Title: Conjugate
Author: valtyr
(LJ | Comment | Author's feedback thread) 

Rating: NC-17
Pairings/Characters: Steve/Tony, canon pairings
Universe: 616, set during the early New Avengers period, post Secrets and Lies. Disregarding the events of House of M; there are more mutants. Er, and Spider-Man doesn't have organic webshooters.

Beta: Offline accomplice. Thanks, Hannah.
Labels: None.
Warnings: Some dub-con. An attempted sexual assault.

Summary: The New Avengers get their powers switched around. Peter sniffs people. Steve sticks to things. Logan lies around and drinks beer. In a surprising twist, Steve and Tony make out. 


  Art by Jwaneeta (1), Skyearth85 (1) 


"This is pretty amazing," said Cap from overhead, and Peter laughed, watching him creep cautiously across the ceiling.

"It is, isn't it?" Peter said. Cap jumped for the wall and slipped for a second before his fingertips caught and he stuck in place.

"I'll need new boots," he said, and leapt back to the ceiling. His feet were bare.

"I thought we were going to get this fixed?" snapped Logan, and Peter shrugged.


"It's going to take a while, I expect. Cap might as well take advantage of my powers while he has them." Peter took a casual step away from the couch as Logan glared at him; he had no desire to test out the shiny new healing factor just yet. The enhanced senses were good, though; he could smell Logan's annoyance.

"It's not quite the same, somehow," Cap said. "The strength is - it's different. Somehow. So's the agility. Feels - less human, I guess." He made an apologetic face at Peter. 

"Think the papers'll call you Spider-Cap or Captain Spider?" said Luke, and Cap laughed. 

"The Bugle will say 'Captain America Infected With Spiderosis By Evil Spider-Man. President Probably Next'."

"You know, Cap, I used to think you had no sense of humour. And I do still think that." 

"I guess the wise-cracking isn't a super-power then? Too bad."

"It's strange what has transferred," said Jessica, not looking up from her crossword. Peter could smell her perfume, a strange flat chemical smell. It wasn't very nice. "I mean, I thought your body, the size and shape of it, was affected by the Serum? But it hasn't changed." Steve shrugged. 

"Well, Tony's heart still seems fine, even though it was Extremis that fixed it. But your modifications were surgical, and they transferred across to him."

"It's precise, isn't it, to transfer only the things that constitute powers," said Jessica. "I mean, Logan's claws didn't transfer, did they?"

"Actually - ow!" said Peter, and he held up his hands. An strange internal flex, he wasn't sure of what, and the bone spurs had broken through the skin on the back of his hands. They didn't look nearly as deadly as Wolverine's beautiful gleaming blades, but they were sharp.

"So the claws are natural. Whoever put the skeleton in mimicked your natural abilities there? Be careful, Peter, they aren't as strong as Logan's claws and you don't have the strength you usually do." Jessica looked up at Cap. "Are you always thinking of ten things at once?"

"Not anymore," he said, and jumped for the window. It wobbled slightly under his weight.

"Careful," Peter said. "You're heavier than me."

"This is tough glass," said Cap. "There's Tony."

"I would have thought he'd be used to flying," said Luke. "I can - hey, I can see him through the cameras."

"Flying under your own power is different," said Jessica. Tony flew down in front of the window, and waved. Cap and Peter waved back.


"At least he found the time to put some clothes on," said Peter. Apparently, Tony went commando under the armour, which did make sense given some of it came out of his bones, or something. Still, it meant that when the Extremis had left him, Tony had been left completely naked. He'd had to borrow Luke's coat and fly home looking like some kind of air-borne flasher.


Tony put his hands against the window, and then braced his feet. His posture shifted oddly, then, as gravity reasserted itself. Tony's hands stuck, but his sneakered feet didn't, and after a moment's frantic scrabbling, he let go and fell. 

"Tony's going to need new boots too," said Cap. "Is he okay, Luke?"

"Yeah, he - " Luke frowned, and then the television screen lit up with a shot of Tony in flight. He was grinning.

"You're really getting the hang of that," said Peter. "Show us him falling." The screen flickered, and then Tony was falling, flailing before recovering and flying upwards. Peter snickered, and turned back to the window to see Tony glaring. His lips moved, and Peter spread his hands and widened his eyes, trying to look innocent. 

"He says to stop encouraging me," said Luke. "Man, there are so many sensors on this building. Tony, why - shit, there aren't any speakers."

"Is this likely to wear off?" said Jessica suddenly, and Cap banged on the window hard enough to make it shudder. "Cap, remember you're stronger!" Cap gestured at Tony through the window, beckoning him inside. Tony rolled his eyes and flew off.

Luke jumped to his feet and went to the lift; as he got there, the doors slid open and Jessica Jones appeared. He took her bag and gave her a kiss.

"Good timing," she said. "Were you headed somewhere?"

"Saw you in the lift," he said. "I've got Stark's machine-mojo."

"What?" She scowled. "Isn't that some kind of virus? Oh my god, is it catching?" Her hand flew to the swell of her belly.

"Relax, Jessica," said Tony, coming in on foot. "There's been an incident - nothing to worry about, but we've all got the wrong powers now."

"What kind of incident?" said Jessica, and then she saw Cap skittering up the wall and across the ceiling. "Oh my."

"Exactly," said Tony, and he took off, flying up to Cap. Jessica stared up at them. 

"Tony wanted to try out the new communicators," said Cap. He dropped to dangle from one hand, and Tony circled him, drifting like a bumblebee, not nearly as sleek and graceful as Jessica's flight, or even Iron Man's.

"So I thought we should all go check this, even if it was minor. Steve's been saying we should get more practice working as a team." Tony bumped up against Cap, put his arms round Cap's shoulders, and then apparently turned off the flight. Steve didn't flinch as Tony dangled off him. "That's pretty sticky."

"I can feel a bit of strain in my fingers; it's more effort than holding a bar would be. But then, I'm heavier than Pete to start with. Anyway, Logan said he'd heard something about mutants down at the docks, so he came along." 

"Yeah, that was a mistake," muttered Wolverine. Tony adjusted his grip, floating again, and Cap put one hand on Tony's shoulder, then let go of the ceiling and put his full weight on Tony. The two of them lurched floorwards, and landed with a clatter at Peter's feet. Both Jessicas started to laugh.

"So I'm superstrong, but the flight power isn't," said Tony breathlessly, and Cap laughed, remarkably cheerful for someone who'd just been dropped on his butt.

"At least I got to try out the spider-sense. The second I let go of the ceiling, I knew it wasn't going to work out." He looked up at Peter. "What a weird feeling."

"Isn't it?" Peter grabbed Tony's hand and pulled him upright. "You okay? Not squashed?" Tony's hand felt odd, a combination of soft and hard, tough callouses and soft, well kept skin. Faint pulse of blood under the skin. He also smelled good, unsurprisingly. Tony tugged on his hand, and Peter let go, flushing.

"Sorry, the textures are all so weird with enhanced senses."

"I know what that's like; when I first got the Extremis..." he frowned.

"But what happened?" said Jessica.

"Right. Well, Luke had gotten some reports of some kind of criminal activity going on down by the docks, very hush hush, possibly stolen goods but some talk about super-powered people being involved. So we went in to check it out."

"We were very organized, worked well together. I forgot earlier, but well done, it was perfectly executed." said Cap. "Combed through the building, met up in the centre. Which wasn't helpful at all, because it meant we were all there when the whatever went off."

"The powers went; for about thirty seconds, I think. And then they came back, to the wrong people." Tony bounced off his feet and hung in the air a second too long before settling to the floor. 

"Did you take Sentry?" said Jessica.

"No, we didn't. Too bad, I would have liked the power of a million exploding suns," said Luke, and Peter patted him on the shoulder.

"It's not that great, he mostly goes to natural disasters and crashing planes. You wouldn't like it." 

"We should sit down and hash out some kind of plan to deal with this," said Cap, getting to his feet in a ripple of movement that was subtly different from his usual grace.

"Sounds good," said Peter. "Logan, move your feet." Logan bared his teeth, and Tony pushed lightly at his shoulder.

"C'mon, Logan, shift." Logan glared up at him for a moment, then shrugged and swung his feet down, settling into the corner of the couch. Tony sat down beside him, and Cap nipped in to grab the seat on the other side of him.

"No fair," said Peter, and Tony and Cap just grinned at him. He flopped down on the floor at their feet, and sighed noisily when Cap patted him on the head. Luke sat down on the other couch, bracketed by the Jessicas, which looked a lot more enjoyable. Not that Peter usually needed a seat, but he couldn't dangle from the ceiling or stick to the wall any more. That was Cap's job, now.

"Well," said Tony, "There's a high likelihood this was magic."

"Insightful," Logan growled.

"The sheer variety of the powers taken leans towards magic. I'll be checking technological options, but I'm thinking magic is most likely. And unfortunately, we don't have a magician on the team. I've sent a message to Strange; but it could be a while before he collects it. In the meantime, I'll be trying to find out about any similar occurrences. Luke, you can use the Extremis to help with that."

"What about normal Avengers business?" asked Jessica. "I should be fine, and so should Cap - I just have to remember I can't fly, and Cap will just have to try harder to keep track of things. Not much can happen to Spider-Man he can't heal from, now. Wolverine -"

"Don't think I'll be joining the team," said Wolverine.

"Why not?" Cap asked, and Wolverine hunched a shoulder and looked away, staring out of the window.

"I'm sure we can manage," said Jessica, and frowned at Peter when he opened his mouth. Probably Logan was scared of getting hurt; with the disregard he usually showed for injuries, he'd be in the hospital pretty quick even with Luke's unbreakable skin. 

"Luke will have to be careful," Tony said. "He's not used to being so easily injured, and the Extremis will be very distracting at first. I'd prefer he stayed out of the field to a while, to be honest. And I can't use the most up to date version of the armour without Extremis, but I do have Jessica's powers, so."

"We need you to concentrate on finding out how this happened, though," said Jessica. "Before, you could do it from the suit -"

"I did manage to be useful before Extremis, you know," said Tony, and Cap laughed.

"He did, too," Cap said. "Why don't you and Luke start trying to find out how to fix this, then, and we'll deal with the problems as they come up? If something comes up that Peter and Jessica and I can't deal with, we can re-assess the situation. And there's Sentry, of course."

"Sure," said Peter, nodding. "It'll be fine."








"Okay, just - don't go anywhere that tries to keep you out. Make a note, we can take a look later," Tony said, and Luke nodded. He was sitting at the kitchen table, wirelessly networked into Tony's laptop, and they were trawling through the vast sea of data that was the internet. He'd only had Extremis a day, but it was already feeling like a part of him, like an extension built on to his brain.


"There's all kinds of things I could use, though," and Luke could see all the systems and safeguards, hanging there like great glass locks. Extremis quietly showed him a vast set of tools he could use, to slip those locks and pass through them like ghosts. He saw Tony too, or rather Tony's surveillance; Tony was monitoring him, watching what he accesses. He saw the path up into Tony's computer, the firewall a puny obstacle, and he saw the complex computer systems of the Tower, and he could peep through every camera, except - huh. 

"The workshop cameras are on a separate system." said Tony. "Paranoia is a fine quality. I've already taken all the confidential files off-line entirely; not that I don't trust you, but sometimes - sometimes with Extremis thought becomes action far too easily. You'll need to watch that. You think about someone, and suddenly you're tracking them through cameras, searching their records, opening their files, almost before you realise it. And if we do have to break into anything, opening locked files will be very easy for you."

"Looks simple enough from where I'm sitting."

"Getting in isn't enough. Getting in and out without anyone knowing, that's the thing," and Luke grinned at him.

"I hear you," and then Extremis tugged at his attention, directed him to a camera. He saw Cap wandering through the halls, prodding gingerly at his face. Enlarging and enhancing the image was as easy as thinking it, and Cap had what looked like road-rash all down one side of his face. "What's Cap done to himself?" he wondered aloud, and over in the laptop he saw Tony flick swiftly through the camera feeds, frown, and then look at the door as Cap came in, looking very cheerful for a man with a ground-up face.

"What happened to you?" said Tony. "Did you come off your bike?"

"Peter gave me the webshooters - he has trouble using them properly without the strength and spider-sense." Luke reached out for the camera logs, and yes, Cap and Pete had spent the last three hours swinging around between the Tower and the adjacent buildings, with varying degrees of success.

"And you've clearly got the hang of them," said Tony, catching Cap's chin and turning his face to the light. "Have you washed out this graze? Just because Jarvis is away doesn't mean you get to live like Wolverine."

"Leaving the day's washing up until the evening is not living like Wolverine," protested Cap. "Anyway, Wolverine keeps his things very neat. I think it's all the military training he's had." He looked down at the laptop, which was now running footage of Cap swinging from a webline, carrying a fully-costumed Spider-Man on his back, and grinned at Luke.

"Have you smelled Logan?" Luke said. "He might have a tidy room, but I can smell him from ten feet away."

"The Extremis is enhancing your senses. Also, stop fiddling with my computer, it's polite to pretend my security is effective." Tony said absently, fetching out the first aid kit. "And you don't have a healing factor anymore, so you're vulnerable to infections," he said, turning to Cap. "Here." Cap sat docilely for disinfectant, and Luke sniffed the air. Now he was paying attention, he could see - smell - perceive an extra dimension there. A thought, and comparisons of sound and smell and vision scrolled up on one of the internal readouts.


"Hey, you guys sound and look okay, but you're smelling a lot like Spider," he said, and Tony nodded.


"It's not foolproof, but it compares previous readings to check that the people you're seeing are who they should be. It records all kinds of things - it'll be picking up on the webbing fluids, and maybe some of the surgical additions of Jessica's, and probably Pete's powers come with a few physiological changes. You can relabel us for the duration."


"Cap's heartbeat is coming up weird, it's faster than it should be."


"Really?" Tony rested his fingers against Cap's throat. "It's not that - oh, of course, without the serum he's not in such good shape, his heartrate is usually very low. It does seem a bit elevated, though. Maybe you should eat less salt or something." Cap made a face at him, and then jumped to his feet to dig in the junk drawer where paperwork got dumped. He came up with a couple of brightly coloured cards.

"Jarvis and May sent postcards. I meant to tell you this morning, but I forgot." He sounded slightly guilty; Luke figured that as he never did anything really bad, he had to use up his guilt on the small things. Forgetting a postcard for six hours hardly rated the look he was giving Tony.

"Apparently it's a very educational cruise and they're learning a lot," said Tony. "Love to all." He propped them against the toaster, and turned back to the laptop. Cap drifted up behind him and watched over his shoulder as he checked out Luke's connections.

"You did explain the concept of holiday, right?" said Luke. 

"Jarvis likes to keep busy," said Tony.

"I haven't had a holiday in ages," said Steve. "We should go on one."

"We?" Tony glanced over his shoulder, eyebrows rising.

"Well, you haven't gone on holiday in ages either," Cap said, in tones of sweet reason, and Luke grinned.

"His idea of a holiday is sleeping more than six hours a night."

"I don't have time for holidays. I have three full-time jobs."

"Well, take holiday from all of them at the same time."

"What if aliens invade while we're in the Bahamas?"

"What if aliens invade the Bahamas while we're here?"

"Everyone knows when aliens invade they come to New York," said Tony, and Cap sighed noisily. "All right, all right, when this is over I'll think about a holiday. But it won't be educational. Now shush, I need to teach Luke to how to shake the internet so the right information falls out."

Cap leaned over Tony's shoulder and watched as Tony demonstrated various search functions to Luke. The Extremis understood them, and when Luke hesitated, it laid them out for him in shining maps he could take in easily. It was a little bit scary.

"We're looking for active magic-users in the New York area, and then in North America," said Tony quietly, and the Extremis sent out shimmering tendrils, nets, hunting dogs. "You've got the basic list; I should be getting some more in soon enough. We need to know where they are, and where they've been for the last few months, and if it's the same as where they claim to have been. Tracing their passports and credit cards is easy enough. But they can be falsified easily. So we'll check recent card use against histories, see if the patterns are the same. We'll check the shops where they spent money, look at the camera logs to see if it's the same person. Checking known accomplices, seeing where they've been and what they've been up to."

"Right," said Luke, and the Extremis, as promised, has taken his thoughts and is acting on them, searching, collating, cross-referencing. "It'll take a while."

"You can mostly let it work," said Tony. "Try not to think about the search too much; you might alter it inadvertantly." Tony closed the laptop. "Okay, you can go about your normal business, just remember you don't have titanium skin anymore. Don't think I haven't noticed the shaving cuts."

"Yeah, well, I've got a healing factor now, they're almost gone."

"It's not as good as Logan's, so just try not to get hurt." He pulled out his phone. "I should start making some calls -"

"After lunch," Cap said, and Tony sighed.

"I don't need - "

"No Extremis means you have to eat and sleep normally," said Cap firmly, and Luke disentangled his brain from Tony's computer and left the to it. 












Jessica missed not being able to fly; but she was rapidly discovering that not getting tired had a lot of upsides. She ran at a full out sprint half a mile down the road, doubled back down an alley, across a vacant lot and swung herself into a tree without the faintest feeling of fatigue, barely breathing fast. Across the open square, she could see their target; someway above them, nonchalantly stuck to the side of a building, was Captain America. The light gleaming off his polished shield must have been visible half a mile way.


"You're in her line of sight," she said quietly.

"Only if she looks up," came Cap's voice over the comm. "It's the right person, right? I can't see properly from here."

"It's her, unless there are two girls with freeze guns out and about today."

"It looks more like paralysis to me," came Spider-Man's voice, weirdly doubled as his head moved close to Cap's. Jessica could just see him peering over Cap's shoulder, one arm round his neck. 

"Well, that's probably what they meant by 'freeze gun'," said Cap. Said freeze gun was being wielded by a woman who was currently occupied going through the briefcase of a paralysed elderly man. She hadn't been very difficult to track at all; fortunately, the paralysis wore off after about five minutes. The gun made horrible noises, but didn't seem to need any recharging time, which had led to a scene rather like a game of musical statues. She had then simply progressed to another part of town and started over, and the Avengers had been asked for their assistance.

"They are policemen," said Spider-Man, "They shout 'Freeze' a lot, right?"

"I suppose so. Spider-Woman, are you in position?"

"She's not escaping this way," Jessica's tree overlooked both exits; she couldn't leave this way without coming within Jessica's jumping range. She wasn't as strong or agile as usual, but Cap's powers were not bad at all. "Just be careful, and don't smack yourself into a building."

"I'm going to walk. I have to put Spidey down anyway, I can't swing in carrying him, it looks... well, silly." She saw the gossamer glitter of the weblines - all right, her eyesight was better this way - and then Cap and Spider-Man dropped out of sight. She could hear the faint thump of feet when they hit the ground, and the lighter thump as Spider-Man disembarked.

"Be careful," she said. "You'll lose the element of surprise coming in on foot." The woman was looking around with a rather distracted air, as if searching for her next target; Cap would have trouble sneaking up on her at ground level. Then, a decent proportion of petty criminals would just surrender when faced with Captain America. Even Iron Man didn't command the same respect among the criminal fraternity.

"I can regain it by firing webbing at her. No one will expect that." Jessica saw Spider-Man's face peeping out at knee level.

"Okay, she's not looking. Go for it," Spider-Man said.

Cap stepped round the corner, moved silently up on her, and cleared his throat politely. The woman- villain seemed to be rather overstating the case - looked up and her eyes widened.

"Put it down, ma'am, and-" This petty criminal, unfortunately for her, was willing to try her luck; she started to bring the gun up. Cap webbed it. They both hesitated and stared at the webbed gun. Then the woman swore and began scrabbling at her pocket with her other hand. Jessica heard Cap let out an irritated sigh, although his stern expression barely shifted, and then he flung his shield.


It went straight through the wall a good ten feet from the woman, who turned to stare, white faced. Cap leapt on her, and got her in a neat armlock; Jessica flipped out of the tree and jogged after the shield. Fortunately, it didn't seem to be an important wall. The hole would probably be a handy short cut.

"Did you do that on purpose?" she said, as Cap finished tying up his captive with rather excessive amounts of webbing.

"I meant it to be a ricochet," Cap said, a faint blush showing around his cowl, and Jessica laughed.

"Right. What is that thing, anyway?"

"It's stuck to his hand - we won't know until the webbing wears off. It'll take about an hour?" He looked around for Spider-Man.

"Give or take," said Spider-Man, appearing from the alley. "You know, I feel kind of useless. How does Wolverine cope? Is this why he's so grouchy all the time?"

"I'm sure you'll be useful when we want to occupy a T-Rex or something," said Jessica, patting him on the shoulder. 

