The sex was, as always, amazing.
Tony could coax responses out of Steve's body that he hadn′t dreamed were possible; could keep him trembling on the edge of orgasm for hours, until Steve was cursing and begging and threatening Tony in the same fractured breath, and Tony was laughing down at him.
And eventually, when Steve was lying sated and limp and aching, Tony would fuck him, and Steve would fall asleep with Tony lying half-on, half-off him, breath warm against his neck.
And when Steve woke, a few hours later, Tony would be gone.
Steve pulled on t-shirt and sweatpants and wandered through to the library. Iron Man was sitting in his usual chair, the one reinforced for his weight, feet resting on the coffee table as he read the evening newspaper.
"Is he...?" Steve asked.
"Workshop," Iron Man replied, and Steve couldn't see it through the helmet but he was pretty sure Iron Man rolled his eyes.
"Thought so," Steve said, and, as he always did, stretched out on the sofa. A moment later, Iron Man tossed him one of the glossy supplements and they settled down to read in comfortable silence.
Iron Man had to know that Steve was involved with Tony but he'd never commented on it, or even mentioned it in passing. Most of the time, Steve put it down to the selective blindness required of a bodyguard. Sometimes, he suspected it was just that Iron Man had seen so many people go into - and out of - Tony's bed that one more was irrelevant. Even if the one more was Iron Man's friend.
"I didn't know you were so interested in interior design," Iron Man said.
"Hmm?" Steve twisted round to look at him.
"You've been reading about what the well-dressed dining room is wearing for half an hour."
"I have?" Steve glanced at the article in question, grinned ruefully, and tossed the supplement onto the table. "I guess my mind's on other things."
"Anything I can help with?" Even through the voice synthesiser, Iron Man's offer was clearly genuine.
"No." Steve shut his eyes and let his head fall back against the arm of the sofa. "I'm just trying to figure out the twenty-first century. Still."
"I've been here since it started," Iron Man said. "I might be able to give some hints."
He might be able to give some hints about Tony, too. "I'll sound like a dizzy schoolgirl," Steve warned.
"I can cope with that," Iron Man said, voice dry.
"Your boss," Steve said, and he had to blurt it out before he changed his mind. "Does he ever get serious about anybody?" Time stretched without Iron Man replying, and Steve said, "Sorry, I shouldn't have- You can't gossip about your boss, I understand that."
"He's serious about you," Iron Man said, cutting in.
"Oh," Steve said.
"Is that good or bad?"
Steve thought about it. "I wish I knew."
The next night, Steve woke up as Tony was sliding out of bed. "You don't have to go," Steve said through a yawn.
Tony kissed him, as deep and filthy as Tony's kisses always were. "You might be up for another round," he said, "but some of us aren't super soldiers."
"I didn't mean that," Steve said. "Just..." He wasn't going to say 'stay and cuddle' but it was exactly what he meant.
"I've got work to do," Tony said.
"I could watch?"
How could Tony pack so much sexual promise into a single look? "You'd be a distraction."
Steve tried to get back to sleep but, eventually, he gave in and wandered through to the library to join Iron Man, who was concentrating on his laptop.
"Was Tony able to get the dents out of the armour?" Steve asked as Iron Man looked up, his head cocked at the precise angle that Steve always interpreted as a smile.
Iron Man lifted one arm, and the light gleamed dully off the gold metal. "As good as new."
"Good," Steve picked up a newspaper from the table and settled onto the couch. "That was one heck of a punch."
Iron Man shrugged. "Hey, it's what the armour's for. I'd rather it got dented than I did."
"I'm with you on that," Steve said, and they slipped into the same easy conversation they did every night, until Steve dozed off on the couch, newspaper resting on his chest.
He woke briefly - or thought he did - to Iron Man looking down at him, gently smoothing Steve's hair off his forehead with a hand that could easily crush his skull. Steve smiled sleepily up at him then slid back into sleep.
It would be easier, Steve thought, if his entire body didn't light up when Tony was near. If the mere smell of Tony's aftershave, mixed with the always-lingering scent of hot metal, didn't make his heart race. If he could feel the tickle of Tony's moustache against his neck without his cock getting hard.
But he couldn't, and it just brought him back to Tony's bed again and again, and every time he promised himself it would be the last, that he would tell Tony, that-
He groaned, and shuddered into Tony's touch.
Maybe he shouldn't. Maybe this is what relationships were in the twenty-first century. Maybe it didn't get better than this. Maybe this was all love was to Tony.
But when his orgasm cascaded through him and he looked up into Tony's eyes, he didn't see love. Just the gleam of triumph.
And he knew it had to be over.
When Steve told him, the first thing Tony said was, "He can't take the armour off."
Steve flushed. "There isn't anybody else- That's not- I haven't said-"
"I know you haven't said anything to him," Tony said, and there was something almost mocking in his voice as he said, "You're too much of a gentleman."
"I just want the sex to come with friendship," Steve said, trying to keep his voice calm, to say exactly what he meant. "To me, that's what a relationship is."
"I thought we were friends," Tony said.
