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Debriefings were one of the things that Tony hated the most about being an Avenger. Most of the time he managed to avoid having to sit through the mind numbing boredom - it was pretty hard for someone to stop him from getting away when he was in the suit - but this time, the thrusters in the left leg had been blown to bits by a lucky hit. He wouldn't be able to fly anywhere until he got the chance to fix it.

Which was why he was stuck sitting at the huge oval table with the rest of the team, waiting for the moment when Fury would decide to grace them all with his presence. So far that hadn't happened, probably because Fury was an asshole who liked to flaunt his power in increasingly annoying ways, and Tony was rapidly passing the point of tired and headed full steam towards passing out on the table unless he got some coffee in the next ten minutes.

Actual coffee, that is. Not the sludge that SHIELD claimed passed as coffee.

"You know," he commented to no one in particular, "I could bill SHIELD a lot of money for the past hour alone. My time is expensive."

"No one is happy to be here," Steve said, shooting him a look of disapproval. "But this is important."

"I don't see why," Tony muttered. "I was there for the whole battle. I know what happened already."

Steve's look intensified into a Look, but the door opened before he could respond. Fury strode inside, coat billowing dramatically. Coulson and Hill were right behind him. All three of them sat in the last remaining seats.

"Talk," Fury ordered.

"It was a standard fight," Natasha said after a beat of silence.

"There's nothing standard about a 50 feet ant, Agent Romanov."

"We first became aware of the problem when Jarvis alerted us at 21:00," Steve began. What followed was a rundown of the past six hours that somehow managed to make a battle with a 50 foot ant that spewed acid sound boring. It was quite the gift that Captain Rogers possessed, really.

Fury listened carefully. Hill was jotting down notes. Coulson had been there for the whole thing, even though you'd never know it from his impeccable suit, but he was listening too. The other Avengers chimed in from time to time, but Tony remained quiet.

Right up until Steve got to the end of the story. "And then Iron Man -"

"And then Thor threw his hammer through the ant's head, the end," Tony cut in. "Are we done yet?"

"Stark," Coulson said warningly.

"I'm just saying, the ant's dead. SHIELD gets to do clean-up. I get to foot the bill for the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. Everybody wins." Tony stood up. "I'm outta here."

Clint, Bruce and Thor all got up at the same time. Natasha and Steve were slower to follow. Fury scowled, but didn't protest as the six of them trooped out of the room. No doubt he'd planned to spend several more hours hashing out what had happened, what had been done right vs. what hadn't, and why, but Tony just wasn't cut out for that. He needed to get back to the workshop to fix the suit a.s.a.p. and then crash for a while.

On the way back to the jet, Steve caught up and stopped him with a hand to his shoulder. "Stark."

"Yeah, Cap?"

"Why didn't you let me finish?"

"Because you'd already been talking for like an hour?" Tony said warily, glad that he couldn't feel Steve's hand through the armor. "If you want to tell stories, by all means go ahead, just don't expect me to sit there while you do it."

"But I left out what you did," Steve said, and he looked so fucking earnest about it. Tony almost laughed.

"Don't let it keep you up all night. It's not like it would matter."

"What do you mean?"

Tony almost, almost walked away. With anyone else, he wouldn't have had to bother explaining. But there was something about Steve's blue eyes that kept him rooted in place, and slowly the words began to spill out.

"No one cares what I do, Cap," he said, spreading his arms for emphasis. "I'm the guy that people love to hate. Merchant of death, most famous mass murderer in the history of America, liar, butcher, guilty, narcissistic, compulsive, volatile, self-obsessed. I've been called just about every name in the book, and a few that people have invented just for me. So don't waste your breath telling them about me or what you think I did. It's not going to change a damned thing."

"But..." Steve trailed off, his eyebrows pulling together in bewilderment. "You saved a whole block of people. They would be dead right now if it weren't for you."

