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--

 

You have changed me already. I am a fireball
      That is hurtling towards the sky to where you are

-- Dorothea Lasky, "Poem to an Unnameable Man"

 

Steve is standing in a clearing at the base of a rocky mountainside in the Sierra de las Nieves when his phone rings. 

No one ever calls him, no one in eight months has called him, so the phone is buried deep in the folds of his backpack, and it takes him a whole minute to drop the backpack to the ground and dig through it.  By the time he gets the phone out, there isn't long to stare at the name TONYA SKRT in surprise before the thin whine of displaced air catches his attention, and he looks up to see a red blur, and then Steve's body is hurled into the rock face of the mountain.  His collarbone cracks against the mountainside, and one of his ribs snaps, its jagged middle cutting into a lung.

The object that hit him rebounds, and Steve drops to his knees in a shower of rocks and a wash of pain.  He rolls to the left with a hot stripe of agony in his side and looks up, wild-eyed. 

Twenty feet away is Iron Man, in his familiar crouch, grooves in the earth in front of him where his fingers dug in. 

Steve scans the clearing for cover, for defensive objects, for makeshift weapons.  He watches Tony slowly straighten, heart racing-- then he watches Tony rip off his helmet to reveal a face that is, unfathomably, annoyed.

"Goddammit, Steve," Tony snarls.  "When someone calls you, you don't just stare at your phone, you answer it."

"What's going on?" Steve asks. He doesn't rise from his defensive crouch.  His ribs are in motion, and he feels the hot, painful tug of them in his sides.  There's a fracture near his left shoulder he can feel mending itself together. 

Tony looks down at his armor in disgust.  "Navigation guidance malfunction.  Three hours ago I was in Paris.  I called when your biosignature showed up."  He looks at something on the inside of his wrist.  "And now guidance is totally shot, fucking fantastic."

"You had guidance malfunction for three hours?"

"Shut up, Steve."  Tony glances up, scowling, probably taking note of Steve's expression and hunched abdomen and that his whole body is covered in dirt.  "You okay?"

"Well, I just got thrown into a mountain, so."  He pushes himself gingerly to his feet. 

Tony looks from him to the mountain, frowning thoughtfully.  "Is there anything else here?  What the hell did FRIDAY get a lock on?"

"Could be a coincidence," Steve says, brushing at the debris on his arms.  "Maybe FRIDAY's taking in the sights."

"Andalusia is lovely this time of year."  Tony walks over to Steve's backpack and looks down at the discarded flip phone that's lying on the ground, still remarkably intact.  "FRIDAY, you meddling bitch," he says lowly, picking up the phone and flipping it open.  "This says you just missed a call from Tonya Skirt."  He looks up at Steve, eyebrow raised.  "Tonya Skirt, really?"

"Tonya Secret."

"That's very subtle."

"You think that's what HYDRA is after, your phone number?"  Steve walks over to his backpack and crouches carefully next to it.  "It's just for casual observers.  Frankly, if someone seizes and then hacks my phone, I'm fine with them contacting you."

There's no rejoinder to that-- so Steve glances up from shaking dirt off his bag to see Tony watching him, eyebrows gathered.  Steve is suddenly reminded of the weight between them.

"Makes sense," Tony says. 

Steve zips his bag and stands.  "So what now?"

Tony glances back down at his wrist.  "Something's screwed up with the circuitry, I'll have to fix it before I get back in the sky again.  There's only so much cliff-bouncing a guy can do before the thrill wears off, you know?"

"You could fly the normal way," Steve says.  When Tony is silent, he adds, "In a plane."

But Tony shakes his head, frowning.  "No, I'm… I'm under a lot of surveillance right now.  I mean, not literally right now, but they'd definitely notice me attending a conference in Paris and then flying out of Spain.  They're pretty sure I've got some backdoor stuff going on with you and the others, like some stealth Dark Avengers bullshit." 

"I take it 'they' means General Ross?"

"Yeah," Tony says tersely.  "So if I fly out nearby, chances are good they'll come nosing around looking for you."

