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For Sentimental Reasons

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It was a nice temperature in the bathroom, Steve figured.  It always got warm and a little steamy once the water was on, but the ventilation was good, so it wasn’t suffocating.  The water was nice and hot, just on the edge of comfortable.  He was always a little shocked by the size of Tony’s bathroom, like his mind edited it in his memories to be smaller than it was, even by now, when it should have been so familiar.  It was familiar by this point, honest to God, as familiar as the way Tony’s head fit on his shoulder, the beat of his pulse under Steve’s thumb, the way his back slid warm against Steve’s chest and the weight of him balanced over Steve’s legs.  And the size of it fit Tony’s personality, Steve thought with a sense of rueful fondness spreading through him as he finished rinsing the straight razor and set it aside on the side of the bath, patting Tony’s throat clean with the towel, and Tony shifted in his arms without opening his eyes, slid his hand up over Steve’s biceps, around his shoulder.  “Mmm,” he purred, nuzzling in against Steve’s neck, pressing his cheek in against Steve’s, laying a wet kiss against his cheek.  Steve couldn’t quite keep back his smile as he shifted his arm around Tony’s waist to keep him steady.  “Nice and crisp now,” Tony muttered in his ear.  “How’s my face feel, all smooth?”

It was, actually, but Steve just slid his hand through Tony’s hair, down over the back of his neck.  “You don’t want to check to make sure I didn’t do it all wrong?” he asked, curling his fingers in against Tony’s nape.

Tony chuckled softly.  “You got it right the last five times,” he said, fingers sliding up to twirl through and then close in the hair at the base of Steve’s skull, still without opening his eyes, making Steve smile at the pull. “I might have control issues, darling, but not that bad.”

“You’re just going to check later,” Steve told him, but it wasn’t lacking in affection and he knew it, even as he ran his thumb down along the back of Tony’s neck, along his spine, watched the shudder that went through him as his muscles worked under skin that shone golden in the low light, wet with the water of the bath.

“You know me too well,” Tony murmured in his ear, and Steve could feel his smile against his cheek, the way he was grinning.

“Well enough,” Steve said, pressing his hand in against the skin of Tony’s back, half beneath the water and half out of it, feeling the heat of him, the firm, lean muscle beneath his hand. “And I’m not done here.”

“What’s next?” Tony asked, all low in his chest and breathless against Steve’s jaw, and damn if that wasn’t distracting. Steve ran his hand back up, slid his fingers through Tony’s messy curls, rubbing them against his scalp, then tightened his grip, tugged Tony’s head back.  Tony let his head tip back easily, breathing out, eyes still closed, and Steve laid a kiss on the warm line of his exposed throat.

“You shh,” he murmured.  “You’re not calling the shots here right now, Stark.”

Tony sighed, shoulders unwinding, his fingers gently skimming up and down the back of Steve’s neck.  “Yessir, of course, Captain,” he murmured, lips quirking in a quiet smile.  Steve leaned in, kissed one side of it, and the smile widened under his lips.  His skin was awfully soft since the shave.  Steve brought his other hand up, stroked the backs of his fingers down Tony’s throat, and Tony shivered against him.

“Do as you’re told for once,” he said, thumbing at Tony’s bottom lip, and Tony smiled, huffed out a laugh.

“I’ll consider it,” he murmured, closing his softly mobile mouth around Steve’s thumb and sucking lightly, and Steve had to smile, again, even as the touch of Tony’s mouth jolted through him. The soft, wet heat made an answering heat shoot through Steve and he took a deep breath, told himself to keep it under control.  This wasn’t about his dick just now, even if Tony was seductive without even having to work at it, languid and relaxed in Steve’s arms.  The tease of his lips and tongue were a whole other level.

“Do that,” he told him, and pressed another kiss against Tony’s jaw.  Tony just laughed a little more, his hand coming up to play with Steve’s hair, but he did relax even further into Steve’s arms.  Steve let go of his hair, ran both hands down Tony’s sides and let them settle at his trim waist beneath the water, gripping to shift him, and Tony let Steve turn him back around easily so his back was to Steve’s chest again, then push him forward.  “Lean on the side of the bath,” Steve told him, and Tony let out a languid sigh and crossed his arms over the lip of the bath, pillowing his cheek on them, without argument, his firm rounded rear still very much resting warm on Steve’s thighs, the water just lapping at his shoulders.  “That’s it,” Steve murmured, and ran a hand down Tony’s back to see the ripple that went through his muscles.  Tony relaxed under it, leaned forward a little bit further, let out a long, slow sigh, and Steve slid his hand back up, reached up to comb one hand through Tony’s already damp, tousled hair, feeling how it stuck to his wet hand, clinging against his skin. It was something else seeing it like that, when it was always so perfectly coiffed, so put together, most of the time.  He laid both hands on Tony’s shoulders and dug his thumbs in against those spots beside Tony’s spine where he kept so much of his tension.  Tony gasped, then jerked, then relaxed again, and Steve turned his hands to begin really rubbing at his shoulders.

“Oooh, darling, that’s good,” Tony sighed into his arm.

“Good,” Steve said shortly.  He ran his hand up to settle it over Tony’s neck, up into his hair, then back down again to rest there over his nape, because Tony always went limp all through his body, like his strings had been cut, when there was warm, soft pressure at the back of his neck.  Sure enough, he did it now, too, going even more limp against the side of the tub as Steve cupped his hand over his neck, letting it warm his skin gently. He curved his fingers in, started to massage the muscles there after a moment, and Tony gave a low sensual noise of pleasure, almost a moan.  The sounds he made were outrageous, never failed to make heat jump in Steve’s gut, but he knew Tony was just like that, flamboyant in his pleasure the way he was in everything else.  After a moment, he slid his hand down and began to massage Tony’s shoulders all over again, looking for the stress points, the knots that still remained in Tony’s already relaxed muscles, to begin to rub them out.

