“Hey Cap, it’s Tony. Stark. Obviously,” the message began. “If you don’t know who I am by now then frankly, I’m insulted. Anyway. So listen, I have a proposition for you. No, not like that. I don’t know if you were thinking that but apparently people get the wrong idea when you tell them you have a proposition for them. Or maybe they just get the wrong idea when I say it? Whatever. Who knows. I have a proposition for you: there’s a room in Stark Tower with your name on it if you want it. Well, really it’s more of an apartment. Or floor. Am I babbling? Pepper says I tend to babble on voicemail so I usually just don’t bother but I didn’t know if- You know what? I am. I’m babbling. So yeah. If you want to get out of your SHIELD digs, there’s space in the Tower for you. Bruce is already moved in and Clint has all but agreed but I’m working on him - not like that! - and I think if you agreed then our spider-woman’ll be onboard too. So yeah. That’s it. Bye, Cap.”
The message came to an end, leaving Steve sitting there with a bemused smile on his face. Tony was… a lot. That much was clear within two seconds of meeting the man.
But after New York, Steve knew he had a good heart too.
And he wasn’t exactly loving living under SHIELD’s thumb.
So he packed up his few measly possessions and Ellie and started working on accepting the fact that he was going to live in Manhattan.
Steve stood in the middle of the living area of his new Stark Tower apartment with Ellie against his chest, taking in the space that was big enough to fit the whole apartment he’d grown up in.
It was… a lot.
He’d called Tony before he arrived and Tony told him that everything was set up for him, he just needed to scan his palm print at the elevator and he would have access to the floor set aside for him, and then Tony promised to stop by after his board meeting.
That was the part Steve was nervous about.
In his arms, Ellie shifted and whined in her sleep.
“Shh…” Steve whispered, bouncing her gently.
There was a rap at the door then it opened and Tony Stark walked in, in a sharp suit and pulling off a pair of sunglasses with an easy smile on his face.
“Hey Cap,” Tony greeted.
Steve saw the moment Tony spotted Ellie. He smelled it too, the alpha’s scent changing with surprise, and it took all of Steve’s not inconsiderable control not to turn away and hide Ellie from him.
It helped that of all the insults that Tony had hurled at him on the helicarrier, not one of them had been about how an omega couldn’t be Captain America or that he refused to take orders from an omega.
(You know, the things that SHIELD had said would be a problem not just for Tony, but for the whole world when they told him to keep his designation and Ellie a secret from the world.)
“And who’s this gorgeous little one?” Tony asked, stopping at the door.
“This is Ellie,” Steve explained. He brushed his lips across her forehead. “My pup.”
“She’s beautiful,” Tony smiled. “Can I come in?”
Steve nodded but he appreciated being asked. It felt like at SHIELD everyone expected him to be okay with everyone coming near his pup but he still had those instincts ingrained into him that no one - least of all an alpha - should go near his pup without his permission.
“So. She wasn’t in your file,” Tony murmured. “I won’t ask if you don’t want me to though.”
“It’s fine,” Steve replied. “Turns out I was pregnant when I went into the ice. Her sire… It’s complicated.”
Steve nodded. “But married. And in his eighties.”
“Complicated,” Tony nodded. “Does he know?”
“No one does,” Steve replied. “SHIELD… thought it was a bad idea. That people might have problems with it if they knew I was an omega.”
“SHIELD are assholes,” Tony said almost dismissively before his face transformed into a wide grin, his eyes going soft. “Hi beautiful.”
Steve glanced down and saw that Ellie’s eyes were open and she was blinking slowly at Tony, not fully awake yet. Her thumb drifted towards her mouth and her other hand pawed lightly at Steve’s shirt.
“So I guess you might need some things?” Tony said, still watching Ellie with what looked like adoration. Which was insane because everyone knew that alphas struggled to make connections with pups that weren’t their own. Most of them tried - the stories of alphas attacking pups that weren’t their own were in reality few and far between and usually the kinds of assholes who just wanted an excuse for their bad behaviour - but without the scent connection, alphas struggled with young pups.
But Tony was looking at Ellie like she was the greatest thing he’d ever seen.
“For her?” Tony added and it took Steve a minute to catch up.
“Uh, I have some things. From my SHIELD place,” he said.
“If she needs anything, don’t hesitate,” Tony told him, straightening up - but he continued to sneak glances at Ellie - and shoving his hands into his pockets. “I always say I have more money than I know what to do with and she would be the perfect way to get rid of the excess.”
“Thanks, Tony,” Steve said, surprised to discover that he meant it.
“Well, I’ll leave you to get settled in,” Tony announced. “Bye Ellie. Bye Steve.”
“Bye Tony,” Steve said.
He watched Tony leave then turned back to Ellie, who started to squirm as she woke up further.
The next time Steve saw Tony was a little over a week later.
He’d largely been keeping to himself in the Tower, still unsure how the rest of the team would react when they found out that not only was their team leader an omega - something they all knew after New York - but that he had a pup out of bond.
(Steve had read the articles online. He knew that although it was supposedly okay for omegas to have pups out of bond now, there was still a lot of judgement and condemnation for it. He wanted a little longer with just him and his pup before he exposed her to that.)
By that time, Steve had fitted out the apartment with just enough furniture for himself and spent the rest of the time spoiling Ellie rotten. He was the first to admit that he intended on spoiling his daughter with everything he’d always dreamed about having for any future pup but known that he would never be able to afford.
He was sitting on the floor, watching Ellie glare up at the plush dragon that Steve was holding over her. He pulled the dragon down, grinning as Ellie’s frown fell away, her mouth opening in a little ‘o’, when the dragon’s wings began to flap and the music began to play.
But the the dragon stopped and she frowned in affront, as though it was doing it just to annoy her.
Steve chuckled and leaned down, pressing a kiss to her belly and breathing in her scent, a perfect blend of Arnie’s scent and his own.
Ellie wriggled, kicking her feet and straining upwards towards the dragon toy.
“Again?” Steve grinned. “Alright. But only ‘cause you’re so pretty.”
He pulled the dragon down and Ellie’s frown disappeared once more, entranced by the dragon.
A knock cut through the music then Tony’s voice called, “Steve? It’s me. Can I-"
“Come in,” Steve replied.
He heard the door open and footsteps approach then Tony appeared.
“Hey,” Steve said, taking in Tony’s rumpled suit and his eyes, tight and tired, although they softened when they fell on Ellie.
“Hi,” Tony replied, perching on the edge of the couch. “Hi beautiful,” he cooed at Ellie, who was too busy sucking on the edge of the dragon’s wing to notice the new arrival.
“You okay?” Steve asked because Tony looked tense and worn. He had the urge to offer Tony to scent him but he didn’t know if that was the done thing anymore.
Did omegas let alphas they weren’t bonded to scent them if they were upset? Or was that another thing that was technically acceptable but there was a lot of judgement surrounding it?
“Yeah. Fine,” Tony flashed him a smile but Steve’s instincts told him it was a lie. “Get settled in okay?”
“Yeah,” Steve nodded. “Thank you. For everything.”
“No problem.” Tony waved him off, his eyes returning to Ellie. A small smile fought its way onto his face. “She seems happy.”
They lapsed into silence; Tony watching Ellie and Steve watching Tony watch Ellie. The longer he watched, the surer Steve became that something was wrong with Tony.
Which was why he blurted out, “Do you want to hold her?” without stopping to think about it too hard.
Tony’s eyes went wide, his mouth falling open as he stared at Steve in disbelief.
“I- Uh. Are you sure?” he stammered.
“Yeah,” Steve nodded. He scooped Ellie up, ignoring her squawk of protest at leaving the dragon behind. He soothed her by leaning her against his shoulder, letting her scent him for a moment while he kissed the top of her head. Then he leaned forward and transferred her into Tony’s arms.
