They've done the catch a thousand times before, and there's no reason that this one should be different.
Sam actually trained Tony in how to catch Steve, having been the first to execute the maneuver. He and Steve spent weeks working out what kind of catch was best, because that first time when they attacked the Helicarriers, Sam caught Steve in midair and both of them almost dislocated their shoulders.
When they looped Tony into the program, they spent a very entertaining day, both for them and for New York, repeatedly hurling Steve off the top of Stark Tower so that one or both could catch him. By the time Tony had mastered the speed-match-and-slow, footage was making its way to YouTube and Vine. And Sam, who had privately expressed concerns to Steve about joining an already-formed team, seemed to integrate seamlessly at team dinner that evening, with Steve and Tony as his informal sponsors.
The point is, Steve sometimes has to leap from a height and trust one of the fliers on the team to catch him, and usually it's Tony. Sam's more nimble in the air but he doesn't have Tony's speed, and in combat Steve often pairs him with Natasha. Steve is not being subtle, Sam once remarked to Tony, but Tony knows that Steve just feels if Natasha has a boyfriend maybe she'll stop trying to set Steve up with someone. Thus proving that even the greatest tactical mind of his generation has its blind spots.
At any rate, Tony is in midair during a battle, fighting some new minor villain who is honestly hardly worth their time, when he sees Steve prep to leap. It's like seeing a cat about to pounce; the body language screams "I'm getting ready to be an idiot". So he anticipates, arrowing towards the edge of the roof that Steve is visibly about to go over.
He adjusts when he realizes that Steve is going for the yacht-sized sphere, the nerve center of Villain Of The Week's weapons array, which is hovering several storeys above the street. Steve leaps and slams into the side of the sphere, which is clearly inspired by the Death Star in miniature form, and the edge of his shield rakes through the hull easily, ripping it open, spitting fire in its wake. He rides the shield all the way down, lifts his feet at the last possible moment, kicks away from the sphere, and throws his left arm wide so that Tony can catch him without having to maneuver around the shield.
"You are a fucking crazy man," Tony says, as he slows them with one arm tucked around Steve's ribcage just below his armpits.
Steve looks up at him, pupils huge, clearly riding an adrenaline high. "That was keen!" he yells over the rush of the air.
"Keen," Tony mumbles, and he's busy making sure Steve is secure, which is why he doesn't see the shrapnel coming.
It might be a misfire from the weapons as they fall, or it might be debris from Steve's attack, but either way getting clocked by something sharp enough to lodge in the armor is startling and painful. Tony yelps; they go head over heels for a minute, twisting and turning before JARVIS auto-stabilizes, and the sudden jolt sends Steve tumbling out of his grip, about ten feet off the ground. Not a great moment, but not a dangerous fall for a super-soldier.
Steve lands on his feet, catlike, and reaches out to steady Tony as he lands more slowly. Then, without warning, Steve grabs his helmet and yanks it off his head, metal creaking, wires ripping.
"Jesus!" Tony yells, ducking away from him. "What the hell are you -- "
Steve throws the helmet as hard as he can. It explodes about forty feet away.
"Saw something stuck to the helmet," Steve says, as Tony stares at him, open-mouthed. "It was blinking red. Generally a bad sign. Are you all right?" he adds, tugging Tony's head forward to examine it.
"Am I?" Tony repeats, faintly worried now.
"Yeah, no blood," Steve replies with a relieved smile. He ruffles the back of Tony's hair. "You need a haircut."
"Now's the time? Really?" Tony asks, but Steve has a hand on his own ear, listening to his comm.
"Natasha says the shield did the trick, our big flying ball is down," Steve says. "There's some drones left."
"I'm on it," Tony says, crouching to leap. He gets about two feet off the ground and only has his repulsors at quarter power when Steve slings an arm around his neck, pulls him down against the drive of the boot jets, and kisses him.
Tony inhales, body struggling to manage all the input at once -- panic at his arrested flight, surprise at the kiss, the strain of hovering with the repulsors, the uneasiness he gets whenever anyone touches his neck, the sharp spike of battle-driven lust. He might flail a little, and then JARVIS cuts his repulsors and he stumbles back to the ground, into Steve.
"Sorry -- sorry, I'm so sorry!" Steve blurts, as they stagger. He lets Tony go, sounding horrified. "I wasn't -- I meant to ask -- are you okay? Are you okay to go up, I mean, without a helmet."
