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definitions of indefinable things

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“So that’s it? Everyone’s pulling the plugs and moving on?”


It has officially been two months since Tony Stark’s disappearance in Afghanistan. There have been a lot of talks circulating as to who will be next to take over the Stark Industries. Stephen was not naïve. Time waited for no man; not even the great Tony Stark.


He had kept his composure till now, as Pepper asked. Not reacting to any of the reporters or even his personal friends that asked for inside news. But when the talk of a funeral came, Stephen finally snapped.


“There’s nothing left we can do. If there was any indication Tony was still alive-” Rhodes looks exhausted and fatigued. Stephen knew in the back of his mind Rhodes is like a brother to Tony. He undoubtedly was worried and has been trying his best to locate the whereabouts of his friend.


But it wasn’t enough.


“Spare me. I read the official e-mail from Pepper. Thought maybe you’d have something different to say.” It wasn’t enough. They need to be doing more.


He started down the hallway in quick strides only to have the colonel closely tail him. “Look, Stephen,” he grabbed the doctor’s shoulder turning him around harshly, “You have some nerve showing up here and making it seem like we are not all doing our best. I knew him for a lot longer than you have. He’s family, you got that? I don’t even know what you are.”


“Then you should know, better than anyone else, if anyone could figure out how to beat the odds, it’s Tony. If it was you over there, he’d be finding a way to get you back, come hell or high water. Or be inventing a new one.”


There was a moment of silence as they just stare at one another.


“…What do you want me to do?” Rhodes asked finally.


“Be better. Be a better friend to him.”



The morning came peacefully, very much disregarding the previous day’s debacle.


Stephen slowly pushed himself up all the while trying to half-heartedly straighten his now messy hair. As he gets a footing off the bed, the blackout tint started dissolving from the window that makes up the majority of a wall, revealing a striking panoramic view of the mountains. Though beautiful, and possibly more his personal taste, Stephen misses the cityscape that could have been seen from Tony’s previous bedrooms. The skyscrapers always reminded him of Tony: bold, fast-paced, a testament of humanity's intelligence and strength.


“Good morning, Doctor Strange. It’s seven-forty A.M. The weather in Upstate New York is 72 degree with scattered clouds. Boss is downstairs in his lab.”


The doctor pulled on a shirt, processing the information from the AI. He wasn’t blind to how Tony has been spending more and more time in the workshop since the rogues' return. It was one of the few areas they did not have access to. It irritated him, of course. Tony loves his lab but the brunette ultimately did not react well to being cooped up in one area no matter the place or the circumstance. The engineer had mentioned maybe visiting Malibu for old times sake. How Peter would love the sun and the beach. Maybe that was not such a bad idea. He can simply portal to the Sanctum and back when necessary and Tony can get some much needed fresh air and freedom.


“How long has he been there, FRIDAY?” he asked the AI.


“Shall I tell you the answer Boss has instructed me to say?”


He shook his head slightly with a soft smile. The AI was definitely getting smarter than he ever imagined, though in hindsight, unsurprising being a creation of Tony’s. “No that won’t be necessary,” he replied as he heads towards the large bathroom. He wanted to at least quickly wash up before heading downstairs.


Stephen would like to think the AI had taken a liking to him. It did seem to listen to him more so than others in the complex and on a few occasions even over-riding Tony’s order to the creator’s shock.


“Boss has not yet eaten and in process of drinking his fifth cup of coffee.”


The doctor let out of soft chuckle as he towels his face dry. No, the AI definitely likes him because it likes Tony.


“Thank you, FRIDAY."


“Of course, Doctor Strange.”



“Mr. Stark is requesting your presence downstairs, Doctor Strange.”


“Don’t let him do anything stupid,” Pepper didn't even look up from the paperwork she was sorting through.


“Thank you, Jarvis,” he replied while smiling softly in the direction of the strawberry blonde. He made his way downstairs quickly, entering the access code once he reaches the glass door.


“How big are your hands?”


“What?” Stephen frowned as he approached Tony shirtless on a chair. He couldn't take his eyes off the glow from his chest.


“Just show me your hands.”


“Tony…“ he said warningly.