She flailed for a moment, clearly recognising Tony as a stranger, but settled down once Tony shifted enough that she could see Steve was still there.
“Hi,” Tony breathed. “Wow. Look at you.”
Steve grinned, glancing between their expressions: Ellie’s confused and vaguely mistrusting, and Tony’s completely awestruck one. He reached out and tickled the bottom of Ellie’s foot until she wriggled and giggled, a sound that went straight to Steve’s heart every time he heard it.
“Steve, she is perfect,” Tony whispered. “Most perfect thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah. I think so,” Steve smiled. “Huh, Miss Eleanor? Oh, watch she doesn’t put your tie in her mouth.”
“She can have it,” Tony declared fervently and Steve abandoned his attempt to rescue the tie from Ellie’s clutches. “She can have every tie in my wardrobe if she wants it. Yes, yes, you can,” he told Ellie. “All yours. All you gotta do is look at me with those baby blues. Uh huh. You’re very clever, Ellie. Yes, you are.”
Tony looked up and some of the tension was gone from his eyes.
Good, Steve thought.
“Thanks, Steve. I… I needed this,” Tony continued, rocking Ellie slowly. “I am having a really bad day. But she just made everything okay.”
“Yeah, she’s pretty talented like that,” Steve agreed. “First time I saw her, I realised that I might be in the future, but everything was going to be okay. If I had her.”
Tony nodded. “Makes sense.”
They lapsed into silence once more and for the first time since he woke up in the future, Steve thought that he might actually have a place in it.
“You can do this,” Steve muttered. “Come on, Rogers. You went into enemy territory against orders with less nerves than this. They’re your team.”
Ellie looked up at him from his arms, blowing spit bubbles that Steve already knew would end up all over his shirt when she inevitably buried her face into his chest. But he was too busy trying not to freak out about the fact that he’d decided tonight was the night.
He’d agreed to join the rest of the team for dinner.
Which meant introducing them to Ellie.
Steve kissed the top of her head, breathing in her scent and using it to give him courage, before walking forward into the communal kitchen and towards the voices and scents of the rest of the team.
He could make out Tony and Clint’s voices above the rest and the strange non-scent that belonged to Thor. Then Steve stepped forward into the room and Natasha was the first one to spot him.
“Hi Steve,” she smiled, then her eyes flickered down to Ellie.
“Hey,” Steve replied.
The rest of the team turned towards him and Steve braced himself.
Moment of truth.
“Look who finally decided to join us,” Tony grinned. “If you’re quick, you might manage to grab some food before Barton hogs it all.”
“Fuck you, Stark!”
“And there’s my favourite junior Avenger,” Tony continued, reaching towards Ellie. He glanced up at Steve for permission before rubbing his finger against her cheek.
Ellie reared back in affront.
“That’s Tony. You know Tony,” Steve told her.
Ellie looked up at him with an expression that clearly said that she did not know Tony.
“Don’t worry, gorgeous,” Tony told her. “Pepper would say a little rejection is good for my ego. You’re just providing a vital service. Who knows what I’d get up to otherwise?”
Steve chuckled and eased himself down into the chair next to Tony, settling Ellie on his lap before risking a glance at the rest of the team. There was some surprise but no horror or disgust in their expressions, so he counted that as a win.
“I heard you had a little one through SHIELD,” Natasha said. “She’s cute.”
“Yeah, but I’m biased,” Steve smiled.
“I’m not. She’s extremely cute,” Tony said, offering Steve the spaghetti.
Steve nodded and Tony lifted some onto his plate.
“Tony, you are possibly more biased than I am,” Steve pointed out.
“Doesn’t mean I’m wrong,” Tony retorted. “You’re cute, aren’t you, Ellie?”
Ellie gaped at him for a moment. Then her face split into a grin and she clapped her hands together twice.
“See? She knows she’s cute,” Tony beamed.
Steve rolled his eyes but secretly he loved how easily Tony seemed to accept Ellie. Bruce looked a little uneasy, in the way that alphas usually looked uneasy around pups, compounded no doubt by his fear of what the Hulk could do to her.
“Okay but as much as I hate to admit it, Stark has a point,” Clint agreed. “Pups are usually ugly when they’re that small but she’s really cute.”
“So, no paternal leanings there, Barton?” Tony teased.
“Dude, leave me alone. I just said you were right,” Clint retorted, flicking a piece of cucumber at Tony.
They dissolved into what felt like natural conversation, flowing easily and interspersed with plenty of teasing, and Steve felt himself relax.
Eating while holding a pup was a slow process, Steve had discovered early on, so the rest of the team were finished long before he was. But they didn’t make him feel like he was holding them up, the laughter and chatter louder than ever.
As Natasha and Clint got caught in an argument of who, exactly, saved who in Stockholm, Tony nudged Steve and murmured, “Want me to hold her so you can use both hands?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Steve replied and he quickly transferred Ellie to Tony’s lap.
Ellie looked up in surprise but when she spotted Tony, her face broke into a smile that almost broke Steve’s heart with how cute it was.
“See? You do know me,” Tony teased quietly, bouncing her on his knee.
Steve watched them as he ate; Tony, joining in with the conversation as though he didn’t have Steve’s infant pup on his lap, and Ellie, watching them all with wide eyes as she attempted to shove her whole hand in her mouth.
Just as Steve finished eating, Ellie started to squirm, making quiet mewling noises that quickly grew in volume.
“You hungry, baby girl?” Steve asked, lifting Ellie onto his hip. “Sorry, I better go-"
“You don’t have to,” Natasha said. “Right, guys?”
“Right,” Tony agreed instantly. “If it makes you more comfortable, go for it. But you don’t have to leave on our account, right?”
The rest of the team agreed, Clint and Bruce a little slower than Thor, so Steve sat down again, unbuttoning his shirt with one hand while bouncing Ellie with the other while the conversation picked up again around them.
“Shh, I’m coming,” he told her. “Impatient. Don’t know where you get that from.”
Ellie latched on quickly, instantly settling down as she began to feed, and Steve watched her, feeling so much love that he thought his heart might burst.
He used to think he would never have this. He’d thought that he would be too sick or weak to carry a pup to term and had tried to content himself with the knowledge that not everyone had pups.
But he couldn’t deny that he’d wanted it, which was why it hurt even more when he woke up and discovered that he had a pup but no one to share this with.
Ellie finished feeding and Steve lifted her onto his shoulder, rubbing her back gently. He caught Tony’s eye over her shoulder and they shared a smile.
And Steve felt a flutter of something, something that he hadn’t felt in a long time since he met Peggy, but he quickly quashed it down.
There was no point getting his hopes up. Tony might adore Ellie but the chances of him being interested in anything more with Steve were virtually nonexistent.
He had his pup and he had his team, and he had a home in the future. That was more than enough, Steve decided. Hoping for anything more was just greedy.
But deep down, just this once, Steve wanted to be greedy.
Life went on in the Tower. Ellie grew at what seemed like an alarming rate and Steve started training with the Avengers and tried to pretend that he wasn’t falling harder than ever for Tony every time he came over just to spend time with Ellie or offered to babysit so Steve could have an hour to himself or spend time with someone whose vocabulary extended beyond a babble of nonsensical letters.
(It was a lie. Steve knew he was done for the time he walked into the living room after taking a long shower - a rare treat thanks to Tony’s babysitting - and found Ellie and Tony lying nose to nose on the floor in a staring contest that ended when Ellie burst out laughing. And then Tony smiled at Steve’s pup like she was the centre of his world and Steve was gone.)
