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It Might Almost Be Worth It

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#12: “why the heck aren’t we making out?”

Okay, this is probably not quite what you were expecting. It’s not quite what I was expecting either. ^_^ Super rough draft, fair warning.

****

“Okay,” Tony said. “So this is a little awkward.”

Steve shifted uncomfortably on his hospital bed. “That’s certainly one way of putting it.”

Tony made a face best described as a grimace and glanced around at their teammates. Six other Avengers were currently sharing space in the quarantine facilities of the Sacred Heart Hospital in Brooklyn, all of them dressed in scrubs or hospital gowns after their costumes had been confiscated and incinerated by armed SHIELD personnel wearing decontamination suits.

It wasn’t a terribly unusual sight by itself. Super-heroes racked up injuries, and they’d been exposed to strange contaminants before. But the fact that - with the extremely notable exceptions of Steve and himself - everyone was either cuddling or engaged in sucking face with at least one of their teammates was definitely a new take on the situation.

“Are you guys sure there’s no cure?” Tony raised his voice but didn’t bother looking at any of the dozen security cameras currently monitoring them.

The speaker clicked once, before Reed Richard’s voice came through. “Sorry, Tony. Anything we tried to counteract the drug just made it more intense.”

Thor had volunteered to be used as a guinea pig for the treatment Reed and McCoy had devised and had afterwards been restrained by three separate telepaths to keep him from completely losing control. He was in a separate room at the moment, being kept in a psychically-induced coma until the drugs - or whatever the hell they’d been hit with - were flushed out of his system.

The thick ring of black and purple bruises that were already flaring to life on Tony’s upper arm said that was probably for the best. If Steve hadn’t been there to pry Thor’s hands loose… Tony rubbed the bruises and didn’t think about it. It hadn’t been malicious, Thor hadn’t tried to hurt him. Rather the opposite, since Reed’s working theory was that the drug only heightened pre-existing sexual urges. Several of his teammates had made eyes at him, or tried to lure him away from Steve’s side for some hot and heavy second base action. It would be kind of flattering once everything calmed down.

“I’m kind of glad Hulk wasn’t with us today,” Tony said.

Steve was staring at Tony’s bruises with hooded eyes. “There’s a scenario I really wanted to have to think about.”

“Sorry,” Tony said cheerfully. “My uncomfortable mental images are meant to be shared.”

Steve shot him a dark look and Tony had to force his smile not to waver as another wave of heat washed over him. Thank god for loose-fitting scrubs. Despite a rather impressive hard-on that his two-tight scrubs did little to hide, Steve seemed more or less unaffected by the lust drugs, so far managing to stay in control of himself without trying to play tonsil hockey or get handsy with anyone. He probably wouldn’t want to know that Tony’s never been so hard in his life and it was almost entirely because of Steve’s presence.

Steve’s sexy, disinterested presence.

“Any more theories on why we’re not affected?” Tony asked the ceiling.

“You are affected,” Reed said irritably for at least the tenth time. “Your blood work is identical to the others’ and you’re both showing several of the physical symptoms, including pupil dilation, increased heart rate and engorgement of the sexual organs.”

“Wow. Sexy. Say ‘engorgement’ again.”

“Tony,” Reed scolded him. “I don’t know why the two of you seem to have more control over your urges. I’d assume you’d been hit with a smaller dose but if anything Steve appears to have gotten hit with the lion’s share of it. The serum may be helping. I’ll take another blood sample in an hour or so and see if it’s breaking down in your system faster than the others, Captain.”

Steve nodded, his brow furrowed and his mouth pressed into one thin line. He’d looked like that ever since a few minutes after the battle ended when Tigra threw herself at Jan and the two women went down in an enthusiastic tangle of limbs. Tony hadn’t really noticed at the time, considering he’d been somewhat distracted by the way Hawkeye had grabbed the edges of his open faceplate and hauled himself up to plant a kiss on Tony’s mouth that had literally sucked half the air out of his lungs.

He might have reciprocated. A little. Until he heard Steve’s voice calling for the medics and he’d managed to pull away enough to realize that people were acting a bit strangely.

“Something’s wrong,” Tony had said, one hand planted in the middle of Hawkeye’s chest.

“I know,” Clint replied, face flushed and chest heaving under Tony’s hand. “Peter’s trying to climb Thor like a tree.”

They’d split up and gone to help the medics get everyone rounded up before someone did something that was going to end up on the evening news.

And now here they were, locked in the quarantine room, waiting for Reed and the others to come up with an answer.

