It started as a mission to the Pennsylvania countryside, tracking a werewolf that had been causing problems for the local rural communities. Two days of tramping through the woods had found no werewolves, just a pack of feral dogs and a couple of eye-witnesses who eventually admitted to being very drunk at the time they saw the shape-shifting monsters. It was very nearly a total waste of time except that they were able to get the feral dogs trapped and taken into the SPCA for rabies shots, which pleased Jan and at least could be written off as a charitable exercise. They'd stopped for dinner at the local greasy spoon and were marching their way through the woods back to where they'd left the Quinjet when it happened.
Logan and Peter were roughhousing – well, Peter was roughhousing, with Logan it could be hard to tell, but the claws weren't out yet, so presumably he was playing as well – and despite Captain America's warning that they should watch where they were going, they were pretty much tearing through the woods regardless of what was around them. It had been easy to miss the puffy cloud of golden spores that had burst out of the old rotted tree trunk as Logan skidded into it, ending up covered in golden dust. He'd lunged for Peter again, scattering the cloud and coating the rest of the Avengers, and Tony, safely protected by the metal armor and air filters in his ventilation system, only realized something was wrong when Peter stopped trying to get away and threw himself at Logan with a reckless abandon one usually only saw on soap operas.
The bizarre reality of that was just starting to settle in when Jan grabbed Hank in a clinch – nothing Tony hadn't seen before, but kind of unusual for a mission. But it was the sight of Luke Cage and Jessica Drew pawing at each other's clothes while Ororo pulled Steve to the ground that made Tony take a step back.
He pulled up an environmental read-out on the armor's diagnostics and winced. "Okay, Avengers, those spores look to be-" he stared in vague fascination as Thor stripped out of his clothes, revealing a body that Tony was undoubtedly going to be seeing again in his dreams, "ah – it seems to be a potent-" Thor regarded Tony with hooded eyes as he gripped his erection in one large hand and began to stroke, "-aphrodisiac," Tony managed. "Right. You all probably noticed that." He tore his eyes away from Thor for a moment and scanned the rest of his team. Jan and Hank were on the ground a few feet away, nearly hidden in the bushes. And Steve was kneeling over an extremely naked Ororo, pulling his scale mail off over his head while her hands slid inside his pants. Tony swallowed heavily and made himself look somewhere else. "Guys. Come on. We need to get back to the Quinjet and wash this stuff off you before someone does someone they'll regret later."
Thor chuckled. "I do not intend to regret this, Tony Stark, and I do not believe you will, either."
Tony dragged his eyes off Thor's chest. Stupid sex spores, he thought, and stupid air filters in the armor. He was completely unaffected – well, unaffected by the spores, Thor was definitely starting to affect him, as was the sight of Steve's naked chest streaked with golden dust and the sounds Spiderwoman was making somewhere to his left. He was going to have to bow out of an orgy of beautiful, flexible people, at least two of whom he'd been fantasizing about for years. Life was not fair sometimes.
Thor moved closer and Tony took a step back, held out a hand in warning, but made a point to keep his palm down so the repulsor wasn't aimed at his friend. "Thor, no."
"Thine eyes have given you away," Thor said. He stepped right in front of Tony, close enough that if Tony wasn't in the armor he could have felt the heat of Thor's body and the rise and fall of his chest. "Often have they followed me with-" he grinned, a flash of white teeth and sharp eyes and Tony was reminded uncomfortably of a hunting lion, "-great regard."
Oh, for god's sake. Way to be subtle, Stark. At least Thor hadn't seen fit to start a fight over it. If they all got out of this with their dignity intact, Tony might have to revisit this conversation when they were both in their right minds. But for today… "No," he said again and if Thor didn't back off he didn't stop Tony from putting some space between them. "When this wears off-" he let his eyes flicker over Thor's body with a twinge of regret for a missed opportunity. "Ask me again later. My answer might be different then." Very different. Christ. "In the meantime, I think I'm just going to-" he hesitated. There were too many of them for him to drag them all back to the Quinjet and hose off and half of them were strong enough to put up a hell of a fight if he tried. The armor's diagnostics said the spores were just an intense aphrodisiac, and aside from the obvious side-effects of arousal, no one was showing any sign of negative health effects. Right now the best he could hope to do was remove himself from the chaos and try to minimize the potential fallout.