"Yeah, by getting chewed on."

"It's a valuable service," Cap said. "If you want to feel helpful now you could carry this lady."

"Hey, you guys both have superstrength. And here's a tip: if you leave their legs free, they can walk themselves to the station."













Tony had to go searching for Luke, rather than just check all the cameras to locate him. After a cautious glance around, he flew down the hall towards the sounds of computerised combat. He'd be sorry to go back to walking; he couldn't figure out why Jessica didn't fly everywhere. Either Jessica, in fact. Perhaps he'd suggest it to Jessica Jones; she'd surely find it easier now she was pregnant. Now, though, she was sitting on the couch in front of the big TV with her feet in Luke's lap, hammering at a controller as if it had personally offended her.


"You're cheating," she said suddenly, and Luke gave her an indignant look. 


"Am not. I am hurt that you would think that."


"You're using an ability that character doesn't have."


"Am I? Shit." 


Jess threw down her controller and rolled her eyes.


"I can't believe you're using the Extremis to cheat at video games," said Tony, touching down just behind the couch. "Did you get my email?"


"Yeah. All the magic users on the list seem to be located elsewhere; I've got those tracer program matching up their appearances on cameras and so on. Nothing looks wrong." Luke leaned back and grinned at him. "Want to play?"


"Not if you're cheating. Ill see if I can scare up any more magicians for you." He smiled at Jess. "Hey Jess, how's it going?" She made a face at him.


"Apart from Luke's cheating? Fine. Actually, perhaps I won't phrase it quite like that. Luke, I'm exhausted."


"You going to take a nap?" Luke didn't look away from Tony, a faint smile on his face.


"Yeah. Why don't you come talk to me til I fall asleep?" Luke turned to look at her, and his smile widened. 

"Sure, baby. I'll email you if anything weird turns up, Tony." They wandered towards the stairs, Luke wrapping an arm round Jess and whispering something that made her laugh.


Tony dug out his cellphone, and called out again.


"Hi - yeah, I know. Right. Look, can you email me a list of magic users? Of all kinds, I'm not sure if what happened was on purpose." Tony made an irritable noise. "Whatever. Send it by owl if you have to. Just as soon as you can, okay?" He snapped his cellphone shut and glared at it; he should have upgraded it months ago, but since he had the Extremis... he sighed and headed over to the laptop for another check of his email and the various searches he was running. Flight was no substitute for the Extremis.


"What are you doing?" said a rusty voice from the couch against the wall, and Tony jumped, floated a inch or two into the air before settling. Logan lay there, staring through slitted eyes. There were dark patches under his eyes, and he was well on the way to a full beard. Tony knew the signs of a hangover; this looked to be an epic.


"Still working on the magic theory; I'm trying to find out who. If I can find out who, then how becomes a lot easier." He made a face. "Unfortunately, I can't find anyone to tell me how complicated this kind of magic is. Strange is out of touch."


"You said it," said Logan, and Tony chuckled.


"I wondered, could it be a mutant that did this?"


"Could be, I guess." Logan waved his beer in a gesture that could have meant anything. "It doesn't ring any bells. There's Rogue, but she has to be in physical contact, and what she takes, she keeps." He bared his teeth; it might have been meant as a smile. 


"A new mutant?"


"Sure. Like I said before, I hear there's kids hanging around down there, and I hear some of them are mutants. I can put in a call to the X-Men if you want, see if this rings any bells with them."


"Thanks, Logan. I suppose it could be worse. It's a pain not being able to use the Extremis, but Jessica's powers are fun."


"You could fly before."


"It's not that - although it's different without the armour." Tony did a neat cartwheel, and then a backflip. "The strength, the agility - I just have to think, and my body does it. It's like super-responsive, super-light armour." Another flip, and he landed on the arm of the couch, hands planted between his feet like a cat on a fence, and grinned down at Logan. "Did you see that?"


"Yeah," said Logan, looking up at him. "I saw. You're real flexible now." He put up a hand and grasped Tony's ankle. Tony shifted, and Logan's grip tightened.


"Hey, guys," said Peter. "What're you doing?" Logan let go, and peered round at Peter.


"Thought you went out with Captain Flag?"


"Well, we're done. They're doing the clean-up - I felt like an idiot just running about on the floor, so I came back. I feel like an ant or something, I don't know how you cope with it. I had to take the bus. People were staring at me." Peter leaned up against Tony companionably, narrow shoulder pressed into his side; Tony had to brace himself on the back of the couch to keep from toppling over onto Logan. "Jessica and Cap seemed to be enjoying their new powers, though."


"I wouldn't have thought Cap's powers would be much of an upgrade for Jess," Tony said.


"It's the brain, I think." Peter took a deep breath, then frowned. "She's keeping track of a lot more things. Cap's running about all over the walls, though, he loves it. Uh-" He paused, apparently trying to assemble a thought. "MJ. Have you seen MJ?"


"Went to the store."


"Maybe I'll go find her." He wandered away, pulling his phone out of his pocket. "Oh! Cap said they'd try and get the freeze gun to bring back to you."


"Well, great. I was just thinking I needed a side project to while away the empty hours," said Tony, and jumped down to check his laptop again.







"He has some kind of bracelets on - the blasts are forming there, not his hands." Spider-Woman peered round the edge of the upended SUV again. "Incoming!" They hunched down, and a moped flew overhead and landed a good twenty feet away.

"Right, so..?" Peter leaned over her to take a second look. She smelled much nicer today, a thought which he filed away in the 'I love my wife so much' bin. The supervillain of the day was a young man throwing concussive blasts that were a gaudy shade of pink, that did indeed seem to be generated by bracelets.

"Well, it doesn't help now, but at least we should be able to take them away."


"So yesterday it's a freeze gun, today it's bracelets of zap?"


"Could be just coincidence," Spider-Woman frowned. "Tony had a chance to look at the gun yet?"


"He was being sarcastic about it last I heard. Blah blah blah, I'm an international billionaire playboy inventor superhero, if I had spare time I'd be building a better mousetrap and learning Japanese." Peter looked up, squinting against the sunlight. "Cap's gotten above him."


"I can't help feeling we should be keeping the Spider-Cap quieter."


"He's enjoying it so much, though. And I bet this guy's face will be a picture. Patriotic death from above!" 


"I can hear you, you know. And Tony speaks very good Japanese," said Cap's voice, and Peter grinned.


"Are you going to drop on this guy's head?"

"Not right on his head."


"Seriously, I wish I had an indestructible shield to hit people with."

"Just remember the super-strength," said Spider-Woman.

"Will do."

"Wait - " Spider-Woman scowled. "The shield will protect you, but what about the webline?"

"I can fire off another one."

"Yes, but can you keep track of your swing and his blasts and not shatter his spine like a twig?"


"...maybe? You're right, I'd better not risk it." Cap sighed. "What do you suggest?"


"We'll distract him, of course."

"Those blasts are pretty vicious. A guy could get squashed flat out there," said Peter. 

"Healing factor: you're up." Jessica was not at all attractive when she grinned like that, really. With the huge blank eyes, it was vaguely reminiscent of the Green Goblin.

"Oh... crap."

"On three?"

On three, Spider-Woman bounced out into car-thrower's line of sight and then back into cover again. Peter charged out to the right. His timing was exceptionally poor; he just had time to regret the loss of his spider-sense before the car hit him.

"Pete?" A gentle hand cupped his neck, lifted him a little, and Peter squinted up at Cap, who broke into a relieved smile. "You're almost healed."

"That hurt," he said in a raspy voice, and wrinkled his nose at the feel of his flesh knitting together. 

"I think he was aiming at Spider-Woman," said Cap. "He looked surprised he'd hit you." Peter sat up, awkwardly, and poked at his now intact chest. 

"That's neat, though. Too bad my costume doesn't regenerate." Spider-Woman entered his field of vision, and waggled a handful of metal in his direction.

"These look like your webcasters," she said. 

"Not much," he said, letting Cap pull him to his feet. "There's no reservoir on those things. Not that you store energy in a reservoir, of course. And there's only so many ways you can engineer a bracelet." He took one and peered at it; they were made of cheap metal that was already starting to dent and tarnish, with metal decorations riveted on. "How tight were they fitted?"

"Not very, and they're adjustable. They weren't custom built, but who makes cheap knock-off magic items?" 

"We'll take them back to Tony," said Cap. "Okay, anyone need a ride back?"

"Dibs," said Peter promptly, and Jess pinched his arm. "What? I hardly ever walk anywhere. My booties don't even have proper soles. I'm getting blisters from all this running around. And I have a big hole in my spider-suit. And don't pinch me, you big bully."

"I'll take this guy down to the station, then; I should check in with SHIELD anyway," said Jessica, and Cap looked at her suspiciously.

"Don't go giving them your blood, now," he warned, and Jessica tilted her head in the way that meant her eyes were rolling under the mask.

"Of all the people who have samples of your blood, SHIELD probably have the most."

"They're supposed to destroy them straight away."

"Well, sure." Jessica smiled blandly. Cap sighed and handed Peter his shield; Peter slung it over his back and hopped up on to Cap.

"Home, James," he said loftily, and Cap made a running leap for the nearest wall, scampering up light as a spider.



Tony laid the cuffs out on the table next to the freeze gun, and stared at them. He picked up his camera and took a few shots, then flipped them and took a few more. "I swear, this gun doesn't even have a mechanism. It's just a gun-shape," he muttered. He peered down the barrel, then poked his finger down it in a flagrant violation of weapons safety. His finger went in to the second knuckle before meeting solid metal. "See, that's just dumb."


"Talking to yourself?" He looked up to see Logan on the couch, opening a beer with hands that shook slightly. Tony frowned at him.

"Logan, without your healing factor, you can't drink so much."

"Sure, that's right. Remind me about how much is safe for a normal human to drink, Stark?" Logan bared his teeth, and it was an effort not to growl back. Logan tilted his head, eyes narrowing, and Tony turned away, to his laptop. He accessed the security cameras, checking to see if Logan had moved in the past four days, when he heard the shuffle of movement and a hand rested heavily on his back.

"What you doing?" Logan said, voice hoarse.

"I'm just - uh, Logan," the hand slid round his waist, and Logan pressed up against his back, head resting heavily against Tony's shoulder. Tony felt dampness on his belly, and looked down to see red smudges on his shirt, spreading from Logans' gloved hand. "Logan, you idiot, you shouldn't be using the claws." He grabbed Logan's hand and peeled the glove off, and Logan hissed against his shoulder.


"I'm not surprised." The cuts on Logan's hands must have started out neat, but he'd clearly been reopening them, tearing the scabbing again and again. "Why did you keep putting the claws out?"

"Habit. Long habit." His snicker trailed off into a groan, and he leaned more heavily on Tony. Tony could feel heat radiating from him, and he smelled, a sick sweet smell. He should have noticed; he should have realised Logan wasn't just being an anti-social ass -

"I think you may have given yourself blood poisoning," he said. Dark streaks trailed over the puffy skin, and when he palpated the flesh Logan growled and pulled his hand free. "We'll have to get you a doctor." He dropped his hands to the laptop again, then stilled as Logan's arms went round him, hands spreading over his torso, stroking him. Logan's head butted in between his shoulder blades like a cat seeking attention. "Logan, maybe you should go back to the couch."

"Don't feel like it." Logan's hands tightened on him, but when Tony grabbed at him, he let out a yelp of pain and Tony let go, afraid of damaging him. "That hurt," Logan said, voice dropping to a growl, and he grabbed a handful of Tony's hair, yanked so Tony had to twist and arch. Logan's face pressed into his neck, behind his ear, and he flinched away from the hot damp breath, stinking of beer and something fouler.

"What the hell are you doing?" Tony snapped, feeling the hollow ache of nerves that assailed him whenever he was attacked without the armour available. Logan's hand gripped tighter, Luke's enhanced strength grinding his fingers against Tony's hip as Logan pushed him against the table, kicked his legs apart, and Tony could feel Logan's erection pressing against his thigh.

"What do you think?" and Logan's bloody hand slid down between his legs. Tony twisted, but Logan held on tight.  "Hold still, Stark, I-"

Jessica's enhanced strength was nothing to sneeze at, even against titanium skin; the angle was horrible, but by arching his back as far as it would go, he could slam the heel of his hand into Logan's jaw. Logan's hands spasmed loose, and he took a half step back. It was far enough for Tony to twist, pull his leg up at an angle that would have been impossible a week ago, and kick Logan as hard as he could in the solar plexus. Logan flew a good six feet and hit the floor hard, and after a winded moment, he started to throw up. 

"Logan, what the hell is wrong with you?" Tony said, backing away, ready to take off, and then he realised there was fresh, red, blood in the vomit. 


Tony had seen Logan's enhancements before, of course, but they never ceased to intrigue him. They also made his fingers twitch for stylus and tablet; he could have designed Logan so much better. He turned the image on the screen, eyed the way the skull plates were fitted together, and shook his head. Logan was unlikely to let him make any alterations.

"Well, obviously he's got several infections - and his body isn't coping with them well. His natural immune system is virtually useless, from what I can tell," Reed said, and gestured vaguely towards the bank of screens as if Tony hadn't been staring at them for the past ten minutes. Logan was depicted, inside and out, in gruesome detail. 

"He was behaving erratically," Tony said.

"Wouldn't surprise me - he can't be used to this kind of persistent pain. It's worse than infections, Tony. It looks like his body is rejecting the adamantium skeleton."

"What?" Tony stared at him, then turned back to the screens, looked more closely. "His white blood cell count - "

"The human body isn't designed for this kind of largescale modification - Logan's mutation was necessary not just for the initial surgeries but to maintain his state. He's having, effectively, a massive allergic reaction."

"And it'll kill him. How long -" Tony cut himself off when he heard the falter in his voice. He'd pushed hard to get Logan in the team.

"He could survive as long as a week, with care."

"Shit." Reed stood at his shoulder, peering into his face with doubtful concern. He squeezed the bridge of his nose and tried to think of some way - "Could we -"

"We can't operate-"

"Not with Luke's skin on him. Shit." Tony rubbed at his temples, scowling, and Reed put a hand on his shoulder, patting at him in an attempt at reassurance.

"Tony, we've got the equipment to put him into a sort of hibernation state. It'll keep him alive indefinitely."

"What's the catch?" 

"It's a  freezing process. I wouldn't suggest it usually; it'll destroy plenty of cells, including brain cells. But it's Logan." Tony let out a snort of laughter, and Reed shook him gently by the shoulder. "I mean, of course, that when he gets his healing factor back, the ruptured cells will repair themselves."

"Oh sure, I was just thinking that." Tony sighed, and Reed's arm slipped round his shoulders, gave him a quick hug. 

"Tony, really. We'll fix it. It'll be fine."

"Yeah. Yeah, I hope so." Tony patted Reed's arm gratefully. Reed was rarely this understanding; he didn't even like Logan much.

The door opened behind them, and Tony glanced over his shoulder to see Steve coming in, Sue at his heels. Steve frowned up at the screens that showed Logan, panting and discoloured, and then his eyes trailed down to Tony and his frown deepened. Tony knew he looked bad; the quickest way to get Logan to the Baxter Building had been to pick him up and carry him up to the Quinjet, which had left him stained, mostly with blood and a bit with vomit. Reed hadn't mentioned it, but the way he had sniffed the air and frowned suggested Tony smelled bad enough even for him to notice.

"I came as soon as I could. What's happened?" Steve's voice was curt; Logan was one of the few people still alive from his old life, of course.

"Logan's falling apart without his mutation, and we can't do anything to help while he's got Luke's powers," Tony said, and Reed nodded. Steve's scowl intensified, and he stalked forward; Tony turned to face him, stepping out of Reed's loose embrace, and put a hand on Steve's arm. "He didn't say a word, but he must have been in pain - I only realised something was wrong when he started bleeding on me." He gestured to the mottled stains that Logan's hands had left on his shirt, and Steve touched his fingers to them. The fabric stuck to his fingertips, and he had to shake them free. Tony heard the click of the door shutting, and realised Sue and Reed had left; hopefully Reed would begin preparations for freezing Logan. It was unlike Sue not to say hello, though.

"Are you all right?" Steve's hand hovered over the blood patch where Logan's head had rested against his shoulder, and then he pulled back and folded his arms. 

"Me?" Tony turned away to study the screen again, and when Steve moved in behind him he felt himself tense. "I'm fine."

"You seem -" Steve rested a hand on his shoulder, warm through his shirt, and Tony sighed, forced himself to relax. 

"I'm just worried. Reed's got it under control, though." Steve made a neutral noise. "We're going to deepfreeze him."

"Always stealing my moves, that Logan," said Steve, and Tony managed a laugh. "Shall I call the X-Men?"

"Yeah, we - I should call Emma." Not exactly an appealing thought; conversations with Emma tended to require a lot of effort.

"I can do it, I know you're busy."

"No, it's okay," Tony raised his eyebrows as Steve made a grumpy noise. "Someone should stay here - "

"I'll do that," said Steve quickly. "You go back to the Tower."



"Three is enemy action," said Cap, and Jessica nodded. They were leaning over a balcony, looking down onto a not very impressive crime scene. It wasn't even a very impressive mall; Jessica wouldn't have shopped there before a supervillain had starting demolishing the place.

"Isn't it always enemy action?" said Tony, and Jessica shifted away from him, stepped around Cap's bulk to peer at their villain from another angle.

"I mean concerted enemy action. Someone's building all these little gimmicks and selling them on to petty criminals. We just need to persuade one of them to talk. And given the timing, I'm wondering if this is connected to our problem."

"It's a good question, although I don't see how. I must say, as villains go, this one is not very menacing," said Tony. Said villain had gone to the trouble of fitting himself out with red jeans and shirt, and a red motorcycle helmet. He looked vaguely reminiscent of a Power Ranger.

"He's doing the best he can with those weak gusts of wind," said Cap. "He's doing quite well; he's caused a lot of damage with what's basically a very powerful hairdryer. Shame it's such a pointless power. Or it would be, if he wasn't a villain."

"Well, thanks for that hard-hitting analysis. Got any ideas?"

"Wait until he's looking the other way and web him."

"You're getting really dependent on those webs."

"I'd hate to be a one-trick pony. Perhaps I should throw my shield at him."

"Just take him out," said Spider-Woman, and Cap grinned and vaulted the balcony. There were a few seconds of action, and then Jessica called in the police, who had been patiently waiting outside. They'd hardly needed the Avengers for a punk with the ability to shove things hard, even if he could do it at range.

"This is like the old days with Thor," said Tony. "We might as well go home and let Cap handle the Avenging."

"Now you know how we feel, Mr Power Armour," said Jessica.

"I'm not coming again. I don't care if Peter and MJ have date night. You can bring Sentry next time. I don't even have a proper costume." He tugged absently at the cuffs of his gold jumpsuit; Jessica had to admit it was on the gaudy side.

"Is that part of your old armour?"

"It's the undersuit, yes. It's got some basic armour and lets me move. It's hardly worth getting myself decked out in skintight - whatever it is you and Spidey wear."

"Luke doesn't wear a costume."

"Luke can't fly. Flying superheroes should have costumes. Flying in street clothes just looks silly." He peered down at Cap, who was talking to the police. "I keep telling Steve he doesn't need to know every police officer in the city by name, but he won't listen."

"Aren't there forty thousand of them?"

"Well, he's got a good memory." Tony sighed. "I miss Extremis. I really did know all of them by name. And their birthdays and shoe size, too."

"You do know that's creepy, right?"

"You're part spider, how is that not creepy?"

There was a faint thump, and they looked down to see Cap climbing up. He swung onto the balcony and held out a necklace to Tony.

"Oh, you shouldn't have," said Tony, and slipped it on. "What? I don't have pockets in this."

"Can you use it?" said Cap, and Tony gestured theatrically. Cap took a fast step back. "Simple enough, then."

"Come on, let's get out of here. I have important technical things to be doing." Tony held out his arm, and Cap stepped into it and rested his arm over Tony's shoulders. There was a pause.

"So, apparently Jessica's flight still isn't strong enough for two people," said Tony after a second, and Cap coughed and stepped away. Jessica bit down on her lip to keep a laugh in.

"I'll just-"  Cap threw a webline up to the roof and swung up to the skylight as Tony kicked off into the air.

"I'll walk then, shall I?" Jessica said pointedly, and then choked back a shriek as she was swept straight off her feet and launched towards the roof.

"Don't wriggle, it would be embarrassing if I dropped you," Cap said in her ear, and she slapped the arm locked round her waist.


