Tony doesn’t remember what happened after he saw Steve fall like a downed tree. He thinks the simile poignantly fits in this situation. The surroundings went quiet as Steve stumbled to his knees, and even in the middle of Manhattan the air was still as everyone watched the infallible man bow to the blood loss that stained his suit. Steve hunched over the concrete, one gloved hand reaching forward to his chest, the look of surprise when it came away bloody.
They say the brain forgets traumatic situations in self-defence so the memories cannot continue to cause trauma. This seems true, Tony only remembers waking in hospital, and refusing to ask about Steve.
It was impossible, Steve had no choice but to be alive. He wouldn’t grace the alternative with a whisper of thought.
When Steve’s recuperating at home (and yes, the Avengers tower is his home, he refuses to call it anything but), Tony calls in a therapist to help him rebuild the muscle damage in his upper left arm. The bomb, a vicious bastard that tore apart anything it latched onto, had ripped through Steve’s chest like it was nothing more than paper, and the healing process was something even super soldier serum couldn’t do alone.
Tony had consequently compiled a list nearly 200 strong of various physiotherapists, all with overflowing CVs, and from that list had personally interviewed 50. After that, he had three visit, and ended up employing one. A man with a list of academic qualifications as long as the Quinjet, and flown in especially from France. Pepper had claimed this was wasting his time, and whilst he glibly replied he was only ‘protecting his investments’ it was probably the wrong stress on words. Rather, he was protecting those he was invested in.
Nevertheless, when he comes into one of Steve’s sessions he doesn’t expect the chartered therapist to be staring at Steve’s arms in a way completely non-professional (Tony should know, he does it all the time) as the oblivious Captain bench presses weights heavier than Tony. It takes all of Tony’s power not to tell the man to leave outright, merely snapping at Steve’s heels as a Chihuahua would a Great Dane. He must confess to a certain heady rush of victory when Steve sighs and sets the weights aside to answer Tony’s stream of questions, thanking and dismissing the physio with a wave and smile (and Tony can see the therapist’s knees buckle oh no no no this isn’t allowed to happen).
When Steve’s walking alongside him down the corridor and asks Tony what he came look for, Tony can’t provide an answer. The man sighs and runs a hand through perfect blonde hair and if Tony ‘stumbles’ into step closer to the Super Soldier, so close their shoulders brush, JARVIS isn’t going to say anything.
If Steve notices that the next specialist to come in is an older married woman who carries a picture of her family in her purse that she flaunts and giggles at given any opportunity, he doesn’t mention it to Tony. Which is lucky, because Tony can’t think of a justifiable reason that would make sense.
When Steve first goes out for a run after the attack, Tony works solidly on armour upgrades for all of thirty minutes before he begins to panic. The feeling of nausea clogs the back of his throat and refuses to abate until he hacks Steve’s phone and interrupts him from streaming Johnny Cash to make a call direct.
“Tony what the-“ Steve’s voice comes through in a staccato rhythm between fast exhales of air, and if Tony’s mind wanders for a second to think of how that voice might sound similar after sex he cannot be blamed. Or held accountable.
“You okay?” Tony sifts through his less than gentlemanly desires and asks this question quickly, urgently. He needs to know. He needs to make sure that Steve isn’t about to be torn apart right in front of him again.
Steve sighs, “Yes Tony, I’m fine. I’ll be back in thirty minutes.” And Tony silently thanks the god that is Steve Rogers for not making a joke out of Tony’s insecurity. The line is quiet for a moment as the pair try to think of what to say, before Steve hesitantly breaks it. From the way he is more comfortable speaking now, Tony can guess he has sat down somewhere.
“I’m not going to nearly die again you know.” He says quickly, whispered fast and as close to the speaker of the phone as possible. Tony hangs up out of surprise, quickly sending a text about how it must be Stark Phone prototype difficulties (and if he’s blaming it on his own technology, he knows he has it bad). Tony’s glad he hung up though, he doesn’t know how he would have responded without tearing out his own heart in kind.
First mission back, Steve is glorious.
He takes on the villain mid monologue with a sweep of his fist and it would be wrong for Tony to deny the burst of pride that goes straight to his gut. He wishes he could have seen Steve in the war, he must have been wonderful to watch.
But more than anything he wishes he could have met pre-serum Steve, the tiny man who never said no and had more courage in one of his thumbs that Tony did in his entire body. He’d have liked to take that man out for a drink just as much as the man who stood tall in front of him giving him orders.