"I'm going to take our happily married men here," he gestured to Peter, who was trying to suck Logan's lungs out through his mouth – and yeah, they were all going to regret that when the high wore off, especially after Logan killed him – and Luke who was busy kissing his way down Jessica's chest, "and we'll just get out of here."
It was said in Steve's command voice, the one Tony knew from battle, the one he thought he could feel in his bones. He glanced up and swallowed heavily as Steve strode toward him. Steve was completely nude and Tony dragged in a deep breath at the sight of him. God, the man was gorgeous.
Steve moved like he was on a mission, like a man gearing up for a fight. Tony wracked his brain, trying to think if the spores might be affecting Steve differently than the others. The super-soldier serum, perhaps? But that didn't make sense. He wasn't a biologist or anything but…
Maybe Steve was just an aggressive lover.
Tony bit back a groan and resisted the urge to smack himself upside the head. Don't go there, he told himself. That way lies madness.
Steve brushed past Thor who didn't seem to mind the interruption if the way he was smiling at Ororo was any indication. "Armor override," he said and Tony barely had time to realize what Steve was doing. "Thirty-four, forty-four, fifty-four, sixty-four. Open faceplate."
Steve took his face in both hands and glared. "They can't have you," he ground out. "You're supposed to be mine." Then he was kissing Tony, hard, hot, possessive, not at all the way Tony had imagined Captain America would kiss. Steve's tongue pushed inside his mouth, his fingers gripped Tony's hair keeping him still. Tony made an undignified little whimpering sound and when Steve pulled away, Tony found himself following that kiss, trying to taste him again.
Steve licked his lips and Tony realized they were both panting for breath. "Shit," he said, panic warring with arousal. He was rock hard already and no way to know how much was the spores and how much was just Steve.
He jerked away from Steve and grabbed Peter around the chest, ignoring the way Logan growled at him, then caught Luke by the belt – which he still had on, at least, Tony did not want to have to explain to Jessica Jones that he was too busy making out with a drugged Captain America to stop her husband from doing something Jess would make them all regret – and activated the boot jets even as Steve reached for him again.
He glanced back to see Steve staring after him before Thor and Ororo pulled him down to join them. Then he lowered the faceplate and pointed himself toward the Quinjet.
"Tony," Peter said.
"Yeah?" Tony asked, hoping the fresh air was clearing their heads.
"I like your armor," Peter said dreamily. He was hanging limp in Tony's grasp, but he was tracing one finger back and forth across the gauntlet wrapped around his chest. "Can you fuck me while you're still wearing it? That would be awesome."
"Oh, God," Tony groaned. He was going to nominate himself for a medal when this was all over.
Luke, still hanging by his belt, managed to get a grip on Tony's shoulder and held on. "I really wish Jess was here."
"Which one?" Tony asked warily.
"My Jess. She'd kick my ass so hard for what happened back there." Luke twisted his head back to look the way they'd come. "What did happen back there?"
"Sex spores," Tony summarized. "I did mention it at the time, but you were distracted."
"Is it wearing off?" Luke asked. "I still feel… Anyway, I can think a lot more clearly."
Tony was finding it harder to concentrate by the second and the way Peter was trying to suck on his fingers was not helping. "According to the suit diagnostics, you're still basically high on aphrodisiacs. I think you're just very, very straight and that's why it's easier for you to focus now."
Luke paused. "Cap got your face plate off."
"So this stuff got you, too."
"How straight are you?"
"Significantly less so than you. Also, Peter is kind of surprising me."
"… He's licking your armor."