"I'm sure I could web you in time to stop you getting hurt, but then I'd have to carry you home all webbed up. People would talk." Cap flipped them neatly through one of the open windows, and looked round at the surrounding buildings. Jessica took the opportunity to get an arm round Cap's neck, looped into the straps of the shield, and held on tight. Cap swung them up fast, up among the tall buildings, the great arcs and sharp direction changes like a rollercoaster, but she loved seeing the city from above, and she'd missed flying. 

"Hydra," said Cap, and she turned her head to look at him, pulling her hair out of the way. His face was inches away, and the cowl didn't cover much; the worry lines were easy to make out. "Do they know?"

"I haven't told them."

"You have to stay away from them; we can't risk them getting samples of the Super Soldier Serum. Or just pulling you out; I should think Hydra would consider it worthwhile to leave me powerless."

"I know. If they come to me, we'll have to arrange something. Break a leg, and claim I forgot I couldn't fly." 

"You'll get teased for years if you do that," he said, and he smiled at her before launching them high into the air, higher than the skyscrapers around them. He let go of the weblines at the very top of the arc, and the world spun like a kaleidoscope for long seconds before he hooked his other arm under her knees and landed on top of Stark Tower with her held in his arms like the heroine in a bad romance. He put her carefully back on her feet, and she smiled up at him.

"Thanks for the ride."

"No problem. You backseat drive less than Peter." He glanced up at the Watchtower. "I'm going to visit Bob. Let me know if I'm needed."


The very faint odour of rotting flesh still hung around the couch, muffled by by various chemical scents but still present to Peter's nose. Tony and Luke sat on the other couch, Tony typing away at his laptop, Luke staring blindly into space with the dim-bulb expression that meant he was using the Extremis. Peter reached for his camera, and Luke blinked and then glared.

"I can see you through the security cameras, you know."

"And that will never stop being creepy." He sat down between them and leaned up against Tony to check out his work. Tony elbowed him gently in the ribs.

"Do you have nowhere else to be than my personal space?"

"Well, sure, but why settle for second best? Everyone knows Tony Stark has the very best personal space available." Tony's lips twitched, but he didn't answer, and Peter turned his attention to Luke. "Nice bitemarks," he said a smirk.

"Jess realised she could leave marks on my skin. She likes it way too much."

"See that's interesting, cause MJ just realised she can't leave marks now, and she's liking it way too much."

"And see that's interesting, because it's way more than I wanted to know about either of your lives," said Tony. Peter opened his mouth to say something about crusty old bachelors, and then closed it.

"I can smell Jessica," he announced instead, and Luke snorted.

"And you say I'm creepy."

Jessica wore her SHIELD uniform, although those probably weren't standard issue heels. Nick Fury never wore them, anyway. She threw a pair of gloves down on the coffee table and Tony raised his eyebrows.

"Are those important in some way, or are you just in the mood for dramatic gestures?"

"Colouring gloves. Put them on, and you can paint with your fingers."

"Been out chasing graffiti artists?"

"The police thought we might be interested. I asked the desk sergeant to keep an eye out for anything like this, odd gadgets. Don't lose them; they're evidence. Against a graffiti artist, yes."

"Hm." Tony elbowed Peter again, and he obligingly leaned forward to grab the gloves. They were mottled grey leather, and had metal decorations studded along the hem. Tony turned one inside out, and made a pleased sound at the sight of symbols painted onto the leather. "Construction details. I can't see inside the other pieces without dismantling them; I thought there might be some inside markings."  


"What do they say?"

"Er..." He flattened out the leather and squinted at the worn inking. "Made in Taiwan."

Tony turned the glove right way out.

"So I'm thinking maybe they're taking random stuff and putting superpowers in it?" said Peter, taking the glove away from him and folding them together. 

"And then selling it to street hoods?" Tony frowned. "I suppose if it's some kind of low-level magician creating these... it's starting to seem like this isn't connected. Unless we stumbled upon the guy's operation and he did this to us... but that's got to be a hell of a lot of power. Can't be some guy selling gimmicks like this. Did you talk to the artist?"

"He's out on bail; I've got his details. Whether he'll give us any more than the other two did, I don't know."


"Yeah, yeah." He got to his feet and followed Jessica out.


"Any news on Logan?" Peter said after a moment, and Tony shook his head.


"No - I got an update from Reed this morning, no change. Which is excellent news, really. Apparently the metal skeleton made it quicker to freeze him quickly, so that's something." Tony sank back into the couch, staring at his laptop, and Peter gave him a minute to be fully distracted before quietly getting up and going to the kitchen. 

He dug a notepad out of a drawer, and put the gloves on. With concentration, they produced a lovely array of colours, opaque and translucent, broad sweeping lines and fine delicate ones. He had done what he considered to be a rather good drawing of Spider-Man when he smelled leather and - he couldn't define it exactly, but it smelled like Cap. He cocked his head, listening, caught the steady heartbeat and breathing, and on the very edge of hearing he could hear a sound like ripping velcro. 

"You can't sneak up on me, Cap," he said, not looking up, and he heard a chuckle from overhead.

"How did you know it was me?" Cap dropped to the floor with a thump; he couldn't land as silently as Peter usually could. Then, he probably weighed about eighty pounds more.

"My super Logan-senses. I could smell you, how weird is that? You smell like leather, and a bit like cookies, and you use girly shampoo that smells like flowers. And I can smell you, I guess. Your smell. It's weird, being able to smell people apart. MJ smells great. Jess smells pregnant, I don't know how that works. Tony smells good, he probably wears cologne that costs more than my whole wardrobe." Peter leaned back and grinned up at him. "Do you like my drawing?" 

"Very nice," said Cap gravely. "What are those?"

"You just think of the colour you want, they're really cool," said Peter. "Hey, you're an artist. Let's paint that big empty wall there."

"It does look sort of empty, doesn't it?" said Cap, and Peter looked at the wall assessingly. Wider than it was tall; the ceilings weren't as high as they were in the main rooms. Cap picked up one of the gloves and put it on. "You know, there's no pictures of the current team in this place. That doesn't seem right."

"I for one feel very left out. I might get neurotic or something. You wouldn't want that on your conscience, right?"

Cap put one of the gloves on, and began making practice dabs at the wall. Peter began drawing in a frame, and the work progressed peacefully. 

"Peter, we're going to have to give you some hand-to-hand training," said Cap, and Peter winced.

"Do we have to? I'm sure I'll have my powers back soon."

"Yes, and I want you making the most of them," said Cap, and Peter looked up at him, his serious face. "You've been in this business so long I forget, sometimes, you never had any real training. Now, don't misunderstand me. You do an excellent job. But you could do far more. I never realised just how strong and fast you were - you certainly aren't using it to full capacity. You should be putting people like the Rhino through walls, with powers like these."

"Great." Peter sighed. "Hey, I'm taller than that."

"No you aren't. I can put you in high heels if you want."

"Hey, you have like a inch on your boots usually. You're not nearly so tall in booties like mine. And Tony practically has platforms in his armour-"

"He has rockets in them, that's why."

"I don't see why he doesn't have a jetpack like a normal person."

"Because Tony is not a normal person," said Cap, and then they both started to snicker.

Steve drew Tony with his helmet off, smiling; Luke Cage stood beside him, a wall of muscle. Jessica and Logan were crouched in the foreground, Jessica staring out warily, Logan casting a sideways glance at her hips. Steve had placed himself on Tony's other side, shield held prominently, and Spider-Man stood beside him, waving in a distinctly goofy fashion. That was fair, really.

Tony and Sentry were the only ones unmasked; but while Sentry's face was only sketched in, a vague impression of blue eyes and square jaw and worry, Tony's face was carefully detailed. Steve drew in the shadow of his lashes with the tip of his little finger, and stepped back.

"I had steadier hands with my real powers," he said, and Peter shook his head.

"That's an amazing likeness. You put his beard in, though."

"I - so I did. He changes his facial hair so often; it'll be right sometimes."

Steve fetched them a couple of Cokes, and they sat and looked at the wall. If you squinted, it looked almost like a real painting hanging there.

"Hey, you think Tony will mind us decorating his wall?" said Peter suddenly, as a familiar pleasant smell and and footsteps caught his attention, and Steve rolled his eyes.

"Now you think of that."

"Hey, what-" Tony stopped dead and glared at the wall. "You used the gloves? They're evidence."

"Uh... oops?" offered Peter, and ducked his head and tried innocent eyes. 

"Really, Steve-" Tony shook his head. Then he laughed. "What's Jarvis going to say?"

"We can always paint over it," said Steve consolingly. "But you know, Luke and Pete and Jess are going to feel left out with no pictures of them up."

"Fine, fine." Tony sighed and sat down, and Steve wrapped a arm round his shoulders. Tony patted him absently on the back, then frowned. "Steve. Are you leaving hand prints on me?" Steve pulled his arm away quickly, looking guiltily at the smears on the shoulder of Tony's shirt, and Peter hid his snicker by taking a mouthful of Coke.

"Sorry." Steve peeled off the glove and tossed it on the counter. Peter followed suit. "They're really nifty toys, those. I don't see why anyone who can make those would be selling them to criminals; artists would line up for them."


"They would, wouldn't they?" Tony frowned. "Jessica and Luke have gone out to talk to the artist; I'll email Luke and get him to ask about it. I should take the gloves down to the shop and take a closer look - before anyone else gets artistic urges."


Steve followed him down to the workshop, and watched as he lined up the toys. Tony scowled down at them; he'd gotten absolutely nowhere wth them so far.

"See, they all have these decorations, same design and casting style, the metals, the shapes. They're clearly connected. But the power doesn't seem to be a function of the design. It's got to be magic, and that leads me to believe it's connected to what happened to us. But how?" Tony shook his head. "Was there a guy with a toy that swapped powers? But who would get one of those when he could get a magical blasting toy? Who would make one of those? It's pretty limited use, unless you're expecting a superhero team to come knocking."


"You're sure it's magic?"


"No, I'm not. It could be technological. But all the people I know smart enough to come up with something like this would be using it. A lot. They wouldn't just swap all our powers round and hide. There would have been some kind of follow-up attack. Logan said he'd call the X-Men about possible mutant involvement - I should follow that up - " he frowned.


"I can call Scott," said Steve. "You've got a lot on your plate."


"And I'm not making progress with any of it. It's just frustrating," Tony said with a sigh. He rolled his head on his neck, trying to loosen the muscles there, and then Steve's hands settled on his shoulders and squeezed. "What - uh. Oh, thanks. Yeah." He leaned forward and let Steve work the knots out of his shoulders, rub big warm hands down his back. Steve pushed up the edge of his shirt, and Tony pulled it over his head, let Steve bend him over the workbench, and he sighed as his muscles melted under that skilled touch. Steve was really good at this; he could feel the tension just unwind. Since the Extremis, of course, he hadn't had to worry about tension aches. "Where'd you learn to do that?" he asked drowsily, and Steve chuckled.

"Sharon made me learn. She used to come back from missions so tense - I feel bad for laughing at her now, now I get sore muscles too." He trailed his rough fingertips very gently over Tony's ribs, making him shiver. "Feel better?"

"Yeah," he said, and peeled himself up off the workbench, pulled his shirt back on. Steve moved away, picked up the freeze gun for a closer look, and Tony frowned at him. Had that been a bit weird? 

"Anyway," he began, and then a chime sounded from the door. He opened it, and tried not to gape asn Emma Frost gave him a tight smile.  

"Emma, darling, what a delightful surprise," Tony stepped up to embrace her, and she stood stiffly, patting him on the arm.  "I assume we owe this visit to Logan's unfortunate condition?" He could ask her how she got into the building, of course, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know. Telepaths were awkward guests. 

"Yes, for some reason there's a certain amount of concern for his well-being going around." Emma took a flash drive out of her bag and offered it to Tony. "From Hank. He says he doesn't know any mutants with powers that would do this, but you might find some of this useful."

"Wonderful. Thank him for me."

"Now, please tell me what happened with Logan." She settled onto a stool and crossed her legs, exposing enough of her slim thighs to remind him why he liked having Emma around.

"Simple explanation; he's lost his healing abilities and gained Luke's impenetrable skin. He's allergic to his adamantium. We've frozen him until we can fix him."

"Frozen him." Emma's voice was not quite incredulous. 

"Reed Richards has taken care of it."

"Oh, well, that never ends badly. Tony, darling, you are trying to fix him, aren't you? He's not just going to get shuffled to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten about?" Her eyes were narrowed, and her stare... well, he didn't think it was really boring into his brain, Emma was more polite than that, but she certainly didn't look happy.

"He's an Avenger," said Steve, in an surprisingly irritable tone, and she flicked her piercing gaze to him. He glared back. "We're doing all we can."

"I don't know any technological way to do this, and I can't find any traces of a magic user." Tony shrugged. "The only other thing going on is the appearance of some little magical gadgets - powerblasts, paralysis, that kind of thing."

"They're not uncommon mutant powers," said Emma. "Are you sure they're not just mutants?"

"No, the gadgets can be used by -" and then he paused as an idea hit him. "Oh. I wonder?"

"Wonder?" Emma prompted after a moment, and he picked up one of the gloves and stared at it.

"Well, you're right, paralysis - energy blasts - as superpowers go, they're not uncommon."


"So, maybe someone's tapping powers away to make gadgets. It would explain how random the powers are. I mean, colouring gloves?"

"So it was an attempt to steal our abilities?" said Steve.

"Makes sense. But if it works by any kind of sensible rules, it's got a maximum capacity. Too much, and it'll blow."

"And redistribute the powers randomly."

"That's my best guess so far."

"So... we're looking for people who've lost powers?"

"Mutants, probably. Low powered ones, probably recently manifested." Tony frowned. "In fact, the kind of people likely to be runaways, and live in places like the docks... just like Wolverine said. Emma - "

"Yes, Tony, I'm sure I can find you some contacts. And what will you do with them? I don't want you descending on them like - "

"We just want to fix this, Emma." He gave her the smile that usually charmed, but she just wrinkled her nose at him. "I promise, no trouble. We'll send Luke, how's that? He may not be a mutant, but he knows how to handle that kind of kid."


"Luke Cage?" she made a little face. "He's hardly noted for his light touch."


"I'll go too," said Steve. Emma gave him a considering look, then nodded.


"All right."


Jessica checked her bag, her gun and her hair, then turned to Cap.


"All right?" she said, and he looked her up and down with grave attention.


"You look very professional," he said, and she grinned.


"You smooth talker, you. You're looking pretty snappy yourself. Do you have to polish that whole costume, or just the boots?"


"This is my best set of leathers, I keep them for nice," he said, as they strolled down the street. "Sometimes I need to look impressive."


"I'm sure it's a constant struggle," she said and batted her eyelashes at him. He didn't smile, but she could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. "Nice neighbourhood, this."


"You certainly take me to nicer places than Luke does." Cap shook his head. "Some of the places those kids are living - it's appalling. We should do more for them, but there's always..." he shrugged.


"Well, at least this kid got out."


"I suppose so. Did you have any trouble getting the details?"


"Not at all. It's not exactly top secret; his parents reported him as a runaway, so they were concerned at least."

"I don't understand how any parent-" Steve cut himself off and glanced at her; she could feel her jaw tightening, and made a conscious effort to relax it.

"That's because you're a good guy, Cap," she said, and turned down the path of the house they were going to.

The kid's fine. He's home. He's powerless, as far as they can tell. His parents are cagey at first, but it's hard to resist Captain America, in your front room, directing the full force of his personality at you. Jessica's used to him, she's seen him drinking milk at breakfast and crashed out on the couch watching TV with Tony, but still, it's hard to look away from him when he's speaking with such soft intensity, a line of concern between his eyebrows. He'd put his cowl down as soon as they'd sat down, and began to talk earnestly about the lives young mutants lead and the trouble they can get into, how fortunate the boy is to be back with parents who love him - he skates just close enough to the topic of mutant hate to make the mother flush and the father look away - and before long he has them eating out of his hand. The kid's not much harder to win over.

"He said he could take what I had away. I didn't want it." He's short and scruffy and has a wary look; Jessica's seen it before, in kids who live on the street.

"How did you find him?"

"Talk." The boy shrugged. "He'd heard of me. I -" he looked down at his hands. "I stole food. A couple of times. A security guard tried to stop me - I froze him in place and ran."

"Some people would have used that power a lot," said Cap, gentle tone, and the boy shook his head.

"I thought - I thought maybe I could freeze people, take their money. But really, I was too scared." He shrugged. "I probably would have, eventually. But then someone told me. That there was a guy who could help me. That he could fix me."

"What was his name?"

"I don't know. I didn't meet him. The man I did meet, his name was Mark."

"That the only name you have for him?"



"So you went down to the docks."


"Yeah. I went and waited in a room; there was some kind of machine there. I waited half an hour, like they said, and it just - went. I left the money like they said." He looked guilty; Cap didn't ask where he'd got the money.


"We have some software we use for building composite pictures- " Jessica was already opening her bag. She moved to sit beside the kid, set the computer on her knee, and began taking him through screen after screen of features, making a composite face, while Cap took the parents into the kitchen. Jessica could hear him, she could follow the conversation and run the program at the same time, and listening to Cap explain to them the kind of thing that can happen to kids on their own made her heart twist. The mother cried when he described the place the kids were living in, the fates some of them meet. He tells them that they're not sure if the powers are gone forever, and he gives them a card. 

They sounded sorry. Jessica hoped it would be enough for when things started freezing under the kid's hands again.


The penthouse was weirdly still, a muffling kind of quietness that soaked up the noise of Peter's footsteps. He wished, briefly, for his spider-sense before edging round the corner. Jessica Jones sat on the floor cross-legged, with Emma Frost crouched behind her, hands on Jess's temples. They were still as statues. 

"So, I guess that this is where we find out Emma is mind controlling Jess?" he asked brightly, and Emma managed to roll her eyes at him without even opening them, which was impressive. Jess opened her eyes and smiled at him, and the oppressive silence eased.

"Emma's checking my mental blocks," she said. "It's been a while since she put them in; it helps to have them updated every so often." 

"Like anti-virus software," said Peter.

"Close enough," said Emma, a faint echoing quality in her voice.

"Makes sense, I guess." He reached for his camera. 

"Can I take a few shots? I know you're not Avengers, but..." 

"Peter, I'm a mess," Jessica said. 

"You look pretty," Peter said, and it was true. She looked more relaxed than Peter had ever seen her, and her soft smile and loose brown hair looked all the more appealing next to Emma's stark blonde loveliness. Emma's cool intensity and Jess's softness - he lifted the camera, and took a few shots.  

"It also helps if there's some tailoring, now Jessica is pregnant. Shielding for two, and all," said Emma.

"Isn't that dangerous?" said Peter. 

"I'm not touching the baby's mind," Emma said. "Yes, that would be dangerous." 

"Can you hear it?" 

"Somewhat. It's still - it's still something of an extension of Jessica's mind at the moment, as its body is an extension of hers. I can get general sense from it - contentness, discomfort. Nothing very profound. Mild curiosity, when new things happen." 

"Is it happy?" said Jess quietly, and Emma smiled, a surprisingly tender curve of her painted silver lips. 

"Content. It's warm, and comfortable. What else is there?"

"That's a very profound philosophical statement," said Peter. "That's how Logan..." he trailed off. 

"Yes, well, Logan isn't a deep thinker." 

"He'll be fine, Peter," said Jessica. 

"Sure he will. That's what he does. And he's the best there is at what he does, right?" 

"Assuming what is does is annoy me, yes, he's an expert." Emma said. "Even when getting blood-poisoning and being frozen, he still inconveniences me severely." 

"Why did you come?" said Peter. "I mean, not that you're not welcome and all, always a pleasure to have a beautiful woman in the penthouse -" Emma's eyes slitted open, and Peter faltered. "I just wondered." 

"Logan's one of us. If mutants don't take care of each other - " she shrugged.  

"We're - the Avengers are taking care of Logan." 

"I will concede that Tony is remarkably free of anti-mutant prejudice, and the good Captain is too. Even after the incidents with Ms Maximoff, they have been entirely reasonable about mutants. They are, however, in the minority." She gave a small tight smile. "And really, I suppose if you have Spider-Man on your team, a mutant isn't going to make things much worse."

Peter bit back a sharp response. He could tell when he was being baited, mostly. He looked up at the sound of footsteps; Tony was at the door.

"Having a photoshoot?" 

"Something like that."

"Well, we're having an Avengers meeting shortly, so..." Tony raised his eyebrows meaningfully and sat down opposite Emma and Jess.

"I'll get out of your way," Peter said, catching on, and went to put on his costume. When he heard the lift go, he scurried to join Cap and Jessica as they headed into the main room. He managed to get right in Cap's way as they both tried to sit on the couch, and Peter ended up almost sitting down in Tony's lap. Cap actually picked him up, ignoring his squawk of protest, and put him firmly down on the other end of the couch, sitting in between the two of them. 