After the battle they debrief at SHIELD headquarters, and Tony spends the duration thinking of ways he could make Fury deeply miserable. Few have the ability to cow Steve Rogers into submission, but Nicholas Fury’s wrath seems to have a particular hold.
The man in question is sat, angrily telling Steve of how he cannot be seen to engage in pure violence against another who appears ‘human’ in broad daylight because apparently he is an icon that Disney has a 20% share of and that is where Tony draws the line.
“I’m sorry Fury, but that is a 20% share I have just bought out and promptly given straight back to Steve. You can tell Disney to stop designing Captain America plushie toys now. Unless they want to send me one?”
The glare Fury graces him with isn’t worth recording.
The astounded stare from Steve, the smile lit up from inside, is.
(He does end up getting a Captain America plushie toy. He will not confirm nor deny reports that he sleeps with it curled up in his arms)
Being a man with his fair share of experience, Tony can spot a covetous glance a mile off.
Unfortunately that means he has to sit through the endless double takes Steve is granted with, the frowns that turn to smiles, the casual brushing of shoulders or a hand laid on an arm for longer than strictly necessary. Every single last one grinds him down to his bare bones. He thinks it is worse because he knows that Steve deserves better than to be alone. The man deserves everything he could possibly want. He deserves the white picket fence, the Labrador, the twins that excel at music and the perfect wife. Tony can’t give him any of that.
He wishes he could lay claim but he has no right. He’s just a genius, billionaire,
playboy, philanthropist after all. How can that measure up against the inherent good that is Steve?
He’s never really been aware of how close Steve is to the rest of the team, but he can feel ever whispered exchange from behind him like it was screamed in his ear. He knows about the Winter Soldier, he knows that mission caused Steve and Natasha to grow closer. He knows that it is logical, even if his brain refuses to compute as such. Just as much as he knows that sometimes when Steve isn’t looking James Barnes stares at him with something akin to wonder.
He can register with that look, because it is one he has caught himself making several times over in Steve’s direction. And how is he supposed to compete with a best friend back from the dead?
In retrospect, perhaps Tony should have been paying more attention to the downed robot directly in front of him. But Steve was laughing with Natasha, smiling and gesticulating at something beyond Tony’s vision. He was probably making yet another in-joke about something Tony could not hope to understand. Didn’t Steve know that it was offensive to laugh at a scene of destruction? Especially when the robot in question was advanced enough it could reboot away from its central mainframe…. Shit.
Everything happened in a blur beyond that realisation. The robot swept up, sluggishly, but still powerful. Tony is shouting down the comm and roaring into life, despite the fact the armour is depleted and they only have reserve power left. He fires a weakened repulsor at the robot, distracting it, and before he can offer up a silent prayer Steve is there.
Tony’s heart stops. There is an absence of a beat or two as Steve acts as a barrier between the robot’s fist and Tony, holding firm. He plants his feet into the ground only a metre in front of Tony and exhales heavily, not betraying the difficulty of keeping the robot in place. Sweat drips down from beneath the wings on his cowl, pooling in the crook of his eyebrow.
Then, one foot by another, he begins to move forward, pushing the metal fist back in on itself before ripping it clean off. The display is so aggressive Tony sees stars for a moment, brain going offline in self-defense.
Thor takes care of the rest, frying the electrics to a crisp. Steve is hunched over, breathing heavily, sweat dripping down to the concrete, but unable to stop a wide grin from infecting his face.
Tony idly notes he’s never seen anything so attractive in his life.
Back at SHIELD people keep slapping Steve on the back, congratulating him and thanking him. The rough edges of violently protective Steve Rogers are gone, and the genial Captain America façade has been smoothed back in place.
Tony hates it. He hates that people have the ability to make Steve so ordinary.
“That was a stupid thing you did back there Captain.” He barks on the way back to Avengers HQ. Steve blinks at the acidity in Tony’s tone, before quieting for a moment.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware saving your life is considered ‘stupid’ Tony.” Stupid stupid stupid doesn’t Steve know he can’t say things like that and expect Tony not to act.
“In that situation it is Cap! You can’t throw yourself in front of every villain to protect everyone else!” Tony roars, feeling himself get slowly angrier. How can the arc reactor be expected to perform if Steve is hellbent on giving it a kick every time he plays the self-sacrificing hero.