"Yeah, well, when you got as much red in your ledger as I do, that doesn't really matter, Cap. Unless it's something bad that people can jump all over me for, no one gives a shit. It's just the way it is." He stepped backwards, letting Steve's hand slide from his shoulder. "Like I said. Don't waste your breath."

Steve opened his mouth and then closed it. Tony figured that meant the conversation was done. Maybe now Steve would actually stop trying to drag him to debriefings. He turned around and headed down the hall to catch the plane before Clint decided to leave without them.

--

It took him a solid 24 hours to fix the damage done to the thrusters on the suit, and that wasn't even counting the cosmetic repairs. Tony sat back on his heels and sighed as he inspected the inner workings of the left leg. It would be battle ready if necessary, which was the main thing, but he strived to keep his suit in as perfect condition as possible at all times. With the way the Avengers had been getting called out lately, that was getting harder and harder.

"Jarvis, bring up the specs for the Mark VII," he said absently.

"If you're at the point where you could take a break, maybe you could eat something first."

"Jesus!" He jumped about a foot in the air at the sudden sound of the voice right over his right shoulder. "What the fuck, Rogers?"

"Sorry," Steve said quickly, holding his hands up. "I thought you knew I was here. Jarvis let me in twenty minutes ago."

"Jarvis?" Tony repeated blankly.

"Yes sir. It has been approximately 19 hours since you last ate," Jarvis said, and if an A.I. could sound disapproving - and take it from Tony, they could - he was bringing it full force.

"19 hours?" Steve said, narrowing his eyes at Tony.

"I've been busy. Working," Tony added, just in case that wasn't blatantly obvious.

Steve didn't look pleased, but he just said, "I brought you down some of the curry that Bruce made. And some bread. And coffee, but you're not getting that until you've eaten something."

Tony shot a longing look at his suit, but the promise of coffee was difficult to ignore. Reluctantly, he stood up - and goddamnit, he was getting old if he couldn't even kneel for a couple of hours without practically falling over - and walked over to his desk where Steve had left the food. It looked and smelled delicious. Bruce was excellent in the kitchen, particularly when he was cooking Indian or Chinese, and the team took shameless advantage whenever possible.

He grabbed the fork and shoved some of the curry in his mouth, groaning softly at the combination of spices, and decided that his suit could wait for a few minutes.

"Thanks Rogers," he said through a mouthful of bread.

"You're welcome," Steve said. He hesitated, glancing at the door, but didn't leave.

"Was there something else you needed?" Tony asked, wondering if the food was a way of buttering him up. Not that it was necessary, he'd gladly make any of the Avengers anything technological they might need to keep them safe, but Steve had never asked for anything.

"No. I just - You're really smart, Stark."

He paused in the middle of another bite of curry. "Um. Thank you?"

Steve nodded, looking awkward, and finally headed for the door. Tony watched him go, confusion mounting.

What the hell was that about?

--

On Tuesday morning, Steve brought him breakfast and told him that he was "a very hard worker and that was something to be admired, because no one else would have been able to do what you do".

Wednesday during a training session, he and Steve were the last in the gym. As he was walking out, Steve said, "you're a lot more outside of the suit than I could have imagined. I'm sorry I ever said you weren't." And then left, leaving Tony feeling he'd just been sucker punched.

On Thursday night, after another call to assemble, Steve caught him right as he was trying to escape another debriefing. Instead of yelling or scolding, he just smiled and said, "Good work today. You saved a lot of lives. If you don't have time for supper later, I'll bring some down to you."

Friday, after supper, Steve pulled him aside and, in the middle of a conversation about the aerodynamics of his shield, mentioned that his, "efforts to outfit the Avengers with state of the art tools did not go unnoticed and was really appreciated, you're the best, Tony, thank you."

Steve had called him Tony.

That's it, the world was ending.

"Jarvis, can you confirm that it's actually Steve Rogers in the building right now?" he asked. His heart was still racing. And apparently the rest of the team's tendency to stare at the ceiling while talking to Jarvis was catching, because he found himself doing just that.

"Running a scan now, sir," Jarvis replied.

