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The shower’s spray flattened Tony’s hair and when he took a step forward, it ran down his body in icy-cold rivulets.

Right now, he’d gladly give his whole fortune for five minutes of hot water. He was so goddamn tired of the cold, and the hot temperature would probably do a better job of washing the memories of blood off his skin. It was there, no matter how hard he scrubbed. He could rub his skin raw and still, he would be able to trace the places on his body that had been soaked in his team’s blood. The terror of being responsible for their deaths was now etched deep inside him, and there was every chance he’d never get it out again.

Tony released a shaky breath, pressing his forehead against the cold shower tiles. He scrubbed harder, but the memory of his teammates’ dead eyes was following his every move. Thor, Steve, and even Bruce―all dead. Lying broken and bloodied in the rubble to his feet. He had killed them. Not with his own hands, of course, but that didn’t change anything. He’d allowed him to get to them… He was a murderer. That was what he was.

Tony trembled. How had he gotten here? How had this happened? How had everything turned out so very wrong? Rationally, he knew he had no business believing what that girl had showed him. It… it just wasn’t possible. And he hadn’t seen enough evidence to freak out, yet. Sure, the little things seemed to slowly add up… but he was doing the math wrong. That had to be it. This wasn’t his future. It was wrong, and horrific—all of it—even by his standards. It was impossible. No way he would ever…

He needed a drink, but apparently, there was no alcohol in Clint’s Ponderosa ranch—and even if there had been any, he’d promised himself that he’d stay sober through this mess. However much he’d twist and turn this, it was his mess, and he refused to fuck this up any further.

Tony stirred beneath the cold water. No. He was Tony Stark. He was Iron Man. Not some useless bystander, and certainly not the slave of his own creations. This hadn’t happened. Not yet. And he wouldn’t let it come to that, not as long as there was any life left in him to fight.

He did not shrink back because he was afraid. He did not surrender just because he saw no way out. He did not back down in the face of his deepest, darkest fears, and he fucking well did not let them control him.

Tony huffed a breath, watching it melt into the cold air. With a shake of his head, he turned off the water and grabbed a towel. Outside, daylight already leaked through the high windows of the farm’s shower house, but he still took his time drying off and getting dressed. The clothes Clint had lent him had certainly seen better days. There were splotches everywhere, dirt and little droplets of blood. The cloth felt damp—had been damp for days now—and strongly smelled of campfire, sweat and hay. Given their current situation, it would most certainly take a while before he could change into clean, new clothes again.

Assuming that he’d live long enough to get there.

With a deep sigh, Tony leaned down and laced up his boots. Then, he tied the slightly too big lumberjack shirt around his waist, and headed outside to help Steve with the firewood.

 

 

* * *

 

 

He didn’t even know what day it was anymore. He couldn’t use his laptop and phone, and at some point, he’d lost his watch. It was probably useless, anyway. The damn thing was synched to the network, and… come to think of it, everything he owned seemed to be linked to some fucking network, and—God, he hated this. He felt stripped to the bones, vulnerable, and he couldn’t remember ever having felt more out of his game.

It probably wasn’t even noon, yet. The sun was barely visible through the thick clouds, but the air was still so clean—so new. One hour bled into another, and considering he and Steve had been out here chopping log after log, it might very well be a late afternoon already.

Tony turned around, getting another piece of wood ready, and squinted up the gray sky. At some point, it had started to drizzle again, and he was getting really tired of being wet. Not to mention cold.

“Thor didn’t say where he was going for answers?” he asked, mostly to break the silence that had settled between them.

Steve was walking over to the woodpile, picking up one of the bigger logs. He shook his head while he walked. “Sometimes my teammates don’t tell me things. I was kinda hoping Thor would be the exception.”

“Yeah, in time,” Tony breathed, and rammed his axe in the big trunk. “We don’t know what that Maximoff kid showed him.”

Steve looked up at that, studying him. “I don’t know what she showed you,” he started, his tone neutral to the point of pain. “I just know it made you do something stupid.” He let his axe rush downwards, splitting the log in front of him in two perfect halves. “’Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’,” he quoted, almost self-deprecating. “They pulled us apart like cotton candy.”

Tony furrowed his brows and watched Steve with weary eyes. “It seemed like you walked away alright.”

Steve stopped in his movements, and Tony could pinpoint the exact second when their conversation had taken the wrong turn. Again. When it came to Steve Rogers, there always seemed to be two options. Either they were joking around, finishing each other’s sentences like they’d known each other all their lives, or… or they were going at each other’s throats.

“Is that a problem?” Steve asked.

Tony shrugged noncommittal, raising his axe and letting it slice through the next log. “I don’t trust a guy without a dark side. Call me old fashioned.”

There certainly was no blood on Steve’s perfectly clean hands. He didn’t have it in him to do something that cruel. There was no version of Steve Rogers that could ever be responsible for a mess like this.

Not like Tony.

“Well let’s just say you haven’t seen it yet,” Steve said, and Tony couldn’t tell for the life of him if Steve wanted to console him or dig deeper in his wounds.

He stalked closer to Steve. “Banner and I were doing research,” he stated.

