When Steve turns up at the tower late one night in December, looking gaunt and exhausted and like he could fall down right there in the lobby, Tony doesn’t say a word about how long it’s taken. He stands there in front of the elevator with his arms folded, hip leaning against the wall and one ankle crossed over the other, all casual indifference. Steve gets halfway across the space between them and then stops, swallowing and lifting his chin in something that looks almost like defiance. He’s wrapped up in a scarf and thick winter jacket, and has got the remnants of a fading black eye and Tony’s sharp eyes spot a neat row of stitches right next to his left ear.
“Wow,” he calls across the space between them, in lieu of saying hello. “That must have been some prize fight for you to still have trophies.”
Steve’s nostrils flare, his jaw clenches. “Trophies?”
“Why are you here, Rogers?” Tony asks, ignoring the temptation of argument. It would just be too easy, and he kind of knows it wouldn’t hold much satisfaction this time around, especially considering what Steve’s been through in the past few weeks.
“I,” Steve begins, breathing out heavily and looking away, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I need your help.”
“That sounded like it hurt,” Tony remarks, raising an eyebrow. To his surprise, Steve just huffs out a laugh, the sound deprecating and too close to broken for Tony’s tastes.
“Everything else hurts,” he admits. “That was pretty easy in comparison.”
“Thought you were avoiding me,” Tony says, and pushes away from the wall, taking a sauntering step closer. The floor is cold beneath his feet.
Steve looks up and meets his eyes. “I was.”
Tony cocks his head, nodding contemplatively. “Well, at least you’re honest,” he says. “Come on.”
He turns away, steps into the elevator which opens for him with its usual precision. He hears Steve’s heavy bootfalls following him and is glad; he knew Steve would follow him eventually but wasn’t sure how much coaxing, cajoling or baiting it would take.
“So,” Tony says as the elevator doors slide shut again and they stand there together, three feet apart and shoulder to shoulder, both looking forwards at the shining steel of the doors. “You’ve been busy. What was it, two hundred and ninety-four million dollars’ worth of damage and counting?”
“Something like that,” Steve says tonelessly. Tony glances across at him; his arms are folded across his chest, tension obvious in his frame. It’s the expression on his face that Tony wants to pull apart though; he looks like he’s miles away, and it’s a lost look that Tony would normally avoid, because what is he supposed to do when people look like that? But Steve, Steve’s always lit up this strange spark of curiosity in his chest, something that compels him closer instead of away.
Tony waits it out but Steve doesn’t say anything. He just stares at the elevator doors, barely even blinking. Tony’s eyes flitter over his face, taking in the shadows and the bruises, the set of his mouth, the blue of the stitches in his ear the only thing as bright as his eyes.
The doors slide open and Steve blinks, coming partway out of his reverie, enough to step forwards out of the elevator at the very least. If he’s surprised that Tony has brought him right up to the penthouse he doesn’t show it, just walks over to the lowered seating area and sits down heavily, unwinding his scarf and taking his jacket off, setting them aside. He rubs his palm over the back of his neck and then leans forwards, bracing his elbows on his knees and putting his head in his hands.
Eyes fixed on the back of Steve’s head, Tony slowly circles over to the bar, his bare feet making next to no sound on the floor. He brings up a holographic control panel and with a few deft flicks of his fingers turns some of the lamps on. The cold grey moonlight gives way to the soft orange glow of the lamps, turned down low. Tony pours himself a drink, narrowing his eyes slightly at Steve and wondering what’s going on here. He hasn’t even spoken to Steve since they went their separate ways after New York, and now here he is asking for help. Tony can easily understand why Steve would choose to avoid him after what happened during New York, and the fact he’s now here in person instead of calling or sending Natasha tells him there’s something else going on. He hesitates and then pours a second drink, carrying them both over to where Steve sits motionless.
“Here,” he says, and knocks the glass gently against Steve’s shoulder. Slowly Steve looks up, and then takes the glass without question, cradling it between his palms. Tony watches his fingers move, the shadows from the lamps playing over his hands, and fights down a shiver.
