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He hears the armour hit the floor with a thud to the floor first. Then he's suddenly taller—the right height, finally. He feels like himself again.

Steve is still hugging him.

Tony – Tony doesn't want to let go. And Steve must have noticed he's not exactly a kid anymore, but he still doesn't let go. Tony involuntarily wraps his arms tighter around Steve, and the second Tony realises it he tenses, but then Steve pulls him closer and leans his forehead on Tony's shoulder.

“Welcome back, Shellhead,” he says.

Tony should probably step away now.

It's a long time before he does.

***

He's not sure why he shows Steve that old picture—hell, he's not sure why he'd kept it so long in the first place—but the smile on Steve's face makes him stop wondering.

He offers him the shield, and Tony—Tony has touched the shield before, has run it under scanners, has made sure it wasn't damaged after a fight—but never like this. It was always a matter of necessity, not . . . whatever this is, here and now.

The shield is lighter than it looks. Tony runs his hand over its edge. Steve's watching him softly.

It's suddenly too much.

Tony strikes a pose, like Steve in old propaganda pictures. “So you think I'm a hero?” he grins.

“Oh, yes,” Steve says solemnly. Then he cocks his head, like he does when he's planning something.

It's the only warning Tony has before Steve's on him, tickling him.

“That's—Steve,” Tony tries to say. “Not fair—”

He drops the shield and falls to the ground. He registers that Steve cushioned his fall, his hand under Tony's head, before he's tickling him again, and Tony can only laugh helplessly.

***

He lies there breathlessly, and Steve, the sadist, is laughing at him.

“That was cruel and unusual,” Tony says. “Doesn't become you, Captain America.”

“I'm not the one who held the shield,” Steve reminds him. He reaches towards Tony, and Tony finds enough strength to roll away. He hears Steve chuckling. “Tony Stark is ticklish, who would've thought?”

Sadist,” Tony says aloud this time. He pulls the shield towards him and hides under it.

“You look good with her. I'm almost jealous,” Steve says.

“Don't worry, I'm sure she only loves you,” Tony mutters.

“Oh, she does,” Steve says.

Tony stares at him, and Steve just laughs again.

***

The Wrecking Crew—what kind of a name is that, really; Tony despairs over the supervillains these days—try to, well, wreck Manhattan.

That was their first mistake, Tony thinks. The second was destroying Hulk's favourite ice cream place.

Tony's playing air support, firing repulsors just in time to distract the villains, when he notices Steve's shield getting knocked right out of his hands. Thunderball grins, and Tony shakes his head. Steve doesn't need his shield to be a hero.

It is useful, though.

Tony shots at Thunderball again and flies to where the shield landed.

“Catch it!” he shouts over the comms and throws the shield to Steve.

Steve, obviously, does.

“You never let me throw it!” Clint complains as they finish the villains off.

***

“Good throwing out there,” Steve says. “I see my lessons had some effect.”

Steve's presence in the lab has long since stopped surprising Tony. He wasn't quite sure why Steve came here the first time, but then he asked Tony about his projects, and Tony definitely can understand appreciation for good technology.

And, well, Tony's tech is the best there is.

Steve's out of his uniform already, sketching quietly on his tablet—he took to it like fish to water, too; not soon after Stark Industries tablets became even better thanks to his input—when Tony gets an idea. He's still half in the suit, having just run diagnostics on it, and he thinks of Steve offering him his shield in the gym.

“They did,” he says as he turns on to face Steve. “Don't you want to play with my armour?”

“Your precious—”

“You gave me the shield,” Tony reminds him. It's only fair Steve got to use his armour while not trying to save his life, isn't it?

It has nothing to do with Tony wanting to see him try.

“I'm not sure I can handle such advanced technology,” Steve pouts. “Shouldn't there be a year long course first?”

“Come off it,” Tony laughs.

“Oh, I'm very serious,” Steve says. He seems amused as he sets the tablet to the side. “Obviously, the only available teacher is you.” He looks Tony up and down, and there's really not mistaking his meaning this time.

Tony's throat is suddenly dry. “I could teach you a few things,” he agrees.

“I'm a quick study,” Steve says, and he's close, too close, when did he get into Tony's space? “I could surprise you.”

“I've no doubts.” Tony hooks his fingers through Steve belt loops and he feels almost dizzy when Steve doesn't back off. Tony's taller like this, and it's weird, but good.

Steve presses his hand to Tony's ribs and Tony fights not to shiver as he brings it down and rests it over the armour still covering Tony's hipbones. “You could start the lessons with how to take it off,” Steve suggests, leaning in with every word. By the end, he's mouthing against Tony's neck, and Tony definitely has trouble thinking.

Captain America is one devious creature.

“I could,” Tony agrees. “It's a very important part, you know.”

He touches Steve's cheek and forces him to look up, and then he kisses him. Steve's lips are soft and sweet, and Tony bites on his lower lip and then moves away. “Patience is a virtue,” he grins, and he's almost sure Steve's fingers would leave a bruise on his hip if not for the armour.

He should've taken it off, he thinks, even as Steve glares at him for a second before chasing his lips and kissing back.

“The future shouldn't wait too long,” Steve says.

“Let's take the short way then,” Tony decides. He presses at the quick release buttons, and the remaining armour falls off his legs. The next thing he knows, Steve bodily lifts him up, and after a second Tony wraps his legs around Steve's waist.

They kiss again, and again, and Tony thinks he really should've foreseen this, but he can't even be annoyed he didn't.

Steve sets him down on a workbench—Tony hadn't even noticed they were moving—and sets about making him go crazy with his lips and hands.

“A quick study indeed,” Tony lets out and feels Steve smile against his lips.