He worked on Tony’s back for a while, falling into it, focusing on the way Tony’s muscles felt under his hands, bunched and tense in places still, but slowly softening and loosening, the lean, smooth strength of him, the warmth of his skin, flushed slightly from the hot water, the rhythm of his breathing, the way he could feel each sensitive spot under his hands even before Tony tensed, sucked in his breath just slightly, barely even audible, but noticeable for Steve.  It was good to do this for him; Tony was always so busy, and since he’d been feeling better Steve felt like Tony had been going nonstop, as if trying to make up for lost time. He was always so tense, it felt like, when Steve started.

He tried not to think about the part of him that suggested that Tony might be trying to do as much as he could before the disease came back.  Tony wasn’t going to die. Not like that, at least. Steve told himself that … well, a lot.  But he stuck to it. The cancer wasn’t going to come back; Tony was going to be fine.  Steve just had to believe it.  So he would. He wasn’t going to waste time worrying about something that was never going to happen.  And that was all there was to it.  They’d done this same thing a few times before, all of it—the bath rather than the usual shower, Steve going through Tony’s routine step by step, taking care of it for him.  The first time Tony had had to lay it out for Steve, give him instructions on every little thing, it had felt like, but now Steve had a handle on it himself. He liked it.  He liked Tony just letting Steve do for him, whatever he could. He liked feeling like he was of use. He loved the trust of it, the way it was almost a game of trust they played, except that he never pushed, Tony never had to do anything but give in (though sometimes that was hard enough, when Tony was bright-eyed and brittle and sharp.  But that had happened less often lately). They’d talked about it, a few times, what Tony wanted to have happen, what he wanted Steve to do, but this time Steve had just put a hand on Tony’s shoulder and asked if he could give him a bath, and Tony had turned, looked at him, then smiled at him through his eyelashes and asked, “And a massage?”

And of course Steve had said yes. He liked giving massages, seeing Tony relax for him, his body softening all over, opening up until he was loose from head to toe, all warm and trusting, just trusting Steve to touch him. Not as sharp, pointed and edged, as he was so much of the rest of the time, not as bright and glittering and brittle as he could be, but muted and soft under Steve's hands, gleaming low and soft, glowing, rather than harshly brilliant.  Steve had checked with Tony on the details, of course—the shave, the full routine in the bath—he always did.  But this time it had felt even slower, more relaxed, more intimate, than it usually did. Steve was pretty, well, tickled that Tony had asked for a massage from him.  He knew Tony enjoyed it when he massaged his shoulders or back, or his feet. He’d done it a lot when Tony was still suffering the effects of the chemotherapy.  He’d done it even before they’d started their more intimate relationship, a few times, as careful as could be when Tony was sore all over so that Steve could feel it in his muscles, in his skin. But Tony had never come right out and asked him before, and, well, it felt good, to know he was doing something Tony wanted like that.  Enough to ask for it. He ran his hands downward beneath the water, worked them into the base of Tony’s spine, along the small of his back, and Tony gave a soft, throaty groan, shifted to pillow his cheek on his arm more fully.

They played a game with it, of course. The first time they had ever done this, the whole thing, with the bath, not just the massage, Steve had simply wanted to do something that felt good for Tony, while he was sick, nauseous and tired and stumbling on his feet, but had realized fairly quickly that Tony found it hard to relax, to let go of that control, to let himself enjoy it, let alone to let Steve do much of anything for him, some days.  He’d asked, in frustration, would it help if I ordered you to do it?  He hadn’t really expected Tony’s eyes to go dark and thoughtful in response.  He’d slid one hand into Tony’s hair, settled his palm at the nape of his neck, and said, I’m going to give you a bath, Tony, and Tony had licked his lips and said, Yes, Captain, please do. Steve could still remember it vividly, as if it had just happened, the quiet, husky depth in Tony’s voice, the velvet softness, the way his eyes had looked, wide and starry as they stared up into Steve's, meeting his gaze, the way he’d reached out, put his hands on Steve’s hips and leaned into him, tilting his head back to look up at him, until Steve had curled his hand around the back of his neck and then, slowly, gripped, rubbing his thumb against the back of Tony’s neck, and slowly, gently, tilted Tony’s head down until he could press his lips in a soft kiss to the top of his head and the artfully mussed dark hair there.  Tony had let his breath out in a soft little gasp, let his head fall forward against Steve’s shoulder, and there they’d been.

Sometimes it took some time, to work Tony into a space where he could let it happen like this; sometimes it took hardly any time at all, just a kiss and a squeeze to Tony’s wrists, a slow slide over his pulse with a thumb.  But Steve was always willing to take the time.  He figured good things were worth working for, after all.  And this was good, this was very good, his hands on Tony, Tony warm and relaxed and willing to let Steve take care of him like this.

His skin was always so soft to the touch. Steve still didn’t know how he got it that way, so clear and perfectly smooth.  Tony was so impossibly good-looking that Steve had figured from the beginning that it took plenty of time and money to get him looking that way, and now he knew it took a lot of lotions and creams and other products, whatever they were, on top of that, but he knew there was more to the whole process he still wasn’t aware of.  Tony did put so much work into it.  Even more when he’d been sick, and that had sure been a nasty shock to find out about.  Tony had seemed embarrassed, almost ashamed, the first time Steve had seen him grey-faced and ill with no makeup to hide it, dark circles under his eyes, so thin without an extra shirt underneath to help pad out the fit of his suits. Steve had been staggered by that, the idea that Tony might feel shame over how he looked, of all things, and then had remembered tugging at his own tie until it hung just right, pushing his shoulders square and back even when every breath felt like it would bring a hacking cough bursting out of his weighted lungs, and then all he’d wanted was to help somehow.

