[Earth, December 2010]
Stephen let out a sigh as he looked around at the loud club, soon spotting Tony at the bar. At the very least the VIP space had considerably less number of people although it was just as disorienting with the flashing lights and high beats of the music.
“Tony Stark, how are you?” He was a well-dressed man, quite possibly someone from entertainment industry if the loudness of his clothing choice was any indication. “Sorry I still have your plane-“
“No no- and I got your Bentley, so bring it back full of gas and -” Tony replied easily. “Hi. And they are…?” He motioned to two identical ladies that stood next to the other.
“Oh, they are for you-“
Stephen approached them just in time to see the twins getting a bit handsy. Although, if the genius’s expression was any indication, it did not seem entirely unwelcomed. Tony soon had an arm wrapped around each of their waists looking them over. That pushed at Stephen’s buttons.
“I’m thinking of a number between one and… five,” said the genius in a low tone.
“Three,” the twin replied in unison.
Stephen had enough. He had a firm hold of Tony’s upper arm practically dragging him away. He kicked the door to one of the private room where a handful of partiers stared at the two in shock.
“OUT!” he shouted.
A quick glance at him then recognizing Tony Stark everyone jumped to comply, hurrying out. Once the last straggler went through the door, Stephen promptly locked it. All the while, the harsh grip on the brunette only tightened.
The doctor tried to take a deep breath but found himself unable to, his temper only rising. He slammed Tony to the nearby wall with very little restraint. The brunette had the wind knocked out of him but didn’t say a word, staring back at the other with a small smirk.
“I’ve had enough of this,” Stephen started in a low baritone voice. “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you. One week you dedicate yourself to me, the next…” He couldn’t say it. Couldn’t admit to himself what he had just witnessed.
The whole evening Stephen watched as his so-called boyfriend flirted with half the crowd. In their relatively new relationship it was a common occurrence for the pair to run into many of Tony’s one-night stands just about everywhere they went. Though they had gone public about their affair shortly after the hospital incident and were featured as favorite topic of several magazine and newspapers for weeks, that certainly did not stop many people’s advances for the billionaire.
Stephen can guess why, of course. It was somewhere between everyone assuming the doctor was a bi-curious phase and considering Tony’s infamous past, “relationship” or not, Tony Stark surely couldn't ever be off the market. The doctor resented the notion and alone in private, it ate away at his sanity every time he heard some ridiculous rumors of a sidepiece the playboy might be seeing.
But at the end of the day, even he had to admit Tony had been a model example of a dedicated boyfriend for months now. The brunette refused all advances, never ceased to correct the public that “yes they were officially in an exclusive relationship”, getting stern when necessary, never strayed too far when they were together in public, frequently apologized to Stephen every time someone went over the line… constantly checked on his well being.
He gave another harsh shove before letting go. “You want out? Do it. Say it to my face. AT LEAST HAVE THE GUTS TO TELL IT TO MY FACE!”
Stephen knows what this is. The tightening in his chest, the feeling of desperation, the agony… he wondered if this was karma. Must have been how Christine felt the day she learned he cheated on her.
And she had forgiven him back then. Back then, the doctor thought of her as… pitiful. But he had never dreamed he would be here.
How did it come to this? They were happy. Or at least Stephen thought they were happy. They went to a nice evening out just last week, spent the night at the doctor’s loft. Tony complained about the lack of AI and personal chef when morning came but seemed all too thrilled when Stephen cooked them breakfast.
They spent the weekend at Tony’s penthouse. Chose to stay in. They watched movies and Tony worked in his lab for a couple of hours with Stephen reading nearby. Tony had started to talk of having a couch set up down there for the other. Stephen originally had work that on Sunday but the brunette seemed so…sad with the idea of him leaving the doctor called in sick. The first time he called out of work in five years.
They went to the Metro General’s Charity Gala. Tony, true to his word, was the perfect date for the evening. Charmed everyone just the right way, somehow directed the attention to Stephen every chance he got… boasting fondly, supported him.
There was a lot of laughter, talks of future plans- both the next week and far ahead. If Tony had shown any signs that he was bored with their relationship, Stephen had missed it. How had he missed it? He saw everything. Noticed every god damn detail there was to notice.
The only missing day was yesterday. He had a long shift and Tony mentioned he was staying in. He texted to check in during the evening but Tony never replied. But the engineer quite often forgot to reply when he was working in his lab, it was nothing alarming.
If Tony just… if he JUST…
… he would forgive him.