Steve’s jaw ticked. “That would affect the team―”

“That would end the team,” Tony ground out, raising his voice. He was tired. So tired of arguing about this over and over again. “Isn’t that the mission? Isn’t that the why we fight, so we can end the fight? So we get to go home?”

Steve, who hadn’t so much as faltered in his routine of picking up and chopping, suddenly raised the log in his hands and―ripped it in half.

There was a pregnant pause. Tony stared down at the two pieces of wood lying on the ground next to Steve’s feet, and then slowly forced his eyes to meet his glare.

He wasn’t sure if the feeling surging through his veins right now was fear or arousal.

Probably both.

“Every time someone tries to win a war before it starts, innocent people die,” Steve told him with a quiet and firm voice. “Every time.”

Tony opened his mouth to say something, but instead literally bit his tongue as he tilted his head and turned away. He blew out a sigh and dragged a hand through his damp hair.

 

 

* * *

 

 

When the rain started to let up, Tony was alone in the house. Natasha, Clint and Bruce had yet to arrive at the farm, and Steve was still in the front yard, chopping through logs like a mad man. By now, they had probably enough firewood to stay warm for the next half year, but Tony knew it wasn’t about that. Steve hated sitting around and waiting just as much as Tony did, and he needed to let off some steam.

Tony walked to the next window and stared up into the sky, a cup of unexpectedly good coffee in his hands. Maybe the rain starting to let up just now was a sign—now that the others weren’t here yet, now that Steve was distracted. Maybe it was time to get away from here. Without his tech, he wasn’t of any use to them, and with Ultron―he was putting them in danger just with his presence. He could go back to New York, make himself traceable. He could also go looking for him. Just drag Ultron out and into the playing field, and find a solution to this once and for all.

He squelched that train of thought as soon as it started. He didn’t know enough. And this version of him… the version that had stood above the cold bodies of his dead teammates… that broken, hollow man had tried to work through this alone. And see where that had gotten him.

After one more half-hearted look into the sky, Tony shoved off from the window and headed for the kitchen to fix them something to eat.

 

 

* * *

 

 

The sun was just setting when Steve finally stopped playing forest ranger and came back inside through the front door. He went straight for the bathroom without so much as saying a word to Tony, and when he came back out of it, his hips were wrapped in a white towel. He sat down on the edge of the couch and stared at the muted television for a moment. News weren’t getting any better, of course, as one disaster was following another, so he averted his gaze quickly enough.

“What’re you thinking?” Tony asked quietly from his place on the armchair, next to the fireplace.

Steve didn’t even cast him a glance. “Nothing of consequence,” he said and looked at the floor in front of him with a tensed expression.

Well, fine. If he was going to keep up the silent treatment, so be it. Tony stood up and walked to the window, giving the sky an angry look. Eventually, he kicked at the wooden cover panels and turned back around, folding his arms across his chest as he watched Steve rubbing his forehead with slow movements.

He wasn’t going to be the first one to talk. He wasn’t. He could be just as stubborn as Steve was. He wouldn’t say a word until— “How long are you planning to ignore me?”

Dammit.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Steve murmured as he leaned down to rummage through the traveling bag in front of him.

Tony let out a sharp sigh. “You. Ignoring me.”

Steve found new boxer briefs and obviously not much else, seeing as he grabbed for the jeans and shirt he’d worn for the past days and clutched both to his chest. Then, he stood up and met Tony’s gaze for the first time. “I haven’t been ignoring you. I’m just tired of fighting.”

Tony pursed his lips as he watched Steve slip into the shirt, the towel still wrapped around his middle. “You’re tired,” Tony repeated.

“Of course I’m tired.” He turned around and slowly walked through the open door of the bathroom. He didn’t close it, just walked around the corner. After a moment, he came back into the room with his jeans on and sighed deeply, as he saw Tony’s hard expression. “Fine. Just say what’s on your mind already.”

“What’s on my mind?” Tony shouted, flinging his arms in the air at the ridiculousness of his statement. “You really want to know or are you just asking so you can give me another lecture?”

Folding his big arms across his chest, and glaring at Tony, Steve said, very calmly, “No, get it all out. Better to get this over with before the others arrive tomorrow. You and me, we have to keep it together. We need to be a united front for this. If we can’t… if we can’t find common ground, we’ll fall apart before Ultron even finds us.”

Tony tilted his head at that, and slowly walked towards Steve, “And this is the exact reason why I need you to listen to me. The research was not about putting an end to this at all costs. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t take the comfortable turn just so I could get back to my life.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “I never said that.”

“Oh, but you implied it.”

“I didn’t—”

“You damn well did!”

Steve, now standing right in front on Tony, threw his hands up in frustration. “Is there ever going to be a point to this or are we just going to drive each other crazy forever?”

“It’s not my fault that you’re the most righteous asshole in the world. You’re always just assuming that I’m doing what’s best for me. You always see what you want in people and not what’s right in front of you!”

Steve groaned and palmed his face. “Why do you always have to do that?”

Tony’s eyebrows shot up in genuine confusion. “Do what?”

“Be such a jerk. Make this so difficult.” He shifted and folded his arms. “I don’t think you’re a bad person, Tony. I never thought that. I know exactly who you are, and what you are is a selfless, caring man. You’re just taking everything I say personally and I don’t…” He sighed heavily. “None of us saw this coming, and if we’d known we had to split up, we could’ve regrouped differently, but—is it really so terrible for you, being stuck with me?”

