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the road to hell

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"You took a job with who?" Peggy's voice comes out much louder than Steve expected, making him jump, and consequently nearly up-end the table. He's not quite used to his new body-- a result of a long-awaited growth spurt and daily gym regimen.

"Stark Industries," Steve replies sheepishly, the back of his neck flushing. He knows Peggy hates the corporation for some reason, but he's never gotten details (he thinks it might have something to do with one of those fancy parties she always had to attend, and being hit on by the infamous Tony Stark) and really, he doesn't want them.

He sighs at Peggy's eyeroll, her obvious disapproving look, and takes a quick drink.

"I'm just thankful to have a job, Peg. You know there's not much out there for people with a degree in studio art," he says quietly, into the food. He can feel Peggy's face soften at him, though he knows that doesn't make sense, and she sighs quietly.

"I just hope you know what you're getting into," she responds, and they eat the rest of their lunch in relative silence.


Tony cannot believe he has to get another PA. It's ridiculous that all the women they hire for him-- and what's up with that, anyway? it's the 21st century, people, not all PAs are women,-- either quit because 1) he sleeps with them, 2) he wants to sleep with them or 3) they want to sleep with him and he does not want any of that. (Truth be told, it's rarely option 3.)

But, the board, Pepper, Rhodey, anyone Tony pays to make sure he doesn't end up in the tabloids every other week, tell him anyway that someone named S. Rogers-- Tony hopes it's not for Sarah, because he hates that name-- will be there on Monday, and no he cannot hit on them, and please try to keep this one longer than two weeks.

Tony just shrugs at them and says he isn't a miracle worker.

But they all know that isn't quite true.


Steve is nervous.

He has no idea why he's nervous, because it's just a PA job, a personal assistant, and who cares if he's working for one of the most powerful men in America? There's no pressure, not really, Steve's done jobs like this a hundred times before, he'll be fine.

So, it's a feat that his hands only shake a little as he opens the door to the large building in front of him, and they shake even less as he presses the button for the elevator. When he sits and his desk and turns on his computer, they're mostly stable, and he breathes a sigh of relief.

And then Tony Stark walks in.

"Hello, Ms. Rogers I'm glad to see you here, I don't know what they've told you about me but-" Tony keeps walking as his mouth cuts off and he slams violently into the coffee table, clearly distracted by Steve. His papers scatter over the table and the floor and Steve jumps up, gathering them and trying to put them back in order.

"Hi," he says breathlessly, focusing on making his hands not shake. That would be too embarrassing for the first day. "Uh, I'm Steve, I don't know if they told you, but the hired me to uh- here if you'll just take these, thanks- I'm your new PA." Steve smiles brightly and sticks out his hand, praying that his hand isn't shaking as noticeably as he thinks it is.

"Huh, I guess they hired a guy so I wouldn't sleep with you," Tony answers, shaking his hand, and Steve's eyes go as wide as dinner plates.

"Maybe, sir, I'm not- I'm not entirely sure. Is there anything you need?" Steve asks, trying to change the subject before the blush creeps any farther up his neck.

"Yeah, coffee, please, black if it's from the staff room. Thanks," he says, turning away and waving the papers around in his hand, moving into his office and shutting the door quickly.

Steve breathes out three times before he turns and goes into the staff room for the cup of coffee.


A man.

They hired a man to be his PA.

And not only just a man, but a beautiful specimen of Adonis to be his PA, and as far as Tony knows, no one knows about the time in college with the guy from Harvard, but he can't be sure and no, no, no one can know or they never would have hired Steve, whose hands shake and whose neck flushes at the slightest mention of, well, anything and oh god.

Tony hasn't been this attracted to a man in a long time. And, if the people who hired Steve didn't know that maybe sometimes he was attracted to men, it obviously meant that they'd had good intentions and Tony really shouldn't screw this up.



Steve knocks on Mr. Stark's door, coffee in hand, careful not to spill it when the other man yells for him to enter. What is it about Mr. Stark's voice that makes him so nervous? It's a normal voice, and Steve's heard it on the television broadcasts enough to be used to it. But, there's something lost in the translation of technology that it doesn't capture fully, something that resonates deep in Steve's mind and makes a light flick on.