Steve continues to stare down at the glass in front of him, vacant. Tony takes a sip of his own drink and then decides he’s had enough of tiptoeing around. Not that he really tries very hard anyway.
“So, you want some help,” he says, stepping around and sitting on the edge of the coffee table, a small way away from Steve. “I assume this has something to do with the friendly neighborhood assassin that is loose somewhere on the East Coast?”
The glass in Steve’s hand cracks, shattering inwards. Tony rears back instinctively and Steve curses, shoving himself unsteadily to his feet, dropping chunks of glass and splashing golden liquid all over the rug.
“Fuck,” Steve says violently. His hand is bleeding, red rivulets running freely down his wrist and dripping onto the floor. “Fuck.”
“Hey, hey, don’t sweat it,” Tony says, looking around for something to use to clear up the mess. He darts over to the bar and grabs a towel, striding back to Steve who is still just standing there, staring at the mess of his hand like he can’t quite work out if it belongs to him.
Biting down on the urge to say something about Steve still not knowing his own strength, Tony just sighs and grasps his wrist in his, pulling it towards him. It’s not as bad as it looks; there’s a deep slice across the fleshy pad of Steve’s thumb, but luckily it seems to be glass free.
“Moron,” Tony murmurs, pressing the towel to Steve’s hand and pressing down. Steve barely reacts, just a faint hitch in his breathing. Tony holds the towel in place and glances up and he realises just how close they are. They haven’t been this close since…well, since those inexplicable moments during the mess that was New York.
“What help do you want from me?” Tony asks finally, still holding onto Steve’s hand. They probably look ridiculous, both standing there a foot apart when there are perfectly serviceable couches inches away. “You realise I’m not exactly flavour of the week right now? Something about the fact I should have found out about Hydra when I was poking around in SHIELD’s servers. Like they’d keep it all written down. I don’t know, minutes of the latest Hydra against Humanity meeting or something.”
“Wasn’t your fault,” Steve says with a little tilt to his chin, still looking at Tony’s fingers wrapped around his wrist. “Nobody knew. They were too good.”
Surprisingly, the words help. Tony doesn’t say anything, just pulls the towel back to inspect Steve’s hand. It’s stopped bleeding already, but he wraps the towel back over it anyway.
“Still haven’t answered my question, Rogers,” Tony says. “What is it you want from me?”
Steve swallows, eyes bright. “I don’t know,” he says softly.
Tony frowns. “Surveillance? Tech? I know your new buddy needs a new set of wings after your old buddy did a number on them.”
Steve closes his eyes, a pained frown crossing his face. Tony wants to reach up and smooth it away with his fingers.
“You know, I thought I had it bad with accidentally tripping over a one-night stand every now and again. That must have been one hell of a blast from the past,” he murmurs. Steve laughs, uncertain and shaky, looking down and away.
“Yeah,” he says, that lost look coming back, and Tony realizes that he’s not miles away. He’s years away.
“Steve,” he says, and Steve does react to that, looking up at Tony with those oh-so blue eyes. “Why are you here?”
“I don’t know,” he murmurs again, a slight shrug to his shoulders.
On nothing more than impulse, Tony reaches up, presses his fingers to Steve’s jaw and turns his head. Steve lets him, breathing turning noticeably shallow as Tony inspects the mess of his ear. Tony hadn’t meant anything by the touch, but Steve’s reaction makes him pause, wonder if there’s anything still there.
“Jesus, did someone try and rip this off?” he asks softly, and Steve shakes his head jerkily.
“Shrapnel,” he says, and he swallows again, his whole throat moving.
“Steve,” Tony says, fingers sliding over the line of Steve’s jaw, feeling his heart picking up as Steve doesn’t push him away. “Come on. You made it this far. Talk to me. One little word at a time. Out with it, soldier.”
“I thought…” Steve pauses, wets his bottom lip. “Guess I’m looking for another blast from the past,” he says. “One that maybe doesn’t hurt so bad.”
Tony arches an eyebrow, stomach flipping. Now that he hadn’t been expecting. Point to Rogers for managing to surprise him. “So a year is enough time to consign something to the past then, I had been wondering.”
“It became the past when the newspapers said you were dead,” Steve says, and Tony winces.