But Steve wanted to expand Ellie’s world beyond the Tower and the Avengers - not to mention the fact that he was starting to get cabin fever. Between staying at SHIELD while he was pregnant and then staying at the Tower because he had Ellie, he’d barely been out since he woke up in the future.
(The Battle of New York absolutely Did Not count.)
But if he was going to reveal Ellie to the world, there would be questions about her sire. Which meant that he needed to take a road trip upstate.
“Hey, Tony?” Steve called, pushing open the door to the workshop with his foot while Ellie babbled in his ear.
“Hey,” Tony grinned, putting aside the welding torch and pushing his goggles up onto his forehead. “What can I do for you two?”
“Uh… I decided it’s time,” Steve said, holding onto Ellie as she leaned down to pat her hands against Tony’s cheeks.
“Time?” Tony asked absently, pretending to bite Ellie’s fingers and sending her into peals of laughter.
“To tell Arnie about his daughter.”
Tony looked up sharply, the smile slipping off of his face. He caught Ellie’s hand as it swung towards his nose, letting her fingers wrap around his forefinger. Steve always marvelled how small his pup was when he saw her whole hand barely managing to encircle Tony’s finger.
“Her sire,” Steve nodded. “I want her to have a life outside of this Tower but once the press catch wind, they’re going to start digging. He deserves to know from me not from some reporter or a news article.”
“Yeah, sure,” Tony nodded. “So what do you need?”
“A car? And a carseat for a certain someone.”
Someone who was currently trying to tip herself out of Steve’s arms, risking face-planting onto the floor. Tony chuckled and hefted Ellie out of Steve’s arms and stood her on his thighs, holding onto her waist while she leaned against his shoulders.
“Hi puppy,” he murmured.
Steve swallowed the lump that appeared in his throat at the sight of Tony and Ellie together. They looked nothing alike - Steve and Arnie were both fair so Ellie had inherited their blonde hair and she had Steve’s blue eyes - but the way they gravitated together was exactly like father and daughter, and it was a wrench to Steve’s heart every time he saw it.
And like a glutton for punishment, he kept coming back for more.
“Uh, I’m sure we can get a car seat here within the hour,” Tony said, clearing his throat. “JARVIS, order the one with the best safety rating. Ignore the price.”
“Don’t you always, sir?” JARVIS sighed.
“You know me so well, J,” Tony said, smiling when Ellie poked him in the chin. “Gotta keep you safe, right, munchkin?”
Ellie babbled at him and Tony nodded seriously.
“Exactly,” he said. “Excellent point. Why didn’t I think of that? You want the Audi?” he asked and it took Steve a moment to realise that Tony was talking to him now.
“Sure,” he nodded.
“They have good safety ratings too,” Tony said, holding onto Ellie as she pushed herself up onto her tiptoes and wobbled precariously.
“Anything’s safer than my bike,” Steve grinned and Tony barked out a laugh.
“Well, that’s certainly true,” he agreed. “Isn’t it, beautiful? Huh?”
Ellie fell asleep in her car seat on the journey out of the city, her tiny snores filling the silence and bringing a smile to Steve’s face.
He couldn’t imagine Arnie living anywhere that wasn’t Brooklyn but the SHIELD file he’d read while he was pregnant said that Arnie and his late husband - Michael, an alpha who he’d married a few months before he passed away once marriage between alphas was legalised - had moved out of the city when Michael’s health deteriorated.
These days Arnie lived in a nursing home for veterans.
Steve pulled into the parking lot and killed the engine of Tony’s Audi, staring at the building and fighting the feeling of foreboding that was rising in his chest. This would’ve been easier - not easy, but easier - if SHIELD had let him do this at the start.
He exhaled slowly then turned to look at his pup asleep in the backseat.
She was perfect. Whatever happened, Steve would always be grateful to his old friend for helping him through the worst heat of his life and he would never regret it, not when it led to the birth of his perfect daughter.
Climbing out of the car, Steve rounded to the backseat and unclipped the straps on Ellie’s seat.
“Hey, puppy,” he murmured, rubbing her arm. “Time to wake up, sweetheart.”
Ellie’s face scrunched up then she blinked at him slowly, her blue eyes still loudly with sleep.
“Hey there,” Steve smiled.
He shouldered her diaper bag then lifted Ellie up onto his hip, smiling as she buried her face in his neck, scenting him as she woke up slowly.
Inside, he followed the directions of the reception desk through the building to Arnie’s room, ignoring the curious glances he got from residents, staff and visitors alike that he passed on the way. Reaching the room in question, Steve took a deep breath and looked down at Ellie.
“Now or never,” he murmured, kissing her forehead.
He knocked on the door and a moment later a familiar voice called, “Yes?”
Steve felt tears prick his eyes because that was Arnie, who he’d known most of his life, longer even than Bucky, and he still sounded the same. Pushing open the door, Steve pulled on a smile as he stepped into the room.
It was Arnie. Older, his face weathered and lined, but still Arnie. His scent hit Steve and almost instantly it brought him back to the feelings of safety and love from the night that Ellie was conceived.
Arnie’s eyes went wide.
“Hey,” Steve replied.
Then Arnie’s gaze fell to Ellie in his arms.
“There’s someone I wanted you to meet,” Steve said, hearing his voice become choked. “And I wanted to do it in person.”
“Come in,” Arnie said wondrously.
Steve closed the door behind him then crossed to the empty armchair next to Arnie’s, putting down the diaper bag before turning Ellie so she could see Arnie.
Could see her other father.
“This is Ellie. Eleanor.” he began. “She’s yours.”
Arnie sucked in a breath.
“I didn’t know,” Steve shook his head, a few stray tears escaping down his face. “When you finished your leave or when I… When the plane went down. I didn’t know about her.” He nosed at Ellie’s hair. “I didn’t know until I woke up and they told me I was pregnant. But she’s yours. She could only be yours.”
“Oh, Steve,” Arnie breathed. “She’s beautiful.”
“Yeah,” Steve grinned. “Ellie. Sweetheart. This is your dad.” He glanced at Arnie. “Do you want to hold her?”
Arnie nodded, pressing his trembling lips together, and Steve transferred her carefully into Arnie’s arms.
“Hello Ellie,” Arnie murmured.
Complicated. That was how he’d described it to Tony all those months ago when he first moved into the Tower.
But it was only now, as he watched Arnie hold Ellie that Steve realised how true that was.
To an outsider, it looked like Arnie was holding his granddaughter, all thanks to a twist of fate. But Steve knew that if he’d had Ellie in the forties, they would’ve had to bond and then Arnie would’ve been denied the happiness he’d had with Michael. Because Arnie might’ve been one of his best friends but Steve had never felt anything other than friendship towards him. They slept together because Steve needed help and he trusted Arnie in a way that he trusted very few alphas.
“Look at you,” Arnie murmured. “Look at you. Steve, I… I don’t even know what to say.”
“I know the feeling,” Steve said wryly.
Arnie chuckled. “I suppose you do.”
“SHIELD wanted me to keep her a secret,” Steve explained. “But I don’t want to hide her away. I don’t her to grow up thinking that I’m ashamed of her, because I’m not. She is the best thing in my life and I love so completely. And I wanted you to know from me.”
“I’m glad you didn’t wait,” Arnie said, his voice thick. “I, uh, I don’t have much time left. Probably.”
“What, what do you mean?” Steve frowned.
Arnie was old, yes, but that didn’t mean anything. Not now. People lived longer than ever thanks to modern medicine and better living standards.
Someone with Steve’s childhood ailments could not only survive but thrive, thanks to the advances in medical science.
Arnie smiled sadly. “I’m dying, Steve. I have cancer. Inoperable.”
Steve lost the ability to breathe.