Tony just stares at him. That's happening a lot today.
Then Hulk goes barreling past, which is rarely a good thing at this point in the proceedings. Tony jerks away from Steve and goes after Hulk to help calm and corral him, resolutely not thinking about near death and getting kissed by Captain America and having panic attacks.
Post-battle food is a tradition by now, as well as a pretty good plan given the exertion they put out fighting evil on a more or less biweekly basis. This time it's a burger joint that agreeably grills every scrap of beef they have in the building and fries everything else.
"I need you to do me a favor," Tony says to Sam, who is demolishing his third hamburger. Sam shoots him a questioning look. "I need you to talk to Steve and make sure he's not crazy or concussed or having some kind of crisis."
Sam licks ketchup off his thumb. "Why?"
"I have concerns."
"Yeah, I got that much, Mr. Evasive," Sam drawls. Tony hates that Sam literally made his living, before the Avengers, de-bullshitting bullshitters like Tony. His bullshit is there for a very good and proper psychological reason and Sam is always harshing his style.
"He was erratic in battle," Tony says.
"When?" Sam asks, concerned now.
"Look, that's not important, just, can we please," Tony says.
"You and I are gonna have some words at some point about your technique of stringing together meaningless phrases and never completing a sentence," Sam says gravely, but he picks up his plate and moves himself around the table to where Steve is deep in conference with Rhodey.
Tony doesn't make eye contact when Steve looks up.
The trip back to the Tower post-meal was uneventful; Steve jacked a van ("Borrowed, Clint." "Sure, make sure you autograph it before giving it back.") and crammed almost everyone into it, while Tony and Rhodey flew escort just in case they'd missed a drone. Rhodey had to peel off to debrief with the Air Force, so it was only Tony walking through the removal rig at the Tower. He'd been hoping to pour himself a drink, lower himself into the hottest bath he can procure, and forget this whole day.
And now there's this.
"Yep," he says, turning on his heel but still walking, as Steve hurries down the hall. "Shouldn't you be in some kind of food coma?"
"I thought we should talk," Steve says, flushing.
"We should, and we will, but I have to..." Tony waves a hand. "Install a new helmet. And...be...bruised."
Steve's brow furrows, but he keeps coming, and Tony doesn't want to back all the way into his private quarters, so he stops.
"Look, I -- " Steve fidgets to a stop, clearly anxious. "I don't want to leave things strange between us."
"We're good," Tony assures him.
"I didn't mean to do it and it was wrong of me to grab you like that, while you were in flight," Steve blurts, clearly a speech he's been writing since at least the hamburgers, if not before. "I'm sorry I startled you. I hope I didn't hurt you."
"N...o," Tony says, a little confused.
"So it's, so we're okay?" Steve asks.
"That's what you're apologizing for, grabbing me?" Tony asks.
"Oh. Then I think we're okay," Tony agrees. The relief in Steve's face is palpable. Maybe they're not going to talk about Steve kissing his male teammate on the mouth. That actually makes more sense. People probably didn't talk about that kind of thing in the forties.
But...well, okay, it's not like he wants to talk about it, but clearly they still should because Tony is a Why person and there is no Why yet established for Steve doing that thing. The thing with his mouth.
"Steve," Tony calls, as Steve turns to go. Steve freezes, tenses. Aw, shit. Still, he can't help himself. "Why?"
"Why?" Steve echoes.
"Why, I mean, did you do that. I would like to know."
"Oh." Steve clenches one hand into a fist, but he turns around. "Uh. It's probably...psychological?" he ventures. Tony gives him the same dry look Sam used on Tony earlier. "You were just right there and you almost had your face blown off, and I kind of like your...face...and I was worried and then you were just going to go leaping back in with no helmet and..." he gestures faintly. "I wasn't honestly making some kind of decision. I just sorta did it."
"You know I'm male, right? And...I'm me," Tony points out. He feels this is something they should be very clear on.
"Yes, Tony," Steve sighs. "I know you're you."
"And a man."
"Did it bother you?" Steve asks, sounding genuinely curious. "That we're both men?"
"What are you -- did it bother ME?" Tony asks.
"Well you seem a little stuck on it..."
"I'm not -- you're the -- you didn't -- " Tony blinks at him. "I'm gonna go take a bath now."