There was silence between them. After a minute the brunette reaches out, grabbing a hold of the doctor’s blazer as if his life depended on it, pulling them close. Instinctively, Stephen puts an arm around the shorter man’s waist.
“I… I just- I’m so sorry- I’m being selfish-…”
“Yes… yes, you are,” Stephen replies half-heartedly. “The next time you do this… I walk.” He wondered if he himself means it. Or was it just another empty threat.
“No… I’m… being selfish by keeping you-“
“…But I don’t know how… to… let you go-“
“…Tony… what is going on… did you… take something? How much did you drink?”
That changes something in the engineer. He seemed more lucid, a bit sharper in his gaze, but it’s a stare Stephen doesn’t quite understand. But before the doctor can say another word, Tony already sank to his knees, hands undoing the other’s belt.
“Tony what-“ he exclaimed hastily grabbing the other’s wrist, stopping him. “We’re not doing this right now. How much did you have to drink?”
He admits there was a pause. Shamefully admits he may have hesitated while staring at those doe eyes that now held so much heated emotions. “…No.”
“Suddenly being altruistic, doc? Come on… you knew exactly what you wanted when you dragged me in here.” Tony tilts his head back a little, peering at the doctor from behind the long lashes, a smirk playing on his lips. “Want to fuck me against the wall? Or keep me on my knees?”
His wrist still tied up in the doctor’s hands, the brunette leans his face forward, mouthing right next to the bulge of the other’s pants. He made a show of arching his back in a way he knew would exaggerate the curve of his broad back to the narrow waist to the round ass. If Stephen’s darkened gaze was any indication, Tony knew he already won. “Put me in my place, babe- …I need it. I need to feel alive-“
There was a short silence before Tony found a strong grip on his jaw. Another painful shove and he was pressed up against the wall with the other’s body heat all over him.
Tony couldn’t help but let out a soft laughter. Sounded odd, distant, and not quite like him.
Pepper opened the door to the aircraft lavatory finding Tony, in his full Iron Man suit, just about with his head in the toilet.
“UGH- I’m serious… oh- give me a little space-“ Tony muttered as he waved a hand dismissively at his assistant.
Pepper gave him a half exasperated, half disgusted look. “Get up,” she said bitterly.
“Oh god- I can’t go through… I’ll tell you-“
“STEPHEN!” she yelled over her shoulder, then quickly turned back to her boss. “We don’t have time for this! We have to go! Now!”
Stephen walks towards them, first passing by Rhodes with a questioning look.
“Tony’s being an over-dramatic little bitch,” the Colonel replied with a small smirk, leaning against the wall.
The doctor stepped past him to where Pepper had been standing. Narrowing his eyes as he peered about to his boyfriend who was now doubled over.
“Oh god, you don’t want to see that-“ the brunette said as he closes the lid to the toilet, flushing.
“Tony what…?” There was a feeling at the pit of his stomach. Something felt wrong. Yes, this can easily be another one of Tony’s antics as Pepper and Rhodes clearly seemed to be thinking but…
But Stephen doesn’t have a chance to finish his thoughts as Tony stood hastily, the Iron Man armor making him at equal height as the doctor for once.
“Where am I? …Do I look weird?”
“You look like how you look every day. You look like you have a hangover,” Pepper replies without missing a beat.
Stephen scowled. “How much did you drink?” he asked angrily. The past month he had been trying to mitigate Tony’s dangerous drinking habit. Recently, it had increased at an alarming rate. The genius, in turn, went on to picking at Stephen’s frequent smoking habits and they were at a standstill in the argument, neither budging as usual.
Tony doesn’t reply. Doesn’t meet Stephen’s eyes. He walked away swiftly from the two though Pepper was hot at his tail. She hastily tosses the Iron Man helmet she had been carrying to Stephen, which he caught easily.
“Just give me some toast… some crackers… ginger ale…. and some Advil-“ whined the billionaire.
“I don’t have Advil, I got Motrin,” replied Pepper.
“Motrin?” Tony sounded offended. “I’m telling you there is something seriously wrong-“
“I’m telling you there is something seriously wrong with you!”
The two were yelling over each other now.
“-with a grown ass man taking Motrin! I’M NOT ON MY CYCLE!”
Stephen put a hand over his face with a sigh. He didn’t bother trying to stop these two when they got like this, which has been rather frequent as of late.
“ABORT MISSIONNNNNN!” Tony was shouting on top of his lungs now fidgeting with the oxygen mask.
“WE ARE DROPPING THIS MISSION!”
“WE’RE NOT ABORTING THE MISSION!” Pepper was soon yelling right at Tony’s face. “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH COORDINATION IT TOOK FOR D.O.D. TO APPROVE THIS?!”
