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even death

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When he gets home, Steve is sitting on his sofa in the dark, back straight and hands clasped tightly in his lap.

“Jesus Christ,” Tony mutters, and his heart speeds up until he can feel it pound inside his ribcage. He looks to the side and closes his eyes, breathing in deep before he can force himself to look back at Steve, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Tony knows immediately that Steve is having one of his bad days, of course. Most days, and to most people, Steve is like a book written in a foreign language, unreadable, as emotionally distant and unattached as the words printed coldly on page. Tony’s a different story – Tony’s been inside his head, knows him well enough to understand what’s coming when Steve’s pupils blow black and something dark blooms just behind his eyes.

“I was waiting for you to get home,” Steve says, like it’s the most obvious and most normal explanation in the world, “It’s—I needed you.”

Tony figures that this particular admission should not make his blood burn hotly in his veins, that maybe there should be more than an ounce of fear inside of him, but he can’t bring himself to feel anything more than a pleasant contentment. He sets his badge and gun on the living room end table and shrugs off his jacket, making his way towards Steve.

His house is dark, another black-windowed, empty point that is engulfed by a city that is just as cold and black. Tony doesn’t like to have the lights on anymore, and he’s not sure why – all he knows is that since Steve, since stumbling upon this, nothing has been the same. Steve’s face is cast in dark shadows that follow the curves of his cheekbones and the hollows just under them.

“You should turn on your lights,” Steve advises him, as though there isn’t fire and need bubbling under his skin, “You’re beautiful when they catch your eyes.”

Tony is standing in front of Steve, between the couch and the beat up coffee table, in the ‘v’ formed by his legs. He reaches for the cigarettes in his pocket, thumbs his lighter even, before Steve takes them away and places them on the cushion, frowning disapprovingly.

“You don’t like the light,” Tony reminds him, and he reaches out to touch Steve’s face. His skin is warm and smooth under his palm, “You always say you work better in the dark.”

Steve’s face remains blank, but something in his eyes flickers, a flash of heat and unspeakable blackness all at once. He raises a hand to place on top of Tony’s, gentle, at first, but then his hand closes around his wrist hard enough to bruise, and Tony is tumbling into his lap.

This is something that happens, sometimes. Tony has resigned himself to it. He’ll see the look on Steve’s face one night, and show up the next day to work with a ring of black and purple marks around his wrist, or splotches on his shoulder blades that look suspiciously like fingerprints. They are watercolors on canvas that are a reminder of where he’s been, who he’s been with. Steve is nothing if not rough. Tony knows he can’t help it, that there is something inside him, an anger, a primal desire to see pain that he either can’t or won’t shake – he hasn’t figured that part out yet, but he would rather be left bruised and sore than have another case slide across his desk.

Steve gets him upright and leans into him, their bodies pressed flush up against each other. Tony scrabbles for balance and plants his knees on either side of Steve’s hips, and suddenly they’re kissing, Steve’s nose pressed into Tony’s cheek and his teeth nibbling at his bottom lip.

The couch springs whine as Steve leans back, bringing Tony with him, hands grasping his sides almost violently. He bites Tony’s lip, and Tony can’t help the whimper that escapes before Steve is soothing the red skin with his tongue, dipping it into his mouth every now and then to taste him. He wonders if Steve tastes fear.

They pull apart, breathless, and Steve takes the opportunity to unbutton Tony’s dress shirt with practiced fingers, surgical precision that can only come from someone who works intimately with his hands. He tosses it to the floor beside them and lets his hands roam Tony’s body, rough palms on smooth skin that trembles.

He isn’t scared. At least, Tony tells himself he isn’t scared, and he does it often enough so that now he believes Steve touches him with love, with something more than primal desire. When they do this, he and Steve, Tony spends a lot of time thinking about the first time, how he had ended up in Steve’s bed with a sinking feeling in his gut that he was going to be another ‘missing persons’ ad on television, and how Steve had held him down and made love to him so gently that he wasn’t even sure that this was the right person, that this was supposed to be a killer.

But of course it was. Tony had watched him work more than once.

Suddenly, as if waking from a dream, he’s reminded of the bruises that will form on his wrists. Some things have changed, sure, but Tony still falls into Steve’s arms every time convinced (more or less) that he’ll wake up the next morning in one piece, wrapped in the arms of someone that he can’t help but love, despite all his sins. He hasn’t been wrong yet.

Steve pushes Tony’s arms away from him and cranes his neck down enough that he can bite down on one of his nipples, gently but enough to make the skin sting, and Tony lets his head fall back until Steve can get his lips on the patch of skin below his jaw that draws a moan out from the back of his throat.