"We never talk," Steve said simply.
"And you'll never be able to have sex with him. You'll never even be able to touch him; not in a way that he can feel." Tony reached out, rested his hand on Steve's, and his long, clever fingers slid over the inside of Steve's wrist in a pattern simultaneously soothing and arousing. "You're asking for more than either of us can give. Why not just carry on with each of us giving you what we can?"
Steve pulled his hand away from Tony's, and promptly hated himself for the look on Tony's face. "Because that's not who I am." It came out harsher than he'd intended and Tony twisted away.
"And you'd rather have the friendship than the sex."
"Yes," Steve said softly.
"I always knew you were a better man than me," Tony said, and left.
Steve didn't see Iron Man for a week. Tony made excuses on Iron Man's behalf at meetings, reassured everybody that Iron Man would be available if he was needed but, at present, he was away on Stark Industries business.
Three times, Steve tried to approach Tony to ask Iron Man to contact him but, each time, a simple raised eyebrow from Tony had Steve changing the subject to something to do with the Avengers.
He tried to regret ending things with Tony but couldn't. It wasn't in him to split a relationship between two people, and if it meant that he lost both of them, so be it. The fact that he missed talking with Iron Man more than sleeping with Tony said it all.
When he finally did see Iron Man again, it was to take down a two-bit villain who could safely have been left to the cops. After she was handcuffed and led away, Iron Man landed next to Steve.
"I heard you want to talk to me."
Which wasn't entirely true, but somebody was going to tell Iron Man, and better it was Steve than Tony. "We're close to my place, if you want to talk there?"
"Sure," Iron Man said, and held out his arm for Steve to step into.
It was the same as any one of hundreds of other flights; Steve held close against Iron Man's side, the scent of hot metal always one of security even when they were hundreds of feet above the ground. The only difference was the ending, in Steve's small Brooklyn Heights apartment, instead of at Avengers Mansion.
Iron Man didn't look at him as he said, "You know I can't take the armour off, right?"
"Tony told you." It wasn't until he spoke that Steve realised he'd already known it.
Iron Man shrugged, still looking six inches to Steve's left. "He thought I should know."
"I was going to tell you myself." Eventually. Steve took a step forward, rested his hand on Iron Man's shoulder as he took a deep breath. "I wanted to tell you myself. Because you need to know that I value your friendship more than anything. If you don't want it to be anything other than friendship, I'm okay with that."
It seemed to take a long time but Iron Man finally looked at him. "I can't give you what Mr. Stark can."
"I'm not asking you to." Steve slid his hand up to Iron Man's - to the helmet's - cheek. "I want what you can give me. Whatever you want to give me."
"I want to give you everything," Iron Man muttered, and Steve hadn't even been aware of how tense he was, how hard it was to breathe, until he could relax. "I just think- You'd be better off with Mr. Stark. Really. Give him time - tell him what you want - and he can change."
"I like Tony," Steve said, "I like him a lot. I think he's an amazing man. But it's you that I-" He wanted to say 'love' but his stomach hurt at the thought of it. "That I spend time with. You turning me down won't make me go back to him."
There was a long pause and finally, Iron Man said, "Well, he can't say I didn't try."
If Tony had been a different man, Steve might have worried about Iron Man's future employment, but vindictiveness wasn't one of Tony's flaws.
"I wish I could kiss you," Steve said.
"No." There was nothing sharp about it; just a flat, somewhat wistful, denial that it could happen. "I told you, you can't. The armour..."
Steve had never felt it his business to ask, before, but things had changed. "Were you injured?"
"And the armour is... life support?"
Iron Man's head was cocked at the angle that meant he was smiling. "Something like that, yes."
"And you can never take it off."
"Parts of it," Iron Man admitted. "The stench in here would be unbearable if I couldn't."
Steve smiled, more at the fact that Iron Man had attempted a joke than at the joke itself. "You can't even take the helmet off for long enough to kiss me?"
"No," Iron Man said, but there was enough of a pause that Steve knew he was lying. "That- I don't want you to see what I look like."
"You know I won't mind."
"You won't; I will." Iron Man's hand was gentle on Steve's shoulder. "I'd rather you didn't know. That you just saw me as this. That you could keep imagining me as... whatever you want."
You are whatever I want, Steve didn't say. "I'll keep my eyes shut."
Iron Man was studying him, and Steve tried not to wonder what was behind the glowing eye slits. "Do you promise?"
"I swear." Steve tried to put every ounce of sincerity into it that he could and Iron Man took a step back.
"Okay." His hands were already at the faceplate of the helmet when he said, "Shut your eyes."
Steve did and, a moment later, there was a click and a rasp and he felt Iron Man step closer to him, felt the air currents of him leaning closer still, and then Iron Man's lips were brushing across his.
Soft and dry, until the faint touch of Iron Man's tongue and Steve opened his mouth to it eagerly, but Iron Man went no deeper, keeping himself to teasing caresses, until Steve was breathless, whimpering for more.
