. "Please. As if he needs to worry. Not when you have the most talented, handsome wolves in all the land."

As Steve is set back down, Natasha whacks Clint hard and rolls her eyes. "Arrogant. Arrogant is what you are, birdbrain."

Thor steps aside and lets Steve scope out the entire room. Clint, Nat and Bucky are all sat on one sofa, while Sam, James and Bruce are sat on the other. Thor must have been waiting from him in the middle.

He can't help but smile when he feels a weight lift of his shoulders. His whole pack is finally here and looking very well. It's an enormous relief to see them all safe.

He pats Thor on the back and grins. "I'm glad you could all make it. I take it the mission went well?"

"About as well as could be expected. We had Clint after all." Sam says, pointing at the squawking archer.

With a huff, Clint tosses his arms. "I'm a great help. Steve, next time I'm coming on a mission with you guys. These mutts are ingrates."

Soaking up the liveliness of the room, Steve sits beside Thor and hears what's been going on with their pack-mates. Nothing seems to have gone wrong thankfully and he's pleased to hear they finished the mission before he called them back. He'd hate for their efforts to be wasted and he had worried that he could end up cutting their mission short. Nonetheless, everything seems fine and the pack is glad to be back together. After a while, James finally asks;

"Steve, is what you wrote true? Our funds are low?"

With a sigh, Steve leans forward and rests his chin on his hands. "Yes. We're down to our last lot and if we don't pick up, we won't last more than a month I think." He drops his hands and looks away. "I'm sorry I messed up. You all have the right to have a go at me if you see fit-"

Bucky and Sam both growl while the others frown. Thor sets a hand on his shoulder. "Brother. You have done nothing wrong. We all made the decision to live here and we all knew the risks. We will fix this. You need not burden yourself with this."

"He's right Steve." James adds. "It's not your fault. We can all do something to help. I've already contacted some of my old military mates and they should be able to get me and Sam some quick-well paying missions."

It still agitates him but he knows it can't be avoided. "I don't want you guys having to constantly go out for missions. I don't like our pack being split as it is."

"It's only temporary. Besides, Bruce told us our pack has grown. We have an omega?" Nat adds with a raised eyebrow and meets his eyes. Of course Bruce would have told them. They must be dying to meet Tony.

"Yeah, where is the little pup? It's been so long since there's been a young wolf in our pack, I can't wait to show him the ropes." Clint says, rubbing his hands together. Right, Clint was known to be good with young pups. Steve recalls that he used to train young wolves in the past.

"He's just getting ready upstairs. I think-" Steve hushes his voice and everyone in the room leans forward. "-he's nervous. He's been through a lot so...be kind to him."

Bucky's face darkens at the memory. "His father had him beaten and tried to have him killed because he's omega. Steve found him but he nearly died on the day he first shifted. We're the first real pack he's ever had to ever actually care about him."

"He's incredibly intelligent, possibly a genius I think. And he is very kindhearted and very energetic when you get to know him. We were hoping you'd all take to him like we have." Bruce adds with a smile and Steve nods at him gratefully.

At that moment, a small whine is heard from the door and Steve is on his feet instantly. The rest of the pack stand up tentatively while the brown pup looks up at Steve with huge eyes, almost pleading with him. He picks the pup up gently and turns to formally introduce him.

"Everyone. This is Tony. He's our omega and our newest pack-member."

The pup shivers under the many gazes but settles under his fluffy shield in Steve's arms. Tony seems to scan the room one member at a time and it seems fine until-

Tony stiffens and instantly scruffs his paws against Steve's chest. The gesture screams 'put me down' so Steve does and instantly Tony hides behind his leg, head just barely poking out. But his gaze is fixed on one person.

James.

 


 

 

Chapter Text

"Tony?" Steve tries, watching the weird behaviour. It's unlike Tony to be so obviously afraid and yet-

He's hiding behind him and watching the colonel carefully. He seems to monitor every shift and breath James takes and it honestly wouldn't surprise Steve if it freaked Rhodes out a bit.

After some careful consideration, James kneels down and stretches his arms out, giving the most earnest smile he can give. The room watches tensely and holds its breath.

"Hello Tony. My name is James Rhodes. But if you like, you can call me Rhodey."

The change is instant. One moment, Tony is curled behind Steve's leg, the next he's zooming across the room and knocking right into James' chest, sending him flying onto his back. The omega yelps and bounces up at his face and licks him and wags his tail at light speed, rolling over James and barking. The room gets filled with omega pheromones that scream happy, yes, content, excitement, nervous, safety, thank you -!

"Whoah! Okay, alright, one second! Damn, you're excited ! Okay, okay-!" He sits up slowly and lets the wolf continue to lick him. Everyone is stunned. Even Nat, who's a master of hiding emotions, has her mouth hanging slightly open.

"Uhhh...Tony? Maybe you should let him take a seat?" Bruce tries but it doesn't do much. James just laughs though and crosses his legs.

"It's okay. Can't help if I'm his favourite. Guess I have a thing with people called Tony."

That stops Steve short. "What?"

The colonel doesn't look up because he's too busy sweeping down the pup's brown fur. "Well I have another friend called Tony. But I lost track of him a long time ago. He was my best friend growing up."

This triggers the pup once more and Tony settles in James' lap and oddly, starts to whimper. Rhodey hushes him softly.

"It's okay. It's weird, you actually remind me of him. Maybe it's your fur. Don't be offended by the way, he's absolutely brilliant."

It feels like deja vu to Steve and he finds himself asking the same question he asked Tony a few months ago. "What's his last name?"

"My friend? Tony Stark."

Steve doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. He keeps his expression carefully blank. "That makes sense."

"Why?"

"Well..." He rubs the back of his neck and looks away. "Tony might've mentioned a friend by the name of Rhodey. An alpha shifter."

There's a pause. Rhodes looks up slowly, and his eyes widen. His jaw goes a bit slack and he quickly looks back at the wolf in his lap.

"Tony? Is it really you?"

Tony peaks up at him and gives him one last lick before dashing out of the room. Bucky and Sam carefully help Rhodey back to the sofa and everyone sits back down. For a minute, there's a stunned silence. Then;

"So...you two know each other?" Clint says with a grin and grabs a biscuit to munch on.

"Yeah. He was my best friend." Rhodey says numbly. They settle back into silence with Steve feeling an odd sensation settling in his stomach. He doesn't know why, but he feels really-

"Captain, it appears you have done a good deed. You saved not only an innocent life and protected it, but also reunited two dear friends. Indeed, you are more than worthy to be our leader." Thor praises and everyone murmurs in agreement. It doesn't really sink in for Steve because his mind's still spinning at the fact that Tony's best friend is James Rhodes.

There's human footsteps outside the door and then Tony emerges, eyes bright and close to tears. His hands are clenched by his sides and shake but he meets the room head on.

"Rhodey..." he whispers and suddenly, he can't contain it. The tears spill and he begins to cry and it's enough for both Rhodes and Steve to stand up and hug him. Or rather Steve tries to but Rhodes beats him to it.

"Shhhh hey. It's okay. I'm here, you're safe."Rhodey says and clutches Tony just as tightly as Tony does. The omega sobs into his shoulder.

"I tried to find you. I really did but my father-"

"Not your fault. I'll kill him. I swear Tony, I'm gonna destroy Howard-"

"He-he threw me out. He threw me out because I was omega. Why did he do that, Rhodey?" Tony gasps out between sobs and it absolutely breaks Steve's heart. The whole room has gone damp with despair and pain. Even Thor looks upset.

"It's not your fault. He was cruel."

"I did everything for him. I was a good son. So why did he have to t-treat me like that? I-if Steve hadn't found me I would've died." Tony's breath continues to hitch from behind Rhodes' shoulder. "I'm sorry I was scared, I just didn't know what you'd say to me being an omega-"

The room as a whole flinches and the mood darkens. Bruce is sending anger out and looks close to turning green. Steve realizes that actually, in the many months that Tony has lived with them, he hasn't really said much about that day. But he supposes it's not very surprising since the underlying feelings must be very traumatic to Tony.

"It's not your fault and it's okay. Forget him, you have the pack now. You have me." Rhodey says and side-eyes their leader. "You have Steve."

That seems to calm Tony down and thankfully he begins to compose himself and wipe his face away. When he looks back at the room, he swallows and ducks his head.

"I'm sorry for my behaviour. If there's anything-"

Clint scoffs and gestures for him to come sit. "Pfff. Come on Tony, I think anyone with an ounce of human decency would get you. Now come here. I wanna get to know my new little bro."

Thor rumbles and instantly pats the cushion next to him. "No, little one. You should sit here. Allow me to regal you with many tales of our pack. I will ensure you know all there is to know about pack traditions and such. In turn, I hope you will tell me much about yourself."

Natasha bypasses them both by standing up and sticking her hand out.

"My name is Natasha Romanoff. That birdbrain is Clint Barton. The giant is Thor Odinson. That's Sam Wilson and you already know Rhodes. You are?" She prods as they shake hands and Tony clears his throat.

"I'm Tony Stark. Nice to meet you. All of you." He starts with a tentative smile which, if anything, starts to get Clint excited again.

"I can't wait to teach you everything I know! We're gonna be the best of wolf bros, just you wait! Steve get ready to share him-"

"-I don't think so-"

"I have a whole training schedule set up. I planned it on the journey back. Don't worry you've got the very best to help you. By the time I'm done, you'll be the toughest Omega in the land. Me and Sammy will teach you everything!" He puffs up proudly while Sam rolls his eyes but grins.

"It's nice to meet you Tones. Hopefully you won't be too bugged by this beta here."

The chatter continues and the next few hours are spent getting to know each other. It doesn't take long for Tony to start interacting with each of them eagerly and it's clear that they all like him and vice-versa.

Steve watches silently. He still feels a niggling sense of dread in his stomach that he can't quite explain. Every time Rhodes hugs Tony close or touches him or both laugh at a fond memory, Steve's grip on the sofa tightens.

What happened to Tony being his?

 


 

The rest of the day flies by with tales of the packs adventures being traded. It calms Steve immensely to see everyone safe at home and he feels incredible relief when he sees everyone sat at the dinner table, dishing out food. This is his pack and he couldn't be more proud.

That being said, Rhodes is starting to get on his nerves.

The alpha is aware that his feelings towards James are unfair but the more he watches Tony interact with him, the more he wants to stake his claim on the omega. Tony is his, he found that ball of fluff and he made his claim, hell, he'd scented Tony. There was one step left.

He needed to mark Tony.

One. Day.

So Steve sits quietly and shoves his growling alpha down, full force whenever Tony asks about Rhodey's work. For lions sake, Steve had been the one to find James in the first place!

"But how did you get away!? I thought me father had your pack sent away?"

"Well I was on a mission and got separated from my pack. But they didn't find me so I had to spend a few nights fending for myself alone. Then a hoard of Killian's wolves find me and start to home in. Things start to look bad when this dude here and his birdbrain friend charge and take them down and the Captain here, comes up behind me and tells me to come with him if I want to live. So Steve takes me in. Best decision of my life." Rhodes finishes with a soft smile towards the table and Tony claps and beams at Steve.

"You saved my Rhodey! You're amazing!"

Your Rhodey?

"It was only right. And Killian's pack can be nasty. They almost decided to work with Hydra but thankfully I think that hasn't gone through." Steve informs them as politely as his jaw can hold.

"Yeah, Killian is an asshole."

Steve looks up. "You know Killian?"

Waving his hands, Tony shrugs. "Kind of. We grew up together."

Sam chokes on his food while Clint's eyes pop. "What?"

Natasha's eyes gleam. "You knew Killian? Do you have a way to get to him?" Ever the spy, she goes straight in for the kill. It's at times like this that Steve just wishes they could at least pretend to be a normal pack. For his own sanity.

The omega seems to sense the change in the room and starts to shift uncomfortably but Steve's mind is still reeling. How the hell is it that Tony grew up with Killian? Is Howard in contact with the nefarious Aim pack? Is he still in contact?