"Let's be glad that's all he's licking at the moment." Tony tried to banish the mental image of Logan and Peter, which on any other day would have been mildly traumatic and today was just making his armor extremely uncomfortable. "I only had a small dose since the wind had scattered the spores some by then, but yeah. I can tell it's affecting me."
"Man," Luke shifted and Tony tried not to imagine how that would feel without the armor between them. "This is not how a superhero's day is supposed to go."
"I have bad news," Tony said. "Because I've been in this business a while now and so far this is par for the course."
The good news was that Luke wasn't interested in bending Tony over the consoles of the Quinjet and fucking him stupid. Peter, however, was and his super-strength proved to be something of a challenge, even with Luke's help. They ended up strapping him into one of the Quinjet's seats with the restraints they used for transporting supervillains.
"Should I strap in, too?" Luke asked. He was standing with his arms crossed, trying not to stare at Peter who was mostly writhing in his restraints at this point.
Tony shrugged. "You haven't made a move on anyone since we pulled you away from the others. Do you trust yourself alone in a room with a guy who looks that good in tights?"
"Maybe I'll just lock myself in the bathroom or something." Tony laughed and Luke rolled his eyes. "Oh, very mature. What about you?"
That was a good question. Tony pulled up his bio readouts on a separate screen and decided he was still high enough to make separation look like a good plan, if only to preserve what was left of his dignity. "I'm going to lock myself in the cockpit until the suit says I'm clean."
"Listen, no offense or anything, but what if you, like" Luke made a series of gestures that were probably meant to be descriptive but just made Tony wonder about Luke's sex education. "I'm trying to be tactful here, jackass," he snapped when Tony snickered.
"Okay, okay," Tony crossed his arms. "What if I lose control and try to ravish you and Peter while you're helpless and restrained?"
"Basically, yeah." Luke was staring at the ceiling. "No offense."
"I plan on locking myself in and making sure the Quinjet won't obey my voice commands until this is out of my system."
Peter groaned, a low needy sound that made something in Tony's gut twist.
"I think you should make sure it doesn't follow either of our voice commands, either," Luke said. "Just in case."
That sounded like a good plan. Luke strapped himself in a few rows away from Peter, with the determined air of a man doing something terribly unpleasant because he knows he should. Tony reset the security to lock out all of their voice commands for the next three hours – by which time he estimated that he and Luke would be all right. Peter, who had gotten a heavier dose, might take longer to come back down from the high.
Then he retreated to the cockpit where he locked the door behind him and desperately shed the armor. His cock was rock hard and slick with his own precum and he had to bite his lips against a groan as he took himself in hand.
He licked his lips, remembered the way Steve tasted, and came harder than he ever had in his life.
By the time the Quinjet started acknowledging Luke's voice commands again, he was bored out of his mind from sitting strapped in a chair for three hours. Peter was asleep – or passed out from exhaustion, hard to tell which – and Stark hadn't made a sound since he sealed himself up front. Luke had just let himself loose and was standing over Peter, contemplating the pros and cons of trying to set either of his teammates loose as well, when someone opened the hatch from the outside.
Luke looked up, unconsciously bracing for an attack. But it was just Cap, back in uniform, thank God, with his cowl pushed back and the shield slung across his back. He paused in the entrance when he saw Luke, and yeah – he was totally blushing.
"Cap," Luke said. "Everyone…" he thought about it for a moment. "Everyone good out there?"
"Luke." Cap ran a hand through his hair. "Everyone is fine. Slightly disheveled. Is everyone here all right?"
Luke jerked a thumb at Peter. "I think Spidey about wore himself out. And Stark locked himself up front and hasn't come out yet."
If anything, Cap blushed even harder at the mention of Stark. "I should – I should check on Tony."
"Uh-huh," Luke said. "Yeah. You go do that. I'll keep an eye on Spidey."
"I'm fine," Peter said without moving or opening his eyes. "I'm – you know – just quietly dying of embarrassment."
Luke could sympathize with that. Cap apparently could, too, judging by the compassionate look Cap shot him.
