Thump-thump. Thump-thump. Thump-thump.
The first thing Tony was aware of was the noise of a heartbeat, emanating from somewhere over his head. Then after that came other noises, the hum and thrum of biobed sensors.
He was in sickbay. He wasn't dead.
He opened his eyes.
Steve was sitting next to him.
Steve's regulation-perfect appearance had slipped. His uniform was creased, and he hadn't shaved in a while, and his face was too pale, his eyes hollow and red-rimmed. He wasn't looking at Tony; his gaze was fixed on the monitors over Tony's head, the lifesign readouts.
"Hey," Tony said, and then he coughed. His throat was dry, as if he'd been wandering across Vulcan deserts for a year.
Steve startled hard, and then he looked down, meeting Tony's eyes. He started to smile, but then seemed to have to force back the smile, like he didn't know if Tony would want to see him be happy. Like he thought maybe Tony wouldn't want anything to do with him.
"Tony," Steve whispered, and if he hadn't meant to give away how he felt by not smiling he was doing a goddamn lousy job with the rest of his face, because he was staring at Tony wide-eyed, trembling, like nothing else existed but Tony. Tony clearly meant something to him, and God, that was— he didn't know how to feel about that.
The world had fuzzy edges. That was probably the painkillers.
"That was real, huh?" Tony asked. "You saved me?"
It felt like it could have been a dream. He remembered Steve holding him close. Carrying him to safety.
Steve nodded jerkily. He looked like he was about to cry. "Yeah, Tony. That was real."
Steve had saved him. Steve had saved him, and he'd saved the ship, and the Skrulls—
Oh, fuck, the Skrulls—
Tony tried to jump to his feet, only to find that his limbs wouldn't quite do what he wanted, and he was tangled in a blanket. Why was he wearing a blanket? He shoved the blanket down to his hips, only to find that he was bare to the waist, and his chest was scarred, new and raw and healing, and what the hell?
"Hey, hey, hey," Steve said, and Steve put a hand on his shoulder, easing him back down. Honestly, Tony didn't have the strength left to protest, and he sank back down onto the biobed. "Where do you think you're going, mister?"
"The ship!" Tony said, urgently. "The ship and the Skrulls—"
Steve's hand stroked a calming little pattern on his shoulder. "It's okay," Steve said. "The ship's fine. I promise." He grimaced. "The Skrulls... they blew themselves up, rather than surrender to the Triskelion. It's over."
He dropped his hand from Tony's shoulder, and Tony didn't know how to ask him to put it back.
"Okay." Tony tried to process this. "Okay. It's over." He glanced down at himself, at the array of scars. "What—?"
"That's from your brand-new artificial heart," Steve said, with a very little smile. "Doctor Blake hasn't run the skin regen yet. He wanted to wait until you were awake for that." He motioned to Tony's side. "He did fix the broken arm, though." His gaze went faraway and cold, lonely and sad. "Technically you were dead when I brought you in. You died a couple more times during surgery. It was eight hours to open you up and put in a new one." He winced. "I think Don's got some choice words for you about playing in warpfields from now on."
Tony breathed out, a sigh that wanted to be a laugh. "I didn't have much of a choice. We would all have died. I wasn't about to let that happen."
"I know. And I'm grateful," Steve said, and he made an aborted gesture toward Tony's face, like he wanted to touch him but didn't dare. "You've been out two days, by the way."
Tony considered the state of Steve's uniform and personal grooming. "Have you been here at my bedside this whole time?"
Steve shook his head and looked away, hunching into himself. "Not the whole time," he said, almost guiltily, like Tony had caught him out in this terrible, shameful act of caring. "But... a lot of it. When I wasn't on duty. I— I was concerned about you. All the senior officers have been by, too," he added. "It wasn't just me." He withdrew, still not meeting Tony's eyes, pulling further and further away. He was about to stand up. He was about to go. No, no, no. "So, uh," Steve concluded, "I guess I'll just let you—"
Tony flailed out a hand from under the blankets, grabbed Steve's hand, and held on.
Steve froze. He was staring down at their joined hands like he had never in a million years expected this.
"Stay," Tony whispered. "Please stay, Steve." His throat was tight. "It would mean a lot to me."
Steve's expression was torn, disbelief and hope and anguish all at once. "You've been through quite an experience," he murmured, but he didn't let go. "And you're on a hell of a lot of painkillers right now. I'm not going to... hold you to anything you won't mean, when you're in your right mind, when you feel more like yourself." It sounded like it was killing him to say.
And he still didn't let go.
"This is me," Tony insisted. "Sound mind and mostly-sound body. I mean it."
Steve's gaze was brimming with a quiet, desperate hope.
"You know what I was thinking?" Tony asked. He could feel blood pound through him, dizzily. He needed to get this right. "When I thought I was going to die, you know what I was thinking?"
"What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking," Tony said, "that I wished I could have kissed you. Just once."
Steve's mouth was open. His throat worked as he swallowed. His mouth moved, like he was trying to say something, but he wasn't forming words.
"I'm sorry," Tony added. "I'm so sorry about everything. About how I acted. I know I can't expect you to forgive me. But I was wrong, and I was afraid, and I'm sorry. I just wanted you to know that."
He hadn't quite meant to come out with everything all at once, a giant mass of raw exposed feelings. Don must have given him a whole lot of painkillers.
Steve was blinking rapidly. "It's all right." His voice was hoarse. "You don't owe me an apology. You don't owe me anything. It was my choice to become... what I am, and I have to accept the consequences of that decision—even if they're harsher than I could ever have imagined back when I agreed to do this. I understand your opinion. It's fine. It makes sense." He bit his lip. "I've read the history books now. I'd be afraid of me too."
No. Steve couldn't just do this. Steve couldn't just believe he was awful, beyond redemption. It wasn't true.
"You didn't do anything wrong."
