Some people did crosswords, ran marathons, or collected stamps. Tony Stark fucked.
His hobby had turned out to be his career, so he had to come up with something to substitute it with, and he picked sex.
He wasn’t fussy. If it was hot and it moved, he’d hit on it. Men, women, both, neither. As long as they were of age, attractive to his standards, and interested, he was there.
He did have rules, however.
Tony Stark’s Relationship (if you can call them that) Rules:
- Condoms and dental dams will always be used and will always be provided by me. No exceptions. I’m not stupid – I know what my offspring is worth and I’m not risking a pin having been pushed through the condom she so helpfully provides me with. I also know that the odds of getting an STD at my age are pretty good, considering I am fucking my way through the population of New York. So: protection.
- No feelings. Feelings are messy and unnecessary. This rarely becomes a concern.
- They are gone by the time I am out of the shower. This is sometimes an issue, but I have Pepper for that.
JARVIS kept the lower floors on lockdown when Tony had anyone over, which allowed him to focus more on the fucking and less on the ‘they’re gonna steal my ideas as soon as I pass out’ thoughts always whirling through his head.
And so it went, for years. The rules kept him safe and relatively happy through the 90s and into the 2000s.
Then there was Steve. Steve Rogers. Gorgeous slip of a thing; skinny, blonde, enormous blue eyes.
And a complete asshole.
Tony’s world screeched to a halt. He buried himself in his workshop after their first interaction and didn’t emerge for three days.
See, Steve was friends with James “Call me Bucky” Barnes. Barnes had lost the most of his left arm in an IED explosion overseas two years prior to being accepted into the program. He had refused to be fitted for a prosthetic at the time of his recovery, which ultimately wound up being the best decision he had ever made. If he’d had a prosthetic previously, he would not have been admitted into Stark Industries’ Prosthetic Experiment.
When Tony had halted weapons production after one of his own missiles killed his best friend, the board of SI had demanded that Tony make up for the losses by involving himself and the business in anything his tech could feasibly improve. Cell phones, airplanes, computers, GPS devices, NASA, and, oddly enough, prosthetics.
It was prosthetics that got Tony’s blood pumping. The thought that he could design something to function as good as – or better, always strive to be better, Tony – a human limb was exhilarating. He spent months experimenting and then weeks perfecting the design.
And then Steve came along. Before that day, Barnes had come alone. He’d been relatively quiet, letting Tony putter around him and babble while he got measurements and hovered holographic designs in the air next to where his arm had been. He had asked for clarification a few times, and Tony had been relieved to find that none of what he’d asked had been stupid questions.
But Steve. When JARVIS had announced Barnes’ arrival ‘with a guest’, Tony hadn’t known who to expect. He knew Barnes was an orphan, but he wasn’t sure about siblings. A partner maybe?
Nope. Steve. Steven Motherfucking Rogers. Best friend of Bucky Barnes and total fucking helicopter parent.
“So you’re telling me that you have to amputate the rest of Bucky’s arm for a prosthetic you aren’t even sure will work?” Steve asked, arms folded across his chest. He was glaring up at Tony and it was clear his worry for his best friend was something Barnes was very familiar with, because he rolled his eyes.
“My stump doesn’t do much anyhow, punk,” he said. Steve turned and glared at him, too. “Don’t you look at me like that, Steve. I knew what I was signing on for when I started. I’m not about to back out now because you don’t like the thought of me going through surgery again.”
Steve relaxed his stance a little bit but his voice retained the hard tone of someone who was Not To Be Fucked With. “I don’t like seeing you hurt.”
Barnes shrugged. “Yeah, well. Hopefully by the end of it I’ll have two arms again.”
“You will,” Tony butted in. “I’ve checked and rechecked the math, gone through every outcome. There’s a 97% anticipated success rate on this, which is higher than any other experimental procedure by more than 30%.”
Yeah, he sounded proud. So what? This was his baby. He was gonna be proud. Ninety-seven percent wasn’t anything to sneeze at.
Bucky grinned and smacked Steve on the shoulder. “He knows what he’s doing, Stevie.”
Steve narrowed his eyes at Tony. “We’ll see.”
He kept quiet for about ten minutes, until Tony started talking about collarbone replacement.
Tony stopped mid-sentence, hands in the air where he’d been gesturing. “What?”
“Collarbone replacement? Are you insane?”