“It’s funny,” Arnie smiled, watching Ellie, who was poking at the buttons on his shirt with a look of concentration that reminded Steve of Tony. “Until a few minutes ago, I would’ve said I didn’t have much worth living for. When you get to my age, Steve, you get tired. Tired of existing instead of living. But now, now you’ve given me something to live for.”
“You can see her as much as you want,” Steve promised.
He slipped out of his chair, sitting on the floor by Arnie’s feet and running his hand over Ellie’s back. Her face lit up when she saw him, reaching for Steve with one hand. He pressed a soft kiss to her palm, breathing in her scent.
His and Arnie’s scents.
“Thank you, Steve.”
He shook his head.
“You don’t have to thank me for letting you see your daughter,” he insisted. “I should be apologising for not telling you earlier.”
For not giving Arnie more time with their pup.
“Oh, Stevie. I don’t blame you for that,” Arnie laughed. “You woke up seventy years in the future, alone and pregnant. And that’s without the alien invasion. I think you had enough on your plate.”
Arnie hummed, turning his attention back to Ellie.
“Michael would’ve loved you,” he murmured. “He was so good with pups.” He looked up. “What about you? Do you have anyone in the future?”
Instantly Tony appeared in Steve’s mind but he quickly pushed him away because that wasn’t what Arnie meant.
“Uh, no,” he chuckled. “I’m Captain America and I’m an omega who has a pup out of bond. That’s a lot for anybody.”
“You always were a shit liar.”
Steve jumped in surprise, which elicited a burst of laughter from Ellie. But Steve was too busy gaping up at Arnie, who smirked at him with a twinkle in his eyes.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Who are they? The person you’re trying not to think about.”
“Did I mention how much I didn’t miss you?” Steve grumbled, falling back easily into the teasing give-and-take of their childhood.
“Well?” Arnie demanded. “Tell me.”
“It’s… no one.”
“And what is no one’s name?”
“You’re a dick, you know that?” Steve huffed, but there was a smile fighting its way onto his face because in truth, he really had missed this. And with Bucky gone, it was a relief to have Arnie here even if it was only for a little while.
“My dick is the reason you’re here,” Arnie grinned and Steve burst out laughing until he was struggling to breathe, super-soldier serum or not.
He stopped when Ellie started tugging on his hair.
“Sorry, puppy,” he smiled. “Were we ignoring you?”
“How terrible of us,” Arnie smiled. “Tell your papa to stop keeping secrets and tell your dad who he’s got a crush on the size of the Brooklyn Bridge?”
Ellie let out a string of nonsensical gibberish, looking entirely serious the whole time. Ari smiled, looking far too pleased with himself in Steve’s opinion, and added, “See? Our pup agrees with me.”
“I don’t- Fine,” Steve sighed. “Tony Stark.”
Arnie hummed. “A handsome young alpha. Is he anything like his father?”
“Everything and nothing like Howard. And… he’s really good with Ellie,” Steve said, stroking her hair.
“That’s good,” Arnie said.
Steve snuck a glance up at him to see if he meant that. Arnie caught him looking and rolled his eyes.
“Steve, I’m in my eighties and I’m dying of cancer. I’m under no illusions about what kind role I can play in her life. If she has people who love her, then I’ll be a happy man. And I can enjoy what time we have together without worrying about the two of you.”
“You don’t need to worry about me,” Steve insisted.
“Stevie, I distinctly remember you saying that with a bleeding nose, a black eye and what turned out to be a fractured wrist,” Arnie pointed out, fixing Steve with a look. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you on that one.”
“Yeah, alright,” Steve laughed.
Steve was halfway through bathing Ellie when JARVIS told him that Tony was at the door.
“Tell him to come in,” Steve said, narrowly avoiding a face-full of water. “Yeah, yeah, you like the bath,” he grouched while Ellie laughed at him.
“Hey, am I interrupting?” Tony’s voice came from the doorway.
“No, but don’t get too close if you’re wearing anything that you can’t afford to lose or can’t get wet,” Steve warned.
Ellie slapped her hands against the water, sending droplets flying and proving Steve’s point for him.
“I’m good,” Tony laughed. “And anything that gets written off, I can afford to replace. Hi beautiful. Having fun down there?”
“Ga!” Ellie beamed.
“Wonderful,” Tony declared. He glanced at Steve. “So. How did it go?”
“It was… It was really good,” Steve smiled. “I missed him.”
“I bet,” Tony said sadly. “And what did he think of this little lady?”
“He loved her.”
“Of course,” Tony grinned but there was something forced about it. “Who wouldn’t?”
“No idea,” Steve replied then sighed as Ellie soaked the front of his shirt. “And on that note, I think bath time is over. Can you grab that towel?” he asked Tony, while trying to contain his wet and wriggly pup.
“Got it,” Tony smiled.
He held out the towel, allowing Steve to deposit Ellie into his arms.
“Want me to take her while you dry off?” Tony offered, nodding to Steve’s now-translucent shirt that was sticking to his chest and pulling with every movement.
“Thanks,” Steve said gratefully.
He wouldn’t give up his daughter for anything but there were moments when he realised how much easier it would be with someone to help. Moments like this. And he couldn’t always rely on Tony to be there to help.
(Even if he wished that he could.)
Once he had a dry shirt, Steve went in search of Tony and Ellie, and found them in Ellie’s room. Tony was sitting in the rocker in the corner of the room, with Ellie on his lap, still wrapped in her towel, her blonde hair half plastered to her head and half sticking up wildly, murmuring quietly to her.
“And here’s your papa,” Tony finished, looking up at Steve. “See?”
Ellie beamed up at Steve and clapped her hands.
“A round of applause? What am I- on the USO circuit again?” Steve teased, lifting Ellie out of Tony’s lap to dry her off.
“I’ll wait outside,” Tony said, slipping out of the room before Steve could tell him to stay.
Once Ellie was dried off, Steve dressed her in a clean pair of pyjamas - the ballerina ones from Natasha - then held her against his chest, swaying slowly and humming a long forgotten tune to her, one that his own mother used to sing to him and that he’d forgotten about completely until the first time Ellie cried.
He watched her eyes grow heavy, her eyelashes fanning out across her cheek as her mouth spread in a wide yawn.
God, Steve loved her so much.
He stayed there with her in his arms until he was sure that she was asleep, then lingered for several minutes longer, scenting her and leaning his cheek against her silky soft hair.
Finally he put her down in her cot, waiting another few minutes, patting her belly softly until she settled once more, then he slipped out of her room, pulling the door closed but leaving it unlatched before padding through to the living room.
Tony looked up from his phone when Steve entered the room.
“She asleep?” he asked quietly and for a second Steve allowed himself to imagine that this was real, that Tony was waiting for him because he lived here and that Steve could sit down next to him, pressing their sides together and tipping his head onto Tony’s shoulder and scenting him.
Instead he sat down on the other end of the couch because he needed the space to remind himself that it wasn’t like that. It would probably never be like that.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Lucky for me, she’s a good sleeper.”
Tony nodded, fidgeting with his phone, twisting it in his hands.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked awkwardly. “Today? I’m not prying, I just- I thought you might want to talk about it.”
“It was… it was good,” Steve said and he meant it. “There’s not a lot of people left who remember me back then. Not ones who really knew me, anyway. It’s nice to have someone who knows what I’m talking about.”
“And he was so happy to find out Ellie,” Steve continued. “They never had kids, Arnie and Michael. That was his mate. They couldn’t. They were both alphas. He loved her.”
But Steve’s face fell, remembering what Arnie told him about the cancer. His mouth twisted and he ducked his head, hoping to hide it from Tony.
Steve shrugged. “He’s dying. He has cancer. It’s inoperable. He doesn’t have much time left.”