"No, I stopped meeting him after I turned sixteen. He kept wanting to become mates with me but my father was totally against it. He wanted me to bond with someone else instead."

It's too much to process. Steve's mind is in overdrive and his inner alpha can't stop barking.

"Who?" He asks stiffly. "Who did he want you to bond with?"

"I don't know. He didn't say but I think it all went out the window when I grew past the age of alpha shifting. My days were numbered from the start." Tony scoffs but his eyes are less bright. Howard really does need to be taught a lesson.

"We'll get him Tones, I promise." Rhodey says and lays a hand on Tony's shoulder.

Steve snaps his spoon in half.

"Steve." Bucky tries under his breath but Steve's already stood up. He pushes his chair back and looks at the table with a stony expression.

"Excuse me. It's been a long day. I'll see you in the morning." His gaze lingers on Tony's worried face before he turns and leaves the room, taking his plate with him. Behind him, he hears Bucky say something and start to follow but he continues to his room.

"Steve? Open up."

Bucky always has a habit of finding him like this. He sighs and cranes his head back from where he's sat on the window sill.

"Come in Buck."

The soldier enters quietly and looks him up and down. He shakes his head and rubs the bridge of his nose. "Steve, you can't blame Rhodes for being friends with Tony. Cut them both some slack."

Steve turns back to the window. The reddish-purple hue of the evening leaves bright streaks across the wooden floors which fade slowly with each minute.

It makes him want to run.

He hasn't gone running in a long time.

"I know. It's not fair but I know. Just need time." Steve says, leaning over to open the window.

Bucky raises an eyebrow, coming over to open the latch on the other side. "Time is fine. But you should probably explain that to Rhodes. He thinks he's done something wrong and Tony is starting to think so too."

Tilting his head back, the alpha lets his eyes close. "I'll talk to him."

"When?"

"Tomorrow morning. I need to, I know."

He feels his friend's gaze and opens his eyes when it doesn't let up. They meet eyes and stare each other down. It occurs to Steve that Bucky's eyes are dim and his skin looks pale.

"Get some sleep Buck. I promise I'll sort it out."

"You sure punk?"

"Positive. Rest up, you deserve it Buck. And hey-"

Bucky turns from where he's just by the door.

"Don't know what I'd do without you. Jerk." He says with a wry smile and Bucky just shakes his head.

"Don't you forget it. I'll catch you in the morning, no issues remaining, punk."

Steve rolls his eyes at his closed door and slides off the window sill. Time to rest before the morning. There's much to discuss.

 


 

"Rhodes, a word please."

Steve musters up all the courage he takes from his experience as the lead alpha and steps fully into the kitchen. It's early morning and the rest of the pack won't be awake for another hour yet. Only Rhodes would get up that early which Steve knows from years of living with him. It's an unspoken habit they both have, possibly due to their military backgrounds. Life has taught Steve that some habits can be impossible to break.

James turns from the workbench where he's cutting fruit and gives him a quick glance. "Sure Steve. Give me a sec. Do you want anything?"

Steve politely declines and so they sit with a bowl of nuts and fruits on the table and a silence that seems to be stifling.

Steve licks his lips and rests his elbows on the table, bringing his hands together. He can't give a poor impression like yesterday. It's simply a matter of control.

And Rhodes is a friend. He's family.

"So, I have something I need to say."

James nods and snags a berry. Before bringing it to his lips, he side-eyes the leader. "Have I done something wrong?"

For a moment, it catches Steve by surprise but then he recalls that it wouldn't be that far-fetched for James to think it was something he'd done. Steve was usually very fair.

The alpha vigorously shakes his head. "No no! It's nothing like that. Actually I owe you an apology. And maybe..." Steve ducks his head down. "...an explanation. Seeing as you and Tony are very close."

The tense silence returns and Steve feels like he's being scrutinized. He might as well be an insect under a magnifying glass.

Suddenly Rhodes leans back and laughs, breaking the silence. "Oh, I see."

Steve raises a blond eyebrow, so the colonel elaborates.

"You're jealous. I have to say I didn't expect that from you Steve." Rhodes says lightly but Steve feels his cheeks burn all the same. It all probably seems ridiculous to his pack. He wishes he knew what to say to justify it.

"I-okay, look I'm sorry about yesterday. But I was really surprised when I realized your Tony's childhood friend." Steve clears his throat and looks away, running a hand through his hair. "I guess it's only right he'd see you as his-his..."

Rhodes raises an eyebrow, arm stopping mid-air over the bowl. "His?"

"His guardian. His alpha. Maybe." Steve feels like there's a brick in his throat that just won't move.

A pause. Then-

"Steve what exactly has Tony told you about me? Or about his past in general?" Rhodes has pulled his hands back altogether and waits patiently for Steve to spill his heart out. So Steve does because it's Rhodes.

"He told me you were the only other shifter he was really close to. And that his mother passed away when he was young and his father was distant." Steve's expression darkens and he clenches his fists. "His father hates omegas so he tried to get rid of him. Other than that..."

It occurs to Steve then that he doesn't actually know nearly as much as he thought about the omega. Tony hasn't really said much so maybe he needs to start paying more attention to the little clues.

Like when Tony saw the coat. He didn't speak but his eyes did.

"He did say his father had a pack-mate who helped run their funds. They funded weaponry apparently. I suppose that's how you both met?"

"Kind of. My pack used to work with the Starks, providing us with weapons. I met Tony when he was six just after his mother had passed. He used to be the loudest in the room." The alpha says, thoughts lost in past memories.

Something clicks and Steve jerks his head up. "Loudest?"

Rhodes just tilts his head and gives him a funny look, as if he didn't just reveal something so unexpected. "Yeah. Tony talks a lot, you know that."

"That's...true." Steve ponders that and thinks back to when he'd first found Tony. The pup had been near silent and while he now chatters a bit more, he still waits patiently for others to speak and is possibly the most polite shifter, the pack has ever met. Somehow Steve suspects there's more to it than that.

Suddenly Steve's blue eyes light up with a new awareness. Rhodes knows Tony. This is an opportunity.

Steve has always been a strategist.

"What was his father like?"

Rhodes sighs and pushes the bowl to one side. "Howard was cold. He didn't want to be caught unaware so he divided his wealth between himself and his pack-mate. Obadiah Stane."

"Tony said." Steve remembers it vividly.

"Now Obadiah was sharper than most so he knew where to put his money. He combined his own side of the profit with promoting weaponry to put his own son, Ezekiel in a better light. I think he planned to have his beta son take over. The only problem was Tony, so Obadiah started to bad-mouth Tony and omegas. He fed Howard's hatred and ensured Tony got very little say in the pack. Did you know that Tony is gifted when it comes to machinery and technology? He's a genius engineer."

Steve's thoughts freeze to a halt and crash together like a tidal wave. "Tony likes engineering? He's a mechanic?"

"Tony was practically born holding a hot tool. He's a lot more than a mechanic. Steve, he can build weapons." Rhodes says, looking highly unimpressed with Steve's lack of knowledge and honestly, he can't blame him.

But ideas plant themselves into his mind.

"Hold on. Howard was interested in building things too. How come they didn't get on?"

"You'll have to ask Tony about that on your own. Whenever I've asked Tony, he's closed up. Then again..." James looks distant and the air goes clammy with a sad scent. "It's been years."

Guilt floods Steve's mind and his shoulders fall. "I'm so sorry James."

"No. You saved him. Steve we're indebted to you." Rhodes says firmly, because Steve is an open book when is comes to most emotions.

"I'm sure you are." Steve sighs.

For a moment Rhodes studies him carefully. "Me and Tony met a lot when we were kids. I'm sure you've probably noticed but Tony isn't exactly threatening. Hell I remember one time when he was fifteen, he saw a wild wolf, starving in the woods. He stole something from his packs food supply everyday to give it to the wolf. After a week of feeding it, the wolf recovered and disappeared. When Howard found out, he slapped Tony and cut his food portions down for a week. Tony fell ill but still went back into the woods to see if the wolf would come back. Obadiah even had him locked in his room for another week after. I was there when he came out of his room, half dazed. He nearly collapsed from hunger. Not the first time." Rhodes doesn't break eye contact. His jaw is tense. "The reason why I'm telling you this is because Tony is always kind but people have not treated him that way. Hell, he may seem fine in front of you but I promise you that somewhere in his mind he thinks you're going to abandon him or throw him out. He may hide it well but it's been his whole life. He doesn't know anything else."

Steve says nothing to that. What can he say? He lets go of the table when he realizes his knuckles are going white. There are tiny cracks underneath his grip.

"Steve. If you want to become his mate I'll give you my blessings. There's no one I respect more. But I'm not stupid. I know I can't force you to look after him. I can only hope that you will."

Steve's eyes turn a deep red and he feels his inner wolf start to rumble. "Rhodes you have my word. I will ensure he is well taken care of. I can guarantee that he will be the most loved omega in all the land, if he is in my hands."

Nodding, Rhodes stands up and reaches for the half-empty bowl. His eyes skim over the new cracks on the table. "Make sure you do. We're not mates but he's like a brother to me. So it goes without saying, if he's hurt I'll come running."

"Understood."

"You're a good alpha though Steve. He showed me the coat you bought him. He actually told me a lot about you last night." Rhodes said with a soft shake of his head. Thinking about it now, Steve could picture the brotherly relationship between the two. It reminds him of what he has with Bucky.

"I'm glad I found you James. And I'm glad I found Tony too. At least I know I've done something right in my life because of you two."

Rhodes smirks and puts the bowl aside for Bruce to eat. "You've done many things right. I really wouldn't worry if I was you, Steve."

"Well I don't see our funds issue vanishing any time soon." The alpha says with a frown.

"We'll fix it. That's why we're all here. Remember Steve we've come back to help you. You don't need to shoulder this on your own." James says with a smile and settles a hand gently on his back. Steve sighs and lets his scent mellow to a soft calm.

He offers a up a smile at his military pack-mate. "Thanks James. And thank you for your blessing too. It means a lot."

The man huffs out a laugh and pats him gently. "It's fine. I still can't believe it though. Who would've thought you'd be the jealous type?"

"I'm not jealous."

"Right. Possessive then." Rhodes rolls his eyes. "Tony's gonna have to get used to that. It's a good thing he likes it."

"Oh, does he now?" Steve says with a familiar sharp gleam in his eye.

"He likes your attention on him, that's for sure. Now, I need to go into town to see if I've gotten any correspondence from a few friends. A mission might've come through. We should start tackling this as soon as possible."

Steve nods and gives a warm smile. "Sounds good. Don't go alone, take Sam and Bucky with you."

"Will do. And Steve?" Rhodes pauses at the door so that Steve can incline his head.

"Tony absolutely loves to be groomed. Maybe you can start with that."

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text

About an hour later, the rest of the team, barring Sam, Rhodey and Bucky, start to filter into the kitchen. Throughout the whole breakfast, Steve pays careful attention to Tony, Rhodey's discussion still playing over and over in his mind. He notices the skittish glances going left and right over the fruit on the table. He sees Tony eye a soft piece of bread but willingly hand it to Thor who takes it without question. He spots the way Tony's eyes dim when Clint scarfs down the bowl of oats and leaves nothing left for anyone else.

The signs have been there the whole time. Tony is just as thin as when he first arrived. His wolf form is getting better, and yes, his body is becoming well toned, but he's still very thin and missing the sturdiness of a man in his late twenties. And all because he's too afraid to ask for more.

No. It's because he's been denied more before.

"Tony." Steve says from where he's sat at the head of the table. Tony's tucked in between Bruce and Clint further down but he still lifts his head up to face the alpha. A part of Steve craves for Tony to be next to him but he acknowledges he's being childish.

"Yes Steve?" Tony says, blinking widely at him, surprised by the attention.

"Would you like some of my oats? They're very nutritious." Steve prods gently, holding out his own bowl and catching Bruce's curious glance. Something flickers in the betas' eyes and he looks at Tony.

