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Teenage Dream

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"Welcome home, young Mr. Stark."

"Hey Jarvis." Tony fidgets behind his sunglasses, and musters up a grin for his family's long-suffering butler. Good 'ole Jarvis. He can tell the older man isn't really convinced by it, though. "Is Cap home?"

"Mr. Rogers is waiting for you in the kitchen," Jarvis replies smoothly, before moving on to coordinate the unloading of Tony's bags from the car.

Steve is, indeed, in the kitchen; specifically, at the stove, stirring something that smells wonderfully like hot cocoa. His face brightens up at the sight of Tony, and he abandons the saucepan to envelope Tony in a tight hug. Tony has to blink for a few seconds; he always forgets, when he's been away to school, what Steve is like - warmth and earnestness and hard muscle, and seeing him again is like crashing into the sun, like being punched in the solar plexus. And then Tony's clinging back, all notions of insisting that he's too old for this shit abruptly fading away.

Steve is bound to realize it on his own, sooner or later, so Tony's going to take what he can, while it lasts.

The cocoa is hot and delicious and works like an extension of Steve's full-body welcome in obliterating the tension in Tony's body. The two of them sit at the kitchen table, each with his own mug; exactly like countless sleepless nights and blurry mornings over the privileged yet rocky sixteen years of Tony's life. Steve has been a constant even before his parents' untimely death years ago; Tony hadn't known, until this moment, how deeply worried he'd been about Steve's reaction, about the possibility of somehow losing Steve - and over something so stupid.

"How are you holding up?" Steve asks, breaking the silence gently.

Tony shrugs. "I'm not, you know, over the moon or whatever, but it was bound to happen sometime."

Steve frowns, which brings out stupidly endearing lines on his forehead. "No, Tony, just because your name is famous doesn't mean you can't expect privacy like everyone else. It was a really rotten thing for that boy to do."

Seeing Steve address it straight out, no hesitation at all, eases away the other kind of tension: the deep knots of fear that had collected in Tony's gut on the long journey home. Tony shrugs, dismissive, "hope he enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame," and takes a sip of his cocoa, the incident itself is half-forgotten already.

He regrets it when he's subjected to the Sad Steve Face. He knows how much Steve hates how cynical and jaded Tony is. And Tony can't even vote yet. Not for the first time, he wonders how someone as single-minded and careless of other people as his father could have become close friends with Captain America.

Though Steve can be single-minded in his own way, Tony supposes.

Case in point, "I have half a mind to get in touch with that boy's parents," Steve rumbles on. "And the school. What kind of security do they have, that a bunch of reporters with cameras could sneak into campus grounds?"

Tony can't help it - he stares at Steve. "You're not actually real, are you? Dad just perfected his robotic AI prototype and replaced the real Steve Rogers with it at some point."

"It could have been people with guns, and then- wait, what?" Steve blinks at him.

He feels his face warming, but Tony doggedly continues, and fervently hopes that Steve hadn't noticed Tony basically calling him perfect. "I mean, you're not even angry at the gay scandal part, or about how this reflects on Stark Industries - you honestly hate that reporters follow me around and so-called friends try to sell me out."

There's a predictable shifting of gears into Righteous Indignation Face. "Of course I don't care about all of that! Why would I-" Steve blinks, and leans forward with a genuine Concerned Puppy, "Tony, you know that I'm okay with you liking boys, right? I mean, it doesn't matter to me who you want to date. Well, okay, it matters that they're decent and good for you, but not, you know, what they look like."

Tony nods; he hadn't realized just how heavy the weight on him has been until it's not there anymore, leaving behind a numb lightness. He'd known Steve would be okay, of course he had: Steve had been the very first person he'd come out to. "Technically, I'm bisexual," he says, his voice sounding strangely thick, and- why is Steve coming around the table? Those familiar, rather spectacular arms wrap around him again, and it's only against their solid steadiness that Tony notices his own body is shaking.

"It's okay, Tony," murmurs Steve, somehow folding his body down to surround Tony's lankier one, though Tony's sure it can't be comfortable, "I love you no matter what, all right? Don't ever doubt that."

I know, Tony wants to say, in the same instant as, I'm just having an allergic reaction to sappiness, but the two collide in his throat and he ends up just breathing, breathing, breathing.

~*~

Stark Mansion settles into the usual routine for whenever Tony is home from MIT. There's a lot less TV-watching for the first few days - Tony thinks it must be a slow news cycle, if they can't find anything better to fixate on than the 'incriminating' photos of him standing close to that git, Tiberius - but Tony is happy for the excuse to hide away in his workshop. He has a plan forming for when he takes back Stark Industries, eventually: it mainly consists of coming up with a new line of offensive weapons designs that far outmatches any of their competitors.

