Morgan’s birthday passes quietly in the castle, something that the girl doesn’t complain even a little bit about. Her birthday has always been quiet, what with her mother being gone and all, but she also knows that this year her birthday will be celebrated at Christmas instead of on the actual day.
And with Mister Carbonell and Harley both hurt, she isn’t really in much of a celebrating kind of mood anyway.
Harley has been allowed out of bed since early last week when the doctor had looked him over, said that his wound was healing nicely, and warned him not to go running around with the other three. That was okay. They mostly didn’t feel like running around with Harley still hurt—and knowing Mister Carbonell is still hurt and they should try to be quiet for him.
Daddy says that Mister Carbonell was very scared by what happened that day in the forest, that he’s still hurt on the inside and sad, and that they should leave him alone while he gets better but Morgan doesn’t really understand that cause when she’s sad, she wants her siblings with her to make her feel better. She’s sure that Mister Carbonell would feel better too if he had somebody with him. He’s not even allowed in the nursery right now because the doctor didn’t want to move him from the first floor so he has to be lonely down there in that room all by himself.
That’s why she’s not in her bed at the moment and why she’s creeping down the secret passage on silent feet, so she can go see Mister Carbonell. Miss Natasha, who has been watching them since Mister Carbonell first left, hadn’t even noticed her leave her bed and creep toward the secret entrance in the nursery. This passage, she knows, lets out near Mister Carbonell’s new room so she’ll just need to make sure that none of the servants notice her when she leaves the passage.
There’s a light on in Mister Carbonell’s room and a low steady voice saying something soothing. Morgan creeps closer, wondering who else might have had the idea of visiting Mister Carbonell. She’s surprised to hear that she knows the owner of the voice very well.
Why is Daddy in Mister Carbonell’s room when he’d told them he wasn’t supposed to be disturbed?
“Elizabeth was sitting by herself the next morning, and writing to Jane while Mrs. Collins and Maria were gone on business into the village, when she was startled by a ring at the door, the certain signal of a visitor,” Steve reads quietly. “As she had heard no carriage, she thought it not unlikely to be Lady Catherine, and under that apprehension was putting away her half-finished letter that she might escape all impertinent questions, when the door opened, and, to her very great surprise, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Darcy only, entered the room.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Tony says into the stillness as Steve finishes his paragraph.
Steve pauses and puts his finger in the book to mark his page. “What don’t I have to do?”
Tony grimaces, shifting to prop himself up on the mass of pillows with only one arm. Steve gets up, intending to help him, but Tony just waves him away and slowly, he sinks back into his chair. “You don’t need to keep me company,” he says eventually, once he’s gotten comfortable. “I know I’m not—” He stops, scent souring with distress, and Steve aches to get up and go to him but he shoves that thought ruthlessly away. They made their decisions, both of them, and now they have to live with the consequences.
“You could be keeping Harley company,” Tony says instead of finishing his earlier thought.
Steve had been actually, while Tony had been feverish and delirious with infection from the dirt in the forest and whatever else had been on his shirt during its short time as a makeshift bandage, but he doubts Tony remembers that. He hasn’t told the children about Tony’s illness, not wanting them to worry or to ruin their Christmas again. He’s been here though, nearly every day since Tony came back to himself, keeping him company and reading to him.
“You’re important too,” he says, rather than explaining any of that. Tony only recently has been up to visitors and he doesn’t want to overwhelm him with too much information at one time. He knows that the last few weeks have to have been rough on Tony.
He still doesn’t know the full story behind what happened with that other alpha but he knows enough from what Natasha and Rhodes have told him to guess. It would have been difficult to kill anyone let alone a past paramour, no matter how terrible they might have been. And Tony had done it while injured and trying to protect his child. Steve should have been there; he should have been the one protecting his child and taking care of the kidnapper. He knows that he owes Tony a great debt, one that he doubts he’ll ever be able to repay.
He clears his throat. “I wanted to talk to you about what happened before you left.”
Tony winces and Steve quickly adds, “Not that. About…well, really it’s about you leaving at all.”
“Steve…” Tony starts and then trails off.
“Will you hear me out?” Steve asks, trying to keep it from sounding defensive. Tony’s mouth twitches like he knows exactly what he’s thinking—and to be honest, he probably does. He always seems to.
Tony waves for him to go on.
“You need time to rest and heal. Dr. Banner already isn’t certain about letting you leave and he’ll just be worried if you try to argue with him. And Christmas is coming. We wouldn’t even be having it if you hadn’t come and—and we couldn’t bear to have it without you. And then there’s Morgan.”
“Morgan?” Tony asks sharply. “What’s happened to Morgan?”
“Nothing, that’s just it. She’s been under a tremendous stress, went through a traumatic event, and she came out of it like nothing had happened.”