Tony had gained the weight back, now, and it was a pleasure to see it, the lithe shape of him, real muscle under his skin, which had that healthy glow to it now rather than the grey-tinged sallowness of illness. Steve still liked this, though, being able to touch him, find the places where he was stiff or in pain, held tension from the day, with his own hands.  Tony never let him do much for him, really, and he was so goddamned wealthy it wasn’t like Steve had much to offer on that front.  Even paying the bill at a restaurant felt like Tony was smiling indulgently and humoring him while Steve gritted his teeth through it. But this, this was something Steve could do.  And Steve treasured the … the trust of it, the thought that Tony would just let him, would trust him to do it right, to be gentle despite his strength, to tell Tony what to do and when, without trying to seize the reigns back for himself.  It blew him away every time.  He could still hardly believe it himself.

He brought his fingers up along Tony’s back, digging them in to scratch just lightly along his skin as he dragged them upwards again, making Tony shiver, shifting in the water slightly, smiling as he did, because he knew Tony liked that, he’d had a lot of practice figuring out what he liked best by this point.  He ran his fingertips up and down Tony’s back, scratching lightly in places, gently rubbing over his skin in others, and Tony gave an ‘mmm’ of pleasure.

“That feels so good, gorgeous,” he mumbled into his hand.  The words were slurred, pushed out of shape by the way he didn’t lift his head from his hand.

“Good,” Steve said again.  He kept at it for a while longer, then rested his hand on Tony’s shoulders, squeezed lightly.  “Roll over,” he told him, and Tony did, obediently, languidly rolling his head back as he did onto the arm Steve kept around his shoulders to support him and smiling up at him.  His face was flushed, his smile loose and open, crooked on his face, his eyes soft and deep. There was a red, warm spot on his cheek where he’d been resting on his hand, visible beneath his beard, and he tipped his head back against Steve’s arm, baring his throat, with a soft ‘ah’ of breath, purposefully seductive.  “That’s it,” Steve said, smiling.  He traced his knuckles along the sculpted column of Tony’s throat, his Adam’s apple. “That’s a good boy,” he said, more softly, and he could hear the way his voice deepened, the roughness in it. Tony shuddered all over.

“You’re such a tease,” he murmured, eyes finding him beneath those heavy dark lashes.  “Talking to a man like that.”

“Who says it’s a tease?” Steve asked him with amusement. It wasn’t, really, Tony was his good boy, at times like this.  It was just the truth of it, whether Tony agreed with him or not.  “I’m going to wet your hair.”  He shifted Tony with that arm, used the other to steady him as he moved him away from the edge of the bath, tilted him back until the water came up to lap at Tony’s forehead, over his hairline.  Tony closed his eyes, let out his breath and leaned back, arched his back perfectly, let Steve steady him with one arm beneath his shoulders and his hand supporting his head, before he let Steve lift him just as easily and push him back to where he had lain on the side of the bath, sliding his hand to hold him around his waist.  Tony crossed his arms again and let him, not opening his eyes.  Steve reached for the shampoo, squirted it into his palms, then slid both hands into Tony’s hair.  He didn’t really need both hands for this, one palm covered the entire back of Tony’s head, but he liked to be thorough, to massage his fingers against Tony’s scalp as he worked, to make sure he’d gotten every last stray curl of hair thoroughly shampooed, to run his thumbs down behind Tony’s ears and massage there.

“Christ, Steve,” Tony mumbled under his breath after a moment of him working in the shampoo.

“What’s that?” Steve asked, still focused on massaging Tony’s scalp, rubbing gently with his fingers.

“Oh, just how good it feels, darling,” Tony breathed, “at the risk of sounding like a broken record.”

“I like hearing how I’m doing,” Steve told him, brushing hair off Tony’s forehead to be certain he got it all.

“Mmm,” Tony said, sounding pleased, happy, “well, you’re doing very well,” and Steve could tell in his voice that he was smiling into his arm, which pleased Steve. The shampoo he used smelled good, too, like sandalwood and some kind of fruit.  He always liked smelling it on Tony, on his own hands after he got done washing his hair.

“Hmph,” was all he said, though, but he knew he was smiling, too.  He kept his hands on Tony’s head far longer than he really needed to, making sure it was every inch a massage, not just a quick shampoo.  Tony pushed his head into his hands like a cat at one point, sighing with a heavy breath, and Steve had to smile at that.  “Hedonist,” he accused.

“Guilty as charged,” Tony breathed. “Though really, this is nothing compared to my usual standard.  Positively Spartan.  Simple.”

“Sorry if it doesn’t live up to your standards,” Steve grunted.  His fingers worked more determinedly at Tony’s hair.

“Ha,” Tony said, still slow, languid and soft. “No, this is … this is nice. Far surpasses my usual.” He was quiet for a moment, as Steve rubbed at the back of his neck, working his fingers through his hair. “Really,” he said.

Steve just grunted again, even as that sent a warm burst of pleasure through him, but then he realized that probably sounded harsher than he’d wanted, and carded a hand gently through Tony’s sudsy hair, leaving it there on the top of his head for a moment.  “Thanks,” he said.  “It is nice.”  He suddenly felt awkward, wrong-footed.  “Doing this for you,” he said.  “I like it.” Christ almighty, Rogers, he thought in irritation.  You sound idiotic. You’re going to mess it up for him, fumbling over your words like that.