For a brief second, Iron Man gave it to him, a deep, demanding kiss that turned Steve's whimpers into moans, his fingers clutching at Iron Man's shoulders, neck, sliding up to hold the helmet, pull Iron Man closer.
But even super soldier strength couldn't hold Iron Man still when he moved back, implacably peeling Steve's fingers from the helmet.
Steve felt a stab of guilt when he realised Iron Man's breath was rasping in his throat but he waited for the click of the faceplate locking in place before opening his eyes and reaching out to rest a hand on the armour's back. "Was that too long out of the helmet?" he asked anxiously.
"No," Iron Man said, and the amusement was clear in his voice. "Just too much... It feels like forever since I've kissed-" He stopped short. "Kissed anybody," he finished, voice quieter.
Steve brushed his thumb across his own lips. "You've got a moustache," he said. "I never imagined you with a moustache."
Steve didn't know how he could tell that Iron Man had stopped smiling but he could. "Don't imagine me," Iron Man said. "Don't try to picture my face; don't even think of me as human. Just think of me as the armour. Anything else and-" He shook his head and his voice was oddly gentle as he said, "Anything else will drive you crazy."
Maybe Iron Man was right, and maybe the kiss had been a mistake, because where Iron Man had been hard metal in Steve's mind, now he was warmth and soft skin and wet tongue and Steve was all too aware of what he would never be able to touch, what would never touch him.
But, "I'm fine," he said, and reached out to hold Iron Man's hand. "Are you?"
"Of course," Iron Man said, and Steve didn't call him on the lie.
The problem was that Iron Man could touch Steve.
Not with great gentleness but, when Steve was pushing up into Iron Man's touch, writhing under him, gasping and begging and letting out desperate, guttural moans that should have humiliated him, he didn't want gentleness.
He wanted Iron Man's hand clamped around his cock and balls; Iron Man's palms hard on his nipples; he wanted Iron Man's fingers deeper and deeper in his ass. And when Iron Man showed up with subtly modified gauntlets that vibrated, Steve didn't know if he wanted to thank Tony or never look at him again.
Iron Man could touch Steve but Steve couldn't touch him.
"I feel greedy," he said, as they lay next to each other. There still wasn't any cuddling but there were drifting, half-asleep, post-coital conversations where Steve was tipped towards Iron Man by his weight on the mattress, where he gingerly rested his head on Iron Man's hard shoulder or his hand on his chest or twined their fingers together. (Iron Man's fingers still slick with lube and Steve occasionally blushed at the thought of Tony carrying out maintenance and repairs on the armour and seeing what Iron Man did with it.)
"I get to see you coming apart," Iron Man said, and his voice held something like wonder. "I get to see you like that and know it's because of me."
"I just wish you could feel what it's like."
"I can remember."
Steve knew just how pathetic memories could be. "How much of the armour can you take off?"
Iron Man turned his head and Steve knew he was narrowing his eyes. "Whatever you're thinking-"
"I know you don't want me to see you. I'm fine with that." Well, not really. But he accepted it. "But I could keep my eyes shut for long enough for- I don't know. I could suck you. Jerk you off. If you can take off enough of the armour for long enough."
"Shit, Steve," Iron Man breathed.
Steve shrugged. "It wouldn't be what you do for me but it would be something." He stroked his thumb over the seam where faceplate met helmet. "Would it be possible?"
"It might be," Iron Man admitted. "I'd have to make preparations. Maybe ask Mr. Stark to make a few alterations to the armour, to shrink the bits I need to leave on."
Steve couldn't help wincing at that.
"I just feel it's... tactless. To ask him to help us."
"Trust me," Iron Man said, "all Mr. Stark wants is for you to be happy. It's all he's ever wanted."
Which didn't make Steve feel any better. "You're sure he won't mind?"
"I can absolutely guarantee it," Iron Man said.
"Okay," Steve said.
Iron Man stroked his hand down Steve's chest. "Give him a week," he said. "Maybe less."
It was three days later when Iron Man walked into the Avengers Mansion kitchen and whispered, "Tonight," in Steve's ear.
Steve found it hard to breathe. "That soon?"
"I persuaded Mr. Stark to work faster. I couldn't wait."
"What's that?" Tigra asked. "Is Mr. Stark working on something new?"
"Just some tweaks on the armour," Iron Man said easily. "Want to spar?"
"Sure!" Tigra said, and she bounded down the corridor to the gym without giving Tony's innovations a second thought.
"Coming?" Iron Man asked.
"I think I'll have a word with Tony," Steve said. "I don't care what he says; this can't be pleasant for him."
"If you want," Iron Man said, "but he's locked up in his workshop and I don't think he'd appreciate the interruption."
Steve knew he was seizing on a flimsy excuse, but he said, "Okay, then. I'll talk to him later."
Instead, a few hours later, it was Tony who found him.
Steve was fresh from his post-spar shower, hair still dripping down his neck and with a towel wrapped round his waist, when Tony knocked briefly and walked into his room.
Tony wore an immaculately-cut black suit and red shirt, his hair and moustache precisely groomed and trimmed, his eyes vivid blue against his thick eyelashes, and Steve felt the familiar kick of pure lust in his chest.