“Rumors of my demise were greatly over-exaggerated?”
“They blew up your house, Tony.”
“Yes, my house, not me,” Tony says. “Did you really think I was dead?”
Steve shrugs. “I didn’t know if you’d be too stubborn to die, or if you’d be too stubborn to think you might die.”
“The first,” Tony says promptly. “Always the first.”
Steve almost smiles at that, a weak hitch to the corner of his mouth that fades quickly, but still leaves something in Tony’s chest skipping strangely. He meets Steve’s gaze, and then looks down again as Steve moves, pulling Tony’s hand and the towel away from his hand. It’s covered in dried blood but the skin beneath is raw and shiny pink, already healing. Steve tosses the towel to the side and then catches Tony’s hand in his own, holding on to his fingers. The atmosphere between them is tightening, a slow build of tension that has Tony’s mind flashing back to that moment on the helicarrier, the way Steve’s hands had shoved him up against the wall, grabbing and pushing and pulling-
He looks up, and Steve leans in and kisses him. His breath catches in the back of his throat and his eyes slide closed as Steve reaches up and slides a hand onto the back of Tony’s neck. Oh god, it’s just like he remembered. They barely know each other but this is familiar and easy and good-
Steve pulls away, breathing heavily and pressing his forehead against Tony’s. “Careful, Cap,” Tony whispers. “Once is heat of the moment, twice can probably be excused as error in judgement, three times is most definitely a little gay-”
Steve’s breath is hot against his mouth. “I’ll assume it’s your ego that has you certain that you’re the only fella I’ve ever fooled around with.”
Tony doesn’t have time to express his astonishment because Steve is kissing him again. This time it’s hard and desperate, and Steve’s free hand slides onto Tony’s hip and pulls him close; Tony’s hands shoot out and grab Steve’s waist to steady himself, opening his mouth under Steve’s. It draws a pleased grunt from the depths of Steve’s chest and Tony wants more of those noises right now. He slides a hand up over Steve’s chest as Steve’s hands slide over his shoulders to his neck, frantic as they kiss and kiss and kiss-
And Steve is pushing him back, stepping over the glass on the floor, shoving Tony down onto the couch, trying to keep their mouths together and only half succeeding. He follows Tony down, knees on the edge of the couch as Tony grabs for him again, spreading his thighs for Steve to move between.
Steve’s hands are everywhere; in one moment one is sliding up Tony’s shirt and the other down his thigh, and the next they’re back on his neck, then pulling at his belt buckle. Tony lets himself be swept along in whatever it is that has turned Steve so frantic; he’d rather have him like this than sitting lifeless and lost, staring into the depths of a drink like he doesn’t know what to do. This is easy even though he knows Steve is being purely selfish, using Tony to try and forget the tangled mess that’s been left behind in the rest of his world.
“Whoa, easy Cap,” Tony gasps as Steve yanks at his belt hard enough to lift his hips and lower back from the couch. “No rush this time.”
Panting, Steve nods but doesn’t slow down that much at all; he lets go of Tony’s belt but buries his face in Tony’s neck, sucking hot, open-mouthed kisses into his skin. Tony lifts his shoulders to try and flip them over, to take some control from Steve but it’s a hopeless manoeuvre. Out of the armor, Tony really has no chance of stopping two hundred and twenty pounds of needy super-soldier, not with physical force anyway.
“Steve,” he says. “Steve, back up-”
Steve pulls back immediately, looking vaguely worried like he thinks he’s hurt Tony. His mouth is swollen and wet and his cheeks are flushed pink and Tony wants to wreck him.
“I’m okay, just sit back,” Tony says, pushing at Steve’s shoulders. Slowly, Steve does, sitting up, shifting around and sinking into the couch cushions. Tony clambers into his lap, knees either side of Steve’s hips and hands on his shoulders. Steve exhales shakily and Tony grabs the bottom of Steve’s shirt, pulling it up. Eyes going dark with what Tony hopes is anticipation, Steve lifts his arms and allows Tony to tug his shirt up over his head. Tony’s breath catches because Steve’s body is nothing short of perfect, even with the mottled yellow and brown bruises that mar his left side. Tony trails his fingers down Steve’s side, flattens his palm against his ribs to feel the heat from his body.