"I lied to you," Steve said, dully. "At the very least, I lied to you. And I'm an Augment. And I know what you think of that."
Tony gripped Steve's hand tighter, willing him to understand. "I was wrong," he repeated. "It doesn't matter what the Augments did." That hadn't come out right. "I mean, it matters, but it only matters for them. They're the ones responsible for what they did. You're not. The other Augments aren't you. You're a good man. For God's sake, you just saved my life for the second time. And it doesn't matter if any of them wouldn't have, because you did."
Steve was staring at him like he couldn't believe he was hearing him correctly. His eyes were still too wet, and he was clinging to Tony's hand as if it were a lifeline.
"Please," Tony said, and his voice cracked, and he'd beg if it made Steve stay. "I know— I know you have no reason to trust me, after how much I've hurt you, but please believe me. You don't have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. The other Augments aren't your burden. The Eugenics Wars aren't your fault. And I am so sorry."
It was the one prejudice inculcated into schoolchildren. The Federation was a bright and shining place of acceptance, free from ingrained hatred, relentlessly quelling xenophobia wherever it sprung up. It had to be like that, for everything to work. They celebrated their differences. They rejoiced in them. That was what made it all possible. And yet, there was this, too: the hatred of Augments. The distrust of genetic engineering.
And Steve was still Captain America.
It just meant Tony had a lot of things to get over, didn't he?
He'd fucked up. Badly. He was working on it.
"Really," he added. "I don't expect you to— I don't expect anything. I just wanted you to know."
And Steve smiled. Just a little, edging the corners of his mouth. "You did some thinking, huh?" His voice was soft. Quiet. Gentle.
"Oh, you know," Tony said, trying for breezy and missing, "you think about all sorts of things when you think you're going to die, you know?"
"Yeah." Steve squeezed his hand. "I do know." He glanced away. "The crew knows now, by the way. About me."
Tony stared. "What?"
Steve gave a helpless little shrug. "The senior officers do, anyway. It seems they got to wondering exactly how it was that I was able to dig you out of the debris there and I— I was sick of lying. If Fury wants to discharge me for this, he can. But I'm not lying." His voice firmed, determined. "Not anymore."
"How'd they take it?"
"Shocked, mostly," Steve said. "But they're coming around. It went better than I thought it would, actually."
"You mean it went better than it did with me."
Steve tilted his head, acknowledging the comparison he clearly hadn't wanted to make himself. "To be fair, we were a lot more... complicated. What with the. Uh. Feelings."
Tony would have said fucking, which as an f-word was a whole lot less terrifying. "Feelings?"
Steve's face was tinged with red. "If you haven't figured out I care about you, you would be literally the only person on the entire ship who hasn't."
Okay, so Steve forgave him. God. Steve shouldn't forgive him.
"No," Tony said, weakly. "No, I definitely noticed."
He hadn't been able to figure out why Steve hadn't made a move, before. Of course, it all made sense now: Steve had wanted to tell him he was an Augment first, but he couldn't, and then he had anyway, in the worst possible circumstances.
Steve smiled again, a little wider now, a hint of that dazzling brilliance that had made Tony walk right up and put his life in Steve's hands. "Oh," he said, and even as he was holding Tony's hand he was looking away, shyly. "Well. That's good."
"But nothing," Steve said, fiercely, because apparently he was going to stand up for Tony. "You're amazing." He paused and looked away. "And, uh. I think you said something about kissing? If you still wanted—"
Tony could only grin up at him, and Steve smiled a fond, fond smile that made Tony go warm all over, and then he raised Tony's hand to his lips and kissed the back of his hand, like the knights of Tony's long-ago imaginings.
"I'm sure you had something else in mind." Steve's face was flushed. "But I figure we can wait until you're better for the rest. I'm not going anywhere."
He said the rest with such confidence. Of course there was more. Of course he was staying. Tony had a future to count on. He liked that.
Maybe Steve could kiss him on the mouth, though, Tony thought, with a sudden eager hope. Surely even Steve couldn't object to something small and decorous.
The universe being what it was, this was the precise moment when Don walked in.
Don stopped dead, his eyebrows crawled up his forehead, and he smiled a very small, very pleased smile. "I'll just come back later, shall I?"
Steve lowered Tony's hand but didn't let go. "No, it's fine," he said. "I'm probably keeping Tony from his rest."
"I'm not tired," Tony said, and he promptly yawned.
Steve laughed. His thumb stroked over the back of Tony's hand. "My point exactly."
"Fine," Tony said. "Abandon me, Cap. And go shave, why don't you?"
"He was very worried," Don said, obviously by way of explanation.
Steve rubbed his free hand over his jaw and winced. "Yeah, okay. Going."
He dropped Tony's hand and stood up, and Tony already missed it.
"Don't worry," Tony told him. "I'm sure I'll be out of here soon."
Don glared in the way that only a ship's surgeon could. "Commander, you have just had heart surgery. You're not going anywhere right now, except maybe to sleep. After I examine you."
"I'll be back in a few hours," Steve said, with one last grin, and he ducked out the door, a spring in his step.
Tony had made him happy. He could feel a smile spread across his face.
This was going to be good. Finally, now, this time—it was really going to be good.
It was two more days before Tony was released from sickbay, and even then he was cleared only for light duty for a week, and he still had to show up at sickbay before and after every shift so Don could check his heart, to make sure he was adjusting to the new model. Tony had taken fine to the regen, so theoretically he should have been in perfect health, but he supposed he couldn't blame Don for being cautious.
"And no strenuous activity whatsoever," Don had said, firmly, and Tony still hadn't gotten it until Don added, "And you can let the captain know I said that. Clothes on and hands above the waist until further notice, Commander."
"Kinky," Tony had observed, which in retrospect might not have been the best approach. "You know, even without my hands, I can—"
Don had cut him off with the force of his stare alone. "No."