"Iron Man said you were looking for me," Tony said, and leaned - no, lounged - against the wall. He made no secret of his careful study of Steve's body. "That's a good look for you."
Tony had had his tongue in Steve's ass, his fingers round Steve's balls, Steve's cock in his mouth, had listened to Steve wailing as he came, but Steve still felt himself flushing under Tony's appraisal. "I wanted to thank you," he said.
"For the compliment? No need."
Steve rolled his eyes. "Very funny, Tony. For being so understanding about Iron Man and me. The alterations to his armour."
Tony waved it away. "Really, no problem. I'm just glad the two of you are managing to make a go of it."
"I think it's very big of you," Steve said, and ignored Tony's grin and raised eyebrow to continue, "Especially after. You and me."
"Steve," Tony said. "You said it yourself. We were just sex. Very good sex, admittedly, but just sex. I can get that anywhere. What you've got with Iron Man is... He's happy, Steve. It's a long time since I've seen him happy." He smiled. "I should be thanking you."
"He's happy?" Steve asked, feeling absurdly pleased.
"You should know that, of all people," Tony said, and pushed himself upright. "Anyway, I've got a hot date I shouldn't keep waiting. Have fun tonight!"
"I will," Steve said to Tony's back.
"There are some things," Iron Man said. They were in Steve's apartment, sitting on his reinforced bed. Steve was still fully dressed but his cock was hard; had been since before they even landed.
"What?" he asked.
"You can't see me," Iron Man said.
"I know," Steve said impatiently.
"You can't touch me," Iron Man continued, as though Steve hadn't spoken.
"I can't touch you?" Steve said. He'd been looking forward to it, to learning, if only by touch, what Iron Man's body looked like.
"I've got scars," Iron Man said. "I don't want you to know what they're like. I know you won't mean to break the rules and you won't, not if you concentrate. But you shouldn't be concentrating on keeping your eyes shut and your hands by your sides. You should be concentrating on me."
Steve suspected he knew where this was going.
"I want to blindfold you. Tie you down."
Steve shut his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Only with something light," Iron Man said quickly. "Just to remind you to keep your hands there."
"No," Steve said, and before Iron Man could react, he added, "I mean, I want it to be real. Ropes I can't break. Or can't break easily."
"Oh," Iron Man said.
"Don't be so surprised," Steve said. "Have I ever said no to anything?"
"No," Iron Man said, and breathed out a laugh. "No, you haven't. Quick, shut your eyes."
Puzzled, Steve obeyed. His confusion evaporated with the click and hiss of Iron Man's faceplate sliding back, and then Iron Man's fingers were on the back of Steve's neck, bruisingly hard as he kissed Steve, deep and filthy and full of promise, before pulling back. Another click and Steve opened his eyes.
"You've got a beard now," Steve said. "I like it."
"I'm pleased to hear it," Iron Man said dryly. He leaned down to the bag he'd brought with him and sat up with a strip of thick, black cloth. "Close your eyes again."
It was so very, very easy to obey.
Harder to stay obedient when he heard more clicks and rustling and the grating sound of metal sliding against metal. And then there were warm hands pulling his t-shirt out of his jeans, brushing against the skin of his belly, light enough to tickle.
"Your hands are hot," he said.
"The armour doesn't have air-conditioning," Iron Man said, amused.
"You should get Tony to install it."
"Maybe I will."
His t-shirt was being pulled up over his head and Steve lifted his arms, let Iron Man remove it completely. He jumped at the touch of fingers tracing lightly over his collarbone.
"I've wanted to do that for so long," Iron Man said. "Feel your skin."
Steve lifted his head to bare his throat. "Touch as much as you like."
The brush of fingers trailing up his neck made Steve shiver.
"Good." And Iron Man's hands were gone, leaving Steve breathing deeply and waiting for whatever Iron Man would do next.
That was a brush of cloth against his face, and Steve had started back before he realised it was just the blindfold.
"Sorry," Iron Man said. "I should have warned you."
"I'm fine," Steve said.
"Good." And Iron Man's hand brushed over Steve's head, smoothing his hair back from his forehead. "I'm going to blindfold you now."
The cloth was soft against his face. He could feel it stretching as Iron Man leaned to cross the ends behind his head, bring them back to the front and tie them in a blunt knot.
"Shake your head," Iron Man said, and Steve did. The blindfold stayed firmly in place. "That seems solid enough," Iron Man said.
And then there were noises that Steve could identify as the armour moving, the floorboards creaking under the weight, but nothing more specific.
"I'm going to take your boots off," Iron Man said, and his voice came from level with Steve's waist. He'd knelt down, Steve realised as Iron Man started unlacing Steve's boots, pulling them off with his socks.
It was absurd. A man in armour kneeling at Steve's feet. And it was, right then, the hottest thing he could think of. "Can I touch you?" he asked.
A moment's pause, and Iron Man said, "Just my helmet."