Luke was already there, sat next to Jessica and eyeing Emma with vague suspicion. Emma was giving him a positively shark-like grin in return.

"Cap and I have a solid identification of this person," Jessica said. "Luke and Tony ran the guy; his real name is Mark Duchamp, and he's a petty criminal. Works as a runner for various smalltime crooks."

"So he's not likely to be anyone important himself," said Peter, and Cap nodded.

"We're going to have to try and get him to tell us who he's working for," he said, and Jessica shook her head. 

"Unfortunately, he's the reliable type. He knows full well his value lies in keeping his mouth shut, and as we have no proof he's done anything illegal - hell, he might not have. What's the legal position on stealing superpowers?" She shrugged. "Anyway, we're unlikely to be able to sweat it out of him, and he's not the type to be impressed by heroes. We might be able to buy him off, but I'd rather save that for a last resort."

"So?" said Tony. 

"So, I'm going to go looking for him. After having the Avengers go through the old location, he's unlikely to be still be working out of there; but there's only so many places he can be trawling for mutants. The place isn't exactly crawling with them, you know?"

"And when you find him?"

"Then we'll send someone in trying to buy the services he's selling. You'd be best, if you weren't so recognizable - the rest of us don't have particularly obvious powers. Or Cap. Mine - the Serum - doesn't show at all, it's not fair to ask Spider-Man to risk his identity, and the Extremis is hard to explain. We can decide the details closer to the time, though."

"What about tracking it the other way? What did the graffiti artist say?"

"Same as the others; man in a bar. We put a bit of pressure on him, but he wouldn't talk." Jessica glanced at Luke, who looked back blandly. "He did say they approached him and offered him the gloves. He didn't commission them or anything."


"Another piece of evidence for the power-tapping theory, anyway," said Tony.


"See, only Wolverine's got a true mutant power. If whatever it was was designed to take mutant powers, that explains why it took his healing and left the adamantium. Being magic, not technology, it tried to adapt itself to all the other powers, and failed, and blew up." Tony nodded. "Technology; better than magic."

"I've never seen Dr Strange have a blue screen of death," said Luke, and Tony made a face at him.

"Sh, I'm doing science."

"Hey -" Luke frowned. "Should Cap be dangling from a helicopter half a mile up?"

"What?" Tony put out a hand to the laptop, but it flickered under Luke's glare and began running footage of Cap, swaying precariously by a fine webline, tiny in the sky.  "Get Sentry. I'll take the jet," and they both ran.


"Luke?" Pre-flight only took a couple of minutes, but he could feel the pound of his heart as he ran through the checks. "Can you hear me? What's happening?"


"I hear you." The voice was distorted through the computers, not like Luke's at all. "Some kind of bank robbery. Cap chased them up to the top of the building and then hooked on with a webline - he was webbing onto buildings and dragging them down, but they're getting out of range now. At that height, he'll splash if he falls."


"He's got the webs."


"I don't know a whole hell of a lot about Pete's webs, but the Extremis is showing me some very scary diagrams, that's all I'm saying."




"Mrs Reynolds is talking to him. He's not looking well."


The Quinjet finally fired to life; Luke had thoughtfully assigned part of Extremis to relaying Steve's location to the jet, and Tony turned the jet towards it.

Tony caught his breath in relief as Steve appeared on the screens, clinging to the bottom of the copter, now, dodging the man leaning out of it. He had a gun, and - oh shit - Tony put the jet into an intercept course as he had the thought, and a few seconds before the idiot put a load of bullets into the tail of the copter.  They were about two miles up; if Steve fell - Peter would be able to make a parachute out of webbing, but he doubted Steve would. If Tony could manoeuvre the jet under the copter - he wished, desperately, he'd taken the time to get one of the older suits of armour up to scratch. It would have been easy in armour, it would have been easy to fly this damn jet with the Extremis - the helicopter bucked and lurched, and Steve was - he was webbing himself to the helicopter, somehow, tangling line after line around its body, dodging the rotors and paying no attention to the men inside, who had at least stopped shooting at him.


Tony pulled the jet in a tight circle, manoeuvring as delicately as he could. The helicopter was going down, no doubt, and he couldn't risk it fouling the jet; a crashing helicopter in the city would be bad enough, but the Quinjet would take out a city block. But if he stayed close enough -

Steve launched himself from the helicopter in the general direction of the jet, trailing ropes of web. Tony put the jet into a dive, aiming to intercept, praying that Steve would be able to catch a grip-

Steve was too small and fast to pick up on the radar, he had to guess, and hope he didn't ram into him-


The helicopter plunged past him, too close, and then the Quinjet lurched horrendously. For a horrifying second, he thought the wing was gone, and then as lights flashed all over the cockpit, he realised that the helicopter was dangling from the jet, which meant Steve must been wrapping the jet in web, and - an alarm beeped - that was not going to be good for the jet's structural integrity -


The helicopter hung about fifteen metres below the jet. There was - he scanned the area quickly - a helicopter pad, that would do nicely - and on a building not made entirely from glass, too. He brought the Quinjet in at a sidling, lurching crawl, dropping low so the copter bumped up against the side of building, and let the Quinjet down onto the pad. Bank robbers now dangling in a bag on the side of the building. They could get out, of course, if they dared  - shoot through the windows, take hostages - he hit the door release, and Steve appeared, flipping neatly in through the hatch.


"Sentry's got it," he announced, bright unconcerned smile. "Nice piloting, there."


Tony closed his eyes briefly, the sight of Steve alive and in one piece a punch of relief. There had been that terrible moment when he thought they were all going down in flames - He hit the hatch closed, shook his head.

"You're getting handy with the webs." He turned to head back to the pilot's chair, and Steve caught his arm. 

"Tony," he said, soft, and kissed him. His skin was cold from the wind, but his tongue was warm as it traced over the seam of Tony's lips. Tony opened his mouth almost automatically; Steve. Big hands holding his head, thumbs stroking along his cheekbones, a passionate open-mouthed kiss that had nothing tentative about it.

He was - he'd been fighting bank robbers, they hadn't been using gas or drugs, Steve had seemed perfectly normal right up to the moment he'd kissed Tony, so that was okay, it was fine. He grabbed Steve's shoulders, digging his fingers into the scales, and kissed him back.

Steve groaned and pulled him close, pressed his hips against Tony's. He was hard already, Tony had noticed before that sometimes he had a bulge after fights; not that he looked, not really, but Steve's pants were tight- Tony was already unbuckling Steve's belt, he didn't need any encouragement, although Steve gave him plenty, rough wet kisses broken off with groans as Tony's hands got to work. Gentle strokes, just teasing, his other hand pushing at Steve's pants, trying to get them down over his hips. 

"Tony, God," Steve panted, and grabbed for his ass, then got handfuls of his shirt and tugged, trying to find a way in. Tony abandoned his struggle with the leather pants and let Steve drag his shirt off, and then Steve yanked his jeans down with some force, making him yelp.

"Careful, I have to put those back - ahhh." Steve squeezed his cock once, hard, and then pushed him back down onto the nearest seat, straddled him, grabbing both their cocks in one big gloved hand, and the sight of the red leather against his bare skin was almost enough to set him off. Steve stroked them, awkward, got his mouth back on Tony's, and Tony put a hand down to help, clumsy and ridiculous, but good, so good, and after a few moments they settled into a rhythm, hands moving together. He wrapped his other arm around Steve's neck, Steve's mail and leather cool against his skin, and opening his eyes, looking down at the blue leather and flushed skin and red glove - he tightened his hand, grunted, and the sight of the white smears across Captain America's stripes was incredibly hot and vaguely sacrilegious.

Tony whined as Steve squeezed harder on his softening cock; and then he came, dropping his head to Tony's shoulder, a shudder going through him. He loosened his grip, and then slid off Tony's lap to the floor between his legs, pushing his head into Tony's hip. Tony put a hand on his head and stared down at him, trying to get his brain to function properly. Steve was still wearing his cowl, even. After a minute Steve looked up at him, an absurdly sheepish expression on his face, and Tony started to snicker. Steve turned his face into Tony's thigh, and laughed softly, his breath puffing against Tony's skin. 

"Okay, that was - okay." Steve shook his head. "Should I say sorry?" He peeked up at Tony again, and Tony grinned down at him.

"No, I think I'm good." He shook his head. "I can't believe -" he trailed off, put a hand to his head. Years of looking at Steve like he'd look at a bottle of whisky; eminently desirable, but not for him; and Steve just jumped him in the Quinjet. Steve turned his head, kissed Tony's hand, and Tony's grin widened. Even if it never happened again, this was going pretty high up on the favourite memories list. In his costume, too - 

Steve was staring at his groin, scowling.

"What are you looking at?" he said, rubbing his hand down Steve's neck, and Steve spread a hand over his hip.

"Who did this?" he said, no trace of laughter in his voice now, and Tony looked down to see the handprint-bruise Logan had left, now dull greens and purples.

"Oh... Logan. He was acting sort of freaky just before he collapsed."

"He hurt you," and the anger in Steve's voice sent a little spark of smug pleasure through him.

"He - probably forgot about the strength. It's not serious." A noise from the communicator sounded, and he disentangled himself and staggered to the console, holding his jeans up with one hand.


"You got Cap?"

"Yeah, I got him."

"That was a crazy trick with the webs, there. He's lucky he didn't crush the jet, and that is my professional opinion. Sentry's got the copter, it's all good."

Steve made a relieved noise from just behind him.

"That's something. I can't believe that guy was dumb enough to shoot up his own helicopter." He slipped an arm round Tony's waist. "Hey."

"Hey," said Tony, and when he turned his head, Steve's mouth found his, a careful exploratory kiss, nothing like the previous ones. He leaned into it for a moment before wriggling away. "I prefer to have clothes on in public, so -"

"You're so boring sometimes," said Steve, and grinned. "Kiss me again-" Tony couldn't resist. Steve was getting hard again already, god. Not that he wouldn't - but the others were expecting them. Maybe when they got back to the Tower - he pulled away, and went for his clothes.



Tony tapped away industriously at the laptop, but most of his attention was on the window in the top right hand corner of the screen, giving him a live feed from the security camera over his head. He could see Steve watching him, smiling. He turned in his seat, and Cap was staring into his book, apparently absorbed. He turned back to the laptop, and after a moment Steve's head came up and turned in Tony's direction again. Tony grinned. Steve hadn't turned a page in the last half hour. He was considering how best to lure Steve somewhere more private, when he heard Luke's heavy tread, and filed the idea away for later, closing down the camera feed.

"Luke?" he called, and Luke appeared in the doorway. "You got a minute?"

"Maybe," he said. "It going to hurt?"

"Well, it might get you back in action," Tony said, and Luke's eyes brightened.

"Yeah? What you got in mind?"

"Well, I've been remodelling some of War Machine's stuff - Rhodey's not quite as big as you, but -"

"Oh hell no, you're not putting me in one of those flying tin cans," said Luke. Tony bounced to his feet and caught Luke's arm before he could turn away.

"Come on, Luke, give it a try," he said. "We've got no real air support without the Iron Man. Pete says if we ever try and put him into a jetpack again, he's quitting."

"Stark, come on, I'm no pilot," Luke protested, and Tony scented weakness.

"With the Extremis, you don't need to be. Just try it on, give it a test run," he patted Luke's shoulder. "It'd be good to know we had the option, if something bad hit. If you'd had a suit yesterday, you could have gone after Cap, it would have been much safer. Quicker." Luke stared at him for a moment, then shrugged.

"Not promising anything," he warned, and Tony laughed.

"Trust me," he said, and Luke rolled his eyes as Tony pushed him towards the stairs. He cast one last glance back at Steve before he left, and Steve didn't turn away, meeting his eyes for a long moment before Tony turned his mind to engineering.

Luke grumbled until he saw the armour set up and waiting. Then he went quiet. The armour was huge, imposing, blued steel instead of Tony's red and gold or Rhodey's darkened silver. Luke was six foot six in bare feet; armoured, he'd be a juggernaut.

It wasn't entirely a lie about adapting one of Rhodey's old suits, but the interface was Extremis, of course. The armour would also study how the Extremis works in Luke's system; it'd give Tony something to compare his own results to. It was tailored to Luke's bulk, and it had a small cannon mounted on one shoulder.

"Can you activate the undersuit?"

"Yeah," and gold flowed over his skin. Luke stripped off, and Tony sat down on the couch and began coaching him through flying the armour on and off. When he was reasonably comfortable with that, Tony began checking the joints, getting Luke to stretch and turn, making notes as to where alterations were needed.

"While I have you here, I've got some more searches for you to do; I need you to check out all the metal fittings on those toys and do a search on them. You'll have to get image comparisons up and running, I'll send you instructions, just look for them."


"All of them have the metal pieces on them, even the gloves and necklace; they look mass produced. They had to come from somewhere. They may even have a purpose. If Jessica can't track down this Duchamp, we'll need another lead."

Luke was so tall, Tony had to step on a boot and stretch to check the neck fitting. Luke made a soft noise as Tony leaned in to probe the padding at the collar, and Tony frowned. 

"Does it hurt?"

"...no," said Luke slowly, and Tony looked into his wide dark eyes.

"If it hurts, you need to tell me," he said. "I can't adjust it to fit properly if you don't."

"No, it's fine." Luke looked away, and Tony watched the armour move as Luke fidgeted.

He heard footsteps, and looked up to see Steve at the door. He smiled, and Steve gave him a small tight smile.

"Looking good, Luke."

"Well, it's big." Luke shrugged, the motion magnified by shifting metal. "Feels clumsy."

"You're not normally noted for your astonishing grace and agility," said Tony. "I think you'll find the armour can keep up."

Steve walked close, close enough Tony could hear him breathing, and stared up at Luke. Luke stared back.

"Big gun," said Steve, and Luke nodded and put up a hand to the cannon.

"Yeah, it's like the one War Machine's got. Right, Tony?"

"Yeah, Rhodey likes his guns," said Tony. Right now, his interest in the armour was slipping away. He shot a surreptitious glance at Steve from under his lashes; Steve was staring fixedly at Luke, who avoided his gaze. "You okay, Luke?"

"Yeah. You almost done? Jess'll be back before too long."

"Enough to be going on with." Tony hopped down and smiled. "Take it off, baby." Luke rolled his eyes, and the armour flew away, arranging itself neatly. Tony grinned, tossed his notebook down onto the couch.

"Nicely done." Luke dressed quickly, and didn't bother putting his shoes on, just grabbed them and headed towards the door. "I'll let you know when I've made the adjustments," Tony called after him, and as the door swung shut Steve grabbed him, lifting him almost off his feet with the force of his embrace. He stripped Tony out of his clothes with a concentrated efficiency that verged on roughness, his eyes black with desire. Tony grabbed handfuls of his shirt, tugged encouragingly, but Steve just pulled him close and fastened his mouth on Tony's neck, running his hands down his bare skin, fingers tracing the curve of his spine. Tony rubbed against him, pressed his thigh between Steve's legs, and he growled and bit down.

"That'll leave -" he pushed Steve's head away, and Steve growled again, bit more gently at Tony's fingers. "Don't mark me, not where it shows - " The thought of Steve's marks on his body, being able to see the evidence afterwards - he got his hand between them and squeezed Steve through his jeans, gentle, and Steve arched his back, pushed into him. "Take them off, Steve, let me touch you." He pulled his other hand free of Steve's mouth, went for his belt, but Steve's hands went to his hips and turned him, pushed him down and bent him over the couch. His knees scraped on the concrete floor, but the sound of Steve's zipper stopped his complaint, and Steve pressed in tight behind him, hard and hot. He arched his back, and Steve shifted, ground against him, cock sliding between his buttocks.


"Tony," he said, "God, that feels good, you feel -" his hips rolled again, pressing in, and Tony groaned and wriggled away, grabbing for the scatter of items on the worktop. Steve dragged him back roughly, and Tony yelped in pain as his fingers ground into the bruise Logan had left. Steve stilled, panting, and then stroked gently over his hip. "Sorry, I'm sorry," he muttered, pressing light kisses into the curve of Tony's shoulder. "Are you -"

"I'm fine, it's all right, don't worry about it." Tony tipped his head back for a kiss, and Steve groaned, his grip tightening again as their mouths met.

"Tony," they kissed again, and again, Steve kept breaking off to look at him and then diving back in, arms wrapping round him and pulling his hips back, and the grind and press of him right there - Tony pulled away, flipped open the bottle he'd grabbed, and upended it over his hand. "What - " Steve said, voice dazed.


"It's waterbased and non-toxic," he said, squeezing it onto his fingers. "It'll do -" He reached down between his thighs, pushed two fingers into himself, biting his lip. Steve's hand slid down his arm, touching over him gently, and then Steve pressed two of his own fingers in, stretching him wide, and Tony caught his breath. "Oh - wait, wait," Steve bit at his neck again, low down, it probably wouldn't show - Tony smeared more lube on his fingers, on Steve's, and he used the slickness to push in deeper. Pressure and heat, it'd been a long time since he'd done this, and right now he couldn't think why he hadn't been doing this all the time, preferably with Steve. He edged his legs further apart, and Steve got another finger in, God that was - that was full. Tony pulled out, let Steve's fingers work deep into him.  He grabbed for Steve's cock and stroked him slick and fast, and Steve groaned. 


"Can I - you're ready, right?" desperate, Steve's so hard in his hand.


"Yes, yes, I'm ready," Tony said, and Steve let his fingers slip free and pushed Tony down again. He thrust in too fast, and Tony clawed at the cushions, choking on nothing, on the feel of it, of him, dazzling and intense. Steve leaned over him, kissed him between the shoulder blades, on the nape of his neck.

"You're still dressed," he said weakly, trying for an indignant tone, and Steve made an apologetic noise. He rubbed his cheek against Tony's shoulder, grabbed his hands and laced their fingers together.


"Tony," he breathed, slow and deep, and Tony shuddered.


"Steve," he said, and all the urgency had drained away, Steve's body pressed along the length of his, covering him, filling him. Steve rolled his hips slowly and then began to move, shallow pushes, their bodies barely separating, so he could feel Steve's breath on his skin, and his heartbeat slowing to normal as they moved together. Tony pulled Steve's hands to his lips, kissed them, and Steve nuzzled his neck and squeezed his hands. 

"You feel so good," he said, and Tony felt like purring at the warmth in his voice. He pushed back into Steve, meeting his thrusts, and Steve groaned. "Fuck, Tony, that's good." He let go of Tony's hands, stroked down his sides and took gentle hold of his hips, pulling them closer together, grinding in hard, and Tony wriggled and got a hand to his cock, but it was awkward, and he couldn't get the pace he needed. He groaned, and Steve wrapped an arm round his waist and tugged. They settled with Tony in Steve's lap, and he caught he breath as his weight forced Steve even deeper inside him.

"Is that-"

"It's fine, it's fine." Tony grabbed Steve's hand and wrapped it round his cock and Steve stroked him slow and gentle. Tony braced his hands on the edge of the couch, clenched down on Steve's cock. "Faster," he said breathlessly, and Steve obeyed, tightening his grip, making Tony writhe against him, moan. "Yes, yes, don't stop," heat blooming in his body and he spilled over Steve's hand, groaning softly. He let himself droop forward, rested his head in his arms, and Steve ran big hands up his back and ruffled his hair.

"All right?" he said, and Tony nodded. 

"Mmm." He shifted his hips, and Steve caught his breath. "What do you want?"


"Stay there," Steve said, and started fucking him, slow at first. Tony moaned as his body tried to respond, too soon, and Steve hesitated, rubbing a hand over his back; Tony wriggled encouragingly, and he carried on, dropping his head to nip at Tony's neck. It felt good, just to feel Steve moving inside him, hot breath on his neck, big warm hands spread over his hips, holding him steady for Steve. "So - Tony, God," Steve said, and Tony arched his back, turned his head so he could rub his cheek against Steve's. Steve kissed his cheek, twisted awkwardly so he could reach his mouth, barely a kiss, just a clumsy rub of their lips together, but Tony put a hand back and grabbed his hair and held him so they could kiss again, deeper. Steve ran a hand over his body, belly to neck, making Tony shudder. "You like this? Tell me it's good."


"Yeah, it's good." What a stupid question. Tony splayed his thighs wider, invitingly, and Steve sped his pace. "I love it, love feeling you, God it's good, I want - don't stop - " Steve was growling, biting at his neck, gripping Tony's shoulders and pulling him back, slamming their bodies together, force that made him shake. He wanted - he wanted to come again, this was too good, he needed  - "God, love this, love you, don't stop don't stop -" and Steve bit down hard, then, and panted into Tony's ear. 