“Children can be resilient,” Tony points out but he himself isn’t convinced if the way he’s chewing on the corner of his lip is anything to judge by. The movement catches Steve’s eye and he finds himself mesmerized by it, wanting to gently thumb Tony’s lip away from his teeth, slip his fingers in there instead.
But he gave that up.
“I’m worried about her. She talks to me now but I’m concerned that something might be going on that she’s not telling anyone about.”
“And you think I can get her to talk to me?”
“You’re like her,” Steve says quietly. “An omega.”
“And I was there with her,” Tony adds with a sigh.
“Please, Tony. The children will miss you if you leave again.”
There’s a nervous look in Tony’s eyes as he bites his lip again and then asks, “Just the children?”
Maybe it’s Tony’s bravery that makes him brave but whatever it might be, he says, “I will too.”
He doesn’t know which argument convinces Tony, if it’s Morgan or that he’ll miss him just as much as the children or something else entirely. But no matter what it might have been, Tony eventually nods.
Steve hides his smile in his book as he opens it again and begins to read: “They then sat down and when her inquiries after Rosings were made, seemed in danger of sinking into total silence.”
By the time Tony is allowed up and out of his current room with his arm in a sling, decorating for Christmas is already well underway. Everywhere he turns, someone is hanging a wreath or a garland or setting out white candles. The bakers in the kitchens are working around the clock, turning out batches and batches of cookies, apparently for Rhodey, Pepper, and a few of the other servants to bring down to the church in Aynor, along with their baskets of mended clothes and toys for the poor. The entire castle smells like pine, peppermint, and sugar.
The children have started taking their lessons in the dining hall so that Tony doesn’t have to climb more stairs than he has to, which is sweet of them but does make him worry about their grasp on anatomy. His arm was injured, not his legs.
Tony teaches them in the morning and then releases them following lunch so they can help with the decorations, sending Peter and Morgan usually with Natasha and Sarah and Harley with Rhodey, who always makes sure that they’re working on the lighter tasks so as not to pull stitches or injure anyone further. He’s sure Natasha would have done the same thing but he can’t help but remember that it had been Rhodey who had pulled him out of the carriage, Rhodey who had tucked him against his chest and promised him that everything was going to be okay.
Two weeks before Christmas, Tony takes the children down to the city to help them shop for presents. All four children have been given money by their father to get gifts for each other, their father, and the few servants who will be present with them on Christmas morning as most of the staff will be having their own celebrations either with their families or in the kitchens.
While they’re shopping, he makes sure to stop by Mister Kirby’s to thank him for all of his help in getting the position.
“So you made it through a year,” Mister Kirby says as he passes pieces of gingerbread to the children.
“Almost,” Tony corrects.
“Almost,” the old man agrees. “And mostly unscathed too.” He gestures at Tony’s arm, still in its sling though he thinks Dr. Banner will soon pronounce it healed enough to be free from the sling, even if he won’t be able to use it just yet. “What happened there?”
“An alpha,” Tony says quietly, glancing at Morgan. He had had a chance to talk through everything with her, just as Steve had asked him. Steve had been right that she’d been bottling things up and they had all spilled forward over the course of one night in Tony’s current room. She had spent the night there with him, curled up next to him on the bed as he comforted her, told her that it hadn’t been her fault, that she had been so brave for him, that he was okay and wasn’t going to leave her anytime soon.
Mister Kirby frowns. “At the castle?”
Tony shakes his head. “From my past.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
He does but not with Mister Kirby. He wants to talk it over with Steve, tell him everything…beg him to love him. He still believes what he’d said after their night together: they could be wonderful together if only Steve would give them a chance. He wants—he wants to fight for them. If he’s going to be here longer, then he thinks he can’t stay quiet about how he feels any longer. He hadn’t trusted his instincts about Tiberius but they’re screaming at him now that he can trust Steve and he wants to.
Yes, he thinks it’s time.
“Just a mistake,” he tells the old innkeeper. “It’s been fixed.”
Mister Kirby eyes him for a long moment. Tony thinks he might see some of that steel he’d glimpsed when the children’s last nanny had come to the inn and he meets his gaze head on. Tiberius will never be a problem again. Eventually, he says, “Glad to hear it.”
“My name is Anthony Edward Stark.”
Steve startles. He hadn’t realized that anyone was left in the dining room with him after supper. He had thought that Tony, finally free from the sling, had gone up to the nursery with the children now that Dr. Banner no longer wants him on the first floor.
“Sorry?” he asks, looking up from the letter he has from Clint in the south.
“My name,” Tony repeats, “is Anthony Edward Stark. Yes, the Starks of the weapons industry. My mother’s maiden name is Carbonell and when I ran away from my parents’ home, I chose to take her name.”
Steve puts down the letter. This sounds like a conversation that he needs to be paying full attention to. “You ran away?” he asks, confused. He had known that Tony was an American society omega and he’d known that he had come from some trouble, gathering from what Natasha and Rhodes said about him, but to run away? That indicated more trouble than he had ever expected. “Why?”