The words were enough for Steve to learn Iron Man's position. He didn't have to grope; he just reached out and Iron Man's head was in his hands for him to trace the lines and seams and ridges, all ridiculously familiar to his fingers.
"Stand up," Iron Man said.
Even leaning on Iron Man, Steve wobbled slightly as he stood, loss of sight skewing his balance just enough to have an effect. He curled his toes, the carpet scratchy under his feet.
"I'm taking your jeans off, now."
"Please," Steve said, and his voice was embarrassingly hoarse.
Iron Man's fingers were deft on the buttons at his fly, no lingering but no roughness as he carefully pulled jeans and underwear over Steve's erection and down to his knees. "Sit down again." And, once Steve had, his jeans were removed and he was naked. "You look amazing," Iron Man said, and touched Steve's cock. The very lightest of touches, just a trace of fingernail, and Steve swallowed a gasp. "You feel amazing." A breath of laughter. "You even smell amazing."
"Taste?" Steve managed to ask.
"Not yet," Iron Man said. "I can't talk without the synthesizer in the helmet."
Steve hadn't known that. Hadn't even suspected it. Hadn't suspected just how bad Iron Man's injuries must be.
"Lie back," Iron Man said. "That's it. Now slide up the bed."
Light touches on Steve's chest and belly and thighs, guiding him up the bed until his head was resting on the pillow.
"That's right," Iron Man said. "Now, hands above your head."
The rope didn't feel like much more than string but there was enough of it for Iron Man to wrap it round and round and round Steve's wrists, for Steve eventually to feel the weight of it
"I'm tying you to the headboard," Iron Man said, and pulled Steve's arms further above his head. "Listen," he said, fingers brushing against Steve's cheek. "If if gets too much, if you need out, tell me. As soon as you tell me to stop, I will. I'll cut you free, I'll take the blindfold off, I promise."
"I'll see you if you do."
"Better that than anything happening to you."
"Oh," Steve said, and he couldn't think of anything else to say, any other reaction to the trust and concern.
"I'm going to take the armour off now," Iron Man said, "but I'll leave the helmet on so I can keep talking to you."
Cracks and snaps and hisses and the muffled thud of the sections of armour being laid on the floor.
"How much can you take off?" Steve asked.
"A lot. Most of it. For a short time."
The truth of the statement was brought home as Iron Man knelt on the bed and it barely gave under his weight, and then he was straddling Steve's thighs and Steve wasn't thinking about the weight because Iron Man wasn't moving and all Steve could think of was the touch of Iron Man's skin against his, the heat of it, the trace of sweat, the smell of Iron Man. Hot metal, yes, but human under it.
"Say something," Steve begged, because he was getting lost in his own head and he needed something, anything, to pull him out.
"What do you want?" Iron Man asked, and, even through the synthesizer, his voice was low and broken.
"I don't know. Anything. Everything."
But all Iron Man gave him was more of those light, teasing touches, brushing over his chest and ribs and belly and never giving him anything he could really feel, keeping him stranded.
"Do you know what you look like?" Iron Man asked, quiet enough that he could have been talking to himself. "Beautiful. Desperate. Mine. What do you want, Steve? What do you want from me?"
"Touch me. Please. Touch me."
"I don't care. I just need- I need you on me. In me. I don't know, I don't know." Steve shook his head.
And Iron Man seemed finally to realise how out of it Steve was because his touches became firmer, scratching his nails down Steve's chest, over his nipples, down to his hips and up again to his collarbone. "Shhh," he said. "I'm sorry. It's just- You can't imagine what you look like. So open. For me."
"All yours," Steve said, the words rough in his throat.
"Do you want to suck my cock?"
"Yes," Steve said, before Iron Man had even finished the question, and Iron Man breathed out a laugh.
And then he was moving up Steve's body and there was a glorious moment when his cock brushed against Steve's, and then he was moving again, and Steve's cock bumped against Iron Man's balls, traced up the crack of his ass, and Steve groaned.
"Later," Iron Man said, "I promise."
And Steve had no reason to doubt him. Not when he was kneeling over Steve's chest with his knees against Steve's armpits and his cock nudging Steve's chin.
"Here," Iron Man said, and doubled up the pillows under Steve's head, wedging them into place. "Ready?" he asked, fingers tracing Steve's mouth.
"Yes," Steve said. And, finally, he could do something for Iron Man. Could open his mouth for Iron Man's cock and close his lips around it, could trace his tongue round the head and as far down the shaft as he could get, could lift his head and try to get more
But Iron Man's hands were brushing through his hair, holding him back. "Shhh, steady. You haven't done this much."
And the only way Iron Man could know that was through Steve's lack of skill. He flushed, and tried to remember what Tony had done to him, had shown him. He tightened his lips around Iron Man's cock, just where the head joined the shaft, released, tightened again.
"Fuck, Steve," Iron Man said - gasped - and his hands tightened in Steve's hair.
Yes, Steve thought triumphantly, and swiped first the top of his tongue and then the bottom over Iron Man's slit, and Iron Man shivered, shuddered.