Stephen glanced at Rhodes who was giving him an amused, resigned look, then out at a nearby window. The doctor walked over, putting a hand to Pepper’s shoulder having her step aside. She did so without hesitation, giving Stephen almost a pleading stare.
“TONY!” he yelled, sternness very evident in his tone now.
The engineer turns, eyes finally meeting the other's.
“We’re over the drop zone,” he said simply.
“What.” The brunette’s tone was suddenly even.
Stephen had a hand on the back of the other’s neck, stilling him. “You idiotically decided to be Iron Man despite breaking my fucking heart. I begged you not to put yourself in danger but YOU wanted to go play a goddamn hero. So right now, when Pepper needs you, you’re damn well going to do it!”
There was a pause, as Tony’s gaze finally seemed to focus. “Let’s do this, baby.”
Stephen sighed, as he followed Tony making his way to the edge of the plane, the chilling breeze and wind tunnel hitting them as they stood. Tony quickly put an arm around the doctor’s waist.
“I can be selfish sometimes… and I know I don’t say it enough-“
Stephen raises an eyebrow.
“…how is my hair?”
“…You said that before,” Stephen replied, deadpan.
“I know but this time I mean- is it piecey enough? Do I need more product?
“You look good, Tony,” he replied flatly.
“That windblown look?”
Stephen doesn’t even bother with a response.
“Okay, give me a smooch for good luck. I might not make it back- this is heavy stuff.”
They stood there for a minute, eyes locked. Then Stephen brings up the Iron Man helmet to his lips, giving it a mock kiss before tossing it out to the open air with a smirk.
“Go get ‘em, Iron Man.”
Tony grins widely before jumping off the edge, “You complete me!”
Stephen leans over, looking down at the bright lights emitting from the newly re-launched Stark Expo. There soon was a flash of red and gold that zoomed by. Rhodes finally strode over to next to him, patting the other on the shoulder with an exasperated huff. Even from this distance, they now heard the muffled roar of an enormous crowd.
“Perfect landing,” Pepper told them, a hand to an earpiece.
“Pepper, was he drinking when he was with you today?” Stephen finally asked turning away.
The strawberry blonde considered at him with an odd look. “No, why?”
“Because I made sure he couldn’t drink yesterday when he was with me.”
Rhodes frowns. “So… maybe he just had a bit of stage fright-“
“Tony? … no-… he loves the attention. The trill of jumping off a plane at 15,000 feet in his beloved armor is just fuel to a fire.“ Stephen started pacing a bit. Couldn’t help but to keep glancing back at where Tony had just been. “It definitely seemed like some type of poisoning…”
“Food poisoning...?” The Colonel suggested, now becoming more attentive at Stephen’s seriousness.
No… something was odd. Tony was starting to act incredibly erratic as of late. The genius always had a spontaneous side that kept Stephen on his toes but never to the point he thought the other might be unstable. Most of the time the doctor was able to keep up and to a degree estimate the other’s movements and thoughts. But these days, Tony’s moods and actions were becoming near unpredictable, inconsistent.
“Pepper, how long till we land?”
“The point is… you’re welcome, I guess.”
“Because I’m your nuclear deterrent. It’s working. We’re safe. America is secure. You want my property? You can’t have it. But I did you a big favor- I’ve successfully privatized world peace. What more do you want?! For now! I tried to play ball with these ass-clowns-“
“[beep] you, Mr. Stark. [beep] you, buddy-“
“My bond is with the people. And I will serve this great nation at the pleasure… of myself. If there’s one thing I’ve proven, it’s that you can count on me to pleasure myself-“
“Wake up, Daddy’s home.”
“Welcome home, sir. Congratulations on the opening ceremonies. They were such a success, as was your Senate hearing. And may I say how refreshing it is to finally see you in a video with your clothing on, sir.”
“How many ounces a day of this gobbledegook am I supposed to drink?”
“We’re are up to 80 ounces a day to counteract the symptoms, sir.”
“Check palladium levels.”
“Blood toxicity, 24%. It appears that the continued use of the Iron Man suit is accelerating your conditions. Another core has been depleted.”
Tony took out the arc reactor from his chest. The core popped up, rusted and smoking. “God… they are running out quick.”
“I have run simulations on every known element, and none can serve as a viable replacement for the palladium core.”
He inputted a new piece. Silver in contrast to the blackened metal he had just took out.
“You are running out of both time and options. Unfortunately, the device that’s keeping you alive is also killing you.”
Killing him. He was dying.