“Did the blast from the past do this to you?” he asks quietly.
“No,” Steve replies, chest heaving as he inhales and exhales. “The Hydra agents trying to get their hands on him did.”
There’s something dark in the way he says it, and it makes Tony shiver. He nods, accepting, and then leans in to kiss Steve again. Steve leans in hungrily but Tony shakes his head and pushes him back into the couch. Steve frowns but when Tony leans in again he doesn’t move, just opens his mouth and lets Tony dip his tongue inside. He shudders as Tony’s tongue lazily touches his before pulling back, and his hands come up to grasp at Tony again. Tony easily catches them in his own and Steve lets him press his hands back into the couch cushions, arms bent at the elbow.
“Nu-uh,” Tony murmurs and presses his lips to the inside of Steve’s bicep, dragging his mouth along the muscle, making his way up to Steve’s neck and across his jaw before licking his way into Steve’s mouth again. He can pinpoint the exact moment Steve gets it; he breathes out and relaxes, fingers going limp between Tony’s and body melting back into the couch.
“Atta boy,” Tony breathes and they’re kissing again, lazy and slow. Tony’s getting hard, and when he slowly rolls his hips he can feel that Steve’s already there, erection insistent against the inside of his jeans. Steve groans into his mouth and Tony does it again, and Steve pulls a hand free to slide down Tony’s back, cupping his ass and pulling him forwards, guiding him to roll his hips again.
On the edge of his mind he’s wondering who Steve has kissed before him, but he doesn’t think he’s going to like getting his suspicions confirmed. If it’s who he thinks it is, then this happening right now is a recipe for disaster-
His thoughts stutter and he forces himself to stop thinking as Steve moves his hand from his ass around to the bottom of his shirt, pushing it right up to collarbones. He falters for the first time as Steve pulls back, his eyes raking over his chest, the shining mess of scarring over his sternum.
“I miss it,” Steve breathes, and then frowns, looking guilty. “That’s awful of me to say.”
Tony could tell him that part of him misses it too, but he doesn’t. Instead he just kisses Steve again, breathing heavily into his mouth. Steve’s hand slides down to Tony’s chest, pressing right over the space where the reactor used to be and Tony shudders, grasping Steve’s hand and holding it tight against him. Their fingers thread clumsily together, and Steve is biting at Tony’s lower lip, tugging at it gently as he languorously rocks his hips up to meet Tony’s. A hand slips along Tony’s back, warm and strong and slow, and oh yes, he’s got the hang of it now. Boy, does Tony love a person who’s a quick study.
“There you go,” Tony breathes, rolling his hips forwards hard and revelling in the groan Steve buries in his chest. “Easy and slow, that’s it. Gonna lay you out and take my time with you, no rushed handjobs this time-”
Steve grunts against Tony’s mouth and he shifts beneath Tony, his hands going to his own belt. Tony shifts back enough for Steve to slowly unbuckle his own belt, the sound of leather slithering against denim loud in the room. Steve’s shoulders move jerkily as he unbuttons his pants and tugs them open, shoving them down as much as he can with Tony still straddling his thighs.
The not so subtle gesture send lust driving through Tony is heady waves, and he feels his own pulse speed up, thudding inside his chest. He responds to Steve’s actions by stripping his own shirt over his head and throwing it aside, not bothering to care about the scars on his chest because first off Steve has already seen them, and secondly this is Steve.
Steve, whose eyes are going dark and hungry, licking his lower lip as his palms rest on Tony’s hipbones, thumbs dragging across his skin. He slouches even further down into the couch cushions, spreading his knees lazily wide and Tony shudders because this is Captain America looking at him with nothing but filthy, single-minded intent, and he always knew Steve Rogers had a not-so-innocent streak under all that red, white and blue.
Never one to be outdone, Tony reaches down to press his palm against Steve’s dick, slipping his hand into Steve’s open pants. Steve’s hips jolt forwards and he bites his lip. Tony wraps his fingers around the hard outline of Steve’s dick through his underwear, smiling breathlessly against Steve’s mouth as he shudders, just like last time.
