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Ain't No Drinking Man

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“Just -- stop, just let me pull it --”

“Hold still, Cap, Jesus --”

“I can do it!” Steve growls, slapping Tony’s hand away.

Tony sighs. He puts his hand on Steve’s head and presses down. Steve lets out a frustrated noise, tangled in the heavy and now swimmingly large scale mail.

“Steve,” Tony says, his voice almost gentle, and the thought of Tony’s pity makes Steve spitting mad. He’s still the same person, he’s still got the same values and heart and training, and there’s no need for the team to treat him like he’s fragile just because he’s got a broken leg and some cracked ribs.

Sure, his bones might be broken and/or cracked because AIM jabbed him in the neck with a needle full of something that deactivated the serum. But even then, he took out another five beekeepers before the sixth threw him off a roof. Too bad for them they didn’t realize that taking away the serum wouldn’t negate his years of combat training and experience.

“I can do it myself,” Steve tells Tony through gritted teeth. His next breath is a wheeze, though, and he’s so frustrated he could scream -- if he had enough breath. He shrugs out of Tony’s reach and finally bends over a little, wincing, to let gravity pull the scale mail the rest of the way off. It slides to the ground with a metallic clash.

He grabs it and straightens slowly, avoiding Tony’s gaze as he tries to even out his breathing. With a grunt, he drags the scale mail over the table where Tony keeps it. Steve's undershirt is damp with sweat and chilly wherever it brushes his skin, which admittedly isn’t in many places. His borrowed SHIELD sweatpants are rolled up, further on his right leg than on the left, where they stretch over his cast. Even if he hadn’t broken his leg, he would’ve had to abandon the boots -- too big and too tall -- and the coldness of the metal floor of Tony’s lab bites through his sweaty right sock, which is yanked up to his knee. At least the elastic has kept it from falling off too quickly.

He can feel Tony’s eyes on him. The silence in the room is as heavy as the uniform, but Steve knows it won’t last long.

He remembers this body, he remembers its aches and pains, and he remembers how every single fight went while he was in it. The serum made him useful. It gave him a body that could do everything he’d always wanted, and, more importantly, it made everyone around him see his capabilities. Now he’s been deemed useless again, thanks to his broken leg, officially. He suspects that because he’s little again, he’ll have to work hard to convince the team that he’ll still be valuable. He’d probably have to do that even if he weren’t otherwise injured at all.

He hates the way that suspicion is worming poisonously through his mind.

“Steve, we’re going to figure this out,” Tony says, right on cue. “Come on, you’ll be just like new in no time.” He puts a hand on Steve’s shoulder and squeezes, meaning to offer support, Steve knows, but the Iron Man gauntlet hurts without the thick layer of muscle to pad his bones. He suppresses a yelp and jerks away.

“Stop it!” Steve says, rubbing his own thin, bony shoulder. Then he sighs. “I’m sorry for snapping. I’m just -- I want -- please just leave me alone.” He tries to keep the desperation out of his voice, but when Tony only sighs as Steve limps out, he knows he didn’t quite succeed.

He thinks the first day will be the worst. Adjusting to his old body -- short, skinny, asthmatic, colorblind -- makes him angry, and then he feels guilty about being angry, and then angry about feeling guilty for being angry… No wonder he picked so many fights back before the serum.

But the first day isn’t the worst. The seventh is pretty bad. The Avengers get a call (a kid with growth ray, again) and Steve wheels himself down to Tony’s lab for his uniform, taking a hit of his inhaler as he goes. By the time he gets there, though, everyone is gone. His armor is locked up, his usual codes don’t work, and there’s a note taped at eye level.

Waist level for Tony and everyone else.

“Steve, we’ll be fine. You need to stay here and rest up so when we do need you, you’re ready. If you want to provide tactical input, we’d appreciate it. Use the lab interface. See you soon, T.”

The lab interface. In the haze of painkillers he’s been in, he’s never contacted Fury about getting a secure video feed for the mansion.

Steve rips down the note, crumples it up, and throws it as hard as he can. It drops about three feet away. He wants to scream with frustration, but he swallows the rage, pushes it down with the rest of his shame and guilt. Then he sighs and carefully pushes himself out of the wheelchair. He limps over, picks up the ball of paper, puts it in the trash can, and opens up comms on Tony’s lab system.