Steve, of course, has his Captain America duties. Technically, Steve doesn't live in the mansion, but by now his superiors know to look there first rather than the cosy apartment Steve still keeps under his name. He's in and out of the mansion at all hours; but, lately, seems to be in more often than out. He's not being more obviously protective, though, only dragging Tony out of his lab to eat three regular meals a day, so Tony doesn't question it.

It might have gone on like that forever.

But one day, Tony takes an impromptu nap on his worktable and has a weird, very vivid dream about flying over New York with Captain America riding his back. He jerks awake, pries an unfinished circuit board from his forehead, and decides he needs some fresh air.

He finds Steve in the atrium, sketchpad in his lap, and drags him out to the pool. Tony floats lazily in the center while the older man swims a few laps back and forth, ducking under him when he's in the way. Tony lets himself zone out for the bit, refusing to think of anything but the pleasant warmth of the sun and the contrast of the cool water. He blinks his eyes open when he bumps against something, and discovers that he's drifted to the far end.

Steve's on the other side, close to where Jarvis had left a water cooler. Tony wants some Scotch, or a gin and tonic, or even a beer, but he knows Steve won't give him one, even if the water cooler has any. Oh well. "Steve, pass me a soda?"

Steve obligingly digs out a can and swims over to Tony's side. The carbonated sweetness is not bad, actually. He's downing another big mouthful when he spots the red mark on Steve's neck, and has to work not to spit the drink back out all over his friend.

"Tony, are you all right?" Steve asks worriedly, after a few minutes of patting Tony's back while Tony coughs soda out of his lungs.

"Yeah," Tony says, clearing his throat several times and trying desperately to look like he's not staring at Steve's neck, "just, you know, went down the wrong way."

"Oh, it happens to me all the time," says Steve cheerfully, and fetches Tony a bottle of water.

~*~

Tony's brain, it turns out, is perfectly capable of solving little problems like how to create a certain magnitude of fiery, explosive destruction using more cost-effective methods of delivery, but is quite useless at truly important tasks, like coming up with a way to ask Steve about his thus-far unnamed girlfriend.

"Lot of good you are," Tony mutters under his breath. Damn thing is not letting him sleep, either.

Everything around him - from the wallpaper to the four-poster bed to the carpet - has been bought by him, when he finally moved from his childhood room down the hall to the master bedroom. But there's a part of him that still thinks of it as his parents' room.

He rearranges his pillow for the fifth time and stares at the ceiling, restless.

It's not like Tony thinks Steve is celibate. He's still not sure what had happened between his godfather and Agent Carter, who remains Tony's favorite of Steve's girlfriends because she'd never talked to him like he was a child and, also, refused to take any shit from the elder Stark. All Steve has told Tony about it is that, while their romance had been amazing and exhilarating and everything Steve had hoped it would be, in the long run they're better off as friends.

Since then, Steve's gone out with a number of women. Introducing them to Tony means that it's Serious; because, Steve would explain, Tony is family and will always come first. This makes Tony wonder if whoever had put that mark on Steve was a brief fling. Or maybe they'd just started going out. Though Steve tends to take things slow - not exactly a hickey-on-the-first-date kind of guy.

Tony rubs a hand over his face. He wonders if this new one is hot. Steve tends to like strong women, women who can stand up to him. Steve, of course, deserves the best.

Does Steve like getting marked? He doesn't think he's ever seen hickeys or scratches on Steve before; he heals ridiculously quickly. Also, Captain America is the soul of discretion, which is probably why he'd been offended by Tiberius on Tony's behalf.

Why hasn't Steve introduced this one, though? Or at least mentioned that he has a girlfriend? Tony is sixteen. Steve had been there for his first ever real date, offering reams of advice - which Tony, being ahead of the game in many areas, carefully vetted with a bemused Agent Carter before following.

That mark. It'd been fading - for it to be visible at all, with Steve's healing rate, he must have gotten it that morning, a matter of hours. Position suggests the person who'd given it to him had been facing him.

It occurs to Tony, belatedly, that he may be fixating on this a little.

He sighs and curses his insomnia. In a last-ditched attempt, he slips a hand into his boxers, summons up the staples of his mental fantasy collection. Sweet, blonde Hannah, who'd taught him how to kiss and where to put his hands on a girl. Jason, who'd had abs to die for, getting him off without touching anything below the waist. Irene, giving him his first blowjob.

Nothing really works. His cock hardens, one of the perks of being a teenager, but his mind keeps getting distracted. He just wants to sleep; he hates lying around and doing nothing, but Steve has insisted that he needs a night in a proper bed, and if Tony sneaks back down, he'll be subjected to Disappointed Face for days.