There was a couple long, agonizing minutes of silence during which Tony had to force himself to keep from fidgeting too much.

Then Jarvis said, "Scan complete. Confirmation that it is Captain Steve Rogers currently eating a late night snack in the kitchen."

"Maybe he's sick," Tony muttered to himself, running a shaking hand through his hair. Except the serum was supposed to prevent that, wasn't it? But what other explanation could there be? Did Steve want something? But that wasn't likely, either, because aside from the random comments, he was acting the way he usually did and he hadn't asked for anything. Maybe if Tony just ignored it, it would stop and things would go back to normal.

So he did his best to do just that, pretending that he didn't notice or care when not a day went by without Steve saying something, whether it was a casual "you were awesome with the press last night. Thanks for deflecting the comments away from Bruce." or a more intent, "I never realized how generous you were when you invited everyone to move in. I wish you'd stop pretending that you only let us live here because Fury said you have to. I know that's not true." Somehow Steve even managed to find him when Tony was actively avoiding him.

And every single time, Tony was left speechless. He didn't know what to do or say in response to this kind of thing. The last person who'd said anything even remotely complimentary to him was Pepper, and that was after a long day and he'd offered to give her a massage. She'd said something about loving his hands while he was slowly kneading the tense muscles at the base of her neck. It wasn't the first time Tony Stark had received a compliment about his hands, and it probably wouldn't be the last. But that was not even in the realm of what Steve was saying.

He wanted it to stop, but he couldn't figure out how to actually ask.

Finally, out of sheer desperation, he called Pepper.

"How do you tell someone to stop saying things about you?" he blurted out the second she picked up.

There was a pause, and then Pepper sighed. "Did you do something that the press got wind of? I checked the newspapers this morning, but they all looked fine. Did i miss something? Who was it?"

"No, it's... it's Steve."

"Steve?" Pepper repeated. "Steve Rogers? Oh, Tony, don't tell me you two got into another fight."

"No," Tony said, maybe a little defensively. Actually, now that he thought about it, it had been weeks since he and Steve had bickered. Now their relationship, such as it was, was mostly comprised of Tony trying to stay as far away from Steve as possible and being horrible tongue-tied when he couldn't. It didn't seem fair that right when he needed words the most, his tongue was betraying him.

"Then what?"

"He won't stop saying things."

"Saying things like what?" Pepper said, and now she was getting a hint of that dangerous tone in her voice. The one that strongly suggested that, if he didn't get to the point and soon, he'd be buying a $5000 pair of shoes as an apology the second he hung up.

"He's... he's complimenting me," he whined.

There was an even longer pause this time before she snorted.

"Pep! Don't laugh. This is a serious, legitimate problem I don't know how to fix."

"Only you would think this was a problem, Tony."

He pouted. Dummy whirred and patted his thigh. "It is a problem. I don't know what to say to make him stop."

"Well, what exactly is he saying?"

He told her.

"That's... that's actually very sweet," Pepper said, sounding pleasantly surprised. "Why would you want to stop him?"

"Because," Tony said, unwilling to explain. He couldn't put into words how weird it made him feel to hear someone, but especially Captain America, saying those kinds of things about him. It made his stomach go all squirmy and left him feeling the need to make an immediate retreat, only Steve had caught on to that tactic and usually backed him into a corner before speaking.

Pepper sighed again. "Well, what do you say when he does this?"

"Nothing."

"Have you ever tried saying thank you? Maybe he's trying to get a point across and won't stop until he thinks you've heard the message."

"And what message would that be? He's found the way to drive Tony Stark crazy?"

"No. That you're a kind, generous person who, from the sound of it, Steve has a crush on."

Tony turned and stared at his phone. Leaving aside the fact that he was none of those things, because why else would Pepper have broken up with him in the first place, the idea of Steve having a crush on him was laughable. But all he could force out, feeling strangely breathless, was a flat, "What."

"Oh come on, Tony. You can't tell me you've never entertained the idea. I saw the pictures of your bedroom when you were a kid. You've been half in love with him since before you could walk."