The Avengers’ encounter is routine. The kid’s not really a threat once they calm him down and Tony figures out how to turn off the broken growth-ray gun. Steve turns on the news for video coverage, but the live delay means he hears the Avengers react before he sees what they’re reacting to. After just a few minutes, he turns it off again and calls Fury.

“Is SHIELD monitoring the encounter?” he asks. “Can I get a feed?”

Fury snorts. “I’d like to help you out, Cap,” he says, “but they’ll be finished before we get the security worked out.”

“For next time, then,” Steve says, feeling helpless.

“We’ll see,” Fury replies. He disconnects the call.

Sure enough, just a minute later he hears Tony give the all-clear. “Good work, team,” Steve says over the comms, and then he lurches back into the wheelchair and makes his painful way upstairs.

By the time he hears the Avengers’ voices in the hallway, he’s retreated to his bed. He doesn’t answer their knocks on the door that day.

Still, the worst is Day 30.

He’s made it through an entire month of getting his red, green, and brown clothes mixed up. An entire month of that tightness in his chest, aggravated by the pain of his cracked ribs. An entire month of struggling to the bathroom, wincing every time he moves, needing to rely on others to push him anywhere further than the elevator.

A month of his team’s pitying glances when he does see them. They all stop by to cheer him up. He is grateful -- he is -- but the conversations are so stilted. They all follow the same basic pattern.

PHASE 1: The Opening Gambit.

“Hi, Steve,” Carol or Jess or Jan says, smiling brightly. Peter, Sam, and Clint make jokes.

Logan grunts and hands him a beer.

PHASE 2: Engage in Conversation.

“How do you feel?” Jan and Sam say. Carol, Peter, and Clint tell him stories (Peter’s and Clint’s are funnier; Carol’s are more… relatable. She punches a lot of people). Jessica calms him down a little with her pheromones, probably without even realizing it. Logan remembers that Steve’s hands are tiny and weak and opens the beer bottle for him.

Steve tells Jan and Sam that he’s fine. He listens to Carol, Peter, and Clint and laughs or asks questions in all the right places. He leans his head back on the couch and smiles dopily at Jess.

Logan drinks his beer. Steve drinks his.

PHASE 3: Reassurance.

As the days slip by, “Tony will figure it out soon” turns into “Tony and Peter will figure it out soon” turns into “Tony and Peter and Beast will figure it out any day now.” Steve is pretty sure that Reed Richards is going to be conscripted, too, as soon as he gets back in town.

PHASE 4: Retreat.

Carol, Jess, Jan, and Sam give him a brisk hug goodbye. Peter and Clint make jokes and sometimes leave through the window. Logan belches, says, “See ya later, bub,” and wanders out the door. Steve puts both their bottles in the recycling.

Tony only comes to see him twice. Steve knows -- he knows -- that Tony’s busy working to reverse whatever AIM did. But Tony’s rare visits just reinforce what Steve already understands quite well: they all think he’s as useless like this as he does.

So on Day 30 he decides to get drunk.

On Day 31, Steve wakes up feeling like someone’s driving railroad spikes through his eyes. And through the top of his head. And through his temples.

In fact, the only thing that’s preventing him from wanting to die immediately is that someone is stroking his hair.

“Bucky?” he says, hopeful but confused.

The hand in his hair stops. “Sorry,” someone says. “Just me.”

Steve’s too busy remembering that Bucky’s dead to pay attention to who it is. “Unnnnnnghhh,” he says. Then he rolls over, throws up on the floor, and passes out again.

When he wakes up again a few hours later, he still has a headache. He covers his face with his hand and rolls over. The action brings back a vague memory: leaning over to puke.


He cracks an eye open and peeks at the floor, but the vomit has disappeared. There’s a glass of water on his nightstand with two little pills next to it. He sits up gingerly, waits out another wave of nausea, then carefully takes the pills and drinks the glass of water.

He remembers

  • Drinking gin with Sam
  • Drinking scotch alone after Sam got called out
  • ...
  • Puking on the floor
  • Waking up

He doesn’t remember anything between drinking alone and throwing up. He has no idea how he got to bed, let alone who cleaned up after him and brought him water and painkillers.