“Really?” Tony said.  He sounded surprisingly light, pleased.  “Thank you, Steve.”

The simple way he said it, open and honest, made something in Steve’s throat thicken, though he wasn’t sure what to say back. If he even wanted Tony to know how much that had affected him.  He brushed his thumb gently over the back of Tony’s head instead, up and down, ran it down the nape of his neck, because that deserved a response all the same, then reached for the spray to rinse it clean, turning it on and being certain of the temperature on his own skin before he told Tony to close his eyes and started to rinse the shampoo out of his hair.  He washed it carefully, running his hand through it to be certain every bit of shampoo was washed out, and Tony’s hair was sudsed clean.  He shampooed Tony’s hair once more to be sure, then followed it up with the conditioner and the spritzing toner Tony used on it. When he was done, he wiped Tony’s face with the towel he’d used before and pulled him back against his shoulder, then grinned down at him, tapped on the side of his face. “You can open your eyes,” he said.

Tony did, blinking those ridiculously long, luxuriant lashes back away from his cheeks, and then he was staring up at Steve, and at the look on Steve’s face, an answering smile lit his own, bright, even beaming. He leaned up and curled a hand around Steve’s neck, leaning in and practically rubbing his face on him, along his cheek, against his jaw, as he laid a kiss on Steve’s mouth, open-mouthed and wet and lingering.  Steve wrapped his arm around his shoulders, held him up, and returned the kiss with enthusiasm, fastening their lips together.  He could feel the weight of Tony against his arm, the heaviness of him, and knew he was holding him up, almost entirely, could feel it the way Tony had just laid back into it. He felt so relaxed. Steve was so glad. If he was relaxed, then he was doing this right.

Tony’s mouth was warm and wet, as pliant and giving as his body as he leaned into Steve, draped himself over him. Steve took the invitation he was offered, but slowly, enjoying the way Tony’s fingers rubbed back into his hair, against his neck, the low, indulgent moan he gave as Steve leaned into it. It was hard not to want to kiss him and do nothing else when he responded like that, which was always Steve’s problem; kissing Tony was addictive, his mouth so soft and perfect and welcoming, his tongue clever and teasing.  Everything about the way he kissed was incredible.  Steve felt even warmer, as if it was easing into him through Tony’s mouth, heating him up from the inside out.  He ran his hand up along Tony’s shoulder, closed it over the back of his neck, easing his fingers up into his clean, damp hair. Tony made another low humming noise and pulled away just a bit, sucking on Steve’s tongue, then shifting down to mouth softly at his lower lip.  He kissed the corner of his mouth, laid soft, open-mouthed kisses over Steve’s lips, and Steve let him, relishing the damp drag of his mouth, the gentle, wet tingle of the touches, the soft scratch of his facial hair. He rubbed at the back of Tony’s neck in response, down over his shoulders, and just kissed him back.

Eventually, when Tony was slowing down, just softly mouthing at Steve’s lips, he reluctantly pulled away, pressed a damp kiss of his own to Tony’s forehead.  “I still have plenty more to do here,” he told him, reaching for the soap and bringing it down over Tony’s chest even as he pushed him back down to lie against his shoulder again, skimming it over the gleaming bare skin of Tony’s pectorals. “You’re not done yet.” He leaned down, dropped another kiss into Tony’s hair.  “Lie still.”

Tony was smiling up at him, reached up and traced his hand along Steve’s neck, his jaw, a finger along his lips. “Yes, Captain,” he purred.

Steve couldn’t keep back his smile, even as he gripped Tony’s chin in one hand, leaned down to kiss him firmly. “And none of that,” he told him, even as Tony’s lips softened for his, the wet touch of them sending a tingle through him even as he pulled away.

“Yessir,” Tony said, his eyes bright with the way he was smiling up at Steve, the skin around them crinkling up. Steve caught his hand where it lingered against his own jaw and squeezed it, then on impulse, kissed the knuckles. He knew he hadn’t imagined the way Tony gasped, the delighted way he laughed afterward, breathy and tickled, like he couldn’t believe Steve had just done that.

He squeezed Tony’s hand again, then brought it down to his side. “Just let me take care of you,” he told him, and his voice came out hoarse and low, rougher than he’d meant to. “Stop trying to distract me.”

“I’m not trying to,” Tony told him.  “You’re just hard to resist.”  He smiled up at Steve some more, contentedly.

“Try harder, then,” Steve suggested, smiling back despite himself, bending down to press another kiss against Tony’s temple, “and lie still.”  He slid the soap up over Tony’s shoulder, over the honestly lovely bone structure of his shoulder and collarbone, following the shapes of it with his fingers. Tony shivered against him, turning his head in against Steve’s neck, tilting it in against him and baring his throat. “That’s it,” Steve said, and it came out a low, breathy rumble without his intending it to. Tony’s eyes slid closed, and he let his own breath out, his head tipping back further.

“If you insist, I can give it my best shot, I suppose,” he murmured, his voice vaguely rough and unsteady despite the words.

“You do that, Tony,” Steve told him.

“Mmm,” Tony murmured, sounding like he agreed, and turned his face in further against Steve’s neck.  His hair slid wetly over Steve’s skin, his beard against his throat.  Steve loved it when they got to this point, Tony slow and affectionate and everything relaxed and easy, and he slowed down his own hands, stroking gently with the soap, as he washed Tony’s chest, then his shoulders, down over Tony’s arms to his long, gracefully clever hands, carefully washing every finger, just because he could. He loved Tony’s hands, so rough and scarred, yet elegant, manicured, clever and so agile.  Tony smiled against his neck and flexed his hands in Steve’s, and Steve smiled, rubbing the soap against his palms carefully until Tony huffed out a laugh, then working it in with his own fingers against Tony’s skin. Tony let him, even though his fingers twitched, relaxing in Steve’s grip. Steve rinsed them just as carefully, loving the way it made Tony huff and laugh into his neck as he traced his own fingers along his knuckles, the lines of his palms.