At least Steve has a girlfriend; they might be fucking right now. Tony doesn't remember seeing Steve after dinner, he could have slipped out. Steve would be a considerate lover - it must be intense, to have all that soulful attention and skilful hands and glorious physique focused on-

Tony's orgasm rips through him like a burst of heat and electricity. He stares incredulously at the mess on his hands and all over his boxes, heartbeat loud in his ears, not quite understanding what exactly had just happened.

Several minutes and tissues later, he thinks, oh fuck.

~*~

He throws himself into his work the next day, refusing to leave the lab until Steve threatens to bodily carry him up to dinner. The threat work because a) he knows Steve can and will actually do it, and b) that much physical contact is the very last thing he needs right now.

It's not exactly a revelation. There's no moment when Tony is struck by a full freight train of soul-stirring feeling. No pieces fall suddenly into place; because the pieces have already been set, the final picture obvious, for years and years, maybe for the whole of Tony's life. Steve is his constant, the one he's always worked the most to please, the one he measures all others against (which explains his relationship history, really). He's always loved Steve, fiercely, desperately; there's never been a time in his memory when he hasn't.

But it's one thing to be aware of it, like a body part that's always been there: I have two arms and my heart beats and I love Steve. A different thing entirely to realize, oh shit, this can change everything.

Fast upon the heels of this is the knowledge, crushing, Steve can't ever know.

Obadiah drops by to visit. Not that Tony actually sees him; he only finds out when Steve tells him after the fact, casual-like in a way that isn't fooling anybody. Tony gets the rest out of Jarvis, and also lip-reading on the security cameras he'd installed in the living room: Obi had wanted to talk about Tony's latest "stunt", and suggest Tony giving up more of his share of Stark Industries to appease the "scandalized" conservative members of his board.

He and Steve had had Words. Tony doesn't see Steve's side of it; his godfather had positioned himself with his back to the camera. Judging by Obi's face, though, it wasn't anything pleasant. He can see Obi's fist clenching, remembers hearing about the man's temper from people at school who have encountered him at work.

Go on, Tony mentally cheers, take a swing at Captain America.

"Why do you and Obi hate each other?" Tony asks Steve later, while they watch one of his dad's machines polish and repaint Cap's shield.

Steve grimaces. "Mr. Stane, I believe, resents my influence on you and my limiting of his access to you."

Tony shrugs, perfectly fine with Steve keeping the rest of the world away. "What about you? It's not exactly one-sided."

The machine beeps. Tony pulls out the freshly clean shield and slips his arm into the still-warm leather handles. The shield is an integral part of Cap, has become practically another member of the family.

(There's a photo in Steve's room: of Tony dressed up as Captain America for Halloween, almost totally obscured by the shield that is as big as him, but refusing to let it go. Jarvis once told him that his father and Steve had just laughed and trailed after him, because of course, Tony had decreed that only the real shield was good enough to be seen with in public; for weeks after, the shield smelled of candy and chocolate.)

"Mr. Stane likes weapons too much, and soldiers too little," says Steve. He's crazily protective about the shield, but always smiles when he sees Tony handling it. "Plus, he's a bully."

Tony's not sure what that means, but it sounds important to Steve, so he nods and hands back the shield.

~*~

Steve gets called away to be Captain America, and Tony breathes a sigh of relief. As if to punish him, he gets a somber phone call several days later from someone important-sounding. The man advises him that Captain America's latest mission had gone pear-shaped the previous night, they'd lost communication; they're pretty sure he's still alive, but Tony should prepare for the worst; no, they can't give any more details about his mission, have a good evening.

It's not the first time Tony's gotten this kind of notice, which is the main reason he doesn't actually panic. Steve and his father had put a protocol in place to make sure Stark Mansion would be informed if something happens to Steve. Tony had even kept the first MIA letter they'd received; he hadn't yet learned how to read at the time.

He'll be fine, is his mantra for the rest of the day. Jarvis takes one look at his face and puts the driver on standby, in case Tony needs to rush off to the hospital or Army headquarters at a moment's notice.

Twelve hours later, the phone rings again. It's Steve on the other end this time, which communicates that he is not just alive but well enough to make a call. He assures Tony that the crisis itself had been minor, his team had just lost their means of communicating with the base.

"Where are you?" asks Tony. Jarvis is already heading for his coat and keys.

"You don't have to come get me, I've got a ride," says Steve. "No, really, I'll be there in less than half an hour."

The 'ride' turns out to be Lisa, a brunette in a modest but flattering blue dress and pretty hazel eyes. She drives a sensible Ford sedan, and her handshake is firm and polite.

"I'm very pleased to finally meet you," she says, smiling. There's a distinct Southern drawl to her accent, but it's charming rather than distracting. "Steve talks about you all the time."

"Pleased to meet you, too," Tony replies, on automatic. It's tempting to follow with something caustic, to slide into the cutting faux-manners that the old-money crowd at school wield like WMDs. He's been on edge for half a day, and now Steve's hand is resting protectively on the small of Lisa's back. She'd met Steve at the army base, probably kissed him in greeting, and he'd told Tony to stay home.