"So good. So fucking good, how did you learn, how did you-"
And Iron Man was fucking into Steve's mouth. Steady, regular movements, gradually going deeper, and Steve had to abandon his plans, had to just open his mouth and take it, welcome it. The flex of Iron Man's thighs around his chest; the steady, gasping moans he made; the smell of metal and skin and too much cheap soap; the warmth of him; the taste. It was almost enough to make up for not being able to see him, for not being able to see the smile that he could hear as Iron Man gasped his name.
And then Iron Man stopped, managed a muffled, "Don't," as Steve tried to resume his licking and squeezing. "I'm. Fuck. I'm too close to coming."
Too quickly, Iron Man pulled out of Steve's mouth and sat back on his chest. Steve craned his head forward enough to briefly rub his cheek against Iron Man's thigh, and Iron Man allowed it for a moment before gently pushing him back.
An empty moment without Iron Man's hands on him and then there was a click and hiss and a weight on the mattress, and Iron Man was kissing him, his hands holding Steve's head, and Steve opened up to it, almost embarrassingly desperate.
And Iron Man was gone, mattress jerking upwards as he climbed off, and Steve was abandoned, alone, nothing to keep him here.
"No," Steve said, and an instant later, Iron Man's hands were at the ropes. "No," Steve said, "don't let me - don't let me go." Iron Man stopped, stroked one hand down Steve's forearm. "Keep touching me," Steve said. "I need-" He needed an anchor.
Iron Man couldn't say anything but he kept a hand on Steve, even as Steve could hear him searching through the bag by the bed, and Steve couldn't help pushing back into the touch. A moment that stretched between them, a sense of movement from Iron Man, and then something was being pressed against Steve's hands.
It took him a second to recognise the foil packet of a condom, the plastic squish of a sachet of lube, and he swallowed hard. "For you or me?"
The only answer was Iron Man's hand, firm strokes down his arm, down his chest and belly, and closing gently round Steve's cock.
Steve's hips jerked upwards without his conscious control and he bit his lower lip, tried to swallow his moan.
The rip of foil and the condom was being rolled efficiently over his cock. A moment more and the trickle of lube was muted by the condom but he could still feel it. And then the mattress dipped again and Iron Man was straddling him.
Iron Man had one hand on Steve's jaw, trailed it down to his chest as he held Steve's cock with the other and sat back and-
"Too tight," Steve said. "It's hurting you- It, oh, fuck."
It had to be hurting Iron Man. It was almost hurting Steve. But Iron Man just carried on sinking down, taking it all in, until Steve was balls-deep in him and Iron Man was resting both hands against Steve's belly.
Steve could hear Iron Man's breaths, deep and shuddering, and he had to be in pain, he'd gone too fast, and Steve couldn't touch him.
"Shhh," Steve said. "It's okay. Just relax. Take it slow."
A gasp that sounded almost like laughter, and Iron Man was lifting himself up, leaning on Steve's belly, and rocking back down, driving Steve even deeper inside him, and now Steve was the one gasping out a laugh.
"Okay, you don't mind the pain. I get it."
And Iron Man carried on moving until Steve was lost again, nothing but the suffocating heat around his cock and the weight of Iron Man across his hips and the slap of flesh on flesh. He needed to see, to touch, to hear Iron Man's voice, to taste his sweat, but-
He was vanishing into his own head, into his own need, and this- this was supposed to be for Iron Man, not for Steve. He shook his head sharply and jumped at the questioning touch on the side of his neck.
"I'm losing it," he said. "I'm going to-"
"Let yourself," Iron Man said, and, without the helmet, his voice was a harsh, grating buzz of a whisper that trickled down Steve's spine. "Give it up to me." And Iron Man lifted his hands off Steve's belly and-
He gave up.
There was nothing.
No body to be touched. No sound to hear. Nothing to smell, to taste.
Just the surges of pleasure that washed through him, over him, around him, were him.
No worry; no pain; no responsibility; nobody needing him; nobody watching him.
The gentle swell of pleasure became a sharp spike, making him gasp at the suddenness of it, so good it hurt-
Eased away to a soothing ache.
He was being touched.
Welcomed back to himself.
A long, lean body stretched alongside him; somebody stroking his chest; a voice murmuring reassurance into his ear.
"Tony?" he said, and the body stiffened.
"No," and it was Iron Man's artificial voice, Iron Man's helmet on the pillow next to him.
"I'm sorry," Steve said. "I-"
"If you want to go back to him," Iron Man said, still stroking his chest, "I won't mind. It won't affect our friendship."
Steve still felt like his brain was wrapped in cotton wool but he managed to say, "It would. And I don't want to go back to him."
"He could give you this all the time."
Steve breathed out a laugh. "I don't think I could survive having this all the time."
There was a smile in Iron Man's voice as he said, "You enjoyed it, then?"
"That is not a strong enough word," Steve said, and moved over enough that he could rest his head against Iron Man's helmet. "Although the point of you taking the armour off was supposed to be so I could make you feel like this."
"Oh, you did," Iron Man said, and circled his thumb round Steve's nipple. "You really did."