So now he was here, where he liked Steve, and Steve liked him, and they knew it was mutual, and Tony at least would really have liked to get on with doing something more... mutual... and they couldn't even so much as touch each other until the CMO gave them the all-clear. It was the most frustrating thing that had happened in Tony's entire romantic life, which was really remarkable when he considered the fact that his adolescence had been one extended era of years-long sexual frustration born of the fact that the people he'd been interested in tended not to be interested in a guy whose favorite hobbies included researching warpfield dynamics. It had taken him a while to learn not to go on and on about his engineering interests. He'd managed. And with no one interested in him, perhaps it had been easier to ignore his own impulses.
But the thing was, now Steve wasn't staying away from him.
And if his new heart didn't kill him first, all his pent-up feelings were definitely going to finish the job.
Steve had come to see him a few more times in sickbay, chastely enough; Tony figured he'd gotten the memo from Don. Tony could handle that. And then his first day back on duty, Tony was in Main Engineering, head bent over a console, reviewing everything Rhodey had done to fix up the place in his absence. He was half-aware of a shadow falling over him, but he didn't look up.
"Hey there," Steve murmured in his ear. His breath was warm against Tony's skin and Tony shivered all over as the sensation prickled down his spine to gather low in his belly, as his overeager arousal began to make itself known.
Tony hoped his jacket was covering his lap. He hoped Steve wasn't going to want him to stand up anytime soon.
"Captain," Tony said, and his voice was an octave higher than it should have been, and when he glanced up Steve's face was about six centimeters from his. Steve's bright-eyed gaze slid to meet his, and a crooked little smile was starting to curl its way across his face.
He knew exactly what he was doing to Tony, all right.
Tony cleared his throat. "Is there something I can help you with?"
Steve smiled again, closed-mouthed, delighted, like Tony had walked right into his trap. "Oh," he said, and his voice was goddamned sultry, "there are so many things you can help me with."
Tony wondered if his new heart was going to give out without Steve even touching him, because God, Steve was looking at him with a dark, knowing hunger, like he wanted to lay Tony out on the console and have his way with him then and there.
Tony took a shaky breath. Right. He was a Starfleet officer. He was on duty. Steve was probably also on duty. They were in public. He had a heart condition.
"Is one of those things a report on how the repairs are going?" Tony asked, as cheerfully as possible. He brought the draft of his report up on the console. "Because I can definitely help you with that."
"That could be one of the things," Steve admitted, with a grin, as he straightened up and peered at the report, but then his voice went low again, that register that just did things to Tony. Indecent, wonderful things. "But also I just missed you."
Tony had one hand braced on the edge of the console, and Steve covered it with his own, sliding his thumb just under the cuff of Tony's undershirt, pressing on the inside of his wrist. It was a spot that Tony hadn't realized was sensitive until this very moment. He swallowed.
"Yeah," he managed to say. "Same." He cleared his throat again. "So, uh. I'll have what you want ready for you as soon as I can."
"Good," Steve said, and his smile made Tony go weak in the knees. "I'm very much looking forward to... getting what I want."
Tony was incredibly, impossibly rock-hard in one breathless instant, his cock throbbing insistently. Dear God. He summoned up a smile; he was trying for the usual charm he'd learned to cultivate in these situations, but it seemed like with Steve it didn't even work and he was just grinning goofily. "I, uh. Yeah. Yes."
And now he couldn't remember how to put a sentence together. Very attractive. But Steve clearly liked him even if he had been rendered speechless.
Steve let go of Tony's wrist. Apparently he was just going to leave him like this.
As Steve walked away, he was whistling. Tony groaned and thunked his head against the console.
The rest of the week went similarly. Steve went back to his habit of running by Main Engineering in the morning before his shift, and now he was looking at Tony like he knew Tony was looking. I like when you look at me, he'd said, back in the cave—and now he just smiled, sharp and crafty and enthralled all at once, like he knew an amazing secret, as he jogged on by and left Tony standing there wondering if he could just go jerk off before his shift and if that was worth risking imminent cardiac arrest.
Wherever he went, Steve was there. Standing next to him on the bridge. Joining him in the rec room, sitting at his side and watching Carol trounce Clint at darts, and then asking Tony what he did today and being honestly interested in hearing Tony go on and on about subspace topology. Coming to Engineering for reports he did not, strictly speaking, need to receive in person. Standing shirtless in the shared head, brushing his teeth over the sink at night. And all the while, Steve looked so happy.
And Steve hadn't even so much as kissed him.
Tony didn't know if Steve just liked the anticipation, or if he didn't think they were going to want to stop once they started, or if he was actually trying to kill Tony with the tension, or if—God forbid—he was worried he was a bad kisser.
But Tony couldn't stop dreaming about it, and that was maybe the strangest part.
He'd expected, given the way the week was going, that his dreams would be wall-to-wall sex, lurid pornographic replays of every fantasy he'd ever had. But instead, he dreamed about kissing Steve. Just kissing him. Sometimes in the dreams Steve was in bed with him, pressing him down against the mattress. Sometimes he was pushing Steve up against a bulkhead or one of the consoles down in Engineering. Sometimes they were at Starfleet Academy, or back on Delta Geminorum IV. Once Tony's brain treated him to a lazy afternoon of making out with Steve in his workshop in Manhattan, stretched out on the floor together and surrounded by pieces of a holographic imaging array. Steve's mouth was warm and sweet, and he kissed him like they had all the time in the universe.
And more than once, Steve was Captain America. Tony used to dream about Captain America, about saving the world with Captain America—and, okay, once puberty hit, about doing a few other things with Captain America. In Tony's old dreams, Cap had been a blurry amalgam, a composite of tall, muscular men. He hadn't even dreamed him blond; in fact, the cowl had never come off. It was like he hadn't existed under it. He hadn't really needed to. But now in Tony's dreams, Cap pushed that ridiculous cowl back and it was Steve grinning at him, and Tony awoke—half-hard, tangled in his sheets, alone. The Cap poster on the wall stared back at him.