The omega shakes his head and politely smiles. Steve can't help but think it's a facade to hide his hunger and shoves the angry inner alpha as far away as he possibly can.

"No thank you Steve."

But Steve doesn't relent. He can't. "Then what would you like?"

Tony's smile becomes a little more anxious and he pushes his clean plate away. Spotless. It's completely spotless."Nothing. Really, I'm fine."

"Soft bread? Fruits? Cheeses?"

"No! No, you don't need to do that! Please don't."

The whole table pauses and stares at the omega. Under the gazes of his pack-mates, Tony can't help but bow his head, wringing his hands in his lap. Steve catches him biting his lip and scrunching his eyes shut under the shorter hair covering his face.

"Tony? Are you hungry?" Clint asks, suddenly clicking onto the conversation. Thor and Natasha also seem to have worked it out and a small vindictive part of Steve hopes this will teach them to be more observant.

Tony's face drains of color but he faces Clint and waves his hands wildly. "No! No no no. I'm fine. Can we please go back to-to..." his voice dies down and he looks imploringly at Steve, his alpha.

Steve's gaze hardens. "I want you to eat more. Why won't you?"

Tony flinches but remains seated, even though he clearly looks like he'd rather bolt. "I-because..."

"Because?" Natasha asks softly.

"Alphas and betas should eat more than omegas. You can't waste more food and supplies."

Thor's spoon clatters on his plate from his loose grip. His frown deepens. "You believe replenishing you is a waste? That feeding you is...unnecessary?"

Tony says nothing but he's shaking and obviously worried about what's going to happen. It's not unusual, the more Steve considers it. In some packs, omegas are fed last, depending on their position. Different packs work in different ways. That being said, Steve has seen some omegas wandering alone in search of food after meal time in the forest. Once when he was younger, he tried to give an omega some of his food but it ran away in fright. Life was much harder on the smaller wolves.

The thought of Tony in that situation was...

Steve clenches his fists and tries to blink the red from his eyes before anyone notices.

Tony continues to try and get the words out. "We don't...we don't have a lot...also..."

"Also?" Steve doesn't even know if he can prepare himself for what may come next. Every word just makes him want to bury Tony's pack deeper into the ground. Howard first. 

"I...I f-found a small bird...I don't think it's a shifter but...I gave it a few seeds the other day. I-I stole from here. I'm sorry." Tony's eyes are bright with tears and he looks so close to crying that Steve wants to burst. Ignoring everything else, he gets up instantly from his seat and walks over to the kitchen cupboards. Behind him, Tony begs. Daggers of pain stab through Steve's heart with each gasp from the omega but he needs to make a point.

"Steve-Steve please I'm so sorry, please, I can-d-don't-I-I'm begging you-Steve!-"

Steve ignores every word and opens every cupboard. When he finally finds what he's looking for, he takes it and stands behind Tony's seat. The omega is weeping silently now and the room stinks of anxiety and so much fear and, worst of all, resignation. It was bad in the forest and it's bad right now.

Rhodes was right. Tony really isn't saying much.

"Tony." Steve says softly.

Tony trembles in his seat but slowly lifts his head up, revealing a face, wet with tears. He flinches when Steve raises both his hands. With one hand, Steve leans over and wipes away the tears and with the other, he drops two bags into Tony's lap. The room has descended into a stunned silence.

"These are for you. One to give to any other animals you find and one for you to eat right now. Let me know if you need more." Steve gives him a smile and rests casually against Tony's seat, not sure whether to laugh or cry at how shocked Tony looks. His eyes are so bright and huge and are slowly losing that awful sad look. A deep breath tells Steve that Tony is currently stuck in disbelief so Steve guides Tony's hands to the bags in his lap.

"Open them. They're yours."

Tony stares at him for another full minute. Then he quickly swipes his face and opens both bags. His mouth falls open when he realizes one bag contains many seeds and the other has five sweet rolls in it.

"Steve?" Tony whispers, grip slowly opening and closing on the bags as if to make sure they're really there.

"You haven't done anything wrong. Just tell me next time okay? I'll do my best to help. And you're just as important as anyone else in this pack, okay?"

Tony begins to nod and continues to stare at his lap, silently caught in a daze. While the conversation slowly starts to pick back up, Steve contemplates whether he just did the right thing. He hopes it had a strong positive impact on what Tony could expect from him. Hopefully if Tony had a doubt about something else in the future he'd think back to this moment and know Steve would try to help him.

At least Steve can be thankful when Tony eats one of the rolls there and then, and crinkles his eyes when a light dusting of sugar coats his nose.



After the ordeal at breakfast, Steve pulls Tony aside to ask him to accompany him for a walk around the burrow which, although may be a bit unexpected for the frazzled omega, still gets accepted.

With a gentle hand around Tony's waist, he guides Tony to the front door and bends over to put his leather brown combat boots on. Above him, Tony shifts from one leg to the other and looks behind him. He reaches for the top button of his old black waistcoat and pats Steve's shoulder once. The touch is a feather light brush on his shoulder that Steve has to really focus on, to feel.

"Should I go and shift?" He asks quietly, already unbuttoning the worn waistcoat and Steve straightens up at the odd lack of flair in the man's voice. Tony really must be shaken from the morning.

"No. If you're up for it, I was thinking we go around like this and then when we reach the place, we can shift." Steve responds in an equally hushed voice. Tony's probably still thinking about the food incident.

He's unusually submissive.

Tony lets his hands fall and looks at Steve's boots with a blank stare. "The place? We're going somewhere?"

With a sigh, Steve reaches for the door handle and makes space for Tony to walk through. Once he locks the door behind them, the alpha leads the way for the omega. This wasn't how he'd planned this morning to turn out but that seemed to be the way it was. He'd wanted to show Tony his favorite place a lot sooner but had chosen today because he'd been sure that it would be a good one.

Since it was Peggy's birthday and all.

"S-Steve. Can I ask you something?"

Steve looks at the silent omega, walking beside him. All he sees is the curly brown hair, face completely bowed and it occurs to Steve that Tony may have been walking like this for the last five minutes.

"Of course. You can look at me too." Steve says and nudges Tony's shoulder gently. The omega starts but then looks up shyly.

"S-sure. Do you-this morning when you-weren't you angry with me? Is this walk-"

Steve stops him with a simple hand gesture, watching Tony's huge brown eyes follow it. "Later. When we get there. It's this route at the back of the burrow."

They continue to take the hidden route. In Steve's mind, the whole duration of it is spent thinking about holding Tony's hand which is twitching every few minutes. It's dreadfully silent, like the forest has no life and Steve wonders if maybe they should discuss the morning first. A glance at Tony's pale face makes him question everything but he sticks to the course. They're nearly there anyway so he sucks in a breath and continues to brush the brambles away, hoping for the best.

When they finally arrive at the entrance of the area, Steve pauses and blocks Tony's view. He swallows the lump in his throat and attempts to loosen his shoulders in front of the omega he loves.

"Tony. What I am about to show you is something I've only ever shown to one other person. An omega I used to know."

As he speaks, he gauges Tony's reaction quietly. The omega has paused in twisting his fingers and is now looking at him like a deer caught in the headlights. He won't move, not even to take a breath. He hangs on Steve's every word.

Steve sighs and pushes the leaves away. "Here we go."

The branches reveal a small pond, surrounded by the tall forest trees. The watery clearing has little source of light due to the bend of leaves forming a canopy up above however, what little light there is, reflects off the crystal clear water in a subtle way.

To Steve, this was the first place he'd experienced love. It had been the place he'd shared his first experience with Peggy. He hopes that one day he'd bring Tony to feel the same here too.

Steve takes a deep breath of the fresh forest and curls an arm around Tony, immensely pleased to be sharing this moment with the omega he truly wants. "This is my favorite place to be. I hope you-"

Steve stops short. Tony's trembling under his fingers. Steve can feel it and it's getting worse.

"Tony?"

"S-sorry alpha. S-sorry."

Startled, Steve fully faces Tony and wants to just-just do something because Tony, Tony is-

He's absolutely terrified. Like something soul-destroying has happened or he's just found out he's going to be smacked or-

"Tony!?" Steve takes hold of both of Tony's slim shoulders and shakes gently but the omega curls in on himself, seemingly unable to take his eyes off the blue abyss before them.

"What's going on? What's-" Steve straightens and his fingers tighten. "What's the matter?" His protective instincts have gone into overdrive and he can barely contain the redness in his eyes.

He knows it's a bad reaction because Tony flinches and slips out of the warmth of his alphas hands, backing away slowly, step by step until his back brushes the leaves that brought them there.

"I'm sorry..." Tony whispers but keeps his eyes trained on the pond and Steve can't understand what's gone so wrong that the whole clearing suddenly feels cursed.

"Tony, what on earth are you talking about?"

"P-please don't put me down. Please, I can-I can do better, I can, just give me a chance-"

Please don't put me down.

Please don't put me down.

I can do better.

Please...

 

What. the. hell?

"What!?" Steve roars, barely able to control the shocked tremor in his voice.

Steve feels rocked to his core and Tony jerks at the harsh yell from the alpha. But like some good omega, Tony bows his head and lets his body morph into his wolf form. Under the pile of clothes, the small pup appears and slowly starts to crawl towards Steve, head down and ears withdrawn. In silence, he reaches Steve's boots and gently nuzzles the buckle. The leader can only watch. He's still frozen by the omegas' words.

He will blame himself later. He will blame himself forever for what happens next.

Tony stares at him and waits, whining, begging for something at his feet but his answer of silence sends a message and the pup whimpers and trudges past him. One last lick to his boots still gains no response and the pup's whimpers die out.

Leaves rustle at the wolf pups' feet and for a moment the world stills.

Then-

Splash

Steve spins around and gasps in horror.

Tony's vanished. There are ripples in the pond.

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text

"TONY!" Steve screams and leaps forward, fur sprouting and wolf instincts fully taking over. Steve's clothes scatter and he reaches the pond edge, scanning quickly for any signs in the water. There's one dark shadow getting smaller and smaller.

Steve knows first hand how deep this pond is. What once felt like freedom now feels like a prison and Tony's chained to the bottom.

Without a second thought, he dives in and uses the length of his powerful limbs to swim deeper. The water is cold, icy and unforgiving, it seems to go on forever. It's deceptive because the deeper he goes, the darker it gets.

But he can't see Tony anywhere.

Where the fuck is he!?

A minute passes and Steve begins to worry that the strain on his cheeks will get worse. He only has a few minutes to find his omega and when they run out, he will have to resurface or carry on to the very last breath.

He'd rather die trying. Rhodey's words fill his mind.

"He may hide it well but it's been his whole life. He doesn't know anything else."

It's all he's ever known.

He's all Tony has. And it has to be enough, it has to.

Finally, he spots a dark figure in the misty water and darts towards it. A trail of bubbles traces its path and Steve is instantly taken back to the bloody trail in the beginning. How many more trails will there be before Tony is safe? How many more times will this pup get hurt?

A vision of Tony beaten and bruised fill his mind and he has to growl out a few bubbles to calm down. Once in front of Tony, he opens his mouth and bites down on Tony's back, gaining a firm grasp. He's lost the last vestiges of air but thankfully he doesn't need it because he breaks the surface in time, snout pointing up to the trees so that the wolf in his mouth can breath.

Tony's fur sticks uncomfortably over his snout so Steve has to be careful with placing Tony back on land. Once done, Steve's kicks up and manages to collapse next to the pup.

Tony are you okay?

He pants and gasps, waiting tiredly for a response but he gets none. Alarmed, he gets up on all fours and looks at Tony.

He's unconscious and not breathing. Steve feels his own lungs stop.

Tony wake up! Tony!? TONY!?

Nothing works and Steve frantically pounces on Tony's chest. There must be that awful pond water in his chest and Steve knows that his best chance of saving Tony is to get it out.

He doesn't have time to get him back to the burrow. Not this time.