Steve looked uncomfortable but hadn’t made the slightest effort to latch onto any of his teammates which a part of Tony - several parts of Tony, if he were being honest with himself - deeply regretted. He’d known Steve wasn’t interested in him, but it stung a little that even pumped full of happy juice, Steve wanted nothing he had to offer.

“It’s not affecting everyone equally, right?” Tony paused as the sprinklers at the far end of the room turned on, dousing Jan, Tigra and Ororo. Someone had gotten a little too handsy, apparently. Jan came up spitting like a cat and Tigra scrubbed a hand across her eyes like she was just waking up, but Ororo only laughed and stretched. "Thank you, Doctor Richards.“

“You’re welcome, Ororo. Feel free to pick up where you left off once your bloodwork comes back clean.” Reed had given up trying to keep the dosed Avengers from getting physical, but he’d been making judicious use of the fire system whenever anyone crossed a line of consent. Tony was glad it wasn’t the alarms this time. He was pretty sure his ears were still ringing from the last time. “To answer your question, Tony, while the drug appears to be effecting each of you, it does appear you and the Captain are better able to resist those effects.”

“I’m not a super soldier,” Tony said. He shifted on the gurney and had to draw in a deep breath when even the soft pressure of his scrubs brushing against his cock damned near set him off. He clenched his fists into the paper-thin hospital sheets and exhaled slowly through his teeth, forcing the swell of arousal back down to manageable levels. God, he couldn’t decide if this was more humiliating or frustrating, but either way it was easily the worst thing that had happened all week.

Steve was watching him, eyes hooded and his own fists slowly curing into fists against his thighs. Tony had to look away before he did something stupid like fling himself across the space between their beds, cover Steve’s hands with his own and shove those thick, muscled thighs apart.

It might almost be worth it for the two seconds it would take Cap to push him away.

“I don’t know that the serum has anything to do with it,” Reed said. His voice was a little tinny, as if he’d wandered away from the intercom. “Thor was largely resistant to the effects as well, before we attempted to counteract them.”

Thor had found the whole thing largely amusing, sitting around in his too-small hospital scrubs, cheerfully fending off the attention of several of his teammates. He’d cast a heavy-eyed stare at Ororo or Tony or Steve from time to time but had otherwise seemed largely unaffected.

“So, so far the only people able to resist this thing are a god, a superhuman and me.”

“We believe it only enhances already existing attraction,” Reed said. “Thor wasn’t compelled to copulate with everyone he saw, it was aimed at a handful of individuals whom he admitted finding sexually attractive before today. And he was least compelled to copulate with Ororo, whom he is currently in a relationship with, whereas he found it challenging to resist you and the Captain and very difficult to resist Nurse Cairns whom he’d never met before.” There was a brief moment of muffled sound as Reed apparently covered the intercom with his hand instead of just turning it off, then he was back. “Tony, can you tell me who exactly in the room you find yourself compelled to-”

“If you say ‘copulate’ again I’m going to break quarantine and infect you, I swear to god, Reed.”

“It’s a natural biological function, Tony. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. Animals do it, your parents did it, Sue and I-” There was the brief sound of a scuffle and Reed’s laughter in the background.

Tony groaned and buried his face in his hands. “Trade places with me and say that.” He took a couple of deep breaths and scrubbed his face. “All right. Fine. No one gets to hold this against anyone else later, all right? Cap, can we have a team leader consensus here?”

Steve was watching him with a furrowed brow and an expression caught somewhere between pained sympathy and a strangely affectionate ruefulness that made Tony’s heart ache and his cock twitch. “Nothing that happens in this room leaves this room without the consent of everyone involved.”

“Okay. Fine. Asshole,” he aimed at the ceiling, ignoring Reed chuckling at him. “People I’m compelled to be close to right now are Ororo, Jan, Clint and Cap. And Thor, before he left,” he added for completion’s sake. “But he’s gone now so it’s a lot easier to ignore.”

“And who is the hardest to resist?”

“I-Clint? Probably.”

Steve aimed a stern look over Tony’s shoulder. “Sit down, Hawkeye. Tony’s made it clear he doesn’t want to participate.”

Tony twisted around to see Clint had disentangled himself from the cuddle pile and taken a few steps in his direction. “Yes, Cap. Thank you, Cap. Please knock me unconscious until this is over, Cap.”

Steve offered him a half-smile. “Sedatives react badly with the chemicals. You saw what happened to Thor.”

Clint whined and leaned back against the wall, letting himself slide down till he was sitting on the floor. “I don’t want to make out with you, Stark. No offense.”

