Logan said it was Peter’s idea. Peter swore it was Jess’s. Either way, Steve was completely unsurprised when Tony readily agreed.
“No,” Steve said. “Absolutely not.”
“C’mon, Steve,” Tony wheedled. “The team needs this. It’s been a hard couple days for us, with the news about Jess and now that dick Jameson drawing all the wrong sorts of attention. You saw how everyone looked last night. We need to break some of that tension, get to know each other better. Besides,” Tony sang, “you always say a team who hangs together, fights together.”
“I never say that,” Steve said, deadpan.
“Well, maybe you should.” Steve rolled his eyes but he could feel himself relenting. Tony did have a good point.
Tony must have sensed he was close because he threw his clasped hands up in front of his chest and stuck out his lip. “Please?” he said. “For me?”
Steve heaved a great big sigh. “Alright, fine.” He turned away from the chorus of cheers to hide his smile.
After all, how bad could a game of Truth or Dare be?
They settled in around the living room – the team minus Sentry but plus Carol, who’d dropped into town for their big press conference yesterday. She and Jess Drew were lounging side by side on the carpet just in front of the TV, with Peter stretched out on his stomach next to them. Steve wondered briefly if Carol had known about Jess and the whole mess with Nick Fury and Hydra. If she even knew now. It wasn’t his place to tell her anyway, and he let his eyes move on.
On Carol’s left sat Logan, slouched low in an armchair with a pack of beers in his lap. Steve frowned. They’d decided to keep the game dry, since Tony couldn’t drink, but he doubted Logan would be here if anyone actually tried to enforce that. Still, it bothered him, even though he knew it didn’t really bother Tony. After all, Tony wouldn’t have asked Logan to join the team if he couldn’t deal with the sight of a beer here and there.
At least Luke wasn’t drinking also. He’d mumbled something about ‘baby duty’ and had flopped down onto the chair across the circle from Logan, leaving Steve and Tony to the couch in the middle.
The game had started tamely enough. It was clear that they weren’t all that comfortable with each other yet and it only took a couple of rounds of halting questions for Steve to see that Tony had been right – the team needed this. Finally Tony took the plunge, asking Logan a question about blowjobs that truthfully, none of them had wanted to know the answer to. It was like breaking a seal, though, and the questions and dares quickly turned more intimate.
“Alright, Stark,” Luke said, when it came back to Tony and he requested a Truth. “Here’s one for you.” He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and looking Tony right in the eye. “Have you and Rhodes ever hooked up?”
Tony stared impassively back, arms folded across his chest. “Define ‘hooked up’.”
“Made out,” said Peter.
“Fucked,” said Logan at the same time.
“Yes,” said Tony simply.
And just like that, Steve’s whole world flipped.
“Wait, yes to which one?” Carol cut in.
Tony shrugged. “No follow up questions.”
“Peter, what the fuck, made out?” Luke said. “How old are you, twelve?”
Peter threw up his hands defensively. “Hey, sorry I don’t rush straight to home base every single time!”
“I would’ve, if it was Rhodes,” Carol said, a little wistful.
The group continued to bicker good-naturedly about Tony’s response but their words went in one ear and out the other. Tony and Rhodes. Well, if that was true, then maybe some of his assumptions about Tony weren’t so correct after all. Maybe Steve could even— no. He jerked his head, trying to shake the thought loose. He wasn’t going to start down that dangerous path.
He tried, instead, to focus on Jess fulfilling Tony’s dare by drinking some beer out of Peter’s belly button. Peter’s girlish squeal as Jess’s tongue grazed his skin brought a smile to Steve’s lips and he felt the tension in his muscles ease somewhat.
“Okay, my turn,” said Jess, straightening up and looking completely unperturbed while Peter rubbed his shirt roughly over his stomach with a scowl. “Steven Rogers. Are you, or have you ever been, in love with anyone in this room?”
Steve’s mouth fell open. He couldn’t believe she’d asked that question so easily while he sat here with his heart clogging up his throat. Perhaps this was her payback for his aggressive questioning of her loyalties.
He slit a glare across the room at Carol. She pulled a face and shrugged helplessly, mouthing ‘I didn’t say anything’ back at him.
For a moment, he considered just lying, or maybe even ending the game. But it had been so good for team morale and he’d never been one to cheat at games. “Yes,” he sighed resignedly.
He kept his eyes firmly on Carol, resolutely ignoring the sharp exhale from the man next to him. Tony surely had to know by now, if Jess and the others knew. None of them had seemed surprised by his answer, after all.
“Carol,” Steve said loudly. “Carol’s turn. Truth or Dare?”
When she answered Dare, he handed it over to the room to come up with something for her to do. He needed to tune the game out for a moment so that he could try and get himself back under control.