Tony stared at him, a little surprised that Steve was letting Tony get to him so much. Not that Tony hadn’t been trying to get a rise out of him, of course, but even so. “I’ll admit,” he said at last, “It’s not so bad. I’ve had worse company. Sometimes, I almost think someone surgically removed that stick from your ass.”

Steve barked out a laugh. Loudly. It was involuntary, and had clearly caught him out of nowhere, but once he’d started, it seemed he couldn’t stop. His right hand landed on his left pectoral and he let himself fall down on the couch next to them. Then, he grabbed for the nearest pillow and threw it right at Tony’s face.

“You really are a jackass, Tony Stark,” Steve snorted and smiled up at him.

Tony found himself immediately smiling back. “Right back at you, Cap.”

 

 

* * *

 

 

After that, dinner was spent in companionable silence.

Tony figured he needed to be at least grateful that the farmhouse was well stocked with tinned food, but after his third day and ninth meal of baked beans and dried meat, he was loosing what little had been left of his appetite.

“You’re overthinking it,” Steve told him quietly. “Your body needs to stay strong. Just… think of it as a challenge.”

Tony sighed and let his gaze drift around the living room, landing on the large pendulum clock in the far corner. Seven o’clock already. He drummed his fingers on the table, tapping out the beat to a song that only he could hear as he fidgeted in his seat.

He picked up the last bottle of beer that stood between them in the middle of the table. He held it up and contemplated it for a moment. Then, he brought it to his mouth and wrapped his lips around the tip. It tasted like Steve—or, how he imagined Steve would taste. Not that he thought about Steve’s taste, just…

Tony shook his head at his own thoughts. He took a long sip, and almost choked on it, when he saw Steve staring at him with wide eyes.

“What?” he asked, after gulping down the beer.

Steve shook his head, but there was a frown on his forehead, like he’d just realized something. And then, he wrapped a hand around the bottle, his fingers brushing Tony’s for a fleeting moment and raised it to his mouth. He held Tony’s gaze as he wrapped his lips around the neck of the bottle and lingered there for a moment. For some reason, a shiver ran down Tony’s spine.

“Nothing,” Steve replied, his eyes locked on Tony’s with intense scrutiny, and that always got to Tony more than he wanted to admit.

Tony raised an eyebrow. “Nothing of consequence,” he repeated Steve’s earlier words.

He swallowed visibly, and set the bottle down with a dulled clang. “Right.”

 

 

* * *

 

 

Tony sneezed, and followed it up with two more. Next to him—on the large bench right in front of the farmhouse—Steve cocked his head and considered him. “Why don’t you go back inside. Dry off, get some rest. I can keep watch alone.”

Tony looked at him, eyebrows raised, then leaned forward and enunciated clearly, “No.” He straightened and kept staring into the dark forest ahead. “It was your idea to split in groups. That means you’re stuck with me for the time being.”

A pause. “Right,” Steve said quietly. He leaned his head against the wood panels behind them and Tony could feel him study his profile. Even in the rain he could smell him, the linger of his shower gel, the old leather of his jacket tickling his nostrils. Tony trembled lightly and turned his gaze straight ahead. For just a moment, he let himself revel in being here with Steve, sitting next to him, working with him, verbally sparring with him. Surrounded by his smell and keenly aware of the power that emanated from him. Even after months of not seeing Steve, before everything had turned to shit, Tony had always somehow been attuned to his presence.

He let himself pretend then, that if he looked to the side, Steve would still be smiling at him with eyes full of trust like he had a week ago. He could pretend, right here and now, that Steve still believed he was a good man and not—

A lump rose in Tony’s throat, and he coughed to cover the almost-sob that wanted to come out. God, he was thrown off. Everything he’d ever believed in, everything he’d been sure about was gone now. His world was floating in a void, and Tony didn’t even know where to start repairing it.

Steve sighed, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his jacket where there was no danger of brushing against Tony’s. “That’s it,” he said, standing up. “You’ve been coughing all day. We gotta get you warm.”

Tony smiled at his concern, even if it wasn’t actually for him. He needed his team to be whole and ready. That was all there was to it. “What’re you suggesting?” he asked. “Can’t very well cuddle in front of the fireplace. We need to watch the premise. If Ultron finds us here, it’s only a matter of time before―”

“I know,” Steve interrupted, looking pained. “I know. But I won’t have you suddenly keeling over and destroying our only chance at stopping him.”

Tony huffed. “I’m not your only chance. Not by a long shot.”

“You are,” Steve said, emphasizing both words. He looked right at him, and Tony felt himself shiver under his focus. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. You shouldn’t take chances with your health, no matter what.”

Tony sighed. “My health is fine. It’s just the beginnings of a little cold. Fought bad guys in far worse conditions.”

Steve leaned in, staring him down, “Not. Taking. Chances.” He stood up and straightened. He was flexing his shoulders, and then there was a thin patch of skin visible beneath his too tight shirt. “Get inside, sleep a bit. You can come back when you’ve rested.”