"You don't need to worry about me," Steve says.  Tony snorts but doesn't otherwise reply.  He tosses Steve his phone and then starts to manually unlock the pieces of his armor, tossing them carefully onto the grass. 

"You got a place I can set up shop to repair the suit?"

"I'm renting a room in Malaga."

"I can only imagine the kind of luxury a fugitive's salary can afford."

"It's not bad," Steve says, feeling suddenly discomfited about the idea of introducing Tony to his apartment-- to the small pocket of a life he's made for himself, however temporary.  "I do some odd jobs, so I've got some money."

"Great," says Tony.  "Probably shouldn't be using my credit card, so you can buy us a cab back to Malaga."  He's wearing dress clothes underneath his armor, revealed limb by limb: a white collared shirt and dark slacks, a red tie, his glossy black shoes.  "Also I'm going to need your backpack to carry half this stuff in.  Also you have to carry the other half."

Steve hands over his bag, but he says, "It might be easier if you just gave Ross a call and let him know we're here." 

"I generally prefer to not talk to Ross, so get moving." 

Tony packs as much of the suit as he can in the backpack and then piles Steve's mostly healed arms with the rest, and they begin the long walk to the main road to Ojén. 

They follow a long, narrow path that runs along a sinew of water, surrounded by fir trees.  When the path meets the main road, the dense canopy falls away, and the vista on either side opens into the grandeur of the Serranía de Ronda. They pass hilltops laced with sunflower fields, pueblos blancos glittering in the distance, under a big blue sky, and a long chalky road beneath them. 

After several minutes of walking silently next to Tony, Steve says, "Dark Avengers, that's kind of catchy."

Tony glances at him.  "It's not catchy."

"I'm just saying it's a little catchy."

"Steve.  No."

 

+

 

Steve buys a newspaper to wrap Tony's armor pieces in, and to avoid arousing suspicion he tries to imagine he's carrying pieces of an art project-- cradling the bundle carefully, maybe something he collected on the beach, and smiling over at Tony and at people that they pass, him an artist, maybe, and Tony a professor or a curator.  Or a tourist, though with Tony's darker coloring and sunglasses and the open plackets of his white dress shirt-- and something just Tony, something smoky and indolent-- he seems far less like a guiri than Steve does.

"I have a couple of roommates," Steve says as they make their way up the street to Steve's apartment building.  Steve lives in a working class barrio, far from the beachfront property or the glamour of downtown, far from the grand churches and castles, though those are still visible on the city skyline from the rooftop of Steve's building.  There's a long cinderblock wall covered with graffiti near the front entrance of the high-rise, and between spray-painted initials and swear-words is a Steve's favorite mural: a child's face, the tips of her hair spreading out into the outline of a dozen blackbirds.  "They think I'm a student at the University of Malaga."

"So I shouldn't set up my superhero doo-dads in your living room, then," Tony says, and again Steve feels that frisson of strangeness.

When he lets them into the 12th-floor apartment, Steve calls out a greeting in Spanish, and Sebas answers from the kitchen. 

He pokes his head out and smiles when he sees Tony, and Steve feels, bizarrely, the first stirrings of a flush at the back of his neck. 

"This is Sebas," Steve says in English.  "Sebas, this is my friend Tonya."

Tony shakes hands with Sebas, who grins at him.  "Pleased to meet you," Sebas says.  "I just made pescaíto if you guys want some."

"Thanks, but I need to set up," Tony says, eyes flicking to Steve.  Steve nods and says in Spanish, "We're good, we're going to work on a project in my room."

"Okay, I have work at five," says Sebas, "so I'm about to clear out.  I'll let Diego know you've got a friend visiting."  He grins again, and Steve feels his face heat.  "Good luck with your project."

 

+

 

Steve's room is small and sparsely furnished, but after he clears the small table of books and art supplies, there's enough room for Tony to disassemble pieces of the armor into careful piles. 

As Tony spreads out, Steve settles himself on the bed. 

He has few possessions, but he's been here for half a year now.  He has some travel guidebooks, a book of Spanish idioms and a decent collection of Spanish paperback novels, a battered but resilient laptop, and an ashtray that holds Steve's bus pass and spare change. 