So the little shriek he lets out when he sees Tony lying face-down on his couch, clad only in black briefs? He feels like that is perfectly justifiable.

“Shut up,” Tony mumbles, burying his face deeper in the corner of the couch, and then what sounds like, “Kill you with a toe.”

Whose toe, Steve almost asks, but some things are better not to know. He crutches back to the linen closet, grabs a blanket, and drapes it over Tony.

Tony immediately shoves it off with a grunt. “What is wrong with you?” he says without opening his eyes. “It is boiling hot in here. Why do you think I’m in my underwear?”

“I didn’t actually know,” Steve replies. “I mean, I don’t know why you’re on my couch, let alone in your underwear.”

Tony opens his left eye then, rolling it slowly toward the sound of Steve’s voice. When he sees Steve, he sits up and wraps the blanket around himself, leaving only his ankles and feet bare. “Well, I’ve intruded on your hospitality long enough,” he says, not meeting Steve’s eyes as he gathers up his clothes. “Time to get back to work. Drink your water!” And with a graceful wiggle and dart, he slides off the couch and out the door.

Steve stares after him. “What was that about?” he asks the empty apartment.

In the middle of his shower, he remembers.

Steve was on his third glass of scotch when he decided that drinking more was a bad idea. He wanted to see Tony, and he didn’t want to be drinking in Tony’s presence. So he finished his glass, lurched over to the sink, and rinsed it out. The bottle of scotch got shoved in the cabinet. He brushed his teeth (because he didn’t want his breath to smell like alcohol) and combed his hair (so he wouldn’t have drunk hair). Then he called Tony.

“Yep,” Tony said when he picked up the phone.

Steve burst out laughing.

“Steve?” Tony said. He sounded tired.

“You sound tired,” Steve said.

There was a brief pause. “Yeah, well, I’m working hard to get you better,” Tony said finally. “Is there a problem? Are you okay?”

“I am great,” Steve said. He was enunciating his words clearly. Tony had no idea how drunk he was! “I feel wonderful. You should come up here and play some poker with me.”

“Poker,” Tony said.

“Five-card stu-u-ud,” Steve said, and then he started laughing again.

“Jesus, Steve,” Tony said. “You sound -- okay. All right. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

“Or we could go out!” Steve exclaimed.

“No!” Tony said. “No, we’ll just -- I’ll be right up. Do not leave your apartment.”

“I’m tired of my apartment.”

“We’ll liven it up. Just promise me you’ll stay there.” Tony’s voice sounded breathless, like maybe he was running up the stairs.

“Okay,” Steve said. Through the drunken haze, he came to a sudden, dim realization. “Are you running up the stairs?”

“Just through the hallways,” Tony replied.

“You need to stay in better shape,” Steve said. “We should spar more. You shouldn’t be that out of breath from running through the halls. Are you sick again?”

“I’m fine,” Tony said. “And come on. You really think sparring with me is going to do any good?”

Steve froze. He’d forgotten for a moment that he was skinny and scrawny and no good to anyone.

“Oh, hell. I didn’t mean it like that,” Tony said into Steve’s silence. “I just meant that when you’re you, you can beat me with one hand tied behind your back, and I just end up collapsed and sweaty and agreeing to all kinds of paperwork to get out of the next session.”

“When I’m me,” Steve agreed, making his voice as calm and normal as he could. Even now, he wasn’t drunk enough to let Tony know how sharp that sense of betrayal was.

“Okay, no, I didn’t mean that like that either,” Tony said.

“‘S okay, Tony.” Steve leaned forward with his forehead on the table. “‘S true. I’m not me right now.”

“Hey, no,” Tony said. “You’re still you. You’re just… concentrated.”

“Right. Which is why even though I still have combat training and experience, even though I’m still the team’s best tacshishan -- tactician, I’m not allowed back in the field. Or out of my apartment.”

“Wow, okay. First of all, you have barely-healed cracked ribs and a broken leg, Steve, and also? You’re a moody drunk.” Tony sighed. “Come let me in.”

Steve ended the call and unlocked the door. “I’m not drinking,” he told Tony.

Tony raised his eyebrows. “Sure you’re not,” he said as Steve closed the door behind him. “You’ve gone all wobbly for some other reason.”