“Steve,” Tony started, but Steve interrupted him by putting a warm hand on his arm.

“Just for once… do what I tell you?”

Tony sighed, and after a moment, made to stand up. “If there’s any movement—”

“Trust me, you’re the first one I’m telling.”

Tony rolled his eyes at that, and clasped Steve’s shoulder, before he went inside.

 

 

* * *

 

 

The few hours of sleep were spent tormented with thoughts of what was to come. Tony stayed near to the fireplace, until the strain of restlessness finally got to him. When he looked out of the window, Steve was still sitting there. Like a statue. Unmoving, unrelenting.

Tony turned around and kicked a chair, but was deprived of the satisfaction of seeing it tipping over by the fact of it being bolted to the damn floor.

Farm houses. For fuck’s sake.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Something shattered outside. Tony bolted upright from his place in front of the cockle stove and it only took one moment to take in his surroundings, before he stormed to the next window. There was nothing in the darkness, and frantically, Tony stared down on the area in front of the house. The light from the patio illuminated the surroundings, and Steve was nowhere to be seen.

“Fuck,” Tony cursed. He whirled around and ran for the stairs. He’d barely stepped out of the front door, when the dark premonition curling in his stomach grew almost unbearable. It was quiet outside, too quiet, and his inner voice kept screaming in protest. The shadows lurking in his mind were far too potent. He knew something bad had happened, and there was something that wasn’t quite right here, about the farm, and the darkness. There were no stars visible, no wind rushing over the high grass surrounding the house. And he knew that stepping over that threshold could very well seal his fate.

It rained fiercely, and the ground beneath him was sagging under his steps.

Suddenly, a voice cut threw the silence. “There is no reason to fear,” it echoed, calm and collected. “I still have plans for you.”

Strange how those words inspired more fear than comfort.

It was then, that he saw the suit. Saw it standing above Steve, who was lying on the ground, motionless, and watched it repeatedly ramming a hard fist down on his head and…

The world around Tony collapsed. In a flash, everything flipped and turned, and he was back in the vision Wanda Maximoff had showed him. He hadn’t been able to prevent his. God, he hadn’t been fast enough. And now Steve was gone. Gone. The others were probably long dead—dead by the hands of his creation. He’d allowed Ultron to kill his team. He hadn’t been fast enough.

Reality was slipping. It was over. It was all over. He’d failed.

“Tony—Tony!”

Failed. Failed. Failed.

Ultron came at him. Tony was ready to get up and throw himself in the thick of it when another identical suit suddenly rushed at him out of nowhere, and grabbed for the arc reactor. Tony’s eyes went wide and a soundless scream rose to his lips, pain shooting through every cell that had ever felt the breath of existence. It was not fatal—not yet—but bearing enough pain that felt worthy of death. The suit was pulling, pulling, and no—No. It was too soon. He couldn’t go down like this. Too fucking soon.

“Tony!”

The suit loomed over him, and it was in that moment that he realized—this wasn’t Ultron. It was himself. It was his own face staring down at him with cruel red eyes, and he started to choke with horror as—

“Tony.” Someone was at his side. Strong, familiar hands closed around his arms, and shook. “Come on, wake up. Don’t do this. Please.”

Tony caught a blurry glance of the face in front of him. “What…” he slurred, his voice hoarse from screaming, as he looked up at Steve’s eyes. The night was gone, and he wasn’t lying outside in the rain. The light of an early sun bathed the living room in a pale light. He understood then—it had been a dream, just a dream. Ultron hadn’t found them; he’d just fallen asleep…

“You okay?” Steve asked, both hands on Tony’s shoulders.

Tony sat up, brushing a hand over his face to get rid of the image of Steve’s bloodied hair. “You will never go alone after him, you hear me,” he said urgently. He was aware that his hand was curled in Steve’s shirt, but he couldn’t bring his muscles to loosen up. “I might not be able to hurt you, but I swear to God, if you ever go alone after him, I will find something to beat you with.”

Steve raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “That so?”

He tightened his grip on his shirt. “Don’t tempt me, Rogers.”

Steve pushed himself forward and leaned down on Tony until he was in his face, as close as he could get to him without touching. Close enough to kiss—not that he would. Ever. Steve raised a hand, and for a moment Tony thought he might hit him, and caught his breath in anticipation. But instead he traced a finger down Tony’s cheek and came away wet. “It was just a dream.”

Tony pressed his eyes closed, and felt himself sagging against Steve. “Just don’t die for me.”

There was a heavy moment of silence. “Is that what she showed you?”

Tony swallowed, looking away. He tried to wriggle out of Steve’s grasp, but his hold was firm and unyielding.

“It wasn’t real, Tony. It won’t happen,” Steve said.

Tony felt himself shake. “Damn right it won’t.”

And then, Steve’s arms were around him—really around him—and he pulled him hard against his warm chest.

The world around him was falling and Steve was his rock. He grabbed for Steve’s shoulders and couldn’t release him again. Steve—despite his harsh words, and painfully honest nature—had been the only thing keeping him from breaking, and he refused to let him go. Were it not for Steve’s presence, he would have lost himself completely.