“Like hell I’m going to stand idly by and let some robot kill you Tony!” and wow, Tony didn’t think he had any kinks related to swearing but apparently when it was coming from Steve Rogers’ mouth it was an entirely different story, “I’m not going to allow a villain to hurt you if I can be there to stop it!”
It felt like someone has reached into Tony’s chest and given his heart a squeeze (a feeling he was remarkably intimate with, if for entirely different reasons). He leans forward and whispers, “Careful, I won’t be liable for my actions if you talk like that.” to a completely bemused Steve before storming away as fast as the Iron Man suit will allow him.
It is a while before Steve comes home, by which point Tony has talked himself into the idea that Steve has found out about Tony’s less than pure feelings for him and is consequently disgusted. He’s probably halfway across the world right now, trying to get as far away as possible from the man he could never have any feelings for.
When he hears the workshop door click, he’s midway through designing a tracking device that will seek out Steve’s particular heat signal (the guy is like a furnace) and tell Tony exactly where he is. It’s not stalking, honest. (If anything, it is remote stalking because Tony doesn’t even have to be there to find him and oh my god why is he justifying this).
So he’s a bit distracted when he hears the door slide open, quickly spinning the plans out of focus on the hologram. He quickly brings Iron Man upgrades (essential upgrades you should have been working on all this time, the JARVIS-esque voice in his head shrieks, which Tony dismisses quickly) and proceeds to looks pensive and genius-like so that Steve won’t suspect anything.
The man doesn’t, flopping down on the sofa Tony often uses as a bed and flashes him a grin that does things to Tony’s insides.
“What have you been up to now then Cap?” that’s good keep it Avenger, don’t let it get personal.
“Did you know there is a bar dedicated to the Avengers? Avenge Us it’s called! Incredible. They have a cocktail called The Red, White and Blue and it’s dedicated to me! Wonderful.” Steve exclaims, enthused. Tony hasn’t seen him this excited in a long while and finds it is wreaking havoc on his libido.
“I thought you can’t get drunk.” Tony mutters, which Steve picks up on.
“Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a drink.” He retorts, and if Tony had thought it was physically impossible to be any more in love with Steve Rogers he had been wrong. The stiff, stuck in the 40s, starched pants and rigorously strict outlook Steve Rogers was much easier to hate than this seemingly liberal and fluid man before him who has jumped into the 21st century with remarkable aplomb. He opens his mouth to tell him as such (though in Tony Stark fashion, hidden under endless barbs and sarcasm so the original meaning is practically non-existent) but Steve’s phone chirps.
The super soldier glances down at the screen and smirks. It’s a small blink-and-you-miss-it smile, the kind that was reserved solely for Tony not so long ago, and the sight of it directed at a comment made by someone who isn’t him causes the smile hinting at Tony’s lips to curdle and go sour.
“Who is that?” Tony asks, well aware that being nosy is rude, but since when did Tony Stark care about correct etiquette? Steve darts a look at him and shuffles slightly guiltily.
“A guy…” Steve mutters and Tony’s heart sinks. A guy?! Is this a guy who has made a move? Who has kissed Steve? Who has taken Steve home and bedded him and now of course wants more? Stupid stupid stupid Tony assuming that just because Steve was there meant he’d never end up acting on the constant attention he received.
“He asked for my number.” Steve explains further, and Tony’s already wallowing in a pit of despair imagining beautiful adopted children calling him ‘Uncle Tony the permanent bachelor’, “Clint gave him in it in the end. I'm not going to do anything with-" he begins before Tony cuts him off.
And wow Tony has never been too familiar with truly murderous intent but he is now going to kill Clint.
“Well, better jump to it soldier.” Tony laughs, the notes cracking halfway through, before slapping Steve on the back and turning tail out of his own workshop leaving a very confused Steve Rogers standing in the midst of holograms and still running machinery.
Tony doesn’t like being handed things. It’s a fact that has been slowly blended and mixed in with his ‘eccentric billionaire’ persona to the point it is practically a joke.
Underneath the joke, of course, is layers of insecurity which he doesn’t want to look to closely at. When Coulson tries to hand him the file on the Tesseract of course he laughs it off, turns it into a quirk, and doesn’t betray the inside voice screaming at him to back the fuck up.
He supposes a therapist would claim it has something to do with trust but all Tony can think of when he sees hands stretched out toward him are the pair that literally pulled his heart out of his chest. He gets flashes of liver spots and skin wrinkled like old leather before his brain screams at him to move away from the possible threat.