Steve was one wall away. Tony could step through the connecting door and see him and Steve would wake up and—
No. He sighed, pulled his uniform on, and headed out to sickbay so Don could poke and prod at him before his duty shift started.
Don hummed at him and passed a variety of scanners over Tony's body and frowned at the waveforms on the readouts, as Tony sat bare-chested on the edge of a biobed and dangled his feet in the air.
Finally Don put the scanner down, and Tony waited for him to say, as he'd said all week, see you in eight hours for another scan.
But instead Don smiled. "Okay, Commander, you're clear."
Tony stared. "What?"
"You're clear," Don repeated. "Physical exertion is fine. I'm approving you for all levels of duty. Just stay out of live warpfields."
"Yes," Tony promised. "Yes, okay, definitely. Thank you, Doctor."
He was half-afraid that Don would find some way to take it back if he stayed a second longer than he had to, so he threw on his clothes as fast as humanly possible and it wasn't until he was out of sickbay that he realized he'd put his undershirt on backwards. Lieutenant Erwin—well, one of them—walked by him as he was hiding in an alcove trying to put himself to rights, and Tony tried to give him the confident grin of a superior officer who knew exactly what he was doing. He wasn't sure it worked.
And then, of course, Steve was in the turbolift to the bridge. And they were alone.
"So, uh." Steve gave him a smile that was oddly bashful at the same time. He seemed to look everywhere but at Tony, and he licked his lips. "I just saw your name on the reports from medical."
What with the way Steve had been flirting with him all week, Tony hadn't quite expected him to be so shy about it. Still, he supposed that flirting was one thing and actual propositions were something else entirely. It was sweet.
"Yeah," Tony agreed. His brand-new heart was already pounding. "The CMO cleared me for duty. Physical exertion." He attempted to give Steve his best salacious smile, but it just came out awkward and, Jesus, it was a good thing Steve clearly liked him anyway.
Steve's fingers drummed a restless tattoo on the turbolift railing. "I was wondering if you wanted to—"
"Yes," Tony blurted out, too fast, desperate.
Steve's laugh was high and nervous, but his eyes were bright with affection. "I didn't even say anything yet."
"It doesn't matter," Tony said, and Steve chuckled again. "Yes. Whatever you're going to say. Yes. Please."
"I was going to invite you over this evening," Steve said, and then he seemed to trip over his own words. "I'm sorry, I don't really do this much— I don't— I don't know what to say. I mean." He paused and took a breath and seemed stronger for it, though his next words were quiet. "If you still wanted to."
Tony stepped in close, into Steve's personal space, and he watched as Steve brought his head up, as Steve couldn't avoid looking at him. Dizzy, feeling like everything was unreal and too real all at once, Tony reached out and gently, gently put his hand to Steve's face. Stubble prickled under his palm. His fingers rested against Steve's cheekbone, and his thumb bracketed Steve's smile.
Steve drew a small, sharp breath and his eyes went dark.
"Yes," Tony repeated, softly. "I want to."
And then, of course, because the universe's sense of timing continued to be rotten, the turbolift came to a halt, and they had an instant to step away and look professional before the doors opened onto the bridge. Jan grinned at them from her station.
Tony had no idea how he was going to concentrate. But still, things were definitely looking up.
Tony pressed the comm panel outside Steve's quarters and waited. He glanced down at himself, still in uniform. Should he have changed clothes? Had Steve changed? Probably not. They'd only been off-duty for ten minutes. Maybe he should go change. He could brush his teeth again.
He shifted his weight from foot to foot. He was being ridiculous.
The door opened, and Steve was— Steve was gorgeous.
Steve had changed clothes after all, into those old-fashioned civvies he liked. He was wearing dark denim trousers and a button-down shirt, in a brighter shade of blue, that clung to his body in ways that were definitely not conducive to thinking about anything other than getting him out of his clothes immediately. The top three buttons were undone, and Tony could see the sharp edge of Steve's collarbone, trailing down to the edge of a well-defined pectoral muscle, and Tony just wanted to kiss the exposed hollow of his throat. Helplessly, he kept looking down and down, and those trousers didn't leave much to the imagination either; it was obvious that Steve was getting hard—
"Come on in," Steve said, with a smile, and Tony hastily dragged his gaze back to Steve's face.
Tony stepped in and let the door close behind him. Steve was still smiling and Tony was positive that his own face had a smile to match.
"So," Tony ventured, in an effort to fill the silence, "how have you been?"
Steve grinned again. "In the ten minutes since you last saw me, you mean? Pretty good, actually."
"Mmm." Tony lifted his head, baring his throat, and took a step toward Steve. "Want to see if we can make it even better?"
And then they were kissing.
He couldn't have said which of them had started it, but his arms were around Steve and Steve's hands were splayed across Tony's head, dragging their mouths together. They kissed again and again, light little kisses at first, until Tony took the liberty of sliding his hand down to Steve's perfect ass. Steve moaned, low and almost surprised, and his tongue slid into Tony's mouth as he started to rub up against Tony's hip. His kiss was deep and knowing and positively filthy, the overwhelming, all-consuming kind of kiss Tony was used to getting from someone who already had their hand down his pants, and Steve kissed like there was even more coming.
"Oh, God," Tony panted, dazed, when they finally broke apart. "You're good at that. Oh, God. Steve."
Steve licked his lips, slick and already reddened. "I've wanted to do that since I saw you, you know." He said it like it was a confession. Another secret, set free.
Tony blinked. "Really?"
"Really." Steve nodded. "I saw you, and you— you looked at me like you knew what I'd been through, and you'd been there too, and you didn't see a hero and you just saw... me. And you looked like you liked what you saw." He laughed. "And then you asked me to dinner. And the fact that you're goddamn gorgeous doesn't hurt, either."