"Here you go, Mr. Stark, coffee: black, just how you asked for it. Do you need anything else?"

Mr. Stark makes an obscene noise at the coffee, drinking half of the cup in one gulp and sighing. "No, no Steve. That will be all. I'll call you or buzz you or something if I need you, thanks."

Steve nods and leaves quickly.

"Oh, but leave the door open," he calls, and Steve just nods again, moving to sit at his desk.


Tony knows that Pepper must have thought hiring Steve was excellent forethought, that she thought maybe the man, no matter how attractive, wouldn't attract Tony, but he's finding it even harder to get work done with Steve there than some other girl.

He can't tell if it's the way that Steve doesn't pay attention to his stolen glances, or if it's the fact that there's always something-- a pen, a spoon, his own fingers for Christ's sake-- in his mouth as he stares at his computer screen, (actually, no Tony's certain that Steve's oral fixation is most of the problem) or if it's the tight khakis and slacks and button downs that he wears all the time, but Tony just- he just can't do it.

It is so difficult for him to stay appropriate, because he knows, he knows that Steve is the best PA he's had since, well since Pepper got promoted, and he can't being himself to face the disappointment he knows would be in her eyes if he told her he scared another one off.


The point is, that Tony cannot let his behavior continue, even though Steve has no idea that Tony is acting inappropriately. At least, Tony's pretty sure he doesn't. He doesn't, right?

Oh god.


"Steve, I think the copier's jammed again." Mr. Stark's voice comes out thin and tight pressed, and Steve's eyebrow quirks up.

"Sir, you know if you need something copied, I'd be more than happy to-"

"No, but, really it's like, jammed and I think it's about to explode, so if you could just come in here-"

"It is my job, you know," Steve finishes lamely, knowing Tony's not listening to him. This has happened before, happens a few times a week, actually, and every time, Steve tries to explain to Mr. Stark that he is being paid to make copies for him. He's glad to actually do something other than sit at a desk and talk on the phone to very rude reporters who want to know about nothing other than Tony's sex life. (Details of Tony's sex life are something Steve has made his personal goal not to be privy to.)

Of course, Mr. Stark doesn't listen, he just keeps copying his own documents and managing to jam the machine with strange objects. Last week, Steve found a plastic fork. He swears Mr. Stark is doing it on purpose.

Nevertheless, he walks into the copier room to find his boss standing over the machine, looking particularly disheveled.

"Oh, thank god, please, just make it work, I have a meeting in-- eight minutes ago and everyone is going to be so upset at me, and by everyone I mean Pepper. Please," Mr. Stark pleads with him, and Steve can't help but smile as he kneels and opens up the copier to find the problem.

Steve furrows his brow as he peers inside and rolls up his shirt sleeves so his cuffs don't get caught in anything. Mr. Stark makes a strange murmuring noise behind him, and Steve turns to look at him inquisitively.

"Yes, sir?"

"No-uh- nothing, just- please." He flaps his hand at the copier and Steve gets back to work.

He finds a tie wrapped in the gears.

A nice tie, red silk that probably cost more than the clothes he's wearing, and he doesn't want to rip it, but all he can do is tug until it's free and close the machine back up, pleased when it starts spitting out documents.

"You should probably get a new one of these, really," Steve says as he hands the tie to his boss and motions to the copier. "This thing jams up more than once a week."

He turns to leave, and doesn't realize until much, much later that Tony's shirt had been open at the collar, tieless.


"Is this what you've been wearing to work?" Peggy's eyebrows are nearly in her hair they're so high, and Steve looks down at his outfit awkwardly. Okay, so his shirt is a little tight, and maybe his pants are too, but he's been saving up to buy a new wardrobe, but it's just- he's only gotten two paychecks and he has other bills. Whatever. It's not like he's rolling in it.

"I- yes?" he says finally, shrugging. "They're the only clothes I have. They don't look that bad, do they?"