Tony please! Omega!

After what feels like years, Steve begins to feel his hope chip away and ever push on Tony's chest seems to take another lifetime away from him.

What will I do without him? How will I manage?

He prays and pushes until a miracle happens. The wolf under his paws chokes and coughs out water and breathes and cries.

Easy! Are you alright?

A-alpha-

The lions have been kind to him. Tony is shaking and shivering under him but he's alive and safe now. His omega is safe.

Silly pup! Stupid-stupid-!

I am! I am stupid! I don't deserve-

No! Never! I was going to say this is my stupid mistake. My own fault you got hurt but Tony what were you thinking!?

Tony whimpers and gives him a sad look. He's still shivering and his fur is a tangled wet mess.

I thought you brought me here for punishment. I was trying to be good-

By killing yourself!?  Steve barks, feeling enraged. This was his worst nightmare brought to life.

Tony tries to say more but he breaks away in coughs that spew more water and he curls up to try and conserve heat. It takes all Steve has not to take a tree and smack it. Tony sneezes quietly after brushing his nose into his fur.

Walking past Tony, he grunts and grabs his own clothes and Tony's and carries the bundle over. Once dropped next to Tony, he picks up the sodden omega again and places him in the centre, taking his own shirt and wrapping it around Tony loosely. It looks a bit ridiculous, a tiny wolf in a humans green shirt but it's to help him dry so it's necessary.

Satisfied, Steve settles down over the rest of the pile in a sphinx position and uses a paw to pull Tony up against his flank till he's tucked against his chest. With a bit of adjustment, Tony's paws and tail are tucked under his belly and his snout is pressed against Steve's neck, making it easy for the alpha to lick Tony's ears and head carefully. Tony gasps under the first lick.

Alpha?

Shhh. We need to keep you warm. We can talk about this more when we're home but I'm sorry you ever thought I would bring you here for punishment. I'm not that kind of alpha Tony. I'm not. And any alpha that enforces that on his pack is unfit to ever be in charge.

That had always been Steve's firm belief. During the war he'd often see alphas training their omegas into submission. A big part of that was the promise of putting down any omega that was seen as difficult or useless and making an example of them. Omegas were supposedly a drainage on resources. At least that's what complete idiots thought.

After ten minutes of grooming his omega gently, Steve gives Tony a mental nudge. A glance tells him the pup is semi-lucid.

Tony?

Alph...a...

I need to take you back to the burrow so that Bruce can check you over. Can you stand?

It's...fine. Don't worry, I'll be fine.

There was no point asking Tony. Frankly, after what just happened, Steve wasn't sure he could even ask himself.

Steve sighs and lets his body morph back into his human form. He kneels beside the dozy pup and finds his pants and boots to slip them on quickly, not even bothering with half the buckles. Just as he's about to reach his shirt, he stops when he sees Tony's soft brown eyes staring back at him tiredly. The pup sneezes again and snuffles but stays mostly hidden under his green shirt.

It's more than enough to convince Steve he doesn't need it, so he wraps Tony more firmly in his green shirt and then wraps that up in Tony's shirt. It looks like a wolf in a parcel, Steve thinks, when he lifts Tony up into his arms. Tony whines and nuzzles against his heart.

"Shhhh. You're okay. I never want you to do something like that ever again okay?"

The wolf whines louder and sniffs at the clothes, letting its limbs grow loose. It's unbelievably comforting to have Tony in his arms like this, even if the circumstances are not desirable.

"Lets get you home." Steve says with a heavy heart. He never wanted Tony to be hurt under his watch and yet it's happened. He's failing as a pack leader and alpha to Tony.

They make their way back in silence and each rustle of leaves has Steve's hair standing. He's twitchy and his mind won't stop giving him the 'what if' scenarios to earlier. He hears it.

When he looks at the wolf in his arms, a weight lifts off his shoulders. But it doesn't change what happened.

He stops.

"Tony, I need to know why you did that."

The wolf freezes and blinks at him with stunned eyes, like he'd hoped he wouldn't get caught out.

Steve tightens his grip. He does not want Tony going anywhere he can't see him.

"Tony. I need you to talk to me."

Slowly, the pup nods but the shivers wracking it's body make it difficult. It's the terrible sorrow in Tony's eyes that makes Steve think this through.

"How about I get us home and you rest up first? I'll have Bruce check over you and give you some things to keep you warm. How does that sound?"

The pup whines softly and nuzzles the shirt, looking more relieved that anything else. It's enough for Steve.

"Lets go home."

 


 

"Good god, what happened Steve?"

As soon as Steve steps foot in the burrow, he is swarmed by questions from Clint, Bruce and Natasha. Bruce is desperately trying to check Tony over without moving him too much from Steve's arms.

"He...fell." Steve mutters, feeling worse than scum.

Guilt rises within him and settles like an ugly stain.

"What do you mean? Steve?" Natasha tries to prod him as Bruce carefully takes the sleeping wolf from Steve's arms and gestures for all of them to follow him to the lab.

"We went to the lake. It didn't go the way I thought it would." Steve explains. Each word is harder to bring out. "Something was misunderstood and Tony just dived into the water. I have no idea why."

Bruce is running around the lab, gathering every warm and soft fabric he can find. Natasha says nothing but the look she gives Steve says it all. There's obviously more to it than that, he knows.

"You didn't push him in did you?" She asks like she's talking about the weather. It's immensely difficult to not scream at the words though.

Steve's tries to relax the stiffness in his shoulders. He's already settled into a parade rest stance. "I didn't. I would never do that."

The black widow raises an eyebrow. "I doubt you would but it's not uncommon for some alphas to punish omegas if they think it's needed. I mean-" she gestures at the growing mound of blankets on the medical bed. "-why else would such a young omega try to drown himself?"

She means he's been punished before. Or seen other omegas punished, possibly even killed.

Why hadn't Steve spotted the signs?

"He's too cold. You need to be more careful Steve, he's already on the smaller side." Bruce adds between shuffling more blankets around.

Steve's eyes fall shut. "I know."

The room pauses. He opens his eyes to see Natasha and Bruce staring at him.

"Hey it's okay." Bruce says, looking immensely guilty as he steps forward and places a hand on Steve's shoulder. "It wasn't your fault."

"You don't know that." Steve replies through blurred vision. His cheeks feel damp.

A gasp from the door pulls their attention. Their archer gapes at the scene.

"Shit Nat, What did you say to him?" Clint says, looking startled and charges up to Steve, pulling him into a hug. Steve takes a deep breath of the calming scent of the warm beta. It hits him that the room is flooded with the scent of despair. His despair specifically.

"I didn't mean to upset you. I just wanted to know more." Natasha points out but looks away when Steve starts to sob harder.

There's no words to describe how he feels. Not to mention the embarrassment that starts to encroach his mind. Steve can't take it. He completely breaks down.

"God Steve. He's alright. You're alright. Just uh-just breathe." Clint says and rubs his back gently. His shirt starts to look damp under Steve's tears.

He's not sure how much time passes before he releases Clint but when he finally does, Steve sees Tony neatly bundled into a large nest of fabrics.

Natasha and Bruce are mumbling in the corner and giving him worried glances but the alpha pulls away from Clint and walks towards Tony.

Stroking the pups head, he sniffs and pauses. Then he runs out of the lab and charges for Tony's bedroom, ignoring the protests. He's been wasting time on himself when he can be far more useful.

Once he's out of earshot he slows down and opens the omega's bedroom door to the seemingly empty room. Steve's damp blue eyes scan the small area and home in on the brightest item in the room. It's proudly draped over a simple, yet crudely made wooden coat stand, not sharing its space with any of the other clothes in the wooden chests.

Removing the coat carefully, Steve's folds it over his arm and darts back out of the room to make his way to his own. In his own bedroom, he doesn't bother to be neat. He yanks off his softest blanket and holds it over his shoulder. Not bothering to even close his door, he storms back to the lab where Bruce and Natasha are now trying to wake Tony up.

"He's getting there, hold on." Clint tries but Steve barges past the others and kneels beside Tony.

"Omega, I need you to wake up for me now." Steve knows he can't afford to be upset now. He already cried once.

The wolf starts to wake and within minutes, his body shifts. So Steve gets to work.

"Steve wait-" Bruce starts but closes his mouth when Steve growls and pulls the blankets away from the now human, semi lucid Tony.

Tony's head lolls against Steve arm when he's lifted up. It's a horrible thing to see Tony so out of it. "Ssss...Steve..." he slurs and Steve's swallows his rising guilt down again.

The alpha sits behind Tony and drapes the red and gold coat around Tony's bare shoulders. Then he pulls Tony into his lap and holds him against his chest. With one hand wrapped around Tony's waist, he gestures to his blanket.

"Pass it to me." He orders and Natasha wordlessly wraps it around the duo. Tony looks swamped in warmth and the bundle encompasses a strong comforting scent of alpha and omega. Steve and Tony's scents combined.

Steve breathes and starts to relax. He tightens his hands around Tony's waist and rubs his nose into the omegas dark curls. His body starts to feel warmer and Tony fits in his arms perfectly.

"Please be okay Tony. I'm sorry, just...be okay."

"I'm sorry Steve." Tony whispers back which grabs everyone's attention. Steve pulls back and looks down. Tony's eyes are thin tired slits but he's awake and looking more conscious than mere moments ago.

Bruce seizes the chance to cup Tony's cheek. "His temperatures' going up. That's a good sign."

"Will he be okay?" Steve can't fathom what he'd do if Tony wasn't.

The beta sighs and removes his glasses. "He should be. There may be a small infection from the pond water but I didn't hear anything in his chest. But I'll just check again." Bruce adds and pulls his stethoscope out. He pulls Steve's blanket down a fraction and places the end of the tool over Tony's exposed chest. The omega watches him tiredly from within the safety of Steve's arms and says nothing, much to the alphas' dismay. Tony just continues to blink slowly with a pained look. It's awful.

"I don't hear anything. He might be sick for a while but that should be the end of it." The doctor concludes and steps back. Steve breathes again and meets Tony's eyes.

"Thank god." He says firmly because Tony shouldn't ever doubt his loyalty to him. He needs to know what his alpha's priority is.

Bruce sighs and clearly decides that nothing more can be done so he leaves Tony and Steve alone with clear instructions to monitor Tony's temperature and signs of a chest infection. Once Natasha and Clint filter out, Steve immediately seizes his chance.

"Tony, how're you feeling now? You really doing okay?" Steve tries, hoping to help Tony relax a bit.

The omega shifts in his lap but doesn't make to say anything. He doesn't even make to speak and Steve wonders if he's even been heard until-

"Fine, Steve." He replies with no inflection. Steve's mind starts to clock onto the fact that Tony is busy thinking of something horrible. Possibly more punishment.

Steve's grip on him tightens and he tries to lean over to meet Tony's eyes. "Talk to me. Say something. What're going on in that head of yours?"

Tony's eyes glisten and he slowly turns to fully face Steve, expression painfully sad. "I don't really know why you pulled me out. But I'm glad you did." Tony murmurs and drops his eyes to Steve's chest. His chest is moving slowly and he's taking shallow breaths. Steve's instantly taken back to the early days when a small pup would desperately try to breathe around his bandages and hide behind anything to avoid being spotted.

Releasing a sigh, Steve tucks his fingers under Tony's chin and brings their eyes up together. Even playing ground, Steve's mind decides. "I saved you-" Steve begins, raising his eyebrows to emphasize his point. "-because I don't want you to be hurt. Because I care. And because I'm not a sick alpha who hurts people for what I deem to be a mistake."

Tony's face goes from resigned to confused to star struck. "You don't...punish?"

Steve tries not to growl. "Of course not. I'm not sadistic or cruel. I wouldn't be able to live with myself."

"So you're really not angry about earlier? About me stealing? You really didn't take me there to-to drown me?"

Tony's whole body language has changed to something far more attentive. He's leaning into Steve's space like he really wants to hear every word and stares at him with eyes that are begging to know more. Tony looks like someone who's discovered something amazing for the first time.