Shoeboxes of paints and brushes and pencils and oil rags and several canvases are scattered around the room.  On the wall that Tony's facing, there are rough pencil sketches affixed with tape, and they're mostly of architecture and landscapes, but some are people-- a close-up of hands on a guitar, a young woman selling fruit at an open-air market, two old men bent over one café cortado.  The only other thing on the wall is a painting that was given to him by an actual art student at the University of Malaga. The student's bike had skidded and he'd wrecked against the curb, and Steve had managed to catch him before his body was thrown into traffic.  It was one of the four or five acts of heroism Steve has managed to cobble together over the last year and a half. 

The painting the student gave him as thanks is a beautiful rendering of an interior of Pablo Picasso's home-- two white arched windows against a red wall-- which is only a 20-minute walk from Steve's apartment. 

Infinitely strange to have Tony Stark here, in Steve's room, in this circle of small, fragile solaces. 

"Can I do anything to help?" Steve asks, after several minutes.

"Yeah," Tony says, looking up.  "I need a toolbox and a lamp.  And I don't know what pescaíto is, but I'm in."

 

+

 

Tony needs additional parts to repair the circuity of the suit, which wouldn't be a problem if Tony could use his credit card or if Steve had sufficient cash to float him.  At last Steve says, "so, those odd jobs I mentioned." 

Then he introduces Tony to Fallo, who owns a motorcycle repair shop. 

Steve tells Fallo that Tonya here is a world-class mechanic who's down on his luck; he implies that Tony lost all his money gambling over the weekend but that he's learned his lesson and that Steve will make sure he doesn't steal anything.  Steve explains to Fallo that Tony is the one who originally taught Steve how to repair motorcycles. 

Then Tony changes into some of Steve's clothes-- some cut-off jeans and a stained red checkered button-up-- and they work at the shop until late in the evening.  Tony does most of the work.  Steve assists-- translating and handing Tony tools and lifting things-- while Tony quips and sings under his breath and curses and talks cajolingly to the machines. 

After a few hours, Fallo brings them a plate of sandwiches and icy cold glasses of horchata, and they eat sitting on the floor of the garage, leaned against the machinery. 

Tony doesn't let his eyes rest too long on Steve, but he was often like that, a mess of sound and motion; he talks about the differences between Ducati engines and Harley-Davidson engines, and Steve teases him, and Tony responds good-naturedly, and Steve lets himself sink into the easy familiarity of it.  This is what he half didn't want, the source of his half reluctance down the long road from the mountains. 

Tomorrow will hurt a hundred times more than yesterday did, for the indulgence, and the shiniest pieces of life in Malaga will seem dimmer and pettier.  But Steve has shouldering loss nearly down to an art, so he accepts it.

At the end, Fallo gives them 450 euros. 

Steve offers to accompany Tony to a local electronics shop, but Tony says, "No fucking way.  I slept three hours last night then crash-landed into a mountain, then walked a thousand miles of Spanish countryside, then fixed up a thousand shitty vespas.  There's no way I'm going to the mall.  We'll go tomorrow."  He wipes at the motor oil on his hands with a rag, but it's a lost cause.  "In the meantime, I'm going to spend some of this pay on a six-pack and thirty pinchitos."

Back at Steve's apartment, most of the silence is filled with Tony's appreciation of the food and the climate, plus suggestions for Fallo's business model, and more engine talk-- and by the time they're finished eating, Tony's exhaustion is clear.  He's leaning against the chipped particle-board table nursing his second beer.

"I'll take the couch," says Steve. "You do look pretty beat."

"Don't be smug," Tony says, but he doesn't move to rise.  He just drinks his beer, looking down at the table with a thoughtful expression on his face. 

Steve doesn't want to get up to clear the table until Tony's finished, but without Tony's chatter, he's not sure how to fill the silence. 

With the logistics resolved and the teasing exhausted, there isn't much that's safe for Steve to ask about. 

He wants to ask Tony if there's anything else he'd like to do or see in Malaga before he leaves-- if maybe he can spend a few more days in town-- but for all the familiarity it's stupid to ignore the actual circumstances of Tony's visit.  The duress, the discomfort, the secrecy.