"Okay," Steve says agreeably, but then he moves, stepping up close and lifting a hand, hovering it for a second before settling it on Tony's shoulder and tugging him in. It's considerate, the warning, because it gives Tony time to calculate what's happening before Steve kisses him. No flailing this time, no panic, just Steve's warm mouth on his and Steve's hand on his shoulder, the other tucked in the small of his back.
Tony leans up into it, lips opening, and he can hear Steve's delighted rumble. He tucks his hands against Steve's chest, fingers curling in the slick uniform undershirt.
Steve's a little clumsy with this. Either he's out of practice or never had much to begin with. But he's very earnest, which is endearing.
On the other hand, when Steve lets him go, Tony becomes very aware that they're both filthy and sweaty, and the rasp of the armor's undersuit against Steve's shirt causes a blue spark of static to leap between them. Steve jumps, and Tony laughs.
"So, this is a thing we're doing," he says, amused at himself and Steve and the world. This twentysomething super soldier and his klutzy play for a man almost twice his age with no visible emotional stability. If he weren't Captain America, Tony would wonder if he were gold-digging.
"Is it?" Steve asks. "I'd like that."
"We're going to get into a lot more 'why' later," Tony replies. "Unless you want to share the bath right now."
Steve flushes pink. "No. Ah. No, we'd better not."
Tony shrugs, leaning up to kiss him one last time. When he steps back, Steve's eyes are closed. Like he really enjoyed it, or like he can't quite believe Tony will actually be there when he opens them.
"Get some rest," Tony says.
"Usually my line," Steve replies, eyes opening. Tony gives him a wink, and has the pleasure of seeing his face light up with a shy smile as Tony turns to go.
"You do owe me one for that grab," he calls, without looking back.
"One what?" Steve asks.
"You'll find out," Tony says, and closes the door before Steve can ask any further.
On the other side of the door, he huffs out a breath, slides down the wall, and sits there, exhausted and sore and confused at himself. He used to be better at this, he's positive. Then again, he used to be a jerk, too. This is probably improvement.
He doesn't want to cramp up or be stiff tomorrow, so after a few minutes of self-pity over the general state of his existence, Tony shakes it off and heads for the bath. Steve seems not-crazy for the moment, and Sam Wilson is not around to remind Tony that his walls have walls (and a moat and portcullis and cannons with lasers mounted on them).
Ten minutes later, the world is a much nicer place. Tony sinks into the heat of the bath, scotch glass sweating on the side of the tub. He lifts the scotch up and presses it to a forming bruise over one eye, then takes a long swallow.
Poor Steve. He seemed even more surprised than Tony was by his actions. Though remarkably okay with the outcome. Perhaps he's just in shock. Perhaps Tony should have made more time to actually discuss what the hell is going on. Cap's that type, leap in and triumph and only break down later -- most of the Avengers are.
He should probably check on him.
"JARVIS," he says. "Please make sure Captain Rogers isn't having some kind of meltdown."
"Captain Rogers appears to be engaging in after-action reporting," JARVIS replies.
"Seriously?" Tony asks. The kid fought a battle, ate a feast, made out a little with his teammate, and now he's doing paperwork?
"I believe he is at present attempting to work 'sexually harassing a teammate' into the report without compromising either your reputation or the objective tone of the prose," JARVIS says. He sounds snippy.
Tony holds up a soapy finger. "One, I have no reputation to compromise and you are well aware of that. Two, it wasn't harassment, which I made very clear, so I think you're just being pissy. Three, why is he writing his after-action now? He should be sleeping, or jerking off, or something."
"He did not ask permission or ascertain consent -- "
"JARVIS. Stop defending Daddy. Patch me through to Steve," Tony insists. JARVIS, instead of replying verbally, beeps angrily. But the soft static of an open microphone hisses over the speakers, so Tony hasn't totally lost control of Skynet yet.
"Tony?" Steve asks, sounding concerned. "Something wrong?"
"Less than before I got in this bath," Tony replies. "JARVIS says you're writing your after-action."
"I thought I'd get it down while it was fresh."
"Instead of sleeping?"
"Well, you know," Steve sounds sheepish. "I don't need that much rest."
"Not like us mere mortals," Tony replies, amused. "You should've taken me up on the bath."
"Aw, Tony," Steve drawls. It's well hidden, but along with the embarrassment in his voice, there's a certain -- a hint of heat, just a hint. Enough to give Tony an idea.
"Did you want to?" Tony asks, lowering his voice. "The invitation was in earnest."