"My father decorated that room!" Tony squeaked. "And you swore you'd never say anything."

"I won't," Pepper said breezily, sounding the very opposite of believable. "My point is, I don't think there's anything to stop. If anything, I think you should encourage him."

"Encourage him -"

"I have to go, Tony. I'm right in the middle of a board meeting. Let me know how it works out with you shutting Steve up." She sounded like she was laughing again as she hung up and Tony scowled at the phone. Even if it was good to hear the sound of Pepper's laughter again, he wasn't sure he liked that it was at his expense. Especially when this was something he really needed help with.

He sat there for a moment longer, stewing over the conversation, before he ushered Dummy aside and stormed out of the workshop. In the elevator, he asked Jarvis for Steve's whereabouts. Upon finding out that Steve was in his bedroom reading, Tony strode right up to the door and threw it open without knocking. Steve looked up, startled, but Tony didn't wait for him to say anything.

"I don't know what the hell is going on with you lately, but I want it to stop."

"Hello to you too," Steve said, setting his book aside. "Just so you know, it's always a good idea to burst into an armed soldier's room without knocking first."

That gave Tony pause, and he looked more closely at Steve. "You're armed?"

"I know how to kill someone with my bare hands, Tony. I'm always armed."

And there it was again, the use of his first name. He shook off the questions bubbling to the surface of his mind and pinned a hard stare on Steve. "I want it to stop."

"So you said. Care to explain exactly what you're talking about for those of us who aren't geniuses like you?"

"That!" Tony shouted, pointing a finger at him. "The... the compliments, and the weird way you've been acting, and the saying my name like - like we're friends."

The smile disappeared from Steve's face. "Are we not friends?"

"I..." Tony trailed off. Being friends with Captain America was something that he'd always dreamt about, but then that fiasco the first time they'd met had made it pretty obvious that was never going to happen. He'd given up on hoping and settled for bickering that occasionally bordered on friendly teasing.

"Because I want to be," Steve added quietly.

"... Why?"

"Why? God, Tony, how can you even..." It was Steve's turn to trail off, shaking his head the way he did when something deeply disappointed him. "I hate the fact that you have no idea what you're worth. I know part of that is my fault, and I'm sorry."

Tony's mouth hung open. He couldn't remember how to speak.

That didn't seem to bother Steve, because he kept right on rambling on. "What you said to me that day on the helicarrier really got to me. I realized that no one ever thanks you for what you do, or compliments you, or even says that you did a good job. We all harp on you for what you do wrong and ignore what you do right. And the worst thing is I didn't even realize it was happening until you pointed it out. It was so easy to get caught up in thinking the worst of you."

Tony managed a strangled squeak.

"So I started actually paying attention," Steve went on. He was standing now, all up in Tony's space, his blue eyes way too close and way too honest. "And I realized that you never say anything because you actually believe it. You really think you're all those things you said, that everyone says. That kills me. I thought that maybe if I started telling you the truth, you might start believing that too."

"Are you sick?"

"What?"

"Are you sick?" Tony repeated, because it was the only possible explanation. "Should I call Bruce? You've clearly lost your mind. Are you running a temperature?" He reached out, intending to press the back of his hand to Steve's forehead.

Steve's hand shot up and grabbed his wrist, pulling his hand down. But he didn't let go. Another couple of inches and they would have been holding hands. Tony looked down at their point of contact and watched blankly as Steve's thumb rubbed slowly up and down the sensitive underside of his wrist, right over his pulse point. It was enough to send a rush of tingles up his arm.

And he understood.

A lot of things in Tony Stark's life led back to sex. This wasn't even the first time someone had tried to flatter him into bed, though he could admit that Steve had a very conventional method of flattery. Most people just told him that he was really hot. Which was true, so it usually worked.