“Steve, I’m sorry,” Tony whispered and Steve could see that he meant it. Tony shuffled closer, reaching out then hesitating. Steve gave a small nod then Tony dropped his hand onto Steve’s arm, rubbing it slowly.
“I’m glad I told him though,” Steve said. “I’m glad that… That he gets some time with her. Even if it’s not long. They’ll get to know each other.”
Tony nodded but he looked pensive.
“Yeah,” he agreed quietly and then they sat there in silence.
Steve knew it was coming once Ellie was weaned but that didn’t mean he was any more ready when his first heat hit. He was tired and achey and everything was too much or too loud and he wished he could just make it go away.
(He’d never met an omega who didn’t hate their heats.)
He tried to power through, focusing his energy on Ellie and her needs instead of the ache that permeated his body, but eventually he admitted defeat and asked JARVIS to ask Tony to come downstairs.
“Hey Cap,” Tony called as he entered the apartment and Steve winced, the volume of Tony’s voice cutting right through his sore head and making his teeth hurt. Tony’s expression morphed into one of concern when he saw Steve. “You don’t look so good.”
“I got my heat,” Steve admitted.
“First one since Ellie?” Tony asked, nodding in understanding.
“First one since the forties.”
“Can you take Ellie for a few hours?” Steve asked. “I want to see if I can sleep through the worst of it.”
“Yeah, sure thing. No problem,” Tony agreed. He bent to pick Ellie up from the floor. “Come on, gorgeous. You wanna hang out with me for a while?”
Ellie squealed and Steve grimaced.
“Shh,” Tony murmured. “Don’t do that to your papa. Call me if you need anything,” he told Steve. “I think we still have some of those elephant tranquillisers we used on Thor when he sprained his ankle.”
“I’ll bear that in mind,” Steve said. Tony leaned forward so Steve could scent Ellie and press a kiss to the top of her head. “Be good for Tony, okay baby girl? I love you.” He looked up at Tony. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” Tony smiled. “Come on, troublemaker.”
Then Tony and Ellie left and the apartment was blessedly silent.
Steve dragged himself through to his bedroom and curled up into bed to try and sleep. But it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t happening.
Steve flopped onto his back with a huff, staring up at the ceiling and remembering his last heat, the one where Ellie was conceived.
He’d spent several months in a war zone and his body had held off of giving him his heat, realising that he couldn’t deal with his heat and fighting a war at the same time. Which was great. Until he and the Commandos went back to London and his heat hit.
Then it wasn’t so fun.
The extended delay to his heat made everything more intense than usual, to the point where Steve felt like he wanted to claw his skin off. It hurt and nothing worked on him to lessen the pain, although Bucky managed to wrangle a double shot of morphine for him just in case.
But Arnie was in London on leave. When Steve realised that he couldn’t survive several more days of this, he’d called up his old friend and asked him to help him through his heat. Arnie took one look at Steve’s pained expression and agreed.
It was well known that the endorphins from sex helped stave off the worst of heat symptoms, which had led to the misconception that omegas needed sex during their heat.
That was bullshit.
Sex helped but it wasn’t necessary.
And while this heat wasn’t as bad as his last - a product no doubt of the fact that he’d only just weaned his pup - it still hurt and sex sounded great right about now. Especially considering the fact that Tony was right upstairs and he’d caught a whiff of Tony’s scent when he was scenting Ellie.
“Fuck,” he groaned then laughed at the irony because fucking was exactly what he was trying to avoid thinking about.
It didn’t help that heats were essentially a chance for alphas to prove that they could take care of an omega and be good providers, and everything Tony had done since Steve moved in was prove that he not only could provide for Steve and his pup, but did provide.
Steve whined and buried his face in the pillow.
He could always get himself off, he had stuff on hand just incase.
(The internet. So helpful.)
But he didn’t want to. He wanted Tony but he couldn’t have Tony, because Tony wasn’t interested in being anything other than his friend.
No, he could do this.
Five minutes later, Steve decided he couldn’t do this and reached for the drawer by his bed and then, finally, managed to fall asleep once the endorphins from his orgasm hit.
He woke up four hours later, sweaty and sticky and regretting not cleaning himself up before falling asleep. But the endorphins had kicked his heat symptoms into submission enough that he managed to get up and shower, dressing himself in the softest t-shirt and sweats he owned before making himself something to eat.
He was halfway through eating when Tony returned with Ellie.
“Sorry,” Tony grimaced. “She was getting antsy. Think she wants you.”
Before he’d even finished speaking, Ellie started wriggling in his arms, reaching for Steve and whining loudly.
“It’s fine,” Steve assured him. He took Ellie from him and settled her against his shoulder so she could scent him. “Hi, sweetheart.”
“Feeling any better?” Tony asked, eyeing him critically. “You look better.”
“Yeah, a little,” Steve replied. “I managed to get some sleep.”
After I got off thinking about you knotting me.
“Good,” Tony smiled. “If you need me to take her again, just tell JARVIS. Day or night. I don’t sleep much anyway.”
“Thanks, Tony. I really appreciate it.”
“No problem,” Tony smiled. “See you later, Steve.”
“Bye,” Steve called.
His heat only lasted three days, which was unusually short for Steve but he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He still felt tired when it was over but it wasn’t the bone crushing weariness of the last few days. Plus, without the aching muscles it was a lot easier to deal with.
But now it was time to turn his attention to something new. Namely, telling the world about his daughter.
“You can go big or go small,” Natasha said over dinner.
“I’m guessing going big involves a press conference?” Steve said, shovelling a handful of peas onto a plastic plate for Ellie to play with.
(Her favourite dinner pastime was throwing peas at Thor, which he took with tremendous grace, always declaring that Ellie had a warrior’s aim when she nailed him in the ear.)
“Actually, that’s going small,” Natasha smirked. “Going big would be going out in the world without telling them and watching their heads explode.”
“Not literally,” Tony clarified, offering Ellie a piece of cucumber to gum on. “Unfortunately.”
“Is there a third option?” Steve asked, trying to break off a piece of chicken with his fork while holding his wriggling pup with the other hand.
“You could break Twitter?” Tony suggested. He leaned over and started cutting Steve’s chicken into bitesize chunks. “We have an official Avengers account that we’re currently only using for Thor’s gym selfies.”
“Don’t diss the gym selfies,” Clint called. “Thanks to them we have more followers than Justin Bieber.”
“The fact that we didn’t anyway is offensive,” Tony sniffed and Natasha nodded in agreement.
“What do you think, puppy?” Steve asked Ellie. “Want to break the internet?”
“I think that sounds like a yes,” Tony said.
“Definitely a yes,” Clint agreed. “Bruce, did you steal the last piece of garlic bread again?”
“The Other Guy loves garlic bread,” Bruce smirked.
Clint narrowed his eyes. “You know one day, that excuse is going to run dry.”
“Will it though?”
“So, breaking the internet?” Tony said, handing Ellie another piece of cucumber, despite the fact she still had the original piece in her other hand.
“Breaking the internet,” Steve confirmed. It would get the message out there quickly but it didn’t involve any of the press, which was always a win in Steve’s book.
“Awesome. I better call Pepper, give her a heads up. Then let’s beat Lady Gaga to 20 million followers!”
Steve called Arnie the following morning to warn him that they were about to announce Ellie’s existence to the world. He wasn’t going to publicly name Arnie as her sire, to try and retain some of his privacy, but they both knew that the press were relentless and would probably find out who Arnie was.
It wasn’t hard. His name was on her birth certificate.
They decided to take the picture on the communal floor, only partly because Steve had long ago accepted that living with a pup under a year old meant that his apartment was never tidy and the chances of him getting it presentable for the photo were next to zero. So he and Ellie made their way upstairs to the communal floor, where the rest of the team was waiting.