That being said, when Steve first attempts to hand him a report on their last battle, his usual sarcastic and pithy response gets stuck in the back of his lungs, and his hands flicker up toward the folder before falling back towards his sides.
Steve looks at him inquisitively before a look of understanding schools across his face. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it, just puts it on the desk in front of them, opening it up at the first page and going through what it contains without any fuss. It becomes a part of their routine, and Steve thinks nothing of placing a cup of coffee on the edge of the workshop table as he walks past or leaving reports dotted around Tony’s workspace for him to find later. He never makes a big deal out of it and every movie night Steve brings the microwavable popcorn through, sits on the sofa beside Tony and places the bowl just in Tonys reach without being obvious.
“How do I look?” Steve sounds nervous, and Tony looks up to make a jibe about the super soldier worrying too much about things that matter too little but the words stick in his throat. Steve is stood in the doorway, Natasha standing behind him with a small smirk on her lips. Clint wolf-whistles and even Bruce sits up slightly at the sight of all 6’2” of Captain America packed into ripped jeans, too-tight white t-shirt and brown leather jacket straining to contain the bulging biceps. Aviators are perched on top of his head haphazardly, and when Natasha leans up to straighten them Tony has to resist growling.
Tony’s seen him in a tuxedo, of course he has, at various functions and meetings so he knows the power Steve contains. But looking at him in an outfit just this side of scruffy makes Tony want to lean forward and mess him up completely.
“What’s the occasion?” Tony demands at the same time Clint leers and shouts “Way to go Tasha, I thought we’d never see the day Steve wore anything but button-up shirts and high waist jeans!”
Steve flushes, the skin of the back of his neck going red, and Tony bites his tongue to stop himself from leaping to the defense of his previous outfits.
Tony liked the old-fashioned clothes. It suited Steve. The fact it also simultaneously managed to hide the man’s fantastic physique from
people who might want to steal him from Tony people who wanted him for nefarious purposes had nothing to do with it at all.
“He’s got a date!” Natasha cheers, or as close as the Black Widow would get to cheering, which was a slightly upbeat monotone, before high-fiving the outstretched hand of Clint. Which does well to cover up the drop in Tony's face (and the drop of his heart) upon hearing those words and all he can think is I thought I had more time.
More time to call Steve his own (even if only in his head) before someone would come to take him away.
Later, when Steve comes home (alone
thank god) Tony is still awake, perched on a stool in the kitchen nurses a long-gone-cold cup of coffee.
Steve pulls up a chair beside him without even asking why Tony is alone in the dark and asks JARVIS to turn on the lights.
"You okay there?" Steve asks, face curious and worried and if Tony's feelings for Steve had been dormant up until now they certainly weren't any longer. The man comes home from a date, his first date since being on ice for 70 years and his first concern is for a friend rather than himself. Selfless wasn't enough to cover the range of this man's emotion.
The line hangs in the air a moment, stifling with promise and potential as Tony attempts to speak but can't get the words out. Steve waits and the longing in his eyes is not simply for the answer to the question, but something more. He's waiting for Tony to open a door and later Tony will kick himself for not leaping into the unknown and taking the chance Steve gave him.
But now, Steve waits before his smile turns down at the corners and he stands up, chair scraping against the floor slowly and even now he's giving Tony the chance to do or say something, anything. But Tony stays silent and Steve deserves better so he leaves Tony in the kitchen, alone again save the light pooling in the corners of the kitchen.
Naturally the next week they have goes to shit, the Avengers call going off practically every hour. Each one of the team are exhausted, stretched thin and brittle to the point Tony is worried they might break. Natasha is loud, Thor quiet, Clint sombre and Bruce runs from the room looking green around the collar every time anyone so much as makes a move. Tony hasn’t seen Steve aside on missions, but he isn’t pushing it. They all watched him stretch out and shatter a wrist in the process of trying to hold up two cars containing two families on the Brooklyn Bridge, only succeeding in saving one whilst the other plummeted into the depths of the water. They’ve also all been there as the press had ripped him and the rest of the team to shreds because they don’t just want you exhausted, they want you half-dead. So Tony gets it, gets that this job makes you personally responsible because you are an individual whilst the forces such as the police or riot control have strength in numbers. Anyone can ring on the doorbell of Stark Tower and hurl abuse. It doesn't mean they have to take it, which is something he has tried to explain to Steve fruitlessly as the man nods with a glassy stare.