Steve's lips twitch up and hope fills his mind. "Of course not. I just wanted to show you my favorite space near the burrow. That's all. And you have done nothing wrong, I told you."

Several minutes pass between them before Tony huffs lightly and then, ever so slowly, rests his head over Steve's heart. He curls his arms around Steve and breathes.

Steve's breath stutters. His mind spins.

Without thinking, he pulls Tony even closer under the blankets and runs a hand up and down Tony's back. His skin in warm and smooth and Tony's lets out a soft sigh. It's perfect and the wolf in Steve's heart won't stop running and howling.

His omega is hugging him in a whole new way. They've never shared a moment like this where Tony has instigated something so intimate.

It's almost enough for Steve to momentarily forget.

"You're the nicest alpha I've ever met. You're my favorite Steve." Tony whispers against his chest and squeezes Steve softly. It's unbearably cute and makes his heart soar. He wraps his arms around Tony completely.

"And you're the most perfect omega I've ever met. Definitely my favorite too."

The scent around them starts to shift and change into something sweeter and lighter. Humor paints the room.

Tony pulls back with a smile, seeming much more comfortable. "I'm the only omega you've met."

"No, you're not. I had another once." Steve says with a soft smile, thinking of fond memories.

"Who were they? Are they here?" Tony asks and Steve is almost reluctant to talk about it now. It's a sensitive subject.

But Tony deserves to know. If Steve is to one day approach Tony about becoming mates then it's his right to know.

"Her name was Peggy. We were brought up in the same pack. She was older than me by a few years and we were bonded for about seven years." Steve's eyes go misty but he continues to smile at Tony, who's giving him his undivided attention. This was how the walk should've gone.

"She must have been special." Tony says, unsure but unwilling to say nothing.

Steve wipes at his face and breathes. "Yeah, she really was something. She was feisty, strong, stubborn-smart and kind too! She didn't let anyone stop her from doing what needed to be done. We joined the army together with Bucky and fought in the war. I lost her to a mistake on the field. Nothing else to say really." Steve says distantly, recalling that exact moment when he didn't turn in time and Peggy took the hit. His biggest mistake, no doubt.

Tony clears his throat and shifts uncomfortably. He looks down and holds the end of his coat in his fists. "I don't know what it was like. But I think if Peggy is as you described her I think she would've said it wasn't your fault. And I think I'd agree with her. Like I said, you're the best alpha I've ever met." Tony adds under his breath and Steve heart aches at how sweet Tony can be sometimes.

"Yeah. I hope so too."

 

 

Chapter Text


 

It feels like one step forward and two steps back. The water incident shifts something in his mind and now he can’t ignore the signs.

While keeping up a smile that hurts, Steve thanks his lucky stars that Tony recovers. For a short while, it’s touch and go but Tony’s cough clears and the fever Bruce predicted, crests and breaks. Throughout it the omega whispers soft things in his sleep and calms whenever Steve holds him close. It’s a bittersweet and pulls his insides apart but Steve’s glad to be able to at least hold Tony.

A week after the event, Steve seeks Tony out. They need to talk about it.

“Tony? Can we talk?”

He’s in the kitchen. He spots the omega by the table, fiddling with a dry piece of parchment, bending and twisting it to look like a...crane? Peacock?

“Yeah, of course Steve.”

“What’re you making?”

“A-a bird. One that can fly. I think.” With a frown, Tony tilts his head and inspects his creation as Steve takes a seat beside him. It’s warming to see Tony lost in making something and Steve is once again reminded of Rhodey’s words.

“It’s great.” Steve raises a brow and reaches over when Tony holds it out. It’s fairly stable, impressive, and doesn’t bend easily when he tries to flex a wing. Steve glances at him with sharp look. “Kind of makes me think you’re good with your hands.”

Tony says nothing but his smile starts to dim. He hunches slightly and looks down.

“Yeah. I suppose.”

“I mean it. It’s nice.”

Why is he so tense?

“Yeah...”

Steve wonders if he’s walked into a land mine without even realizing it. Tony looks like he’s expecting a blow, body angled to shield his heart.

Steve’s inner wolf whines when the omega shifts and gives him fleeting glances.

“Hey.” He tries softly because he can’t risk it. The smallest thing could be the biggest trigger. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s fine.” Tony’s eyes are drifting back and forth between Steve and the crane in his hands. Steve doesn’t quite know what he’s said but he traces the origami wings with care.

“It really is beautiful. May I...may I have it?”

He doesn’t get an answer straight away. Instead, he watches Tony’s eyes go wide with shock. The corners of his mouth twitch like he doesn’t know whether to smile or run far from here. Steve knows he's smiling at least.

“Yes! Of course you can! Do you-“ A blush starts to color Tony’s cheeks and he doesn’t breathe, doesn't even shift. “-you like it?”

He’s leaning forward and his eyes are full of hope and Steve is rapidly trying to work out what this means-

“I love it.” He leans forward too. “I think I’d love everything you made.”

Tony says nothing. He doesn’t move. Steve’s not sure he’s breathing.

He frowns. “Tony?”

That seems to shake the frozen omega into a response. “Yes. Uhmm...” He fidgets and sways slightly in his seat. Steve is sure he’s about to come to a decision so he waits patiently. The reward is worth it.

“I build things. I like to build things. In fact I could-I could fix things. Around the burrow I mean. I-If you let me.”

Every word comes with a tentative glance at his alphas’ direction. And suddenly it clicks.

Steve closes his eyes and smiles even if it feels pained. “Tony. I would love to see you building things. If it’s anything like this, I’ll love it. You’re talented.”

“You haven’t actually seen me really make anything.” But Tony’s eyes are bright and he’s smiling so widely it hurts. There’s something...new in his eyes now. An ounce, a glimmer of hope maybe.

“You’re so perfect at everything else. I’m sure this won’t be any different.”

“Well. It’s only because of my alpha. Without him, I wouldn’t even be here.”

Tony’s words are quiet. Steve feels his heart pound. His eyes fall half-mast and he smirks.

“Yeah? You like your alpha?”

Tony’s nods eagerly and reaches for Steve’s wrist across the table. The coarse, nimble fingers brush against the soft skin of his wrist.

“The best." He says. "He’s the best.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Steve closes his eyes and feels his lips form a big smile. When he looks again, Tony is smiling too, only he’s staring at the crane in Steve’s hand.

Clearing his throat, Steve waits for Tony to lean back and straighten up. They need to talk.

“So I wanted to show you one of my favorite places last week. But my omega ended up in the water. Tell me Tony-“ Steve takes a breath and loosens his shoulders to make himself seem smaller. “Why was it a wash out?”

Tony is quiet, seemingly deep in thought for a moment. Then he meets Steve’s gaze.

“My father, he...when I was younger there were omegas in the pack. Not high up or anything, they were just there for pack housekeeping but sometimes there wasn’t enough food, you know? The food always went to the alphas first because they protect and lead the pack. Betas always came next and then...well there wasn’t always enough for the omegas. So a few would sneak some food from the spare cupboards at night.”

“Tony...” Steve feels sick, a low sinking stone in his stomach, not surfacing because now he knows why Tony reacted that way on the table. Why he thought he was being punished.

He carries on, unaware of Steve’s distress and Steve tries to keep his anguish hidden. “One got caught and my father made a scene. There was screaming and yelling and the whole pack appeared. It was Jarvis-my...he brought me up, used to take care of me. It was his wife.” Tony glances at Steve. His body is hunched forward and his lower lip is trembling. Steve gets the impression he’s relying on him to say something and it makes Steve want to scream.

“Anna was my favorite besides Jarvis so I begged my dad to let it go. He didn’t.” Tony’s throat catches but he keeps going, eyes back to being glued to the table and Steve just wants to hold him. “Anna was drowned in the pack lake. After she was beaten and...taken by some of the alphas.” Tony looks up, brown eyes swirling with pain. “She was the first one we watched. Obie wanted at least three more to make a point. My father compromised with two.”

“God...” Steve hates it. The idea of a young child-Tony, watching omegas suffer like it’s nothing, like they’re cattle, it sounds like-

He goes cold. A horrible, awful thought occurs. “Did-did they-?”

Tony responds quietly. He knows what he’s asking. “The omegas were raped.”

Steve heart clenches and aches for Tony but more for the omegas who were hurt by their own pack. It certainly painted a picture of what kind of pack Tony had lived with before. It also explained some of Tony’s expectations.

Or lack-thereof, Steve thinks bleakly.

He has to stay strong. Tony looks like he’s about to cry.

Despite his best attempts, Steve’s face still can’t hide the strain of his thoughts. “Tony...I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be. It was a long time ago.” Tony says, scrubbing at his eyes with a shaky hand. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

“That still doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected you.” Steve replies gently, folding his arms on the table. He once again finds himself reevaluating Tony.

This omega came into his life because he had been cast out as a liability by his own family. He’d seen loved ones beaten, raped and hurt-the same people he’d been destined to follow. That had been his future he’d been watching and some part of him must’ve always known that. The fear of being an omega.

“It must’ve been the hardest thing. Watching someone close to you be so hurt like that.” Steve says. He feels it’s absolutely inadequate but Tony gets off his seat and walks around the table. Steve waits curiously but almost jumps out of his skin when Tony tucks into his chest, wrapping his arms around Steve’s middle carefully, like he’s unsure it’s welcome.

“That’s why I thought you were taking me there. I figured I’d save myself the beating and the hurt and just jump in myself.” Tony confides quietly and it’s enough to shake Steve out of his stupor.

“I would never. You have to believe I wouldn’t ever-“

“I know you won’t. Or at least the rational part of me does. You’re...you don’t hurt me ever.”

Steve doesn’t say anything to that but files away how Tony phrases that like he doesn’t expect any kindness at all.

Steve envelops Tony in his arms and rests his cheek in Tony’s soft hair. It’s growing out, much like the patches of his wolf form. Steve sighs.

“I’m always going to protect you. I found you remember?”

“Yeah.” Tony sighs. He sounds relaxed and content despite the memories and lingering dread. “I remember.”


 

A month goes by and frankly, it’s an uneventful one.

Steve knows that’s not a good thing.

Despite their best efforts, the pack has not managed to save anything and what coins they can pool together goes straight into feeding their large pack every night. As pack leader, it’s Steve’s job to ensure there aren’t any problems down the line, financially or otherwise.

He’s a failure. This is gonna hit them hard and he knows it. And they are coming to the end of Summer.

“What’s going on in your head punk?”

He hadn’t noticed Bucky walking in on his deep porridge contemplation. His half finished bowl lies pathetically in front of him and for a second Steve genuinely considers storing the rest of it somewhere deep and hidden. Winter really isn't that far.

In the background Bucky gets to making his own collection of oats, only the bowl is piled high. It makes him wince internally.

When Bucky turns around, he frowns and sets the bowl down. Then he gestures at Steve.

“Okay, what gives?”

Steve blinks at him.

“The oats. You’re looking at it like it’s murdered Tony. Or about to.”

Heel. Tony's fine.

He brings a hand up to his face and rubs his head tiredly. There really isn’t much point in lying to Bucky, he’d just work it out anyway.

He drops his hand and looks up. “Our funds. I’m just trying to work it out.” Under Bucky’s stern gaze, Steve continues. “I don’t know how we’re gonna work it out honestly.”

Bucky is frowning now. Then, to Steve’s horror, he starts scooping some of the oats back into their satchel to leave a meager portion.

Steve gets up and snatches the bag, pouring it back out for him. “No.” He almost snarls, humiliation burning his cheeks.

Equally stubborn, Bucky tries to steal it back but Steve growls again.

“Steve-“

“No!”

“I don’t need that much. You know that.”

Steve does know what Bucky means. Before their pack grew, they’d struggled but managed just fine on small portions. It had been unsteady after hiding post-war. He’d hidden his status as Captain America, fully aware the corruption of the government would follow him and that had taken it’s own toll. No one owed anything to two ex-army alphas who didn’t even have qualifications to show. Life post-war had been just as tough as the war itself.