“Well, I’m done for tonight, anyway.”

Tony just laughed. “I think you’ve already had more than enough. You promised me poker.”

“Yes,” Steve said, and then he kind of swayed forward and he and Tony were -- kissing?

That hadn’t been the plan.

He and Tony both made surprised little noises. Steve’s balance failed him, and he tilted toward Tony’s body, his hands clutching at Tony’s shirt. And, okay, maybe he hadn’t meant to kiss Tony, but now it seemed like the best idea he’d ever had. He’d missed Tony, these last few weeks, and he’d never realized in their separations before (when he’d been occupied with missions or Sharon or Bernie or Rachel) how much he missed Tony when they were apart. Years of friendship, of long-simmering attraction, had been building toward this, inevitable as a volcanic eruption.

Steve slid his hands down to Tony’s waist, slipping his fingers up under Tony’s shirt hem to stroke the soft skin there. Tony let out a whimper at that, and Steve moved to deepen the kiss. He wanted Tony, he’d always wanted Tony, just like he’d always wanted Iron Man, even before he’d known they were the same person. Maybe he could be grateful for this one thing, that the serum’s absence allowed him to lower his inhibitions enough to do what he should have done years ago.

But Tony pushed him away.

Steve stared at him, at his wet mouth and flushed cheeks, at his blue eyes gone heavy-lidded. The signs of his desire were marked so clearly on his face that, even drunk, Steve could read them.

“What’s wrong?” Steve said.

“I can’t do this,” Tony said. “Not now, not like this.” He waved his hand in a gesture that encompassed Steve’s entire, scrawny body.

“Oh,” Steve said. He stumbled back a little. He could understand why Tony wouldn’t want him like this, but he’d just -- he’d thought what they had, their history, their friendship, counted for more than his muscles.

Apparently not.

“I mean, I want you, I do, but later, when you’re -- tomorrow,” Tony said, a little desperately, but he leaned back against the door, away from Steve. “Come to the lab after you sober up tomorrow. If you still want to.”

Surprise pierced the shame and hurt. He hadn’t realized Tony was that close to a solution. He guessed Tony was more motivated than he’d thought. “Of course I do. That soon?”

Tony gave him a weird look. “Yeah? I mean, how long do you think it’s going to take?”

“I dunno,” Steve said. “I’m not exactly the expert here.”

Tony winced. “Oh,” he said. “Yeah, that’s fair. Uh, sure, tomorrow. You’ll be back to normal tomorrow. I mean, you might not feel so great, but --”

“And then we can --”

Tony’s cheeks went pink. “Yes. God, Steve.”

Steve still didn’t know whether to be relieved or hurt. “Okay,” he said. He drew himself up as straight as he could when the apartment seemed to be moving so alarmingly around him. “But for now you promised me poker.”

He remembers two hands of poker, and then things get spotty. He must have fallen asleep at the table because he remembers waking briefly when Tony gathered him in his arms -- like a child, Steve thought, no less bitter through his drowsiness -- and carried him to bed.

“‘S not fair,” he told Tony, while Tony tucked him into bed. “I jus’ wanna be -- wanna be --” He cast around for what it would mean to not have a broken leg. “Fixed.”

“I know,” Tony sighed.

“Why’m I still not fixed?” Steve asked, and a dim part of his mind knew that he’d hate himself later for the tears sliding into his hair.

“I’m doing my best,” Tony said. “I’m trying.”

Steve rolled over to hide his tears. “I’ll be okay. You can go,” he said into his pillow, not wanting Tony to see him like this.

He heard Tony swallow. “Right,” Tony said, and that was the last Steve remembered.

After Steve’s shower, he pulls on a pair of sweatpants, tightens the drawstring as much as possible, and struggles into a t-shirt. His ribs still twinge when he moves wrong.

He dreads having to see Tony after how badly he screwed up the night before. With a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach, he grabs his crutches and makes his way down to the lab.

Tony’s in conference with Hank and Peter. Steve watches them debate for a while, until he needs to sit down and thus fully enters the room.

“Steve!” Hank says, finally. “What are you doing here?”

“Are you -- I thought you were ready,” Steve says.