The next battle they fight is a close call. Steve and Thor are back to back against creatures so foul Tony hears Steve question whether they have been sent from hell themselves. The figure they cut is grotesque, looking like someone has smeared blood and guts across a broken mannequin. No matter how many they cut down, more advance to the point the team are no longer fighting with anything but gut instincts, burning down reserves they don’t have.
In one quick move Natasha is down, and the others freeze as they watch the tower of immobility that is the Black Widow crumble, choking on her own blood. In that moment, Steve rushes forward growling so low and so fierce even the creatures pause momentarily before they are obliterated with a sickening crunch of Steve’s shield. Clint in there before too long, kneeling down cradling Natasha’s head in his hands and the blood has drained from his face as if it wants to get as close to Natasha’s skin as possible and crawl into her bones. Thor bursts in beside Steve, throwing lightning in all directions, his cape crackling with power and face stormy. Hulk had let out a roar the minute that Natasha went down and is slowly picking off each creature bit by bit. Tony clatters into the ground and aims a repulsor blast at the monster attempting to sneak up on Steve, JARVIS already midway through informing medical of the situation at hand.
This shot, the one of them all grounded and protecting one of their own, is the one New York Times runs with on the Monday. As does pretty much every other paper in the Western World. In this they are the Avengers, not just a group brought together by a man on the periphery yanking the puppet strings, not only a group to be admired, but a group to be feared.
Natasha spends the evening in hospital, meaning that the rest of the Avengers spend the evening in hospital as well. Not even the most intimidating doctor wants to be the one to tell a living legend, the Hulk, a demi-god, a master assassin and Tony Stark that visitors aren’t allowed past five o’clock. So as it happens, the team make a shoddily assembled fort out of plastic chairs and thin fabric blankets outside Natasha’s room and crash for the rest of the evening. Steve is at the bottom of the pile, as ever the solid and unshakeable foundation. Thor is sprawled out beside him, arms and legs as far flung out as possible, heat radiating like a furnace from his body. Clint is just beyond him at his feet, every so often turning in his sleep and wrinkling his nose as he gets too close to Thor’s toes. Bruce is, heartbreakingly, curled up as tight as he possibly can be, like if he takes up less space he’ll disturb less people, a fact Thor ignored as he had one arm flung across his body.
And Tony was exactly where he wanted to be, legs tangled with Steve’s, arm as close to the super soldier’s chest without exactly touching it. And if, in the middle of the night Steve shifts closer so that Tony’s hand is pressed up firm against his body, and consequently winds its way round his ribs, no one has to be any the wiser.
Natasha leaves the hospital a week later. Because Pepper is a genius and Tony is incredibly lucky to have her in his life, she fields the press away so that when Natasha walks out the streets are empty save civilians. She stops, looks up, takes a deep breath of the cold crisp morning air and smiles. The sight is so rare that each one of the Avengers cannot help but be infected. Clint even huffs a hysterical giggle of disbelief, wrapping an arm round her shoulder and taking a deep breath into her hair and for once she lets him. The photo snapped by a pedestrian who recognises them quickly goes viral on twitter with the trend #ProudofOurAvengers, and Tony later has it blown up onto a canvas hung in the main lounge of the Avengers Tower.
He will admit to looking at it from time to time and thanking whatever karma he banked to allow him to call these people his friends.
Steve still isn't really talking to Tony. He is never around for their movie nights anymore, murmuring apologies as he backs out the door clad in leather and the glares Tony gets as they hear the motorcyle roar out of the garage are totally unfair. It's not his fault Steve is has a social calendar
and has finally realised how to wear well fitting clothes and now people want to get in on that.
However the fact that these people who want to jump Steve's bones are not Tony is seriously uncool.
"The pair of you are no better than teenagers." Natasha mutters, and everyone else mutters an assent.
Instead of taking the bet, Tony stays silent for once in his life. He's never been this fucking scared. He knows, somewhere, that what is going on with him and Steve has the potential to be fucking incredible. He does. But he doesn't think he, Mr Repulsor-Now-Think-Later, can stomach the idea that it will fuck up in his face.
So he stays quiet, and rejects every olive branch of peace Steve offers him, convincing himself that when Steve finally shuts down and gives up that it was the right thing to do.
Because the idea of existing without Steve in his life at all? Scares him shitless.