“We’re still here,” Steve whispered, rocking him rhythmically in the endless comfort of his arms. “And we will fight him together—”

He had absolutely no idea how long they remained like that, and he was aware that he needed to fight to his feet at some point. They couldn’t give up when there was still a war to fight—an apocalypse to stop.

Nothing was set. Reality could be seized and controlled. Together, they still had the power to change the world.

Resolve set in.

Tony sighed against Steve’s neck. “The others should be here, soon.”

Steve nodded and held onto him as they rose to their feet together. They stood there, then, looking at another.

“Where did I start to go wrong?” Tony asked, staring right at Steve.

“You didn’t go wrong. You wanted to do good. We all did. We all chose this way. If you’re responsible, then so am I.”

Tony sighed and rubbed his face. “Steve, I’m so tired, and if I lose anyone else right now, I’m not sure I’ll be able to deal with that…”

“You will be,” Steve said. “You’re a hero, after all.”

Tony swallowed. “Without the suits, I’m…”

“A hero.”

Tony jerked away, trying to get out of Steve’s grip, again, but he held Tony, and pulled him back, holding his face with both hands. “You are.”

Tony blinked, his mouth dropped open and all the breath that was currently in his lungs escaped as if someone had punched him in the stomach. Steve pursed his lips and looked down on both of them. “Come on. Might as well make use of our time here.”

Tony frowned. “What do you mean.”

Steve took a step back and pointed at his own shirt. It was caked with the dirt of the past days. “That was my last set of clothes.”

Tony nodded, shoulders sagging as he looked down at himself. However possible, his clothes were still somewhat damp. “That wasn’t even mine.”

Steve’s gaze lingered on his too-big pants. “There’s a laundry room behind the kitchen. It has a large sink and water tanks outside. Come on.”

“A sink,” Tony repeated slowly. “For what?”

Steve looked back at him with a highly amused expression. “For washing our clothes.”

Tony blinked. “Are you serious?”

“There’s water, there’s curd soap. It’s warm enough to get dried in a few hours.”

 

 

* * *

 

 

“I guess you had to learn how to be pretty handy with things back in your time,” Tony said out loud, as he watched Steve fill the sink with soapy water, as well as a tin tub next to his feet. There was a window in front of the sink and the early daylight cast Steve in a warm, smooth light.

Steve put a large rub board into the sink and turned around. “I suppose,” he said with a confused expression. “Why’re you asking?”

Tony shook his head at himself. “Nothing. Sorry. Just the conclusion of a weird train of thought.”

Steve hummed, looking up at him. “All right. Strip.”

Tony blinked at him. “Excuse me?”

“Can’t very well wash your clothes while you wear ‘em,” he said and held out a hand expectantly.

“I’m not going to sit around here naked for hours. We could be attacked any moment and I refuse to run through the forest in my birthday suit.”

Steve looked him up and down, and then he was actually leering. “He won’t find us here. And… I didn’t think Tony Stark would have a problem with nudity.”

“It’s not about―” Tony started, and then half-groaned, half-sighed. “Fine,” he said, and pulled off his damp shirt and used it to mop his hair, for all the good it would do. He threw it at Steve’s face with a wet plop, then kneeled down to remove his boots and socks.

He paused in the middle of unlacing his second boot, when he heard Steve removing his own shirt, and that was…

Steve would be just as naked and vulnerable and… naked…

Oh fuck.

Tony shook his head with wide eyes and refocused on his laces. He pretended not to notice when he heard the sound of a zipper, but looked up in spite of himself when Steve called his name. “Heads up,” he said, tossing something to him.

Tony plucked it out of the air and stared at his phone. “Thanks,” he said, sighing. If he could just get on the servers for a minute, he would be able to—

“You’ll figure out a way to block him and when you do… you’ll get to JARVIS again,” Steve said, interrupting his train of thoughts.

“Yeah, sure,” Tony lied, and put the phone on the chair next to him while he finished taking off his socks.

He couldn’t look away when Steve walked over to a bank near the large sink. He bent down there, to strip out of his jeans, and before Tony could so much as blink, Steve had removed his boxers, too, and just…

Holy fuck.

Steve tossed his shirt and boxers into the sink, then started going through the pockets of his jeans, laying out the contents on top of the table next to him. A small pencil, a moleskin, and something that looked like an old compass.

Tony smiled. Steve was still every bit a boy of his time. It was easy to forget that about him. He’d adapted so well, and so fast.

Making a big show of not paying attention to Steve’s nakedness, he surreptitiously watched him out of the corner of his eye, and… damn.

A trembling breath pressed against Tony’s lips. Just standing here, watching Steve’s naked backside, made his body tighten with a familiar yearning that he hadn’t felt in months. He was beautiful, looking as he did now. Looking so full of life, while he leaned at the sink, daylight bathing his skin in a warm light.

Steve’s ass flexed as he put the rest his clothes into the sink, and started to scrub them against the washboard. For minutes, Tony caught himself imagining all the ways he could put his hands to good use there. A small groan escaped him and he bit his tongue, hard enough to draw blood. It hurt, but at least for the moment it stopped the blood from flowing to places that would only get him in trouble.