"Mine," and Tony shivered and tried to push back, but Steve was already as deep as he could be, there wasn't any more. "Mine, say it, say it, Tony - " 


"Yours," Tony choked out. "Yours, yes, come on Steve, come in me - " Steve obeyed, coming with a desperate noise, and Tony moaned at the wet slide of Steve inside him. 

They ended sprawled on the concrete floor, panting. Tony's knees felt raw, and his shoulders were aching, but that didn't seem important when Steve pulled him up onto the couch, into his lap.

"We going to talk about this?" he said, as Steve nuzzled into his collarbone.

"If you want; do we need to?" Steve said, and Tony shrugged.

"Are we going to do this again?"

"Give me ten minutes," and Steve kissed him again, deep, and Tony moaned.

"That wasn't - okay, yeah."






Peter hunched lower behind the cereal box as Emma flicked through the photos he had taken. She was, somehow, managing to sneer without moving her face. Perhaps it was a telepathic sneer, and she was simply broadcasting her disdain to the room. Perhaps she did that with all her expressions. Perhaps she did that with her whole appearance; it would explain why she was wearing four inch heels and a minidress at breakfast. Secretly, she was wearing flannel PJs and was using the mind whammy to convince them all otherwise. 

"You used to take pictures of Spider-Man," she said, and Peter nodded, then realised she wasn't looking at him.

"Yes, I was... very lucky. A lot."

"And now you live with the Avengers. And Spider-Man," she mused, fanning herself idly with the sheaf of photographs. "Did he get you the job?"

"He, uh -" Peter darted a frantic glance at Tony, who looked up from the newspaper he was sharing with Cap and gave him a benevolent smile.

"Well, Peter has such experience taking pictures of the superpowered. It's an art, you know. Those are beautiful pictures of you and Jess."

"I like them," said Luke. "Jess will say her hair looks terrible though, I warn you."

"Jess always thinks her hair looks terrible," said Jessica. "It's because she can fly. Once you get used to your hair being this sort of billowing cloud, anything else looks flat and terrible."

"Our powers are hardly in evidence, though," Emma said, ignoring the by-play.

"Oh, I think they are. You look so focused, but serene. Such a sense of authority and power." His smile widened as Emma arched a sceptical brow. The pictures had turned out nicely, though; Emma was very photogenic, and Jess looked adorable, stilled from her usual nervous activity.  

"I see." She dropped the pictures and picked up her coffee. "You should come and take pictures of the X-Men."

"I should," Peter stared at her, "You want me to what?"

"The only time people see pictures of the X-Men or mutants is when something goes wrong. A decent set of publicity photos are something we've needed for a long time. After seeing these, I'd like to see what you could do with the others. At the worst, we have something to send out with our Christmas cards." She showed every sign of being perfectly serious; Peter shot a panicked glance at Tony, whose attention was back on the paper.

"Well, I, I have a job here -" he gestured wildly with the spoon, which promptly flew out of his grip. Logan's reflexes were fast enough, though, and he caught it before it hit the ground. Emma's eyes narrowed slightly at the speed he moved at, and he looked at the spoon to avoid meeting her eyes. Then he blinked. Then he tilted the spoon slightly, focusing his eyes on the distorted reflection. 

Cap and Tony were playing footsie under the table. 

"Are you all right, Peter?" said Emma politely, and he stared up at her. 

"Fine!" He cast an alarmed glance at Cap and Tony, who were, admittedly, looking even more BFF than usual, leaning right into each other's space to read the paper. Which now he thought of it, they hadn't turned the page of in twenty minutes. 

"I'm sure Tony could spare you for a while. The Mansion is set in very beautiful countryside; you could bring dear Mary Jane. We'd pay you appropriately, of course."

"Of course!" What - how long had this been happening? They were awfully close. Did everyone know but him?

"So it's agreed then."

"Agreed. What?" 

"Emma, be nice," said Tony, glancing up. "I need Peter here, taking pictures of my Avengers. Who knows what he could miss if he's in Westchester?"

"I can see you take the matter very seriously." She cast a pointed glance at the mural. "It's a good likeness of you... apart from the beard."

"You'll have to grow it back," said Cap seriously, and Tony grinned at him with what Peter now suspected was a besotted grin.

"I'm not growing my beard back just because you can't remember whether or not I have one."

"It's not my fault. I'm missing the parts of my brain that keep track of important details like that. Jessica has them now; she'd know whether you have a beard or not." Steve looked at Jessica, who looked at Cap.

"No beard there, Captain."

"Well, there you are," said Cap, with the air of one making a killing argument.

"Hey," said Luke suddenly. "Found them!" 

"Found them?" Tony said absently. He was still staring into Cap's eyes. Okay, this had to be recent. Even Peter would have noticed if they'd been this obvious before.

"The metal decals. Got a match."

"Really, where?" That had caught Tony's attention, at least. 

"Yeah. On Etsy."

"Etsy," asked Cap.

"Yeah, some girl selling bags and things, with metal decorations." Cap cast a confused look at Peter, who shrugged.

"It's all teenage girls selling crocheted hairgrips. MJ buys things there all the time."  

"You sure they're the same?" Tony asked, and his phone bleeped. He took it out, and frowned at the screen. "Okay, that's weird. What you got on the seller?"

"I'm emailing her. Gonna pretend to be a teenage girl - you'll back me up that's it's all in the name of fighting crime, right?"



"Get in the armour," snapped Tony and Jessica in unison, and Luke scowled unhappily but wrapped himself in metal. When he flew out, Tony flew beside him, talking urgently.

"The Extremis knows how to fly, it's got all the programming, the armour can almost fly itself, but if you're in danger, override it and fly up, out of range - okay, that's a big thing."

"That's - Spider-Man? What-" Luke said into his comm, and Pete's voice came back.

"I don't know. It came out of the sea, and it won't go back in."

The creature resembled a giant seal, but instead of flippers, it had stumpy legs ending in brutally-clawed paws. It was biting off the heads of streetlamps, and spitting them out, and making raucous noises that Tony presumed were of complaint.

"It's ugly," Luke said finally, and Tony nodded.

"On the bright side, we can tell which end the head is, and where the claws are. Tell the armour; set evasion priorities. Pointer the eyes and mouth, and it'll try to keep you out of the gaze and direct line of the mouth. In case it starts breathing fire or something. Let the armour do as much as it can."

"Right, so what now?"

"Try and drive it to the park," said Spider-Woman. "Cap and Spider-Man have been clearing that way out. Use the repulsors, they're not as harmful - hit that thing with a cannon and we'll be picking sushi out of our hair for weeks."

Repulsors didn't work; the great beast flinched under the impact, but snarled and hunkered down, refusing to shift. When Luke moved too close, it reared up on its hind end and lashed out at him. The armour took efficient evasive action. 

"Is it intelligent?" Luke said, hovering out of range as it peered up at him, turning its pointed head from side to side.

"It's spat out six streetlamps and still hasn't figured out they're not edible. Okay, perhaps we can lure it?" Tony frowned. "If I-" he venomed the creature right in the eyes, and when it flailed blindly, he kicked it hard in the forepaw and dived to the ground. When it lunged after him, making furious guttural noises, he broke into a run and dashed ahead of it down the road. Luke followed overhead; whenever the beast seemed close to scoring a hit, he blasted the paws away. Tony felt uncomfortably exposed without his armour.

They were at the gates of the park when Luke messed up; maybe the beast did something unexpected, or maybe Luke got overconfident, but the repulsor beam caught Tony's shoulder, sending him tumbling. Big teeth clacked together uncomfortably close as he rolled and scrabbled, and then the creature lurched forward with a howl, and Tony was under it, clawing sideways to get out from under its bulk before it rolled on to him.

Wet sound of impact on his back; he relaxed, and the weblines yanked him clear with time to spare. Luke was apparently trying to punch it into submission, he noted as Steve set him on his feet, and - okay, that was a little fonder than Steve should be getting in public, hands slipping over him more intimately than checking for injuries justified. 

"Monster eating New York?" he reminded him a little breathlessly, and batted Steve's hands away and took off. Punching the beast seemed to be having about as much effect as the repulsor blasts; it flailed and rolled and tried to scrape Luke off its back, and that had to be the Extremis controlling the armour, because it was doing something reminiscent of an Irish jig to stay aboard while Luke threw increasingly wild punches.

"Luke! We need it over here!" Spider-Woman waved them further into the park, and Luke took off and joined Tony in the sky. Steve had taken over luring duties, and bounced easily away from the monster's swiping claws. Spider-Man waited for them further into the park; when they reached him, Steve swung up on to the creature's back and began firing webs at the surrounding trees while Spider-Man distracted the creature.

"Are you sure he's okay, Jess?" said Luke.

"Oh, sure. He's only taking minor injuries."

"Help!" yelled Spider-Man, and Luke dived in to retrieve him, emerging from the creature's maw with Spider-Man wrapped round him like a creeper. "It smells of rotting fish in there," he confided. "I thought I was going to die."

"I thought you were being chewed up!"

"Well, that too."

"I told you he was fine," said Spider-Woman. "But it looks like Cap's got it under control."

"That's a lot of webbing," said Luke, and Tony nodded. Steve kicked at one of the web cables, and then hopped down. The creature made a noise that sounded like an unhappy horn section, and put its head down on the ground. Tony drifted closer, and Steve looked up and smiled.

"It should hold it long enough for it to be chained up," Spider-Woman said. "They're going to airlift it out to sea and release it. Apparently they're endangered - good thing you didn't use the cannon." Tony nodded vaguely. Steve's intentions were blatant in his eyes, they way he was looking Tony up and down; Tony flew closer, and grinned at him.

"Meet you back at the Tower?" he invited, and darted off; the familiar zing of the weblines followed him, and while Steve wasn't as fast as he was, Tony was only just in his bedroom when he heard Steve's step in the hallway. Steve hardly let him shut the door before he was all over him, wrestling his clothes off, pressing kisses to whichever parts of Tony he could reach.

Tony was determined, this time, that they'd both get naked; he got Steve's belt undone and his pants peeled half way down his thighs, and while Steve struggled with them, sweat soaked leather not being the most co-operative of materials, Tony dragged the mail over his head and trapped his arms in it. While Steve tried to disentangle himself, he got handfuls of warm skin and hard muscle and proceeded to thoroughly grope all the interesting parts of Steve he hadn't had a chance to explore properly yet. By the time Steve had wrenched himself free of the mail, he was flushed and still giggling from the ticklish spots Tony had discovered on his ribs. 

The light of revenge in his eyes faded when Tony dropped to his knees and mouthed at his cock, and he put out a hand to steady himself against the wall as Tony left biting kisses on his belly, just above the patch of blond hair. When Tony tugged at his pants, he kicked out of his boots and peeled them off obediently, standing docile while Tony ran his hands over the clean powerful lines of his thighs and calves. Tony got a firm grip on the backs of Steve's thighs, and then stood up. He picked Steve right up off his feet, and Steve laughed; then he wrapped his legs around Tony's waist as Tony pinned him back against the wall and leaned in for a kiss. 

"I'd forgotten how strong you are now," he said, softly, and Tony made a happy noise of agreement and slid one hand round the curve of Steve's ass - he really did have a fantastic ass - and gently eased a finger inside of him. Steve's eyes widened comically at the invasion, but he rocked his hips invitingly.

"That feels -" he arched his back, wriggling. "Oh, oh yes." His breathing was already stuttering, eyes sliding shut. Tony shoved gently at his thigh.

"Let go a second, I have to get some stuff."

"Don't stop -" Steve sounded almost panicked, legs gripping tighter, hands closing on Tony's biceps; Tony couldn't refuse, got another finger in, worked them deeper and it had to hurt a bit, Steve winced even as he tried to push down. Tony kissed him again, muttered vague reassuring nonsense as Steve squirmed on his fingers, moaning.

"Steve," he murmured against his lips, feeling his panting breaths, "Let me get the lube so I can fuck you." He let his fingers slip out and Steve whimpered, thigh muscles tensing, and then he let go with one hand and fired webbing over Tony's shoulder. There was a crash behind that Tony suspected was the nightstand falling over, and then Steve untangled a handful of objects, dropping most of them, popping off the cap of the lubricant. Tony held up his hand, and Steve dumped most of the bottle onto it.

Much easier, Steve opening for him with helpless cries, no trace of pain in his ecstatic expression. He was hot inside, and Tony could feel his pulse, faster than his frantic breaths. When Tony pulled his fingers out, Steve grabbed at his shoulders.

"No, no, please, I need-"

"It's all right, it's all right, I've got it." Tony gripped Steve's ass and tilted their bodies together, and Steve caught on, gripped the wall with his fingertips and arched his back, spreading his thighs wider, heels digging in to Tony's ass.

Steve was tight, he was really tight, and this probably wasn't the best position to pick, and he should have spent more time getting him ready. Tony really didn't want to hurt him, but he couldn't slow down and Steve was begging for it, almost incoherent with need. As deep in as he could get, he managed to stop, to give Steve time to adjust, but he was shaking and he knew his hands were gripping too tight, fingers digging in hard. Steve didn't help at all, tried to pull Tony deeper, high, breathy noises escaping him like he couldn't get the air to moan. 

"Okay?" he said, and Steve nodded, staring at him with glazed eyes.

"Please," he said, and swallowed, squeezing his eyes shut. "Please."

"Please what?" said Tony, letting his hips roll a little, and Steve let his head fall back against the wall with a thump. His cock was hard, lying against his belly, leaving smears of fluid.

"Tony," he said, pleading. His muscles tensed, and he used his grip on the wall to lift himself a little, drop back onto Tony's cock. "Tony-" his lips kept moving, but no sound came out, and he shook his head desperately.

Tony kissed him, licking at his bitten lips, and started to rock into him, gentle and slow. Steve let out a panting cry, bucking his hips, and Tony adjusted his grip to hold him steady, and thrust in more forcefully. 

"Yes, yes." Steve muttered. "Harder, God, Tony." No signs of pain or even discomfort; Tony braced his legs and started doing him hard, driving moans from him, Steve's body writhing as he tried to pull Tony tighter against him.

Neither of them had a hand to spare for his cock, but the way he cried out and tightened inside, he didn't need it, he was going to get off any minute just from Tony's cock. Tony let his grip slip, moved his hands up to Steve's hips and pulled him down hard and Steve came, voice choking off into silence as his hips squirmed against Tony's.


The feel of him, the sight, brought Tony right to the edge, and he pushed in rough and fast and muttered some extremely ill-advised and possessive things in Steve's ear, things that made him moan and cling. When his knees buckled he only just managed to lower them to the floor instead of falling over.

Steve was breathing like he'd just run a race, ragged and harsh, and he buried his face in Tony's neck and clung. Tony rubbed at his back gently, unable to suppress what had to be a stupid, dopey grin, until Steve pulled away from him. He made a startled noise as Tony's cock slipped free, and then blushed.

"Uh, ow." He straightened out his legs, and winced. Tony laid a hand on his hip.

"Sorry, I - are you okay?"

"Yeah, yes, I'm fine. Just a bit - believe me, it was worth it. " He was still blushing, but he was grinning now too, and he leaned in to kiss Tony. "That was -"

"That was incredible," said Tony. "Seriously." He grabbed a handful of Steve's hair, kissed him deeply, and Steve sighed with pleasure, ran his hands over Tony's shoulders.

"You're so - we should have done this years ago, Tony," and that sent a shudder through him.

"Hey, I have a bed in here," he said, and pushed at Steve's shoulder until he got to his feet. Steve limped slightly as he crossed the room, and Tony grabbed the lube and slicked his fingers again as Steve lay down. "Roll over, will you?"

"Uh - " Steve gave him a wary look, but rolled over obediently. "I'm not sure -"

"It's okay, said Tony, "I'm just checking you're not, uh, that you're okay," and he slid a finger in. He felt around cautiously, slick heat and no signs of damage, but Steve made a small sound. "Are you all right? Did that hurt?" He touched again, cautiously, and Steve groaned more loudly and rolled his hips. Tony looked up to see a blush spilling over the back of his neck. "Oh," he said, amused, and rubbed slowly. Steve pushed back against him, and Tony slipped a hand under him, gripping his cock, stroking it back to hardness. He could see the red marks on Steve's ass that would be bruises tomorrow, from where his fingers had dug in, and that was, well, he was going to have to check them out tomorrow. Steve moaned encouragement and rocked between Tony's hands until Tony reluctantly slid his finger out.

"Don't stop," said Steve, wriggling, and that was an enticing sight, but Tony rolled him onto his back and leaned in to kiss him.

"If I fuck you again," he said, "You won't be able to walk tomorrow, and you can explain why to the rest of the team."

"Okay," said Steve, eyes hazy with desire, and Tony shook his head.

"And people say I'm led around by my dick. No. How about a blowjob instead?" Steve considered that, and nodded. Tony settled himself comfortably between Steve's legs, and nuzzled in to the damp skin; he smelled of leather and sweat and come, which probably shouldn't have been as sexy as Tony found it. Steve's hand slipped into his hair, stroking, and he looked up to see Steve smiling down at him, a blissed out grin that made him feel warm inside.




"All right." Jessica tapped her pen on the table in what she hoped was a professional manner, although considering Peter had his feet propped on the table she wasn't sure why she bothered. "We've got an ID on the man who bought those insignia; it's the only place in town we can find that sells them, and he remembered selling a large order. Luke checked with Extremis and the manufacturers didn't sell any bulk orders direct to customers in the city. The good thing is, it's not Mark Duchamp; it's a man called Joseph Andreas. He's a career criminal; not big time, but he's been known to run small gangs. He runs in the same circles as Duchamp, though there's no previous association between them."


"Looks good. We're certain of the ID?" said Tony. 


"As certain as we can be; I took Emma along, and she picked up a clear image of the guy that matches the mugshots Luke retrieved."


"I'm not sure we should be resorting to invading people's minds at this stage," said Cap, and Jessica shrugged.


"Well, it's too late now. You can go and lecture her if you want, but I doubt it'll have much effect; she's more worried about Logan than you'd think." Not that a lecture, even from Captain America, was likely to have much effect on Emma Frost. 


"So what are we going to do?" said Peter

"Between Luke and I, we've managed to assemble a reasonable amount of detail. We've got Andreas' apartment address, but Duchamp is living from motel to motel, so he's hard to keep tabs on. I've picked up some gossip; there's a small group of them, and they fence stolen goods as well as whatever it is they're doing with mutants."

"So they can pass off their gadgets as stolen stuff?"

"Looks like it. The mutant thing has to be a sideline, really; there just aren't enough mutants, although if they get a good power, they could make a lot. It could be that they're selling off the less useful ones, keeping the good ones; or they could be selling the better ones to people who won't use them for petty crime. Trying to get in through the fencing end is tricky; we could buy and sell stolen goods for days without coming to the right group. We have to go in through the mutant route. None of us can pass for teenage runaways." Luke snorted with laughter. "Yeah. The most obvious powers belong to Cap and Tony at the moment, but they're also world-famous, which doesn't help with undercover work."


"We could disguise ourselves?" said Tony, doubtfully, and Jessica nodded.


"It's possible. There's plenty of people who don't want to be recognized in Hell's Kitchen, and people won't look too close."


"I'm not sure Steve should go, though - he really is recognizable. Six-foot-two blonds -"


"Are hardly unknown," said Steve. "There are plenty of big guys hanging out in Hell's Kitchen, I can - "


"Steve, your unmasking is one of the most watched pieces of television in the - "


"You're never out of the papers."


"But I'm less physically distinctive."


"You're not going on your own," said Steve flatly, and Tony raised his eyebrows. Jessica could feel the prickle of tension down her spine. She got up and went to the window, away from Tony.


"You know, I am capable of taking care of myself," he said, and Steve glared.


"You're hardly accustomed to trawling bars in Hell's Kitchen," he said.


"Well, not for a while, but back in the day-" he broke off at Steve's annoyed noise, and rubbed at his temples. "Logan's still in the freezer; the days are mounting up. The point is, we have to do something." Jessica saw the muscles bunch in Cap's shoulders as he tensed.  Peter made an odd noise, and Luke tapped his fingers erratically. Jessica could feel her pulse racing. The room was too small, she needed to get out, she needed - oh.

"Tony," said Jessica, and laid a hand on his shoulder. He spun on her, and she flinched. "Calm down. You're losing control."

"I am not losing control - "

"Look at Steve," she snapped, and Tony looked. Steve was gripping chair back so hard the metal was warping under his hand. "It's difficult to control at the best of times -" and she could see the realisation flash across his face?