"Aww," Tony said. "Tell me more about myself." He batted his eyelashes.
Steve was still laughing. "Well, you're terribly modest, for one thing. Hey, hey, no," he said, when Tony tried to look away. "You're the best engineer in Starfleet and you know it. I like that."
"Not really seeing how that's relevant right now," Tony said, and then Steve licked his ear. "Oh, fuck," he said, shuddering, and he wondered if he was going to end up coming while still completely dressed.
"No? I bet you know about a lot of... useful things," Steve suggested, and it was kind of sweet that he was so awkward at innuendo but was still trying. "Thrust. Friction." Steve illustrated the words with another roll of his hips and Tony moaned. "Magnetism," he added. "Mmm. Attraction?"
Still gasping, Tony started to toy with one of the buttons on Steve's shirt. "This dirty-talk-with-science thing is really working for me," he admitted.
"Oh?" Steve's voice was nearly a purr. "Good. What do you think about moving this to bed?"
Every neuron in Tony's brain—or what felt like it, anyway—was currently occupied with cataloguing the precise feel of Steve's cock pressing against him, even through the layers of clothes, as well as the tiny hitches of breath Steve made as he rocked against him. "Good. Great," Tony breathed. "Yes. Bed. Bed is good."
Steve put his hand on Tony's ass—good idea, good idea, the best idea—and lifted him up. One-handed. He was holding Tony up against him like Tony weighed nothing.
Tony had never previously thought super-strength was a turn-on, but he'd never really thought about it. Talk about kinks he didn't know he'd had. He was so hard he was leaking—God, Steve and his super-senses could probably see it on his uniform. Steve could probably smell how much he wanted it.
"Oh, God," Tony breathed. "Or you could fuck me up against the wall. You could do that, right? You could hold me up against the wall?"
Steve grinned and ducked his head, a half-nod, as he started to carry Tony toward the sleeping alcove. "I could. But that one's actually a lot less fun than it sounds."
He'd tried that? Huh. Hidden depths. Tony was kind of liking the idea of imagining Steve's vast amounts of experience. He was kind of liking it a hell of a lot.
"Sadly, yes." Tony didn't know how Steve had any blood left in him, but somehow his cheeks were flushed. "And when I, uh— if it's really good, I go weak in the knees. I'd hate to drop you."
With those words, he promptly set Tony down in the middle of the bed. Steve's bed was bigger than Tony's, but made up with the same Fleet-issue bedding, soft, run through with metallic threads. The lights above the sleeping alcove were dimmed, and most of the illumination was starlight; three huge windows were next to the bed, and the Avenger wasn't in warp, so the view was all shining stars.
He glanced back and saw the same stars reflected in Steve's eyes, as Steve stood there, smiling down at him.
"I kept picturing you here," Steve said, softly. "Right here. Just like this. Didn't think it would ever happen."
"I'm here," Tony said, and he pulled Steve down next to him.
As they traded kisses, Tony worked at Steve's shirt until it hung open, and Tony realized that their previous time together hadn't given him the opportunity to see what Steve liked. He rubbed his thumb over Steve's nipple and Steve shuddered and moaned—and, okay, the answer was apparently going to be that Steve liked everything he did. That was gratifying. He ducked his head and bit and— oh, Steve really liked that.
Steve's cry was almost startled, and he was still rubbing up against Tony. He had to be killing himself in those jeans.
Tony motioned vaguely downward. "You want some help with that?"
He had no idea how Steve's smile was so heartbreakingly earnest when he was half-naked and very, very hard, but clearly Steve was just like that. "Sure. That'd be swell."
Tony couldn't resist the opportunity to palm him through the rough fabric; Steve's eyes fluttered shut and he groaned, rocking up against Tony's hand. It seemed for a few seconds like Steve was desperate enough to try to get off that way; Tony's mind was torn between oh, fuck, I want to see him come right now and the even more appealing it'll be even better if we can wait. Delayed gratification. He could handle that.
"Shh," Tony told him. "Easy. I've got you."
He carefully undid Steve's jeans and freed his cock. He hadn't really gotten a good look, back on Delta Geminorum IV, and he was going to remedy that now. Steve's cock was huge in his hand, heavy and full, wet with pre-come. Tony's mouth was practically watering, looking at him. Dear God, he was perfect. He tightened his fist around the shaft and gave Steve a nice, slow stroke, just the way he liked it, his thumb slipping over the slick head.
"Tony," Steve gasped, and he shoved his hips high in the air, seeking more.
Tony glanced along Steve's body, up the trail of fine blond hair, the defined ridges and planes of his chest, and he saw that Steve was staring, eyes wide, almost black with desire. Steve was biting his kiss-bruised lip, already breathing hard.
"Easy," Tony told him again, and stroked him once more, long and lingering. "Nice and slow."
Arching up again and then sinking back down, Steve huffed out a frustrated laugh. "And here I thought all you Starfleet engineers liked things that went fast." His voice was low and gravelly, like the hum of a ship breaking warp one. He was smiling.
Tony considered this. "Yeah, but we already did fast, Cap." He grinned. "I want to take my time, now that we've got the chance. Be methodical. Learn all I can. Try everything out. Also a virtue of my profession, you know."
Steve let his head fall back on the pillow. "Oh, God."
So Tony bent down and took Steve's cock into his mouth. Steve gasped, a small, strangled sound, and his thighs under Tony's bracing hand quivered, like it was taking all his energy not to just thrust up. He was big, and Tony was a bit out of practice, so Tony couldn't take it all, but Steve sure didn't seem to mind.
"Oh," Steve breathed, as Tony squeezed him tighter, as Tony licked the tip of his cock and then took the whole head in. "Oh, Tony, yes. Just like that."