It was said with such an air of mortification that Tony couldn’t help but grin. "I can’t say I’m really enthusiastic about the idea either.“

“Tony,” Reed interrupted. “I want you to do something. Close your eyes and concentrate of the impulses the drug is causing you to want to act on. Is Clint still the strongest draw?”

All right, examine and evaluate. He could do that. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, trusting Cap would let him know of one of their teammates tried to get too friendly. He flipped through his teammates in his mind, considering them each. Tigra - no real pull there. She was gorgeous, but too young for him to really be attracted. Ditto Peter. Jan was a tug, but a familiar one and nothing he couldn’t resist. Ororo was a stronger pull, a slightly hotter urge. Thinking of Thor made Tony have to clench his hands so his nails bit into his palm so he didn’t get carried away with the sort of daydreaming he’d be mortified by later. And Clint - yeah. If Ororo was a tug low in his belly, Clint was a kick in the gut.

He tipped his head back, eyes still closed, to confirm that to Reed.

And Steve moved.

Just a shift. Adjusting his scrubs maybe, rolling his shoulders, or shifting his weight from one side to the other. It didn’t really matter what it was because all that mattered was that it reminded him of Steve’s presence less than three feet away.

If Clint was a kick in the gut, Steve was fire, Steve was in his blood and moving through his flesh. Clint was an urge at the back of his mind but Steve was thirst and hunger and desire pooling low in his belly, making his already aching cock throb. God Steve was -

He pushed it down, shoved it back and slammed a door on it. Swallowed heat and desire and exhaled need. Forced himself to relax until he could unclench his fists. He could control this.

After all, he was an expert at it by now. Wanting Steve was like breathing air. Something that had become second nature to him over the years.

“Tony?” Steve asked and Tony knew that Steve hadn’t moved, but to Tony’s senses it felt like the man was whispering in his ear. He shuddered and grabbed at the edge of the bed tight enough that the metal frame cut into his skin in an effort to keep from grabbing his own cock and taking some of the relief his body was screaming for.

Screaming for Steve, specifically, now that Tony had let that particular cat out of the bag. Almost five years of want burning his skin from the inside out.

“Tony,” Steve said again and this time he had moved, he was closer. Tony opened his eyes and Steve was standing in front of him, just a few inches away, one hand hovering above Tony’s shoulder as if afraid to touch him.

“Please don’t touch me,” Tony said and his tongue felt thick in his mouth because he could smell Steve this close, the sharp musk of his arousal, the salt tang of his sweat. “Cap.”

Steve frowned at him, eyes trained squarely on Tony’s face. He let his hand drop, slowly, but instead of returning to his side it drifted toward Tony’s chest.

“Steve,” Tony said, as much warning as he could put into his voice because if Steve touched him it would be over and even the sprinklers - hell, even a team of guys with a fucking hose - wouldn’t be enough to stop him from trying to - god he didn’t even know what he wanted right then. Just shove his aching cock against any part of Steve’s body he could get and fucking come.

“Captain,” Reed said sternly.

Clint’s voice joined him, a little hoarse and ragged. “Cap, don’t do anything that’s gonna make me have to knock you out.”

Steve froze, his fingers hovering just above the arc reactor. His eyes were focused on Tony’s with a laser-like intensity and Tony thought he could feel the heat emanating off Steve’s body.

“Cap,” Clint said again, and this time he sounded a little worried. “Cap, if I have to put you down, who’s going to protect Tony’s virtue from me?”

Steve blinked and shook his head as if coming out of a daze. He pulled his hand away abruptly and took a large step back. His teeth were bared in a grimace and he gave Clint a hard stare. “Back away.”

Tony didn’t look behind him. Clint hadn’t sounded any closer than he was before and honestly, at this point he might welcome some harmless groping if it distracted him from the beads of sweat that were starting to trickle down Steve’s throat. God it was fucking hot in there.

“It’s fine,” he said in as even a voice as he could managed. “Everything’s fine. Clint’s not doing anything.”

“Captain, there are security personnel available if you require their assistance.” Reed’s voice was measured and steady.

Steve flinched back a little and shook himself, almost like a dog shaking water out of its fur. “No. I- Sorry, Tony.”

“It’s fine,” Tony said again. “Everyone’s fine. But if either of you makes him turn on the sprinklers I’m going to be so pissed, understood? The only possible thing that could make this situation less comfortable would be sitting around in a puddle.”

“He’s not wrong,” Clint said in a dry voice and from somewhere on the far side of the room Jan said “fucking hormones” in a voice Tony had heard her use to refer to Nazis, chipped nails and Hank’s moldy dishes.