Tony blinked. “Barnes’ right arm weighs about thirteen pounds, and that’s made of flesh and bone. His shoulder was quite literally born to hold the weight of it without experiencing any stress. His left side is going to be carrying about thirty pounds of metal, without the shoulder joint he needs in order to support it. We have to go in and replace the collarbone with metal so he can take the excess strain. We aren’t just going to shove a metal arm onto his existing bone structure; that would be ridiculous.”
Steve is positively mutinous. Honestly, it’s a good look on him. He’s small, but effective. “Let me see,” he demanded.
“The blueprints, schematics, whatever you’ve got. Let me see ‘em. I want to see how this thing works.”
Tony stepped to the side and brought the plans up in front of them. And then he started explaining, in more depth than he had done for Barnes, exactly what he (and by ‘he’ he meant the team of doctors he had hired to be his hands for the evening) would be doing. By the end of it, Steve was looking ashen, and Barnes wasn’t doing much better himself.
“Look,” Tony said, hands supplicating. “I know it looks scary, and like a lot of work. That’s because it is. This is something that has never been done before, not by anyone. But by the end of it, Barnes, you’ll have a prosthetic that functions as well as your right arm does now. Probably better, if we’re honest.”
“So, the surgery,” Steve said slowly, voice flat, “it’s in two parts?”
“Yes. First, a regular surgical team will go in and remove the remainder of Bucky’s arm, including his shoulder. Once that’s done, my team will come in to create the… threshold, I guess would be the word - the platform, maybe? - for the prosthetic. It will look like what I just showed you – a smooth bowl with what is basically a super high tech ball joint for the prosthetic to lock on to. Once that’s healed and the physical therapy is complete, he’ll come here and I will attach the rest of it under close observation.”
“And it’s safe?” Steve looked scared.
“Absolutely,” he assured.
Steve relaxed a little bit, and Barnes did with him. He brought his hand up and clasped Steve’s shoulder. “It’ll be alright, Stevie. I’ll be okay, I promise.”
Steve nodded. “I still don’t like you, Tony.”
Something about Steve rubbed him the wrong way. Whatever it was, it was enough for Tony to stay in his workshop quadruple checking his work. All of it. He was in there for three days, and he only emerged when Pepper threatened to eat strawberries.
He might not care about his own health, but he certainly cared about Pepper’s.
And then the weekend came and he didn’t go out. When Pepper arrived Saturday morning to kick out his latest conquest, she found only Tony, passed out in the middle of his unrumpled bed. She tiptoed out the door quietly, silently relieved that after twenty years, things seemed to finally be changing.
Steve came back with Barnes each time they met. He remained impossible, and Tony remained sexless. He chose not to think about the implications of that.
Finally, it was the day of the amputation. Tony arrived at the hospital three hours early, running on very little sleep and muttering equations to himself. The nurses – or, as Tony liked to call them, the ‘bridge trolls’ – wouldn’t let him back until half an hour before the procedure, so he sat hunched over his StarkTablet in the waiting room. He was checking his work for the hundred and twelfth time, and that’s where he was when Steve and Bucky found him.
Bucky plopped down in the chair beside Tony without preamble, startling him out of his thoughts. “Oh, it’s you.”
“It’s me,” Bucky replied, grinning.
“Yep, sure am. Steve, not so much.” He gestured to where Steve was pacing the length of the waiting room. “He’s convinced I’m going to die.”
Tony snorted. “This procedure is safer than getting the flu.”
“Try telling him that.”
“Steve.” No response. “Steve!” he tried again. Steve jerked his head around and locked eyes with Tony.
He stalked over to them. “What?”
“Steve, he’s going to be fine. Sit down.” Steve sat.
And then glared.
And didn’t stop glaring.
Tony got a little hot under the collar.
Finally the lead troll came out and called Bucky’s name. He shot out of his chair and through the doors before Steve had done so much as uncross his ankles.
The surgery went beautifully. The physical therapy after the surgery worked wonders. The day to attach the prosthetic had finally arrived. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, birds were warbling in the trees, and Steve Rogers was at his front door with what looked like an apple pie and a sheepish expression on his face.
“I, uh. I wanted to apologize, Tony.” Steve shuffled his feet a little bit. He was flushed and seemed to be fighting hard to maintain eye contact. “I was an asshole to you because I was scared about Bucky. I thought you were just using him as an experiment and that you didn’t see him as a person, just a project. I didn’t trust that you knew what you were doing, and I’m sorry. So, uhm. Here.” He thrust the pie plate at Tony, who grabbed it instinctively, bewildered.
“Well, you were a bit of an asshole,” Tony said.