Sometimes he still wonders if he should’ve just revealed Captain America and the Winter Soldier to the world to make life easier since he deserved that much at least.

But that would never be easier. How can I start a family with the world breathing down my neck? With my pack and Tony?

“Steve.” Bucky tentatively puts down the bowl and gives him a shake. “You okay?”

“I don’t want any of us to cut back on food. I don’t-I can’t-“

“Okay, okay. Fine I’ll have a little more okay? Don’t-just breathe Stevie.”

He’s starting to hyperventilate. Maybe just a little but still-

“We have too-too many mouths to feed. But no coins to take care of anyone. What’s going to happen to our pack, to my-my-!”

Family.

When he looks up, he notices something soft in Bucky’s gaze. His brother squeezes his shoulder and pulls him into a hug and Steve feels his shoulders loosen. He can imagine he’s a state; cheeks ruddy, eyes red, stress lines all over. It’s not been an easy couple of weeks for him and he feels close to breaking down into tears.

“You look tired punk.” Bucky echos sadly and Steve laughs despite it.

“I heard.”

“Hmmm must be all those late nights thinking of Tony huh?”

Steve closes his eyes and hugs tighter. “Sure. You know me so well.” He’s clutching onto Bucky like a lifeline.

They’re quiet for a while, just granting Steve that respite from the responsibilities he’s been straining under. His ma always said things always break under stress.

“You should’ve told us Steve.”

They let go and Steve ducks his head. “I did. But it wasn’t enough.”

“What comes next then? Where do we go from here?” Ever strategic, Bucky is never one for a pity-party and for once Steve is extremely grateful.

“We need to start selling off some of my war memorabilia. It won’t be much but it should help to get us by until...”

Who knew what. Certainly not him.

Bucky nudged him gently. “Until we figure out the next step.”

“Yeah. Until we figure it out.”

Only time would tell.


 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

After their discussion, Steve often finds himself wondering just how this next step will come about. It isn’t like he’s losing funds quickly but he’s not delusional. A comet isn’t going to suddenly crash land and rain down coins and time is running out.

They need a new plan.

So exactly one week after he’d spoken to Bucky in the kitchen, Steve slams all the doors shut, opens all the safes in the burrow and counts up the funds to have an exact idea. And what he finds, sends his blood pressure through the roof.

Dividing these savings between nine means that they will realistically only be able to sustain themselves for one more month. The situation is really that dire and Steve hates himself.

So the next thing he does is call a pack meeting.

He explains the situation carefully, stating that nothing has improved and they need to focus on making more coins. Then he goes onto the next part. The part he wishes would be stopped because a black hole came and sucked him right off the face of the earth.

No part of him has ever felt as humiliated as it does now.

“We need to conserve food sources too. And we need to orchestrate pack runs to get more food from the forest.” Steve says and sighs knowing what this will inevitably mean. His pack is already doing the calculations, heck, even Clint is counting on his fingers.

Steve raises his hand and nods to the group. “Take a minute to discuss whatever you want. I know you guys might have some ideas and I’d appreciate any we can get. But don’t worry. Worse comes to worse...” Steve swallows and squeezes his eyes knowing what the reactions will be. “...I’ll go back into the field.”

Instantly there’s uproar.

“No! Steven, you mustn’t return to this-“

“Steve, you know what the government means for you!”

“We won’t let that happen cap, no way in hell-“

SETTLE DOWN!” Steve roars and the room goes silent. Within seconds, he’s the commanding alpha and he wants his pack to listen. And listen, they do.

“I want everyone to relax. I’ve made this decision because I want us to be safe. Now if you don’t want me to-“ Steve’s throat catches but he tries to hide it, knowing they’re all watching him with fear in their eyes. “-to return to the fight then I suggest you come up with ideas. I’m sorry that it’s come to this but...” Steve lowers his head and feels his hands fall to his knees. He feels like he carries too much and wonders if there will come a point where the pressure finally crushes him. “I’m sorry I couldn’t lead you all better. This should never have happened.”

The sickening scent of despair slowly starts to morph into one of sorrow and it doesn’t take long for Natasha and Bucky to give each other one look and stand up. The pack had all been seated around him on other sofas and Steve had been sitting alone. Somehow, Natasha and Bucky sitting beside him and rubbing at his shoulders makes him feel a bit better.

He blinks back tears at Bucky and bites down hard on his lip to stop his mouth from giving him away.

“I’m so sorry Buck.” He whispers and somehow he knows that Tony’s watching him with a horrified expression. Some strong alpha here, that’s for sure.

“It’s okay. Don’t worry, I’m glad you told us. This isn’t just on you, it’s on all of us. We fix this together.” Bucky pats his shoulder confidently and turns to the pack.

“Guys discuss and come up with a plan. Let’s see what we can do before our punk-ass alpha tries to sell himself to the president.”

The silence slowly begins to break. Rhodey and Sam begin mumble to themselves, while Clint and Thor sit next to Nat to discuss their own thing. Bruce leaves the room with a determined expression and returns a minute later with a notepad and intense focus. He scribbles things down at lightening speed and pushes his glasses up.

Throughout all this Steve notices Tony sitting quietly looking at each party with concern. He’s fidgeting and darting his gaze back and forth between Rhodey and Bruce.

With a frown, Steve makes to get up, mouth open to say something when Bucky halts him and Natasha pulls him down and clears her throat.

“We have a plan. Listen to this.” She clears her throat and waits for Clint and Thor to nod.

“Clint, Thor and I will hunt every morning, evening and night. We’ll return to the burrow during twilight hours and we’ll pick up whatever supplies pack wants to give to sell. In the afternoons we’ll go into the neighbouring towns and negotiate and sell to get some more funds. I know you don’t like us hunting at night but Steve, if it’s the three of us, it should be fine. And we’ll be very careful. We’ll get a better hunt this way.”

Steve knew they were trying to help but he didn’t have the heart to tell them that the forest was running out of stock. Still, maybe midnight hunts would help.

He nods, hoping he’s not giving himself away. “Do what you can. Bring back plenty. Don’t start tonight but plan your routes today and give Bucky your map before you head out tomorrow.”

Sam and Rhodey go next, eyes bright with hope but stance firm like the soldiers they are. They have their eyes on the prize.

“We’ll head out to the bridges. See what pack sightings there’ve been and see if we can assist on missions. We won’t do long haul ones but maybe weekly ones at most?”

Steve presses a hand to his head and nods, head and heart wounded with the realization that his pack will be split again.

“That’d be great guys. Let me know and I’ll see if I can join you.” Bucky says with a grin but Steve’s heart sinks.

Not Bucky too.

Finally it’s Bruce’s turn and Steve already knows what he’s gonna say. It still gives him some relief to hear it though.

“I’ll stay in the burrow and make as many things as I can. If you guys can bring me scraps and things while you’re out, that’d be great.”

Steve agrees wholeheartedly but not for the funds and more because he doesn’t want to be the only one in this burrow. He doesn’t want his family to disappear overnight. It had already happened once before.

With more murmuring and fleeting comments about hidden sources of income, the pack members leave the room seemingly unprepared for the change they’d soon be facing in Steve’s opinion.

“Alpha?”

Steve looks up from his calloused hands and blinks. Tony is the last one left and it’s just the two of them in the living room now.

He sits up straighter and rests his palms on his knees.

“Yes omega?”

Tony seems to be looking at a point just beyond his alpha, gaze fixed and eyes wide. He opens his mouth a few times before he finally builds up the courage to speak. He clasps his hands together in front of him and bites his lip.

“Is...is there anything I can do? To help?”

Steve gives him a look that’s so filled with love he thinks he probably has stars in his eyes. This omega owes him nothing and Steve has barely provided for him really. And yet here Tony stands wanting to help their pack situation and do what he can, omega or not.

He’ll be the perfect mate one day. If I can get us out of this.

Smiling tiredly, Steve places a hand on Tony’s cheek and brushes with his thumb gently, observing how Tony relaxes and waits patiently. Then he speaks and does his best to ignore the way Tony’s face falls.

“You don’t need to worry too much Tony. You’re still young and I don’t want anything to halt you growth or recovery. You will still eat the same amount at each meal and you will still train with me each day.”

“But Steve-” Tony looks at him with dark eyes. Something twists in Steve’s heart when he realises that the air is seeped with fear. Omega fear.

“I don’t want you to leave.” The omega whispers and grabs at Steve’s hand and holds it between his own like a lifeline. In some ways Steve understands that it is.

To Tony, Steve has provided a home. If the head alpha is gone, the pack is exposed and it’s as simple as that. Days are always filled with more worry if no leader is present and pack omegas are always more sensitive to this, especially in their case. Steve knows just how close Tony is to him and anyone can tell by their mixing scents.

“I won’t. I’ll do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen. In the meantime can you stay happy for me? That’s all I ask of you Tony.” Steve says and smiles softly when the omega gives a fragile smile back and nods, suddenly determined.

“I can do that. I’ll do what I can.”


 

It goes like this.

The plans are put into place. The pack fulfills their roles exactly as specified. They’re the most reliable and resilient pack Steve knows.

Steve doesn’t see any of them for longer than half an hour a day. And that’s really only Natasha, Thor and Clint. Bruce and Tony are always busy at lunchtime and Bucky, Rhodes and Sam are always out now. It’s a harsh blow of reality and Steve finds himself getting lost in his thoughts far too often. He can’t sit in his room for longer than an hour before it reeks of despair.

Two weeks go by like this before Steve really starts to feel the effects. Tony doesn’t train with him anymore because he insists on helping Bruce so the omega is out of the picture and Bucky returns with the others on Sundays only and mostly just to restock and keep going.

Out of all the pack members, it’s these two that Steve misses the most, though he’d never admit it if asked. But somehow he feels the rest of the pack knows because there’s a dimness in their eyes now that wasn’t there before. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best that can be done.

Steve himself collects as much as he can from the forest. Wood, kill, spices, anything he can get his hands on comes home. He will not remain dormant while the others pull out all the stops.

It’s the start of week four of this lonely home when Steve steps in at early evening with his latest set of items. He places the food into the kitchen and sets the wood in the cupboards and does a few stretches feeling his bones creak a bit from all the rapid shifting.

Then he stops and stares.

Through the window of the living room he spots something he hasn’t seen in a long time. Falling like rain but brighter and lighter. Snow. Actual snow.

The winter that Steve should’ve prepared for has finally arrived and Steve realizes that in his countdown, he’d forgotten to factor in the change in weather.

How could I have been so stupid?

Snapping his jaws together tight, Steve grunts and spins on his heel, deciding that this will not stop his pack from enjoying this. How often does snow come in these parts and what could possibly bring more joy to Tony than exploring the snow.

Steve’s inner alpha whines at the thought of Tony. It’s been four days since he last saw him and it’s enough to make Steve’s head lower.

“Tony! Bruce! Come out, both of you!” Steve launches a battalion of fists against their working room door and waits with barely contained excitement for the others to come out. Now that it’s on his mind, even he can’t wait to go outside. He’s not had the pleasure of doing something he loves for a long time now and he’s not gonna miss this chance. It’s something he wants badly.

The door opens with a quiet click and Bruce blinks up at him, rubbing his eyes.

“Yes?” He mumbles, barely suppressing a yawn.

“Where’s Tony? Why isn’t he with you?” Steve stands on his toes a bit to see into the workspace. There’s no sign of the omega, not even a coffee bowl.

“Tony? What do you mean?” Bruce says, finally gaining the sense to clean his glasses and actually pay attention, much to Steve’s delight. Even if the beta is still blinking at him owlishly, it’s better than sleeping on him.

“Tony. Where is he?”

“Hmmm. Probably his room. I’m not too sure-“ Steve is sure Bruce’s going on to say something more but Steve is already making his way to the corridor. He bolts up the stairs with words for Bruce to get ready to go outside and reaches Tony’s door in swift strides.