He knows they won’t do this on the couch. Steve wouldn’t let that happen, mostly because Steve is used to a certain level of comfort, far beyond Tony’s desire to do things quick and dirty on the couch, in the car, wherever they can, whenever Steve needs it – and sometimes, when Steve is feeling particularly generous, Tony gets his way. But not often.

The hands get underneath him before Tony is even aware of what’s happening, and Steve lifts him up into his arms, bearing the brunt of all his weight, and it’s a marvel, really, this man’s muscles. Tony hangs on around his neck, and Steve kisses the breath from his lungs until Tony is gasping and panting into the hollow of Steve’s neck.

Tony’s back hits the doorframe of his bedroom and he winces at the noise his spine makes, a sharp pop that Steve ignores, and the hands are all over him again, brushing over his waist, the flat plane of his stomach, and the goose bumps raise on his arms almost immediately. Steve’s teeth scrape along his throat, the line of his jaw, and then he’s biting at the flesh behind Tony’s ear. Steve presses thigh between Tony’s leg, and Tony feels fire pool low in his belly. The warmth of Steve’s erection is heavy against his hip, and Tony lets out a whimper, wanting nothing more than to rid this man of his jeans and to feel him inside him, to lose control and to have the anger, the fire behind Steve’s eyes flicker out.

It’s been a long time. Tony has missed this – the closeness, the warmth, the lightning under his skin.

They finally make it to the bed, and Steve tosses him onto the mattress none to gently, making quick work of his pants and his briefs, and when Steve wraps a hand around Tony’s cock, Tony melts into the mattress. Steve’s hand is warm and big, and it slides up and down his length with such gentle pressure that Tony wants to scream, but instead all he does is let out these little shuddery breaths, arching his hips into Steve’s palm.

“I can’t,” Steve starts, his voice husky and low in the din of the bedroom. Moonlight filters in through the window, streaming through the cheap vinyl blinds that Tony has never thought about replacing, “Tony, I can’t stop it.”

He wants to stop and sort things out with Steve, to sit down with him and go over the things they’ve gone over, to help Steve re-establish the small ounce of control he has over that animalistic side of himself, but he only moans and presses his head back into the pillow. Steve hovers above him, shirtless now, muscles rigid like he’s trying to hold something back. Tony reaches up and grips him around the neck, his fingers pushing into the skin there, and suddenly the hand tightens on his cock and Tony tries to drag him closer.

“Steve,” Tony gets out eventually, and his eyes flicker open long enough to look between Steve and his hand, long enough to see that Steve’s pupils are blown black with desire, with anger, with something akin to fear, and Steve runs a thumb over the leaking head of Tony’s cock, “Steve, I—oh, god, Steve.”

Steve lets go for just a moment, just long enough to strip off his jeans and his underwear, and suddenly he’s lying flush against Tony, kissing him so roughly that Tony can almost feel his lips bruising. Steve rolls his hips down just so that their erections grind together, and Tony lets out a moan that is absolutely filthy, ragged and broken and dying in the air.

On nights like these, Steve is quiet, save for the puffs of breath against Tony’s neck and the muted, shallow grunts that he lets escape his lips. Other nights, he’ll whisper Tony’s name, kiss him, say beautiful things into his mouth that Tony has never been told in his life. Other nights, Steve says he loves him, with such an aching darkness in his voice that Tony melts.

Tonight, he’ll work in silence, the same way he always works. It's easier that way, when he's like this.

Steve grinds them together again, revelling in the way that Tony arches his back and closes his eyes, cock hard and red and curled up towards his stomach. They kiss again, and Steve’s mouth trails from Tony’s lips down to his neck, sucking and biting until a pale purple bruise starts to form, lavender and blue against Tony’s olive skin.

He keeps the bottle of lube in the drawer of his bedside table, the same place that he used to keep his gun before Steve came along. Steve is still lavishing his neck with attention when Tony hears the cap snap open, the wet noise as Steve slicks up his fingers, and suddenly they’re pressing against his entrance, cold pressure that makes his body shake and the hair on his arms raise.

Even when Steve wants to hurt people, he's gentle with Tony. He is rough and he is dangerous, but with Tony – with Tony, he does everything he has to do to keep himself under control. Steve slips one finger inside of Tony with nothing short of restraint, stroking him from the inside out in long, slow thrusts. Tony groans and pushes down against the finger, craving the drag, the burn that lingers as Steve opens him up. Steve curls his finger, just enough that it pushes up against Tony’s prostate, and the grin that follows Tony’s keening is almost villainous. Another finger follows shortly after, twisting and curling inside of him, and Tony reaches a hand down between his legs and grab’s Steve’s to encourage him, to urge him to hurry up, to go faster. The tendons in Steve’s wrist flex, and Tony doesn’t realize he’s shaking until he can’t get a grip on Steve the way he’d like to.