Tony knew for about a month now. The day he found out he spent the next 24 hours trying to solve his way out of it. He had cheated death several times in the past. What was one more? Just please… one more miracle.
But once he ran out of options, when the sun rose and set again, all he could think about was one thing.
He finally had a functional relationship. Someone he was crazy about, someone who loved him, someone that lightened up this dreadful life. It was good… so very good. But it was coming to an end, be taken from him like every other good thing that happens to glimpse his life.
That wasn’t okay. It was not fair. It wasn’t enough. It had been far too short.
Short… then it had occurred to Tony how short of a time he had spent with Stephen. They knew each other for less than a year, a good portion of it he had spent being kidnapped, and even shorter time they had spent in an actual relationship. Sure they claimed to love each other. Crazy enough to start absentmindedly planning their whole future together. But when reality hit, how fair was it for Stephen to suffer with him on this?
So Tony had made up his mind. The evening at which where they originally planned to meet up to try a new exclusive club, the engineer made a decision to break things off. A thought occurred to him that all jokes aside, he was really in love with the doctor. This was possibly the single most selfless decision he had made in his life.
…But in the end, he couldn’t do it. In the end, he had been selfish. In the end, didn’t have to guts to break things off to the doctor’s face, had chosen the coward’s way out by going back to his old ways to see if Stephen will just leave him.
As if reading his mind, the AI spoke. “…Miss Potts is approaching. I recommend you inform her and Doctor Str-“
“The notary’s here! Can you please come sign the transfer paperwork?”
“I’m on happy time.” With that, Tony elbowed Happy in the face.
“What the hell was that?”
“It’s called mixed martial arts. It’s been around for… three weeks-“
“It’s called dirty boxing, there’s nothing new about it!”
Not bothering with the two’s antics Pepper took the pen from the redhead and started signing. “I promise this is the only time I will ask you to sign over your company-“
Tony couldn’t help but follow the new redhead with his eyes. She was striking. Something about her was odd but definitely intriguing.
Happy took the opportunity to lightly punch the brunette in the back of the head. “Lesson one. Never take your eye off-“
Tony kicks him, then goes on to crashing his bodyguard into a corner.
“That’s it. I’m done,” he said stepping off the ring. “What’s your name lady?”
“Rushman. Natalie Rushman.”
“Front and center. Come into the church.”
Pepper looked exasperated. “No. You’re seriously not going to ask…”
Stephen entered the room, quickly looking around before his attention landing on the unfamiliar face. He was unsure what was happening but strode over to Pepper, giving her a light hug and a peck on the cheek. Seeing him, she smiled.
Pepper let out a huff. “If he ever signs-“
“If it pleases the court, which it does,” they hear Tony say. Pepper crossed her arms while shaking her head.
The doctor frowns. “Tony,” he said warningly.
“It’s no problem at all,” Natasha replied and to Stephen’s surprise, the redhead started walking towards the ring.
“I’m sorry. He’s very… eccentric,” Pepper said, clearly given up.
Stephen let out a sigh, his displeasure clearly showing now.
The engineer’s gaze falls on him immediately at that. Then after a split second, started stepping off from the platform. “Can you give her a lesson,” he calls out to Happy.
Tony hastily came to his boyfriend’s side, pulling off his boxing gloves. Once close, he easily wrapped an arm around the doctor’s shoulder, pulling him in for a quick kiss. When Tony took a half step back, Stephen realized the redhead’s piercing eyes were fixed on them still.
As Stephen sizes the women, Tony turned towards Pepper. “Who is she?”
“She’s from legal. And is potentially a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit if you keep this up-“
That made Stephen turn his attention back on the two.
“I need a new assistant, boss,” Tony said, almost playfully.
“Yes, and I’ve got three excellent potential candidates. They’re lined up and ready to meet you.”
“I don’t have time to meet. I need someone now. I feel like it’s her.”
“No, it’s not.”
“How do I spell your name, Natalie?” Tony calls out.
Pepper rolled her eyes. “What? Are you going to google her now?” She glanced up at Stephen with a brief apologetic look before glaring at her soon-to-be not boss.
“She’s fluent in French, Italian, Russian, Latin. Did you model in Tokyo? ‘Cause she modeled in Tokyo-“
Stephen stared at the scatter of photos that were pulled up on the projection. Cannot help but to notice the woman was mostly in lingerie in the photos. He opens his mouth to say something but Pepper beats him to it.
“I need her,” Tony went on. “She’s got everything that I need.”