Finally, Tony sets the beer bottle decisively down on the table.  "I'm changing my name in your phone to Nasty Tork," he says.

Steve stares at him blankly for a moment, then says, "Ronk Tasty."

Tony nods.  "Ronk Tasty," he agrees.

 

+

 

With some thought to making himself look less like Steve Rogers, but mostly out of curiosity, Steve experimented with weight loss before he left Wakanda.  He stopped working out, stopped running, and even stopped eating for several days before it began to feel less like an experiment and more like guilt-induced mortification of the flesh.  His frame is still large, but he did lose some muscle density.  It's not irresponsible, he tells himself, because he knows how fast the muscle would return if he got tapped back into the ring.

He still looks mostly the same-- but he likes even the slight items of difference.  He looks in the mirror and sees a fit but trim American expat who studies art in southern Spain; a guiri with a high alcohol tolerance and a decided lack of interest in global politics, who has casual sex sometimes, who scrounges every month to make his rent.  He sees a quiet post-grad with a beard, who spends most of his time sketching in charcoals and learning to make empanadas and watching La que se avecina with Diego and Sebas.

And not Captain America in exile.

The habit of waking early hasn't shaken off so easily, though, so the next morning Steve wakes at dawn on the sofa in the living room. 

He doesn't want to leave while Tony’s here, so he showers and then washes dishes and putters around, putting together breakfast and tidying the apartment.  Around ten, he hears his bedroom door open and then another door-- the bathroom-- open and shut.  He hears the shower go on, and then a while later he hears Tony move back into the bedroom, and after that he doesn't see him for another half-hour. 

When Tony finally shows himself, he's wearing another of Steve's checkered shirts, this one not stained, dark blue and grey, and the same jeans. 

His face is closed, his eyes lowered, and all the impersonal buoyancy that animated his conversation yesterday is subdued into silent nods. 

It's possible that Tony woke up this morning disoriented, in a strange place, not yet remembering the day before.  Maybe he turned his head to see pieces of his armor strewn over a desk-- and on the wall, a sketch of a clock tower drawn in Steve's familiar hand.  Where was he?  What was going on?  Tony's quick mind cycling through scenarios.  But of course the last year had happened, and Tony was in Malaga, and the reasons for their reunion were trivial and temporary.

Or possibly Tony did a sweep this morning of Steve's room, checking for any Dark Avengers paraphernalia, some sign that Steve was crime-fighting on the side, or who knows what-- probably inviting himself to check out Steve's laptop while he was at it-- and uncovered Steve's private sketchbook under the mattress. 

The sketchbook is filled with drawings of the team-- Steve still thinks of them like that, “the team”-- and some of Peggy, and some of Bucky, and all Steve's melancholy is in it.  Even if Tony didn't resent the drawings for their supposed hypocrisy, he would resent them as a site of soreness.  It isn't Tony's natural inclination to avoid conflict-- and if Steve pushed too hard on those bruised places, even accidentally, Tony would stop ignoring them.  He would come in for a fight. 

"There's coffee, if you want," says Steve, holding out a plate of tostada con aceite.  The bread is layered with thick slices of tomato and paper-thin folds of ham and drizzled with olive oil.  He points at a white plastic carafe on the table. 

Tony accepts the plate with a nod of thanks.  "I'm wearing your underpants," he says grimly.

 

+

 

The circuitry pieces that Tony needs from the computer shop are pretty obscure, so he and Steve have to wait for the manager to finish with another customer.  They lean against a back wall, trying to stay out of the way.  Tony's face behind a new pair of sunglasses is placid and remote.  Steve keeps waiting for him to say something like “I found what I needed in a desert cave , but Rosaleda Mall, nope, nothing”-- the kind of comment he’s made a hundred times before-- but he doesn’t. 

The radio is playing a popular song about love-- about a girl whose father refuses to condone a marriage with her boyfriend.  The two run away together, and the chorus is about their morning of departure.  Desde aquí podemos ver cada momento: from here we can see every moment.

Steve tips his head back against the wall and thinks about the last time he and Tony were in a store together. 