“You don’t all have to be here for this,” Steve protested, although he couldn’t deny that it felt good to have them here.
“And miss our moment of victory as we get more Twitter followers than anyone else?” Clint scoffed. “Please. I brought popcorn.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Bruce pointed out. “You brought popcorn to your last medical.”
“Doctors are scary,” Clint shrugged, tossing a piece of popcorn in the air and catching it in his mouth while Ellie stared in awe.
“Okay, Cap. How do you want to do this?” Tony asked, wielding his phone with determination.
“Can we keep her face out of it?” Steve asked. “I know they’ll see her face eventually, but I want to try.”
“Sure,” Tony nodded. “I already had PR draw up a statement about taking photos of her and how anyone who crosses the line will basically have the whole team busting down their front door. Politely, of course.”
“Of course,” Steve smiled.
Natasha took over creative control, positioning Steve in front of the windows overlooking Brooklyn with Ellie looking over his shoulder so her face was hidden. Then she leaned the shield against a chair between Steve and Tony’s camera and gave Tony strict instructions to focus on the shield, which provided a sharp contrast between the edge of the shield and the softness of Steve and Ellie in the background.
“If you ever get tired of being an Avenger, you could have a new career in design,” Tony told her when they all crowded around the TV screen in the briefing room to see the photo. “Steve, ready to introduce her to the world?”
“Ready,” Steve nodded, ignoring the flurry of butterflies in his stomach.
Tony’s fingers danced over the screen of his phone then Steve’s own phone buzzed in his pocket, informing him that he’d been tagged by @AvengersOfficial. He held his phone out of Ellie’s reach - because she was currently fascinated with cell phones and on a mission to drool over every cell phone she could get her tiny hands on - and opened Twitter. His heart twisted a little when he saw the photo of the two of them and he made a mental note to save it before turning his attention to the caption added by Tony.
@CaptainAmerica’s latest mission: Ellie Rogers aka the cutest Avenger
“Good?” Tony asked anxiously.
“Very good,” Steve smiled. “It’s perfect. Thanks, Tony. Everyone, thank you.”
He meant for more than just the picture. He thought about what Arnie said, about knowing that Ellie was loved, and realised that they would never have to worry about her not being loved. Not as long as the Avengers were around.
You’re a lucky pup, Ellie Rogers, he thought, kissing the top of her head.
“Hey,” Steve grinned, letting himself into Arnie’s room. He leaned down to kiss his temple before transferring Ellie into his arms. She squealed in excitement at the sight of her dad, patting his cheeks with a little too much force until Steve pulled her hands away. “You look good.”
“I’m on a drug trial,” Arnie replied. “Hello, bubeleh. How are you today?”
Ellie responded with a stream of nonsense before lunging over the arm of the chair. Steve caught her and placed her back on Arnie’s lap.
“Stop copying Clint,” he scolded. “Just because he throws himself off of things doesn’t mean you can.”
Ellie blinked up at him innocently, before snuggling into Arnie’s side with a grin.
“Troublemaker,” Steve smiled affectionately. “So what’s this about a drug trial?”
“Yes, a new drug trial,” Arnie said, his eyes twinkling with mischief that used to predate them getting into trouble that Bucky would usually had to get them out of. “I was put forward for it before but they ran out of funding so I wasn’t part of it. Then a few weeks ago, not long after you first came to see me, I got a call to say they’d received some more funding and there was a place for me if I wanted it.”
“That’s amazing,” Steve said, unable to believe it.
“Isn’t it?” Arnie hummed, arching his eyebrow.
“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Did you tell anyone about my cancer?”
“Was I not supposed to?”
“That’s not what I’m getting at. I’m guessing you told your team?”
“Yeah. I told Tony and then I told the team when I told them about you,” Steve frowned. “So?”
“Stevie. You don’t think it’s a little too convenient that you told Tony Stark about my cancer and then a few weeks later, I get a place on a previously underfunded drug trial that is already showing good results?”
Steve’s mouth went dry.
Tony wouldn’t. He wouldn’t do that.
“What?” Arnie smirked. “You don’t think it’s possible? Maybe I’m wrong; after all, you know him better than I do.”
Steve’s heart pounded against his ribcage. He didn’t know what to think. It certainly sounded like something Tony would do, but he didn’t want to think about why or what it could mean.
Maybe Tony did it just to be a good friend.
But maybe not.
“Oh, look, Ellie. I think I broke your papa,” Arnie chuckled.
“You didn’t break me,” Steve snapped. “I just…” He swallowed.
“Steve,” Arnie said gently. “Take it from an old man. Let yourself be happy.”
“I am happy,” Steve said automatically because he was.
He had his daughter and he had one of his best friends back. He had his team and they were more than just a team. He had a place in the future and that was everything.
But if he was being selfish - and he wanted to be selfish, he really wanted to be selfish - he would say it wasn’t enough. He wanted everything even though he already had so much more than he thought he would ever get. But he wanted more.
He wanted Tony.
He wanted to wake up with his alpha beside him, he wanted to raise Ellie with someone by his side, he even wanted to talk about having more kids in the future because being a father was more than he’d ever dreamed it could be and he would love to give Ellie a sibling or two to boss around.
“Steve,” Arnie said softly. “You’ve told me everything he’s done for you and Ellie.”
“He’d do that for anyone,” Steve replied, the words tasting like ash because it was true. Tony would do that for anyone. That was the worst part.
Ellie wriggled, trying to get down off of Arnie’s knee. Steve lifted her down, pulling her toys out of the diaper bag and watching as she settled down, trying to fit the plastic shapes into the right hole. A tiny pout appeared on her face when the star wouldn’t go into the triangle, one that looked exactly like Tony’s expression when something wasn’t working in the workshop.
The toy was a gift from Tony, like so many of Ellie’s things. From the moment he saw her, Tony had offered her his world without hesitation and Steve wanted to believe it meant something, he did, but-
“One day, you’re going to see what the rest of us see when we look at you,” Arnie said suddenly. “Steve. I’ve known you since we were kids. Let yourself be happy.”
“What if you’re wrong?” Steve muttered, running a hand through his daughter’s hair. “Tony, he’d do anything for the people he cared about. Without hesitation. It’s just how he is. What if- what if this doesn’t mean what you think it does?”
“What if it does?”
Steve huffed. “Don’t go ruining my freak out with your logic,” he grumbled.
Arnie grinned and nudged him with his knee.
“Come on. Where’s the omega who went into enemy territory against orders with only a prop helmet and shield?”
“He finds it a lot easier to be stupid with his life than his heart.”
“Not stupid,” Arnie corrected. “Brave. Be brave, Steve. It’s not just Ellie I want to see loved. I worry about you too, you know.”
“I know,” Steve murmured, covering Arnie’s hand on his shoulder and squeezing it gently.
Steve told himself that he wasn’t going to do anything about Tony, but then he spend the entire drive back to the Tower thinking about it. And once he started thinking about it, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. By the time he pulled into the Tower parking lot, he was gripped by the same determination he’d felt before going after Hydra.
Unclipping Ellie from her car seat, Steve murmured, “What do you think? Should I do it?”
Ellie looked up at him with wide eyes before reaching up and wrapping her hand around his nose and tugging hard.
“Thank you,” he chuckled.
“What did you just say?” he breathed.
Steve swallowed - or he tried to, but the lump in his throat made it impossible. He blinked away the tears that blurred his vision and pressed a kiss into Ellie’s hair.
“Yeah,” he whispered. “I’m your papa.”
Ellie snuggled into his chest, her little face buried in his neck to scent him, and apparently that was all he needed.