“You’re doing this in front of Stephen?” Pepper hissed out. “OH MY GOD! HAPPY-“
They all turned just in time to see Happy land painfully hard as Natasha flipped him over, legs strangling him.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Tony shouted, approaching the ring.
“I just slipped,” said Happy as he slowly got up.
“Looks like a TKO to me.”
The redhead focused on Tony but Stephen could have sworn her attention on the billionaire never left in the first place. “I need your impression.”
“You have a quiet reserve. I don’t know, you have an old soul-“
“I meant your fingerprint.”
Pepper quickly walked to Tony’s side. “So, how are we doing?” She said with a fake pleasant smile.
“Great. Just wrapping up here,” with that, the final signature. “Hey. You’re the boss.”
Natasha closed the folder. “Will that be all, Mr. Stark?”
“Yes,” Stephen said coldly, making all three of them stare at him.
Tony doesn’t say another word. Natasha glances at the engineer before turning her attention back to the doctor. Stephen couldn’t tell what she was thinking but there was a faint smile before the redhead walked away.
That evening the pair had gotten into a fight. Waited at least till Pepper left before shouting at each other’s face and throwing things. In the end, Stephen left the penthouse without so much as a backward glance and Tony wondered if this was it.
He doesn’t admit to himself he doesn’t know what he is doing anymore. Not even sure what came over him really to be doing all these things that will undoubtedly piss his boyfriend off. Perhaps a part of him still believes it would be better at the end of it all if they split now. Less of a heartbreak for Stephen on Tony’s deathbed if he hated the billionaire’s guts.
Yes, Tony definitely wondered if this was it. Convinced himself this was better for Stephen… and yet, couldn’t help the endless tears that fell and the painful feeling of his heart squeezing the life out of him.
And he definitely couldn’t help but be selfishly relieved when he and Pepper arrive at the airport three days later to see Stephen already there, waiting for them.
Stephen remained cold and distance during the flight to Monaco, taking every opportunity to be at the other end of the private plane. But Tony doesn’t miss the fact that during the short turbulence in which the billionaire spectacularly fell, the doctor still rushed over to check on him… and didn’t leave his side since.
“You know, it’s Europe. Whatever happens in the next 20 minutes, babe, just go with it-“
Oh, he really does not like that tone in the other’s voice. Stephen frowned. “Go with what?”
Both Pepper and Stephen turned around sharply to see a certain redhead coming towards them. Stephen distinctly hears the new CEO mutter, “Oh, you got to be kidding me-“ and he shares the sentiment.
“Hey,” Tony greeted easily but doesn’t leave Stephen’s side. The doctor purses his lips, jaws locked as he puts a hand on Tony’s lower back.
“Right this way,” Natasha smiled pleasantly before walking them into the viewing room.
Stephen definitely noticed the tight red dress and gold belt ensemble she was wearing. Very subtle, he thought bitterly rolling his eyes.
“You look fantastic,” Tony said to his new assistant.
That comment only made Stephen pull the brunette closer to him, grip unconsciously tightening in a way that displayed a degree of his recently discovered possessiveness.
“Why, thank you very much.”
“But that’s unprofessional. What’s on the docket?”
“You have a 9:30 dinner.”
“Perfect. I’ll be there at 11:00.”
“9:30 Tony,” Stephen said firmly, interrupting the two.
Tony doesn’t hesitate. “9:30 then.”
“Of course,” Natasha nodded but stole a quick glance at the doctor, their eyes meeting.
The smile on her lips and that sly look in her eyes, Stephen knew this woman was well aware of what was going on. That the doctor and this new assistant were at a subtle game since the moment the redhead appeared in the workout room.
It was a power play. A display of Stephen subtly exhibiting how much control he, contrary to the public’s assumptions, had in he and Tony’s relationship. Proving just how much he had Tony’s ears, how much the billionaire’s actions depended on Stephen’s emotions and mood. A warning.
“Is this us?” Tony said pointing at a corner table. Of course, he would choose the best table in the house.
Natasha quickly stepped forward. “It can be.”
“Great. Make it us.”
Natasha smiled as she turned to one of the staff, speaking quickly in well-versed French.
Pepper chose that moment to swoop in grabbing a hold of Tony’s arm and dragging him away, though not too far. She gave an apologetic smile to the doctor but Stephen just nodded in understanding.
“Have you lost your mind?” she hissed out.
“Are you serious right now? Did you already forget what happened with Kaitlyn?”
“Okay, that was on you-,” Tony replied flatly.
“You threw a tantrum at the idea of someone covering my spot for two weeks. Just two weeks, Tony. Which turned into one when you two got into a fight. When I had to deal with EVERYTHING that dealt with the move, the new headquarter, the expo-“ the frustration was very clear in her voice.