In this case, Steve was like... the epitome of hot. So Tony would be a very foolish man if he didn't reach up with other hand, snag Steve around the back of the neck, and pull him in closer. He still had to go up on the tips of his toes to reach Steve's mouth, which galled him to no end, but only because Steve wouldn't cooperate and lean down more.

Their lips bumped together hard and Tony huffed, because come on, and then tipped his head and yeah, okay, that was a lot better, especially when Steve's lips started moving against his.

He made a happy sound in the back of his throat, then whined when Steve suddenly pulled away. He tried to chase Steve's lips, frustrated when the grip on his wrists - and just when had Steve grabbed his other hand too? - prevented him from doing so.

"Come on, Rogers, I thought this was what you wanted."

Steve looked at him sadly. "No, Tony. I don't just want to roll around in bed with you."

"What? Why not? I'm Tony Stark. In case you hadn't noticed, being good in bed is what I do."

"I'm sure it is, but that's not why I was complimenting you. You're a good person, Tony. I wish I could figure out some way to make you understand that."

"But... you kissed me," Tony said, his voice coming out much smaller than it was supposed to. The initial elation he'd felt was quickly disappearing as Steve let go of him completely. "You kissed me back."

"I know. I wanted to. But I..." Steve paused and gave him a hard look. Tony just looked back at him, not at all sure what Steve was doing or that he liked the way it felt like Steve was trying to see through him.

"I like sex," Tony said, maybe a little helplessly, backing away slowly towards the door. "Like I said, I'm good at it. Sex, fucking, it's all good. And you - if that's not what you wanted that's fine, I guess you are too wholesome to want to go to bed with someone like me, because I'm sure you've learned how to google my name by now and there's lots of evidence on the internet to suggest that - mmph!"

He squawked, shocked, when Steve lunged forward and kissed him this time. It was a much harder kiss, almost bruising, and Tony opened up to it immediately. Steve kissed the way he charged into battle: determined and deep, his tongue sweeping every inch of Tony's mouth. He broke it off while Tony was still trying to process what was happening to press damp kisses across Tony's jaw, steadily making his way closer to Tony's ear. At the feel of lips and teeth clamping gently around his earlobe, Tony sucked in a ragged breath.

"You... changed your mind," he said unsteadily.

"Yeah, and if you change yours at any point just say the word," Steve said into his ear, and then he stepped back and pulled his shirt off. "My bedroom's that way."

"I know, I designed it," Tony said, or he tried to say, he'd seen Steve naked before but never in a situation where he was allowed to look (and maybe touch) his fill and that was taking up a lot of brain cells right then. He drank in the sight of Steve's bare chest greedily, then was treated to an excellent look at his back when Steve turned and walked into the bedroom.

Tony followed, shedding his own shirt on the way almost defiantly. He'd never been ashamed of his body, though he was also very aware that he was nowhere close to Steve's level of perfection. Pepper was the only other person who had seen him naked since Afghanistan, but, if there was one person who wouldn't be bothered by the scars around the arc reactor, it was the man in front of him.

In the bedroom, which looked just as neat and tidy as the day Steve moved in, they kissed again and he got his hands on Steve's bare flesh for the first time. The feel of that warm skin stretched taut over those muscles was heaven. Steve backed him up towards the bed as they kissed and Tony went willingly, dragging Steve down on top of him. He ran the palms of his hands up Steve's back and felt the man shiver.

"God, you are something else," Steve said hoarsely, planting a kiss on his neck, then nibbling gently at the skin. Tony squirmed, his breath quickening as what would no doubt be a very impressive hickey was sucked onto his throat.

Pepper would be furious when he showed up at the next meeting with hickies visible above his collar. He'd have to buy her those $5000 shoes after all.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Tony replied, letting his hands slide down lower. He grabbed Steve's ass, tugging him down harder so that their lower halves were in contact. From the feel of it, Steve was fully hard already. Ah, the miracles of youth (and the super soldier serum). He tugged at Steve's belt and added, "Off."

Steve pushed himself up onto his knees and obeyed, unbuckling his belt and shoving his pants and boxers off with impressive speed. But he grabbed Tony's hands when Tony made to follow, saying, "Let me."

