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Slowly Into Focus

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"I can't believe Captain America knows what safewords are."

Through the vocal filters Tony's voice is light, teasing, amused, as if they have no other concerns. As if Magneto hadn't just been in here threatening them both.

Sunshine filters in through the long bank of windows, and the air is practically still chiming with the sound of the curtain rings and rods falling, the ones that Magneto had flung disdainfully to the floor as he'd left with Cyclops. Outside the mansion there's the muted metallic creaking of cars being settled back much more gracefully to earth. At least he didn't just let those drop.

Tony, unreflective in his rubberized suit and still facing the windows, is halfway to invisible, outlined by the sunlight, and Steve squints at him. All this going on, and that's what Tony wants to talk about? Still? A joke?

Well... it figures.

But it's all wrong for Tony to say. It was an observation he might have made when they were young, when they hadn't known each other half so well, when Steve hadn't known Tony was his own bodyguard and Tony had thought Steve was a patriotic fantasy on a poster, larger than life, something more than human under the cowl. Tony's got to know he's not as innocent as the image. It's been years, after all.

He'll go with it anyway.

So Steve stretches, grins, and then straightens up like he's posing for one of the posters. In his best newsworthy voice, leaning into an imaginary cluster of microphones, he says, "Of course I know what safewords are. It's very important to be safe, sane, and consensual."

"Motherfuck," Tony says, awed, turning around to stare at him. The suit comm crackles, transforming into the shorted-out static of laughter, and then Tony pushes the faceplate up and he's still laughing, like he can't breathe from the sheer joy of it, blue eyes brighter than the afternoon sky. "I've corrupted you."

"It's interesting that you think this was your doing," Steve drawls, dropping from the practiced stance and grinning back. Seeing Tony smile at him... well, that always makes the day feel better. Makes everything better, somehow. He can keep this joke going if it gets him that.

"Don't think the scene was the same in the forties," Tony counters. He's got the helmet off now and his hair's spiked up, a little messy, a little wild, the way Steve always secretly likes it. "So don't tell me you already knew."

Of course he hadn't. As racy as he used to think pinups were, they've got nothing on modern pornography, endless pictures and videos of acts it would never have occurred to him were possible, even if they'd been legal. And now, well -- who's to know if his computer bookmarks include nude photography? Dark-haired, muscled men, their wrists draped in rope, their necks ringed with leather, their bodies arching into black and white relief, chiaroscuro on pooled sheets.

They're artistic photographs, he tells himself. They're beautifully composed. It isn't even a lie.

It's only a coincidence that most of the subjects look like Tony, he tells himself. That one might be a lie.

Steve shrugs. "Not before, no. But there's the internet now, and who says I can't know a good idea when I see one? Since you suggested it."

"Oh?" Tony raises an eyebrow, still grinning like mad. "And you're into my suggestions, then?"

"What if I were?"

He stops, all flippancy dead, and he knows he's gone over the line, past the game, past even flirtation. He hadn't meant to say that. Now Tony will think -- hell, Tony will know, it's not like Tony has ever, ever been stupid--

Tony is staring at him, and he says nothing. Nothing at all. His mouth is open, his eyes half-dilated, and he licks his lips. The longing from him, from them, between the both of them is a weight, a physical tension, a thing Steve's spent a decade trying to ignore, to tell himself he could never have. But now it's there, right there, and despite all their troubles, through everything they've been to each other, Tony wants him, just as badly as he wants Tony.

"Jesus Christ," Tony says, faint and shocked. Even in the suit he seems to wobble. "I used to think I'd given it away somehow, but I guess you never knew I--"

Steve shakes his head, suddenly dizzy, like Tony's grabbed him and pulled him into the sky. "I didn't know. Not about that. Not about... me."

"Then what?"

"Safewords. And you." It's a stab in the dark, based on Tony's joke, but Tony doesn't need to know that. Doesn't matter how recent his guess is if it's true. Tony wouldn't make that joke if he hadn't meant it. Besides, his intuition's solid enough by now that he's not surprised when Tony's breathing goes a little shallow. Yeah. That. Steve's definitely something other than surprised. He's half-hard in his uniform already.

He wants to kiss him. He wants to touch him. He wants to do everything to him. He can picture Tony spread out on his sheets, for him, vivid and alive and better than a thousand photos of pale imitations, there because he put him there, down because he wants to be, because they both want him to be. Need pulses through Steve again, hot and heavy.

Just enough of Tony's neck is bare that he can watch his throat move as he swallows. "Listen, Steve," Tony says, and now he scrubs his face with one gauntleted hand, looking away. What could be any harder to say than what he'd just said? "It's not -- I don't want to disappoint you, but it's not like you think. I was joking. Really. I'm... actually pretty vanilla. I've tried kink a few times, yeah, but." He shuts his eyes and opens them again. "It wasn't great. Not my thing. I wasn't -- it just wasn't for me."