“Because almost two years ago, my father found himself in dire enough financial trouble that he promised me to one Lord Tiberius Stone.” Tony sits down next to him, close enough that Steve can breathe in that intoxicating scent of flowers and oranges that he so dearly loves.
“I know that name,” Steve breathes, brow furrowing.
Tony reaches out to lay his hand on top of Steve’s. He stares down at it for a long time before flipping his hand over and enlacing his fingers through Tony’s, who gasps just a little.
“Tony?” he prompts lowly when the omega doesn’t seem like he’s going to keep going.
The omega nods, visibly steeling himself before he continues, “You know him because he is notoriously cruel. He’d gathered quite the reputation even before I met him. But when I met him, he was nothing but kind and gentle. He followed all the courtship rituals and treated me nicely. I thought it must have been an exaggeration.”
“But it wasn’t,” Steve finishes, fury gathering in him at the thought of anyone daring to hurt Tony.
Tony shakes his head. “No. He duped us all. I found out at our engagement party.”
“Did he hurt you?” When Tony doesn’t respond, he asks again, harsher, “Tony, did he hurt you?”
“No. It was—I had another alpha once, the same story I suppose. I came across them talking about what he planned to do to me once he had access to my father’s business, how he planned to make me…disappear, as he put it. ‘No one cares what happens to a bonded omega,’” he says bitterly and Steve has to bite back the vitriol he wants to spew at Stone. “I had already broken one engagement; to break another, with the wedding so close, I might have ruined my family and I couldn’t do that to them. So I ran. Only three people knew I was going—my butler and his wife and my closest friend. I made my way across Europe and—”
“—and found yourself in Dacia, which isn’t on most maps.”
“I thought I was safe,” Tony whispers.
And Steve understands now what exactly Tony is trying to tell him. He hadn’t heard it before but now he does. “Until he found you last month,” he says.
Tony nods miserably. “I put your children in danger. Your Majesty, I’m so sorry.”
“No,” Steve says sharply, surprising even himself with his vehemence. Tony jumps and starts to pull his hand away but Steve holds onto it tightly. “It wasn’t your fault. I wish you would have told us so that we could have protected you better—and my children—but it wasn’t your fault he chased you across two continents.”
“I should have known—”
“How? Are you a mind reader? A fortune teller, maybe? Tony, you couldn’t have possibly known.” He finds it in himself to be brave enough to lean forward to brush a kiss across Tony’s forehead. “I’m honored that you trust me with your secret.”
Tony looks up at him, eyes wide and wondrous. “Steve,” he whispers, lips parted, and Steve can’t help but think about what a mistake it was to let Tony leave the room that night, when he could have drawn him back to his bed, to his side. He thinks about what he’d realized while chasing after Tony and Morgan that day, about how scared he had been that he would lose both of them, that the last time he had truly spoken with Tony had been a night of secret identities and ended in a fight.
He’s just starting to lean forward again, Tony moving to meet him, when Rhodey interrupts, “Tony.”
They both jump apart and maybe that’s for the better, Steve thinks, because he doesn’t know if he could have stopped—and they need to talk things over. They need to come together with complete honesty between each other, no more regrets and no more sadness.
Rhodey doesn’t bother apologizing for the interruption. Instead, he just looks at Tony and continues, “Morgan wants a bedtime story.”
Tony sighs and stands before looking down at Steve. “We’ll talk later?” he offers, sounding hopeful.
Steve nods eagerly, eyes following Tony as he leaves the room. Rhodey stands to let him pass and then glares at Steve, cutting his eyes between him and Tony in a very obvious message. He nods again: message received.
Unfortunately, they don’t get a chance to talk again. With less than a week before Christmas, they’re both swept up into the preparations. The tree arrives the day before Christmas Eve and Steve, Tony, and the children spend nearly all day decorating it. Steve has no idea where the loggers found the tree but it’s large enough to fit comfortably in the ballroom and nowhere else.
Tony, when he took the children into town, had spent some of his budget on the lovely little baubles that have become so popular to hang on Christmas trees in America and are slowly spreading across Europe. They still hadn’t reached Dacia when Peggy had died so they’re new to Steve, who still has plenty of homemade decorations from Harley, Peter, and Sarah’s childhoods to hang on the tree, along with the portal de Belén his father carved decades ago.
He nestles that one in between two branches so that it overlooks the room. It had always gone on a table in the entry hall when he had been younger as Christmas trees were new to the country at the time and his parents hadn’t gotten one until he was already an adult. He hadn’t put it out in recent years, even when Peggy had still been alive, too lost in the memories of his parents to feel anything but sadness when he looked at it but he’s ready now. And when Harley asks him what it is because he doesn’t remember it from his childhood, he smiles fondly at the set and the memories it holds and tells him all about the tradition.