"Um, okay," Tony said doubtfully. He understood wanting to unwrap your partner like they were a present, sort of. He'd just never been on the receiving end of that sentiment. He let his arms drop to the bed, watching as Steve slowly tugged his jeans down and off, leaving him in just his boxers. It wasn't like it was a hardship: the sight of a stark naked Steve Rogers undressing him was nearly enough to make him come in his boxers like a teenager.

"Do you even know what an amazing man you are?" Steve asked, throwing Tony's jeans somewhere over his shoulder.

"If you're asking whether you can fuck me, the answer is yes," Tony said, because he didn't need to hear any more of that right now, and then he grabbed Steve's dick. He relished the way Steve's eyes fell shut at the contact and he groaned, his hips stuttering forward. Tony slowly ran the pads of his fingers up and down the shaft, watching Steve's face to figure out what he liked best.

It turned out that Steve liked it a little rough with a firm touch, and he made truly fascinating noises when the head of his cock was played with, but that was far as Tony got in his experiment before Steve shook his head and shuffled away.

"Too much."

"You're a super soldier, your refractory period has to be fast," Tony protested. His fingers were slick with pre-come and he wanted to explore Steve a lot more, maybe even get his mouth around him. If this was the only time this was going to happen, he wanted to make it an experience to remember. But Steve just looked at him and smiled.

"I want to be inside you," he said simply.

And there was really no way Tony could argue with that. "I hope you've got lube, then."

Steve turned to his nightstand while Tony shucked his boxers off, too impatient to wait for Steve to go as slowly as he seemed to want to. He hadn't been fucked for a while, but he was ready for it. He spread his legs and started to roll over onto his belly as Steve came back with the lube, but Steve stopped him with a hand to his hip.

"Is it okay if I want to see you?"

"Yeah, just on with it." He spread his legs wider, lifting his butt just enough to grab a pillow and shove it under his lower back for a better angle.

Opening the tube, Steve squeezed some of the gel onto his fingers. He rubbed his hands together to warm it up, which Tony found amusing, and then leaned down. Tony was expecting the touch against his hole. He was not expecting the tongue that ran across the tip of his dick. He yelped in surprise, hips bucking up instinctively, and then moaned when a hot, wet mouth closed around the first couple inches of his cock.

At the same time, a finger was slowly eased inside of him, sliding to the first knuckle, then to the second. Steve had big hands, but they weren't that big, and Tony wriggled impatiently for more. He stilled at the incredible feeling of suction and looked down just in time to see Steve's cheeks hollowing. When he looked up through his lashes at Tony, it was mind blowing.

This was Steve Rogers, giving him a blowjob and fingering him at the same time. Maybe he had died and gone to heaven without noticing? Whatever the case, he never wanted it to stop. Steve was proving that he knew how to use his tongue just as well as his hands, slowly dragging the flat of his tongue under Tony's cock, then flicking the tip against his sensitive slit.

And then there was the second finger pushing inside, curling to nudge his prostate just right, and Tony shuddered hard with a whimper. It was taking every ounce of determination to keep himself from coming on the spot as Steve pushed his fingers in and out, moving them apart, stretching him to a soundtrack of obscene squelching sounds from the amount of lube he was using. When Steve leaned in, taking even more of his cock, to the point where he was starting to swallow, Tony couldn't take it anymore.

"That's good, come on," he croaked.

Steve was still looking up at him as he pulled off inch by inch, exposing dampened skin to cool air and making Tony shiver for a different reason. "I don't want to hurt you."

"You won't. I've taken bigger."

"I should probably be insulted, but I'm just intrigued." Steve slipped his fingers out, using the remaining lube to slick himself up. He gripped Tony's hips, lifting him a little, and lined his cockhead up. Then he stopped. "Condom?"