Steve’s blond, slightly longer hair fell into his face once in a while and while it was still cloudy outside, once a ray of sunlight would shine through the window, it reflected on Steve’s skin and onto the water. Steve shifted, so that the washboard was now pressed against his pecs. He started to swirl the clothes around the water, before he wrung them out and threw them into the empty tub at his feet.

Steve looked over his shoulder, then, raising an eyebrow at Tony, expression all innocence. “Something wrong?” he asked. At Tony’s blank expression, he turned around to the sink again, throwing Tony’s shirt in. “Bring me your pants?” he asked.

Tony swallowed hard, and glanced down at the bulge against his zipper. “I’m good,” he rasped.

“This is probably a one-time chance. We might not get any real shelter next time, better use it while you have it.”

“I said I’m good,” Tony snapped, and leaned forward, letting his head fall into his hands.

“And I said I’d make sure you’re not getting sick, and we’re damn well doing this now.”

Tony huffed, and walked over to Steve. “Fine,” he said. He made a big show of angrily shoving down the zipper of his pants, and pushing them down to his feet. He’d gone Commando for two days now and didn’t have to look down to know that his cock was painfully erect between them.

Steve didn’t even try to be modest as his gaze traveled down Tony’s body and lingered pointedly on his cock, as if he was trying to puzzle out its physics. His eyes flicked up to Tony’s for just an instant, then he grinned and looked back down on the task at hand. “Thanks,” he said, a little too smugly.

Tony pinched his nose and turned around. Despite of it all, he found himself smiling a little. Couldn’t help it. It was one hell of a rush, being affected like this again after so long. After his break-up with Pepper, he hadn’t even felt the need to look for someone new. There had been no one-nightstands, no flings, just him and occasionally, a little lube and his right hand. And that had been enough.

Until right now.

“Can you give me a hand?” Steve asked.

Tony jumped, looking up sharply. “What?”

Steve raised an eyebrow at him. “Hang up the clothes?” He nodded in the direction of the long clothesline next to them, then wrung out his own shirt, before he held it to Tony.

Tony took it and walked around the sink, grateful for the distraction. Walking was proving a bit painful for him at the moment, but he needed to move, and he really had to put some space between them.

“Where’d you get the compass from?” he asked before he could stop himself. Keeping his mouth shut had never been his strong suit. “Gift from a girlfriend?”

“No, it’s… Got it from a friend. I mostly carry it for luck.”

“Luck.”

“Yes.”

Tony hummed. “A friend? Or a friend.”

He could see Steve smiling. “We grew up together.”

Tony cleared his throat. That didn’t answer anything. “So you mean you carried her compass around for luck but you never considered her as…” He trailed off slowly, gauging Steve’s reaction, and with a snort that clearly stated that Steve knew exactly what he was doing here, he relented.

“No, I never considered him like that,” he finished for him. “We were…” His eyes drifted past him, as if searching for the right words. Then they locked back onto his. “Best friends. Family. He was my only family, for a very long time.”

“Right.” Tony nodded, accepting that. He walked back around the sink, leaning against it and watched Steve scrub his jeans on the board. The muscles in his arms flexed with the movements, the skin wet. A few splashes had landed on his chest, his abs, his thighs, and… his very much erect cock that was barely concealed behind the sink.

Tony knew his mouth was hanging open, and it took a moment to summon the will to close it. He swallowed, unable to even come up with a decent thought to that.

“Doesn’t mean I don’t consider men like that,” Steve said after a beat of silence, and his gaze was fixed on the washboard.

Tony licked his lips. “That so?” he asked, and cringed inwardly at the wrecked sound of his voice. He flexed his fingers a couple of times, balling them into a fist, before he gave in and cautiously laid it on Steve’s lower back.

Even a pessimist like him could admit that there was only a minimal chance that he’d misread the situation. He wasn’t sure there was a way to misread this. Steve’s words were far too blunt for that. He liked to be prepared, though, so his gesture remained friendly enough, still platonic, nothing more than a bit cold comfort between teammates.

Steve hummed at the touch, and leaned forward to wring out both of their pants. At that point, the water in the sink was dark with dust and dirt and Steve pulled at the long chain to open the drain. First, he washed the clothes, and then his hands under clear water.

He handed Tony both jeans, and Tony hung them up on the clothesline next to their shirts.

“You think they will dry in time?” he asked Steve.

He felt him step closer behind him, and Tony had to take a deep breath before he turned around again.

“Probably,” Steve answered. He had a towel in his right hand, and started to glide it over Tony’s cheeks. The cloth was damp and Steve began to wipe off his forehead, his neck, and then his arms.

A small smile itched at Tony’s lips. “Could do that myself, you know,” he murmured with a subdued voice, and met Steve’s hooded eyes.

There was the beginning of a smirk tucking at the corners of Steve’s mouth. “Not so sure about that, city boy.” On its way down, the towel slipped somewhat, and after Steve grabbed to bring it back in position, he left one of his soapy hands on Tony’s naked thigh.

He waited for Steve’s move, but nothing came.

“The clothes smell good,” Tony said lamely, and failed to suppress a shiver, as Steve’s fingers dug into his skin, before they finally moved along Tony’s hipbone, and settled on the outside curve of his ass.

Steve glanced up at him, and cleared his throat. “How am I doing so far, in terms of seduction?” he asked quietly.