But Steve is looking at him expectantly. Tony mentally sighs and adds, "I'm looking forward to getting to know you."

Then he retreats to his lab, and gets far too much enjoyment in running missile simulations.

~*~

A gentle hand shakes him awake. Tony reluctantly separates his head from his arms, and realizes he's fallen asleep on his worktable. Again. He glances at his Rolex - 3:25AM. It doesn't actually tell him much, since he has no idea when he'd fallen asleep.

"Tony, have you been down here all this time?" asks Steve, frowning.

"I... don't actually know?" Tony answers honestly. His head is pounding. "When did I come down?"

"Wait, have you not even eaten?" Ah, that would explain the headache. "For the love of- Tony, you have to take better care of yourself. What if Jarvis can't get hold of me?"

"He's perfectly capable of force-feeding me," Tony mutters, rubbing his eyes. "He'd just rather you do it."

"Tony." Steve sighs. "Look, I know you get into these moods, but - is there something going on? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, I'm just worried that it's starting to affect your health. Even if you don't think I can help directly, sometimes telling someone makes it easier to figure your problem out."

Tony chuckles tiredly. "Trust me, there's nothing you can do about it."

"So there is something wrong?" Steve leans in, one hand rubbing between Tony's shoulder-blades in a way that is probably meant to be comforting but, instead, reminds him painfully of what he wants and, simultaneously, what he can never have.

Damn, but he's tired. "Fine, yes - but there's nothing to be done, seriously. Can we drop it, please?"

"If that's what you want." Steve pats him on the shoulder. "Come on, I saw some food in the oven."

Tony gets up, grumbling, and takes a step before he realizes that his leg hasn't quite woken up with the rest of him. He stumbles - but, of course, Steve catches him. Steve, who's always tried to catch him.

(Another photo in Steve's room: Tony as a toddler, face scrunched up in concentration as he stomped determinedly towards Steve's outstretched arms.)

Steve tries to set him back upright, but his leg is still beset by a swarm of needles. Tony grins apologetically and Steve just shrugs, and they stand there while the seconds pass, Steve's hands securely gripping Tony's sides and Tony's hands resting over Steve's rather magnificent chest. It's not awkward at all, surprisingly; and this is what makes Tony reckless.

He leans in and pushes up to his tip-toes, trusting Steve to take his weight. There's no sound but Tony's rushed breathing and, to his ears, the pounding of his heart.

Steve's lips are as soft as he'd expected. Tony presses in, kissing Steve just hard enough and long enough to show that he means this. He gives into temptation at the end and makes a parting swipe of his tongue over Steve's lower lip. Then he pulls himself back, and waits.

The man looks stunned, eyes wide and staring at Tony. Tony, to his own surprise, feels mostly calm now. He's done it, it's no longer a secret thing itching under his skin. No matter what happens now, he'll have had this.

"Tony?" Steve whispers. "But... I'm your godfather."

Tony flinches before he can help himself. "I know."

"I'm definitely old enough to be your father. Your father was my friend."

Not that Steve looks it, but this is probably not a helpful thing to point out. At least, Tony tells himself, Steve isn't running away, or shouting names at him. Either or both may yet happen, though. "I know. Believe me, everything you're thinking right now, everything you can say to me - I've already thought it." He shrugs. "But you wanted to know, and I wanted you to know. Now it's done, and we can move forward."

Steve blinks. "Wait... really? We're just... going to put it behind us and pretend it never happened?"

"Well, what did happen?" Tony forces himself to meet Steve's eyes. "I stumbled, you caught me, in a rush of narrative causality and, possibly, hormones, I kissed you. Childhood crush, hero-worship, etc. It happened, it's done, now it's over."

Confused Face #2 gets an airing. "Tony... if you have... feelings... you can't expect to just turn it off like that."

Annoyance spikes in Tony. "What other choice is there?" he asks bitterly. That shuts Steve up. "I'm not sorry for doing it," Tony continues quietly, "but I'd like us to stop talking about it now, please."

Steve continues to look conflicted, but he nods. Tony accepts this and marches past Steve. Silence trails him out of the workshop.

~*~

It's no surprise when, a few days later, Steve starts talking about Lisa's nieces and nephews, evidently all sterling examples of people Tony's age. It's so ridiculously transparent that Tony just tunes out the actual words, coasting on the familiar and comforting cadence of Steve's voice. The spiel ends with an invitation to join Steve and Lisa at dinner with said family members that Saturday.

"Thanks, but no thanks," Tony says, not looking up from the circuit board he's painstakingly soldering. "I've got a party to attend that night. Someone from school."