“Tony, if you’re ready?”

“Yeah.” Tony tipped his head back and studied the ceiling tiles so he didn’t have to look at anyone. “Yeah, Clint’s probably the hardest to ignore. But the strongest pull is definitely Steve.”

“Ah,” Reed said in a pleased sounding voice. “So even though you are more attracted to the Captain, you’re better able to control it.”

Tony was pretty sure he could feel Steve staring at him. He refused to look. “Yeah. Pretty much.”

“Thor described a similar situation with Ororo. A working theory is that the stronger attractions are the ones you have the most practice controlling. Therefore it’s the more casual attractions that you’re actually having the harder time dealing with.”

“I’m not sure which is worse,” Clint said. “The people I’m desperately trying to hump, or the people I’m not.”

“Clint,” Steve said in a tight voice.

“Right, sorry, I’m shutting up.”

“Would you say you’ve been attracted to Steve longer than you’ve been attracted to Clint.”

I hate you, Tony thought, uncharitably, at the ceiling. “Yeah. He’s attractive, but I’ve never really thought about Clint that way. Not really.”

“But you’ve thought about Steve that way.”

“Yeah.”

“Recently or is this a long-term state of attraction?”

No, I really do hate you. “Look, I’ve thought Steve was attractive pretty much from the minute I met him, all right?”

“Thank you, Tony. Mr. Barton, can you perform a similar self-examination for me?”

“Self-what-now?”

“Close your eyes and tell me who you’re most attracted to and who you are least able to resist.”

“I hate all of you,” Clint said. “Look, it’s probably pretty obvious that Tony’s the hardest to resist. Uh. Not the one I’m most attracted to, though.”

Reed hummed thoughtfully. “And that would be?”

Clint blinked at the ceiling, expression guarded. “Sorry, can’t hear you. Hearing aids are running out of batteries.”

Steve made a slicing motion with his hand. “That’s enough information, isn’t it Dr. Richards?”

“Oh, yes, I suppose it’s enough to confirm my theory. What about you, Captain?”

Steve was thinking of pleading the fifth, Tony could see it on his face. But then he just sighed and it was like something in him just gave out. His shoulders slumped and his head hung slightly. “Tony.”

“Hardest to resist or -”

“Both,” Steve said flatly. “All. It’s just Tony.”

Reed made a humming noise. “When you say that do you mean he’s the only one you’re having difficulty resisting or-”

“I’m asexual.” Steve ground the words out like he was chewing glass, eyes firmly on the ground, hands gripping the edge of the gurney so hard it creaked. “I don’t feel attracted to anyone without… significant emotional investment. So there is no casual attraction, there’s just Tony.”

Tony stared at Steve, who was steadfastly refusing to meet anyone’s gaze, cheeks flushed red with something that could be arousal but was almost certainly mortification judging by his body language. Steve had just - Steve. Who had just - had he just said he had feelings for Tony?

It felt a little like whiplash. Heat surged through him so quickly he almost choked on it, his skin aching for someone’s hands to touch it. His cock was fucking throbbing in time with his pulse which was pounding in his ears. Five years of want was spilling into his belly, thick and hungry and for a minute Tony couldn’t think of a single reason not to reach out and take what he’d been telling himself he couldn’t have for half a decade.

Steve was attracted to him. Steve cared about him. God, Steve might even love him which was, frankly, more than Tony had ever let himself hope for.

And then the cold. Self-disgust roiled in his chest, thick enough he had to drag in a deep breath, guilt tasted rotten in the back of his mouth.

He dug his fingers into his thighs, his nails biting into the skin through the thin material of the scrubs. He knew damned well what asexual meant and even if Steve did feel… something, that didn’t make it okay for Tony to ignore the rest of it. Significant emotional investment didn’t mean Steve was in love with him, it didn’t mean Steve wanted him. For all Tony knew the alien shit messing with their blood was making Steve experience something he’d never felt before.

God, he’d thought he was uncomfortable. He couldn’t imagine what this must be like for Steve.

And he couldn’t help but think of five years of close friendship, all the times he’d let himself indulge in fantasies of Steve’s body, Steve in bed, Steve’s hands and mouth and - harmless, he’d thought, but horrifyingly invasive in light of this new information.

Somewhere over Tony’s head, Reed was continuing on as if nothing extraordinary had happened at all. “That fits with my theory, and it certainly explains why Tony is having more luck controlling the effects of the drug - years of sublimating urges while he’s around you have undoubtedly made it second nature to him by now and he’s able to exercise that same control when the drug draws him to the others.”