The ambush of the question had brought his usually carefully suppressed feelings rushing to the surface; he was suddenly hyper-aware of just how close to Tony he was. Of how good Tony smelled, with that fancy cologne he always wore but with a little hint of motor oil underneath, likely from toiling away downstairs earlier. Of how happy Tony looked with his shirt collar hanging open and muscles loose, his head tipped back as he watched the others with a lazy smile. Of how the whole couch shook when Tony chuckled at Carol spitting chewed-up Oreos all over Jess, his deep-belly chortle jostling the sofa cushions and bringing their bodies together to collide at random parts.
And then of how Tony left his leg there, lying pressed against Steve’s, as he tried to catch his breath from laughing too hard.
“Tony,” Carol called and Tony’s snap to attention startled Steve back to the room at large. “Truth or Dare?”
Tony made a show of pondering the question, putting a finger to his lip and humming thoughtfully. “Dare,” he said finally, a shine of mischief in his eye.
Carol grinned like a predator who’d finally trapped her prey. Steve was suddenly very, very, afraid. “I dare you,” she started slowly, stubbornly ignoring Steve’s attempts to catch her eye, “to kiss the prettiest person in the room on the lips.”
“Psh, that’s it?” Tony said lightly, flapping a hand at her unconcernedly. “Easy enough.” And before Steve knew what was happening, Tony’s hands were on his face, turning his head and pulling him forward and then Tony’s mouth was on his what the fuck was happening what the fuck what the fuck what the-
Just as quickly as it started, it was over. The others were probably saying something, doing something, but all Steve could hear was the roaring in his ears and all he could see was Tony’s face – Tony’s face and the big, smug, grin that sat on it.
Steve shut his mouth with a loud click. The sound reverberated through his jaw and brought the rest of the world crashing back to life. Someone, somewhere, was giggling. Everything was way too bright.
“I think—,” Steve started but his voice was too hoarse, too unfamiliar. He coughed awkwardly, trying to clear his throat. The many sets of eyes on him were burning scars into his skin. “I think I’m going to go to bed.” He stretched his arms over his head, feigning a yawn. “‘m exhausted.” He stood up quickly and stepped away, hoping to get out before anyone could think to protest.
The silence behind him broke right as he stepped through the doorway and his enhanced hearing made sure the murmurs followed him all the way down the corridor to his room. He shut the door behind him and turned, slouching bonelessly against it with a sigh. The wood made a soft thunk as he closed his eyes and let his head tip back.
A ghost of a tingle lingered on his mouth. He ran a finger over his lower lip cautiously, wondering how he’d ever come to be this person, pining so pathetically, being so relentless in it that it became a joke amongst his friends. How on earth could he be expected to lead them like this?
This was all Tony’s fault. It was his idea. What the hell had he been thinking, getting a new team together? They’d been better off apart. Steve had been too weak to resist though, wanting so badly to fight alongside Tony again, to be alongside Tony again, in whatever form Tony would give him.
The sudden knock on the door sent the pieces of his gathering thoughts skittering. He froze, hoping that if he stayed silent enough, the person on the other side would assume he was already sleeping.
“I know you’re not sleeping.”
Tony. Of course it was. Steve took a deep breath and forced it gustily out his nose. He swallowed once, slapped a smile on his face, and turned and pulled open the door, just enough to stick his head out.
“What’s going on? Anything wrong?”
The anxious look on Tony’s face immediately morphed into total disbelief. “Is anything— Jesus, Steve, you all but ran off to your room after I— you just took off!”
“I told you, I’m tired.”
“Right,” Tony said, laughing harshly and Steve’s gut lurched. “So suddenly overwhelmed with how tired you are that you just had to get out of there without another word.” He stuck a hand out and shoved at the half-closed door, revealing Steve still fully clad in his street clothes and the room just as neat as he’d left it this morning. “Sure looks like you’re making a move to go right to bed.”
Steve felt a sudden flash of annoyance. “Why does it matter to you, what I do?”
“Why does it matter?” Tony repeated, incredulous. “Why does it matter?” He stared at Steve for a moment, then in a burst of motion, shouldered his way straight past Steve and into the room. “I don’t even know how to begin answering that question.”
“Well, it certainly looks like you’re determined to try,” Steve retorted, kicking the door shut behind him.
“Of course I am! You— you’re just so—" Tony threw his hands in the air, as if that just about summed his point up.
“Well-put,” Steve spat scathingly. Tony glared at him and for a moment they just stared at each other, both struggling to reign themselves back in.
Steve pinched his nose. This is exactly what he’d been trying to avoid. He knew if he kept pushing, things were only likely to escalate to a place neither of them wanted. He knew it and he still couldn’t stop, like picking at the edges of a fresh-healed scab to poke at the wound underneath. He dropped his hand and took a deep breath. “I just don’t understand why you did it,” he said, hating how hollow his voice sounded.