"Don't be too hard on yourself," Cap said, clapping Peter on the shoulder as he passed. "Today was just one of those days."
"Thursdays," Peter said mournfully, and Cap chuckled.
"Don't you start on that," he said. "Tony and Jan are bad enough about the Thursday curse." His eyes flickered toward the cockpit door as he mentioned Tony. "I'll be right back. The others should be making their way back any minute now."
Luke watched Cap hesitate outside the cockpit before he visibly braced himself and keyed the door open. Then he glanced down at Peter. "Are they…" He tried to find a tactful way to say it, but decided that after the day they'd had they were well past the point of delicate euphemisms. "Fucking?"
Peter finally opened his eyes. "What, like in general or right this minute?"
"In general." Tony hadn't seemed to be nearly as far gone as the rest of them, and Cap had definitely had an air of exhaustion beneath his stoic embarrassment, so probably nothing was going on at the moment. Probably.
"No, not those two," Peter said and Luke was all set to drop it when Peter added, "But they really need to be."
Luke sighed. That was probably true.
By the time Steve let himself into the cockpit, Tony had managed to get himself in a state that was – if not fit for company, than at least no worse than anyone had seen him before. He was wearing the armor again, minus the helmet and he could think of Steve without going off like a rocket, so he was calling it a victory. Though judging by the way Steve was looking down at him with obvious concern, maybe he wasn't as put together as he was hoping.
"Hey," he said, and if his voice sounded a little rough, hopefully Steve would chalk it up to the long day. "How is everyone?"
Steve hesitated, then sat on the floor next to him. "Everyone's fine. How are you?"
"Believe it or not, this isn't even close to the most awkward day of my life. There was this thing with a cross-dresser – anyway, I don't pay Pepper nearly enough." Tony turned his head to look at Steve. "So, I guess I'll live. You?"
Steve swallowed and looked down at his hands. "I need to apologize."
"No you don't."
"I do. Not just for the kiss, but... Tony. I have a confession to make."
Tony felt like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming tank. Steve was tense and radiating discomfort and Tony couldn't think of any way this conversation was going to end well for him. "You don't owe me anything, Steve. This is firmly in the realm of shit happening. No one got hurt. So if you're blaming yourself for something that happened while you weren't in control of your actions-"
"I've wanted to kiss you for years," Steve said.
Tony paused mid-sentence because that was honestly the last thing he had expected Steve to say. "What?"
"I've wanted to do more than kiss you for years," Steve admitted. He had his hands clasped across his knees. "I should have told you long ago. I'm not telling you this to excuse what I did out there, Tony. I just want you to know. I-"
"I've wanted the same thing," Tony said. He cleared his throat when Steve's head snapped up to stare at him in shock. "I never thought you'd ever be interested. And – you're my best friend, Steve. I'm a pretty practical guy. I wasn't going to make you uncomfortable or worse, not when your friendship meant everything to me. So I kept it to myself."
"Don't say that to make me feel better," Steve said, his voice low and uncertain.
"I wouldn't. I'm not. If I wanted to make you feel better I'd slap you on the back and make a joke about how envious I am that you landed Ororo and Thor."
Steve turned bright red and went back to staring at his hands.
"Sorry," Tony said. "Too soon?"
"I just-" Steve looked away, his throat working as he tried to get the words out. "I'd hate it if this cost me my chance to have a real relationship with you, Tony. I know I was out of control out there – I can't tell you how sorry I am that I exposed you to a potentially dangerous substance-"
"You weren't in your right mind, Steve." It's easy to offer the forgiveness. "It worked out all right. And if anyone should apologize, it's me. I wasn't affected by the spores, but I kissed you back. That wasn't right of me. But by the time I realized what you were doing, it had already happened and-" he sighed. "I've wanted to kiss you for so long."
"I shouldn't have forced myself on you like that."
"You didn't force yourself on me. You could have used the armor override to turn off the suit's power, or to strip me, or to do almost anything you wanted." He's not just saying it to make Steve feel better – there really had been the potential for that to end badly. "You're not the type of man who'd force himself on anyone. Don't think of yourself that way."