"I don't think that would be good for -- "
"But did you want to?" Tony repeats. Steve is silent, and Tony realizes this is perhaps bigger than the two of them, at least for Steve. "Do you ever get what you want, Steve?"
There's a soft huff from the other end of the line. "Probably more often than is good for me. People like helping Captain America."
"They do," Tony agrees. He hoists himself out of the water, up onto the edge of the tub, and leans back against the cool marble wall. It's not the most appropriate time, perhaps, but he's half-hard already in anticipation. "For this, you have to know, you could have men half my age lining up three-deep."
"I don't want a fella half your age," Steve says. "Was that water?"
"Still in the bath," Tony answers. He cups himself, let himself make a little noise of pleasure.
"Tony," Steve repeats, this time low and slightly desperate.
"Look, it's an easy decision," Tony says. "I'm offering to put on a show for you. Do you want that?"
"It's not that simple, it's -- it's fast, and you're just coming off a battle, and -- "
"Steve. You say no, I'll stop. You say yes, you get a free taste. No strings, no commitment, no expectations. You don't even have to say anything. There's a feed in the bathroom, you can just...watch."
Christ, just the idea -- Steve, the feed on his computer, the after-action in the corner of the screen, probably still in his uniform --
"Uh, uh," he moans, mostly without meaning to.
"Yes," Steve says, almost stumbling over the simple word. He stutters on the s.
"Yes, I want to -- oh," Steve interrupts himself at the same time the red light flicks on in the camera in the corner. JARVIS must have come out of his sulk long enough to open the feed onto Steve's computer.
Tony grins at the camera, then closes his eyes and strokes himself, one long, slow slide down and back up. He lets his mouth fall open, arching his back. The stretch feels good, muscles looser now from the bath.
"Can you," Steve asks on an exhale.
"Yeah?" Tony prompts, stroking himself again. Silence. "Steve?"
"Open your eyes," Steve says, voice low but hesitant. "Can you open your eyes?"
Tony lifts his eyelids, looks straight at the camera.
"Oh," Steve says softly.
"Are you touching yourself?" Tony asks, falling into a slow, lazy rhythm. He loves this part, loves when they're passed the awkward opening, when both parties are fully on board. Everything you say sounds less ridiculous during phone sex, if you say it with confidence.
"No." Steve answers, sounding shy.
"Do you want to?"
"Not -- not yet."
Tony arches again, stretching, but he doesn't take his eyes off the camera. He likes that Steve wants that. "Anything else you want?"
"I," Steve stammers, and then, "You're so -- "
"Hot?" Tony asks, winking.
"I'll take it," Tony says, thrusting into his hand, other hand coming up to rest on his stomach. His pulse roars in his ears. "Jesus, I haven't gotten off this fast since -- fuck -- "
"Don't," Steve snaps, and Tony freezes. That was no hesitant half-sentence; that was a command.
He runs his thumb over the head of his dick lightly, thoughtfully. "You do want something."
"I just." Steve audibly exhales. "Turn the camera off."
Tony blinks. "What?"
"Not the audio. Just the camera. I don't want to see, not until I'm...there, not until we..."
The red light winks out. Tony thuds his head lightly against the tile.
"Now," Steve murmurs. "I can hear you, you can..."
Tony lets out a moan that's only a little theatrical.
"Tony," Steve says, raw and desperate. Tony jerks himself roughly, quickly, noisily -- swearing, grunting, less dignified now that he isn't visible. Maybe that's what Steve wants, maybe he never wanted a show as much as he wanted Tony...
Tony comes sharp and sudden, hard enough that he regrets it isn't on film.
Then he collapses limply, sliding back into the cooling bath, and closes his eyes. There's a shaky breath down the line.
"Steve?" he asks.
"Yes," Steve answers, his voice strangled and harsh. "That was...thank you, Tony."
"We'll talk tomorrow. Wash up and sleep, do your paperwork later. JARVIS, cut audio," Tony says. The scotch is still reasonably cold when he finishes it off. "That went well."
"I'm inclined to be more amenable to Captain Rogers," JARVIS says.
"What's he doing now?" Tony asks wickedly.
"It would appear he is planning a long shower," JARVIS replies.
"Good boy," Tony says under his breath. He pops the plug on the bath, hoists himself up, and reaches for a towel. "If I'm not up before him tomorrow, wake me when he does."
"Of course, sir."
Tony falls into bed sore but pleased, and his sleep is easy and dreamless.