“Please,” he whispers to Steve, head pressed back against the pillows, cheeks flushed and breathing shallow, “Please, Steve, I’m ready, just—”

Steve looks down at him disapprovingly, “No you’re not.”

“Steve—”

He kisses him, softly, with none of the fervor and fire from earlier, and presses his words into Tony’s mouth.

“I’m not going to hurt you, Tony.”

And god, Tony would be lying if he says the genuine concern in Steve’s eyes doesn’t go straight to his dick. He feels the next finger as it slides in, too much and not enough, and Steve is panting above him with the effort of not abandoning his control, from keeping himself together. He curls his fingers, and Tony feels lightning under his skin, pleasure that makes his toes curl in on themselves.

Tony reaches down frantically between their bodies and tugs Steve’s wrist hard enough that his fingers slip out, and for a moment Tony feels dreadfully empty, but he wants more. Steve looks down at him for a minute, eyes still dark, then kisses him so softly that Tony could cry, he really could. Steve bites Tony’s bottom lip, and then the lube cap is back open, and Steve is slicking himself up. Tony watches him impatiently, his whole body aching, waiting, and Steve leans forward just so that the tip of his cock is pressed against Tony’s entrance.

“Fuck me,” Tony whispers, looking up through his eyelashes. He wraps his arms around Steve’s neck and tugs him down into a kiss, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, “Steve. Fuck me, please.”

Gripping his hips hard enough to bruise, Steve leans over and seals their lips together, hand wrapped around the base of his cock to keep himself steady, and then he’s pressing into Tony, so gently, until he’s all the way inside him and trembling above him with the effort of keeping still. Below him, Tony moans and shifts his hips until he’s comfortable, and he feels so full, so complete that he reaches up for his shoulder and clutches Steve to him as though he’s going to disappear.

“Steve,” Tony gets out, choked and melting into a moan as Steve starts to thrust, “Oh—I—”

Steve pulls out achingly slowly, until just the head of his cock remains inside Tony, and then he rolls his hips forward just fast enough that it takes Tony’s breath away. Tony tangles his hands in the sheets beneath him, his one hand grasping onto them tightly enough that his knuckles go white, his other still clasping Steve’s shoulder. His hips meet Steve’s in time with his thrusts, and Tony wraps his legs around Steve’s waist to urge him to go deeper.

The friction is incredible, the slick drag of Steve’s cock making Tony’s insides shake. There's something about Steve that makes this different from all the other times he’s done it before, that makes it somehow better. Tony can't put his finger on it – he knows that this can't last, that one day someone will find out, and Steve will have to leave him. That just makes him savor every moment of this even more; every moment of having Steve inside him, of knowing him so intimately, of feeling complete.

Steve moves his hips just so that his cock brushes up against Tony’s prostate, and Tony wails, pleasure blooming under his skin in bursts, then waves. Sweat trickles down the lines of Tony’s chest, and Steve reaches down to wrap a hand around Tony’s leaking cock, panting.

Harder,” Tony pleads, his voice rough and broken, his head pushed back into the pillow, “Fuck, oh, Steve—”

All Tony can hear past the blood rushing in his ears is the sound of their bodies meeting, the dull noise Steve’s hips make when they meet his. His muscles instinctively start to clench around Steve each time he pulls out until they're both panting and gasping for breath, Tony babbling incoherently and Steve pressing sloppy, open-mouthed kisses to the side of his throat. Steve pumps Tony’s cock in time with his thrusts, smearing pre-come over the head and grinning, and stills his hips, leaning up to kiss Tony. He swallows each increasingly desperate noise that comes out of Tony’s mouth with his own, kisses the breath from his lungs, rocks his hips so that the tip of his cock grinds into something inside Tony that makes the legs wrapped around Steve’s middle tremble.

“Tony,” Steve whispers, and he bites at Tony’s collarbone, teeth scraping along the skin. Tony manages to get his eyes open enough to look at him, but everything is hazy, blurred with pleasure. He blinks heavily at Steve and reaches up to card his hand through his hair, “Tony, please.”

Tony kisses Steve's lips, his jaw, and squeezes his legs, urging Steve to move, and he wants to whine but he knows he won't.

“It's okay,” Tony whispers back to him, admiring the beauty in Steve’s face, the damp blond hair, the darkness of his eyes. He tries to stop his voice from trembling, “It’s okay. I got you, baby.”

Steve groans, and this is louder than he usually is, more talkative, but he leans back and takes Tony again, hard and fast and with enough carelessness that Tony’s hips will purple in the morning, but neither of them can bring themselves to care. The hand around Tony’s cock speeds up, squeezing in time with Steve’s thrusts, until Tony can't do anything but lay back against the pillows flushed and breathing hard, back arched in the air.