"Pheromones," he said, and his voice cracked, and the rush of fear was almost choking her when Cap broke and lunged at Tony. Jessica threw herself into Cap's way, tangling them up, tripping him, as Tony bolted. Luke was on his feet, and Peter had his hands locked in his own hair, scowling. She held Cap back for about as long as it took for her to get his full attention, and then he threw her aside and bounded to the door.


He froze in the doorway, looking about, and then his whole body sagged, and he put a hand to his head.


"Shit," he said.




The intercom sounded several several times before Tony finally gave up and opened the channel.


"Tony? Are you all right?" Steve's voice was loaded with worry; he was worried about Tony, like Tony hadn't - he winced.

"I'm sorry, Steve. I really am. I swear, it didn't even occur to me." He tried to control the desperate note in his voice. Steve would forgive him, he always did, but after what he'd done to Steve, it was hardly fair to dump on him.

"Tony, don't - don't beat yourself up over it. Jessica says they're much stronger when she's stressed." 

"Makes sense." Tony had a full report on it somewhere, on the effects of her pheromones, the chemical composition. Hell, he'd seen her use them. He'd been criminally stupid. Maybe literally. 

"Are you stressed now?" Steve said quietly, and Tony sighed.


"Okay. Well." There was a security camera just outside the door; Tony brought up the feed on his computer. Steve sat on the steps, staring at the intercom. 

"The lab's not sealed, Steve, you can probably still -" he trailed off, and saw Steve shrug. Then he looked directly up at the camera, and smiled wryly.

"It never occurred to me about the pheromones; I handle them okay when it's Jessica."

"Well, it's entirely possible they react differently with my body chemistry than with hers. Know any good biochemists?"

"Can I assume from that you've already contacted Hank?"

"Yeah. He's looking into it, but his initial assessment is that the higher levels of testosterone is likely making reactions more - violent."

"Ah. Yes, I remember - in Reed's lab - " he looked down, away from the camera, but Tony could see the pink on the back of his neck. Tony carried the laptop over to the door, and sat down with his back to it. If the door had been open, he could have reached out and touched Steve. He wished he could. If he'd had the Extremis, he could have replayed every time he'd touched Steve, the growl in his voice, the dazed look in his eyes - if he'd had the Extremis, none of this would have happened. He wasn't going to get to touch Steve like that again. It felt almost as bad as the knowledge he'd, that he'd taken advantage of Steve.

"That's probably why Reed and - why Reed was so handsy. And Peter's been more -" Tony sighed. "Awkward." It all made sense in retrospect, really. Logan had never shown the slightest interest in him before, and Reed was hardly in the habit of hugging him.

"Do the pheromones affect you?" And that was the billion dollar question, wasn't it? He could lie, of course; Steve would probably believe him. Would want to believe him.

"No," he said finally, and Steve looked up at the camera again, frowning. "Jessica's don't affect her, and I haven't been feeling - " he stopped. "I haven't been feeling anything out of the ordinary."

"I wasn't the only one affected. Did you- have you-"

"If you're asking if I've been drugging and molesting anyone else, the answer is no," he snapped, then sagged. It wasn't an unreasonable question, considering.  "Just you."

"Tony, don't," Steve said firmly, using the I-am-Captain-America voice. "It's not your fault; at least, not only yours. I should have realised my reactions weren't - well, I've gone quite a while without throwing you up against the wall of the Quinjet. I should have realised something had changed. I guess I just wasn't thinking as much as usual."

"Yeah, well, I should have realised that you were acting strangely. How likely is it you'd suddenly come up with that?" Steve laughed.

"You'd be amazed," he said softly, and Tony strained to hear, wishing for the Extremis. "If I'd realised you'd let me, I think I'd have done it a long time ago." Tony stared at the screen for a long moment, watching the expressions play over Steve's face.

"The pheromones are affecting you," he said, keeping his tone level despite the churning knot of tension, and Steve sighed.

"Okay. Okay, we'll talk when you're feeling calmer." He got to his feet, stretched out his hand and touched the door lightly, as if he knew that Tony was just on the other side. "I'm not angry, Tony. Don't be angry at yourself."







"Sure I knew. I just thought, you know, it was a thing. That they did. I thought maybe everyone knew, and just hadn't told me. That happens all the time." Peter drummed his feet idly on the side of the building. Spider-Woman lay on the roof, staring up at the darkening sky.

"You can't keep that kind of thing secret for long," she said. "Not surrounded by people with enhanced senses; someone would have smelled it on them."

"They were playing footsie at breakfast," said Peter, and Jessica giggled. "It wasn't funny!"

"That's really sort of sweet. Cap is sweet, though. I would date him in a heartbeat, if he wasn't so..." she made an expansive gesture with her hands. "So iconic. It would be like dating the Declaration of Independence, or maybe Mount Rushmore. I'd feel bad about messing it up."

"Yeah, my wife and my great-aunt both have total crushes on him. I'd be jealous, but I kind of have a crush on him too. In a heterosexual way. Mostly. I mean - why do you never interrupt me when I say things like that?"

"They make me laugh. But if you prefer it, stop, Spider-Man, your thoughts alarm me."

"Thanks." Peter stared into space for a moment. "Do you think they're going to be okay? Cap doesn't seem mad."

"I guess it's like a drunken hook-up, it's just going to be awkward for a while. It wasn't like Tony did it on purpose. Cap probably won't be weird about it."

"Tony's totally weird about stuff, though." Peter scowled. "They looked really happy when they were, you know, with the feet." Tony hardly ever looked totally relaxed; the silly grin he'd directed at Steve, and the way Steve had teased him - it really kind of sucked if that was all drugged-up weirdness.


"Well, Luke and Jessica started out with drunken hook-ups and now they're married with a baby on the way."


"That's a terrifying mental image."


"Stranger things have happened."


"I'm talking about them having a baby."


"So am I."


"And I thought my life was pretty weird." He flopped backwards and stared up at the sky, and wished for webs to amuse himself with. "This is so boring. Will they be okay in there together?" 

"Who else could we send? Luke's too well known, you've got a secret identity, and I've been sniffing around here for days. Even if we asked Jess or Emma, women tend to attract the wrong kind of attention in this area."

"Well, Tony'll attract the wrong kind of attention."

"He'll be fine, as long as he stays calm, " Jess said, and Peter propped himself up on one arm, the better to stare at her incredulously.







"This is a really terrible idea," Steve said. 

"I think you kind of suit the hair," offered Tony, and Steve scowled. 

"Well, you look silly in that hat." Steve was apparently determined to be in a bad mood, which didn't really matter; not a lot of bright happy faces in Hell's Kitchen.

"We're probably the most recognizable people in the country," said Tony. "We have to disguise ourselves somehow." 

"I look stupid as a redhead." 

"No, no, you look - well, okay." Steve had his hood up, and was wearing glasses and a false moustache that matched his ginger hair. It reminded Tony of Dum Dum Dugan, which at least made him less attractive. Tony had a beanie pulled well down over his hair and was wearing big sunglasses. Steve shook his head. 

"We look ridiculous." They waited, quietly, Steve picking at the label on his beer bottle and Tony eating peanuts. 

"So," said Steve, and Tony shook his head. 

"This is really not a good time." 

"Right." Steve shifted in his chair a little. "Do you think... it would be good if you could relax a little." 

Tony looked up, and Steve's eyes were half-lidded, dark with desire. Tony swallowed, throat dry. 

"I'll try. Let's - let's talk - " he cast about him for another topic. "So, crawling up buildings! Good, huh?" 

"It's good. How's flying?" 

"Flying's good." Tony drummed his fingers on the table. "Oh, hey, is that our guy?" Steve glanced casually over his shoulder. 

"That's him." They waited, quietly, until Mark Duchamp brought his beer over. He looked from one to the other and slid into the booth beside Tony. 

"Which of you is it?" he said, eyes flicking from Tony to Steve. 

"Me," said Tony. "I have a - I have some kind of - I have enhanced pheromones, and it's very dangerous. I want rid of them." 

"Yeah? Well, we can help with that." He frowned at Tony. "You look a bit old." 

"I've had them for a while, but they've gotten worse. Much worse." Tony shrugged. "I used to be just, you know, persuasive, but people have been acting really crazy." 

"Yeah." The man looked at Tony. Looked him up and down, then flicked a nervous glance at Steve's bulk. Steve was managing to loom effectively for a man sitting perfectly still. "Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem." 

"So..?" Tony said invitingly, and Duchamp looked at Steve again. "Go to the bar," said Tony, and Steve glared at him before he picked up his beer and the bag with his shield in and moved away. "See what I mean about the pheromones?" Tony said, and Duchamp nodded.

"Must be awkward," he said, and Tony nodded.

"You have no idea."

"You sure... sure you want rid of them?" and Duchamp dropped his hand to Tony's thigh. Tony suppressed the urge to bang his head on the table.

"If he sees you doing that, he's going to be very upset," he said instead, and Duchamp's grip tightened a little. "Uh - look, perhaps we could come to some arrangement." And he knows Peter must be laughing himself sick, but really, he's getting very tired of this. "I need them gone."

"Sure, I can fix that. You just have to make it worth my while," and Tony grabbed his hand before it could move any further.

"Not in front of him!" he hissed, and he felt the tension cycling higher inside him. Steve looked back at them, frowning, and then began the walk back to their table. "Shit, he's coming, let go - " He remembered the anger Steve at shown at the bruises Logan had left, and tried to choke back the stress, will himself calm.

"Not a problem," said Duchamp, and someone was trying to block Steve's way, a tall man, and just by the way he was standing Tony was willing to bet he had a gun. "Do you want this done or not?" He leaned forward to block Tony's view, and so neither of them saw exactly what happened.


When Duchamp turned back at the noise, the tall man was sprawled in the wreckage of a table. The occupiers of the table took offence at this; Tony didn't hear what Steve said, but it clearly wasn't conciliatory. 


"Look out!" Duchamp ducked under the table, a little paranoid but then he knew his ally was carrying. Tony got his feet under him, ready to leap, and then Duchamp grabbed his wrist and pulled him down into cover. Too close, and Duchamp was definitely copping a feel, and his surprised yelp caught Steve's attention. Shit.

Steve lunged towards them, and Tony leaped away, hoping to divert his attention. But the first man, the tall one, was on his feet and drawing a gun - Tony darted forward, but Steve's spider-sense must have gone off, because he turned and threw his shield, not exactly aerodynamic in the bag, but at this range, quite enough, and the fight had expanded to take in quite a few people now. They'd be lucky if Daredevil didn't show up to bitch at them.

He had to remember that bullets would hurt him, now. The first priority was taking out the guns - now one had been fired, others were appearing. Duchamp was making for the back door; that was fine.


Steve was distracted defending; Tony could only hope he remembered his enhanced strength would cause far more damage. Tony spotted a gun being drawn, and tackled the wielder, got the gun unloaded, and threw the clip over the bar. He vaulted a table, dived towards the door, but the tall man was on his feet again, he must be tough as hell to take a shield in the face and get up again, and he'd spotted Tony and was taking aim.

The gun tracked towards him, and momentum wouldn't let him turn quickly enough - he was going to get shot, and he felt something spasm in his body. The man blinked and lurched, and didn't shoot. The gun drooped in his hand, and he took a half step towards Tony, close enough for Tony to kick out, crunch his knee, grab the gun. But heads were turning towards him, and he must have been putting out the pheromones hard. Tony measured the distance to the door; he didn't want to hurt any innocent bystanders, such as there were in Hell's Kitchen.

Steve had no such qualms, tearing through the crowd like a bull, laying people out with swings of his shield. He grabbed Tony by the arm and dragged him through the back door of the bar, dragged him into a dingy office, ignoring his protests, and Peter's strength was more than a match for Jessica's when he tried to break free. Steve slammed him up against the wall and kissed him roughly and Tony knew he should think of something, stop this, but Steve's grip was iron and his body was responding to Steve's groping hands. Steve pushed his jeans down with rough, clumsy hands, and then turned him to the wall, shoving up against him. Tony wanted to say no, stop him, because this was going to hurt, but if he said no he didn't think Steve would listen, and he couldn't do that to Steve - he let out a gasp of relief as Steve began to rub against him, cock rubbing in the cleft of his buttocks, the catch of skin on skin awkward, but not painful, and Steve mouthed at his neck and panted in his ear, took Tony's cock in his hand and stroked him. Adrenaline and panic had him coming with in a minute, shaking and moaning, and Steve followed quickly, leaving what was surely going to be a hell of a hickey on Tony's shoulder.

Steve pulled away, leaned against the wall, and didn't look at Tony. He pulled out his comm.


"Got him; she's on his tail now."

"Well, it wasn't a total loss," said Tony tiredly, putting his clothes back in order.

"I'm sorry, I screwed it up," said Steve in dismal tones. "I thought once I knew, I'd be able to control it better."

"What the hell was that?"


"He touched you," and there was a faint growl in Steve's voice. "He touched you, no one - " He broke off. "I'm sorry, Tony, my God. I could've hurt you." Steve caught his arm, drew him close, put a hand to his cheek. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. I'm sorry. I should have stopped you." He tried to pull away, and Steve's grip tightened.

"No, no -" Steve's lips brushed his temple, and he tipped his head back, let Steve kiss him for a moment before breaking away. "You're still doing it," he said.


"Sorry," said Tony. "I don't know how to stop." He took a step towards the door, and Steve grabbed his shoulder before backing away.


"Go out the window," he ordered. "You're not going through the bar smelling like that."


"You can't make me, you're not my real dad," said Tony, and to his relief Steve cracked a smile, shoving him towards the window.


Tony was in the kitchen when Jessica got back to the Tower. She sat down next to him and picked up his coffee, which turned out to be cold. She drank it anyway. Tony closed his laptop and raised his eyebrows.

"We got a break! Followed him back to his motel, and he made a bunch of calls; Luke's nailing down the numbers, and we should have more of the gang. They're not sure what's going on, but we scared them. They're going to hole up for a couple of days; but it's too late."

"Finally. Where are they going?" He didn't seem nearly as excited as she was, and by the nervousness she was feeling, he was fretting.

"After he went to sleep, I got in and got transmitters into a lot of his stuff. We'll just wait til they settle."

"More delay. And now they know we're coming."

"Not for sure. And they don't seem to be expecting the Avengers."


"That's good news, at least. So what, we just wait til they're settled and then go in?"

"Pretty much. I think we'll send in Luke first; he's near indestructible in the armour, and we'll see what they've got."

"Good plan. I can watch through the armour, too, if I bring my laptop; I can do most of the scans remotely, and Luke can concentrate on the enemy." He drummed his fingers idly on top of the computer; he looked very tired. Jessica peeled off her mask, and bumped her shoulder against his.


"Are you all right, Tony?"


"Cap was - "

"I'm fine. It's not his fault."

"No," said Jessica. Tony fiddled with the catch of the laptop.

"Isn't it a dangerous power?" he said finally.

"How so?"

"Well, it - I've been grabbed with enthusiasm a couple of times, and frankly the last thing I wanted in those situations was to be more attractive to men."

"It doesn't work the same way," said Jessica. "Mine tends to calm men down, make them co-operative. You seem to be generating a more violent response." She wrinkled her nose. "I wish you'd calm down. The pheromones are quite alienating towards women.

"How -" Tony shut his mouth with a snap. She saw his jaw muscles tighten, and felt the twinge of unease in her gut.

"Yeah, well, you learn." Jessica forced a smile. "I've been a double, triple agent, Tony, and I have learned to control everything. I've even learned to control my surface thoughts in case there are telepaths observing. Believe me, controlling your physical stress levels can be done."

"It's not really something I've ever had to do."

"Well, you're going to have to. I've got some stuff that'll help, but if you break out like you did in the bar, it'll be a mess. And Cap seems - well, he's obviously attracted to you enough the pheromones make him crazy."

"That's not - is it?" He glanced at her sideways, and she shrugged impatiently.

"Well, Peter and Luke have managed to keep their hands to themselves? Or maybe they're more heterosexual than Cap. Or maybe it's just that they're married. Cap's not cheating on anyone."

"But now he knows, it should be a deterrent."

"I'm really not an expert on how it works. He's always been pretty resistant to my pheromones, more so than Luke or Peter. That might be a Captain America thing - but I've got his powers now, and I find them fairly effective. I was terrified of you yesterday."


"Yeah." She patted him on the shoulder. "Get some sleep, Tony."


He woke up to sunlight; someone had opened the curtains. He stared out into the blue sky for a moment, certain whose weight he could feel on the bed, and then he rolled over before he could start to worry. As expected, Steve lay next to him, on top of the covers, head on the pillow. He looked utterly relaxed, and utterly gorgeous, despite the fact he had the most appalling bedhead. Tony wanted him so badly it hurt a little in his gut. 

"Relax," said Steve, firm. "I want to talk to you when you're not over excited and spewing pheromones."

"Yeah. Well. I'm sorry."

"I'm not," said Steve, and Tony stared at him. "Really. I've been thinking pretty hard about it." He reached out, and wrapped his big hand round Tony's neck, fingertips slipping into his hair, thumb stroking his cheek. Tony turned his head slightly, and he could feel the tender skin of Steve's wrist against his lips. "We've been friends since I woke up, Tony, and you're probably the most important person in my life. I didn't think we could be any closer than we were; I was wrong. And I can't imagine why I didn't see it before. Set in my ways, I suppose; if you were a woman, I would have thought of it years ago. I would have acted on it years ago."

"You're straight." 

"I want you. That makes me... not entirely straight. That's how it works." Steve hesitated. "You know when I said I wanted to talk? That wasn't entirely true." He leaned in, and Tony accepted the slow kiss dumbly, opened his mouth, let Steve explore his mouth slow and careful, no urgency in his light touches.

"What -" he said, and Steve smiled.

"In the workshop. When we- remember you said - that you loved me. In your bedroom, too." Tony closed his eyes, feeling a blush start. It was completely unfair to bring up things said in the heat of the moment, but somehow, he wasn't particularly surprised at Steve doing it. Steve, despite his reputation, fought dirty. He was nuzzling Tony's neck, distracting bites and kisses that were destroying Tony's ability to form thoughts.

"Did you mean it? Because I want that." He sounded certain, no doubt at all. Tony had known Steve for years, maybe knew him better than anyone else in the world, and he knew how Steve sounded when he'd made up his mind. And when Steve made up his mind about something, well, you might as well try and order the tide to stop coming in.

"Pheromones," he said feebly, but reached out for Steve, and Steve wriggled obligingly into his embrace.

"Tony?" he said, and Tony sighed, surrending. 

"I meant it," he said, and Steve growled and rolled him onto his back, kicking away the covers. He settled in between Tony's thighs, and Tony could feel him half hard through his sweatpants, was Steve ever not in the mood? They hugged, tightly, Tony winding his legs round Steve as Steve got a grip on his shoulders, pulled them close and tight.

"You smell funny," said Tony, into his neck, and Steve laughed, hot breath in his ear.

"Jessica has a perfume that helps cancel her pheromones. I brought the bottle for you."

"You - oh. Oh." The slow feel of belief unfurling inside him, the belief that this was real, that Steve wanted this. Wanted him.

"It'll only work on the everyday ones, really, you're still going to have to work on the stress. And for my heart, I'd appreciate you not letting them off in a crowded bar again."

"The guy was going to shoot me," Tony protested.

"Well, in that case, you definitely made the right choice." Steve pulled away far enough to press his lips to Tony's, and Tony squirmed under Steve's weight, rubbing up against him. "I mean it, Tony; I want us to be together."

"I want that too," said Tony, and pulled Steve down for another kiss before either of them embarrassed themselves any further. 

They rubbed lazily against each other, kissing, biting, hips moving in slow rhythm. Tony thought, blissfully, of waking up like this every morning, of Steve's awful morning hair and his warmth, of being able to touch him whenever he liked.

He ran his hands down Steve's back, pulled his shirt out of his sweatpants and stroked over hot smooth skin. Shoved his pants down and grabbed his ass and pressed their hips together hard, and Steve let out a startled gasp and bucked into him, breaking the kiss. He braced his hands either side of Tony's head, arched his back, ground his hips into Tony's. He was trembling already, eyes dark and heavy with want. 

"Tony," he said, and Tony dug his nails in, dragging a startled gasp from him.

"Come on, Steve," he said. "Come on. Go for it." Steve dropped his head, closed his eyes, and Tony could see him trying to pull control together. That was no good; Tony slid his hands over the tense muscles of Steve's ass, pressed his fingers in to stroke the tender patch of skin just behind his balls. Steve grunted, spread his legs, and pushed his cock against Tony's so hard it was almost painful. He was writhing, muscles a smooth ripple as he pressed himself into Tony's touch. Tony slid his fingers up, pushed one just inside Steve, and Steve clenched down on him and came, rubbing himself in the slick mess on Tony's belly for a long moment before his arms gave way and he sprawled down over Tony.