Tony went as far down as he could go, sliding over the rest of Steve's cock with his hand. Steve filled up his mouth perfectly, with a satisfying weight and heft, and it was just... absolutely perfect. Steve was gasping and trembling, and when Tony gently palmed his balls while letting his tongue slide over the most sensitive spot, Steve made a low, broken noise and... gently tugged at Tony's head, lifting him up.
Chest heaving, Steve blinked down at him like he'd forgotten what he meant to say as soon as he'd gotten a good look at Tony. "You should see yourself," he murmured. "God, Tony, your mouth."
"Yeah?" Tony grinned. "You want to come all over my pretty face? We can make that happen."
Steve's mouth worked. He was the very picture of debauchery—pants undone, shirt open all the way down to his straining cock. Tony stroked him again just to watch him shudder and shiver.
"I want to at least see you first," Steve managed to say. "I want to— please, Tony, please—"
"Sure thing," Tony said, and he leaned up and kissed him, just because he could. He still had his hand on Steve's cock, and with one more stroke Steve was gasping against his lips, the kiss gone uncoordinated.
Reluctantly he stood up and started stripping out of his uniform, dropping it all on the floor in pieces. The jacket and undershirt hit the floor with heavy thuds. He wasn't trying to be sexy about it—it was just his uniform—and he turned away, perching on the edge of his bed to get his boots off. The rustling of fabric behind him suggested that Steve was doing the same thing.
He stood up to step out of his uniform trousers, turned around, and was once again transfixed by the sight of Steve. Steve was gloriously nude, sprawled out indolently on the bed, and this was a thousand times better than walking in on Steve in the shower because Steve was grinning up at him, one hand lazily palming his cock, and Tony was almost dizzy with lust. Starlight shone down on him from the windows behind him, casting shadows on his perfectly-sculpted muscles. Tony had Steve, and Tony had the stars beyond him. It was like the galaxy's most sensual holo advertisement for Starfleet. They really ought to change their motto, Tony thought. Ex astris, licentia. Yeah, that would work.
Steve glanced down and raised his eyebrows, and Tony belatedly realized he was still wearing underwear.
"Come on," Steve murmured, with a sharp little smile, like it was a dare. "Fair's fair."
Tony took a deep breath, hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his underwear, and shoved them off. It wasn't like Steve hadn't seen him naked before, or even naked and hard, thanks to the spores, but Steve had been trying to be professional then. He hadn't really been looking.
And now, now Steve was looking at him. Steve was really taking his time. This wasn't some discreet locker-room glance; this was full-on staring. Steve looked him up and down, slowly, and it was plain that he wasn't just looking at his face. Tony felt himself grow hot and he knew he wasn't exactly small, but he wasn't Steve, and he suppressed the impulse to cover himself. And it wasn't just that potential inadequacy; he knew he couldn't compare to Steve's musculature, either.
"I've been in better shape," Tony said, hesitantly. "And I mean, I know I'm not you—"
"For God's sake, Tony," Steve said, "you're beautiful. I mean it." He sounded almost appalled, like he had no idea how Tony could ever be hard on himself. "Come back to bed and I'll show you how much I mean it."
Steve held out his hand. Tony took it, and he let Steve pull him back down.
Tony had thought that now they were both naked, the pace would pick up again, would move beyond where they had been. He'd been expecting Steve to grind against him, to rub and thrust wildly. But Steve just took Tony's face between his hands, leaned in, and kissed him soft and sweet and somehow Tony was breathless anyway. He opened his mouth, tried to speak, and found that everything was startled wonder instead of words.
"There," Steve said, low and gentle. "There we go." He smiled. "Anything specific you wanted to do, now that we're both here? I've got some ideas, if you can't think of anything."
Tony very much wanted to hear about all of Steve's ideas. At length. "Well, it's your turn," he pointed out. "I picked last time, didn't I?"
Steve frowned and opened his mouth and Tony wasn't sure whether Steve was going for it doesn't work like that or last time doesn't count—though Tony could see how it sort of did and it sort of didn't. "I want to do something you want," he said, firmly.
"Pretty sure that something you want is also going to be something I want," Tony told him. "I'm just guessing, but I think we're on the same page here."
To illustrate his point, he slid his hand down to Steve's ass. Steve moaned and rocked up against him. He'd gone glassy-eyed, and he was panting heavily and trying to push his ass back against Tony's hand, as his cock grew even harder against Tony's hip, and Tony didn't need to be a genius to figure out that that was a very enthusiastic endorsement.
"You want that?" Tony asked. "You want me to fuck you?"
He'd never really considered that Steve would be the kind of guy who'd let him—antique morality, maybe—but wow, was that ever a nice idea.
Steve nodded fervently. "If you want that. Please. I'd really like that."
"Okay," Tony said, still trying to reconfigure his assumptions. "Okay. Better than okay. Wonderful. You got lube?"
He was about to suggest that they could synthesize some if Steve didn't keep it around—because when would Steve have been planning this?—but instead Steve waved lazily in the direction of the little nightstand on the side of the bed closest to Tony. "Top drawer."
The top drawer contained a very, very large bottle of clear lubricant. It was half-empty.
"Uh," Tony said. "I guess I don't need to ask if you've done this before."
Steve's grin was wide and cheerful. "I'm not a saint," he pointed out. "And I get as lonely as anyone. Toys are in the second drawer if you want any."
"Oh, you know," Steve said. "Some plugs, some dildos. Nipple clamps. Those are nifty. I really love how the future has replicators now. So useful."
Tony tried to imagine Steve replicating an entire collection of sex toys. "You've been pretty lonely, huh?" He squeezed some lubricant out onto his fingers.
Steve rolled over onto his stomach and spread his legs, and Tony could feel desire curl deep into him, because, wow, that was a view, and he was going to— God, Steve was really going to let him do this. His cock jumped.