Steve looked a little shame-faced. “Sorry.”
“You brought me pie, Steve. All is forgiven. Just, don’t do it again, yeah? Your face is scary when you’re mad.” Tony grinned easily, and the tension in the air fled. “Would you like to come in? Bucky should be here soon for his arm.”
Steve shook his head. “No, thanks though. I’ve got class this afternoon, and I missed too much of it after the surgery.”
“Alright. I’ll let you know how it goes. Or, well, I guess Bucky can let you know. Since you’re friends and all and I don’t even have your number. Why don’t I have your number? Oh, right, you hated me until five minutes ago. Okay, um, I’m babbling and running on about three hours of sleep so why don’t you get to class before I do something terrible, okay? Okay.” Tony shut the door on a distinctly-amused looking Steve and looked down at the pie he was holding. “Damn. I like him.”
Tony slipped past her assistant and strode into Pepper’s office like he owned it (which, technically, he supposed he did). “Pepper, I need help,” he said, gearing himself up for a diatribe.
Pepper looked up from the papers on her desk – and really, who used paper documents these days? – and smiled indulgently. “Figured it out, have you?”
Tony stopped abruptly, letting out a huge gust of air. “What?”
“You like Steve,” she said.
Tony blustered. “How did you –?”
She arched a brow. “You’ve been complaining about him for weeks. You hardly leave your workshop, which isn’t really all that new but I found a pillow down there, Tony. You made sure that the arm for his best friend was perfect, well beyond the specs deemed necessary by the board. You stopped sleeping around.”
Tony gaped. “I did do that, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did.” She turned her attention back to the papers strewn on her desk. “I suggest you do something about it, Tony.”
He backed out without another word.
Yeah, he was totally fucked.
Tony figured that having feelings for Steve didn’t break Rule #2 as long as he didn’t sleep with him.
And if he didn’t sleep with him, he could be sure not to break Rules 1 and 3 as well.
So basically, he just had to not sleep with Steve Rogers and everything would be peachy.
Of course, not sleeping with Steve meant that he wasn’t sleeping with anyone, because he’d learned the hard way that while sex without feelings was wonderful sex, sex with feelings for someone he wasn’t having the sex with was truly terrible sex.
Which meant no sex.
Basically Tony was working, eating, and sleeping – and sometimes not even those last two things.
He’d been up for nearly five days when his phone beeped three times in rapid succession. He knew it wasn’t Pepper because her ringtone was something by the Beach Boys. Tapping the screen, Tony figured it was time for some sleep because there was no way Steve used emoticons.
917-555-3691: Hey Tony, it’s Steve :)
917-555-3691: I hope you don’t mind, but I got your number from Bucky.
917-555-3691: Thanks again for all the help you’ve given him with the arm, by the way. He’s doing really well. :)
He typed out a quick response and collapsed onto his couch, asleep before his head hit the armrest.
When he woke up fifteen hours later, Tony was disoriented. Remembering something about Steve, he checked his phone. There they were, three little text messages and two smiley emoticons. And his response, which apparently he hadn’t actually sent.
He stared guiltily at the blinking cursor. Fifteen hours without a response to a text would put anyone on edge. So he called.
“Hi, Steve. Sorry I didn’t text you back. I meant to, but then I fell asleep and I just woke up and, uh. Yeah. Sorry.”
“You slept for fifteen hours?” came the incredulous response.
“I was awake for four days.”
Silence. And then an exasperated sigh and Steve’s voice telling him to go back to sleep. The line went dead and Tony shrugged before falling back onto the couch. More sleep couldn’t hurt.
Scratch that, yes it could. 20 hours on a couch, even a couch belonging to Tony Stark, would put a crick in anyone’s neck. He reached for his phone.
Outgoing: did i hallucinate talking to you last night??
Incoming: No. You called and I made you go back to bed.
Outgoing: Aww it’s almost like you care.
Incoming: I do.
Outgoing: Nonsense. I’m not paying you anything.
Incoming: Sometimes people care without money as an incentive. This is one of those times. Are you okay?
Outgoing: I think I got too much sleep and turned introspective.
Incoming: Do you need anything?
Incoming: I’ll meet you at the Starbucks in Stark Tower if you want.
Outgoing: You’re the man, Steve.
Incoming: Let’s get you some caffeine. I’ll be there in twenty.
Tony looked down at what he was wearing and decided that he owned the tower and if the patrons at Starbucks had a problem with a man covered in grease they could fuck off.