"Oh?" Steve sounds disproportionately happy about this. Happy at the evidence of Tony moving on, of Tony's kiss really being a one-off, heat-of-the-moment thing. This is expected, the best that Tony can hope for; disappointment still hits, small-calibre with possible fragmentation, and he mentally curses puberty for the chaos of hormones in his body.

Steve's hand claps him soundly on the shoulder. "Well, have fun then."

~*~

Tony briefly considers staying in, anyway, after Steve leaves for his dinner date. But dealing with Steve's not-quite-awkwardness has him itching for less complicated human company. Maybe even sex.

Plus, the Hawthornes will almost certainly have alcohol.

Three hours into the party, Tony is sprawled out on a deck chair next to the Olympic-sized pool. He's not sure where the rest of his clothes have gone, but his white button-down and board shorts are perfect for the mellow evening. He doesn't actually like Hawthorne Jr., a sentiment he is sure the other boy returns, but it's not yet at the level of open hostility, so social protocol still has them each inviting the other to their shindigs. Tony eyes a passing glass of martini, and the curvaceous blonde carrying it, with equal interest.

As if summoned there by telepathy, one of the uniformed waiters crouches down next to Tony's chair with a tray. "Bourbon, sir?"

"On the rocks, please," says Tony. The waiter obligingly transfers a couple of ice cubes into a glass, and pours a measure into it. "Thank you."

It's good whiskey, he'll give Hawthorne that. Tony sips it slowly, watching the little groups of people inside the pool and along the side. He's probably one of the youngest here, among the twenty-something college upperclassmen, but he feels like one of the oldest.

He's finished the glass when he realizes that the heat he's feeling can't just be from the alcohol. Nor is the numbness, after only two martinis and a whiskey. There's a distant crack of glass hitting the tiles, but Tony's too busy fumbling for his watch - his own design, so it's easy for him to find and press down on two specific points around the frame. He slumps back down after activating the panic button.

Consciousness tries to slip away from him, but he stubbornly hangs on. Voices, one quiet and one loud, and hands on his arms and legs, which he feebly attempts to shake off. All the noises coalesce into one muddy pool, and the smell of chlorine fades just before everything goes completely silent.

 

It's not Tony's first time to be kidnapped-for-ransom; frankly, the time he'd been kidnapped-for-genetic-experimentation had been far more interesting and educational. He tries to be helpful by providing tips, "duct tape is a far more efficient gag than cloth - cayef in poind", and pointing out flaws, "yes, a warehouse next to an active train track that can be heard in your ransom call is definitely the pinnacle of stealthy hideouts", but all it gets him is a hard punch to the face.

"Shut the fuck up, you little fag," spits Kidnapper Knuckles. "Don't think I won't fuck your precious little face up."

A small dot of pain, on his arm, and his thoughts go slippery-fog like they had at the pool. There are hands on his arms, rough, and maybe one around his throat, but it's hard to be sure. It's also hard to hold his head up, or direct his movements in any precise way. Tony struggles; it makes him dizzier. The muddiness of his thoughts don't abate no matter how much he concentrates. He hears, distantly, his kidnappers laughing at him.

The world shakes violently, and he wonders if they've hit him again, for his chair seems to have toppled sideways. It's pulled back up, fast enough to make him feel sick. He gets a strong whiff of cigarette smoke, and sweat gone sour; a hand comes up to cup his face. He fights to keep his breathing regular, though his heart feels like a hummingbird on steroids under his ribs; he's used to letting insults bounce off him, but not this kind, full of ugly intent. The grip around his throat tightens-

Shouts, men running, guns firing in the distance. The heavy shadows around Tony retreat. He can smell something burning. By the time he gets his eyes to sort-of focus, only two of his kidnappers remain with him, and one of them rips off the cloth gag from his mouth.

"What's going on out there?" the kidnapper tag-along demands, which immediately seems ridiculous because Tony's the one who's been tied to a chair. "No cars or big guns nearby, yet a dozen armed men were taken down in less than a minute!"

"That," says Tony, tone unmistakably smug despite his split lip, "is Captain America. Who, by the way, happens to be my godfather."

Another explosion, large enough to rain dust down from the ceiling and send the fixtures swinging. The distinctive thwop-thwop-thwop of helicoptor blades passing over the warehouse.

Tony raises his head with difficulty and, finding his eyebrows inaccessible at the moment, settles for giving a pointed look to the two men standing there in shock and indecision. Neither of them are Kidnapper Knuckles, which makes Tony hope that the guy is having a violent altercation with Cap's shield outside. "If I were you," he says, "I wouldn't want to be here when he finds me."

They scramble off.

"TONY," Steve's voice bounces off the thin metal walls, followed shortly by the thudding of boots. "Tony!"