He taps lightly on the door and waits politely, practically buzzing on his feet. His inner wolf is tumbling all over the place for some reason and Steve’s really not sure why.

“Hello?” A quiet voice replies, but the door doesn’t open. Steve just grins and folds his arms.

“It’s me Tony. Come out and spend time with me.”

There’s a pause. Then the door slides open to reveal brown hair. Tony pokes his head out and runs his eyes over Steve.

Steve’s inner wolf is now at a standstill, body alert and snapping. It’s extremely unusual, even for him.

“Hey Steve. What’s up?” Tony smiles but doesn’t open the door further. Steve feels his own smile starting to fracture a bit.

“It’s snowing.” He says softly. “I thought we could just take an evening off to enjoy it. We don’t know when it’ll-“

“One sec!” And Tony dashes back in, slamming the door shut. A wave of relief fills Steve. At least they’ll have this.

A part of Steve fears that there’s been a bit of a distance growing between him and Tony. Since he’d held that meeting, Tony has been barely present and Steve knows better than anyone that distance can cause people to lose bonds. It’s common enough.

It’s why Steve hates when his pack is spread out. There’s few methods of communication and letters are unreliable.

Maybe I should write letters to Tony. At least I know he’ll be able to read them.

After a minute, the door swings open revealing Tony is a tweed brown coat and large hiking boots. His hair is an array of curls and there’s a fire in his eyes.

“Let’s go! Come on Steve, co-“

“Where’s you’re coat?” Steve frowns, grabbing Tony by the arm before he can slip away. His frown deepens and he stops short when he realizes he’s never even seen this coat before.

The more he looks at it, the more confused he feels. It fits poorly on Tony’s shoulders, clearly built for a stocky beta with a larger waist. It hangs on him like a scarecrow and is extremely unflattering when Steve takes Tony out of the picture.

“What coat?” Tony replies, eyes bulging with how close Steve has gotten and really, he doesn’t blame him. Steve knows he has lightening reflexes that shock even the fastest of wolves.

“The coat I bought you. The one for winter.”

Tony fiddles a bit with his cuffs and pulls this coat tighter, emphasizing just how loose it is. Now that Steve’s up close, he can see holes in the fabric near the seems.

“It’s a spare. My-the other coat is, ah, I didn’t want to-to ruin it.”

Steve’s eyes narrow further and he crosses his arms, chin naturally tilting up. “It’s built for winter. I know because I checked the lining myself.”

“I know.” Tony says, waving his hands. “But I still don’t wanna risk it. So let’s go!”

It’s a difficult feet to stop Tony once he’s set his mind to something so Steve rolls his eyes and submits peacefully. After all, the snow won’t stay forever and his omega wants out.

So does his inner alpha and the omega in front of him drives him forward.

They meet Bruce in the doorway and both Steve and Tony stifle a laugh at how bundled up the beta is. He’s swathed in layers from head to toe with only his nose and eyes exposed. Even his hair is cover by a knitted hat.

“You look-“

“Brucie please don’t bother!” Tony howls and doubles over in laughter and Steve can only shrug at Bruce’s scowl. He had been trying for damage control but Tony had beaten him to it.

“I hate the cold okay.” Bruce says, completely unimpressed and shoves the door open to let them through first.

Once they’re outside, Steve takes a moment to pause and just breathe. It’s a quiet evening and the sun is fading into the sky, painting it in broad strokes of burning orange and fiery purple. It should be darker but with the way the snow has blanketed the earth, everything is reflected and so the world is brighter for it. Steve reaches out with a gloved hand and watches the soft flakes fall and dissolve, feeling something peaceful settle over him.

He stand ever so still, closing his eyes when suddenly something pounces at his knees and almost pushes him back. When he looks down, it’s Tony in wolf form, brown eyes sparkling with joy and fur sprinkled with snowflakes. His paws sink into the snow, leaving a trail of steps in his wake but his tail is high and wagging happily at the way the snow lands. He truly looks in his element and for a moment Steve wonders if maybe Tony’s a winter-bred, but then he dashed the thought as soon as he remembers Howard. Tony’s half Italian so it’s unlikely.

A soft mewl distracts his thoughts and Steve shakes his hands lightly, crouching down to brush Tony’s fur back.

“You look happy Tony.” Steve says reverently, in a hushed voice. Tony, for all intents and purposes seems to be staring back at him, cogs turning.

Then, all of a sudden Tony pounces and lands on Steve, shoving him flat on his back into the snow. Steve laughs and laughs as the wind is knocked out of his sails when Tony pads onto his chest and keeps pawing at his nose.

“Tony, no! No I’m not shifting! Do you know how much I fought in the cold? The cold and I do not work when I’m a wolf, you know that!” As soon as he says it, he realizes that maybe Tony doesn’t know.

But maybe Howard did educate him on Captain America and the Howling Commandos a bit because Tony seems to stop batting his nose and instead circles on Steve’s chest before settling with his tail brushing Steve’s neck. He tucks himself up and rests, matching his breathing to Steve’s.

“Hey, no, you should be enjoying this, don’t sit on me, go and play in the snow! C’mon it’s good for your muscles!”

“Don’t bother Steve.” Bruce chirps from the log he’s perched on. “Tony’s as stubborn as they come. Enjoy that.”

Steve lets his arms fall flat and huffs at the sky. The weight on his chest has not budged. “Don’t take his side Bruce. Tell him to-ooff!”

Tony’s jumped off him now and walks up to his head. When they’re nose to nose, Tony licks him on the cheek.

Steve jolts upright, feeling his cheeks burn. 

That’s the equivalent of a kiss in wolf talk.

“T-Tony?” Steve stammers, knowing full well that Bruce is the one laughing in the background.

The omega gives him a wolfish grin and shakes his fur out like a drill. Then he bounds away and proceeds to irritate Bruce by nudging snow into his boot.

This time it’s Steve’s turn to laugh but he can't stop the ache in his jaw from smiling so much afterwards.

Tony just did something wonderful to him.


 

They stay outside until the sun sets and once Tony is wrapped up in layers, Steve picks him up in all his wolf form and the trio go back in.

“That was good Steve. I really needed that.” Bruce smiles and cricks his neck, seemingly satisfied, though Steve wonders how exactly he managed to enjoy it when he was a mummy the whole time.

Steve lets Tony down carefully and feels his lips twitch when Tony nuzzles at his knees gently and looks up.

It’s clear he’s waiting for something and Steve really isn’t sure what. And maybe that’s why he decides to throw caution to the wind and do what he wanted to do since the night Tony had slept in his bed.

Kneeling down till he is almost eye level, Steve reaches out with both hands and cups Tony’s neck gently. Then he gives the wolf a quick glance to check before leaning in and pressing a kiss to Tony’s head, just between the ears.

Bruce gasps and Tony makes a strange sound. And yet Steve still can’t bring himself to let go yet.

He pulls back and brushes Tony gently, observing the stunned stillness of the wolf.

“I’ve been wanting to do that for a while you know. And since you were so bold earlier...” Steve winks as he says it and hopes desperately that he hasn’t overstepped. Thankfully, his move is rewarded because Tony finally barks and wags his tail at lightening speed, circling between Bruce and Steve, like he’s unsure what to do but full of energy to do...something.

“Now you’re both even. Head upstairs before your alpha chases you up there himself.” Bruce quips, smile broadening when Steve growls playfully, making Tony squeal and go flying up the stairs.

Finally it’s the two of them. Steve already misses Tony.

“You really love him don’t you?”

Steve sighs and turns to the beta, unsure of whether he should bother hiding it anymore.

“Yes. I adore him.”

“Like a mate, right?” Bruce inquires, fingers pressed to his lips in thought.

“Yes.”

There’s a silence between them. Then finally Bruce drops his fingers and folds his arms, eyebrow raised like he’s about to crack the puzzle.

“Has this been since the day you found him? You stayed with him all night, scenting him too actually, and made sure he was okay. You care very much for a new omega you haven’t ever met before. It must be-“

“I love him Bruce.” Steve whispers and, there. He’s finally said it out loud.

It’s almost freeing. His inner wolf is flying.

“I can tell. And hey, for what it’s worth, I think-well-!” Bruce shakes his head and turns on his heel. “It’s not my place to say.”

Steve grabs his wrist before he can escape.

“Tell me.”

“I think you’ll know soon enough. Let’s just say I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.”

Bruce’s cryptic answers don’t make Steve that happy but he relents and lets him be. Some things are maybe better left to later.

Speaking of which...

“Bruce. There was one thing I wanted to ask. Not to do with...this per-say.”

Bruce stops his coat hanging and frowns. “Go ahead.”

“Where did Tony get that coat from? I’ve never seen it before.”

Steve watches something unusual happen. Bruce lets the coat slip in his hand and blinks twice. Then his face goes pale and he takes a step towards the stairs. It’s almost instinctive.

“Bruce?”

“I-Oh no. No, nononono-“

“Bruce, what’s going on?” Steve’s heart is starting to race a bit now because none of this makes any sense. They'd been so cheerful a second ago...

Bruce is edging closer to the stairs and his eyes are wide with horror. Then he turns around and races up the stairs.

Steve stands there shocked.

Then he chases after him.


 

 

Chapter Text


 

When he skids to the top and almost collides with the door, he’s greeted with the sight of Bruce banging on Tony’s door.

“Tony! Open up!”

“Bruce what is going on-“

The door creeks open and Tony once again peeps his head out.

“Yes?”

Steve doesn’t even know why they’re here but thankfully Bruce takes the lead and makes the first move. In hindsight maybe he should’ve stopped Bruce there and then.

The beta doesn’t waste any time. He pushes past Tony and barges into his room, leaving Tony flailing and tried to grab at his arm.

“Bruce, wait-“

Steve decides he’s had enough of this.

“Tony. Tell me what’s going on.” He commands, knowing full well that this could end badly. His heart pounds and he mentally braces himself for a battle.

A moment of quiet passes. Then Tony sighs and opens the door a bit for Steve to see and he leans in.

The alpha blinks a few times. There’s nothing here. Nothing out of the ordinary. He doesn’t understand.

Bruce is going through the wardrobe, checking under the bed and reaching around the coat hook but doesn’t seem to have much success. Finally he turns and joins the trio, looking awfully upset. He turns to Tony and reaches out tentatively.

“Tony, tell me you didn’t.” Bruce begs and that’s when Steve really starts to panic.

“I had to. It’s okay, really-“

“But Tony-“ Bruce turns to Steve almost pleadingly. “That was Steve’s gift to you. You loved that coat.”

Steve’s heart freezes.

Then it breaks.

“Tony...” Steve says, and for a moment he’s back in the war and he’s just fallen into the icy lake. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t breathe.

Tony’s coat is missing. It’s gone.

The sickening scent of dread permeates the room and makes Steve’s heart ache. Tony had loved that coat. Steve still remembers how happy Tony had been when he’d been given it, how he'd twirled around and glanced at every glass window to see his reflection.

“I...wait.” Tony says and slips back into the room, seemingly un-bothered by their stares as he lifts up his mattress and reveals...

A small purse.

Tony pauses for a moment, seemingly weighing up the coins before he turns on his heel and walks up to Steve, prize in tow. He looks pleased and there’s almost a relief in his eyes.

“Alpha, this is for you.” He says and drops the bag in Steve’s hands. It’s heavy.

Steve opens and closes his mouth a few times and feels his expression twist.

“What is this?”

Tony’s smile goes soft and he puts his hand over the bag reassuringly. “For the pack. We need to be careful of-“

“Where is the coat Tony?”

The smile starts to slip off Tony’s face and his eyes dart towards Bruce. The beta says nothing, far too busy rubbing his hand over his mouth to do anything.

“I sold it.”

Steve says nothing. He’s gobsmacked.