It was Wanda's birthday, two years ago.  They were in Arizona, waiting in a food court for Rhodey and Natasha to finish with a meeting at the nearby Army base at Fort Huachuca.  Sam demanded that Wanda pick out something pointless for him to buy her for the occasion, so they spent forty minutes at a novelty gift shop while Wanda looked skeptically through racks of t-shirts and Steve trailed behind Tony pestering him with a grabby robot arm toy.  Tony pretended to be annoyed until Steve got sidetracked by a giant scratch-and-sniff world map tacked on the wall, and Tony said, "what the hell, Cap," watching Steve, mouth tilted with delight.

The music on the radio bleeds into a song about a young man who has decided to leave his vain lover but wants to sleep with her one more time.  Tony twirls his phone in his hand.  Steve can only imagine the calls he's missing, the emails he's missing, in order to withhold the stamp of his presence in Malaga, Spain.

After another few minutes, Steve pulls out his own phone, his flip phone, taps a few buttons and then hands it to Tony.  The contact display says ARS KNOTTY. 

Tony looks down at it and huffs a laugh. 

He taps at the screen for a moment and then hands the phone back.  It says STONY KART.

 

+

 

Tony stays quiet-- pensive, with some hard set to his mouth that Steve has learned to recognize as irritableness-- until mid-afternoon when Steve knocks on the door frame of his bedroom and tells Tony there's lunch, if he wants some.

Tony follows him wordlessly into the kitchenette and accepts a plate of fried potatoes with chorizo and avocado.

They eat in silence for a few minutes before Tony says, "Where are your roommates?"

Steve swallows.  "They're giving us space.  I guess they think--"  Steve shrugs, looking down at his plate as he spears a potato, "we're spending time together."

"Spending time together," Tony repeats.  Steve's face warms. 

"Diego is at his girlfriend's place, and Sebas is staying with his parents."  It's not the clarification Tony was asking for, but Tony doesn't say anything. 

When Steve finally looks up, Tony is watching Steve with an inscrutable expression. 

"You've got some pretty exciting paintings in your room," he says.

"What do you mean?" Steve asks.  He thinks for a moment that Tony is misusing the word painting, that he means the sketchbook-- but Tony's look isn't sullen, really, but darkly curious, with a bleak edge.

And then Steve remembers a set of paintings tucked casually amid the others.  Portraits of Adriano, a musician in Churriana who Steve met while doing day labor at his grandfather's small olive farm. He taught Steve in slow, patient Spanish how to untangle thorns and branches from the fruit nets without damaging the nylon.

One of Steve’s paintings of him is a nude-- the top half of the canvas is done in oils, a full-color portrait, but it thins halfway down the canvas, around the abdomen, into a sparse black and white sketch.  Adriano's shoulders are thick layers of brown and gold ochre, eyes and hair burnt umber, and his erection one single dark charcoal curve. 

The other two portraits aren't explicit, but they are clearly appreciative-- one of Adriano laughing, one of him sliding a large, dark olive into his mouth.

"What's the problem?" Steve asks.

"No problem.  Is that when you worked out this whole system with your roommates?  'We're working on a project,' is that the Andalusian equivalent of a sock on the door?"

Steve doesn't answer. 

This, too, is familiar, though a few years older than him and Tony knocking around a garage together-- Tony Stark when Steve first met him, a man with a challenging stare, a man looking to provoke.   He knows, or believes he knows, that Tony's anger isn't homophobic: there were moments between them, over the years, that could so easily have tipped over into something-- into something.  Steve learned things about himself by recognizing it in those moments.

Tony keeps his eyes on Steve's, and when Steve says nothing, Tony asks, "So this is a new thing, right?  I didn't miss you sneaking guys into the Compound?" 

"No," says Steve, feeling his eyebrows draw together. "I was a little occupied."

"And now you've got the time," Tony says, mouth twisting.  "Good for you." 

Then he looks down, and his expression shifts to something exasperated.  He grimaces at the tabletop, leaning back in his chair, tapping his fingers on the table.  After a moment, he says, “Anyway, thanks for lunch.”