Tony bucked urgently against him, and Steve shoved his thigh between Tony's, pressed up snug for him to rub against. Steve's mouth on his neck, his shoulder. He bit down on his lip, to stop any ridiculous sentiments spilling out, and Steve dragged his nails over Tony's belly and grabbed his cock, and after that it didn't take long at all.


They curled together, sticky; Steve peeled off his sweatpants and wiped away the worst of the mess, but still. Tony considered dragging Steve into the shower with him; maybe later. It was a nice day to sleep in.



It was a weird feeling of awareness, feeling his attention spread out in a net. Danny talked about the awareness he had in battle, that kind of martial arts zen Luke had never really gotten far enough into, when he could feel the whole room and every movement in it, and that was happening now, bright sparks of trackers and the cellphones and moving through security cameras and satellites like a ghost, all held securely in the vast mind's eye of Extremis. Their targets were moving, meeting and separating, collecting things and moving them, buying things. getting money from ATMs. All the bright shining streams of information flowing into tables and databases, and Tony flicked through them, trying to pick out the information; Luke could see the frown on his face through the laptop's webcam.


"It would be easier to open your eyes than hack into my computer and peep at me, you know," said Tony.


"That's what you say," Luke said. He opened his eyes, the sight of the room a faint overlay on the deep layers of information available, and smiled at Jess, who was looking at him with her chin cupped in her hand. Extremis helpfully scrolled up her data, right down to the baby's heartbeat, Jessica in every last detail.

"I won't miss it," she said. "It's so weird."

"Only a couple more days," said Peter. He was leaning into Tony's side, reading over his shoulder, apparently unfazed by the notion of Tony's pheromones. Not that Luke was bothered, exactly, but when you were married with a kid on the way was a bad time to start finding other people attractive. It had been bad enough with Spider-Woman, and at least he thought she was hot when she wasn't sweating love potions.


"They seem to be aiming towards the docks again," Luke said. "I make it seven of them." Files assembled themselves, drawing from databases throughout the country, schools and courthouses and banks. Tony hummed to himself as he flicked through.


"Seven's not bad," said Peter. "It depends if they've got any of those gadgets of their own."


"And if they can mess up our powers again," said Tony. "That one, there, that's the other guy from the bar. Andrews. He had a gun - I don't know if he still has it. He was pretty tough, too."


"He'll be no match for Power Man," said Peter cheerfully, and Jess kicked his ankle. "What? He totally needs to use the hero name in that armour."

"There," said Luke, hearing his voice weirdly doubled through the microphone on Tony's computer. He lit up the building on the map.

"Is it?" Tony flicked through the files. "Looks most likely, yes. We'll have to check it out. Luke, can you take the armour and Jessica and go tonight?"

"I don't know, pregnant women need their sleep," said Luke, and Jess laughed.

"Very funny. I want to run some scans through the armour, but I don't need to be there, I can do it remotely."

"No problem. Then we go in tomorrow?"

"That's the plan," said Tony. "I'll let Jessica and Steve know." He extracted himself from under Peter, who flopped down onto the couch and looked up at Jess.

Extremis alerted Luke to a pheromone spike in the air as Tony brushed past him; Luke decided to pretend he hadn't noticed that piece of information.



"Steve," Tony called, and Steve turned towards him with a smile. "We've got a location for these guys."

"Really? That's great."

"A derelict apartment block. Luke was able to track them down; we're going to case the place tonight."

"You're going?" Steve frowned.

"Not really. Luke and and Jessica are going; I'm going to monitor the armour's feeds through the computer, talk Luke through some of the scans. I'm not leaving the penthouse."

"Well, you have fun with that," said Steve, and picked up his jacket.

"Where you going?"

"Dinner with Sharon and Bucky and Sam."

"Double date?" Tony said, and Steve caught Tony's face in his hands.

"I'm not actually sure who you're being snide about there, so I'll just say 'stop it'," he said, and kissed Tony lightly. Tony put his hands up to squeeze Steve's wrists. 

"I might not be being snide," he said, and Steve chuckled and kissed him again, harder. His mouth tasted of mint. Tony opened his mouth, let Steve in, and Steve pressed him back against the table, a moan escaping.

"Don't you have dinner?" said Tony breathlessly, as Steve nuzzled into his neck, and he muttered something incoherent, sliding his hands up under Tony's shirt. "Steve!"

"They, uh-" Steve pulled back. "Yes? Yes." He kissed Tony again, and again, mouth gentle. "You're so- all right, I'm going now." He backed away. "Will you be awake when I get back?"

"I might be. Knock on my door," said Tony, and gave Steve a look he knew was enticing. Steve took two steps back towards him before shaking his head sharply, spinning on his heel and marching out the door.

Tony went to bed early, for him; he was certain he'd wake up to a knock on his door, less certain that Steve would come and find him in the lab. When a tapping noise woke him, it took him longer than it should have to realise it came from the window. He opened it, and Steve leaned through and kissed him with cool lips.

"What are you doing out there?"

"I thought I'd swing home. It's quicker than walking, and Sam flew with me part of the way. And then it seemed quicker just to land on the outside of the building and climb up." He kissed Tony again. "So can I come in?"

"Ah - no. Wait a second." He closed the window on Steve's surprised face, then hurried to his laptop. This would be quicker with Extremis - although, of course, if he had Extremis, he wouldn't be doing this. He opened the window again, and when Steve put his hand on the window sill, Tony pushed it off, and scrambled up. "Move over, I'm coming out," he said.

"Uh - Tony, you're naked."

"No, really?" said Tony. "I turned off the security cameras on this part of the building - if we go about ten yards that way, we'll be in the shadow of the Watchtower, and no satellites or anything will be able to see." He  scrambled up the side of the building, leaving Steve staring after him. 

"Tony, no," said Steve, and there was a combination of hilarity and horror in his voice. "We are not -" he stopped.  

"Oh, come on. When will we ever have this chance again?"

Steve insisted first, on spinning a net to catch them if they fall, despite Tony's protests that he could fly, after all. 

"Upside down," said Tony, and he stuck firmly in place, back to the building. When he tilted his head back, he could see the lights of the city hanging above him. The blood was already rushing to his head. "Come here, Steve, I'm freezing." Steve was warm as always, and Tony pulled a hand free to slide around his waist, under his jacket. Pressed close like this, Tony's mouth on his, Steve got into the spirit of things fast, and he didn't protest when Tony opened his pants. They rubbed together, and Tony hooked a leg over Steve's, hung off him, light-headed with lust and gravity.


"You have the strangest ideas," murmured Steve, pressing kisses into Tony's neck. Tony was staring up at - down at - the map of light, watching it blur and sway. He pulled his other foot free of the wall, wrapped the leg round Steve, and put both hands flat on the wall, arching his back and pushing his hips harder against Steve. Steve grunted and pushed back, short sharp rocks of his hips, and that was good, that was amazing - Tony got one hand free and shoved it down the back of Steve's pants, grabbing his ass and pulling them tighter together. He was, God, he could barely focus, and he wasn't sure if it was the rush of blood or the impending orgasm, but when his body tightened and he spilled, come sliding down over his chest and soaking into Steve's shirt, he didn't think he'd ever felt anything more intense. Tony was wrapped entirely round Steve, now, their bodies melded together, rubbing himself against Steve's hardness while Steve shuddered and begged, and when he came, his grip stuttered and they slid a few inches.

"I can't-" Steve shook his head fast, and Tony hugged him.

"It's okay, let go, I can fly," and Steve went limp and they dropped. Tony's flight was enough to turn them and land them gently in the web, and they lay there, entangled, until Tony pulled his trapped limbs out from under Steve and settled in next to him, staring out over the city.

"I like Peter's powers," Steve said quietly. "I always wondered what it would be like to be a real superhero."

"Yeah, so did - wait, what?" Tony squinted at him. "You always - Steve, you're like the Platonic ideal of a superhero."

"I don't have superpowers," said Steve. "Not really. I just wondered, you know?" He stroked Tony's hair. "I'm a little jealous you got the flying. You fly all the time."

"You fly with me sometimes. It's wonderful this way, though, just me and the air. I'll miss it."

"Up, up, the long delirious burning blue -" Steve sighed, and Tony scrabbled for the quotation.

"The high untrespassed sanctity of space?" he said after a second or two, and was rewarded by the curve of Steve's lips. 


"I'll take you up again, when I have the armour back," he said, and Steve's smile widened and he pulled Tony even closer. Tony closed his eyes and thought about flying with Steve. Not that the space above New York was exactly untrespassed; but they could fly out over the ocean when the sun was coming up, and he could kiss Steve in the glittering light until he got that gorgeous dazed look in his eyes. Without being catcalled by the Human Torch.

Despite the chill, Tony was almost asleep when Steve finally stirred.

"Back inside," he said. "We can't sleep here."

"Don't want to move," said Tony, burrowing closer. "Nice here." It was; webbing was surprisingly comfortable, and Steve was warm enough and smelled good. All in all, he'd slept in far worse places, and this one didn't involve moving. Steve laughed at him.

"Think of the headlines. Tony Stark stuck naked to own building. Spider-Man clearly to blame in some way." Steve pushed him away and sat up, making the webbing sway. "Come on. You can fly inside."

"Flying is effort, you know," said Tony, but he pushed off and flew back inside. He switched the cameras back on, and crawled back into bed as Steve clambered inside. Steve hesitated by the bed for a second. "Come on, I'm cold," ordered Tony, and Steve stripped off and slipped in beside him, warm smooth skin under his cold hands. Steve, bless him, didn't complain, just let Tony warm himself.


Peter offered to go with Tony to fetch Logan, but for some reason Tony blanched at the idea of going to the Baxter Building. So Peter collected up Luke, and there they were, watching foul substances drip from Logan's body..

"We have to defrost him slowly," said Reed, in what Peter considered an inappropriately upbeat tone. "We have to drain out the liquid as we go, you see. Also, he'll be - well, he should function, but not very well. His brain has a lot of cells ruptured by the ice crystals. 

"Okay. How - Will he be able to walk? We're going into a fight, here."

"He'll be... well, it's hard to tell. I would have thought so. Maybe even some basic speech. But you need to get him his healing factor back as soon as possible. He's rejecting the skeleton, he's got several raging infections, and the human body was not designed to be frozen and defrosted." 

They watched as the liquid drained away from Logan's body. Robot arms moved in to intubate him, and Peter winced.

"Okay, he - he doesn't look - oh God, is he rotting?"

"Only in some places," and Reed waved a hand dismissively. "That'll take days to kill him, though. The infections, though, uh. And the blood poisoning - really, the sooner you can get him fixed the better. He could have a total system shutdown."

"You mean he could die," said Luke, and Reed nodded, and went back to poking things in an authoritative fashion.

"You've seen the place, right?" Peter said, and Luke nodded.

"Yeah. Can't see it being much trouble; biggest problem I'll have is not going through the floor."

"Suit pretty heavy?"

"Getting on for three hundred pounds, including the underarmour. Should be all right unless I start stamping my feet - they're on the fifth floor, it's not too beat up."

"I think I like it better when we fight the kind of criminal that has a fancy underground base. If you fall through the floor there, at least you know it's a cunning trap, and not just termites."

"Well, I like being able to punch my way through walls if I need to."

"You'll probably end up bringing the place down on our heads."

Luke got the blank look that meant he was surfing the internet in his head; Peter trailed Reed around, watching the screens. When the oxygen mask was finally removed, and Logan choked out a breath on his own, Peter let out a relieved sigh.

"He's going to be all right now?"

"Yes. Be careful with him. Be quick with him. He needs to heal fast." Reed watched with a frown as they picked him up.

Logan was worse up close, blood leaking out his nose. His flesh was swollen and hot. Peter and Luke supported him between them, and he made desperate noises of pain. They put him carefully into the wheelchair. When Peter lifted his hand, indentations stayed in the swollen flesh.

"The others are on their way there," said Luke. "There's a car waiting; we'll meet Jessica a couple of streets away. She'll fly Logan to the top of the building and wait."

"Your Jessica? Is that safe?" Peter said doubtfully. "I mean, with the baby and all."

"Jess can take care of herself and the baby. She'll be on the roof until the right moment, then she'll bring him in through the skylight. Jess - Spider-Jess - took all the glass out of it last night. She can fly out if it gets too rough. She offered to help; she likes Logan."


Jessica stared at Logan. Luke had sent her a text, but he supposed there was no preparation for seeing this; a horribly injured Logan was business as usual, but a Logan who stayed injured was all wrong.

"Oh my God, he's - " she wrinkled up her nose. "Gruesome." She shook her head. "I wish I'd worn something heavier, I could catch something horrible." She tied her leather trenchcoat firmly closed, and gingerly gathered Logan up, manoeuvring him awkwardly over the bulge of her belly. "Oh, he smells."


"You be careful, baby," said Luke, and she smiled.


"I'll be fine. No heroics for me." She took off, leaving smears of Logan on the pavement. 


"Right," said Luke, and picked up the suitcase that contained the armour. "Let's go."


He opened the suitcase, and the armour flew out and built itself round him. He towered, now, Peter was barely up to his shoulder.

"See you soon, big guy," Peter said, and scampered off towards the building.


"Tony?" he said, and Tony's response back was typed.


We're all in place except you and Spidey.

Extremis helpfully laid out the plans. Tony clung to the wall above a window on the fifth floor, his laptop stuck to the wall with webbing. Cap was in position five floors further up; a webline would have him there in seconds, and he couldn't catch Tony's scent from there, which might be an unnecessary precaution, but no one wanted to see that in the middle of a battle. Spider-Woman was in the stairwell on the sixth floor; Peter was on his way up to join her. Jessica and Logan were on top of the building, by the skylight they'd quietly removed all the glass from last night.

There was a big picture window at one end of the apartment. The Extremis flew him level with it, and showed him the interior of the flat and the shatter pattern the glass would likely take. No one too close; he stepped straight through into a battered sitting room. 

Four gaping faces turned towards him. Two of them playing cards, sat on crates. One in the doorway, cigarette in hand. One standing by the far window; Tony must be less than three feet away from him. 

He could feel Tony's presence, twined through his systems, running scans and analyses through the armour. The Extremis itself matched the faces to the mugshots and hence to the names and the records, and then flagged up the probable locations of weapons. He could see through into a second room, and beyond that, a kitchen. By the heartbeats and breathing, one person in the second room, two people in the kitchen.


"You know why I'm here," he said, and one of the card players stood up, cards fluttering to the floor. Watts, Extremis informed him, small-time conman, no felonies, doesn't usually carry.

"We've done nothing illegal," he said. Luke would usually let his expression speak for him; instead, he tips the blank faceplate in the Watts' direction. Effective enough, he took a step back, eyes widening. "We haven't. It's not illegal to -" he trailed off, glanced at the other player. That was Duchamp. He was gripping his cards tight.

Luke took a heavy step forward. The floorboards creaked in warning; Extremis told him they'd hold. The man in the doorway - that was Andrews, he was a killer, they couldn't prove it but everyone knew - took a slow step back. The way his shirt creased, he was carrying at the small of his back. Luke lifted his hand, palm out. 

"Don't move," he said. "I want to know what you've been doing, and how you've been doing it, and maybe if you're very lucky we won't bust you for the stolen goods you've been fencing, and the weapons you've been supplying."

The man by the window, Greenburg, muscle for hire, sometimes carries, put his hands in his pockets. No way he had a gun in there.

"Don't know what you're talking about," said Greenburg.

"Don't give me that shit." They weren't going to talk unless Luke shook it out of them; fine with him. Watts was his best bet. He moved towards him, and Watts and Duchamp leapt up, darted for the door. A repulsor blast sent them both flying, and he was picking up Watts when fine blue mist settled round his shoulders. Some kind of gas; Extremis showed him an analysis, but the fact his air filters could handle it was the important part. The mist came from the direction of the kitchen; holding Watts off the floor, head out of range of the gas, he paced into the second room. A tall thin man - Clarke, no arrests, was standing at the door to the kitchen. He could see Andreas behind him.

"That, what's that?" said Tony's voice in his ear. Something weird sat on the table against the wall, a piece of crazy looking machinery maybe a foot high. Clarke took a step towards him, and lifted his hand.

Luke ground to a stop. The armour stilled around him; the feeds went dead. For a second he was blind, entombed, and then it flickered into life again and the armour shifted sluggishly, and he looked out myopically at an empty world.

"The Extremis is gone," he said.


Too easy, was all Tony could think. The complicated looking device on the table didn't so much as shift or glow; not a reading from it. Nowhere else in the room, either, nothing, no energy surges or strange lights or so much as a dramatic gesture.

"Get a stick or something," he heard Clarke say, "Or no, one of those necklaces. Quick!"

"It works in stages," said Spider-Woman over the comm, and of course she's right, and if they put Extremis into something, and they can use it - Spider-Man and Spider-Woman burst in through the apartment door, and Steve swung through the window in a sudden blizzard of webbing and ricocheting shield. Little explosions start going off, looks like Clarke has some rings that do tricks; he's briefly reminded of the Mandarin.

Tony dived through the window, ignoring the fight, skipping over weird green tendrils that were rupturing out of the carpet. He needed to get closer to that device - he dropped and skittered to the table. There was someone under the table, curled up in back, and he was bringing up his hands for a venom blast when he realised it was a child, huddled back into what looked to be a dog bed, surrounded by battered boxes.


"What are you - never mind," he leaned in to grab her, and she cowered away. "It's all right, it's all right. How old are you?"

"Twelve," she said, quietly. Just about the time mutant powers start manifesting; she had the ragged, hungry look of a child who took care of herself, and not very well.

"Come here," he said, and caught her arm. She whimpered

"What's wrong?" he said, trying to think where was safe to take her.

"It hurts."

"What?" He looks at her. "What hurts?"

"The power. It hurts. I want to get rid of it, please." Tony gritted his teeth, and let go, pushed her into the corner, where she slumped, shivering.

"Wait there," he said, and scurried to the window, launching himself out.

"Jessica!" He howled up towards the roof, and she flew down. "Jess, there's a kid to get out of here-" She peered past him into the apartment - there was some kind of weird vegetation growing in there, and shit, Spider-Man was tangled up in and so was Luke and it had Steve's shield.

"What's wrong with Luke?" Luke was slowly, slowly, shuffling in place, turning himself towards the centre of the plant-thing.

"The Extremis is gone, he can't control the armour. You need - "

"Can he fire the gun?"

"He can't aim it - "

There was a flash of coloured light, and Jessica picked Luke up off his feet and aimed him at the centre of the freakish plant-thing. There was a soft thump, and then a lot of fire, as Luke fired the gun. 

Tony slipped back through the window and grabbed the kid up in his arms. She weighed nothing; it was easy to fly with her. He could feel her racing heartbeat, and hear the familiar thumping of Steve's shield bouncing off walls. He shot out the window, back towards the Tower.


The main room was empty; he put the kid down and yelled for Emma. She came down the stairs at not quite a run; she would have felt his panic, of course.


"This is -" he stopped, tried to think. "What's your name?"

"Joey," she said in a tiny voice.

"She's a mutant. Her powers are hurting her, or something. Can you -"

"Tony - " Emma looked at Joey, and sighed. "Sit down, Joey. Tony, where's Logan?" 

"I don't know. I have to go back." He ran for the door, only to be brought up short as Cap and Peter stormed in. Peter carried an armful of broken pieces.

"Oh no." 

"Oh yes," said Cap. "They threw it out the window when they realised they were overwhelmed."

"I hope Extremis hasn't... spilled." Peter put it down and scowled at it. "I mean, does it hold the powers inside it? Where's the stuff that lives inside the bones?"

"Did you get them?"

"No," said Steve, looking guilty. "We all went after the device, except Spider-Woman, and they got her with some kind of blue gas. She's okay, but she needed to sit down for a while."

Jessica Jones appeared, Wolverine in her arms. Emma glanced up from Joey, and her eyes widened.

"Spider-Man, please take Joey to the kitchen," she ordered, and when Jess laid Wolverine out on the couch, Emma pulled his head into her lap. He went limp, with a sound of relief, and blinked up at Emma with apparent recognition. He was bleeding again, a slow steady seep.

"Oh, he's horrible," she said in dismayed tones. "His brain is melting. Tony-"

"We're going to go out and find these guys," said Steve, enunciating very clearly. There was a tenseness in his voice that made Tony's hackles stand up; Steve rarely sounded that angry.