“Let me wash your back,” he said, nudging Tony up, and Tony laughed and swung one long leg over him to straddle him, bringing their groins and hips together with a sudden hot pressure that made Steve gasp.

“Like this?” he asked, low and scratchy, and smiled at Steve with an unfocused sort of charm that was no less dazzling for all that, kissing a trail up his throat.

“No,” Steve grunted, flexing his hands at Tony’s waist, lifting him up and back, away from his groin and that hot pressure against his cock.  Tony grinned wickedly and him and licked his lips, and Steve shook his head.  “I won’t be able to focus,” he admitted, shamefaced. His cock was already standing to attention, need hard and throbbing between his legs, much to his frustration, and he’d seen Tony’s eyes follow it with interest as it hardened beneath the water. He knew he was blushing.

“I don’t mind that,” Tony murmured, voice all hot and silky, “you can have me.”

“Shh,” Steve told him firmly, despite the temptation that surged up in him in immediate response.  “That’s not what this is about.”  He turned Tony around bodily, pushed him back down to the edge of the bath, and reached for one of their hand towels to wet it and lather it up, then started on Tony’s back, soaping and rinsing.

“Well,” Tony said, after a moment, with a low laugh, “you do have me, though.”

Steve laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. He wanted to thank him, for that gift of his trust, even just for being with him, like this or like anything else, but he couldn’t get the words to sound right in his head, so instead he said, “That’s true enough.  But not like that, just now.”

“No,” Tony said, and his voice was back to that soft, languid purr.

“No,” Steve agreed, stroking his back lightly with the washcloth.  Tony really was beautiful, he reflected, all lean, light muscle, loose and languid under the light, with the new flush of health and strength beneath his skin. He could watch him for ages, even just the little flexes of muscles, shifts and ripples as he sighed and shifted his head on his hands, the way the water washed over him, the sheen of the soap.

You have it bad, Rogers, he thought, and smiled ruefully to himself. And for someone like Tony Stark, too, of all people, loud and obnoxious and flamboyant and just … too much. But he’d turned Steve’s head somehow, and he couldn’t find it in himself to regret it.  Tony’s legs draped lazily off his knees, legs spread as he balanced over Steve’s legs, and he supposed the position could have felt erotic, but it really didn’t, as long as Tony wasn’t rubbing up against him like a goddamned tease, that was.  He draped the cloth over Tony’s shoulder, ran his hands down and rubbed gently at the sturdy muscle at Tony’s waist, the dips of his hips, leaned in and pressed a kiss to the back of Tony’s head.

He could feel Tony’s little huff of laughter, but somehow it didn’t make him so self-conscious he pulled away, and then Tony was turning his head, grabbing the towel in one hand as he leaned up and brushed his own lips against Steve’s, startling him entirely.  “Sappy, darling,” he murmured, still in that low, slurring voice, and Steve did blush.

“Well, excuse me for trying to take care of you,” he said, and Tony smiled.

“Sweet as apple pie,” he said, but his voice was warm and just as sweet, and there was a deep, warm fondness in his eyes.

“Stark, I’m warning you,” Steve said, but he had a feeling he was grinning like an idiot.  Tony just chuckled and turned back around, settling his head onto his arms again.

“I do adore you, darling,” he said after a long moment, when Steve had picked up the towel again.  “I hope you’re aware of that.”

Something seized up in Steve’s chest, in his throat, and he felt suddenly warm, hot, all over.  A deep, trembling feeling twisted up, fluttering madly, in his stomach, then eased.  He felt light, dizzy, and had to swallow a couple times before he could even seem to breathe.

He’d never expected Tony to say anything like that, even down and loose like this, like he was now.

“Hmph,” Steve said, but damn it, that wasn’t enough. He had to do better than that for Tony, after he’d said something like that.  “I, er, I try,” he said.  “Hell, you know I care about you, too,” he added, annoyed, with himself, for failing at this, and half at Tony, for putting him on the spot by saying that, even if it had made Steve feel warm and flushed and flustered and … wonderful.

Tony laughed lightly.  “You sound it,” he said.

“Oh, come on,” Steve said, “I told you, be a good boy and be quiet.”

“Oh, but I’m never a good boy,” Tony said back, easily, teasingly, voice soft and light.

Steve frowned.  “Of course you are,” he said.  Tony was always so good for him when they did this, was so incredible for him, with him, in bed, whether Steve was on top or not, whatever they did.

“I—” Tony said, and then stopped, cut off, trembled. “I’m not,” he said, after a moment had passed, more easily.  “I’d have thought you’d know that by now.  But you know, thank you for saying so.”

Steve frowned, put one hand on the top of Tony’s head and mussed his hair before rubbing his thumb against the curve of his skull. “You are,” he said, firmly. “And it doesn’t matter. You’re my boy, whether you’re good or not, and I like you that way.”

There was a moment of silence, broken only by their unsteady breathing, Steve’s own loud in his ears, and then something all through Tony’s body relaxed.  “Yes, Captain,” he murmured.  “Your boy.”

“That’s right,” Steve told him, still rather hot. “And don’t you go forgetting it.”

He could hear Tony’s smile in his voice, rather dreamy and warm.  “Never.”

