The first time they both showed up after the Battle of New York, they didn’t talk about how Steve had had Tony’s back while standing his ground by the red lever or that Tony had almost died a horrible death inside the engine.
They hadn’t seen each other since Thor and Loki departed for Asgard from Central Park, and it may have been considered normal to at least say ‘hello’. Instead, Tony leaned against a wall, looking out through the small window that gave them a glimpse of the sky; Steve settled at the opposite wall, keeping a good four feet between them, gazing out as well.
It should have been Tony who moved first, patience and subtlety rarely virtues that he possessed, but it was Steve who left his spot and Tony barely had time to glance towards him before two hands firmly cupped his face and he drew a quick breath before Steve’s mouth landed on his, untamed and unbridled.
Steve’s hands didn’t wander, staying where they were, anchoring Tony. It could have been mistaken as bashfulness and lack of skill – perhaps even uncertainty – but when Tony’s hands dropped between them, there was no mistaking the way the blond’s hips moved forward into the touch.
Tony’s hands blindly undid Steve’s pants, then his own, yanking them down past his hips. There was no plan – nothing previously agreed upon – but Steve’s hands moved down, so certain, and lifted Tony off the floor by his thighs, spreading the legs around his waist as far as Tony’s clothes would allow – which wasn’t far at all, jeans and underwear caught mid-thigh like a barrier between them.
Their kiss came to a halt, both of them panting for air. Steve adjusted his hold, pressing Tony more firmly to the wall, lifting his knees higher for better access. Freeing one hand and pressing their chests together made breathing difficult, but Steve was almost shaking and spat in his hand, then held Tony’s gaze as he pressed up. Both of them felt it, spit and pre-cum a poor substitute for actual lubrication. No prep, either, but Tony didn’t close his eyes, didn’t look away, and Steve took him slowly, with patience that wasn’t of this Earth, and by the time he settled, Tony’s lips were trembling a little. Steve kissed him, reassuringly, held him better and ground up and down, the burn taking them over the edge faster than it should have.
Tony’s arms settled on Steve’s shoulders when the blond withdrew and set his feet back on the floor, then rested his head against Tony’s.
If there had been no room for words before, none were needed now.
They returned, over and over, usually without planning to.
Too often it was to hold each other and breathe the same air, the most recent battle still marking their skins, a loss too sharp on their minds. They never fucked during moments like those because it wasn’t something either of them needed.
Less often they showed up because they were angry, standing in a dark, quiet corridor S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel didn’t usually access. They didn’t fuck then, either, although it might have been for the best if they did. The fucking and the fighting didn’t belong together, though, so neither of them ever suggested it – even though others did, in jest. After all, no one else knew what took place at Engine 3, and both of them were fine with that.
There would have been numerous chances, of course, to steal moments beyond their designated location. Easier to access and less stressful to be in, most of them, but it never felt the same. Even when they both ached for it – a kiss, a caress, the pressure of a cold metal wall at Tony’s back – they dismissed it and moved on, because it wasn’t the same.
When the rain stopped, puddles remained. Craters covered the streets like a rash, gathering pools of water that may have reflected a deceptively blue sky. Not today: today was just as dark and gloomy as any apocalyptic tale Steve had ever heard, and the murky pools of radioactive water looked just as uninviting as he knew them to be.
Every now and then, though, he would pass someone who didn’t possess the same knowledge as he – or someone who just didn’t care anymore: bodies in twisted poses or curled into themselves; disfigured and reeking of death even before they actually began to smell. It was the same stench that hung over the world ever since the Gamma Domes appeared and then erupted after a long, hard battle, and it was a smell Steve couldn’t get out of his nostrils.
The smell of despair and poison, slowly seeping into everything.
He could remember with clarity how their only mission was to destroy the Domes that were spreading and infecting anyone who came in contact with them. A suicide mission after another failed. Monsters prowled the world, in and outside the Domes – monsters that had kept them busy instead of locating their real enemies.
Small victories, bigger losses. One didn’t need to be good at math to see where it was all going.
Today, it didn’t matter.
A shape became visible from between buildings, filling him with anticipation. His heart beat hard in the surrounding silence – a silence that would have been unbearable had he stopped to listen to it. Just a few hours ago his world had been filled with the noise of the battle; one mad dash after another; his arm aching from the number of impacts his shield had to withstand if he wanted to survive.