“It was a dare!” Tony snapped. “She dared me to! Why is it such a big fucking deal?”
Steve’s fists clenched. “I know you can be rude and obnoxious and sometimes incredibly arrogant but I didn’t know you could be so—“ He faltered, grasping desperately for the right words. “—so callous. So cruel.”
Tony took the words like a blow. The fight drained out of him as quickly as it’d come and he just stood there, limp. “It was just a kiss, Steve,” he said tiredly. “Just a game.” He swiped a hand over his face and sighed. “It didn’t mean anything.”
Steve shook his head slightly, back and forth. He squeezed his lips tight and swallowed hard, hoping suddenly that this was all just a dream. A nightmare. “Well," he whispered, unable to take it anymore, "it meant something to me."
He didn’t want to see Tony’s reaction to his words, couldn’t even stand to look at his face at the moment so he took a step sideways and sat down hard on the bed, letting his head fall into his hands.
There was silence for a long moment, except for the soft sound of Tony’s shaking breaths. Then footsteps, faint but growing louder as Tony came to a stop right in front of him.
“Why?” Tony asked, the word quiet as a pin drop. “Why does it mean so much to you?”
Steve rubbed hard at his eyes and dropped his hands to his lap. He tilted his head back until his eyes found Tony's. He had no idea what the other man was thinking but he thought the sadness there looked familiar; he just couldn’t think where he’d seen it.
“I think you already know,” Steve said tonelessly.
Something flickered in Tony’s expression and his jaw tightened.
“Seems like everyone knows,” Steve continued. “Apparently I’m way more obvious than I ever thought. I never would have guessed that all of you knew—”
“Never mind, Steve, I don’t need you to say it. I know—” Tony cut in in a rush, their words overlapping.
“--that I’m in love with you.” Steve finished.
“--that you’re in love with Carol. Wait what?”
“What?” They blinked at each other, matching expressions of blank shock. “You think I’m in love with Carol?”
“You’re in love with me?”
“Why would you think I’m in love with Carol?”
“I don’t know!” Tony shoved a hand roughly through his hair. “The way you interact, maybe? You’re both just so— I mean, look at yesterday! Who do you think she flew all this way for? And the way you hugged her, and then you disappeared off for your secret discussion, and you guys kept looking at each other all night and then you said, you said someone in the room…you said…” He trailed off, his face going slack as understanding seemed to click in his brain. “You meant me,” he finished, his voice hushed with awe and Steve’s traitorous heart jumped as hope filled his veins.
Tony collapsed to his knees in front of Steve and looked up at him with a strange curiosity in his eyes. Steve stayed stock-still, afraid to move a muscle as Tony reached out one hand and rested it lightly, reverently on his cheek. He could feel Tony’s hand trembling against his skin.
Or maybe it was just Steve who was shaking all over.
“You love me?” Tony asked softly.
“I love you,” Steve breathed.
“I love you, too,” Tony replied, a face full of wonder. He passed his thumb over Steve’s cheek, stroking once, twice. “Say it again,” he whispered. His hand moved up through the side of Steve’s hair, falling to rest on the back of his neck.
“I love you,” Steve said obediently, dropping his head forward until Tony caught it with his shoulder.
“I love you, too,” Tony replied. He wound his free hand around Steve’s waist.
“I love you,” Steve murmured into Tony’s neck.
“I love you, too,” Tony repeated, holding tight.
They stayed like that for a long moment, shaking in each other’s arms and just repeating the words they’d both been holding back for years, over and over again like a mantra, trying desperately to make up for all the times they’d choked the sentiment down when it threatened to spill from their lips and ruin everything.
Eventually Steve lifted his head and unwound his hands from the tight grip they’d found on Tony’s shirt. They found their way instead to Tony’s cheeks, and he let them rest there as he leaned forward and finally brought their lips together in the softest of touches.
This was the way it was supposed to go, Steve thought. Not Tony’s lips crashing down onto his in a room full of teammates new and old. But here, just for them; feather-light but with the full weight of their shared history bringing them together in more than just touch.
Steve gripped his biceps and tugged, needing Tony up here with him, not craning up at him from down below like he was something lesser. Because they were equals in this like they were equals in everything, two ends of an ever-shifting scale, and they pulled and they pushed and they kept each other steady.
Tony managed to make it onto Steve’s lap without even breaking the kiss. He threw his arms over Steve’s shoulders and tilted his head, licking his way into Steve’s mouth and soon Steve’s head was spinning and his heart was thumping and if this was a dream he never wanted to wake up.
He eased backwards onto the mattress and Tony went with him, chasing his mouth while his hands started working at the buttons near Steve’s collar. Tony moved his mouth to Steve’s neck and he sucked briefly at his collarbone, then continued his way down as the buttons revealed more and more of Steve’s skin.