The Avenger alarm sounds next afternoon as a herd of giant Springer Spaniels are attacking Times Square and because apparently this is Tony's life they are the one to answer the call.
The animals are actually more dangerous through accidental damage than anything else, crushing buildings in an attempt to 'catch' Tony in the air, or drowning people in the huge drops of drool that hang and fall from their mouths. So it is more about slowly rounding them up away from the city than anything else. In doing so, Tony doesn't realise that a) Captain America is late to the dog playing party and b) is still in the clothes he wore leaving the Tower last night.
a + b = Steve stayed at someone else's house and that is so very far from okay in Tony's mind that he has to stifle a scream.
"Looks like someone got laid!" Clint catcalls later in the shambles of a debrief (which had turned into a contest to see who could think of the most pun worthy toy for the overgrown spaniels - Tony thought he had won with the contribution of Kong Balls) to which Steve stutters a denial and sends Tony into a tailspin.
Later as they walk out of the debrief room Steve runs up to Tony who is storming away as fast as his legs will carry him. "Hey, what's up with you?" Steve demands, tone slightly angry.
"Turning up to a fight in a highly unprofessional outfit of last night's clothes is something I wouldn't of expected of you, Captain." Tony sneers, voice ugly and wow Tony what are you doing stop talking immediately. But he can't see anything beyond the hickey on Steve's neck and the haze of red clouding his eyesight.
Steve rocks back on the balls of his feet and his eyes turn mean, a look that has never been directed at Tony before. At homophobic, sexist and patronising senators, sure, but never Tony. Tony doesn't like it, "Actually Johnny let me crash on his couch because I was out in Brooklyn all day and didn't fancy the trek across town. But I am glad to hear that is what you think of me." Steve says, his voice so defeated and done that Tony feels his heart rush into his throat and because apparently he isn't finished he keeps going, shutting up Tony's barely there retort, "It's not like you've ever tried to stop me. And how could you act like this after everything you've -" his voice cuts out, slightly breaking, before the shutters come down. The Steve that is in front of Tony now is not the Steve Tony knows. It's the Steve that he sees in front of Fury, in front of SHIELD and in front of the press before an angry question. The Steve that is guarded so as not to allow any emotion to seep through.
Steve seems lost for words for a moment, and the silence sits heavy between the two, stagnating in the air. He breathes in slowly, before grasping at words and throwing them at Tony, "You need to stop making it so difficult for me to love you because it won't ever go away." are the words he settles on, and Tony is gobsmacked and Steve seems to take his silence as rejection.
He nods once, stiffly, before doing an about turn and walking out the door, out of Tony's life.
Okay what the fuck.
The next morning JARVIS informs Tony that Steve is gone. His room is empty, save a notebook that sits in the middle of the bed with a note across it.
"Open this when I'm gone." It says in haphazard scrawl like he couldn't decide whether or not to actually leave it and then rushing the words out before he could convince himself otherwise.
Tony takes it down to the workshop and stares at it, memorising the torn and faded leather until it is imprinted into his brain, appearing under his eyelids. The urge to open it almost suffocates him, but he's afraid.
He's afraid, because deep down he knows what this is. He does. He just doesn't know if he's brave enough to take all of Steve, to wrap him up and make him his without breaking them both apart.
Hands shaking, he opens up the sketchbook, and can't even be surprised when it is his own face staring back at him. The detail is exquisite, each hair shaded carefully in black pencil, lit up by a pale blue coming from his chest. Each picture is different, but always him. One with him throwing a smoothie at Dum-E, the liquid arcing out in a violent stream. One of him deep in concentration, a shaded figure only brought into light by holograms. Another of him asleep on the couch with an arm thrown across his face, faintly lit by the movie still running in the background. Every picture is of him, and the lump brought to Tony's throat refuses to abate.
He thumbs through the pictures for hours with still shaky hands until Clint comes bursting into the workshop, overriding all the security with a suspicious, JARVIS-meddling, level of ease.
"You've got to watch this." he says over Tony's protests, and JARVIS brings up the news faster than Tony can blink.
"Wha-" but he doesn't finish speaking before going silent to the picture of Steve, solemn and grim-faced, in front of the media. Alone.
Below the the caption runs across the screen "SHOCKING NEWS : CAPTAIN AMERICA COME OUT AS BISEXUAL."
"Thank you for your time, and I will take some questions now." Steve appears to have finished his speech, and points to a journalist frantically waving his hand in the front row.