"I want us to try this again," Steve said. "Can we- Can I kiss you?"
Tony dragged in a shaky breath. "Not here. Not now. I want – I want you more than anything, but not if you're only asking because you're drugged. If this stuff wore off tomorrow and it turned out this wasn't what you really wanted, I'd hate myself."
"I can wait," Steve said. He hesitated, then reached a hand out to brush against Tony's cheek. "Getting to kiss you for real is going to be worth it. I can wait as long as you think we should."
"I love you," Tony admitted, feeling a tight, sharp ball of hope pulse in his chest at the way Steve's eyes brightened at the words. "I hope tomorrow you still feel the same way. But if you don't, that's – that'll be okay, too. We'll make this work."
Steve touched his thumb to Tony's lips, swollen from his kiss. "We will."
Everyone lived to tell the tale, slightly sheepish but mostly fine. It was Thursday. Thursdays were like that when you were an Avenger. Jess and MJ rolled their eyes, and Hawkeye and Natasha teased them all (Clint was disappointed they'd missed the fun, Tony was fairly certain) but mostly they made it work. Hank and Jan were fine, Thor and Ororo were fine, Ororo and Spiderwoman exchanged the occasional heavy look and knowing smile. Peter and Luke acted like they had been above it all. Logan snarled a lot for a few days. Thor flirted with Tony shamelessly and Tony teased Peter about his armor fetish.
Steve and Tony avoided each other.
Tony swallowed the bitter disappointment, made himself acknowledge that this was for the best. Steve was too good a man to hold this against him for long and when they were comfortable enough in each other's presence to talk about it, Tony would apologize, blame it on the spores. He should have kept his mouth shut in the first place, but Steve's tentative confession had been what Tony wanted to hear and it had been too easy to let his guard down.
He was determined not to make Steve more uncomfortable, so when it became obvious that Steve wasn't going to come declare his undying love – or even his mild interest – Tony found other places to be. Work was always a time drainer, and then he found a new way to boost energy in the gauntlet repulsors and he locked himself away in his workshop for a few days, coming out only long enough to eat.
He was on a coffee break when Steve found him.
"Tony," Steve said, and he sounded pleasantly surprised and not at all like Tony was the last person on Earth he wanted to deal with. "I was starting to think we were going to have to send someone in after you."
"Armor upgrades," he offered. He glanced away from Steve as he poured himself a second mug of coffee. "I figured out how to boost power to the-"
Strong, sure hands cupped his face, urged him to turn. He felt his breath hitch and the tight, hard knot of misery that had been living in his stomach for the last week throbbed. Steve was looking at him with a look of exasperated fondness that made Tony's eyes burn, and then he leaned in close and brushed his lips against Tony's in a soft, chaste kiss.
Tony fumbled his coffee cup onto the counter. "You don't have to," he said, not sure how to end that sentence. You don't have to pimp yourself out just because I'm a pathetic bastard. You don't have to pretend to spare my feelings. You don't have to force yourself to feel something you don't just to save our friendship. He didn't get to say any of that, though, because Steve kissed him again.
This was how he'd always imagined Captain America kissing, how he'd imagined Steve kissing. Gentle, but not tentative. Sure but not forceful. Steve's thumbs brushed across Tony's jawline as he deepened the kiss, his tongue pushing into Tony's mouth, taking control in one sure stroke. When it ended, he followed Steve, claiming a third kiss, and a fourth. "Why?" he asked. "I thought you came to your senses. I thought-"
Steve wrapped his arms around Tony's shoulders, kissed his temple. "I've had Hank taking blood samples all week, waiting till there was absolutely no trace of the spores left. I wanted you to be certain of me."
"You-" Tony brought his hands up to grip Steve's shoulders. "Do you have any idea what I've been thinking all week?"
And Steve was grinning at him, the bastard. "I'll have to make it up to you."
Tony slid his arms around Steve's waist and just held on.