For all that he keeps watching his children though, it’s Tony that his gaze keeps falling on: Tony who lifts up Morgan onto his hip so she can hang decorations on some of the higher branches, who laughs and twirls around the ballroom with Peter when he starts singing carols, who tells Harley stories about his childhood Christmases in New York, and who sits down beside Sarah when he’s tired and compliments her on her drawing of the family decorating the tree. He’s absolutely lovely, the candlelight gleaming gold in his chestnut curls, his eyes lighting up every time Morgan tells him a joke.
He loves him, absolutely adores him, and the very thought of Tony leaving them again, even at a distant time in the future, terrifies him. Other than the children, other than his feelings for Steve—and he’s already messed up there—there’s nothing truly holding him here. He can go home now, back to his family and friends and everything that’s familiar. Steve wouldn’t even blame him if he wanted to. If he had been in Tony’s place, even with how he felt about the children, he wouldn’t hesitate to take the chance to go home.
There’s only one thing that Steve can think of that’s really keeping Tony here and that’s, well, that’s how he must feel about Steve. Tony had told him that night that he loves him. He doesn’t know if that’s still true, though he certainly hopes it is—and if it is, then he knows what he has to do.
No more of this waiting around. Damn tradition to hell, it is time to seize this new chance by the horns. He knows better than most how short life can be and he refuses to waste his second chance with Tony.
Christmas morning dawns bright and earlier than usual because Morgan rushes into his bedroom and throws herself across his stomach, shrieking, “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!”
Tony has to remind himself that Morgan has never gotten to celebrate Christmas before and therefore it’s inappropriate to ask her to get off his stomach and go back to bed for another—he glances out the window at the still dark sky— another few hours.
“Good morning, Miss Morgan,” he asks, wrapping his good arm around her as he sits up so that he doesn’t dislodge her and throw her off the bed…not that he’s ever done that before. “And how are you on this fine morning?”
“It’s Christmas,” she says again.
“So I heard. Are your brothers and sister up yet?”
“Yes. The boys wanted to get our stockings but Sarah said we have to wait for you so I thought we could wake you up and then open them.”
Yeah, that sounds like them.
He yawns sleepily, running his hand through his hair. “Well, do you think you could wait a few more minutes so I can get dressed?” he asks. “And then we’ll go through the stockings together.”
She thinks about it and then firmly nods. “We can wait.”
“Thank you,” he says drily and shoos her out the door so he can get dressed in peace. He sighs regretfully, thinking of the nice dream he’d been having when Morgan jumped on him as he looks out the window again, this time at the falling snow. Snow had come late this year to Dacia, according to Rhodey, who had told him that the first snowfall is usually in late November but hadn’t come this year until just last week. He wonders if he can convince the children to go out and play in the snow for a few minutes after they open their stockings so they can let Steve sleep in longer.
He finishes washing his face and meanders out to the nursery where the children are impatiently waiting by the fireplace. He spots seven stockings hanging on the mantle, presumably hung there by the maid sometime late last night, and he ducks his head out into the hallway to say, “Rhodey? Natasha? There are stockings in here for the both of you if you want to come in.”
Interestingly, while Natasha looks surprised, Rhodey does not and he wonders if there’s something that Rhodey knows that the rest of them do not.
“Is there something going on that I want to know about?” he whispers to Rhodey as he walks past him.
“Pepper got ahold of Natasha’s stocking last night before it was delivered.”
Well, isn’t that exciting?
He settles in the rocking chair, barely able to contain his excitement, and Morgan settles on top of him, barely able to contain hers , and Natasha picks stockings down from the mantle to pass to each child and then to Tony and Rhodey, keeping one for herself. Tony is just getting ready to tell the children they can finally open their stocking when there’s a knock on the door.
“May I join you?” Steve asks through the door.
“Daddy!” Morgan shrieks and leaps up from Tony’s lap to run for the door, her siblings not far behind her. They crowd around him, eagerly telling him about how amazing their Christmas has been already, even though they’ve done nothing yet except wake Tony up and knock the wind out of him. Steve listens, eyes bright and a shining smile on his face. Tony can’t help but remember what the castle—what this family—had been like when he first arrived, the quiet, the sadness that seemed like it had seeped into the very stones of the castle. Looking at them now, seeing how different they are now, if he hadn’t been here for the change, he doubts he would have recognized them as the same family.
He starts to get up, offering his chair to Steve instead but the king waves him off. “I’ll sit on the floor,” Steve says cheerfully and promptly plops himself down on the rug in front of Tony’s chair. Morgan decides to sit in his lap instead and Tony is left staring down at the top of Steve’s head, wondering what changed in the last month to make Steve suddenly so much friendlier after the awkwardness following Halloween.
Because things have changed. Steve has changed, almost like he’s changed his mind about them but—but Tony refuses to believe that. He can’t get his hopes up again only to have them dashed to pieces when Steve tells him again that they can’t be together.
He won’t do that to himself.