"Does the fact your fellow Avengers are - noticeably - absent have anything to do with their stance on bisexuality?" the journalist demands, and Steve blanches as Clint swears.
"Fuck that noise!" Tony shouts, already armouring up and before Clint can protest a word in edge-ways he is gone.
Stupid stupid Steve doesn't he know it's selfish to always be the brave one. What is Tony to do but endlessly chase after his shadow?
"JARVIS, get me a visual right this second and map the quickest course to the conference." and Tony does love his engineering when before he knows it a TomTom-esque satellite navigation map is laid out in front of his eyes, suggesting his quickest way is three minutes away.
"Make it two or I'll update Dum-E with emojis."
Tony burns a streak across the sky as he goes.
Tony has caused a lot of scandal in his life. A lot. Like a seriously-fucked-off-Pepper level of scandal. None of which he is proud of (except maybe that time with the fifteen Victoria Secret models on that yacht because come on he's only human). Most of it was done staring at the bottom of a bottle of whisky whilst demanding more and all of it is stuff he'd rather forget.
However the scandal he causes when he collides with the ground in the middle of Paley Park during Captain America's speech, rip off his face plate and smother Steve's concerns with his lips is one he is totally happy about.
He has barely landed on the platform at the top of Avengers Tower before they are lunging for each other, Steve impatiently humming as Tony dismantles the armour and he has never hated it so much as now, as the parts dismantle and fold together. He lunges for Steve still half wearing the Iron Man suit, and Steve reciprocates, grabbing at each other like dying men.
"Tony" Steve speaks between Tony peppering kisses onto any surface of Steve he can gain access, huffing a laugh as Tony claws futilely at the uniform, "Tony, we have to talk."
"Later," Tony speaks between pressing kisses to Steve's spine, neck, jaw, anywhere he can gain access to, "Need you now."
Steve looks to protest before Tony growls and leans forward to suck hard to the point of pain at the juncture of Steves neck where the offending mark sits, inhaling the strong smell of sweat and Steve that sits there and Steve can do little else but tip his head back. When Tony worries the spot with his teeth Steve groans, "You fucking idiot that's not a hickey that's a burn mark from the last fight." that sends a thrill down Tony's spine. Still, Tony steps back to admire his handiwork all the same but Steve doesn't let him go far before advancing on him.
"Wait." Steve gasps, "Tony wait. I have to say something before we keep going otherwise it's going to kill me." Tony groans and tries to move in closer but Steve places a hand on his chest, and try as he might Tony isn't getting any closer. Not unless he summons the armour.
Now that's a thought...
"Tony. That first date I had? A while back?" Steve begins and no way they are not doing this now, Tony panics and tries to step forward but Steve shakes his head, "I admit I was trying to get over you, but it didn't work. I told Johnny I was hooked on you - don't make that face you will actually love him, he's quite a lot like you - and all it ever was after that was a friend. That's all anyone could ever be after you."
Steve's honesty has Tony rubbed raw. Emotion is clogging up Tony's throat and hell he's never been good with words when it matters and in the next minute he crowds Steve into the Tower and has him against the glass wall before Steve can do little else but whisper, "Tony." Tony finds himself doing similar, Steve's name becomes a mantra as Steve flips the power and lifts him, using one hand to grasp both of Tony's wrists and push them against the wall above him whilst he mouths at Tony's chest through the undersuit of the armour and all Tony can do is whisper Steve Steve Steve over and over again in worship. Steve lets go of Tony's arms and allows him to drop to the floor so he can growl a protest at the undersuit, which due to the design does not easily rip. Tony shucks it off quickly, eyes hot and heavy on Steve's skin as he does the same and the pair clash together again before groaning at the feel of being skin to skin for the first time.
Tony lunges for Steve and grabs the back of his neck, pulling him in for a kiss so fast their teeth clash painfully and Steve groans. But Tony tilts his head to the right and the angle changes, deepens, and suddenly Steve's groaning for an entirely different reason. Steve runs his tongue over one of Tony’s incisors and leans back to grin and Tony knows he is done for. The moan that spills out of him at the sight is primal, dark and possessive, and the speed with which he crowds back into Steve’s space and claims that mouth as his own is not nearly fast enough.
It’s not at all romantic, Tony swears when his back hits the corner of the dresser, and Steve hits his head on one of the four posters of the bed when they finally fall back into it. They are a seething mass of tangled limbs and whispers and it is all too much and not enough at the same time. Steve accidentally brushes up against Tony’s crotch and Tony's vision whites out for a minute and his eyes nearly roll into their sockets.