“Who am I kidding, you’re a surgeon. You’ll do.“


“So that’s the thing that’s keeping you alive.”


“That’s the thing that WAS keeping me alive. It is now an antique. This is what WILL be keeping me alive for the foreseeable future.”


He’s fascinated by the circular object Tony is holding up. “Remarkable,” he whispered under his breath.


“I’m going to swap them out and switch all functions to the new unit.”


Oh no… “This cannot be safe-”


If anything has taught Stephen the past months of being in this friend-ish-with-benefits-kinda thing with Tony Stark, it was that he himself had more self-preservation than Christine had ever given him credit for. His reckless behavior was nowhere near the catastrophic level that was Tony’s.


“It’s completely safe. First I need you to reach in-“


“If it WAS safe you would have called Pepper down here. Basic assumption, women have smaller hands. You just need me to be an accomplice for things Pepper certainly will not let you-“


“-to the socket. Listen, we have to do this in a matter of minutes.”


“Of course you’re not listening-“


“I AM listening. I’m just choosing not to respond because it won’t be what you want to hear. I’m going to lift off the old chest piece and I need you to reach in as far as your hands can fit and gently move the housing away from my heart.”


“Oh dear god-“


“Don’t be dramatic, Shakespeare… Keep going-“


“I know where the heart is! I’m a surgeon,” Stephen snaps.


“For a surgeon, you’re really not good at being calm-“


“You DO realize there we shouldn’t operate on family members or loved ones-“


“So you DO love me-“


“For someone who is allergic to commitments, you sure are very insistent on romantic declarations-“




“What’s going on-“


“I’m going into cardiac arrest.”


“I know what cardiac arrest is!”


“You asked! Definitely not being calm.”


“Okay- okay…. Tony… it’s going to be alright-“ at this point, he was definitely unsure if he was really trying to assure the other or calm himself. Stephen carefully lowered the wires of the new reactor, attaching it quickly to Tony with an odd squish sound he rather never hear again in this lifetime. The beeping stopped.


There’s a moment where they both didn't move, trying to catch their breath.


“There. Good as new,” the engineer got up, pulling a shirt over himself.


Stephen stood there, still holding the oozing old arc reactor in a sort of a daze. He honestly never, ever, been this frazzled; in fact, he never knew he ever had the capacity to be so panicked. The human body never phased him; the gore, blood, death, it was all almost second nature but- “Do. Not. Make. Me. Do. That. Again.”


There was a look that exchanged between them. The doctor noticed something he can't quite place in the brunette’s doe eyes.


“I don’t have anyone else.”


There was a long pause in which Tony started pacing nervously. “I-…are you going to say something…?” he asked unable to deal with the silence any longer.


“I’m listening,” Stephan responded dryly. “I’m just choosing not to respond because it won’t be what you want to hear.”


Tony grinned.



The loud music of the shop greeted Stephen as he stepped off the elevator. He glanced up to one of the cameras that connect to FRIDAY and immediately the music turned down just as the sorcerer stopped a few feet away from where Tony was working.


“Leaving me to wake up alone again? How many times is that this week,” he started in a teasing tone.


Tony turned his head with a smirk still fidgeting with his latest creation, “Sorry, hun. Really couldn’t get this out of my head.”


The engineer felt a strong arm wrap around his waist, making him shift around completely, back soon pressing against the worktable behind him. He couldn’t stop the grin forming as Stephen closed the distance between the two, lips meeting his. It started off sweet but it never ends that way for the pair. Long since past the days where they played chaste, trying to tone down their inherent fervent nature.


It wasn’t long before one of the doctor’s long legs shoved its way between shorter male’s and a trembling, but always the confident, hand gripped tightly at Tony’s hip forcing them closer. Tony let out a soft gasp meeting the piercing green-blue eyes.


“Someone’s feisty today,” the brunette’s voice was surprisingly even considering the rapid heartbeat.


Stephen tilts his head, lowering it further to nip at his lover’s neck. “Just making sure I’m the one you can’t get out of that pretty little head of yours.”