Tony hunches his shoulders a little. “Not quite,” he says. “I’m -- we’re doing the best we can, but…”

“If the supersoldier serum were easy to crack,” Peter says, “we’d have, like, ten fewer superheroes. Or supervillains, for that matter.”

“Oh,” Steve says. “But -- last night -- I thought Tony said it would be ready today.”

Tony frowns. “I never said that.”

“You did,” Steve replies. “I know you did. You said to come down to the lab today.”

For a brief second, Tony looks like Steve’s punched him. Then he plasters on a smile. “Excuse us for a moment,” he says to Hank and Peter, and he stalks into the far corner of the workshop before turning to wait for Steve to follow.

“So you’re down here because you thought that the serum would be ready,” Tony says. “That’s why you thought I told you to come here?”

“Well, yeah,” Steve says, wondering at the repetition. “You said --” But he can’t finish. The sharp humiliation of that rejection -- the rejection of the original, unaugmented Steve Rogers -- catches like a spiked lump in his throat.

“You remember?” Tony says. “But this morning --”

“I remembered after you left,” Steve tells him.

Tony’s silent for a moment. He probably doesn’t know how to let Steve down again.

“It’s fine, Tony,” Steve blurts when he can’t handle the prospect anymore. “No big deal. Just a kiss. We can still be friends, right?”

Tony clenches his jaw, and for a terrifying second Steve thinks he’s lost everything just because of that idiotic kiss. But then Tony nods. “Yeah.” He puts a hand on Steve’s shoulder, warm and comforting and platonic as ever before. “Of course, Steve.”

Steve swallows and then smiles up at Tony. “Alright, I’ll stop bothering you. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“Hey, no problem,” Tony says, but he tosses it over his shoulder dismissively as he turns away to go back to work.

Steve watches as he and the others hunker down again, noting the pull of Tony’s shirt over his shoulders, the sinuous strength of his arms, the bare sleekness of the skin exposed when his shirt lifts as he makes an expansive gesture. Steve remembers touching that skin.

Now that he’s opened up the part of his brain that had been quietly wanting Tony, he can’t close it off again. But if Tony wants him, it’s clearly not the same way. So he hobbles away, and he wants, and he desperately wishes he could redo the past twenty-four hours.

The next day he gets a walking cast, an idea, and a thick folder from Nick Fury.

“What we need is to raid AIM for the formula they used to reverse the serum,” he tells the assembled Avengers. Several more people had returned within the past couple of days, and the table is pretty crowded: Carol, Tony, Rhodey, Sam, T’Challa, Peter, Jessica Drew, Logan, Jan, Hank, Clint, Natasha, and Bruce.

“Steve,” Jan says, gently, “you must know we’ve tried that already. We should have told you.”

“It’s okay,” he says. He throws down the file folder he’d gotten from Fury earlier. “But I went back over the intel. I can see why you thought it was at the three other AIM facilities you raided. But look at these surveillance photos.”

Carol, next to him, opens the folder and starts flipping through the photos, passing them along.

“The activity isn’t as high as the others,” Steve says. The photos start making it around to Tony, who does something with his phone; the pictures appear projected in midair. “This is a funeral home in Staten Island. We have surveillance on it because the NYPD thinks it’s a Mafia front. But look at who keeps showing up.”

The photo makes it to Tony. When the image appears, Bruce draws in a breath. “Monica Rappaccini,” he says.

Steve nods. “I think she’s making another bid to regain the title of Scientist Supreme from MODOK.”

“And you were her audition,” Sam says.

Steve shrugs. “It makes sense, doesn’t it?” he says. “She seems to be trying to recruit more supporters within AIM. Notice she keeps showing up with just two or three people, and never the same ones. I think the AIM attack was her flexing her muscles within the organization. And I think she’s gotten sloppy now because she’s convinced she’s thrown us into disarray. She thinks we don’t know about this place, and she’s sacrificing heavy defense in favor of stealth right now. But if we wait much longer, she’ll consolidate her power, and once she does that she won’t have to choose between defense and stealth.”

The others are nodding. Tony is smiling faintly, though Steve tries not to look at him much.

“So how soon do you think we need to move?” Clint asks.