Tony still can't see very well through his swollen eye and the drugs lingering in his system, but he attempts to smile at the blur of red, blue, and white in front of him. "Hey, Cap. Good timing."

Gentle hands touch his face. Then, a heavy silence. Tony knows that Cap is taking in the whole picture: his torn and open clothing, the drugs, the bruises on his neck and arms in the shape of hands.

"Tony," whispers Cap, the words sounding choked, "Tony, did they- please, did they-?"

"No," Tony says, "no, they just hit me around a little. They wanted to, I think, or wanted me to think they wanted to," damn, it's really hard to hold his head up, "but - then you found me."

The bindings around Tony's arms and legs come loose. Cap carefully gathers him up, gentle despite how much his body feels like tension made solid. Tony doesn't think he's ever felt so much restrained violence in Cap before.

"Nearly didn't," Cap is murmuring, shifting Tony and then lifting him like he weighs nothing, "good thing I didn't wait. If I'd been any later." The drugs seem to be wearing off, but on their way out, they're amplifying all the hurts on Tony's body. A hard jostle pulls a whimper out of him. "Shh, it's okay, baby boy, I have you, it's okay."

~*~

Steve doesn't let Tony out of his sight for the following week. This is totally fine by Tony, since he's suddenly not too keen to be far from Steve, either. Tony knows how hard it is for Steve, every time Tony gets taken or hurt. The punching bag in the house gym gets replaced three times in as many days. There are no calls about missions for Captain America. Even calls from Lisa are brief. She finally shows up at the end of the week; Tony excuses himself right away and escapes to his workshop.

He wanders into the kitchen for a cup of coffee around 2AM. The house is quiet, and there's no sign of either Steve having left or Lisa staying the night. He doesn't bother to turn the light on.

Tony's reaching for an empty mug when he hears someone politely clearing their throat. He doesn't startle; Steve is the only person Tony knows who can sit quieter than a mouse in the dark, and yet will politely make unobservant wanderers aware of his presence. Tony looks around and sees Steve getting up from the breakfast table.

Can't sleep? is what he's supposed to say, light-hearted and easy. But there's a strange focus to Steve's movements. It reminds Tony of Cap on a mission - that same deadly grace. The way Steve is striding towards Tony is distinctly... predatory.

Steve stands close enough that Tony has to tilt his head back to look up at him. A warm hand, smelling faintly of charcoal and soap, traces over Tony's right eye and cheekbone. "Your black eye is almost gone."

"I don't think I was pulling off the rugged alley fighter look, anyway," Tony says, voice sounding oddly breathless.

"Tony," Steve starts, then sighs. "We - we can't do this. It's not just me being older. I want - I want so much for you. Everything. You - you deserve more than somebody you'll have to hide."

What?

"Wait." Tony stares at his godfather incredulously. "Did you just tell me that you think I deserve more than Captain America?"

"Yes," Steve hisses fiercely. "You deserve someone real." His hand slips down to cup Tony's jaw, his fingers gentle and sweet. "But, so that we're even-"

Steve leans down and kisses Tony.

It's meant to be chaste, Tony can tell; a replication of his own fumbling attempt.

But it hits him, in a jolt that empties his lungs and spins his thoughts and rearranges the world from what it had been a moment before - Steve loves him back.

Tony - when there is a pressing and urgent need, and judging from the growing situation in his pants, this qualifies - is not averse to cheating.

He senses Steve getting ready to pull away, and grabs the back of Steve's head to crush their mouths back together again. Steve makes a startled sound. Tony opens his mouth, licks at Steve's bottom lip before sucking it in, grazing it a little with his teeth. One of Steve's hands lands on his hip, probably out of instinct, but Tony seizes on the opportunity to slide closer. His breath hitches at the feel of that huge, muscled body pressed against his.

Steve groans audibly, parts his lips. The slickness of Steve's tongue against his drives all remaining thought out of Tony's head. Tony surrenders to the heady rush, happily lets Steve plunder his mouth. A small part of Tony wants to ask, jealously, how much practice have you gotten to get this good?; the rest of him just wants to kiss Steve forever, to revel in the touch and taste and scent of Steve.

They're both panting hard when Steve finally pulls back. He looks extremely reluctant to do so, and stares at Tony's mouth for a few seconds. His eyes, when they meet Tony's, are wide and uncertain, and the hand that's slipped to the back of Tony's neck is trembling slightly.

After a long, tense moment, Steve's expression melts into Determined Soldier. He nods at Tony in a way that feels like a salute, does a neat about-turn, and marches out of the kitchen.

That's that, then, Tony thinks.

~*~

The next day, Captain America leaves for a mission somewhere secret but smells a lot like Russia. He's meant to be gone for a couple of weeks. Tony watches him leave, then picks up the phone and spends over an hour talking to estate agents.