“You could have warned me-“
“I gave you over twenty candidates. You hated all of them!”
“They were inadequate-“
“No, they were not, Tony. It was a glorified babysitting duty and half of them had a business degree from Ivy leagues- Then I ran into Kaitlyn down at legal. I had this brilliant idea that maybe if I give you something that reminded you of your boyfriend you constantly pine after while at work-“
“I do not pine-“
Pepper doesn’t even dignify that with an answer. “And you took the bait. You were happy and it worked. Then I find out that Stephen had a problem with her which you failed to mention-“
“Well I didn-“
“And I had to hear you two whine about it for four days straight! I had to relocate the poor girl entirely, had to make her sign a confidentiality form because you two weren’t even sure you wanted to make the relationship public but had sex with her just outside the door, quite loudly from what I was told-“
“I’m always loud-“
Stephen tries to ignore the fact he can hear them. Although, this finally explains what happened with that incident. But he wasn’t the only one that seemed to be listening in on the conversation.
The new redheaded assistant finished acquiring the table and couple staffs were cleaning and setting it up now. She turned towards him with an amused smile, though her attention still seemed to be on Pepper and Tony’s argument.
“Would you like to sit first, Doctor Strange?” she asked him in the same charming tone.
But he didn’t respond, giving her a crossed look that doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Is something the matter? If you have any additional request I can-”
“Most people are at least exasperated by his antics,” Stephen said coldly. “You’re the first person I’ve seen who seem to enjoy being accosted by him, odd… especially in a work setting. I don’t know what your agenda is but stay away from what’s mine, you bitch.“
He doesn’t quite understand what is about this woman that was setting him off so much but this was a whole new level from petty jealousy. He feels some need to get her far away from Tony as possible. He doesn’t exactly have solid reasoning but some part of his brain kept telling him this woman wants Tony. Perhaps not romantically from what Stephen saw so far… no this was different… something far… worse.
However, despite his outburst, Natasha seemed unfazed, the polite smile didn’t even falter one bit.
But there were new voices now. Stephen turned to see Justin Hammer with a familiar blonde reporter. He almost had to wonder for a moment who out of these three he hated more.
He swiftly turned towards Natasha. “Make an excuse. Go get them before things get out of hand-“
Natasha nodded before hurrying over.
“Got any other bad ideas?”
“Tony and I… Tony… I love Tony Stark. Tony loves me. We’re not competitors. Him being out of the picture created tremendous opportunities for Hammer Industry, you know? Everything that Tony and I do…”
“Well, what’s the use of having…”
“…is a healthy…”
“and owning a race car if you don’t drive it?”
“competition… is he driving??”
Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the large screens where Tony Stark was seen in a blue racing suit. The reporters all had their recording device out or on their phone. Some were cheering.
“Yes, Ms. Potts?”
“What do you know about this?”
“This is the first that I’ve known of it.”
“This… this cannot happen.”
“Absolutely. I understand. How can I help you?”
“Pepper!” the doctor quickly walked towards them. “What’s going on? Why is he racing?”
Pepper turns to Natasha, “Where’s Happy?”
“He’s waiting outside.”
“Okay, get him. I need Happy.”
Stephen’s eyed the screen, his heart going a mile a minute. He makes a split second decision, dashing towards the door. Though he soon collides right into Justin Hammer almost knocking the other man over. The reporter was gone now.
Justin smirks. “Oh, it’s you. Going to go get your boyfriend?” there was an oddness to his tone that Stephen distinctly identifies as jealousy. Tony clearly, once again, commanded the attention of the whole room, away from other. “Show him his place?”
That snaps the doctor’s attention.
“You know that club isn’t the most discrete of places. Have to hand it to you, doctor… didn’t know you would be the one wearing the pants in the relationship. He was always such a proud asshole I never even imagined. But he doesn’t seem… you know… all that now having seen him be such a whore-“
There were screams. Hammer was on the floor, hands to his broken nose. Stephen notices the pain in his knuckles but ignores it still glaring at the other man. Few securities were approaching them but Pepper reached them first, motioning them away. Identifying her as the new CEO of Stark Industries they seemed to be giving leeway.
“Don’t you dare say another word you son of a-“
“Stephen, stop! The racing is about to start- Tony…”
That brings him back to his senses. He takes a deep breath. “Pepper, go get Happy-“
“Where are you going?!” she called out to him.
“Stopping him from killing himself!”