“Thanks,” Tony managed to choke out, throat tight with humiliation and shame. “I think that’s the first time someone has ever implied that I was in control of my libido. Someone get me a calendar so I can mark the day.”

“Looks like we’re all going to have to apologize for all the horndog jokes over the last few years,” Clint said. There was a slightly rhythmic bumping sound that Tony thought was probably Clint banging his head against the wall. It didn’t sound very hard though, and the urge to play tonsil hockey was easier to ignore if he didn’t actually see Clint, so he didn’t turn around. If Clint gave himself a concussion Reed would do something about it.

Steve sighed heavily and scrubbed both hands over his face, then ran them through his hair until it was spiky and sticking up. He was glistening with sweat and Tony stared determinedly at the wall so he wouldn’t think about licking the salty droplets off Steve’s gorgeous fucking throat. “Clint, stop doing that before you hurt yourself. Jan, everyone hanging in over there?”

“I think I need a priest,” Jan said, her voice muffled so it was barely audible.

Tony risked a glance and she was lying face-down on her hospital bed with her face in the pillow, both arms wrapped over her own head, and her ankles crossed. She was practically vibrating and sounded just as fucking uncomfortable as the rest of them.

“I really don’t want to have to explain any of this to a priest,” Peter said. He was sitting on his bed in the corner, his back to the wall and his knees drawn up to his chest. He was wearing a too-small plastic hockey mask that Reed had apparently pillaged from his kids’ toybox, since they’d had to incinerate his Spider-Man costume. The sight of him made Tony really glad he'd given up on the secret identity thing a while back. “It’s going to be hard enough explaining it to my wife. I warned her weird things happened when you joined the Avengers, but I’m pretty sure she thought I was talking about aliens and clones.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re the only one here who was ever cloned,” Tony said. “Don’t go blaming all your weirdness on the Avengers.”

“I think it’s wearing off a little.” Tigra was sitting cross-legged on Ororo’s bed since hers had gotten soaked by the sprinklers. “I still want to do stupid, ill-advised things to people I know I shouldn’t do those things with, but it’s getting easier to stop myself from doing them.”

“We may just be in a waiting game now,” Reed said over the intercom. “If I come up with something to speed the process up, I’ll make sure you’re the first ones to know, but based on Thor’s reaction it may be safest to just let it work its way out of your systems. Several of you have super-strength and I’m running out of telepaths.”

Steve nodded once, sharp and a little grim. “I appreciate you keeping an eye on the team, Reed. This situation could have gotten out of hand.” He studiously didn’t look at anyone as he spoke and his hands were clenching and unclenching on his thighs.

Shit, Tony should not have looked at his thighs. His thick, muscular, straining-the-super-thin-fabric-of-his-scrubs thighs. Holy shit. He was going to come in his pants in front of Reed fucking Richards and a room full of medical professionals because of Steve’s thighs.

“Sue and Dr. Banner will be taking over the night shift,” Reed said. “We’ll keep monitoring you, but I think if anyone was going to do anything ill-advised they’d have done it by now. We’re going to send in a nurse to take one last round of blood samples and then I think we can let you guys have some rest.”

A nurse in a decontamination suit came in pushing a cart. Steve glanced up as they came in, but didn’t budge from his place on the bed. He was already bright red, but if anything it just got worse as the nurse came over to take another sample of blood, the flush spreading down his neck and covering what Tony could see of his chest through the V-neck of his shirt.

Tony lectured himself sternly and tore his eyes off the sight of Steve’s skin, flushed pink and dusted with light gold hair. The nurse turned to him and Tony offered his arm, wincing at the brief sting of the needle going in.

“You big baby,” Clint said, still behind him somewhere. “I’ve seen you get impaled and lie through your teeth about it, but a little needle makes you flinch?”

He couldn’t stop himself from imagining what it would feel like to be impaled on Steve’s cock, split wide open, filled and fucked and trembling while Steve’s hands gripped his hips and Steve’s voice whispered in his ear. He swallowed and shook his head. "Clint, go back to bed. Don’t make the nice nurse have to kneel in that suit.“

"There are snacks and toiletries on the cart,” the nurse said as they - maybe a she, but it was hard to tell through the suit - escorted Clint back to his bed. “Help yourselves. Dr. Reed says if you aren’t out of here by morning, he’ll make sure you get a real breakfast. This was the best we could arrange on short notice.”