“Yeah,” Steve says tonelessly.  “Anytime.” 

He watches Tony stand and push his chair back in, then politely take his half-empty plate to the sink.  It feels like losing another chance-- but this whole event is an occurrence, an accident; no chance was ever there.

But when Tony reaches the mouth of the hallway, there is no reason not to ask: "What's the problem, Tony?"

Tony pauses, then rubs a rough hand over his face.  He turns back into the living room and says, "You having a good time here, Steve?  Getting a tan, taking in the sights?  Blowjobs left and right?" 

"I guess it beats prison," Steve says, eyebrows pulled low.  "Are you mad that I’m not living in a sewer, surrounded by Avengers newspaper clippings?”

"Yeah, kind of, Steve," Tony says.  "Call me petty, but it's hard to watch you taking this as an opportunity to find yourself when I'm holding global security together with fucking paper clips and duct tape."  Tony gestures grandiosely around the small apartment.  "You could at least take the Bruce approach and live in a hut, come on.  Let’s get some communicable diseases in this piece.”

"I'm trying to make the best of a bad situation." 

Tony rolls his eyes, and Steve holds up his hands in exasperation.  This too is familiar. 

"Weren't you the one saying Dark Avengers was a bad idea?" he asks. "What the hell do you want, Tony?"

Tony barks a laugh.  "Oh, I'd say the ship has fucking sailed on what I want, Steve."

In the silence that follows that, the sneer on Tony's face softens into something wry and morose, staring at Steve. 

"Yeah, scratch that," he says, nodding, looking away.  "You're right.  This is what I want.  The last thing I need is for you to create a fucking global incident.  You keep on painting your sexy pictures.  Sewer optional." 

Tony lets out a long breath, and Steve can tell he is folding himself again in resolve. 

Steve thinks, suddenly, of the newspaper front page he saw just a few weeks ago-- a grainy photo of Iron Man and Vision clearing rubble after the earthquake in Madripoor, and the large headline: Donde estan los Vengadores?

He thinks also, though, of T'Challa's admonition before Steve left Wakanda: to not involve himself in the places he visited; to visit as a visitor.  He remembers the recriminatory sound of T'Challa's voice saying American peacekeeping

Tony buries his hands deep in the pockets of his borrowed jeans, shoulders tight.  He turns back to the hallway, but he takes one step before turning back. 

"You and Barnes?” he says.

Steve doesn’t understand the question for moment, and even then it takes a moment to reconcile the words with Tony’s expression-- watchful, bleak, but not accusatory-- the face of someone stringing a narrative together.   Were you and Barnes together?  

Steve wonders if that provides a new inflection to his non-disclosures: not Steve choosing one friend over another, but Steve protecting a lover who had risen from the grave.  Would that make it better, or worse?

"No," Steve says. 

"But you would've," Tony says.  "You wanted to."

Steve frowns.  “I don’t..."  He looks down at the table.  "That wasn't why.  We were-- maybe I did, a long time ago, but things were different back then.  You didn't, always..." 

He trails off, shaking his head. 

Love between men was different then, he means.  He means, maybe he was in love with Bucky, the way Natasha was with Bruce or Tony was with Pepper, and didn't realize it.  But it's difficult to access through the levels and levels of cognitive dissonance going on at the moment.  Staring at those Brooklyn teenagers through a dark glass-- sitting in his Spanish apartment with Tony Stark in the twenty-first century, trying to remember what was two lifetimes way.

"I never thought about it, I guess.  Before the serum I didn't have a lot of options--"  Steve gestures loosely at his own chest, as though to indicate all the reframed goals of that long-dead kid, "and after, I had a job to do." 

"Yeah," says Tony.  He huffs a laugh.  "I actually do get it.  You're unemployed now.  You're literally backpacking through Europe.”  He pulls his hands out of his pockets and runs them wearily over his face.  “You just graduated, and now you're taking a year to travel before you join Peace Corps or apply to grad school."

"I don't know what that means," Steve says, "but I understand that it's more complicated than that."  He pauses and then adds, "I know I didn't graduate, Tony."