Steve's smile was so wide it hurt as he said, "Good."
"I feel a little foolish about keeping that secret from you till now!"
Foolish. Iron Man had been Tony Stark all along and all he could say, standing there in his ridiculously tiny red thong, was that he felt foolish?
If Tony felt foolish then God alone knew what Steve was supposed to be feeling.
But they were in the middle of a fight for their lives, for the entire planet, so Steve squashed it all down and turned to Don Blake. "You're Thor?"
Steve didn't bother going back to the Mansion, instead heading straight to his own apartment.
The apartment where Iron Man- where Tony-
Steve avoided his bedroom, not even going in for long enough to change out of his uniform. There was a pile of clean laundry on his couch, after all. Once he was dressed in jeans and t-shirt - carefully avoiding the shirt he'd worn the other day - he found himself at loose ends and started mechanically putting together a meal that he didn't even want to eat. And he wasn't at all surprised when there was a knock at his door.
He opened it without a word, and left Tony to see himself in and shut the door behind him.
"So," Tony said.
Steve waited, doing his best to concentrate on chopping up the celery.
"I guess you're wondering why."
"You could say that," Steve said, without turning round.
"I wasn't lying when I said the armour was life support."
"And yet there you were, perfectly healthy without it."
"Metaphorical life support," Tony said.
Steve paused for a moment before determinedly resuming turning the celery into a pulpy mess. "Metaphorical."
"When I got back from Afghanistan," Tony said. "It was- Everybody wanted to wrap me in cotton wool. The armour was the only way out of that. I could be somebody else. I didn't get people staring at me, waiting for me to break."
"Fine," Steve said. "I get that. I just don't get why you- Why you fucked me as two different people. Why you didn't just let Tony Stark be as much my friend as Iron Man. You used to be."
"I thought it was what you wanted!" Tony said. "I thought you just wanted Stark for sex. You said it wasn't good that I was in love with you. What the hell was I supposed to think?"
"What?" Steve stared at him. "I never- Why would I-?" And then he realised the conversation Tony was talking about and- "No! That's not what I said! I meant that if that was your idea of a serious relationship, it wasn't mine. I wanted more, not less."
"Yeah," Tony said. "I guess I figured that out when you dumped me." He let out a breath of laughter. "For me." He scrubbed at his face. "God, if you'd just given me a second chance, I would have given you- I would have given you everything."
Steve turned away from the open pain on Tony's face, back to the celery. He stared at it for a moment, then pushed it aside and started slicing a chilli pepper. "I understand keeping Iron Man's identity secret. I don't even blame you for that."
"Thank you," Tony said quietly.
"But you shouldn't have gotten involved with me as Iron Man." He carefully scraped the seeds out of the chilli, then realised he'd added them to the over-chopped celery, rather than the discarded celery leaves. Damn. He turned back to Tony. "That was twisted, Tony."
"Yeah." Tony closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. "It was a mistake."
"A mistake." Steve had to take a deep breath against the anger that was growing in his gut.
"It's just-" Tony opened his eyes and Steve found himself staring into them. "I did try to resist. I tried to stay the hell away from you. But you would have left. And you can't imagine-" He shook his head. "I couldn't. I couldn't lose you."
"You did. You have."
"Yeah. I know. But I thought I could just keep you for a week more. A day more. Hell, an hour more."
"The lies, Tony. The changes to the armour. Making me so grateful to you for helping us." He shook his head. "A false beard?" It would be ridiculous if it didn't hurt so much; if it didn't make him so angry.
"I had to do something about the moustache if I was going to kiss you. You might have-" He dropped his gaze. "You might have guessed."
"I know why," Steve said. "I just can't believe you actually did it."
"But I would have lost you." Tony said it as though it was an entirely valid explanation.
Steve took an unplanned stride towards Tony, and brought himself up short, hands clenched into fists at his side. "You never had me," he said. "I loved you, and it was nothing more than lies."
"I never lied about how I feel about you."
Steve slammed up against Tony before he could think, one forearm across Tony's throat, and he needed to go, before he lost all control, but Tony was staring at him, no fear on his face, and Steve could feel the heat of anger chilling to cold fury. "You lied about everything else," Steve said, voice low.
"Yes," Tony said. "I'm sorry."
"And you think that'll make everything better?"
"No," Tony said, and he didn't drop his gaze. "Nothing can make it better. I know that."
"So why are you even here?"
Tony shrugged, as well as he could with Steve's weight against him. "I don't know."
"You don't-" Steve stopped as he felt a familiar press against his hip. He could have laughed if he wasn't so angry. "Really? That's why?"
"No," Tony said, and he finally looked away, frowning slightly, even as his breathing got deeper. "That's just- That's just what you do to me."
"I barely do anything to you," Steve said. "You never let me. It was always you touching me."
"I wanted to make you happy," Tony said quietly.
"And you think that's all it takes?"
"It's what I know," Tony said, voice low and desperate and ashamed.
"Let's see if it works, then," Steve said. "Let's see if it's enough to make you happy." He was unfastening Tony's pants as he spoke. "Are you going to say no?"