Steve buried a hand in Tony’s hair, groaning loudly as Tony licked his way down his stomach and to the growing bulge in Steve’s pants. Tony mouthed at it briefly through the fabric, then pulled back slightly to work at Steve’s belt buckle. He grinned up at Steve as he tugged his pants open and that was about all the warning Steve got before Tony’s mouth was on his dick fuck—
Steve threw an arm over his eyes, hoping if he couldn’t see Tony’s look of intense concentration, his increasingly wet lips, he’d somehow last longer. He moved his hand from Tony’s hair to the sheets, gripping them as tight as he could so that he wouldn’t thrust up into the sweet heat of Tony’s mouth. There was a faint ripping sound but Steve found it hard to care, especially when Tony’s hand wrapped around the base of Steve’s shaft, twisting lightly as he bobbed up and down.
“Oh god, Tony—” Steve swallowed hard. He wanted to touch him but he couldn’t reach and he just needed— “Stop,” he rasped out suddenly. “Tony, stop.” He dropped his elbows to the bed and levered himself up.
Tony’s mouth pulled off his dick with an obscene pop. “What’s wrong?” Tony asked worriedly, his lips glistening, his hair a mess and his eyes so, so, soft and oh god it was almost enough to undo Steve right there.
“No, it’s great, it’s amazing,” Steve hastened to reassure him. “I just— you’re wearing too much clothing,” he said, frustrated.
Tony barked out a surprised laugh but he pushed off Steve and stood. He quickly stripped while Steve did the same, lifting his hips to shove his pants and underwear all the way off and shrugging out of his unbuttoned shirt.
“Now,” Tony said, tossing a sock over his shoulder, “where were we?”
Steve barely got the chance to take in the lean muscle of Tony’s exceedingly gorgeous and very naked body before Tony was on top of him, his hands either side of Steve’s head and his lips finding their way back to Steve’s once more. The position brought their cocks together and Steve gasped into Tony’s mouth as the contact send shocks all the way down into his toes. He hooked his legs over Tony’s broad back, trying desperately to close the gap between them as much as possible. Tony groaned low into Steve’s mouth and thrust his hips, sending sparks across Steve’s eyes.
Tony tore his lips away from Steve, desperate for air and Steve took the opportunity to bring a hand to his mouth and lick a long, wet stripe across his palm. Then he dropped the hand between them, readjusting slightly until he could take them both in hand at once.
“Fuck, Steve,” Tony cried out as Steve pumped his hand, slowly at first, then faster as Tony started to move with him. Tony buried his face in Steve’s neck, muttering a stream of curses and cries too rapid for Steve to follow. He inhaled sharply, his forehead pressing hard into Steve’s skin and then he was coming, exploding all over Steve’s hand, and the sounds he rumbled into Steve’s throat were enough to take Steve right along with him.
They lay there for a moment, Tony a boneless lump on top of Steve and both of them gasping for air. Then, to Steve’s sorrow, Tony rolled off of him, flopping onto his back beside him instead. Steve turned his head to follow him and was distracted for a moment by the sight of Tony Stark’s dark rumpled hair against his light blue sheets.
As his heart rate dropped back to normal, he gradually became aware of the uncomfortable stickiness all over his stomach and hand. Curious, he lifted his hand to his mouth and cautiously licked at one finger.
“Oh god, Steve, please stop,” Tony begged. “My poor heart can’t take another round quite yet.” Steve laughed, dropping his hand back to his stomach as Tony levered himself off the bed and disappeared into the bathroom.
He came back and perched himself on the bed and took Steve’s hand by the wrist. One by one, he wiped off Steve’s fingers with the warm, damp cloth he’d brought back with him.
Steve watched, chest tight, as Tony carefully cleaned his stomach next, overly gentle for no reason at all. A thought struck him then and he swallowed past the tightening in his throat to say, “I’m sorry I called you cruel.”
Tony didn’t say anything for a moment, just kept his focus on the task at hand. Only once he’d tossed the dirty cloth over his shoulder and lay back down on his side, his forearm between his cheek and the pillow, did he speak.
“I’m sorry I said it didn’t mean anything,” he said, his words just as hoarse as Steve's had been.
Steve rested a hand on the side of Tony’s neck and stroked a thumb across his cheek, relishing the feel of the warm, clammy skin under the bristles of Tony’s familiar facial hair. His lips quirked at the way Tony turned his face into the touch. “We’re just a couple of morons, aren’t we,” Steve said, not really asking.
“Yup,” Tony agreed anyway. He wriggled forward until he was sharing Steve’s pillow – sharing Steve’s air – and hooked an arm over Steve’s stomach. “But at least we’re morons who love each other.”
Steve laughed, still shocked at how right the words sounded, and leaned forward to kiss the dumb grin on Tony’s face.
Just because he could.