He found Clint in the communal kitchen, halfway through building a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“Hey Cap,” he greeted. “Mini Cap.”
“Here.” Steve pushed Ellie into Clint’s arms, ignoring his squawk of protest. “I need you to watch her for a little while.”
“Wait! No- Cap!”
“If you do, I won’t tell Natasha that you used up her favourite nail polish.”
“Okay, square deal, have fun. Hey, Ellie, do you like peanut butter?”
Ellie looked curiously at Clint’s sandwich and Steve knew that he would be coming back to a sticky pup but right now, he didn’t care.
“JARVIS,” Steve called as he returned to the elevator. “Where’s Tony?”
“Mr Stark is in the workshop.”
By the time he reached the workshop, Steve felt like he was going to vibrate out of his skin with nervousness. This was worse than all the times he’d lied on his enlistment form, stepping into the Rebirth chamber, going into enemy territory while technically being AWOL, and giving birth in the future all at once.
Through the glass walls, he spotted Tony standing in front of a holo-display with a mug of coffee in one hand while he flicked through the display with his other hand. And on his face was a small frown that matched the one Ellie wore earlier.
Taking a deep breath, Steve opened the door and entered the lab.
“Hey Steve,” Tony greeted, glancing up. “No mini me?”
“She’s with Clint.”
“That’s dangerous. She’ll be living off of a diet of pizza and adopting random dogs in no time if you let them spend much more time together.”
“Risk I gotta take,” Steve replied, coming to a stop in front of Tony.
Tony frowned. Then he put down his mug and waved his hand, the holo-display disappearing between them.
“What is it?”
“We went to see Arnie today.”
“Yeah? How’s he doing?”
“Better,” Steve replied, watching Tony’s reactions carefully. “Apparently he’s on some drug trial that’s having good results so far.”
“A drug trial,” Steve continued. “That got unexpected funding. A few weeks after I first went to see Arnie.”
Tony swallowed but he held Steve’s gaze unwaveringly.
“A few weeks after I told you about his cancer,” Steve finished. “Tony… Why?”
“What, you want him to die?” Tony asked, defensiveness written in his every sinew.
“No, but… Why did you do this?”
“I told you,” he said quietly. “Anything Ellie needs. And she needs- she deserves to know her sire. To- To have a chance at remembering him. He’s her dad.” Tony’s eyes closed for a second. “She deserves the chance to know him,” he finished, meeting Steve’s eyes once more.
Steve’s heart pounded against his chest.
“This might be the weirdest courting gift ever,” he said quietly.
Tony jerked backward, his eyes going wide with a flash of fear. His hands clenched and unclenched, then he opened and closed his mouth twice before squeezing his eyes shut.
When he spoke, his voice was carefully controlled.
“Okay. I know it’s weird and I’m sorry-"
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” Steve interrupted.
His mouth went dry. Tony stared at him but every time Steve tried to speak, it felt like his tongue was twisted up in knots.
So he held out his wrist towards Tony.
Tony inhaled sharply, glancing between Steve’s wrist and his face. Hope flickered in his eyes, like he was afraid to believe that this was really happening.
(The feeling was mutual.)
“Alpha,” Steve murmured.
Tony took a shaking breath then, his eyes fixed on Steve’s the entire time, he stepped forward and curled his hand around Steve’s wrist. By now, Steve’s heart was pounding so loudly, he felt sure that Tony must be able to hear it, even without enhanced hearing.
Then slowly, so slowly, still holding Steve’s gaze, Tony raised Steve’s wrist to his nose and scented him.
Something twisted in Steve’s belly and he felt his breathing quicken. Everything seemed to freeze with his wrist below Tony’s nose.
Then Tony pressed a tiny kiss to his wrist and it was like something broke.
Steve stumbled forward and Tony was pulling him in, then Tony was scenting him properly and Steve buried his face in Tony’s neck to scent him back.
“Steve,” Tony whispered, his hand running up Steve’s spine and carding in his hair. “Steve.”
Steve whined, the noise slipping out of him before he could stop himself, and clung to Tony just incase he was thinking about going anywhere. But Tony shifted impossibly closer, nudging Steve’s cheek with his nose until Steve raised his head.
He found Tony’s eyes full of wonder and hope and love, God, how had he missed how much love Tony looked at him with before?
“Steve,” he whispered.
“Tony,” Steve replied, pressing their foreheads together. He could still smell Tony’s scent, stronger than he’d ever experienced it before, even though they weren’t scenting each other anymore.
“Is this- I- What- Uh. Maybe you should talk?” Tony chuckled wryly, sweeping his thumb over Steve’s cheek.
“I think I love you.”
“That’s a good talk,” Tony grinned and Steve felt himself smile back. “To, um. To steal your earlier question. Why?”
“You love my pup,” Steve said.
“And you love me.”
Tony’s voice wavered a little.
Steve shrugged. “And someone very smart told me that I deserved to be happy.”
Tony nuzzled his cheek, setting off a flurry of butterflies in Steve’s gut. He curled his hand around Tony’s neck, dropping his nose to scent his once more, eliciting a pleased hum from Tony.
He raised his head when Tony ran his hand through his hair and found their faces inches apart. Something settled in Steve, a voice in his head whispering Yes, this, this is where you’re supposed to be.
“You sure this is okay?” Tony whispered, sweeping his hand through Steve’s hair again.
“Does it look like I’m not okay with this?”
“Yeah, but it’s… complicated,” Tony said, his face settling into a frown. “You have- had Arnie and… I don’t- I don’t want to… mess that up.”
It took a moment for Steve to realise what Tony was talking about.
“I never wanted to bond with Arnie,” he said. “He was my best friend and he helped me through a bad heat, but we were never going to be anything more than that. I’m not pining for what could’ve been.”
“You’re not?” Tony looked at him hopefully.
“I’m not,” Steve confirmed. He ducked his head, feeling his cheeks colour and cursed his mother’s Irish colouring. “In fact, if you asked Arnie, he’d say the only one I’ve been pining over is you.”
“Really?” Tony grinned.
“Shut up,” Steve retorted but he was smiling too.
To his surprise, Tony did. He took Steve’s face in his hands, his eyes flickering down to his lips before leaning in and brushing their lips together.
When Steve kissed Arnie, it was good because Arnie knew what he was doing and because it eased the symptoms of his heat, lowering them to a dull ache instead over the overwhelming pain.
Kissing Tony was good because it was Tony.
The kiss was nothing more than a brush of the lips and yet it was enough to make Steve feel weak at the knees.
Yes, this, this is where you’re supposed to be.
“Good?” Tony whispered.
Steve fisted his hand in Tony’s hair and crushed their mouths together. Tony let out a growl and pressed his hand into the small of Steve’s back, eliminating any space between them, and nipped and licked his way into Steve’s mouth. He took control of the kiss and Steve let him, a rush of excitement flooding through him because he could trust Tony, he could hand over control and Tony would take care of him and Ellie, and that realisation was as heady as the kiss itself.
He curled himself around Tony, managing to whisper, “Alpha,” between kisses and Tony’s hand spasmed on his hip, his fingers digging into Steve’s skin as his skirt rode up and that was better, so much better, because now Tony was touching him skin on skin.
The kisses slowed, morphing into soft pecks and brushes of lips. Steve was grateful for Tony’s iron-like grip around his waist because he wasn’t sure he could trust himself to stand on his own, not with adrenaline and lust and love coursing through him, spreading out from where Tony was now pressing lingering kisses against his neck.
Slowly, Steve opened his eyes and found Tony’s, a smile mirroring his own on his face.
“Hi,” Tony whispered softly.
“Hi,” Steve echoed then they both started to giggle.