"I thought about you," Steve confessed, his head pillowed on his folded arms, as Tony tentatively pushed two slick fingers inside him. "Oh, Tony," he moaned, as Tony's fingers slid deeper. "Just like that. I thought about you a lot. Doing this."
Tony thought about Steve thinking about this, and a jolt of heat went through him. If he wanted to be capable of actually fucking Steve, he'd better think about something else.
Steve was hot and tight and doing his level best to fuck himself on Tony's fingers, canting his hips back, meeting him with little thrusts every time, and he opened up as easy as anything. Tony curved his fingers and brushed Steve's prostate, and Steve gasped out something wordless and ecstatic and pushed himself against Tony's fingers again and again, ass in the air, cock dangling heavily between his thighs.
"Oh," Tony said, amused. "You like that, don't you?"
He thought about teasing Steve all night, making him beg for it, but then Steve looked back at him over his shoulder and smiled and said, "I'm ready when you are," and Tony realized he didn't want to wait that long either.
Steve rolled over a little more, propping himself up on one elbow, somewhere between being on his side and on his stomach. Tony went where Steve gestured, spooning right up behind him, arms wrapped around him, a position that could have been a chaste embrace if not for the fact that Tony's cock was nestled snugly against Steve's ass and, God, Tony could come just like this, just hold him open and come right all over his hole and he needed to not think that if he didn't want to come right now. He took a shuddering breath.
He was a little disappointed that he wasn't going to be able to see Steve's face, but apparently Steve was also very, very bendy, because he braced himself against the bed in some way Tony couldn't quite see and twisted around in his arms, straining until their lips could—just barely—meet, and okay, wow, that was even better. A definite plus.
"Please," Steve breathed, against Tony's mouth. "Please, Tony."
So Tony kissed Steve and slid inside of him in one motion, just barely breaching him with the head of his cock. Steve gasped into Tony's mouth, exhaled, and then his body relaxed all at once, taking Tony all the way in with one long, slow movement. Steve was always so warm, but he was even warmer here, inside, and he bore down around Tony's cock just the way Tony liked, and he was good, he was so good. They should have done this months ago, he found himself thinking. They could have been doing this the day they'd met. Why had they waited?
"Good?" Tony murmured.
"Mmm," Steve said. His eyes had fallen shut. "So good."
Tony didn't quite have the leverage—or honestly, the remaining stamina—to pound into Steve the way part of him deeply, deeply wanted to, holding him and thrusting heavy and fast and really giving it to him. The way Steve had reacted when Tony had barely brushed his prostate, he was positive Steve would have enjoyed it. But this was just as good, and maybe even better. Nice and slow, like he'd told Steve he'd be.
He pulled almost all the way out, long enough for Steve to protest with a small bereft noise, and then slid in again, slow and deep, burying his full length within Steve, and Steve moaned, obscenity and blasphemy and Tony's name, as Tony bottomed out within him. Tony slid his tongue into Steve's mouth, feeling like that kind of praise should be rewarded, and he kissed him hard and heavy, trying to be inside him every way he could.
It was easy to get a rolling rhythm going. Every thrust was a slow, easy glide as Tony pushed into Steve again and again, as Steve tightened down around him and gasped against Tony's mouth. Pleasure built within Tony; he could feel it from far away, growing and growing within him, higher and higher, as every motion brought him nearer to his own release. He was so close, but he couldn't come until Steve did. He had to hold out.
Steve pulled his mouth away from Tony's. "Touch me," he gasped.
Tony looked down the long length of Steve's body—God, that was maybe an even better view than his ass—down his torso, beaded with sweat, to where his cock, huge and hard, bobbed in time with every thrust. He wrapped his hand around Steve's cock and stroked him, just as slowly as before, matching the rhythm with which his own cock slid into Steve's body.
He pushed inside Steve, angling down to slide against his prostate, and he mirrored the thrust with his hand. He watched his own fist slide up the shaft of Steve's cock and tighten around the head as Steve thrust back onto Tony's cock and then forward onto Tony's fist like he wanted everything at the same time, and then he shuddered and came and came and came, all over Tony's hand, all over his stomach, everywhere.
Tony couldn't hold back any longer, and as he watched Steve's cock slide through his fist he shut his eyes and came. Quiet, blissful ecstasy rolled over him like a wave.
He lay there with Steve in his arms, his head bent against Steve's pale shoulder, until Steve made a quiet grumbling noise and Tony pulled out. They were kind of a mess. It was entirely worth it.
"Was that good?" Steve asked, and he actually sounded nervous. Like he didn't know.
"That was wonderful," Tony told him, and he kissed him, just to make sure Steve knew he meant it. "We should do that again. I'm going to need a bit of a break first, though."
He glanced down. Steve was hard again. Or maybe still. No one had ever mentioned that about Augments.
"I think I can manage that," Steve said, and then he looked down at himself. "I think maybe we should also shower. Care to join me?"
Tony laughed. "It's cute that you think we can both fit in that shower at the same time."
"Oh, that's not a problem," Steve said, easily. "You can go first. I'll watch." His gaze was avid, eager. Tony loved it.
Tony grinned. "I suspect I'm going to need a second shower after my shower."
"Possibly." Laughing, Steve stood up and offered him a hand; Tony took it. "Why, were you planning on doing something else this evening?"
Tony smiled. "I'm all yours."
He squeezed Steve's hand tight, fingers interlaced. Neither of them let go.
The turbolift doors opened onto the bridge. Steve was ahead of Tony and the rest of the senior officers were behind him, ready to take their duty stations. It was ship's morning, the beginning of alpha shift. Objectively, it shouldn't have been different from any other morning, but Tony had spent the night in Steve's bed—and that had changed everything.
It felt like the day he'd joined Starfleet. Like the day he'd met Steve, and rejoined Starfleet. Like the day they'd launched the Avenger. He was stepping out from the known world into a vast galaxy of possibilities, a bright new universe just waiting to be explored. He was on the edge of a great and wonderful thing. A new phase of his life.