“I sold it to an alpha based pack in the west of town." He continues. "They said they liked my coat and-"

YOU WENT INTO TOWN ALONE!?” Steve screams, losing those last threads of control. How this had all happened while he was around, he’d never know. But he’s always prided himself on knowing what his pack was doing and this...

Well, this should never have happened.

Tony is frozen under Steve’s glare and he doesn’t seem to breathe. His fingers are shaking and he slips his hand away carefully from the coin purse. while he chews his lips and glances at Bruce again, Steve tries to calm himself but he can't. He just can't.

“You owe me an answer!” He growls, ignoring the scent of fear in the air.

“I needed spare parts for...for...” The omega loses steam rapidly and sighs shakily. This only enrages Steve more and he forces himself to take a step back.

“How could you go without anyone!? Don’t you realize how dangerous it is!?”

“No one would let me sell the coat. And I wasn’t originally planning to sell it but I had no choice!” Tony implores but all Steve can see is a never-ending well of problems.

Calm down. I need to calm down.

“Why did you go then? Why did you tell no one and leave this burrow?” Steve says quietly and does his level best to hide how...hurt he feels.

And Tony knows, god does he know. Because his eyes are watering and his shoulders are trembling. From sorrow or frustration, Steve doesn’t know.

A part of Steve wishes Rhodes was here to diffuse the situation. But a larger part is thankful because Steve’s sure he’s screwed up somewhere.

“I wanted to get spare parts. I can...I build things. But I don’t have any material so I needed to get something.” Tony says and despite everything, he still looks sure of what he’s done. His eyes are wide and manic with desperation and Steve suddenly feels like he’s misunderstood something bigger. Something more.

He’s missed something. As usual.

“What did you want to build?” He whispers and waits for something, anything to lift his heart. It feels like a rock has pulled it down into the ocean and he’s never going to get it back. It’s sunk beyond his reach.

“I’m not sure. But I wanted to help you. I just want to help.” Tony says, standing straighter and gesturing to the bag again. “That’s what I have so far.”

The coins jingle in the purse as Steve rolls it in his hands. It’s heavy and reminds Steve of when Bucky had come back to him one evening after they’d returned from the war. They’d been living in an old shack and Steve had just begun to work on the neighboring lands, helping village farmers in return for food and shelter. Bucky had been sharing with him but had still been recovering after the loss of his arm. Despite Bucky insisting Steve leave him, Steve had refused, stating they stick together even till the end of the line. Exactly one fortnight after that, Steve had come home to find Bucky pulling at logs and carving wood into smaller sculptures with only one hand. Caught like a deer in the headlights, Bucky had revealed the coins he’d collected to help, a heavy purse just bulging with coins. At that moment Steve had felt so elated and thankful for Bucky, but so remorseful that he’d been unable to provide even just a bit for his brother. It had been tough.

Steve feels the same now. And it hurts.

“Oh, Tony...” He whispers, feeling his lips shake against his will and his eyes water. Through blurry eyes, he looks up from the purse and meets Tony’s eyes.

“How did you end up selling the coat?” He murmurs and feels Bruce’s heavy stare.

“When I was in town I actually only meant to get some supplies and try and sell some of my smaller things. But this alpha pack saw me and asked me for my clothes. I told them no but they insisted that I give them something, so I struck a deal.” Tony’s eyes seem to be somewhere in the distance and he shifts on his feet. “They gave me some coins for the coat and the spare part they had for their carts.”

And Steve has no answer. He genuinely doesn’t know what to say.

“Steve...” Bruce reaches out but Steve shakes his head firmly. His lips are set in a frown but his vision is blurring beyond control. He hates the way his throat closes up and feels like it’s being choked.

“Steve...alpha...” Tony tries but Steve lifts his hand. Tony stops and waits, eyes wide with horror.

“Am I? Am I really your alpha?” Steve’s inner wolf is screaming and crying and all he can feel is this pain. Not physical but emotional and far worse.

He clears his throat and looks at both the omega and beta. The tension is thick and sits heavy on the back of his tongue. “If I was your alpha, you would never have had to sell your shifting gift.”

Tony is close to tears. Maybe because Steve is crying. A tear falls down his cheek causing Tony to gasp and reach his hand out. “Steve, no-"

“What kind of head alpha can’t provide for his pack? What kind of-of alpha lets his omega sell his prized possession, fuck, his only possession!-“ Steve’s breathing feels funny. He’s shouting and he doesn’t really realize until Tony and Bruce flinch. “-and calls himself the pack leader!?”

He sucks in a deep breath. Tony is crying silently and even Bruce looks close to it. They’re both devastated and Steve knows they should be.

Tony sold the coat. That too because some alphas half forced him to.

Steve wants to scream.

“I’m sorry alpha. I’m really sorry.” Tony whispers and tries to step closer but no. Steve doesn’t want Tony close to him. He’ll only make Tony lose more and then his omega will have nothing left.

He has nothing. I'm no different from Howard.

Steve steps away and clutches the purse tight to stop his fingers shaking. “You’re a fantastic omega Tony. Thank you for this. I’m sorry I failed you. Bruce. I’m sorry I failed you too.”

Bruce’s face morphs into horror but there’s little he can do. “No, Steve no. You do everything and you have nothing to-“

“Tony is not allowed to go into town without someone. I’m not-“ Steve concentrates on the weight of the coins and forces himself to speak. “-not capable of looking after him so you all must.”

“Steve!” Bruce looks livid now but it’s too late. Steve won’t drag his family down anymore.

“Those alphas could’ve hurt him. I didn’t even know he had left. His shifting gift is gone. The pack is split. I can’t do shit. I’m not suitable to lead any of you. I’m sorry.”

At this, Tony leaps in and grabs Steve’s arm, tugging harshly. He looks terrified and doesn’t let go, even when Steve stares at him coldly. He flinches away but remains so brave.

“Please don’t say that. Please. You’re...you’re the best alpha I’ve ever met. You’re kind and caring and look out for everyone. You take care of us and lead us and try to do everything on your own and you’re so strong.” Tony looks down tiredly and loosens his grip. “You help me so much. You’ve done so much for me. You-“ Tony looks up at him with huge brown eyes that are leaking tears and it breaks Steve’s heart.

“You’re a good alpha. Don’t leave us. Don’t say this. Please.”

“I won’t leave.” Steve says softly because how can he ever do that? He understands Tony’s concern though.

The thought had crossed his mind.

“Steve I think you need to rest. You look exhausted and you need a break. Go to bed, we’ll take care of things, I promise. When you’re up we’ll talk about this.”

Bruce’s suggestion sounds draining but honestly Steve is too tired to care anymore. He’s tired of struggling. He’s tired of seeing his pack suffer. He just wants them to be happy.

He just wants them safe.

“Alpha? Don’t be upset about the coat. Please, I promise I’m not upset.” Tony’s eyes are determined, a fire burning in them. “I’d rather you were okay than some piece of clothing. Steve I can’t stand by and watch you get worse when we’re all okay. I can’t sit there and do nothing!”

Something about the wording plays with Steve’s mind. “Worse?”

The others don’t say a word to that. They simply look at each other until Bruce sighs and answers.

“We’re worried about you. You’ve barely said a word these past couple of weeks. You barely eat and don’t drink enough water and you’re losing weight. And-“ Bruce gestures to Tony. “You’ve not spent any time with the pack members. It’s not good for you Steve especially with the amount you’ve been shifting during your hunts.”

It’s not surprising that they’ve noticed. He just hadn’t really thought of it as a big issue.

Finally Tony stands beside him and wraps an arm around Steve’s waist reassuringly. It’s sweet considering Tony is shorter and not as muscled as Steve, though Steve admires the omega a lot.

“Come with me. Sleep and rest, that’s what you need capitano.” Tony says quietly, and tugs him gently, not taking his eyes off him for even a second.

They reach Steve’s bedroom and Tony doesn’t leave until Steve is lying in his bed with a fur blanket wrapped around his shoulders. Unsurprisingly, Tony is insistent that Steve eat when he wakes up so he gets a meal option from Steve and leaves with the promise that broth will be served in the morning. For the alpha, that’s more than enough and under all the stress, Steve is grateful to have Tony take charge for once. It’s a very nice thing even if the earlier information aches like a constant sting.

Before he sleeps, he vows to get Tony’s coat back no matter what. He needs to brainstorm and frankly, he’s moped enough. This one night, he’ll rest.


“Steve? Steve? Wake up.”

Steve frowns and turns his head away from the light coming through the window. It’s too bright for once and despite being a morning person, he has trouble cracking his eyes open. His body aches and his head pounds. He doesn’t feel so good and his nose feels blocked, like he’s suffocating.

Above him is a silhouette but he knows exactly who it is. Tony’s standing above him with a wooden bowl and spoon in hand. Steve watches him set it down on the table gently and almost jumps when Tony presses his hand to Steve’s forehead. He lets out a strained noise and cups Steve’s cheek.

“You’re burning up.” Tony says sadly, though he has that spark in his eyes again, just like he did when he was folding that paper crane. A plan is in motion.

He turns on his feet and brings the bowl back, perching carefully on the bed as Steve pushes himself up with a groan. Blearily, Steve reaches out and brushes Tony’s hair.

“I scared you yesterday, didn’t I?” He murmurs though Tony shakes his head firmly and they reach a comfortable silence, Steve’s hand now brushing Tony’s cheek lightly. His omega looks pale too.

He sighs and watches the omega stir the bowl. Guilt claws it's way up. "Don't be scared. I won't leave. If you want me here, I'll be here. Until the day I die."

Tony doesn't reply but his silence is telling enough. He gives Steve a tired look that's full of fear and longing before returning to the broth. His soft dark hair is in disarray and his tired brown eyes are drooping every so often with each stir. 

Steve won’t stand for it. “Don’t let yourself fall ill. I won’t be best pleased.” Even though he coughs at the end, he still manages to push a bit of his alpha voice into the words. It’s enough to make Tony nod but the omega still shuffles closer and holds the spoon of the bowl out. Steve huffs and turns his nose away, ignoring Tony’s scowl.

“Steve.”

Tony tries feeding him again and finally Steve decides to humor his mate-to-be by opening his mouth. The soup tastes good and that’s how Steve knows it’s not quite Tony’s cooking.

“Bruce?”

“...Yeah.”

Tony continues to feed him, much to Steve’s delight. It's there but distant. He's aware of what this behavior is similar to and he wonders if Tony is aware of the role he's taking. If this mated behavior is intentional and if Tony enjoys taking care of him.

God knows it's the wrong time to ask but Steve is dying to do so.

Only when Tony turns and puts the empty bowl down, does Steve notice the redness around his eyes. Horror struck, he reaches out but Tony only shakes his head.

“You’ve been-“

“No.”

“Tony. I don’t want you to cry because of me.” Steve implores, though he knows it’s pointless when Tony just shakes his head and rubs his eyes.

“I just didn’t sleep last night. Nothing to do with you.” Tony explains, only then he freezes, one hand mid-rub.

“I mean-“ Tony drops his hand. “I mean, I always think about the well-being of my alpha but-“

Steve says nothing for a minute and lets Tony ramble because he honestly doesn’t know why he’s so paranoid all of a sudden. Then it hits him.

While Tony continues, Steve slowly pushes himself up and gets comfortable. Then he reaches out and pulls Tony into a hug causing the omega’s words to filter off until they finally die down.

“Tony.” Steve feels him shudder when he murmurs into the omega’s ear. “You’re allowed to say what you want to me. You don’t need to please me okay? You get an opinion.”

“Hmm.” Tony says but Steve knows he distracted. Still, it’s better to take this one and fight it another day and Steve really does feel exhausted. Occasionally Tony still doubts how open he can be with him but it’s certainly improved. They’ll get there.

“So you were thinking about me then? But you don’t want to admit it?” Steve pulls back and waits for Tony’s sheepish answer.

“Yes. That’s...it really.” It’s hesitant but still more honest. And Tony’s shoulders have relaxed from his instinctive defense position.

Steve just beams. “I feel better already.” And he does. For some reason he really does.