“Shut up,” Steve groans against his mouth and Tony laughs, leans down and bites Steve’s jaw.
“Didn’t say a word,” Tony replies, leaning back and withdrawing his hand as Steve rocks his hips forwards again, a lazy rolling motion. Tony shifts forwards so he’s sat right on top of Steve’s dick, wrapping his arms tight around Steve’s neck and rocking against him. Steve’s hands slide up his back, pressing in hard and keeping Tony pinned in place. Tony gasps against Steve’s hair, feeling sweat starting to prickle across his shoulders.
“What do you want?” he murmurs to Steve, nipping at Steve’s uninjured ear and noting the reactive shove of Steve’s hips. Does it again, tracing his tongue around the shell of Steve’s ear, listening to the way Steve’s breathing goes short, rough panting like he can’t draw a deep enough breath.
“Fuck,” Steve manages, voice rough and fingers digging into Tony’s hips painfully.
“Is that an answer?” Tony laughs breathlessly, teasing.
Steve groans, and his hands push up Tony’s back, fingers splayed against his spine. He mouths along Tony’s collarbone, wet and messy. “Yeah,” he manages. “Yeah, actually. Maybe an invitation.”
Tony groans, body shuddering and dick twitching. “Two points to Rogers,” he breathes.
“Never mind,” Tony replies, and grabs Steve’s hands and shoves them back into the couch cushions. Steve lets himself be pinned in place, looking up at Tony with his chest heaving. “You serious?”
The look Steve sends his way is close to a glare. “Do I look like I’m joking?”
In one deft movement he yanks his hands free from under Tony’s, grabbing his hips and shoving him up. Tony has to grab hold of the back of the couch to stop himself overbalancing, shifting his knees to try and find his center again as Steve licks his stomach, all the way from his belt up to his sternum.
Tony looks down on him, sliding a hand onto the back of Steve’s head as Steve drags slow, lazy kisses into the skin of his stomach. “I thought you mentioned fucking,” he breathes, and the bastard doesn’t so much as flinch.
“What do you think we’re doing?” he replies, and he slouches even further down, so Tony’s crotch is level with his face. Tony groans, fingers tightening on the leather of the couch as Steve leans forwards and mouths the outline of his dick through his jeans.
“Go on,” he coaxes, and Steve reaches up to pull Tony’s jeans open, nimble fingers flicking open the button so slowly it’s almost torturous. He looks up at Tony through his lashes, biting his bottom lip, and the urge to take him apart piece by piece grows stronger.
Steve’s palms slide around his waist. He presses his face to Tony’s abdomen and Tony can feel hot, panting breaths on the skin just below his navel as Steve slowly pushes his pants down off of his hips. Strong fingers curl around the waistband of his boxers, and Steve tugs them down, so slowly that Tony’s about ready to abandon his going slow plan in favor of throwing him down on the couch and fucking him six ways from Sunday-
Breathing harshly through his mouth, he dips his head and watches as Steve shuts his eyes and drags his mouth lower, pressing his face right into the crease of Tony’s groin, cheek brushing against his dick and making it twitch in anticipation. He feels the wet slide of Steve’s tongue on his skin and groans, fingers tightening in Steve’s hair.
Steve breathes in and out deeply as if inhaling a long forgotten scent, fingers clenching on Tony’s hips. Forget virtuous and innocent; right now he’s downright obscene, and fuck, Tony will never grow tired of being surprised by this man.
“Slow, right?” Steve murmurs, and then he turns his head to nudge Tony’s dick with his nose, before opening his mouth and taking the head into his warm, wet mouth. Tony bites back a moan, lower lip caught between his teeth. Steve leans back so he’s reclining against the cushions of the couch, but with the grip he has on Tony’s hips, he pulls Tony with him so Tony’s braced over him, one hand still on the back of the couch and the other pressed between the back of Steve’s head and the cushions.
“Fuck,” Tony curses as Steve sucks harshly, pressing his tongue against the head of Tony’s dick like he wants in, cheeks hollowing as he pulls back slightly. Steve groans, deep in his chest, and Tony feels it and his hips jerk forwards of their own accord.