“My god you’re sensitive.” Steve breathes, “Especially for an old man." he grins and Tony huffs a laugh whilst thinking how on earth is he still making jokes at this point in time.
“The moment, you’re killing it.” Tony chokes the words out, and can do little more than huff a laugh which turns into a strangled moan as Steve does it again, but deliberately, rolling his hips. Tony reciprocates, grinding up into Steve’s space until their groins touch and the pair groan together. It shouldn’t feel this good, two grown men dry-humping like a pair of insecure teenagers, but the pleasure is shaking through Tony’s bones.
He can’t find the energy to move to do anything else, not when this is so perfect and intense and beautiful. He grinds up again, winding his right hand round and pressing Steve more firmly to him until he can’t tell where he ends and Steve begins. Tony leans in, moving closer until every breath Steve takes Tony answers it with a huffed one of his own They are both flushed, Tony half undone and the pair rutting filthily into each other’s space. Tony can feel the pleasure build behind his eyelids now, feels it as it rises to just on this side of pain and consumes him, and just has enough brain power online to slip his hand down to Steve's cock and stroke before coming with a strangled shout. Steve follows almost immediately with a groan of surprise, and Tony watches the man come undone beneath half-lidded eyes, painting his hand white.
They look down at the mess they've made, the front of Tony's jeans noticeably wet and Steve barks a laugh. Tony grins and watches as Steve's eyes darken when he lifts his hand to his mouth and licks Steve's cum off his knuckles before the man curls forward and kisses him. Tony feels the other man's cock stir and leans back in shock, "Already?!"
Steve smirks, a filthy grin that has Tony panting, "Serum."
"Would it be wrong to thank my dad right now?" Steve stares at him with a very obvious Tony, No frown and Tony promptly shuts up before grinning and sliding down the bed until he is face to face with a very different part of Steve's anatomy and before Steve can do anything but gasp he leans forward and licks at the tip of Steve's cock.
"Tony" Steve breathes, and Tony looks up at Steve, flushed and back arched. He is beautiful like this, completely vulnerable and unable to do anything but lie there and take it, take what Tony is giving to him.
Tony licks a stripe on Steve's inner thigh and watched as Steve's eyes fluttered shut before repositioning himself and swallowing him down as far as he can. Far too many one night stands with far too many men have beaten his gag reflex into a very quiet submission, but Steve, even half-blind with lust, is gentle. His hands curl in Tony's hair and he can do nothing more than whisper Tony's name and murmurs of praise. Tony slides off with a lewd pop before working him with a now spit-slick fist.
"You are mine." Tony says fiercely, and when Steve does nothing but groan in answer Tony leans in and licks the precome off Steve's slit, "Hear that? You are absolutely all mine now."
To that, Steve nods fervently, "Yes, yours. Always was yours."
Hearing that Tony finds it all too much and takes Steve in his mouth once more to stop himself from uttering something far too soon. He adds a finger in beside Steve's cock until it is dripping wet before pulling it out and circling Steve's hole once, twice, before Steve comes with a strangled shout. Tony takes it all, licking his lips when he has swallowed the bitter taste down and Steve watches him slide up with a fondness that makes Tony's heart ache.
In this light the sun glints of the sweat pooled in the valleys of Steve's body and turns his hair a fiery auburn. His eyes glint with mischief and promise and a lot of lust and Tony could watch him forever. He curls up on top of Steve who wraps his whole body around the smaller man, laying one hand over his chest, palm open above his heart.
"You have to know that I love you too."Tony blurts out, quickly like he's trying to rip off a stubborn bandaid.
Steve looks up sharply at him now, eyes lit up like Tony has just told him he has won the lottery. "I didn't know actually," he says softly, "I thought maybe... But when you rebuffed me I thought you had maybe decided I wasn't worth it."
Steve says this so matter of fact, no hint of self pity, that Tony presses himself so close to the man he thinks he could pass into his skin through osmosis. "Well I do and you said you do so you are stuck with me no takebacks."
Steve smirks, mouth trembling with amusement, "Okay Tony." he says with a voice that sounds like he knows exactly what he has got himself in for, and he doesn't mind at all.
How long before I can convince him to wear a ring, Tony muses, that would certainly lay claim to him and keep everyone else away.