"I'm clean," Tony said from behind the arm he'd thrown over his eyes. "I haven't slept with anyone since Pepper. If you - I get why you might want to use one anyway -"

"I believe you," Steve cut him off, pushing forward. Tony jerked at the initial breach, because yeah that stung a little more than he was expecting. Steve was a big boy. But he'd been down this road before and he forced himself to relax and breathe, battling the automatic reflex to hold his breath against the pain, closing his eyes.

When Steve was finally all the way in, he stopped and just waited. Tony let several beats pass before he moved, pulling his arm away and saying, "What are you waiting for?"

"You," Steve said simply. "It seems like no matter what I say, I can't get my message across. Maybe now you'll be willing to listen to me."

"You - that's cheating," Tony sputtered, realizing that he was a) pinned down and b) an attempt at moving only resulted in him squirming uselessly on Steve's cock.

"No it's not. I really did want to have sex with you. But I want more than that. You're none of those things, Tony."

"Stop it, Rogers."

Steve ignored him, grabbing his wrists and pinning them easily to the bed. He leaned down and brushed his nose against Tony's cheek before whispering, "You're not self-obsessed or narcissistic, Tony. You care about yourself because if you don't, who will? You're not volatile or guilty for anything. When you found out what was going on, you took immediate steps to stop it."

"You stop it," Tony said again, struggling for real this time, but Steve was a lot stronger than he was. There was no escaping.

"You're not a butcher," Steve continued ruthlessly. "You're not a mass murderer. You saved millions of people when you flew that nuke into space. You save thousands more every time you put on the armor, even though no one ever asked you to. And God knows no one has ever bothered to thank you."

"Steve, please." Tony was resorting to begging now. He didn't want to hear these things. He turned his head to the side, squeezing his eyes shut, and still Steve kept talking.

"A selfish, self-obsessed, narcissistic, guilty, butcher of a mass murderer wouldn't do those things. But you know who would? A man who cares so much that his only protection is hiding behind sarcasm and words because he's afraid to be hurt even more. A man who learned way too early that his every action will be harshly judged no matter what he does, because the public has cast him into a certain role, so he doesn't even bother trying to point out what he's done. A man who is kind, protective, intelligent, sweet, caring and above all good."

He was deeply ashamed to feel the tears stinging at his eyes. No matter how hard he tried to block out Steve's words, they still penetrated deep into his head.

"And I'm the one who is guilty, because at first I let the opinion of other people color my opinion of this man. It wasn't until he opened my eyes that I realized how stupid I was being, and I regret that. But at the same time, now that my eyes are open I can see what's in front of me."

Steve switched the grip on his wrists into one hand and used the other to tip Tony's face up. Tony could feel Steve's breath on his face and bit his lip until he tasted blood, but it still didn't keep a tear from breaking free and rolling down his cheek.

"Look at me, Tony."

Reluctantly, Tony obeyed. His vision was blurry, but he could still make out Steve's face. His lovely, concerned face.

"I see you," Steve said, his thumb rubbing more tears. "I see you, Tony, and I'm falling in love with you."

The breath that Tony sucked in sounded way too watery to his own ears. The impact of everything that Steve was saying was too much to process all at once. Steve seemed to understand. With a level of grace that was completely unfair, he released Tony's wrists and scooped him up into his arms as he sat back on his knees, never once letting his cock slip out. The gravitational effect meant that Tony slid down even further on his cock even as Steve wrapped him into a warm hug.

"I should have told you that sooner," Steve murmured into his hair, one big hand slowly rubbing Tony's back. "But like I said... I didn't know how to make you listen. You're so stubborn sometimes, but I couldn't let you go on thinking that way."

"It's the truth," Tony muttered, but he spoke with no heat. Steve's arms were cradling him so carefully, like he was something delicate. And while normally he would have deeply resented the implication that he was fragile, right then it felt too good for him to even think about trying to get away. He couldn't remember the last time someone had hugged him like this, like he was more important even than sex, important enough to stop right in the middle.

He let Steve rock them back and forth for a couple of minutes until his traitorous body had decided it was done with the tears, but his mind kept snagging on one thing. He lifted his head a little. "You... you said you were in love with me."