Hunger apparently won out over sexual frustration because the rest of the team made a run for the cart and didn’t spare each other a second glance. Tony joined them long enough to grab a toothbrush, a bottle of water and a bag of trail mix (real M&Ms, not the generic ones, he knew there had to be some reason he liked Reed so much), but paused halfway back.

Steve was still sitting on the edge of his hospital bed, kind of curled in on himself, shoulders hunched and arms crossed over his chest. His legs were long enough that even sitting his feet were touching the floor, and his eyes were trained firmly on the ground between them. He glanced up, but as soon as he realized Tony was looking at him he dropped his gaze back to his feet and somehow managed to hunch even further in on himself. He managed to look like a bashful puppy and a Greek god all at once, a combination Tony had always been especially weak for. He resisted the urge to adjust his scrubs - they were loose enough to cover some of his sins, at least, no need to call attention to any of it. Just because he was so hard he felt like he had a fucking baseball bat shoved down his pants didn’t mean anyone else wanted to be reminded of the fact.

Oh. Oh.

He really was a genius wasn’t he. God, Stark, catch a fucking clue.

Tony dropped his food on his bed and quickly went back to the cart. Steve was a big guy so he’d need more than just trail mix to really satisfy himself - Tony firmly did not think about Steve lying back against the pillows of Tony’s bed, lips slick and swollen and smirking as he satisfied himself, one hand wrapped around his thick- goddamnit. Food. Steve needed food and Tony was going straight to hell. He snatched up a couple more bottled waters, a fistful of granola bars, and a bag of cashews which he knew Steve liked better than peanuts. Jan raised an eyebrow as he gathered another toothbrush and toothpaste and a package of moist towelettes, then deliberately shifted her gaze over Tony’s shoulder to Steve’s huddled form before giving him an approving smile.

Steve didn’t look up until Tony shoved a bottle of water in his face, forcing him to uncross his arms to accept it. Tony dumped the snacks in Steve’s lap. “Eat something,” he said quietly. “It’s been a long day.”

“Thank you,” Steve said quietly. He clenched his fingers around the water bottle a few times, the plastic crinkling just a little as his fingers flexed and tensed. “I’m not… used to this.”

“You don’t have to explain if you don’t want to,” Tony said. He Sat down on the edge of his bed so he was facing Steve. “If it helps any, you’re not the only one who’s a little uncomfortable right now.” He grinned, pleased when Steve offered him a brief smile back. “Even me and let’s be real - I’ve got experience at being indecent in public.”

“No one’s indecent.”

Tony let his grin ease into a smirk. “By the skin of our teeth.”

Steve laughed. “Yeah, well…” He risked a glance at the others, each of them settled in their own space except for Ororo who was helping the nurse put dry sheets and pillows on her bed to replace the ones Reed has soaked. “I think it’s wearing off.”

“Must be,” Tony said easily. “I haven’t tried to molest Clint in at least an hour.”

Steve nodded slowly smile fading. He shifted focus to the food Tony had brought him and they ate in silence for several minutes, the room quiet save for the sound of their teammates finishing their makeshift dinner and preparing for bed.

“We’re going to dim the lights in there soon.” Sue Richards’ voice was warmer than her husband’s had been, but firmer as well. “Bruce and I will give you as much privacy as we can. One to a bed, no touching anyone else below the belt and just for your personal information: there are no cameras in the bathroom. Please, clean up after yourselves.”

“Oh god,” Clint groaned. “It’s like getting the birds and the bees talk from your hot aunt.”

“Also, we’ve left the intercoms on, so we can hear you. Clinton.”

He grinned up at the ceiling. “Super hot?”

“Better. If we get anything important from the new blood samples we’ll wake you you up, but Reed and Dr. Pym anticipate you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in symptoms by morning. Get some sleep.”

A couple of people shuffled around, carefully avoiding anything like physical contact as they used the bathroom and brushed their teeth. Peter was already asleep, curled up on his side and facing the wall. Jan had managed to acquire a small mountain of pillows and was reclining against them, texting. She was smiling and her cheeks were pink, so Tony figured it was probably Hank and it was probably dirty. Go Jan.

The lights dimmed and slowly went out until all that was left was the light inside the bathroom. He brushed his teeth and used a couple of the towelettes to scrub his face and the back of his neck. He briefly contemplated a full-on sponge bath but he wasn’t sure that rubbing himself down was a good idea; he didn’t have a lot of confidence in his ability to stop his hands from wandering. He’d jerked off in a public bathroom once or twice in his life but somehow doing it with Steve less than twenty feet away felt… weird. And Peter and Tigra were just kids, Tony was pretty sure he’d have to kill himself if either of them heard him getting off.