Steve makes a noise somewhere between a cry and a gasp, and he pushes forwards for a moment, letting Tony’s dick slide deeper and deeper into his mouth. It feels fucking glorious; the heat of his mouth and the tight purse of his lips, the way he’s pressing his tongue to the underside. Tony’s eyes flutter shut as he eases forwards further and further, but then he feels the back of Steve’s mouth against his dick and Steve’s body shudders, fighting back a cough. Thighs trembling, Tony eases back, letting go of Steve’s head and pulling his hips back marginally-
Almost instantly, Steve’s fingers tighten on his hips, pulling him back. Tony nearly loses his balance again as he’s pulled forwards whilst trying to move back, and he rocks forwards on his knees too far; he feels the head of his dick press against Steve’s throat again, the reflexive jerk of Steve’s shoulders as it happens. Adjusting his grip on the couch, he pulls his hips back sharply, easing up before Steve ends up choking-
Steve pulls back, panting. His head hits the couch cushions and he looks up at Tony. “There’s your invitation,” he says hoarsely. “Or do you need a handwritten one?”
“I’m keeping you,” Tony replies immediately, breathless. “Fuck. You are never leaving this penthouse. Good job SHIELD is gone, because your new job is this.”
“I feel like I should probably object to at least part of that,” Steve says with an arched brow, but he sinks back into the cushions, letting go of Tony with one hand. He slides it down his body, between Tony’s knees and into his own boxers, curling his fingers around himself. “Come on,” he says, and he’s somehow pulling off confidently coaxing and desperately needy at the same time. “Tony, come on. Fuck me like you mean it.”
And hearing that coming from that mouth is the stuff that Tony’s filthiest fantasies are built on, but this isn’t fantasy, this is Steve actually here under Tony’s hands, questionable motives aside-
“Alright,” Tony breathes, and he reaches down to grasp Steve’s jaw in his fingers. “You need me to let up, pinch me.”
Steve nods hungrily, licking his lips and eyes dropping to Tony’s crotch. Tony squeezes his jaw and Steve obediently opens up, perfect for Tony to slide right inside. This time he doesn’t hold back the instinctive thrust of his hips, rocking shallowly into Steve’s mouth. He can feel the movement of Steve’s arm against the inside of his thigh and knows he’s jerking off, lazy and unhurried. He matches Steve’s pace, rocking forwards leisurely and sliding his hand around to the back of Steve’s head again, holding him in place.
“Fuck, that’s it,” Tony breathes. “You ready, you better be ready-”
He pushes forwards harder than he’s dared so far, and he cries out as the head of his dick presses against the back of Steve’s throat again, but this time Steve is swallowing around it like a fucking pro, breath held in his chest. Tony eases back a fraction and then plunges in again, staying still with his dick buried in Steve’s throat for a long moment before pulling back and letting Steve gasp in a breath.
“Come on, show me what those super-soldier lungs can do,” Tony mutters, pressing forwards again. He slides in easily this time and he groans at how tight Steve’s throat is, languorously rocking back and forth. He can feel sweat on the back of Steve’s neck where his fingertips brush his hairline, and he moves his hand so he can wrap his palm loosely around his neck, thumb across the front of his throat so he can feel where it’s distended every time he pushes in-
Steve lets go of his hip, and he’s completely at Tony’s mercy like this but by the way he’s making choked moaning noises around Tony’s dick and still touching himself, he’s not objecting. Tony most certainly isn’t; the thrill of having Steve pinned underneath him like this is dragging him closer and closer to the edge.
He loses track of time. All he knows is the sweet clutch of Steve’s throat around his dick, the sounds that he’s making, the feel of Steve’s sweat-damp hair and the warm leather beneath his hands. He can hear the wet sounds of himself fucking into Steve’s mouth, can hear the slick sound of Steve’s hand on his own dick, He’s going to come like this and he knows it, but he can’t bring himself to care.