One week later, Tony's installed in a well-appointed suite in Hollywood, California. Jarvis has a room next door; because Tony is still, legally, a minor, but more importantly, because he's aware of his limitations, particularly in regard to packing and managing his wardrobe. He attends a couple of charity galas and movie premieres, visits some of his father's old friends; playing up the part of a teenage millionaire on holiday, but they're not exactly unpleasant.

He's a lot more careful about the drinks he accepts, though.

He's getting ready to attend some pretentious art exhibition opening when there's a knock on the door. He rolls his eyes and opens it, complaining loudly, "I haven't so much as scratched my nose since I put the jacket on, Jarvis, it can't possibly be wrinkled-" and halts when he sees that it is not, in fact, Jarvis.

Steve blinks. "Um. May I come in?"

Tony wordlessly opens the door further and waves Steve inside. "Aren't you supposed to be in Russia, still?"

Steve is in his normal civilian wear, but he's standing in the middle of Tony's suite like he's in uniform, gazing intently at Tony. "Mission got cut short, the lead we were following turned out to be bogus."

"Ah." Not knowing what to do with himself, Tony heads for the glass of Scotch he'd left on the mini-bar.

"I wish you wouldn't drink so much," sighs Steve.

"Relax, it's my first glass."

"You're sixteen."

"Surprisingly, I haven't forgotten that fact, even without you around to remind me," Tony retorts bitingly.

Steve ducks his head. The tension in the room feels almost like a physical thing. Tony knocks back the remainder of the Scotch. When he looks at Steve again, the man has moved to the coffee table, and is frowning at the sheets of paper scattered all over its surface. "Looking for a house, Tony?"

"Yeah." In for a penny... "Or maybe some land. There's a place in Malibu that looks promising. I'm thinking I can move out here after I graduate next year."

Out here and away from Steve. From the shocked hurt on the man's face, Steve gets the implication.

Technically, Captain America can be based anywhere, but Steve's lived his whole life in New York. Everything and everyone he knows is there. He would relocate if Tony asks him to, but Steve clearly understands that Tony won't.

Tony hates himself for putting that look on Steve's face.

"You are right," Tony says quietly, unable to bear the silence. "I can't have Captain America. Captain America can be with Lisa, or Jenny, or even Agent Carter. But with me - you'd have to choose, and I can't ask you to do that. And yeah, you're older than me, no question there." He takes a deep breath. "Maybe I should be with someone my own age; someone like Tiberius, and not the person who's cared for me and protected me my whole life." He scratches the back of his head. "But, just so you know - I'd have been willing to wait. Twenty, thirty, fifty years - one day, you'll be able to be both Captain America and, well, mine. I still can - if, you know, this is something you want." Fuck, it'd sounded so much more coherent in his head. "In the meantime, though - I figured some space will be... helpful. For both of us."

Steve stares at him, still and speechless. After a long, awkward moment, Steve leaves the coffee table and walks right up to Tony. The moon is bright and full outside the big balcony windows to Tony's right, casting a faint silvery sheen over the both of them.

"You look spectacular tonight," says Steve in a quiet voice, gazing down appreciatively at Tony's outfit.

"The jacket's new." Tony resists the urge to fiddle with his cufflinks. "And Jarvis will behead me if I spill anything on the white shirt."

A speculative gleam appears in Steve's eyes, but it's shuffled aside for Serious Steve. "The mansion was empty when I got back." A haunted look passes briefly over Steve's features. "I mean, logically I knew that you and Jarvis could have just gone out; nothing looked disturbed, and there was no sign that anything was wrong. But, those first few minutes-"

Now Steve just looks lost. Tony feels himself leaning close, drawn instinctively to Steve's familiar presence. Steve's lips find his forehead, planting a kiss that could be chaste if not for the way his lips linger on Tony's skin. A tingle of warmth spreads out over Tony from that small point of contact.

"I didn't expect you to run away," Steve whispers harshly. "You're so used to being ahead of everyone else, Tony. But you can't always decide what's best for people." He withdraws just enough to lock gazes. "I broke up with Lisa. Before I left."

Tony licks his mouth, and shivers at the way Steve's eyes drawn to the movement. Steve pulls in another deep breath. "I'm selfish and uncompromising and I can't lose you, even though I shouldn't be doing this-"

"Fuck shouldn't," Tony growls, and closes the distance between them.

Kissing Steve again, when he'd thought that he'd only ever have the one memory, sends Tony's senses reeling faster than any kind of alcohol. As if in defiance of the urgency building under Tony's skin, Steve kisses Tony back slowly, gently, refuses to let Tony deepen it. Tony makes a low noise of impatience, but is distracted by the ease with which Steve is holding him back, the latent strength in the hands now gripping his arm and hip. He imagines that strength being used to pin him down, manhandle him into any position Steve wants, and his cock twitches in his pants.