But then Steve leans back so that his head is resting against Tony’s knees and he can’t stop the way his heart leaps. There’s hope building in him whether he wants it or not. When Steve tilts his head back even further so he can give Tony a small smile, he suddenly isn’t so sure that he doesn’t want that hope to build.
The morning passes quickly enough, with the children exclaiming over their satsumas and little treats in their stockings, the small mechanical gifts Tony had crafted for them during his long weeks in bed, and the socks that Rhodey had knitted for them during his late-night watches. Natasha reaches into hers and pulls out a letter with handwriting that Tony recognizes as belonging to Pepper. She reads through the letter, gives them all a stunning smile, and promptly excuses herself.
“What…?” Steve starts to wonder.
Tony leans down to whisper in his ear, “It was from Pepper.”
Steve chuckles. “I see.”
As the morning drags on towards lunch, the children drag them all outside for a snowball fight—though Sarah much prefers sitting off to the side with her father and helping him build a snowman. After Harley gets nearly an entire armload’s worth of snow dumped down the back of his shirt by Peter, Tony calls a halt to the snowball fight and they all end up helping Sarah with an entire snowman family, complete with four children, two apparent guards, and two snowmen holding hands together.
“Your father and mother?” Tony guesses as Sarah shows them to him.
She gives him a funny look. “No, it’s Father and you.” Then she points at Peter making a snow angel not far away. “That’s Mama.”
She wanders off to go judge Peter’s snow angel and Tony steals a glance at Steve, who is certainly close enough to hear what Sarah had just said, and wonders if it will offend him. But Steve just gives him a warm look before turning away to call the children back inside for a light lunch and then finally into the ballroom for presents.
The children go running for the tree but Tony takes a moment to look around the glittering ballroom, now draped in crystals shining rainbows on the walls and in garlands dipped in wax and some sort of white powder to make them look like freshly fallen snow. It’s a beautiful effect and Tony wishes he knew what it was made with so he could write home to his mama about it for her party next year so she can impress all the other society omegas back home.
The afternoon passes just as quickly as the morning did. The kids loudly coo over their presents, giving hugs to whichever of the adults or siblings had gotten it for them. Morgan, with her miniscule allowance, made them all handmade cards. Tony’s card says, I’m glad you and Daddy love each other. He blushes when he sees it and tucks it away to closely look at later. At some point, Natasha and Pepper join them, hand in hand and laughing softly about something private between the two of them. Peter pouts at that and wants to be let in on the joke until Sarah distracts him with his new wooden train set.
And through it all, Steve is right next to him, helping Tony stand when he needs to get something for Morgan and to sit when he gets tired, smiling softly at him whenever there’s a free moment, even going so far as to pick up his hand at one point and gently rub his thumb over the back of it, making Tony shiver.
He wants to say that he hates the attention but he doesn’t. He loves it, craves it even, and it just proves Tony needs to go back to New York after the holidays. He can’t keep doing this, can’t keep letting Steve keep him dangling—and he doubts that Steve even really knows what he’s doing. Steve isn’t the kind of person to treat anyone like this on purpose, this back and forth, hot and cold, sort of game. But Tony feels like it’s a game anyway and for that, he’s convinced that he needs to leave. He stayed for Christmas, that was all that was asked of him. Shouldn’t that be enough?
The day lengthens into evening and Steve is still there being just as affectionate as he has been for the last few days. When they’re called into the dining room for dinner and Steve helps Tony rise with a hand on the small of his back, Tony decides that he can’t take it anymore. He leans over to Steve as the children trail out of the room, reluctant to leave their new toys behind, and says quietly, “Can I talk to you for a moment?”
Steve gives him a confused look but nods and when Rhodey pauses at the grand double doors to wait for them, he waves him on with a reassuring, “It’s alright, Jim. Go make sure the children don’t make themselves sick with treats.”
Then they’re finally left alone.
Steve turns to face him fully, hands coming up to hold onto Tony’s. “Is everything okay?” he asks and he sounds so earnest, so sincere, that Tony’s breath catches on a sob. Steve’s eyes turn frantic, his grip tightening. “Tony? Is something wrong?”
“What is this, Steve?”
This clearly wasn’t what Steve was expecting him to ask because he frowns. “This what?”
“This.” Tony can’t gesture between them with Steve holding his hands but Steve must understand if the way his frown deepens means anything. “Steve, what are you doing? You told me that there couldn’t be anything between us. Don’t try to deny it, I was there, I remember it.”
“I’m not denying it,” Steve says quietly.
“Then what is going on here? Because if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that what you’ve been doing these last few weeks is—” He stops because he doesn’t think he can bear to speak the words out loud and have Steve laugh at him: silly omega, why would you think I’m courting you?
Steve is shaking his head and Tony trembles, certain that the alpha has somehow heard what he was thinking anyway. But then Steve says ruefully, “Bucky keeps telling me I should use my words.”