He chuckled as he hears Tony groan. The doctor always loved how expressive the other was at times like this. Maybe it was an ego thing. After all, it would be an outright lie for Stephen Strange to claim he wasn’t a prideful man. It was simply that he learned to better control it in recent years.


“Does it actually bother you to wake up alone? You know I can’t really stop my mind when-”


“No, not really,” he lifted his head to meet Tony’s gaze once more. “I just like to complain and see if I’ll get something out of it- ow”


Tony had lightly smacked him with a fond look. “You know full well, cuddle muffin, you can get anything out of me just by fluttering your eyelashes a bit and laying on that accent.”


“I would like you to at least eat something,” Stephen replied while pushing away the coffee cup that sat nearby on the worktable.


“Ugh so boring. I say I can give you whatever you want and you choose having me fed? No dirty sex, bending me over my work table, kinky shit –“


The sorcerer rolled his eyes, “I will tie you to the chair and force feed you if you don’t eat something by noon.”


Tony opened his mouth in hopes of saying another snarky remark but was soon interrupted by FRIDAY. 


Boss, Doctor Strange, Peter is on his way to you.”


The engineer let out a laugh as Stephen made a loud dramatic sigh while resting his forehead onto Tony’s shoulder. “Life of having a kid-“ Tony said fondly patting his lover’s back before lightly pushing them apart, which earned him another groan from Stephen.


“I never wanted kids,” muttered the doctor while straightening up.


“You keep saying but you were over the moon when Pete called you dad yesterday-”


“ARE YOU BOTH DRESSED,” came the loud voice. The two adults looked up to see the elevator door open but Peter completely turned around facing the other direction.


Stephen shook his head with a snort as he makes his way towards the set of couches that became a permanent fixture at the corner of Tony’s workshop.


“It was only one time Pete,” Tony responded with an eye roll. “You teenagers these days are so overly dramatic. You’re definitely getting that from Stephen-“


“I. Am. Iron. Man,” said Peter and Stephen in unison.


Tony gave them both a mock hurt expression, putting a hand over his heart with an obvious fake gasp.



“Crashing your own charity gala, that’s new.”


“You’re here?”


Stephen let out a sigh leaning against the bar, “I do get invitations to these sorts of events not just as your plus one, Tony. You do understand, as minor as it may seem to you, I have a reputation of my own.”


“I know you do-“


“I’m the best neurosurgeon in the west coast-“


“I know you are.”


“I may not be the youngest CEO of the fortune 500 company but -“


“So why did you stick around.”


“What?” The doctor turned towards the other in mild confusion.


“I heard from Rhodey how you cornered him into keeping up the search for me. You’re smart, successful, arguably even better looking than me…”


“Arguably?” he snorted as he takes a sip of his drink.


Of course, Tony, as usual, still rambled on.“….incredible in bed. We haven’t known each other for long and it’s clear you’re not even overly attached to me. You could have gone off and found another multi-millionaire to waste your time on with… I don’t know, settle down? House? Have kids?”


“I don’t want kids.”


“Great. Me neither.”


“For god’s sake-“


“What I mean is,” Tony continued on, “You didn’t have to stick around when everyone else basically already put me in a coffin-“


There was a short pause in which Stephen turned his attention to the crowd of the room. “That’s what friends do, Tony.”


“So we’re just friends now?”


“I don’t even know what we are, Anthony,” he lowered his voice. There was a hint of something dangerous Tony undoubtedly will pick up. “Couple of months ago this types of conversation was too advance for you emotionally-“


“Wow not holding back our punches today, are we?”


Perhaps it was the alcohol he drank on an empty stomach or that he just got off from a particularly draining 20-hour shift, Stephen was not exactly in the best of moods. “I recall you went out of your way to tell the press we are ‘friends’, I got the hint.”


“I- You didn’t need to be dealing with my mess right now. As you said, you have a reputation of your own-“


He slamed the drink down on the counter, a little harder than he meant to. “Oh drop the hero act, Anthony. Aren’t you tired yet always being the one to take care of everyone?”




“Dance with me.”




He noted it was almost cute seeing the usual pompous playboy confused. There wasn’t a lot that makes the genius become lost for words making it a rare sight.