“Good,” Steve huffed out.  “Don’t.”  He went back to washing Tony’s back, though he didn’t really need any more washing. He wanted him to relax a bit again before they got out of the bath, and running his hands over his skin seemed like a surefire way to do that.  They stayed there like that for another long few moments, Tony sighing quietly at times, letting Steve’s hands wander over his back and sides, and then Steve set the washcloth aside, put his hands on Tony’s hips and squeezed. “All right,” he said. “Up you get.  Out of the bath.”

He ended up practically lifting Tony, who swayed into him with a laugh and wrapped his arms around Steve’s neck as he did. Steve swallowed, steadied him with a hand on his back as he helped him out of the bath and wrapped him up in a towel. All Tony’s towels were ridiculously large, soft and fluffy, but Steve was glad of that at times like this, since the last thing he wanted was for Tony to get cold.  He increased the temperature in the bathroom (he’d finally gotten better at using Tony’s temperature control touchpads), and then set about toweling Tony dry.  Tony was relatively cooperative, though soft still and teasing, prone to posing in the sorts of provocative ways that made Steve’s mouth grow dry and got him, well, distracted.  He frowned at Tony and briskly, almost roughly, toweled down his inner thighs, making sure it was bracingly nonsexual, and smiled to himself as Tony pouted at him, one hand coming down to rest in Steve’s hair and stroke through it.  It felt good, Tony’s hand soft and heavy in his hair, gentle with the touches. Steve relented after a moment and leaned in to press a kiss to the top of Tony’s thigh before he rubbed the towel up over the backs of Tony’s thighs, his rear end, the small of his back, straightened up and finished with his shoulders and chest, reaching for another towel to wipe the back of his neck and press it close to his hair, soaking up the wet.

“You’re wounding me here,” Tony said breezily, lightly, even as Steve threw the towel over his shoulders and sat him down on the side of the bath, reaching for the lotion Tony liked to use. He got his neck first, his jaw, wiped his hands off on the towel to make sure they were clean, and went for another type, then rubbed it into Tony’s elbows and knees.  Tony was smiling a little, looking down, not up at Steve, and it was soft, so soft, almost self-conscious.  “So oblivious to my charms.”

“Who said anything about oblivious,” Steve muttered, lifting the towel up enough to rub lotion into the small of Tony’s back. His skin was so warm, his back so beautifully shaped, curved, the round of his rump so full and lush, and he arched his back and sighed as Steve worked in the lotion, dragged his hands up over his spine.

Tony laughed, low and languid and soft. “Just incorruptible, then,” he murmured.

“I told you the bath tonight,” Steve said. “And a massage.” And he was sticking to that. He reached for more lotion, began to rub it in over Tony’s chest, doing his best to keep his own breathing even. The skin of Tony’s chest was warm and velvety-soft, so oddly inviting for a man, more muscular than he’d first expected without the armor.  Steve loved touching it, to tell the truth.  Loved touching him. More than he’d ever expected, or wanted to admit.

Tony sighed, soft and relaxed, stretched back as Steve continued to rub lotion into his skin.  “So you did,” he said quietly.

Steve moved down, began to work lotion into the curved, plush muscles of Tony’s thighs.  “So that’s what we’re doing,” he told him, commanding. “Bath, then you get into bed and I rub you down.”  Until you can’t move, he added mentally, with a grin. He liked seeing Tony so undone, that was for sure, so relaxed.

“Surely you already gave me the massage part of this equation,” Tony said, letting Steve take his hand and work new lotion into it, bit by bit, rubbing into the muscles.  He took Tony’s hand in both of his and worked it with the heels of his palms.

“That was just previews,” Steve told him, working lotion into Tony’s wrist now, drawing it down over his inner palm with his fingertips. Tony shuddered under him. “Gotta be in bed for the real thing.”

“Which still won’t feature sex?” Tony asked, smiling up at him with a half-impish grin.

“No,” Steve grunted.  “Stop asking, or I’ll paddle your cute little rear before I get started.”

“I’m certain I would like that,” Tony said, laughing, really grinning at him now.

“Yeah,” Steve admitted.  “I am too.”  He’d like it, too, Tony always took well to a spanking.  It got him hot, flushed and dizzy and warm, a little loose and ready for it, warmed up and easy in a different way than he was just then.

“Not much of a punishment, then,” Tony said, soft and warm, as Steve moved on to his other hand, carefully rubbing in the lotion. Steve grinned.

“I can make it a punishment,” he pointed out. “I haven’t ever given you my full arm before.  You wouldn’t be able to sit down the next day.”

“Please, please, tell me you’ll do that someday, Captain,” Tony said in a warm, breathless rush, head tilted down. He did that when he was really loose with it like this, really softened up, the bright-eyed, challenging gaze became a soft, warm, heavy-eyed look, the arrogant jut of his chin turned into a quiet dip of his head, eyes sliding away from meeting Steve’s for too long.  Soft and sweet and not really shy, but something like it.

“If you’d like it,” Steve said with a fond, disbelieving shake of his head.  “Don’t blame me when you end up crying.”

“Steve, darling, really,” Tony said, smiling crookedly, tilting his head back up toward him.  Steve tapped his rear gently with his fingers.

“I do know how to make it hurt,” he reminded him. “I usually go easy on you, you realize.” He curled his fingers gently around that rounded muscle and squeezed.  So warm, firm and muscular under his hand but just soft enough with flesh these days that those round, sweet cheeks would bounce when he slapped them. Just the way he liked it, honestly.

“And I appreciate that,” Tony purred, sliding his hands up over Steve’s chest when Steve finished with them and let them go, wrapping them around the back of Steve’s neck and leaning in.  “But sometimes a man likes to be worked over.  Taken to task.”