He'd survived calamities and catastrophes and every time he'd picked himself up, and every time he'd kept going. And here he was. He'd made it.
The Avenger was his ship, his creation, birthed from his own mind, built with his own hands, and he had the good fortune to serve with his own handpicked crew, his friends, the best people he'd ever served with over the years.
And— and there was Steve.
The idea that Captain Rogers of the Invader was still alive was an idea that would have captivated Tony, no matter when it had happened. The idea that he was Captain America, and that Captain America was real—well, that was even more amazing. Everyone he had ever looked up to, in one person. Nothing he ever should have feared. Nothing he feared now, at least, and Steve had forgiven him.
But more than being his hero, more than being the best captain Tony had ever served under, Steve was Steve—brilliant, kind, funny, caring. And Tony loved him. He loved him so much. He knew Steve loved him back. They hadn't said it yet. But they had time. They had all the time in the universe.
They loved each other, and they knew it. He couldn't ask for more than that.
He hadn't thought his life would ever bring him here, but it had been worth it.
The senior officers took their stations. Tony's engineering board lit up under his hands; next to him, Jan slid her earpiece in her ear and grinned a hello. Tony glanced down at his board. All systems green. Perfect. The notes from Rhodey informed him that every last bit of damage from the Skrulls had already been repaired. Even better.
Steve was the last of them, taking his place in the command chair after everyone else had settled down. He lifted his head and glanced around the bridge. "Good morning, folks. Can I get a status report? Are we ready to get out of here? Maximoff?" He grinned. "Both Maximoffs, I mean. Flip a coin."
A mission précis had come in while Tony was in the shower for the second time; Steve hadn't briefed him on it, and he wondered where they were off to. It couldn't be the Skrulls again. If their ship had come from the Andromeda Galaxy, as they'd said, they had been a long way from home, and he had a suspicion that the Triskelion and maybe even the Excelsior were the first choices to defend the Federation there. Bigger, in that case, was better. Besides, if the Skrull empress was dead, then that had probably destabilized them enough that Starfleet wouldn't need to worry about an invasion for a long time. They were safe.
The twins glanced at each other, and then Pietro nodded. "Helm is ready."
Wanda smiled. "Navigation is ready. Awaiting a course, sir."
Steve nodded. "Good. Van Dyne?"
"Communications, aye," Jan said. "All decks report ready. Doctor Blake says sickbay is empty."
Hank looked up from the sciences console. "Sensors are fine. Nothing exciting around here, sir."
Clint was draped in a chair, not even looking at a board. "Security's fine, Captain. Except for how someone beat me at darts last night." He spun in his chair and nudged Carol with the tip of his boot.
"Duly noted." Steve's mouth quivered as he tried not to smile. "Danvers?"
"It is my considered opinion as your second officer," Carol said, "that we are ready to get the hell out of here." She glanced at Tony. "If the commander concurs, of course. We do need working engines."
Steve turned around to look at Tony, and he was smiling, really smiling, a bright and knowing smile he'd given no one else this morning, and Tony was positive that every single person on the bridge could figure out what they'd been up to last night. He didn't care.
"Tony?" Steve asked, softly, and, yeah, everyone definitely knew now. "We're not doing this without you."
He was smiling back, wide enough that his face hurt from it, and he never wanted to stop. "Impulse, warp, and transwarp at your discretion, Cap," he said, and he didn't even need to check the board. "I'm ready when you are."
He wondered if Steve remembered saying that to him last night. Steve's face was tinged with red, and his smile was a little wider.
Oh, he remembered.
"Right." Steve cleared his throat. "We are on a mission of peaceful exploration, and that's what we're getting back to. Even here in the Beta Quadrant, there's plenty of unknown territory, and Starfleet wants us to be the first ones to see it. And thanks to Commander Stark's engines—" he nodded his head to Tony, who just grinned— "we can get there faster than anyone else. Maybe there will be exciting new stellar phenomena. Maybe there will be new species—who want to meet us peacefully, this time. But whatever it is, I'm looking forward to seeing it."
Steve wasn't a soldier anymore, Tony thought, watching him. His war was over, and he'd finally come home. He'd found a new home, here, at Tony's side—and Tony was going to stay right here with him.
Steve coughed again and glanced away, a little embarrassed. "I'm sorry. Big speech, and I didn't think to look up—" He raised his voice. "Jocasta, the heading?"
"Two one five mark four, Captain," Jocasta said.
Steve grinned. "Great. Thank you. Lieutenant Maximoff—Wanda—lay in a course. Two one five mark four."
"Aye, sir," Wanda said. The console beeped under her hands.
And then Steve glanced back at Tony. "How do you feel about warp eleven, Commander?"
Tony let himself match Steve's grin, and then he let the smile turn sharp and knowing. "You know me, sir. I like to go fast."
Steve held his gaze for long moments, and then he shook his head and smiled. "You— I— all right. All right. We'll talk later," he said, and Tony had a pretty good idea of what talking entailed. Steve laughed and turned back. "Pietro! Warp eleven. Go."
Pietro nodded. "Aye, sir."
On the main viewscreen, the placid starfield started to move, smearing into a bright wave of light, the familiar sight of the inside of a warp bubble.
Tony's board lit up, warp and then transwarp, the warp envelope settling into place over the diagram of the ship, as the deckplates under his feet rumbled. It was a perfect transition. The board stayed green.
"Engineering reports warp eleven," Tony said. "We are stable."
Smiling, bright-eyed, Steve leaned forward in his command chair, gaze fixed on the viewscreen, at the oncoming, undiscovered universe. Tony realized he was smiling too.
He was happy. He was here. They were all here together.
"There's a whole galaxy out there," Steve said. "Let's go say hello."