No one else bothers to stop the doctor as he steps into the racetracks. Everything appeared to have fallen into a bit of disarray once Tony made the announcement of throwing his name into the ring.
“What the-“ Tony stared at Stephen in utter shock as the other steps into the car to the seat next to his. “You can’t be here-“
“You want to be an adrenaline junkie? Fine. But if you fucking even dare for a second think about throwing your life away in this race, know that you’ll be throwing mine as well!”
“You don’t even have the racing suit on-“ Tony regarded him in a mixture of awe and fear.
Stephen glared at him. “So I suggest you be careful, Anthony Stark.”
Engines ready, set, go!
“It’s just unbelievable. It proves that the genie is out of the bottle and this man has no idea what he’s doing. He thinks of the Iron Man weapon as a toy. I was at a hearing where Mr. Stark, in fact, was adamant that these suits can’t exist anywhere else, don’t exist anywhere else, never will exist anywhere else, at least for five to ten years, and here we are in Monaco realizing, these suits exist now!”
“Mute. He should be giving me a medal. That’s the truth.”
Stephen doesn’t look at him, choosing to rather stare out at the window.
Tony’s eyes linger on the gash that adorned the doctor’s handsome face. He had rushed in to get the Iron Man suitcase from Pepper once Ivan fixated on attacking Tony and both Happy and Pepper were near panic-stricken to properly move. An act that Tony did not expect… an act, he admits, sent him on a near heart attack.
It was all fun and games till you realize you betted something you were not willing to risk losing.
He put the tray down on the small table before choosing to half-sit on the arm of Stephen’s seat. The brunette grabbed a hold of the surgeon’s right hand, putting a pack of ice on it. That made the other turn to face him finally.
“I heard you threw a pretty mean punch at Hammer. Should have just let me do it, doc. Your hands are far more valuable,” Tony said trying to smile.
Stephen let out a sigh. “If he has some type of film-“
“Do you care?”
“No, but you-“
“So what? So what if the world knows I am a bit of a slut for you… you know… pushing me around a bit. Not that bad compared to all the other shit about me on the Internet. I can just say… whatever you think we did, we did, and more-“
Stephen let out an exasperated huff, a small smile playing on his lips. He motioned to the tray. “What is that?”
“Your in-flight meal,” he replied with a smirk.
The doctor narrowed his eyes. “Did you just make that?”
“Where do you think I’ve been for the past three hours?” Tony’s voice was light, the usual playfulness back in his tone. But it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Tony,” Stephen reaches to put an arm on the other’s waist. “What are you not telling me? Are you… getting tired of this? Us?”
The thought did cross the doctor’s mind. If perhaps he was the cause of Tony’s changeable behavior as of late. Did the genius somehow felt so trapped in their relationship that he was letting out the pent up stress in other ways? Dangerous and reckless ways, he might add. That certainly would explain the random flirting with strangers and the new redheaded assistant he hired. Both behaviors that were surprisingly non-existent earlier on in their dating.
“I don’t want to go home,” Tony replied in a soft tone. The brunette swings around a leg on either side of the doctor, saddling him. “At all. Let’s cancel my birthday party and… We’re in Europe. Let’s go to Venice, Cipriani…” He soon sinks into Stephen’s lap, his head falling onto the doctor’s shoulder.
Then there were moments like this where it convinces Stephen that maybe that’s not it. There were so many hints Tony displayed that showed he was still fond of him. Committed to him. Or was that his own wishful thinking?
“…it’s a great place to be healthy…”
“Tony, I don’t think this is the right time…”
“Yea, but maybe that’s why it’s the best time. Cause then we can-“
“Hey… Anthony… look at me. What are you doing? What are you running away from?”
Tony leaned back a bit; there was something there that had the doctor confused. “You don’t run away. You ran right to me, babe… you always do.”
Stephen held the other’s gaze. Tried to figure out why he felt as though he should panic. Tony was so close to him, in his arms, but it felt as though the brunette might slip away the moment he blinks. “I’m not going anywhere, Tony.”
“Yeah…” Tony smiled. Leaning in once again into the other’s embrace. “Yeah, of course.”
They stay still for a couple of minutes, Stephen absentmindedly running his fingers through Tony’s hair. At some point, he feels the brunette shift, a slight circling of his hips.
Getting the cue, Stephen slowly snaked a hand between them, unbuttoning the other’s pants before reaching in. “Want me to get you off, love?” he whispered in a low tone.
His other hand, still tangled in the brown-locks, gave a tug. Tony obliged, turning his head to one side and the doctor started tracing wet kisses on the exposed neck.