“Tonight,” Steve says. “We’ll grab everything he’s got. If we’re lucky, she’ll have an antidote already prepared. If not, well, at least we have the original formula.” He nods at Carol. “There are blueprints in there, both the official ones and the ones showing the somewhat less-than-legal updates.”

They appear soon enough, and Steve lays out the plan.

It feels almost like normal.

It would be nice to say the plan goes off without a hitch. Of course, it doesn’t. Most of the small base gets taken care of quickly -- Tony and Rhodey disable the booby-traps while the rest of them take out the small defense force. Rappaccini’s teleportation belt makes everything tricky -- they knew it would, but Steve hoped that at least one of them would be able to get close enough to her to disable it or cut it off.

“Wasp,” Steve says over the comms. “You’re the only one who’s going to be able to get to her unnoticed. She keeps returning to the hidden room in the northwest corner -- go there and hide until she comes back again. Black Panther, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine, I want you nearby as backup.”

Jan goes, but Rappaccini is still able to zap in and out several times to salvage various formulas and experiments. Finally, Jan manages to dart in and blast the belt’s mechanism. As soon as she has, she calls to the others who are waiting, and it’s only moments before Rappaccini is bound in spider webbing and sneering at them.

“I know what you’re looking for,” she says. “You’ll never find it. I destroyed it.”

“No, she didn’t,” Steve says, just as everyone in the room choruses, “No, you didn’t.”

The Avengers are all wearing cams, and Steve’s monitoring the feeds. He watches Rappaccini’s eyes. She looks at the Avengers, she looks all around the room, but her eyes only flit to the southeast corner a couple of times. There’s a bright orange cabinet there.

“Look behind or under the orange cabinet,” Steve says. “Watch out for booby-traps.”

T’Challa moves over and surveys it. Rappaccini ramps up her monologue -- standard villain fare, really. Steve ignores her.

Through T’Challa’s cam, Steve can see… the cabinet. But T’Challa moves quickly: he uses one of his vibranium claws to slice through the lock, and then he cuts through a pair of wires that Steve hadn’t been able to see and a panel opens in the back.

There are half a dozen vials there, neatly labeled, with documentation on the shelf below.

“Thank goodness she’s a scientist by training,” Jan says when she sees what T’Challa is doing. “And not just a mad scientist.”

“We definitely can work with this,” Peter says. He trades places with T’Challa, reading the labels and flipping through documentation. “Yeah, this one is the formula that hit you, Cap. I don’t think there’s an antidote here, but we can create one now that we have the original.”

Steve’s eyes burn a little. He clears his throat. “Great work, everyone. Let’s clean up and move out.”

The mission hasn’t taken very long, and when they return to the mansion, everyone is so jubilant about their success that a party breaks out. Steve laughs and laughs, until his ribs ache unpleasantly. He is careful to drink his drinks slowly and not to let anyone hand him anything other than beer.

He can’t help watching Tony from across the room, though he tries not to. Tony doesn’t watch him.

Steve wakes up just before dawn. He needs to pee, and his mouth is parched. As he’s turning back towards his bed, he realizes that he’s awake enough that he won’t be going to sleep again.

He makes his way out to the living room in search of the biography of Lyndon B. Johnson he’s been reading. Then he remembers that he hasn’t read it in a few days, and the last time he did, he left it in the team media room.

He sighs.

When he finally limps into the media room, the TV is on. The light is enough, barely, to show him the thick volume, still on the end table closest to the TV, with beer bottles all over it. Tony is asleep on the couch.

Steve hesitates -- he doesn’t want to wake Tony. But Tony’s breathing is slow and even. Steve decides to dare it and struggles across the room toward the end table.

“You’re up late,” Tony says from behind him, and Steve jumps and twists around and almost falls over.

“Jeez, Tony,” Steve says. “I thought you were asleep. You’re gonna give me a heart attack.”

Tony sits up. “I’m sorry,” he says. He wipes a hand down his face. “I know I should be in the lab -- but --”

Steve frowns. “You can’t be in the lab all the time,” he says. “You need rest, too. You’re the one giving yourself a really short deadline here; you don’t need to work yourself to the bone. I did survive 25 years like this, you know.”

“I wish you’d make up your mind,” Tony says, nettled. “You’re the one who --” He stops, visibly swallowing down whatever he was going to say.