“Or are you embarrassed to be seen dancing with a man.”


“Oh honey, you’re a hot, successful neurosurgeon, 6 years my junior. What have I got to be embarrassed about?” Tony quickly put down his drink with a smirk.


“Good, because you’re going to let me lead.”


But before Tony can say anything in return there was a voice that that greeted them.


“Mr. Stark!”


They both turned to see a blonde walking towards them.


“I was hoping I could get a reaction from you.”


“How’s panic?” Tony retorted back with the obvious annoyance. Stephen couldn't help but be pleased that it was he who made the genius fumble for words just moments ago.


“I was referring to your company’s involvement in this latest atrocity.”


Stephen’s eyes narrowed. He could have sworn he saw her before at some point recently.


“Hey, they just put my name on the invitations,” Tony said before a handful of photos were thrust at him.


“Is this what you call accountability?”


He felt the air shift as Tony looks through the photos. “When were these taken?”



Peter smiled, glanced briefly over to where Stephen was now trying to make himself comfortable with an open book, then joined Tony at the work station.


“So,” Tony said, voice lowered. Although, they were pretty sure if Stephen really intended on listening he probably can still hear their every word. “‘Other dad’ huh?”


Peter turned a bit pink around the ears, choosing to look at the blueprints scattered along the work station rather than meeting the other’s eyes. “I- it’s just-“


“You like him?” Tony asked, voice light. He continued his work while stealing quick glances at the teen.


“I- I mean… yeah," then quickly added, "not like it matters but-“


“Do you like him more than me?” the brunette teased.


Peter’s face snapped up, eyes wide. “NO! ...Wait- I mean-“ he urgently looked towards Stephen, who, though not looking directly at them, was smiling behind his book. “This is like being told to choose between mom or dad-“


“I always said mom,” Tony said flatly. “No hesitation.”


“You would,” the doctor called out.


Peter smiled, rocking back and forth on his feet.


“It matters,” the seriousness in Tony’s voice drew the teen’s attention back. This time, their eyes lock. Tony paused for a second trying to get a good read on Peter’s face before continuing. “If this adoption thing goes through, and it will, your opinion matters. A lot.” They stare for a bit longer and the engineer can see the kid’s eyes starting sparkle a bit in the light. “But we can talk for real when the wizard isn’t eavesdropping. Then you can truthfully tell me how lame you really think he is-“


Stephen rolled his eyes and Peter laughed, shaking his head lightly.


Tony turned his attention back to the mechanics and Peter sank his hands into the pockets of his sweats. “I like him a whole lot better than Mr. America,” he muttered, his gaze fixed on the floor.


Tony stopped briefly but did not look up. “Right, about that. You said that in front of the others to give him-,” he pointed the tool in his hand towards Stephen’s direction, “-ammunition.”




“Wasn’t a question.”


Peter shut his mouth as if rethinking his next statement. “They were being rude.“


Tony snorted while ruffling the teen's hair, “You sly kid. I knew you were spending way too much time with Nat.”


“Well- Doctor Strange asked me to keep an eye on her.”


That definitely made Tony look up, quickly turning towards his boyfriend. “Please tell me you are not using my kid to spy on the rogues-“


Stephen glanced up from the book, an elegant eyebrow raised. “He volunteered. And he’s not naive, Tony. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” he almost sounds proud. “They do grow up so fast. You are aware he basically have you wrapped around his finger-”


Tony stared at him, arms now crossed. “And you keep saying you don’t want kids.”


“Actually, Mr. Star- Dad?”


Oh, Stephen knew the teen definitely has Tony wrapped around his finger. That look in those chocolate brown eyes as he gazed back at Peter was very telling. He shook his head with another chuckle before turning his attention back to the book.


“There is this party tonight. A small get-together with some friends from school… Ned is going to be there too-“


“Is there alcohol?”












“Then why are you going?”





“How ironic, Tony! Trying to rid the world of weapons, you gave it its best one ever!”


“STEPHEN! Time to hit the button!”


“You told me not to!”