"I have to go back for Luke," said Jessica. "He told me to take Logan first-" she left a trail of coloured light behind her.

Tony hunched over the device, dismayed. He picked through it, laying out the parts, shaking his head.


"I don't see how this works at all. I didn't get any energy readings from it, and there's no signs of the Extremis." He held up a chunk of pink crystal. "I'd swear this is rose quartz; what on earth is is doing here? A storage matrix, maybe?"


Steve shook his head. "One of those people must know how it works. If necessary, we'll - " he clenched his fist.


"I don't think we'll need to beat it out of them; they'll co-operate to avoid murder charges, because Logan - " he stopped. "We can't freeze him again; he wouldn't survive a second resuscitation." Steve extended a hand to him, then abruptly turned and went to stand by Logan. Tony dug in his pocket for Jessica's perfume, and dabbed plenty on before returning to the gadget. He was no further when Jessica came back lugging the inert steel mass of Luke.

"They came back," she said breathlessly. "I was just taking Luke out of the skylight when I heard them. They came looking for something; that, I guess. Spider-Woman's on their tail."

"Right," said Steve. "Jessica. I know you don't want to be a hero anymore -"

"Cap," she said, dismayed. "I'm not -"

"Just come with us, and be ready to fly back and fetch Wolverine - or if we catch someone, to fly them back here. Can you do that?"

"I can do that," she said with a sigh. "But can't Sentry - "

"Not well," said Tony. "I tried this morning; he's in no condition to do anything complicated."

"Can I get out of here?" asked Luke plaintively.

"Oh, yeah -" Tony turned to the computer. The armour peeled itself off Luke, and reassembled itself in the corner of the room. Tony turned back to the device, shaking his head.

"It shouldn't work, it really shouldn't. But then it's doing something that, as far as I'm aware, can't be done."

Cap, Spider-Woman, Luke and Jessica headed for the lift. Tony bent over the device, frowning.



"So, uh, you're a mutant?" said Peter brightly, and the girl bit her lip and didn't answer. "You don't have to be nervous, I'm not - whatever you read about me in the paper is lies, okay?"

"You're on the team with Captain America, right?" she said softly, and he nodded.

"Oh yeah, yeah, that is true. There's me, look." He pointed at the painting on the wall. "Me and Cap drew that. Cool, huh? Okay, mostly Cap. But I helped."

"I saw the team on the TV," she said, more confidently. "I know about Iron Man, and Captain America, and you. Who's - the man who was all - the hurt one."

"Wolverine," said Peter. "He's really sick. He's got a healing power usually, and he doesn't now, so he's - it's complicated. The guys back there - they got our powers all muddled up, so I've got his healing power." She stared at him, wide-eyed.

"Is he going to die?"

"No! No, he'll - we'll fix him. Tony'll get that thing working again, he's a genius. He can make anything work."

Tony appeared in the doorway, scowling.

"Spider-Man, can you keep an eye on Joey? Emma's keeping Wolverine calm and pain-free, and I have to concentrate - "

"No problem at all," said Peter. "The others gone out?"

"Yeah. One of those guys must know how that thing works, or where it came from." He looked at Joey, and spoke gently.

"I'm sorry, Joey, but this is a bad time for us. Spider-Man here will get you anything you need, and Miss Frost will be able to help you with your powers soon. You're not in pain anymore?" Joey shook her head, flushing. She looked miserable. "Okay. Okay, I have to -" He vanished back towards the main room.

"Okay!" said Peter briskly. "Food. Food?" He grinned with relief as Joey noticeably perked up. "A sandwich? Or I could cook something... nothing too complicated. I mean, I can cook, I'm not undomesticated or anything- " he paused, and redirected his train of thought. "Grilled cheese sandwich?"

"That sounds good," she said, and watched eagerly as Peter peered into the fridge. He took out a tub of pasta salad and pushed it over the table to her. "Do you want - I mean, while I'm making - " she opened it and starting forking the food into her mouth before he could finish the sentence. He added a couple of cans of soda to the table, and began cutting the cheese.

The smell of melting cheese was filling the kitchen when he heard Emma's voice ring out. She sounded annoyed. He looked from the pan to Joey to the door, and then pointed at Joey. 

"Stay here a sec. Don't let the sandwich burn."

"Okay," she said doubtfully, and Peter went into the hall and peered cautiously round the corner. 

Emma stood silhouetted against the window, a tall and imperious figure despite the stains of blood and pus mottling her white skirt. She was facing a small brigade of familiar faces. 

Tony was tapping away at his laptop.

"They shouldn't have been able to get in here, unless - " 

In the corner of the room, the hulking figure of Luke's armour moved.

"Emma!" yelled Peter, and felt the brush of her mind on his as she picked the warning from his mind before he could articulate it. He was suddenly blinking at a figure made of rainbows as the sunlight blossomed through her diamond flesh, and when the armour shot at her, the impact threw her back unharmed onto the couch. Wolverine screamed; Emma struggled to her feet; and the villains, released from their telepathic prison, leapt into action.


Emma was a glittering blur as she kicked and punched; she was no Captain America, but being invulnerable counted for a lot. The armour, however, was going to take more than that. Peter put his claws out, picked his target, and then something indefinable but wonderful attracted his attention. Tony was - Tony was  - Tony was bolting out the far door with three of their attackers in hot pursuit, and Peter had taken three steps after them, after Tony, before he realised what a very bad idea that was. Instead, he darted across the room to where Logan lay sprawled on the floor. There were charred patches on his flesh, now, and one of his arms had split open like an over-ripe fruit, revealing purple flesh and the glint of metal underneath. His breathing rattled and caught as he coughed up matter.

"Oh fuck," Peter whispered. "C'mon, Logan, hang in there. C'mon, big guy -" Logan looked up at him, and shook his head. 

"He's dying," said a small scared voice beside him, and Joey stared down at Logan with wide eyes. "Isn't he?"

"No," said Peter. "No, he can't-" and then Joey shrieked as rough hands grabbed her.

"Bitch," said the man flatly, and started to pull her to her feet. Peter caught his wrist, dug his fingers in hard to the right place, and the guy's hand spasmed open.

"I realise I'm not the scariest superhero ever, but kidnapping little girls from under my nose - " he ducked the punch " - is really going to -" he didn't dodge the chair that hit him from behind, and staggered sideways into a punch in the gut. A kick to the knee brought him down, and then his arms were twisted behind him and the tall man snorted. 

"Not a very scary superhero at all," he said, and kicked Peter. There was a horrible wet sound as Wolverine made a desperate attempt to get up; his claws gleamed, and the man holding Peter shied away. But he sagged back to the floor with a bubbling noise, and when Peter tried to get to his feet, his knee gave way again, and he realised with a sinking feeling that the healing power was gone. 

He could see Emma caught by Luke's armour, held tight with her arms to her sides; she didn't look injured, but she couldn't move. Tony was nowhere in sight. Peter's arms were grabbed again, and as he braced himself for impact, he saw Joey reach for Logan's exposed claws.

"Careful," he managed, stupidly, before his ribs made an ominous crunching noise.

Logan screamed again, a tearing sound, and vomited a truly disgusting array of colours and consistencies. He spasmed; blisters burst and leaked. It smelled revolting. Joey scrambled onto the couch to get away from the spreading puddles of liquid, and the man in front of Peter took a fast step towards her.

"Come here, you -"

Logan pinned the guy to the floor with a claw straight through his foot. Peter stared at him, and realised that pink new skin was showing through under the smears of unpleasant fluids. Logan grinned unpleasantly up at the man. 

"Let's talk scary," he invited, and in one smooth motion, he stood up and back handed the guy, who flew across the room. The man holding Peter let go and backed away.

"Still got that superstrength? That's so unfair," said Peter dismally, and Logan grinned at him.

"Sit this one out, kid, I'll take care of this."





Tony bolted, hurtling through the halls, staying just far enough ahead they wouldn't lose interest. A flying leap, literally, and he stuck to the wall high out of range.  He peered down, feeling somewhat like a treed cat, as the three of them stared up at him.

"Shoot him," suggested one.

"Don't want to shoot him," said another.

"In the leg, or something."

"Wait - " one of them scrabbled in his pocket, drawing out a - Tony didn't wait to find out, but launched into an arching dive over their heads. Three on one was too risky when he didn't know what powers they had -  Logan kept a gun in his room, so did Jessica. Logan would probably keep his loaded, though - he couldn't afford to be cornered. 

He flattened himself to the floor as the window shattered, and Steve's shield was followed by Steve, in a truly impressive temper. Spider-Woman was clinging to his back, and tumbled free as he landed. Three against three, particularly when one of those three was a super-strong Captain America, were much better odds; Tony didn't even need to get involved. He crawled to the window as Jessica flew in and set Luke down. 

"Jessica Jones, Air Taxi," she remarked. "I'll be glad when you people have fliers again."

"Your timing is perfect, Jess," he said, and she wrinkled her nose at him and stepped back.

"Tony," said Luke, in a rough voice, and Spider-Woman's voice rang out suddenly.

"Jess, grab Luke! Get him!"

Tony leapt back out of Luke's reach as Jess caught hold of him. There was the sound of a scuffle behind him, and he didn't even look, breaking into a run again as Steve took off after him. This, though, would be much simpler to resolve.

In the main room, the steel armour was flying just out of Logan's reach, firing at him. The pools of blood on the floor suggested he hadn't been dodging very effectively. Emma, in her diamond form, had Peter and Joey backed into the corner, defending them.


Logan leapt onto the coffee table, then into the air, and his claws scarred the armour. Tony took off again, and landed on the armour's back; from his vantage point he could see a tall thin man standing in the doorway, peering through the door. As Steve stormed in, Tony dived towards the man, tackling him to the ground. They rolled over and over, Extremis strength almost a match for spider strength, and Tony couldn't use a venom blast at this range, but reinforcements should be - Steve picked the guy up by the scruff of his neck, and shook him like a rat. 

"Mine," he hissed, and threw him at the wall. Then he spun and raised his shield, the armour's blast splashing harmlessly off. The guy was struggling to his feet, but the neckline of his shirt was askew, and Tony could see a thin chain visible. He lunged for it, hoping, and got a punch in the gut that made him choke, but he reeled back with a handful of metal sigils, and as Cap grabbed the guy and slammed him into the wall, Tony felt the Extremis rush back to him in a stream of glorious data. The armour collapsed into pieces, and Logan stilled. Then he frowned, and sniffed the air. Then his head turned, eyes narrowed, towards Tony.

"For fuck's sake," said Tony helplessly, as Logan began to advance on him. Cap let out a guttural snarl, and Tony put his head in his hands. There was a pause, and then Tony yelped as he was lifted off his feet. As Steve carried him away, Tony could see Logan standing, frozen, while Emma, no longer a diamond, shook her head. 

"I really think it's best you stay out of the way, Tony, or we'll never get this calmed down," she said, and Tony had no time to reply before they were out of sight. He supposed he should be grateful Steve had waited for the bedroom- when Steve threw him onto the bed, he was panting like a marathon runner. He didn't bother taking off any clothes; just slid in between Tony's thighs and rubbed against him, pushing his tongue into Tony's mouth insistently. Tony let him, rested loose hands on his big shoulders and checked the penthouse through Extremis, but Spider-Woman clearly had the whole thing under control and Steve's mouth was hot and the noises he made were very sexy - Tony let the necklace slip out of his hand and grabbed onto Steve, pulled him closer, forgot about anything outside Steve's mouth and his hands and his cock,


It was several hours later before they all reassembled in the main room. Joey sat next to Emma, darting looks of nervous admiration up at her. 

"I'm blocking her at the moment," said Emma. "She's been draining people involuntarily - I'm hoping she can learn to control that, at least. 

"So you can take powers from people and put them in things? How did you give Logan his powers back?" said Peter.

"It's in his claws," said Joey, very quietly. 

"So - how are we going to sort this out?" Peter turned to Emma, who smiled.

"Joey is going to take everyone's powers and put them back where they should be."

"But Miss Frost, I can only put them into things," said Joey miserably. Emma smiled.

"An important life lesson for you; people are things." She touched light fingers to Joey's head. "Let me in."

There was a second's pause, and then Joey stood up; and she moved in a way a twelve year old shouldn't, calculation in her brown eyes. She looked at Cap, and then hopped up onto the couch beside him. Cap flinched slightly, but didn't move away. There was a long pause.

"Oh," said Cap, and Joey slipped off the couch, went to Peter. 

"I'm sorry about earlier," she said, and Peter shook his head. 

"Don't worry about it. Just -" he held out his hands, and Joey took them, and then she swayed a little.

"I can't - " her mouth hung open, then shut. "Oh!" And Peter felt it come back, felt the prickle in his fingertips and the coiling strength in his muscles. He pulled his hands away, and jumped for the wall, and climbed up and across the ceiling.

"Spider-Man," said Cap, and threw the webcasters up to him.

"See?" said Emma, and Joey scowled, a furrow of concentration.

"Can you do it again?"

"All right." Spider-Woman next, and then Cap smiling broad and happy as she held his hands.

"Thank you, Joey," and she blushed and ducked her head.

"I think I see - " Tony's powers back to Spider-Woman, and Tony flopped back on the couch with relief, shaking his head. Spider-Woman took straight off, and flew up and poked Peter in the ribs and giggled. Wolverine was trickier; he had Luke's power extracted and replaced into Luke, and then Emma and Joey together had to pull the healing power from Logan's adamantium skeleton and replace it in his flesh. Finally, they turned to the Extremis necklace.

"That one hurts," said Joey. "It's alive. It doesn't like being moved."

"One more time, Joey, and then you'll never have to come near it again - "

Tony put the underarmour out, and all the lights in the penthouse flickered. 

"Thank God for that," he said. "Now, Joey -"

"She's coming to Westchester," said Emma. "As you have no way of blocking her power."

"What about her parents?"

"She's an orphan." Emma stood up, and took Joey's hand. "It was so nice to spend this time with you, Tony; you must come and see us soon. Jessica dear, I'll come and fix your shields again after you've had the baby. Spider-Man-" She looked up at Peter, who noted he could see all the way down her cleavage, and tried not to think about it in case she was reading his mind. "Do tell Peter I expect him in Westchester. I'll be in touch."


"I am so glad that is over," said Tony, stretching out his senses, peering through cameras, turning computers on and off for the sheer joy of it. 

"I think Emma knows who I am," said Peter gloomily, and Tony smiled. 

"Telepaths are good with secrets, Peter, if Emma told everything she knew... well, I'd be pretty embarrassed, actually."

"Oh, really?" said Steve, and Tony winked at him. Steve's thigh was pressed against his, and he was smiling, which was all very good.

"Want to go out to play?" Peter asked Jessica, and she shook her head. 

"What are you, twelve? It's training, or practice, or drills. Not play."

"Let's go practice tag, then. You're it." They chased off, and after a minute or two, Tony could see them bounding and flying around the tower.

"I'm going for a lie-down," said Jessica. "Luke?"

"Sounds like a plan."

Steve followed them out, casting what Tony hoped was an inviting look over his shoulder; Tony got to his feet, and Logan grabbed his wrist. Tony tensed; Logan snatched his hand away and took a step back.

"Sorry about that," he said. 

"Yeah," said Tony. "Don't worry about it."

"Right." Logan looked at Tony, then down at the floor. "I don't - "

"You were sick, you weren't thinking straight. Really," and he nudged Logan's arm awkwardly. "You should have seen Peter. He'd go all goggle eyed at me, and then go look for MJ." Logan snorted.

"That kid."


"You should - you still smell - " Logan didn't embarrass easily, but right now he couldn't meet Tony's eyes.

"Yeah, I should go - " he left.

Tony showered thoroughly, scrubbing any possible trace of scent off his body. When he padded out into his bedroom, Steve was sprawled on the bed, naked, pretending to read the paper.

"Do you always take that long in the shower?"

"No." Tony looked at him, at his smile, then dropped his towel and approached the bed. Steve sat up and put a hand on his hip, pulled him close. He rested his forehead against Tony's chest, and Tony stroked the back of his neck, short blond hairs prickling. 

"Tired?" Steve said softly.

"Not really."

Steve sighed, rubbed his cheek against Tony's chest. 

"It's weird - being able to think while we do this."


"Yeah, I - between the pheromones and with the changes to my brain, I couldn't think of anything else. You were so-" Steve shivered a little. Then he smiled. "This is better."

"Really?" And Tony felt relief spread through him, the tense grip loosening.

"Much. Come here." Steve pulled him down, rolled him over, pinned him to the bed, kissed him slow and sweet. Then he slid to his knees beside the bed, nuzzling in between Tony's thighs. Tony spread his legs, and Steve made an approving noise and licked him-

"Oh, God," said Tony faintly, and spread even wider, bracing one heel on the edge of the bed, as Steve squeezed his ass and lapped at the sensitive skin. He couldn't have done this before, but the slow trails of his tongue were perfect, teasing him until he whimpered.

"Don't tease," Tony said, and felt Steve laugh against his skin. Cool slick press into him, and that wasn't Steve's tongue -   

he had to have stashed the lube there earlier. A Steve who planned ahead might just kill him.

He pushed himself up on his elbows, and Steve was watching his fingers slide into Tony, giving every sign of being totally fascinated. 

"Hey," he said, and Steve smiled up at him, no frantic urgency, which he supposed was good, but Steve all wild and rough had been pretty good, too. "Hey, you - you going to fuck me anytime soon?" Steve licked his lips, kissed Tony's thigh.

"I was sort of looking forward to taking my time," he said.

"See, I was thinking you've not had me like this yet, on my back," Tony said, and yeah, that look in Steve's eyes was one he knew. "If I stay here, on the edge of the bed, you can brace your feet on the floor and fuck me really hard." Another finger in him, and he groaned and tipped his head back. "Oh, fuck, yes. Harder, Steve, come on." Steve scrambled onto the bed, fingers thrusting and twisting, and grabbed Tony's hair, kissed him hard.

"Tell me you like it," he said and Tony nodded, panting.

"I love it. Your hands, your cock - I've thought about them before, I tried not to do it too often, but sometimes I jerked off thinking about you fucking me."


"Last time, after the Savage Land, when we were captured. We were naked, and you landed on me - and we were supposed to be escaping, but for a minute all I could think about was you naked and touching me."

"I'll touch you as much as you like," Steve said softly, and Tony rolled his hips into the pressure of his fingers. 


"Fuck me, Steve, come on, I'm ready." He wasn't, quite, but Steve was willing to be fooled, propped himself up so he could watch his cock slide in slow; he rolled his hips, staring down, and a flush crept up his neck. He rubbed his thumb over the place where they were joined, and Tony bucked and whined, feeling Steve's cock move inside him. "Steve. Please."

"This is - you're so hot," said Steve, sounding surprised, and he leaned over to kiss Tony, and Tony grabbed his chin and looked at him suspiciously.

"You weren't sure, were you? You didn't know if you'd like it without the pheromones."

"I was sure I loved you," Steve said, kissing his neck. "I figured the sex would be good enough." And that was sweet, but annoying as hell. Very Steve, really.

"Good enough? I should - oh. Oh, don't do that when I'm trying to argue with you - no, don't stop - " Slow thrusts into him, Steve's weight pinning him down; he struggled a little bit, testing, and Steve held him still. "Fuck," he panted, and Steve made a contented noise.

"This is good," he said, and trailed little bites down his neck, and Tony arched his back and moaned.


"You know what, I'm tired. Really tired. We should hurry this up so I can get some sleep."


"I could just stop," said Steve, but his hips moved faster, and Tony wrapped his legs round Steve's waist and urged him on.


"Just keep doing that," he said. "Just, just - " Steve kissed him, and took his cock in hand, stroking him, and Tony came with a sigh and flopped back loose on the bed. Steve smiled at him, fond and amused.


"That was fast." 


"Long day, been under stress, doesn't usually happen - it's good enough, okay?"


"You're never going to let that go, are you?" Steve said, and Tony grinned and shut his eyes.


"Get on with it, Steve, I'm a busy man." Their bodies moving together, Steve's hands gripping his, his teeth biting a little too hard into Tony's shoulder when he came; it was all good, and made even better by the thought they could do it again tomorrow. They kissed for quite a while afterwards, until Tony broke out in a yawn, and Steve staggered to his feet and went to the bathroom.

Tony woke from his doze to Steve settling down next to him, hair a little damp, burying his face in Tony's neck. He smelled like Tony's soap.

"I'm really glad all this happened, you know," he said, drowsily, and Tony smiled, rested a hand on the arm thrown over him.

"Yeah, me too."





Author's Note: The quotations Tony and Steve swap in the webbing are from High Flight, a sonnet about flying written by a pilot in WWII