But the naked desire on Tony's face is real, in complete contrast to his words, and Steve knows that whatever the problem was, it wasn't that Tony didn't want it. Tony's trying to lie and failing miserably.

Then he knows. He knows Tony, after all.

"You probably thought you'd try it once." Steve smiles gently. "You'll try anything once, eh? Probably even thought you'd start with domination. CEO, superhero, why not? Practically your day job anyway." Tony watches him in silence. "Maybe you liked that okay, but then you started getting curious. You're always curious. So you thought about switching. Subbing. Am I getting close?"

Tony's headshake isn't denial, it's deflection. "The internet taught you all this? What the hell kind of websites have you been reading, Cap?" he says, starting to smile.

The question is a jab, like he's turning this into a fight, an argument he can win if he keeps Steve off balance. But Steve's not going to let him.

"Same ones you were, I'm thinking. For exactly the opposite reasons."

He steps close and Tony doesn't move away. He's close enough that he could touch him, if he wanted to, but Tony's staring at him wide-eyed, like the words alone are breaking the rest of his armor and without it he might run, defenseless.

"Anything else you want to tell me about myself?" The tone is openly challenging now, just this side of insulting. One more riposte.

He reaches out and rests a hand over one of Tony's gauntlets, even though he'll never feel it. He watches as Tony shivers a little anyway. "You liked the idea of submission so much it scared the hell out of you. And then you tried it. Picked up a stranger, maybe. Found someone discreet. Maybe used one of those services." He says the next words carefully. "And it didn't work."

"I tried again," Tony says. His voice is scratchy. He's stopped denying it. "I thought maybe I was doing it wrong, maybe it had to be someone I already knew, someone I trusted. Kept trying, when I was dating--" he shrugs-- "a lot of people. Doesn't matter who. Kept asking. Eventually gave up. It didn't work, okay? I was bad at it." He looks away and winces. "So don't get your hopes up here. I can't do it."

And Steve knows, oh, he knows, how Tony deals with failure. He also knows how Tony deals with orders.

"They wanted the textbook sub, right? Collared, quiet, obedient? Someone who'd kneel, easy as you please, and just wait to be told what to do? You're different. That's not you."

Tony's mouth twists. "Yeah, so I was a bratty sub. Worse than bratty. The lousiest. Everyone said so. You don't need to rub it in."

"Different's not the same as bad."

"Yeah, no." Tony snorts. "Tell that to--"

His hand closes around Tony's gauntleted wrist. He knows that Tony's sacrificed power to be able to keep this suit non-metallic; he could overload the servos very easily. He doesn't break it. But he could.

He steps in close.

Tony's eyes go wide.

"I know you," he whispers against Tony's ear. "You'll go down, but you'll go down fighting, and you need someone to make you. Someone who knows exactly how much you can take. Someone who knows exactly how you'll fight back. Someone who can take you out of your head and away from every idea that's ever trapped you, down to that place where all that matters is your body."

He draws his head back and Tony grins down at him, bright-eyed, challenging.

"Oh, you think that's you?"

"I know it's me," Steve says, and then he drags Tony's head down and kisses him.

Tony lunges into the kiss, roughly, shoving their mouths together hard until Steve tastes blood. He's dizzy, heady with it, and it might be the best kiss he can ever remember. Tony kisses him and Steve slides his hands up Tony's sides to where the armor release catches are, where they always are -- because he's always had the keys, he knows that now -- and he grins into Tony's mouth as half the suit sloughs off between them and Tony abruptly becomes much easier to handle.

Tony pushes hard, trying to unbalance him, but he's lost the suit's weight advantage and it's easy for Steve to spin them around, drop Tony onto the meeting table, sprawled over the Avengers logo in the center. Their lips part and Steve stands up and considers this: Tony is dark-eyed and debauched, grinning, holding his bared hands over his head, tilting his head to the side, thoughtfully, like they're sparring and he's waiting for Steve to hit him again so he can try a different counter. Like he's down on the mat and it's the best match they've ever had. It's a good look on him. It'd make the perfect picture.

"That all you've got?" Tony licks reddened lips.

Steve leans over him and splays one hand over both of Tony's wrists, with just enough pressure to let Tony know he isn't going anywhere until Steve lets up. Such are the benefits of being a super-soldier. Tony's eyes go even darker. That's a yes from him.

"Not even close to all of it," Steve breathes. "Get upstairs and I'll show you."

"You've got a deal."

He doesn't let go. "One more question first."

Tony's eyes are unfocused. "Anything."

"What is your safeword? Seriously."

Tony gives a helpless, abortive shrug. He really can't move much at all, the way Steve's got him pinned, and Steve knows he should have asked the question first, but they can get it out of the way now and they'll be good, because damned if he doesn't want to do right by Tony.

"Safeword," Tony says, grinning.

Well. It's logical. It's very Tony.

"You'll do," he says, and then Tony, laughing, is on his feet again, Steve's hand in his, dragging him down the hall, leading the way, exactly backwards and exactly right.