“Really?” Steve asked dryly.  “You like that?”  He knew Tony had a soft, wanting side, eager and even desperate, the way he got soft and open like this, but proud, mouthy Tony Stark asking for something like that was another step.  “You might live to regret it, Stark.”

“You could do whatever you wanted to me, and I’d enjoy it,” Tony breathed out hotly into the hollow of Steve’s throat.

Tony didn’t really know what he was saying when he was like this, Steve reminded himself, even as he had to swallow through a suddenly thick, dry, prickling throat, feeling a wash of both heat and feeling and the twist of responsibility, of pressure, in his gut. He brought one hand up, smoothed it through Tony’s hair, cupping the back of his head and holding him close, pressing a kiss into that soft, clean, well-conditioned tumble. “I’ll remind you that you said that,” he managed in a rough rumble into Tony’s ear, and Tony shivered under him. Steve pressed a kiss to the top of Tony’s ear, mouthed over the shell of it, then added, “The next time you complain about watching daytime soaps with me.”

Tony froze, then laughed, collapsed against him, the laugh soft and breathy and shaking his chest as he laughed and laughed.  “You—really, Rogers,” he said, still laughing.  “Really.  That’s where you’re going to take this.”

“Yep,” Steve told him, unrepentantly. “You want to be carried into the bedroom?”

“Mmm,” Tony said, still grinning into Steve’s shoulder, he could feel it.  “I can walk.”

“Doesn’t mean you will,” Steve said briskly, and collected the wet towels, folded them over and laid them on the side of the bath before he started the water draining.

“I assure you,” Tony started, then broke off with a yelp as Steve slid one arm under his bare knees, the other around his shoulders, and swung him up into his arms easily.  Tony might have gained back a good amount of weight and muscle, but Steve could have lifted two of him just as easily.  Tony yelped, stiffened, then relaxed in his arms with surprising ease. That was how you could tell he was really down and relaxed in it, Steve thought with satisfaction.

“Steve, really,” Tony said, letting his head tip back, baring his throat again, rolling it against Steve’s shoulder. His voice was low, throaty, husky.

“Don’t make a fuss,” Steve told him, and carried him into the bedroom.  It was quick and easy, a few long strides.  Tony made warmth well up within him by leaning in, wrapping his arm around Steve’s neck and letting his other hand rest softly against his chest, gently stroking his fingers along his collarbone, the base of his neck.  He kissed Steve’s throat as they reached the bed, smiled up at him, eyes sparkling.  Steve laid him out on the towels already laid over the bed, rolled him onto his stomach, then leaned down to kiss the back of Tony’s head.  “There,” he murmured.  “That’s a good boy.”

“Mmm,” Tony hummed.  He looked beautiful like that, laid out over the white towels, entirely nude, the low lighting in the room and the contrast showing off his olive-toned skin, just letting himself lie there relaxed.

“Just like that,” Steve told him, and reached for the massage oil they’d set out earlier, pouring some onto his hands and warming it between them.  It was scented with rose, black pepper, and sandalwood, the scent Tony had already had oil made up with when they’d first started doing this, and Steve had come to associate it with these times, Tony relaxed and spread out on the bed, his muscles relaxing under Steve’s hands as they roamed over his velvety-soft skin. Steve knelt on the bed, swung a leg over Tony’s thighs, leaning over him as he started at his shoulders, careful not to let their bodies touch.  Other times Steve had let things turn sexual, had used the unscented oil and massaged it over Tony’s ass, his thighs, letting his fingers wander down the cleft of his rear and slick Tony there, over his entrance, then nudging inside, stroking him slippery and easy and open until Tony was squirming, or pressed his cock between Tony’s thighs and rubbed himself off.  But he didn’t want that for this time; this time he just wanted Tony to relax, feel good, let go of any tension he’d been carrying. It always made Steve feel good, too, relaxed, to do this for him, like he was letting go of everything else. Here he just needed to be Steve, Tony’s lover, responsible for him and his pleasure, not Captain America, America’s greatest hero and symbol, not … anything, not anyone else. He hadn’t realized for a long time that that was where the feeling of relief he got from doing this for Tony, bathing him and rubbing him down, was coming from, on top of the pure pleasure that filled him up, warm and bright, just from making Tony feel good. But it was, and it felt … good, really good. Better than Steve would have thought before he'd tried it.

Tony groaned, loud and ostentatious, as Steve got his hands on his back, stroked him all the way down his spine, then worked back up, started at the top again.  He started working deep into his shoulders then, and Tony was back to making those noises, soft, needy, show-off groans, grunts and shivers as Steve touched him. He was always noisy when Steve did this, and Steve really didn’t mind at all; it let him know better how he was doing, where Tony was tight and sore, what felt good, reinforcement even though he could already feel the tension, the sore places, under his hands. Besides, he liked the noises Tony made. Liked them when they were doing the deed, too, tried to coax more out of him, louder and unrestrained. The moans Tony gave when Steve hit a particularly good spot, either now, like this, or in other ways, too, were his absolute favorites, they were so warm and soft and wanton.

“God, honey,” Tony mumbled against the bed, mouth open and lips dragging against the towel, Steve could see it. “Feels so good, Steve, feels incredible.”

“Thanks,” Steve grunted, leaning down a little further over him so that Tony could feel the warmth of his body.  The last thing he wanted was him getting cold, his muscles shivering and seizing up while Steve was doing this.  He dragged his hands down Tony’s back, and Tony moaned under him, quivered.  Steve started in on Tony’s spine, worked lower and lower.  It nearly worked him into a kind of trance, too, the warmth of Tony’s body, the scent of the oil, the soft glide of his hands over his skin, over his muscles, the increasing give and looseness in the body under his hands, that he knew and cared for so well, Tony’s litany of gasps and ohs and pretty little moans, the beat of his own pulse. He massaged Tony all the way down to the curve of his spine, where he held so much tension, and worked on him there for a while, and Tony’s noises grew deeper, more breathless and guttural, as Steve worked out the worst of the tightness, groaning as he framed Tony’s waist with his hands and worked the heels of his palms along him, poured more oil over him and rubbed it in deep.  Tony was flushed and gorgeous now in the low light, entire body gleaming with the soft sheen of the oil, body warm and welcoming beneath Steve.