Steve closes his eyes. Time to deal with this, then. “I’m sorry I kissed you,” he says. “I didn’t mean to, and if I wasn’t drunk, I would have realized you’d never --” His mouth twists with the effort of not losing control. He has to be honest. “I know you’d never want me like this. I wasn’t trying to ruin our friendship.”

Tony is silent for so long that Steve finally risks a glance at him, only to find that he’s staring at Steve, his mouth open in astonishment.

“What?” Steve says.

The word catapults Tony into action. He leaps up, bangs his shin on the coffee table, knocks over several empty bottles, yelps, but still scrambles over to Steve.

“Steve,” he says. “I want you just like this. All the time. Always. Just not when you’re drunk.”

Steve looks at Tony’s wide blue eyes, and then his gaze darts to Tony’s mouth, and then they’re kissing again, hot and open and -- and Steve can’t believe he gets this. Tony’s fingers slide into Steve’s hair; his thumbs caress Steve’s jaw, and Steve whimpers a little at the feeling. He wants to touch Tony, so he does, his hands tracing around Tony’s belt and slipping under his shirt once more.

Tony moans into his mouth and presses his hips against Steve, who is relieved to discover that Tony’s hard, too. He fumbles at Tony’s belt, but Tony bats his hands away.

“I want you,” Tony says. He pulls Steve’s shirt over his head. There’s a crackle of static; Steve just knows his hair is sticking out and making him look like a dandelion clock: a fuzzy head on a skinny little stem. But Tony’s kissing him again, opening Steve’s pants enough to get his cock out, making noises like there’s nothing sexier than Steve’s concave chest and curved spine and general frailty.

And then his mouth is hot and wet on Steve’s dick. Steve can’t help the little cry he lets out. “Tony,” he says, over and over, gasping at the quick movements of Tony’s tongue, the clever way he plays with Steve’s foreskin, the way he sucks Steve deep.

Without the serum, this is going to be over quickly; his balls are tightening already. “I’m -- I’m coming,” Steve manages, and Tony hums around him and then just pulls him deeper, swallowing and swallowing as Steve comes with a long, low groan.

Tony pushes him gently down onto the couch. Steve reaches for him, missing his belt by a few inches the first time but catching it the second. “Let me,” Steve says.

He unfastens the belt, unbuttons and unzips Tony’s pants, and then pulls down his underwear so that his cock springs free. It’s at just the right height for him to lean forward and lick the shiny head, his twinging ribs be damned.

“Steve,” Tony says. His dick is thicker than Steve expected, tan up to the circumcision scar and then a surprising pink from the scar to the head. His breath catches as Steve licks just beneath the head, and a clear drop of liquid wells up along the slit before Steve licks that away, too. “Christ, you’re going to be the death of me. Look at you.”

Steve can’t ever remember feeling powerful like this in this body. He looks up at Tony as he cups Tony’s balls, and Tony’s cock twitches and bumps against Steve’s lips. “Ahh, god,” Tony gasps.

Steve opens his mouth and lets Tony press in. He’s never done this before, but he’s thought about it a lot. A lot. Tony slides out. Steve kisses around the flare of the glans, runs his tongue along it, and then sucks him in.

He has plans to draw this out, to give Tony time to savor the experience, but it seems Tony’s as worked up as he was. He’s only starting to get into the rhythm, pressing a finger behind Tony’s balls, when Tony says, “Fuck, Steve, I’m gonna --” and then he’s coming in Steve’s mouth, salty and bitter and perfect.

Tony collapses beside him on the couch, breathing heavily. “Jesus,” he says. He leans over to give Steve a slow, lingering kiss. “We should take this to a bed before we traumatize someone.”

Steve smiles into another kiss. “Okay,” he says, dreamy, and lets Tony pull him up.

Steve wakes up in Tony’s bed, with Tony snoring gently in his ear and clinging to him. He’s skinny and his leg is still broken and his ribs are still painful and sore, but for once he doesn’t feel lonely or useless.

Tony can take his time in the lab. Steve can be part of the team, can be with Tony, just as he is.

He stretches and coughs, and then his breaths turn a little wheezy.

Well, he wouldn’t say no if Tony could restore the serum today.