“I was going to tell you,” Steve continues like Tony hadn’t said anything. “I just needed to find the right words. I hoped my actions would be enough in the meantime but I hadn’t realized how much they must have upset you, sweetheart.”
Tony shakes again but this time for a different reason. “Sweetheart?” he whispers, barely breathing the words in case Steve realizes what he’d just said.
Steve’s face falls but before Tony can get too worried about that, he murmurs, “I really hurt you, didn’t I?” He drops one of Tony’s hands to reach out and cup his cheek. Tony’s now-free hand loosely encircles his wrist. “You were right. I should never have let you leave that night. I—I as good as told you I love you and you did tell me. But I still told you it didn’t matter.”
“You told me I wasn’t good enough for you,” Tony says, so soft even he almost doesn’t hear it.
He isn’t expecting Steve’s face to go slack with shock and dismay. “Tony, I didn’t—”
“You did. You told me you were the king and I was common-born and—”
“And the law would never allow me to marry a commoner,” Steve finishes.
“No,” Tony starts to say and then stops. “I’m sorry, what?”
“You thought you weren’t good enough for me?” Steve says, sounding horrified. Every inch of his face is lined in distress, his scent stinking with it. “Sweetheart, not at all. It was always because of the law.” Then he hesitates and shakes his head. “No, that’s not entirely true. I know how much power I have and I never wanted you to feel like you were...were obligated to love me. And I was terrified, of what you meant to me and how you turned my entire life upside down, scared of what it would mean to move past my grief.”
“I don’t want to take the place of Queen Margaret,” Tony immediately says. He’s not a replacement for anyone, no matter how much Steve might mean to him.
“And you aren’t. I love you both in very different ways. Peggy—she was someone familiar. Falling in love with her was as easy as breathing. It felt inevitable. You—” He stops, sliding his hand from Tony’s cheek to the back of his head and pulling him forward to rest their foreheads together. “You crashed into my life, had me wondering which direction was up. You challenge me, to be better, to be more. It’s hard for me to admit sometimes that I don’t always know what’s right but you force me to see that what I’m doing is wrong. Loving you isn’t easy at all.” He takes a deep, steadying breath and Tony can understand that. It feels like his entire world is crashing down around him, everything that he knew, everything he had convinced himself, is turning on its head. “It’s not easy but it’s as inevitable as loving Peggy was. This is where I’m supposed to be, here, with you, and I should never have let the law tell me I couldn’t love you.”
“Oh,” Tony breathes out. He can feel the tears prickling at the edges of his eyes because this? This is more than he had ever dreamed he could have. And he knows that Steve sees them because he tilts his head down just enough to kiss the corners of his eyes, kissing the salt and the wet and the overwhelming emotion.
“Tony,” Steve says softly as he rests his forehead against Tony’s again, the words feathering across his lips. “Tony, let me love you the way you should be, the way I should have done on Halloween.”
And maybe Tony should think about this more. Maybe he should make Steve wait, should consider how much last month had hurt, but he’s been hurt enough and he doesn’t want to wait when he knows what he wants.
“I love you too,” he says instead. He wraps his arm around Steve’s waist, tugging him just that little bit closer to bring their bodies in line with each other. “I love you and I’m suddenly wishing that I were better at pretty speeches because your words were beautiful. But I’m not. What I am is honest and so you can believe me when I tell you that I love you, I adore you—”
He gets cut off when Steve suddenly kisses him. Soft and sweet and it’s both like how Grant had kissed him and not like that at all because this is so much better; this is Steve kissing him, holding him like he’s something precious, something loved. So Tony melts into his arms and kisses him back, their hands holding onto each other, Tony’s arm around Steve’s waist and Steve’s other hand cupping his neck, stroking over his bonding gland.
Steve is careful with him, gentle even as he licks Tony’s lips open and dips his tongue inside for the briefest of moments before retreating. Tony chases him, mimicking Steve’s motions until he has Steve’s taste memorized: sugar and oranges and peppermint tea. Steve draws away, just long enough for them both to draw a breath, and then comes back for another kiss and another and another. Tony feels drugged and consumed all at once.
And then Steve takes that wonderful mouth away though he doesn’t go far. “We should go to dinner,” he whispers. Tony slowly blinks his eyes open, not sure when he had closed them. “Right? We should—”
“Or,” he interrupts, “you could take me upstairs, to your room, and make love to me the way you wish you had that night.”
Steve stares at him for a long time, long enough that Tony starts to wonder if he’s being too forward. He starts to fidget, thinks about apologizing and taking it back, telling him they can go to dinner, it’s fine. But then Steve bends down, sliding one hand behind his back and the other behind his knees in order to pick him up and cradle him to his chest. He clutches onto Steve’s neck, surprised by the movement.
“Did I scare you?” Steve asks. He sounds amused.