Tony snorted, feeling a bit relieved now that he had a word for what was happening here. “Not bad for a first try.”

Steve gasped in mock-outrage. “That’s at least my second try. Just a bit out of practice.”

Tony shrugged. “Okay, okay. I’ve seen worse.”

The corners of Steve’s mouth turned up and he looked at Tony through his lashes. He tilted his head and regarded him for a moment. "You’re a good man. Anybody ever told you that?"

Tony’s eyes grew somewhat distant. “Not lately, no.”

“You are. I see you for what you are now.”

Tony looked down on himself. “Right now you’re seeing a lot of what I am.”

“Right.” Steve smirked and risked another quick glance to Tony’s cock.

“Thanks for everything,” Tony told him. “It’s a bit funny, you taking care of me. There was a time when I thought you would be the first one to leave me behind.”

Steve kept standing there, fingers still on his ass, and moving there in small circles, eyes burning holes in Tony’s face. “When we met,” he said at last, “I was so angry that I didn’t want to see…” Steve looked at him and at that moment, Tony knew, nothing outside mattered in this exile. The rules of home didn’t apply to them here.

Steve’s hand moved up to rest at the small of Tony’s back, and Tony pulled back a little to look him in the eyes.

“Tony.” Steve’s voice and face were both filled with heavy anticipation.

Tony let go with one arm and pulled at Steve’s hands until his thumb was right at Tony’s mouth. He opened his lips and sucked the digit in, swirling his tongue around the round nail. When he pulled back with a wet plop, he teased the skin with his teeth. Then, he leaned back a little.

“Your move, soldier.”

Steve’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment. He trembled hard, visibly trying to rein in control. Long, heavy breaths rolled off his chest, and he was so gorgeous that Tony couldn’t believe they hadn’t done this sooner.

Steve’s answer never came, because in the next moment, his lips were covering Tony’s. He closed his eyes with a loud groan and opened his mouth to deepen the kiss. Instantly, he forgot all of the reasons why he’d ever believed he and Steve were too different to find common ground. This was perfect, this was the clash of titans, and God, it felt fucking amazing. Steve’s hands wandered up to tangle in his hair, to stroke his face.

After minutes of intense kissing, Steve broke off and rested his forehead against Tony’s. He smiled as he panted, struggling to catch his breath.

Tony nipped at Steve’s lips, quivering with wonder. “Yeah?” he asked, searching Steve’s eyes.

Steve nodded tenderly, brushing their lips together. “I think we’ve danced around this long enough, right?”

“Yeah,” Tony breathed, and then pressed against Steve with the full length of his body. Their cocks rubbed against another, making them grunt into each other’s mouth.

It was hard to say if this would just be a cold night’s comfort for Steve or… something more. Right now, it didn’t matter all that much. He’d been alone for too long and his world lay in shambles. If Steve just wanted to fuck once in an abandoned farmhouse, with abandoned hearts, then so be it.

And then, his feet left the floor and he was in Steve’s arms, swung to the side so fast he had to wrap his legs around him to keep from falling. Steve sat him down on the edge of the sink. His mouth was on his neck and Tony whimpered, digging his nails into the broad shoulders.

“Want you to fuck me,” Tony breathed into Steve’s ear, and pressed his erection against Steve’s warm thigh.

Steve’s eyes fluttered shut again. He nodded, and Tony felt him leaning to the side, fumbling with something. For a few long second there was nothing, and then he cried out as Steve pierced his entrance with a slick finger.

After every thrust, Steve waited for Tony to adjust, and took his time opening him up. The fingers—one, then two—moved with fervor, and Steve buried his face in Tony’s throat as the digits pressed against him, over and over, pushing him further onto the washing table. It felt like it was about to break, the wood creaked under him, and the position wasn’t the most comfortable, of course, but Steve was fucking him, breathing on his neck, sliding his cock against Tony’s leg and it all felt so, so good.

“Come on… fuck me… Cap,” Tony shot Steve a challenging gaze and they both smirked. He was about to tell Steve how hard he wanted it, how deep he needed him, but in the next moment, Steve lifted him into his arms. He never lost his stride, as he walked backwards and turned. He put Tony on the wooden floor, and bent down on top of him. And then, Steve’s soft, pliant lips were back on his and his cock was sliding against him with fervor.

“I’m ready,” Tony grunted.

Steve shook his head and leaned up. He pushed Tony’s legs to his ears and held them down with a tight grip to his ankles, propped himself up on his knees and sank a third finger in Tony’s hole. “Not yet,” he breathed. “Not gonna hurt you.”

Tony’s fingers clenched into fists. He hadn’t done this in years—in decades, probably—and the stretch wasn’t without pain, but he wasn’t going to stop, even if his very existence depended on it. He tried to speak, tried to tell Steve how much he wanted this, not just the sex, but everything else. He wanted—God, he wanted so much. Instead, he pushed his hands up and wrapped them around Steve’s cock. Steve moaned and lost his rhythm long enough for him to take charge of their position again. He flipped Steve onto his back, and grunted as Steve’s fingers slipped out of him with the movement.

“What did you use for lube?” he asked with a shaky breath, and looked around. His eyes landed on a little white jar—and then on the label.