“Steve, can I-” he gasps, shoving forwards more roughly than he knows he should, beginning to lose his rhythm. “Fuck, I’m going to come-”
Steve’s free hand grabs hold of him again, his hand clutching at Tony’s ass. He rocks forwards, desperate, and Tony feels his throat spasm violently, hears the choking sound as he pushes too far-
“Easy, easy,” he pants, pulling back, but Steve is shaking his head and leaning in again, licking up the length of Tony’s dick before swallowing it down again, and this time he doesn’t wait for Tony to start thrusting, he just swallows over and over and over-
Tony comes with a strangled cry, body curling over Steve’s and leaning heavily on the back of the couch. His hips are still rocking forwards and his whole body is shuddering with aftershocks. Steve takes it all and then pulls back with a juddering gasp, and he’s got an arm locked around Tony’s waist and his face is buried in Tony’s abdomen as he furiously works his hand over his own dick. He sounds like he can barely draw a breath, and Tony thinks he should help him out but Steve’s arm is like steel around his midriff and he’s pretty sure he’s lost all co-ordination of his limbs anyway-
And it doesn’t even matter because Steve is crying out as he comes, arm tightening almost painfully around Tony's middle and body curling up with the force of it. Tony holds onto him tightly, stroking over the side of his face with a clumsy hand.
Steve goes boneless, lax against the couch. Thighs shuddering and aching, Tony slumps back down into Steve’s lap, leaning forwards heavily against him. Steve reaches up to card his fingers through Tony’s hair, carefully pushing him back to press gentle, trembling kisses to Tony’s mouth. Tony returns them as best he can, but for the most part they just cling to each other, breathing unsteadily into each other’s mouths.
“Still with me?” Tony manages to say when he can feel his extremities again, and he nudges forwards to kiss Steve properly, catching Steve’s lower lip between his own.
Steve nods, and his fingers push through Tony’s hair again, combing through. “Yeah,” he says, and he sounds hoarse and tired but he still sounds like Steve, rather than the lost figure that had turned up on the doorstep less than an hour ago. “I just,” he tries, and stops, swallows. “I just want,” he says softly and kisses Tony again, mouth open and welcoming.
They kiss slowly, unhurriedly, and any thoughts Tony may have had about Steve leaving straight away are rapidly vanishing under the way Steve doesn’t seem to be able to stop kissing him. Tony’s hands trace gentle paths across Steve’s body, and Steve flinches when Tony’s fingers gently touch a deep purple bruise on his hip, just visible over the crooked edge of his boxers.
“You’re a mess, Rogers,” Tony says.
“I know,” Steve sighs, and he ducks his head, kisses Tony’s chest where the arc reactor used to be. Tony shuts his eyes for a long moment and then moves, sliding sideways off of Steve’s lap. He only goes far enough to lie down on his side, tugging his pants into some semblance of order and buttoning them up before pulling Steve down with him.
Steve settles on his back with Tony pressed to his side. Everything is quiet, the only sound their soft breathing. It feels strangely comfortable to Tony, almost like this is how it should always have been.
“So,” Tony says quietly a while later, flattening his palm against Steve’s chest. “Explanation, please.”
Steve exhales heavily, running his hand up and down Tony’s arm. “I actually came to ask you to fix Sam’s flight suit,” he admits. “I got…distracted.”
“Hell of a distraction,” Tony murmurs, and Steve laughs softly, turning his face to the side so he can kiss his forehead again.
“I just…” he says, and shifts, blinking up at the ceiling. “It’s been rough,” he says. “Everything that’s happened in the past few weeks. So, so rough. And I just remember from New York – those moments with you still stood out. Something good amongst the mess.”
Tony pushes himself up on an elbow, looks down at Steve. “You thought about it.”
Steve licks his lip, nods. “All the time.”
There’s a thousand things Tony could say to that. Part of him wants to demand to know why Steve hasn’t mentioned it if he’s been thinking about it; another part wants to accuse Steve of being selfish and only returning because he wants something; a third wants to apologize because Tony never brought it up either, even though he’s barely stopped thinking about it.
He doesn’t say any of it. He just leans down, ghosting his mouth over Steve’s, pulling back slightly when Steve tries to kiss him, giving in when Steve reaches up to pull him in by the back of his neck. When Steve lets him go, he’s not smiling, and that haunted look has started to creep back in over his face.