It was tempting to spend more time on his backside, but Steve contented himself with just one brush of his lips against one full cheek and dragging his hands down over the round fullness, making Tony gasp and chuckle and say, low and sleepy, “I thought we weren’t doing that this time,” before Steve moved down to his thighs.

“We’re not,” Steve said.  “But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy myself. You have a pretty rear end, Stark. It’s enough to tempt a man.”

“Is it enough to tempt Captain America?” Tony murmured, soft and slow, flirty and warm.  Steve could hear the knowledge that it was in his voice, but he didn’t begrudge him this time.  It was one hell of a fine ass, Tony deserved to feel proud of it, and Tony was half asleep.

“Yes, sir, you know it is,” Steve told him, because it was nothing but the truth, and started to work the knots out of Tony’s thighs, scooting down his legs.  Tony was even louder now, breathy and gasping, though he stayed still like a good boy after Steve laid one hand on the small of his back and reminded him. Steve worked down past his thighs, over his calves, then drizzled more oil onto his feet and started working on those, too, really digging in his thumbs now.  “Thighs aren’t bad either,” he added, blushing at the understatement as he worked on rubbing the tension out of the soles of Tony’s feet, “especially now that they have some decent muscle on ‘em.”

“So glad you approve,” Tony got out in a voice that was half dry, half breathless fluttering warmth.  “Ah-!”  His breath caught as Steve pressed into the arch of his foot.  “That feels so good,” he finished, all breathless, appreciative, and warm.

Tony usually had more eloquent praise for the things Steve did when they were together, but the very simplicity of the things he said when he was worked down like this was what made them settle into Steve so deeply, made him flush and feel warm all over.  “Doin’ what it’s supposed to, then,” he told him, and moved onto the next foot.

Tony was utterly limp, dark tousled head buried in his forearms as Steve patted him dry with the towels, then worked them out from under his body.  He barely roused as Steve worked a pair of silken boxers onto him, trying to help him with a lot of snorted chuckles and fumbling hands that hindered him more than anything, then rolled him into one of his softest robes and got himself dressed in sleep pants and a t-shirt.  He came back with a glass of water, having already downed his own in the small kitchenette, and tugged Tony up enough to press it into his hands and coax him to drink it. Tony managed half of it before he rolled himself into Steve’s shoulder and pressed his face into his neck, heavy and limp, and Steve set the glass aside and palmed along the side of Tony’s neck. “You sleep now, darlin’,” he told him, scratching his fingers lightly through his hair, gripping it lightly with his fingers before dragging them through it, letting his voice go soft, letting himself just enjoy Tony’s warmth like this.  “It’ll be good.”  He reached down, rubbed a warm circle over Tony’s hip through the robe. “You’re feeling so good, aren’t you, Stark?”

“So, so good, dearest, darling, my darling,” Tony mumbled into his neck.  “You make me feel so good.”  His voice caught, choked. “I can’t believe you’re here.”

Steve stroked his hand through his hair again, rubbed his hand more firmly at the small of Tony’s back, feeling his own throat tighten at that.  It was how he felt, when he woke up in the dead of night in Tony’s penthouse, in his bed, feeling his warm body breathing next to him, his breath against Steve’s cheek as he nestled into his shoulder, or his body a long, warm line from shoulder to thigh nudged up against him.  Tony always slept touching him, if not curled into him, and it was … Steve was grateful for it. He couldn’t believe Tony was with him, that he was real, that he wasn’t alone.  That this worked between them at all.  But it did, it really did, not just at times like this, even when Tony was being infuriating and over the top and too much, even when the weight of everything felt too much for Steve and he felt tired and old in his bones and not his body, even when everything was frustrating, even Tony, or Tony was impatient with him.  Even then. “I’m here,” he told him, keeping one hand firm at the curve of his back.  “I’m here.  Let’s get you into bed.”

Tony went willingly enough, slow and quiet and dragging with the lassitude of pleasure.  Steve got him settled on his side and thought about cleaning the bathroom, then discarded the idea as something that would be easy enough to enough to do in the morning before Tony woke up.  He didn’t really want to leave the warmth of the bed, or Tony’s warm, loose presence, anyway, and Tony was so open like this, even vulnerable, odd as that sounded; he could use the company.

His mind made up, Steve pulled back the covers and slid in against Tony in the bed, reaching up to push Tony’s tousled hair out of his face. Tony looked up at him with heavy-lidded eyes that looked tender, somehow, soft, underneath his ridiculous eyelashes, and smiled.

“Yeah,” he breathed, and reached out to run his fingers down over Steve’s chest.  The warmth of his touch made him shiver.  “You’re here.”  He smiled a little more, self-deprecating and soft, and tilted his head down to press a kiss to the heel of Steve’s hand, pressing his mouth in close, dragging it along his palm. The gesture made Steve’s own chest feel tight, made him draw in an unsteady breath and blow it back out.

“All night tonight,” he said on a smile back, “c’mere,” and pulled Tony into his arms.  He went willingly, pillowed his head on Steve’s shoulder, and Steve could feel how utterly relaxed his body felt against his.  He smiled wider and left another kiss in Tony’s hair.  He’d done good, then.