“Petroleum jelly,” he stated. “Where the fuck did you get—”

“It’s a farm house,” Steve said with an eye roll. “If there’s saddles, there’s jelly.”

Tony leaned back a little, watching him with hooded eyes. “The stables are a good hundred feet away from the house,” he stated, and then blinked as realization hit him. “You little shit. You planned this. Getting me here, making me strip…”

Steve smiled conspiratorially. “That a problem?”

Tony pushed himself up, and settled on top of Steve’s crotch. “Far from it,” he said, and then slid down on Steve’s cock in one single movement.

His thighs gripped Steve’s sides and his fingers pressed into his chest. He took a moment to regain control, and when he had, he drove the point home by thrusting himself onto Steve like a piston, proving just as much as he could take.

It only lasted a few seconds, before Steve jerked him forward for a kiss. His hands held onto Tony’s ass, held him down and he bit his lips as he purposely slowed their movements and kept Tony still.

Tony was panting, struggling to move, struggling to give Steve everything he needed. “What are you doing?”

But Steve seemed to have all the time in the world, as he licked a drop of sweat from Tony’s nose and smiled up at him, taking harsh, unneeded breaths. “Savoring this.”

He kissed him then and slowly slid Tony down the length of his cock until their bodies were pressed together again. Tony waited for him to set the pace, waited for him to do something. But he didn’t. He just kissed him, unhurriedly, holding Tony completely still on top of him. He felt Steve’s cock throbbing inside of him, while he kissed him so sweetly he almost cried.

Steve’s arms were wrapped around his waist. As he lifted him slightly and started to move again, Tony looked down at him, pressing their forehead together.

“Okay?” Steve asked.

Tony swallowed. “Yeah, okay,” he agreed thickly before he covered Steve’s mouth with his again. It wasn’t long before they were both rolling and moving against one another like oil and water, as their climaxes built. This wasn’t a quick fuck, not by a long shot, and though neither of them had acknowledged it yet, it was impossible to ignore.

At some point, Steve rolled them around again, pulling out of Tony long enough to bend him over the nearby chair. Tony’s torso bowed back as Steve drove into him from behind. The pitch of his moans rose and fell with every jerk of Steve’s hips, and he didn’t know how much longer he was going to last. He’d never felt so out of control, had never been fucked by anyone this deep, and he loved every minute of it.

Steve’s cock languidly disappeared and reappeared inside of him in a steady rhythm, and Tony felt himself being stretched so full, and he was so far gone, he only lay there and moved his ass up and down Steve’s length.

Suddenly, Steve’s mouth was at his ear. “You want to come?” he asked.

Tony curled into his touch like a cat and shivered. “Yeah…”

Steve brushed a hand over his damp hair and leaned forward to kiss his neck. “Could make it last a bit longer.”

“Can’t,” Tony grunted and shook his head. “Too close.” He snuck a hand to his cock and started stroking himself, pushing back against Steve in slow movements. He felt Steve licking his spine, kissing the back of his neck, and sucking his earlobe into his mouth as he pushed inside of him with even harder thrusts.

“Just a little more,” Tony pleaded, moving his hips against him. “Just a little—”

Steve pulled away from his ear and kissed his cheek once more before he sat upright again and did as Tony asked. His hands settled on his ass again as he sped up. Tony clenched around his cock and focused on the feel of Steve moving within him. All he could hear were their mingled pants and the slaps of Steve’s balls against his ass. The jabbing of his cock had Tony’s insides trembling and the needy words, moans and whimpers that rushed off his mouth were completely out of his control.

And then, Steve’s fingers replaced Tony’s own and he rubbed his cock in time with his thrusts, sending Tony spiraling with ecstasy. Steve’s name tumbled off his lips as he came and a second later, he felt Steve spill himself inside his ass.

Weirdly enough, that was the hottest thing he’d felt in a long time, and he planned to tell Steve, once he remembered how to speak. As it was, he barely found the strength to hold himself on the chair while Steve collapsed against him, his hips still rocking gently over his sweaty skin.

Tony sighed contently when he felt Steve’s arms come up around his waist. There wasn’t an inch of his body that didn’t ache with pleasure. Steve pulled him back onto his lap, before he laid them both down on the ground. He curled around Tony’s back, still inside him.

Tony blinked, as Steve linked their fingers together. And it was then—here in this godforsaken house, that he realized—nothing was lost at all—just misplaced for a moment, and he would find it again. With Steve by his side, with the arms of the man he was falling in love with around him—the future was in his own hands, and he would find a way to reshape it once more.

He turned around eventually, only once wincing as Steve’s cock slipped out of him. He hadn’t realized that there were tears on his cheeks, before Steve wiped them away with his thumb, smiling at him.

“Steve—”

Something flashed across Steve’s eyes and he held up a hand. “No,” he whispered softly. A pause. “After.”

Tony stared at him for a long minute. “But… you don’t even know what I was going to say.”

A small, grave smile played across his face. “After,” he said again, pulling Tony closer. “Whatever you want to say now. Tell me after this is over and we’ll go from there.”

Tony held his eyes for a minute, then nodded.

After. There would be an after.

Now that he had this, he would make sure that there was something to follow.