“I can’t stay."
Tony stays perfectly still, not betraying how the words feel like a slap. After a moment to let the words sink in, he looks away out at the windows. It's started to snow outside, ghostly flecks of white drifting past the window.
“Wow. And I had the bad reputation.”
Steve sighs, sits up. The movement forces Tony to sit up as well, and he moves out of the way as Steve sits on the edge of the couch with his head in his hands. The air around him suddenly feels a lot colder, too fresh on his bare skin.
“I’ve got to find him,” Steve says, and his voice breaks around the world. “He’s all I’ve got left from my old life...”
He trails off, shakes his head as he drags his hands down his face. He blinks and then reaches for his shirt.
“Hey,” Tony says, and reaches out and presses his hand to Steve’s shoulder, feeling the flex of muscle under his palm. “Steve.”
“I’m sorry,” Steve says, and pulls his shirt on, pushing Tony out of the way. Tony lets his hand drop back to his side.
“So that’s it?” he asks, challenging. “You’re going to consign this to the past as well?”
“No,” Steve says, and he turns his head so he’s almost looking in Tony’s direction. Tony can see only his profile, half of his face in shadow. The faint bruising around his eye looks darker, more painful. “Tony, I-”
“You know if you stopped wallowing for ten goddamn minutes you’d probably realize that this is your time now, and it’s not as fucking awful as you make out,” Tony says tightly and stands up, ready to walk away-
Strong fingers catch his wrist and pull him round, and then Steve is on his feet and he’s got Tony’s face in his hands and he’s kissing him, hard and desperate.
“I’m not expecting you to understand,” he says against Tony’s mouth, even as Tony’s traitorous fingers wrap around his waist, careful to not press too hard on the bruised side. “I don't belong here, there’s no place for me here-”
“There is, and you’re standing in it,” Tony replies.
It's out there before he can snatch it back, the words hanging heavily between them. Fuck it, he's said it now and he's not going to cheapen it with flippancy or take it back. Steve opens his eyes and meets Tony’s, wide and blue, searching for something in Tony’s gaze. The words seem to have hit right on something inside, because some of the stubbornness is gone, replaced by uncertainty and indecision.
“I can’t leave him,” Steve says quietly.
“No-ones asking you to,” Tony says. “But you need to make sure you’re saving him because he needs it, not because you want the past back. It’s not coming back.”
It’s almost cruel in how bluntly he says it, but it needs to be said. Steve flinches at the words, but then he swallows thickly and jerks his head in the tiniest of nods. It’s acceptance; painful, ugly acceptance, and Tony knows he’s lucky to get even that much right now.
He shifts closer, drawn towards the warmth of Steve’s body. “And besides, if you leave, I’m going to tell the press that Captain America is a hitter and quitter.”
Thankfully, Steve huffs out a laugh. “You’re terrible."
“Completely awful,” Tony agrees. “I think you should stay to keep an eye on me and my behavior. Hey, that’ll work. You stay and make sure I toe the line, I can fix the flight suit and maybe even see what surveillance tech I can leave at your disposal.”
Steve’s nostrils flare as he breathes out, and slowly, so slowly his hands slides down across Tony’s bare shoulders. He slips his arms around Tony’s waist, settling.
“Why would I even bother trying to make you toe the line?” he finally says. “You never listen to me anyway.”
“Glad we got that straight,” Tony says promptly, and then, “Stay. Sleep for a few hours. We’ll go for breakfast in the morning and maybe spend some time that’s not fighting or fucking.”
Steve doesn’t reply straight away. His thumbs stroke absently over the small of Tony’s back, and then after what feels like an eternity, he nods.
“Okay,” he says, sounding exhausted. “But you’re buying breakfast.”
“Deal,” Tony says, and smiles. Steve leans in and presses a kiss to the side of his mouth, breath washing over Tony’s cheek and his arms tightening around him.
And they still barely know each other, but it still feels easy and familiar and good, and if Steve is willing to stay here with Tony, both in the tower and in the present, then Tony reckons that paying for breakfast is a small price to pay.