Instead he splashed cold water on his face and scrubbed wet hands through his hair until cold water dripped down his neck. “You are thirty-five years old,” he told his reflection sternly. “You can control your own dick for one night." His reflection appeared largely unconvinced.

So was his dick, unfortunately.

Even walking was uncomfortable. The fabric of the scrubs brushing over his cock with every step was fucking torture and he’d been hard for hours now, his flesh oversensitive to the point where a gust of warm air would be more painful than arousing.

Okay, now he was thinking about Steve’s mouth again and the warm, wet heat of it wrapped around his aching flesh. He groaned as he crawled onto his bed and buried his face in his pillow, hands clenched in the blanket to stop himself from shoving one of them down his pants. He’d made it almost a whole minute. Well done, Stark.

"Tony?” Steve asked in a hushed voice.

Tony waved him off, but shifted so he could lie facing Steve. He bent his knees a little, hoping the baggy scrubs would obscure most of his erection - Steve was dealing with a lot today, that was the last thing he needed shoved in his face.

He sighed as he forced that particular mental image away. God, it was like his brain was trying to kill him.

The room was largely silent aside from the occasional rustle of clothes or tired groan. Someone from the far corner was starting to snore a little and Jan’s phone, lying beside her on the pillow, illuminated closed eyes and a slightly parted mouth. Despite the other people in the room it felt strangely intimate, as if he and Steve were the only ones really there.

Steve was watching him with a sheepish smile, familiar and easy despite the fact that his skin was still flushed with heat and embarrassment. It made some of the tension ease out of Tony’s shoulders. Despite all the weird sex stuff and uncomfortably public declarations, this was still Steve, still one of his best friends in the world, still the man he’d co-led the Avengers with for years. They’d literally walked through hell together - they could handle some awkward boners.

“I was wondering,” Steve said softly, his voice barely covering the short distance between their beds. “About… what you said before.”

He’d expected this to come up sooner or later. This was probably as good a time and place as any. Nothing would leave that room without everyone’s consent, Steve had declared, which meant they could hash this out and leave it behind them when Reed finally cut them loose.

Tony smiled, and if it was a little sad, that was fine. He’d known all along that one day he’d have to give up on the fantasy of Steve wanting him back. “The part where I’m attracted to you?”

“The part where you’ve felt that way for ten years. Did you really?”

Tony propped his head up with one arm. “You’re a good-looking guy, Cap. I’d have to be blind not to notice.”

Steve frowned, like Tony had gotten the answer wrong. “Noticing isn’t the same as wanting.”

“Not really, no. There are some very good-looking bad guys out there and I can’t say I want them, even when I think they’re attractive.”

“But you wanted me,” Steve said and it wasn’t a question.

“I did. Do. Probably still will in the future.” Tony paused for a second. “Are you okay with that?”

Steve was silent for a long minute, staring at the ceiling. He was too big for the hospital bed and he had to cross his arms over his chest to keep them from hanging over the sides. He was stretched out on top of the blanket and even in the dim light, Tony could see the way the scrubs were stretched tight across his chest and upper arms, around his thighs and how the material strained over the bulge of his cock.

Tony pulled his eyes away and caught Clint watching him. The archer rolled over as soon as he noticed Tony, and reached up with one hand to pull off his hearing aids.

“I could-” Steve cleared his throat a little. “I could help. You. With-” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Everyone’s asleep. We could go into the other room and - and make each other a little more comfortable.”

A heat that had nothing to do with sex drugs and everything to do with ten years of want and love flared in the pit of his stomach. Part of him - the part that was willing to take what he could get, willing to scrounge for the scraps of proof that Steve loved him back - leapt at the offer and his had to press his hand down hard against his lower belly, willing himself to calm down.

But the thrill of Steve’s offer faded almost immediately. Even if the offer had been sincere - and it hadn’t sounded terrible enthusiastic on Steve’s part, had it - there was no way Tony would agree to it when they were both drugged and reduced to quickie handjobs in a public bathroom. Steve deserved more than that - Tony was better than that. “We can’t. Not here. Whatever this stuff is, it’s affecting us.”

“We’re resisting it. Reed-”

“Because it’s not making me feel anything I haven’t felt before.” Tony kept his voice hushed, but his throat was aching and he felt like screaming at himself. “I’ve had a lot of practice at wanting someone I wasn’t supposed to want. But that’s not what’s happening to you, is it? The drug is making you feel things you wouldn’t normally feel.”