True to his word, Steve arrived twenty minutes later. Tony nudged one of the coffee cups towards him wordlessly.
“Not up for speech yet?” Steve asked, lips quirking up into a smile.
Tony shook his head.
“How did you order?”
Without thinking, Tony signed his response. Like this.
Steve’s face broke into a large grin. You know sign?
Tony had made sure that at least one person each shift knew sign language. He had learned it a few years ago when he’d made friends with a Deaf sharpshooter (he still isn’t sure how that actually happened but one day he had no idea who Clint was and the next he was stealing Tony’s food and lazing on his couch like it was made to mold to his ass) and found it incredibly useful. After being subjected to Clint’s numerous rants on how irritating it was to never have the ability to communicate properly when he went out, Tony had done an overhaul at Stark Industries and ASL was preferred in any new hires, though it wasn’t a requirement. That’s why Tony had translators, after all. Pepper had been freakishly pleased with him afterwards.
But the explanation was long and Tony was still too out of it to think properly, so he switched over to speech. Steve listened to him prattle, attention rapt, and it was then that Tony realized just how gone he was on this kid.
Steve was gorgeous.
Not at all like the bottled gym-rat type Tony had become accustomed to taking home with him. Steve was smaller than Tony and larger than life. He was slight but capable. He stood up for his friends when he thought they needed it and wasn’t afraid to admit he’d been wrong (something Tony was incapable of but admired in others). He was sweet and attentive and Tony really wanted to kiss him.
So he did.
He stopped speaking mid-sentence and leaned over the table to peck Steve on the lips like it was something they did every morning. Steve was startled but didn’t appear to be gearing up for a physical attack.
There was a small smile on his face. “So it’s like that, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah. It’s like that.”
Steve shrugged. “Okay.”
Tony picked back up where he’d left off, and everything was the same and totally different.
Ten minutes later, when Steve left the tower with plans to return the next day with Bucky for a checkup, he was smiling like he was on top of the world.
Which he probably was, since, you know, Tony was awesome.
Tony had built military-grade weapons for a living. He had built bombs for fun in his basement. He poked a literal sleeping bear. He had once told Pepper ‘no’ and meant it.
And he’d never been as terrified as he was when Bucky Barnes gave him the shovel talk.
Bucky’s arm – the one Tony had built, and if you asked him this was improper use of technology – had pinned Tony up against the wall beside his front door. And he was fucking pissed.
See, the thing is that Steve hadn’t actually told Bucky that he and Tony were seeing each other. So when he walked in on them making out about three weeks into their relationship, he might have overreacted a little bit.
Or a lot.
But Steve calmed him down enough to drop Tony back to the ground (he laid there gasping in air for several minutes) and then he walked out of the room with the command that they ‘sort whatever this is out’ before he got back.
This left Tony alone with a still rather angry Bucky Barnes, equipped with a superhuman arm and a glare fit to kill.
“What exactly are your intentions with my Stevie?” he asked, and from anyone else that phrase would elicit laughter.
“Be straight with me, Stark.”
Now was not the time to make a ‘straight’ joke, but oh how he wanted to. He let out a sigh instead. “I love him. My intentions are honorable enough that if you were to, say, check my sock drawer, you might find a ring box.”
If anything, Bucky glared harder. “So you were going to propose before I even found out about the two of you?”
“No!” Tony yelped. “Of course not! I was just, you know, planning for the future.”
Bucky shifted his weight but said nothing.
Tony shrugged. “When you know, you know.”
They stood there for a long moment, Bucky watching his face closely. He seemed to find what he was looking for because his harsh demeanor settled some and he nodded. “Alright, Tony.”
He heaved a sigh of relief.
“Just know that if you hurt him, I will gut you.”
Tony didn’t doubt it.
Tony still had rules. He might be happy and in love, but that wasn’t a reason to give up his rules. They just changed a little, and he added another one.
Tony Stark & Steve Rogers’ Relationship Rules, As Negotiated on 9/18/2014, (In Bed Because We Share One Now):
- Condoms and dental dams are optional and provided by whichever of us happens to have gone to the pharmacy last. I’m not stupid – we’ll both get tested before doing anything too risky, Steve, don’t give me that look. So: protection until the results come back. Then it will just be a matter of whether or not we want to deal with the mess.
- Feelings are a thing now. Feelings are messy and wonderful and should be communicated frequently.
- Steve stays for breakfast, always.
- I won’t ever underestimate Bucky’s role in Steve’s life again. He’s scary when he’s mad and it would do me well to remember that.