Tony uses his grip on Steve’s neck to tug his head down and kiss him again. “Only a little startled, my love,” he murmurs.
Steve’s smile could rival the brightness of a thousand suns.
Oh but Tony is lovely, lovely in a way that Edward could never have been, because Tony is his. Steve sets him on his feet in his bedroom, slowly undresses him, taking the time to leave kisses across every inch of skin that he uncovers. And Tony, spirited, wonderful Tony, moans for him and holds his head to his chest as Steve worries his nipples between his teeth. It’s so much better than their last night together.
Here, he can take his time with Tony, smell the way their scents intertwine and come together in a startlingly perfect duet, find the secret sensitive places on his body that he hadn’t had the chance to discover last time. And he does. As soon as the last of Tony’s clothes drops to the floor, Steve herds him back to the bed, where he sprawls him out across the pillows. He takes in the sight for a moment, dragging his gaze down Tony’s perfect body, small and lithe and so perfectly tempting.
“Are you going to undress for me, my king?” Tony asks coyly, arching an eyebrow.
Steve groans at the thought of Tony calling him that in the heat of their passion and begins working at the buttons of his shirt. It slides down his arms and falls to the floor, unheeded by either Steve or Tony. Tony’s eyes have gone dark as he lifts himself up to his elbows and then sits up all the way. He crawls to the end of the bed and places his hands around Steve’s hips to pull him in.
Like this, Tony’s curls just barely brush the bottom of Steve’s jaw as he bends his head to feather kisses across his collarbone.
“Tony,” Steve whispers, hands stalling on his trousers before he can push them down. Tony peers up at him through his lashes as he continues kissing his way down Steve’s chest. He laps around Steve’s right nipple, fingers coming up to play with the other. Steve groans again and lets his hands sink into Tony’s hair, not forcing, just…guiding a little, helping Tony figure out what he likes.
He had wondered, when he had taken Tony to bed last time, if Tony was inexperienced, an unsurprising trait in society omegas. He wonders that again now because while Tony is certainly enthusiastic in his ministrations to Steve’s chest, there’s something delightfully innocent about it. He doesn’t want to ask though, not when it might run the risk of making Tony self-conscious.
So instead he lets Tony leave kisses across his chest until his sensitive nipples can’t take it anymore and his fingers are tightening in Tony’s hair, soft whines escaping his mouth every time Tony’s silky hair brushes his chest.
“Tony,” he pants, using his grip on his hair to pull him off just a little. Tony whimpers, trying to get back to kissing him. “Tony, sweetheart, I want to—I’m gonna—”
Tony’s eyes light up. “So you can?” he asks. “Just from that?”
“I’ve never tried,” Steve tells him. “And we’ve got the rest of our lives to find out but you wanted me to make love to you, sweetheart.”
“Can’t help it if you move too slow,” Tony quips but Steve sees the way he quivers.
Steve smooths his thumbs down Tony’s cheeks, lifting his face to give him another sweet kiss. “Let me worship you,” he pleads. He pulls back enough to see Tony’s eyes closed, his mouth parted on a soft gasp. “Beloved, please.”
Tony lays back down the pillows, watching as Steve finishes what he’d been planning on doing before he’d gotten distracted by his omega. He stokes up the fire, making sure it’ll be nice and warm for a long time, and then he draws the curtains around the bed, hiding them from view, as he climbs up onto the bed, shucking his trousers as he goes. Just as they had last time, Tony’s pupils get a little bit bigger at the sight of Steve’s cock and he can’t resist giving himself one, long stroke.
“You’re just so pleased with yourself, aren’t you?” Tony teases.
Steve laughs, “I didn’t hear you complaining last time.”
“And I’m not this time either.”
He holds out his hands for Steve and Steve gladly goes, sinking into the embrace of his omega. They kiss, long and slow and lazy, as Steve’s hands tease at the sensitive spots he’d learned when he’d undressed Tony earlier, cataloging every gasp and whimper and cry he can get out of him. One day, he decides, one day he’ll take Tony to pieces without ever getting his knot into him. But today, he plucks at Tony’s nipples with his fingers as he kisses down his ribs, lapping at the space between each one.
“Tony,” he asks, worrying a bruise onto his hip. “May I use my mouth on you?”
Tony blinks down at him, eyes hazy with pleasure, and inwardly, Steve preens. He made his omega look like that, made him feel good with nothing more than his fingers and his mouth.
“Yes?” Tony asks but it sounds more like a question than an answer. “If you want—”
He hadn’t used his mouth last time, had used his mouth on Tony’s cock and his fingers in his hole to bring him off twice before pushing inside him. There’s a possibility that Tony doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.
“On your stomach, sweetheart,” he urges, helping Tony to roll over. Tony gives him a quizzical look but he doesn’t complain and Steve thinks he’d better show him before Tony starts asking too many questions.