"I am," Steve said with a huge, boyish smile that made him look achingly young. "And I understand if you don't feel the same way. I kinda blindsided you a little bit. All I want is the chance to court you."

"Court me," Tony repeated, raising both eyebrows. "I'm not a girl, Steve, just because I like taking it up the ass."

Steve rolled his eyes. "I'm aware of that. Doesn't mean I can't court you. I'm pretty sure no one's ever taken the time to do that before. I want to."

Tony gave him a sideways look. That squirmy feeling was back in his stomach, only now he could identify it with a name: butterflies. Dear god, Pepper was right. He had a crush on Steve. "If I say yes, will you fuck me properly?"

"I'll fuck you either way, if that's what you want."

"This is a bad idea, just so you know," Tony said. "People won't be very happy."

"I already know enough about what people think to know they're rarely right," Steve said calmly. His cock had not softened one bit during their talk, which Tony could personally attest to. Now, he reached down and took Tony's dick in his hand, squeezing and rubbing gently. "I learned a long time ago that if I listened to what they said about me, I'd never get anywhere. I'm sorry it took me so long to apply that to you."

"You're f-forgiven," Tony choked out, arousal surging back to the surface. Those artist hands really knew how make his blood sing. He clenched down and heard Steve hiss.

"Can you do this?" he asked through gritted teeth.

"What, jerk off? I've been a master at that since I was - oh my god." He burst out as Steve let go of his dick, clamped a hand on his hips, and started fucking Tony on his cock.

It was the hottest thing Tony had ever been a part of. The muscles in Steve's arms bunched every time he lifted Tony's not inconsiderate weight. His face was flushed from the exertion and heat, his bruised lips pressed together. His eyes bored into Tony's.

"Touch yourself," he commanded.

Blindly Tony obeyed. The first feel of his fingers around his dick made him mewl. Combined with the nearly perfect pressure to his prostate, he knew this was going to happen embarrassingly quickly. He couldn't seem to keep himself quiet, either, whimpering and moaning like this was his first time as he pumped his fist. Slowly at first, but then harder, arching his back as Steve sped up the pace.

"You're amazing," Steve said breathlessly. "I love you, Tony."

And there was no force in the world strong enough to keep him from coming when those words registered. Tony cried out something that sounded exactly like Steve's name as come spilled over his hand, splattering against Steve's flat stomach. It was one of the strongest orgasms he'd ever had and he hung there limply in Steve's grip for a moment afterwards, gasping for breath.

"Goddamn," he wheezed finally. "You're like... Don't stop, Steve, come on." Because somehow Steve was still hard inside of him.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," Tony said impatiently, leaning forward and wrapping his arms around Steve's neck. Even though a hickey would be healed as quickly as he left it, he started sucking on a tantalizing piece of skin just under Steve's jaw.

Steve groaned deeply at the first hint of teeth against his skin and came, his arms tightening around Tony. He rode out his orgasm buried as deeply inside Tony as he could. Tony kept sucking at his jaw the whole time, determined to do his best to leave a personal mark behind. Only when the skin was a nice shade of purple from the blood rushing to the surface did he lean back after giving it one last lick.

The two of them looked at each other, and then Steve said seriously, "Would you like to go out on a date with me tonight?"

Tony still maintained that it was a bad idea. He was none of the things that Steve said. But maybe if he was around Steve long enough, he'd rub off and Tony could start to be. That was his justification and he was sticking to it. He nodded. "Absolutely, Cap. Name the time and place."

"You're calling me Cap again?" Steve said, looking a bit disappointed, and Tony winced.

"Sorry. Um, Steve. This will take a little getting used to. I'm going to have to think up some new nicknames."

"Take all the time you need, so long as I can give you a nickname or two, too."

"...What kind of a nickname?"

Steve grinned. "I'm sure I'll think of something, baby," he said with a wink, smothering Tony's protest with a kiss.