“That’s why I want to do this,” Steve said, his mouth set in a familiar, mulish line. "With you. If I can see what it’s supposed to feel like for normal people, then I can make it feel right next time. Make it good for you. I want you to want me. I want to want you. You’re the only person I’ve ever met that made me want to feel like this.“

"Steve,” Tony said, his voice low and shaking a little. He could hear a decade of longing in his voice and he saw Steve react to it as well, his eyes softening and his mouth curving down into a frown. “You’re normal, Steve. People have different ways of handling sex and attraction - yours is mental or emotional and not physical. So what? I used to date a girl who couldn’t get in the mood unless she pretended I was getting her pregnant. Is that normal? One of the guys I went to college with could only climax if he was choking someone. Is that normal?”

Steve’s face had transformed into a thundercloud that would have made Thor proud. “You were fourteen at MIT.”

“Only for the first year,” Tony said patiently, stamping down the little flutter of pleasure he always felt when Steve acted protective. “Anyway, Rhodey would have killed him. Or anyone else. He strongly disapproved of my life decisions back then. But that’s not the point. You’re normal. Sex isn’t some vital end-all-be-all of the human experience.”

“But it’s important to you.”

“Not as important as the rest,” Tony said. It was probably a bad idea, but he reached across the space between their beds. For a long moment his hand hung in the air before Steve shifted onto his side and reached back. His hand was a little clammy, but his fingers curled into Tony’s palm like they’d done this a hundred times before. Tony shuddered a little at the brush of Steve’s fingers against his skin and his next breath was shaky.

Steve made a sound, soft and a little surprised. Tony wanted to crawl out of his bed and climb into Steve’s, hold him down and kiss that sound out of his mouth again and again.

A few hours ago he would have. Maybe the drug was wearing off. Maybe knowing that Steve had real feelings for him made it easier to push the physical impulses away.

Steve was looking at him with glassy eyes, his lips slightly parted. His breath was coming shorter and in fast little pants and one hand was fisted into the front of his shirt. His hips shifted a little before he shuddered and stopped himself.

Tony could get up right now and cross the distance between their beds. He could lean in and feel Steve’s breath against his lips, taste Steve’s mouth, swallow his breath. Steve would let him. Steve said he wanted him to.

“Tony,” Steve said, his voice tight and thin and wanting. But there was a thread of something beneath it, something nervous and unsure, that broke the fantasy.

“It’s not the part that’s important,” Tony said softly. His cock was throbbing and his face felt hot. His chest was tight and he felt like every breath was shallower than the last. But he knew he was right. “Having your trust, your friendship, knowing you love me, even if it isn’t the way I love you, that’s what’s important. I can go the rest of my life without your hand on my cock, Steve, but I will die to keep from losing you as a friend.”

“Tony,” Steve said, a thread of exasperation in his voice. “Haven’t you been listening? It is the same. I love you, you oblivious jackass.”

Tony shook his head and had to close his eyes against the sudden heat that pricked them.

Steve was still talking, but his voice was softer now, the exasperation replaced by something that sounded a lot like fondness. Tony wanted to see his face but he knew if he opened his eyes and saw that, he’d be done for. “I have gone my entire life without wanting to awkwardly proposition anyone until you came along. But I didn’t know you felt the same. And I know you like sex and I can’t give you that - not as good as someone else could. I didn’t know how to make it be enough for you.” His fingers tightened on Tony’s almost painfully. “And then today happened and I thought maybe, if this stuff could make me feel what it was like for you - but you wanted Clint and Jan and Ororo and you didn’t act any different toward me.” He exhaled heavily, his thumb rubbing over the inside of Tony’s wrist. “So you didn’t want me. Except you told Reed you did and I thought, maybe I could make this work. See what it felt like to be normal just this once.”

“Steve, this isn’t normal for anyone. We’re drugged. And even if we weren’t, what the hell kind of person would want his partner to fake that? If I knew you were forcing yourself to have sex with me I think it’d kill me.”

“I wouldn’t have to force myself,” Steve said. “It’s not like the thought disgusts me. I just… don’t turn on the way other people do. But being close to you, making you feel good - I want to know what that’s like. I want to be the one who makes you happy.”

“You don’t have to have sex with me to make me happy,” Tony said quietly and the darkness around them felt heavy and still. “Just tell me you love me again.”

“I love you,” Steve said easily. His thumb stroked over Tony’s wrist in a slow sweep of skin and the fire that burned in Tony’s belly was warm and slow and entirely because of him.