Tony glances up from behind his fingers, and Steve can see the hurt there, in his gaze, a dim cast of light behind the watchfulness.

"Look," Steve says quietly. "You benched me.  I'm trying to respect that."  He lets out a long breath, holding Tony's gaze, full of the hard, confused half-lessons of the last year and a half.  "You think I don't believe in oversight, but I do."

They watch each other in silence for a long moment.  Finally, Tony drops his head and squeezes the bridge of his nose. 

"My suit's ready," he says.

Steve nods. Then he swallows and says, "Can you stay for another day?"  It is not reasonable for Steve to ask Tony for things, but the whole situation is comprised of exceptions.

Tony smirks wearily into the cradle of his hand.  "Do I have to work on any more vespas?"

"No vespas."

"You want me to stay?"

Steve thinks of all the things he shouldn't say, and of all the things he could say.  A joke about the Dark Avengers, maybe, or, where's this project we're gonna show my roommates?  

Instead he nods slowly and says, "I want you."

When the sentence doesn't continue, Tony lifts his head to gaze at Steve, but he doesn't say anything. 

Steve's boldness is exhausted, though, apparently, because he shrugs, dropping his gaze, and says, "It would be great if you could stay.  Is there anything you'd want to do or see, before you go?"

Tony slowly crosses the short distance to the table and puts a hand on the back of Steve's chair.  

"Honestly, yeah, there is."

Steve looks up at him, heart hammering.  There's still bleakness in Tony's face, but his mouth curves into a familiar smile, and he says, "You want to tell me more about this project your roomies think we're working on?  A little Netflix and chill?"

"I don't have Netflix."

"S'okay," Tony murmurs, and he leans down as Steve lifts his chin, and their mouths meet almost chastely once, twice, before Steve opens and their tongues touch.  Steve has only been waiting for this for several years.  Tony makes a low noise of hunger. 

Then Steve pulls back with a tight sigh.  "This is a bad idea," he murmurs against Tony's mouth, belatedly, even though he was the one to ask for it.  But Tony just grins. 

"You always think my ideas are bad," he says, nuzzling against Steve's nose.  Then his mouth finds Steve's again and they kiss for a long moment, Tony leaned over Steve in the chair, Steve's hands moving over the flannel of Tony's shirt at his waist, across his stomach.

"I'm trying to loosen up," Steve says hoarsely, when they part. 

It is a bad idea; it is a tremendously bad idea, and it doesn't fit anywhere in the complicated negotiation taking place between them on the macro level, on the global level; nothing but more heartache and more confusion later on.  But Tony is on vacation, kind of-- a short, weird, involuntary vacation in a beautiful ancient city on the Costa del Sol-- and Steve for the moment is letting himself live a completely new life.  In that context there's no reason for Steve to not shift in his chair, parting his legs for Tony to step between them.  He let Adriano and Carlos and Hamza follow him into his tiny bedroom in Andalusia, pulling Steve's shirt off his shoulders, and his want for Tony is a thousand times brighter and more deeply set. 

Tony leans in again, fingers slipping beneath Steve's collar.  "Let's see if I can help you."

 

+

 

They wake up before dawn, pressed together in Steve's small bed, Tony's armor facing them unnervingly from where it stands in the corner.  They signal their wakefulness by touching-- Tony leaning his forehead into Steve's hair, brushing his mouth against the back of Steve's neck, and Steve running his hand along the arm that Tony has curled around him.  They don't talk for a long time, until finally Tony sighs. 

"I miss you like a fucking limb," he says.

There's nothing for Steve to say to that-- nothing for Steve to offer, or even ask for, really, and no platitudes that would make the situation less complicated.  Even "Me too" leads to resentment and bears no promise. 

At last, Steve pulls Tony's hand up to place a kiss there.  "You know where to find me, Ronk."

Tony huffs a laugh against Steve's shoulder, and then they breath against each other in quietude.  As the minutes pass, a swell of golden Andalusian sun pushes through the blinds. 

"Oh shit," Tony says suddenly.  He sits up, pulling away, groping for Steve's phone on the nightstand.  "Oystr Tank."

 

 

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