Pressing their foreheads together, Tony ran his thumb back and forth over Steve’s cheekbone, letting his wrist rub against his chin. Scent marking him. A thrill danced along Steve’s spine. He raised his own wrist and ran it over Tony’s neck, grinning at the pleased hum that elicited from his alpha.
Yes, this, this is where you’re supposed to be.
“Did you say you left Ellie with Clint?” Tony murmured.
“We should probably go get her. Before he has her wearing exclusively the most hideous shades of purple he can find.”
“Yeah, that’s a real risk,” Steve agreed, but he made no move to untangle himself from Tony’s arms.
“Come on,” Tony grinned, taking Steve’s hand and tugging him towards the door. “Let’s go get your pup and we can go upstairs and, I don’t know, do whatever she wants. And then tonight, we can… Unless you want to go out first?”
“We can go out tomorrow,” Steve said, plastering himself against Tony’s side as they stepped into the elevator. “Tonight, I just want you.”
“Oh thank God,” Tony blurted out, hauling Steve in for a kiss. It was terrible kiss, because they were both laughing and then stumbling out of the elevator, but it was still perfect because it was Tony.
Steve let go of Tony’s hand - reluctantly - as they entered the communal kitchen, already reaching for his daughter as soon as he saw her sitting on Clint’s lap.
“Hey, sweetheart,” Steve grinned.
“Hi, snookums,” Clint replied. “Oh, right. Pup. Here you go.”
He handed Ellie over. As Steve had predicted, she was sticky with peanut butter but he didn’t care as she snuggled into his chest and murmured, “Pa.”
Tony’s eyebrows shot up.
“Wait, when did this happen?”
“Just before I came to see you,” Steve grinned.
“Wow,” Tony breathed. Ellie reached for him and Tony let her pull his finger into her mouth, never even blinking as she started to chew on it. “Look at you, beautiful,” he murmured. “Talking already.”
Ellie spat out Tony’s finger, gazing at him with wide eyes, then demanded, “Nee!”
She wriggled in Steve’s arms, reaching for Tony.
“Sounds like she wants you, dude,” Clint commented, slinging his bow into his back.
“Nee? To-ny? I thought you were supposed to be the genius,” Clint teased. “Later guys. Mini guy.”
“Nee!” Ellie insisted, frowning as she tried to throw herself at Tony.
Tony stepped forward and scooped her up, disbelief written in his eyes - which were looking suspiciously shiny, Steve noted - as Tony settled Ellie on his hip.
“Hi gorgeous,” Tony whispered.
“Nee,” Ellie grinned, patting his cheek with sticky hands and Tony laughed wetly.
And Steve watched his daughter and his alpha and thought Yes, this, this is where you’re supposed to be.
Ellie squealed loudly, tottering across the grass towards Arnie, who laughed and held out his hands.
Steve grinned, watching Arnie and their pup greet each other. Beside him, Tony was very deliberately not fidgeting and Steve could smell the change in his scent that said he was nervous.
“Come on,” Steve murmured, bumping Tony’s shoulder with his own before heading across the grass to join Arnie and Ellie. “Easy there, birthday girl,” he laughed as Ellie, stumbled in a circle, sitting down with a heavy bump. Her eyes looked unfocused for a moment then her face brightened up and she grinned up at him.
“She’s never had a birthday before,” Arnie teased. “I think she’s entitled to be excited.”
“Yeah, but you’re a pushover,” Steve retorted. He bent to kiss Arnie’s cheek. “How are you?”
“Oh, I’m fit as a flea,” Arnie insisted. “That drug trial you got me onto, Mr Stark, has worked wonders.”
“Tony. Mr Stark was my father,” Tony said, offering Arnie his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“You too,” Arnie replied, shaking his hand. “I’m glad these two troublemakers have someone looking after them.”
“Let’s not tell him about what Tony did in the kitchen the other day,” Steve stage-whispered to Ellie, tickling her sides until she giggled and squirmed away from him.
She toddled over to Tony, tugging on his jeans and looking up at him pleadingly.
“What’s up, gorgeous?” Tony asked, pulling off his sunglasses and dropping them into his jacket pocket. Ellie reached for his hand and Tony gave it to her instantly. Ellie turned with a determined look on his face and pulled Tony off across the grass. “Apparently we’re going this way,” Tony called over his shoulder. “Okay, beautiful, where are we going?”
“Wrapped around her little finger,” Arnie chuckled.
“Oh yeah,” Steve grinned, sitting on the grass near Arnie’s feet. “From the moment he saw her.”
They sat in silence, watching Ellie lead Tony around the garden of the nursing home, pointing out everything of interest, which ranged from a bumblebee that Tony had to talk her out of chasing, to a garbage can and the home’s resident tabby cat.
“Everything ready for next week?” Arnie asked.
“Yeah, we picked up Natasha’s bridesmaid’s dress this morning,” Steve replied. He twisted the engagement ring around his finger, anticipation curling in his belly at the thought of their bonding ceremony only six days away. “You sure you don’t want to come?”
“Oh, you don’t want an old man there ruining all your fun,” Arnie laughed.
“I’m sorry, who said last week that he was planning on living until at least Ellie’s bat mitzvah?” Steve teased, nudging Arnie’s leg with his shoulder.
“You’re not getting rid of me that easily,” Arnie grinned.
Tony and Ellie rejoined them. Ellie plopped down on the grass in-between them all, looking far too pleased with herself, as though she knew that she was the centre of attention. Meanwhile, Tony sat down next to Steve, his hand drifting over the small of his back. Steve twisted his head to scent his mate, feeling something settle in him when he did.
“I have something for you, bubeleh,” Arnie told Ellie, pulling a small box from his pocket and handing it to her. “Happy birthday, darling.”
“Thank you. You gonna say thank you to your dad?” Steve asked. He lifted Ellie up so she could place a sticky kiss on Arnie’s cheek. “Say thank you dad.”
“Da!” Ellie beamed.
“Close enough,” Arnie chuckled. He ran a hand over her hair. “Happy birthday.”
Ellie thrust the box into Steve’s face, waving it back and forth.
“You want me to help you open it?” Steve asked. “Okay, come here.”
He settled Ellie in his lap and guided her fingers towards the wrapping paper, helping her tear it away. She seemed more interested in the wrapping paper and the fact that she could tear it to her heart’s content than the box inside.
“What’s this, Ellie?” Steve murmured, drawing her attention back to the box.
A jewellery box, he realised. He flicked it open to reveal a simple gold Star of David necklace. Ellie leaned forward, drawn by the reflection of the sun on the gold, then looked up at Steve questioningly.
“Wow, look at that, Ellie,” Steve said. “Look what dad got you. That’s pretty, huh?” He turned to Tony. “Can you…”
“Yeah, got it.”
Tony leaned forward, carefully removing the necklace from the box, Ellie’s eyes following the necklace the entire time, before unclipping the clasp and putting the necklace around her neck.
“Thank you, Arnie,” Steve smiled. “It’s beautiful.”
“It is,” Tony agreed. “Look at you, Little Miss Ellie. It’s almost as beautiful as you are.”
Ellie studied the necklace, her little face full of concentration as she turned it over in her hands before holding it up for Steve to see.
“Beautiful,” he said, pressing a kiss to her cheek.
Then Ellie squealed, losing interest in the necklace when she spotted the tabby cat strolling along the path. She rolled out of Steve’s lap and hurried after the cat as fast as her little legs could carry her.
“No- Ellie, don’t pull the cat’s tail,” Tony called, scrambling to his feet and rushing to the rescue.
Who he was recusing, Ellie or the cat, Steve wasn’t entirely sure.
“You look happy,” Arnie remarked as they watched Tony and Ellie.
“I am,” Steve smiled.
Yes, this, this is where you belong.