Tony didn't say anything. He was looking over Steve's shoulder.
"Come on. Yes or no?"
Tony looked back to Steve. "Yes," he said.
Steve's stomach twisted as he realised that he'd expected Tony to refuse. But he shoved down Tony's pants and underwear; wrapped his hand round Tony's cock and pumped it a couple of times. "Happy yet?" he demanded.
Tony hissed and pushed up against Steve, shivered into his grip.
Steve felt sick, but he tightened his grip, swiped his thumb over the head of Tony's cock, and watched as Tony winced. "You don't look very happy, Tony." A gentle scrape of his thumbnail and Tony took a deep breath. A press of his thumb just below the head of Tony's cock, and Tony gasped. Steve glanced up and Tony was staring at him, eyes full of a painful longing, and Steve determinedly looked away. "Show me how damn happy you are, Tony."
"Please," Tony said. "Please, let me..."
And it wasn't as though Steve wanted to drag this out, so he twisted his hand, speeded up his movements, and it wasn't long before Tony's hands were on Steve's biceps, squeezing in rhythm with Steve's grip, and then Tony slammed his head back against the wall and he was coming.
Steve stepped back, watched as Tony slowly pulled himself together. Watched Tony watch him. Steve lifted his hand to his lips and deliberately licked the strands of Tony's semen from his fingers.
And then he spat it out because what the hell was wrong with Tony for it to taste like-
He realised a moment later. The chilli. He'd had chilli on his fingers.
He'd had chilli on his fingers and his fingers on Tony's cock and-
Tony had known. He'd looked over Steve's shoulder and seen the chilli and he'd still asked Steve to-
Steve felt his eyes widen in horror.
"You didn't know," Tony said slowly.
"You think I'd have done that to you if I had?"
"I thought it was what you wanted. To punish me."
Steve had accepted he didn't know Tony as well as he thought. To realise that Tony knew so little of him was still a shock. "And you do everything you think I want?"
Tony didn't say anything.
Steve shut his eyes and took a deep breath. "Go and wash it off, Tony," he said. "You know where the bathroom is." He waited until he could hear the water running, then poured himself a glass of milk. Even with just a brief taste, his mouth was still burning. He dreaded to think what Tony was going through.
And he hadn't objected. He'd just endured, because he'd thought it was what Steve wanted.
Sometimes, Steve could admit to himself, it took a smack to the head to see what was right in front of him.
He finished his milk, rinsed out the glass, and headed to the bathroom.
He could just make out Tony's shape through the shower curtain. "You really thought that was what I wanted," he said, and a moment later, the water stopped.
"Which time?" Tony asked.
It was a good question. "Both times. Every time."
Tony didn't answer at first, but he finally said, "Not every time I've fucked things up with you. But these two? Yes."
"You're an idiot," Steve said, and it came out sounding more fond than annoyed.
"Yes," Tony said, and there was hope in his voice.
Steve sighed. "Come on out, Tony."
Immediately, the shower curtain slid back and Steve got a better view of naked Tony than he'd had for months. Wordlessly, Steve handed him a towel, and Tony wrapped it round his waist. "I am sorry," Tony said.
"The thing is," Steve said, "I knew before getting involved with either of you that you both did stupid things. It's just that they were such different stupid things. Iron Man would go charging into danger if he thought a teammate was at risk, while you would-"
"Try to drink myself to death?" Tony suggested.
"I was going to say that you'd stay awake for three days trying to perfect some gadget."
"It's what caffeine was invented for," Tony said, with a ghost of a smile.
"I could write this off as another stupid thing," Steve said, and watched hope flare in Tony's eyes. "But you have to promise me something."
"Anything." There was a pause, and Tony added cautiously, "Within reason."
"Don't try to give me what you think I want."
Tony watched him for a long moment, and eventually took a deep breath. "On one condition," he said. "You actually tell me what you want."
"I didn't want to make you change for me," Steve said.
"I wanted to change."
They looked at each other and it was Steve who finally looked away first. "I want my friend back," he said quietly. He looked up as he rested his hand on Tony's neck, rubbed his thumb along Tony's jaw, and watched as Tony's breathing quickened, grew shallow. "I think I want my boyfriend back."
"Which one?" Tony asked, expression wary.
Steve shrugged. "I guess they were always the same person."
Steve followed Iron Man as he walked up the stairs to his room at Avengers Mansion. He was dragging one foot, the armour dented at his ankle and leaking a sad pulse of hydraulic fluid.
Halfway up the stairs, Iron Man stopped and pulled his helmet off, then shoved a sweaty strand of hair out of his eye. "That was driving me crazy the whole time," he commented to Steve, and made a pleased noise as he leaned into Steve's touch at the back of his neck.
"What do you want to eat?" Steve asked.
Tony sighed. "I've got a business dinner. You could come with me?" he added hopefully.
"Not a chance," Steve said.
"Didn't think so," Tony said, and pulled away from Steve's touch. "I've got to shower."
"That's a much more tempting offer," Steve said, and kissed him.