He can’t resist kissing down Tony’s spine though, every little knob and dip open to his lips, teeth, and tongue. Tony will be lucky if he comes out of this looking any less than mauled. Somehow, Steve can’t find it in himself to be ashamed of that. He sinks his teeth one last time into Tony’s left cheek and then uses his hand to pull his cheeks apart, revealing his already slick hole, pink and pretty and just waiting for Steve’s claim.
He bends down and licks him once, pressing the flat of his tongue against Tony’s hole, and then he sits back and waits. It takes Tony a moment to realize what he’d just done and then he cries out, “Oh!” and shoves back into Steve’s hands.
Steve smiles smugly and gets to work, worshipping Tony’s hole with his mouth. He licks his slick from him, sweeter than Peggy had ever been, rolls the taste around his mouth, and swallows. “Like honey,” he mutters, not sure if Tony can hear him over his nonstop moans. When Tony doesn’t say anything, he stiffens his tongue into a point and drives it into him.
Steve pulls two orgasms out of him, the first solely on his tongue, the second dragged out of him a little later after Steve gets his fingers inside him and spreads him. Tony loosens beautifully for him, slick and hot and ready, and Steve ends up fingering him long after Tony’s babbles for him to get inside him have long since dissolved into incoherent moans.
It’s only after Tony has come the second time, cock spilling across the sheets, that Steve pulls his fingers out, wipes them on the sheets, and says, “On your back, my love. I want to see your face.”
Tony moans again but obediently rolls back over onto his back. Well, sort of. He kind of flops, worn out from his two orgasms, but he does manage it eventually. He holds his hands out for Steve and Steve gladly sinks into his arms for another kiss and a second and a third until he’s lost count.
“Inside me,” Tony tells him eventually. “Steve, my love, my king , let me have your knot.”
Steve whines at the thought. He hadn’t gotten to have this during their last night. He’d knotted his hand instead of Tony, far more unsatisfying but potentially safer. But now Tony is his, he gets to keep him, and they’ll make love any way that they want.
He hitches Tony’s legs up around his waist and guides his cock to Tony’s hole, still wet and open. Tony’s eyelashes flutter at the first push and Steve himself grunts his pleasure as he sinks inside him, the glide easy through Tony’s slick even though the omega is tight around his cock. When he’s as far in as he can go, all of his cock in Tony’s body, he stops to let Tony adjust, asking, “Does it hurt?”
Tony opens his eyes, dreamy and unfocused. “No,” he replies airily. “It’s perfect.”
And that—well, that gets Steve moving, a slow, rocking motion that rolls the head of his cock against Tony’s prostate, making him yelp and arch up into Steve’s thrusts. He angles his hips, making sure to hit that spot on every one of his thrusts. This is as much about Tony as it is about him and even though Tony has already come twice, Steve will be damned if he can’t get Tony to come on his knot.
Pleasure is building in his stomach, at the base of his cock where his knot is beginning to swell, butting up against Tony’s hole with every thrust. His hips are moving faster, rabbiting into Tony with a slick sound that echoes around the bed. He can feel Tony’s nails scoring small lines into his back, the sharp sting of pain bringing him back long enough to pant, “I’m close. Tony, sweetheart—”
“Me too,” Tony sobs. “Steve—”
“Can I knot you?” he asks. Tony had already told him once but he has to check, has to make sure that Tony knows just how big he is.
Tony smiles sweetly up at him like he knows that Steve is worried about him, leans up to kiss him one last time, and sighs, “Make me yours.”
And that’s it. Steve’s knot pops in, swelling to its full size as it locks into place. Tony cries out as he comes for the third time and Steve—Steve buries his face in Tony’s neck as he sobs through his orgasm, pleasure washing over him in overwhelming waves when Tony’s hole clamps down on his knot.
It takes him a long time to come down from his high, to realize that Tony is stroking through his hair, crooning softly to him. Steve takes a deep breath, inhaling the scent of content and happy omega, reassuring himself that Tony is okay, he wasn’t hurt at any point.
“C’mere,” he mutters, getting his hand under Tony’s back so he can roll them.
“Oh!” Tony gasps, wriggling a little on his cock to get comfortable now that he’s sitting on it. Steve chokes out another groan at the way it makes Tony’s hole shift in pleasurable ways around his knot and then another when Tony puts a hand to his belly like he can feel how much Steve has filled him.
Eventually, Tony stops his movements and lays down, draping himself across Steve’s chest. “Was that as good for you as it was for me?” he asks.
Steve gapes for a moment but then he realizes that Tony is smiling cheekily at him and he laughs. “Incredible,” he says honestly.
Tony hums happily, wiggling just a little bit more and giggling when it makes Steve’s stomach convulse. “My king,” he says softly. “I love you.”
“As I love you,” Steve replies. Tony’s eyes go a bit brighter, his scent a little sweeter, enough so that he resolves to tell him how much he loves him as often as he can if it keeps Tony looking like that.
Tony’s worth it.