Captain America didn’t fall so easily, so here he was: still standing.
The carcass of a Helicarrier loomed ahead of him, gray and dull. It had lain here in Brooklyn for a few years now, after it fell from the sky during one of the major battles. Ironically, the neighborhood was called Gravesend – which it had become for many who lost their lives in the crash.
Approaching with care now, in case he encountered a stray enemy, Steve neared the broken vessel and finally reached it. He rounded a corner before going in, carefully choosing his point of entry, knowing that once inside, it would be a world of darkness and abandoned corridors, not to mention completely destroyed sections that one could not travel through. Unerringly, however, he made his way towards the rear, and as he approached his intended destination, he began to tap his shield against the wall in a steady, even rhythm. In the silence, the noise would have made him cringe, but when he finally arrived at a door where he could barely make out the number ‘3’, he knew the noise had been worth it: the door was ajar.
Slipping in, Steve closed and locked the door, barricading it against anyone else who would choose to try to enter. His heart beat fast, but now with anticipation instead of adrenaline.
He searched for a moment until he saw a light in the darkness: a circular glow, unmoving.
“Tony,” he called out.
The light did not move, and Steve walked to it – then past it. He gave the Iron Man armor a glance, checking for visible damages – of which there were many. Not all of them were superficial, either.
“Tony,” he called out again, looking ahead, searching for any other source of light.
“No need to yell,” a voice answered him from the darkness, followed by the soft sound of something shifting, and then the darkness was filled with another light, this time orange and alive.
Steve moved towards it, a moth to the flame.
Tony sat up against the wall with obvious difficulty and the lights intensified as he drew a hissing breath
“Lie down,” Steve told him. He laid down his shield, opened the neck of his uniform and knelt on the floor in front of Tony. His eyes traced the glow, making out Tony’s shoulder and arm, then each finger. “Bad?” he asked; such an extensive display of Tony’s Extremis meant there was more damage than Tony cared to live with for the next few days.
“Shattered bones, broken tendons; nothing a little R&R won’t fix,” Tony told him, voice tight. “My armor will need some work.”
Steve nodded and searched for Tony’s eyes. They were glowing faintly, too, and it wasn’t simply a reflection of the lights on his arm. Deep inside, Tony was burning up in order to heal.
“Can we stop talking now?” Tony asked, voice still strained. He sounded tired and not just from the pain. That tone was a perfect reflection of their lives and the way the world had been going to hell for a long time. And yet, no matter how bad things got or how far they had to go to survive to fight another day, they could find each other here, after all this time.
Steve leaned in and pushed into Tony’s space. The other man’s lips were already open for him, waiting, clashing almost violently.
They were alive and desperate to prove it.
Tony tasted of electricity and rebirth; Steve of blood and salt.
When kissing was no longer enough, Steve pulled Tony’s torn, bloodied pants off him and pulled the man into his lap. He was mindful of the arm that was still glowing faintly as he wrestled his uniform pants open and drew Tony’s hips closer. It was much like their first time, without proper lubrication or preparation. Tony took him in fast, though, despite the pain it had to cause him; it didn’t feel that great for Steve, either. For a brief second, it was like an inferno without flames, and then both of Tony’s hands clutched at him, desperate and unwilling to let go.
Steve was weary, from fighting and walking, but the need to rest was superseded by the urge to have this moment, to etch it so deep into his muscle memory that he would dream of nothing else in the coming days.
Tony’s fingers, still glowing from within, grabbed his hair, not pulling but merely holding. His breaths were surprisingly cool on Steve’s skin, as if all his body heat had gone elsewhere. His skin was hot, though, as was his injured shoulder when Steve bowed his head to kiss it, then sucked on the skin. It felt like burning his tongue on a hot drink but he didn’t care.
It was over too soon – just like their first time. Instead of moving, though, Tony kept holding onto him, knees pressing tightly against Steve’s flanks, and Steve wrapped his arms around him, settling his face against the crook of his neck, Tony’s skin burning against his cheek.
Neither of them said it out loud, but they knew that no matter what happened, they would always have this.