Heat pools in the bottom of Tony’s stomach, thick and hazy and every bit of indication that this isn't going to last long, and he pushes down against Steve’s thrusts, trying to get him in deeper. Steve lets out a strangled sound, and his hands scramble for something to hold onto. Tony squeezes his eyes shut and focuses on the feeling of Steve inside him, the fullness, the drag as he pushes into him, the muffled noises that Steve is making as he searches for some semblance of control.

“I love you,” Steve gasps out, unexpected, ragged, broken, “Tony, I love you, please Tony – please, save me, I need you—”

Tony comes with a sharp cry, shaking and trembling underneath him. Steve slows his movements enough so that he can watch Tony come, watch the way that he pushes himself into the mattress, hear the breathy noises he makes as he comes down until he’s limp and boneless beneath him.

“Steve,” Tony whispers, voice thick and tired. Steve leans down and kisses him, moving his hips slowly, pleasure building at the column of his spine. When they part, Tony wraps tired arms around his neck and runs trembling fingers through his hair, calming him, “Steve. Come for me, I want to feel you.”

Steve chokes back a whimper, and when he looks down at Tony lying there beneath him, sated and lazy and sleepy, he can't help but lean into him and bury his face in Tony’s neck. Tony can feel the breath on his neck, desperate pants and gasps. He runs a hand up Steve's back soothingly.

“You're okay,” Tony whispers, “It’s me. You won't hurt me.”

There's moment where a moan tears its way out of Steve's throat, and then Tony feels the throb of heat when Steve comes inside of him. When it's over, Steve kisses him on the mouth, nibbles at his jawline, lowers himself onto Tony until he’s a heavy weight on his chest. Tony can feel Steve growing soft inside of him, but he can't bring himself to move quiet yet, instead enjoying the closeness, the warmth, the convention with this man. Steve brushes his lips along Tony’s collarbone.

“I love you,” Steve says again, and he's never said these things to Tony, not once since they met.

After a couple minutes, Steve pulls back, sliding out of Tony with a wet sound and rolling into his back. There's still tenseness in his muscles that Tony recognizes, and despite the fact that he’s still riding the endorphins, still lying lazy in bed with every bone thoroughly heavy with pleasure, the fear curls back into his stomach.

“Are you okay?” Tony asks, dreading the answer. He’s lucky this time, because he doesn't get one, doesn't have to face the reality of this situation. Instead, Steve reaches out an arm and pulls Tony into him, tucking him gently into the curve of his side.

Steve stares at the ceiling, eyes fixed on a blank point. They're dark, still, pupils blown wide with only a ring of blue around them, and Tony can see the blackness behind them, lurking. Hiding. Usually this helps, usually Steve will come to him, and Tony can put him back together with this kind of intimacy, with all the love he can offer. Those nights are particularly rewarding for Tony, because he can sleep next to this man that he has tried so hard not to love at the same time he saves a life.

It's only a matter of time, he thinks. This can go two ways, when he gets right down to it. The police will get suspicious of Tony’s behavior and figure it out, put both of them in jail – that's the easy way, the way he’d like it to go – or Tony will end up somewhere, facedown and bloody, a victim to whispered I love yous in the dark.

He falls asleep next to Steve, and wakes up alone, just as his front door is closing. He hears footsteps inside – Steve isn't leaving, he’s coming back, which makes Tony’s heart beat just a little faster. He curls under the blankets of his beat up bed, clutching them to his chest, and Steve turns the corner into the room. Tony looks at him and takes a minute, closing his eyes and breathing heavy through his nose. He is covered in blood, his hands red and sticky, his hair splattered as if he’s been painting red, golden sunsets on canvas. They meet eyes, and Tony can see that the darkness is gone, that this is Steve at his calmest, his most vulnerable, he real self. He can't decide whether or not that's a comfort.

Steve holds a bloody finger up to his lips and Tony knows enough to keep his mouth shut. He listens to the water drain in his shower as Steve washes, and he can't help but imagine the blood swirl around the drain, red-orange against white tile. When Steve gets out, he is drying his hair with a towel and looking like nothing has happened at all. Tony wonders what the folder on his desk will say in the morning. Woman, 21, Single mother. Man, 41, convicted pedophile. Steve has never been consistent.

He crawls into bed next to Tony, clean and smelling like spice and sandalwood. Tony rolls into his body, clinging to him out of fear and reverence, and Steve wraps his arms around him tightly, kisses his hair.

“I love you,” Steve whispers to him again, into the skin of his temple.

Tony drinks in his words, and wonders if death could really have a heart.