“You’ve all received the official statement of what occurred at Stark Industries last night. There have been unconfirmed reports that a robotic prototype malfunctioned and caused damage to the arc reactor. Fortunately, a member of Tony Stark’s personal security staff… Iron Man… That’s kind of catchy.”


Stephen rolled his eyes watching Pepper tries applying makeup to one of Tony’s many bruises. Luckily, only one marked his pretty face making it easy for the secretary to cover it up. God, how he wished to have been the one to have strangled Obadiah Stane to his death.


“It’s got a nice ring to it. I mean it’s not technically accurate. The suit’s a gold-titanium alloy, but it’s kind of evocative,” he glanced at Stephen with a bit of what resembled a puppy seeking acknowledgment.


Stephen laughed under his breath, shaking his head lightly.


“…the imagery, anyways.”


Pepper threw the doctor a glance and they share a knowing look they often did in moments like this.


She picked up Tony’s suit jacket that has been draped on the chair and Stephen quickly walked over. It seemed as though they were the only two who noticed Tony’s adverse to people’s touches since the kidnapping. They had briefly, and discretely tested the theory and it seemed that the only one Tony hadn’t been flinching around, though it was masked very well they had to admit, was Stephen.


“Here...” he said under his breath. He took the fabric from Pepper and she stepped back easily. Tony stood without a second thought, letting the doctor help him slip on the jacket.


“Here’s your alibi,” said the man who Pepper introduced as Coulson. “We have port papers that put you in Avalon all night, and sworn statements from 50 of your guests.”


“See, I was thinking maybe we should say it was just Stephen and me-“


Pepper turned towards Stephen with an exasperated smile. The surgeon tried to give her his best “see what I have to deal with” look.


“alone… on the island.”


“That’s what happened,” Coulson ignored him. “Just read it, word for word. You’ve got 90 seconds.”


As the agent started towards the door, Pepper quickly following. Stephen heard vague words of thank you being said by the secretary. 


As the door closes shuts the pair focused on each other.


“Ok- let’s get this show on the road. You know it’s actually not that bad. Even I don’t think I’m Iron Man.”


Stephen crossed his arms leaning back, half sitting on the table behind him. “You’re not.”


“All right, suit yourself.” The brunette took a step forward. “You know, if I were Iron Man, I’d have this boyfriend who knew my true identity. He’d be a wreck, ‘cause he’d always be worrying that I was going to die…”


Stephen raised an eyebrow, a smirk starting to form on his lips.


“…yet so proud of the man I’d become. He’d be wildly conflicted, which would only make him more…” Tony stepped closer, their lips now almost touching. “…crazy about me.”


“You don’t do boyfriends, Tony.”


“I might if it’s you.”


“Tony...” he began sternly.


“Listen,” of course Tony would always interrupt him. Though Stephen surprisingly found he doesn’t mind too much oddly. “Because of all the changes and Stane being dead and all, we are moving the headquarter to New York. ...You were saying how you missed it there and your friend… Christine?“


“Impressive. You were actually listening,“ he replied with much sarcasm.


“-And Metro-General has been scouting you for the past year…”


“Are you really asking me to move with you across the country? Your definitely-not-boyfriend-not-really-friends-one-night-stand?”


“Are you really telling me this isn’t worth seeing what it can be?”


His sighed but the smile never faltered. As outrageous as this conversation was, somehow it felt... natural, almost fun. This was the first time someone had been able to completely keep up with Stephen and he was almost certain the sentiment was the same for Tony.


“Come on,” the shorter brunette said stepping back a little. “I saw the way you looked at me when you thought I was going to die-“


“Which time?” the doctor responded flatly.


“-you love me.”


There was a prolonged silence before Stephen straightened himself up. “It’s going to cost you,” Stephen said finally with a smirk.


Tony stared back almost challengingly.


“A flat with a view. You’re going to pay for it.”


Tony scoffed, ”Really? That’s all? You know I’m Tony Stark right?”


He let out a soft laughter. “Okay then, tell me, Anthony, what is your love worth then?”


The engineer shrugged. “Uh- I don’t know,” he said half-heartedly, “half the universe?”


“Oh, believe me, Tony, if I had half the universe in my hands I wouldn’t be wasting it on you.”