Tony let out a lewd moan before buckling his hips, rutting into the other’s hand quite blatantly now. Something about this makes him feel a bit cheap but he doesn’t care as long as Stephen continues to view him with that dark look.
Stephen extends his knees apart, which in turn, makes the Tony spread his legs further. He completely stills his hand for a second. Simply watching as Tony gasped at the loss of balance and leverage at the new position, the unconscious embarrassment soon setting in. The doctor definitely doesn’t miss the pretty tint that appeared on his lover’s cheeks.
“Stephen… I need-“
Tony’s eyes dart away but the hand removes itself from his pants, traveling, then fixing firmly on his jaw.
“Eyes on me.” The command in that baritone tone had Tony instantly buckling, though in vain. The doctor chuckled but allowed the brunette to lower himself further, arch his back so their hips can meet, to get some friction.
“God, you’re so pretty like this, Tony. When you’re so needy and desperate... Maybe I should have you cum just from my fingers-”
He moans loudly at the praise, begging, but before he can say anything else Stephen’s hand secures itself over his mouth. Breathing sharply, Tony can smell his own musk, which sets him off more on the edge than it should.
The doctor was leaning in now, his lips near his ears. “shh…. be quiet now. I’m just not in the mood to let other people hear you. Don’t worry. I’ll still give you what you need.”
Tony tried to let out of a disgruntled huff, then darted his tongue out licking suggestively at the palm covering his lips.
Stephen smirked, “Brat.”
“Do you know which watch you’d like to wear tonight, Mr. Stark?”
“I’ll give them a look,” Tony replied, quickly buttoning his shirt. “…Should… cancel the party.”
“Probably,” Natasha strides over to where he stood, a drink in hand.
“Yea. ‘Cause it’s…”
“Right. Sends the wrong message-“
Tony took the drink, taking a sip. Their gaze remained locked.
“Is that dirty enough for you?”
He stuttered. “…Gold face, brown hand. The Jaeger. I’ll give that a look. Bring them over. Why don’t you-“
Natasha handed him the display box, then casually sits on the arm of the couch, quite close to him.
Tony stared at her for a moment. “I gotta say. It’s hard to get a read on you. Where are you from?”
“Legal,” she answers smoothly.
Tony let out a snort. “What’s with all my assistants coming from legal,” he said while putting the box aside. “Can I ask you a question, hypothetically? Bit odd. If this was your last birthday party you were ever going to have, how would you celebrate it?”
“I’d do whatever I wanted to do with whoever I wanted to do it with.”
Stephen turned around to see a familiar brunette. “Kaitlyn, was it?”
Right. Pepper had mentioned she was transferred out of the New York headquarters. He supposed it made sense for her to be here in the West Coast office. There was slight guilt playing in his conscience.
The woman approaches gracefully, a smile on her face. “Ms. Potts asked me to grab couple files,” she said, answering his unspoken question. “I assumed you would already be with Mr. Stark for his birthday party.”
“I’m just grabbing a few things for Tony,” he lied. He had snuck into Tony’s office to check if there was any hidden alcohol or substance or anything that may explain the brunette’s recent behaviors. Stephen already had checked Tony’s main office in New York but found nothing and he just had to be sure.
“I work downstairs by the way. Rarely at this floor.” there was a small smirk playing on Kaitlyn’s lips.
Stephen cleared his throat awkwardly. “I apologize-“
“Oh no no. It’s fine-“ a short pause. “I understand. And I quite like it here actually. Although I did find it quite surprising to hear Natalie took over Ms. Pott’s old position-”
“You know her?”
“Natalie Rushman? Yes, we worked in the same department before my transfer. Talk about lucky. But I suppose things just happen for some people-“
He stared at her questioningly.
“Oh,” she said as she started collecting the files she needed. “The notary duty. I heard through the grapevine Samantha Carlisle went through a lot of trouble to be selected for delivering that document. She was trying to get higher in the company by crossing paths with the right people. Not surprising. But…” She straightened up, putting the items into her bag. “Apparently she got sick on the day of. Sudden vomiting that landed her in the infirmary. Natalie was the last minute replacement. And well… she got Ms. Pott’s old job from it which we all know is… quite a big deal.”
“Anyways…” Kaitlyn let out a small sigh as she turned towards him once more. “Have a good evening, Doctor Strange,” she said pleasantly before turning to leave. “You two are quite cute together by the way.” There was a hint of fondness in her tone.
Stephen watched her go thinking over the new information. His brain suddenly re-playing over everything he had encountered with Tony’s new redheaded assistant.
That. Fake. Bitch.