They end up on the big bed, their path marked by Tony's expensive suit and Steve's street clothes. Tony can't take his eyes away from Steve - Steve, naked in his bed, sliding on top of him like in all of Tony's fantasies.

Steve seems equally enraptured by Tony, peppering Tony's face and neck with kisses. "So gorgeous, baby boy, I've always thought you were," he breathes into Tony's skin, like Tony's not lanky and soft and made of awkward limbs. A tongue flicks over his nipple repeatedly, making Tony moan and clench his thighs tighter around Steve's waist.

It's too much, he's too close, and Steve seems to know, though he doesn't ease off. Instead, he palms Tony's balls, then curls his fingers around Tony's cock, stroking him hard and fast and perfect. Tony comes with a howl, fingernails scratching up Steve's arms and back.
"Sorry, sorry," Tony says, once he has breath enough to talk.

"It's okay," Steve smiles reassuringly. He kisses Tony right on the mouth. "That was just to take the edge off."

Tony nods. Steve gives him an encouraging look, still holding himself up over Tony, and places Tony's hand on the center of his chest. Tony trails a hand over Steve's body, staring at the sharply-defined muscles and flushed skin. A shudder runs down Steve, from Tony's touch; Tony finds his cock, hard as steel and huge.

"That's it," Steve groans. "A little tighter - I love your hands, oh God, Tony."

Gaining confidence, Tony tightens his grip around the head and rubs his thumb over the slit. Watches in fascination as liquid coats his skin. He spreads it over Steve's cock, back to stroking again. Steve gasps, tells him how good it feels, his hips rolling a little to thrust into Tony's grip. Tony tilts his head up invitingly; Steve obliges and seals their mouths together, his tongue fucking into Tony's mouth in time with Tony's strokes.

And, lo- Tony finds himself getting hard again. He spreads his legs urgently, whining. Steve breaks the kiss, says desperately, "We can't, Tony, I need time to prepare you."

It's true. Tony's efforts have made him well aware of just how big Steve is. But all he can think about is having that hot, hard length inside him, impaling him, Steve pounding him into the mattress.

"Wait, I have an idea," Steve mutters. He lifts up, briefly, pulling himself out of Tony's hand. Tony groans in complaint, but then Steve's hands are bringing his legs together, pressing his thighs close. "Make it nice and tight for me, baby boy."

Tony's eyes widen in understanding. He points at the bedside table somewhere above them, no longer trusting himself to form sentences. Steve seems to understand, anyway; he leans over quickly and pulls out the drawer, extricates a bottle of lube. Tony stares hungrily as Steve coats his cock with lube and Tony's come, a generous, glistening mess. Steve shifts back over, knees on either side of Tony's legs. He guides his dick between Tony's thighs, and Tony squeezes his legs together.

Steve begins thrusting. Tony is driven breathless by the sensation - Steve's hips driving into him, Steve's balls brushing his skin, the flex and roll of Steve's muscles. "Touch yourself, Tony," Steve says, and Tony does, stroking his dick the way he likes. "Talk to me. Tell me what this feels like."

Talking is an effort, but if Steve wants to hear him - he'd do anything for Steve. "So good, Steve. I can't - I've never had it this good. You're gorgeous, you're amazing, I - I love how hard you are for me. And you still take care of me." Inspired, he pushes up, brings his lips to Steve's ear. "I can't wait to have you inside me."

"Oh God, Tony," groans Steve. His thrusting becomes erratic, his cock a fiery brand between Tony's thighs. Despite the lube, Tony suspects that the area is going to be rubbed red, and shudders at the thought of feeling Steve between his legs for the next few days.

"No one's ever fucked me that way before," Tony practically croons. "I'm gonna be so tight, you won't be able to breathe. I want you to fuck me until I can't walk, want to feel your cock stretching me and filling me up so good." He kisses Steve, tastes how close Steve is. "You've always given me what I wanted, Steve. Please, fuck, come for me."

Steve climaxes with a shout. A few more hard strokes and Tony follows him over, screaming out Steve's name, and the world whites out.

~*~

He feels gentle hands wiping him down. "Mnph," he says, intelligently, and reaches out for Steve without opening his eyes. "Sleep now."

"Tony." It's amazing, really, how much worry and doubt and incipient self-questioning can be packed into one word.

"No, no, no," Tony grumbles. He squirms, stretching out under the covers that have been pulled over him "None of that. Afterglow." The vibes coming at him continue to feel dubious. "Steeeeve," he whines, exactly like he had when he'd wanted ice-cream after getting a tooth pulled at age nine, when he'd wanted to accompany Steve to the White House at twelve, when he'd wanted Steve to be the one to teach him how to drive at fifteen.

Like all those other times, Steve gives a heavy sigh and says, "All right, Tony."

++ end ++