"No, no, just-" Peggy makes a weird sort of face, screwing up her mouth. "I just think you should, I don't know, buy different pants? Those are very...fitted."

"I know, I'm planning on it," he deflects, putting a hand to the small of her back, leading her to the door of their favorite restaurant. He goes for the door, but it opens just before he gets there, and Tony himself walks out and Steve stiffens immediately, acutely aware of his hand on Peggy's back and how it looks. Tony seems to be aware of it too, though if his eyes flick down and back up to Steve's face, neither of them notice.

"Steven," he says pleasantly, a nice smile on his face, resolutely not looking at Peggy. Steve's brow furrows at his real name-- he didn't even know Tony knew it, maybe it was just a lucky guess-- "Fancy seeing you here."

"I uh- yeah," he responds, but he's certain he'd told Tony that this is where he was going for lunch. Not that he expects Tony to remember anything. Ever. "It's uh- it's our favorite place," he adds with a smile, arm tightening around Peggy, who he hopes is smiling.

"Well, have a good meal, give the chef my compliments or something, I have to, you know," he motions with a hand behind them and Steve scrambles to get out of the way as Tony walks through them, brushing Steve's arm as he passes.

"Bye," Steve mumbles, lifting a hand and watching him go. He turns back to Peggy, whose eyebrows have gone up into her hair again.

"What?" he protests, but Peggy just shrugs and opens the door to the restaurant.


"Your girlfriend's pretty," Tony says to him from his office, Steve sitting out at his own desk. He doesn't say it as much as shout it, since they're so far apart, and Steve's head quirks up.

"Excuse me?" he asks, taking the pen out of his mouth. He doesn't have a girlfriend. He doesn't even really like girls in that way.

"Your girlfriend," Tony answers, louder, "She's pretty. Beautiful, really, gorgeous. Makes sense for a guy like you to have a--"

"She's not my girlfriend, but I'll pass on the sentiment, I guess," Steve cuts him off, brow furrowed.

Tony doesn't answer.


Steve's worked at Stark Industries for about a month and a half, and he really doesn't actually know what Tony spends most of his time doing. He knows Tony attends lots of board meetings with Pepper, but he's not technically the CEO, because that's Pepper's job, and sometimes he disappears into the confines of the building and reappears covered in what seem like burn marks and grease stains. Steve knows Stark Industries is famous for inventions and technology, and he thought at one point weapons, but every time he brings it up, Tony ignores him.

Steve very decidedly does not ask about it.

Except, one day when he gets a call on his intercom system from Tony.

"Steve, are you busy?" he asks and his breath sounds a little short, and that's weird, he never sounds like that.

"Yes, Mr. Stark?"

"Come on, enough already with the Mr. Stark bullshit I-"

"What was it you needed, Tony?" Steve can practically hear his triumphant smile.

"Need you down in the lab. About time you saw it anyway. Come on, there's an access card in the drawer on your right, swipe it inside the elevator. The rest is done for you. Chop chop."

"Okay, but-" Steve opens the drawer, digging around until he comes out with a plain white card.

"No, seriously, chop chop, and bring me a turkey sandwich," Tony buzzes in again, and Steve's out of the chair before he can say yes sir.


The lab isn't really what Steve expects. When he'd heard the word lab, he'd thought maybe more like a science lab with flasks and beakers and pipettes or something, not robots everywhere and music blasting and things sparking. Steve's a little bit overwhelmed but it all, honestly.

He finds Tony sitting in a classic car, staring at a big computer screen, like almost everyone else has. (Steve doesn't get one, because he managed to break three in one day, and Tony banned him.)

"Sir?" he asks, and Tony turns, but he doesn't look right at all.

"Hey Steve, glad you could make it," Tony says, cracking a weak smile. Steve's brow furrows as he approaches the car.

"Are you alright, Tony? You look like you need a doc-"

"No, no, perfectly fine, all good, I just need to sleep but-uh- can't seem to get up right now, so if you could bring me a cup of coffee, and hand me that sandwich and that box on my desk, that'd be just-"

"Sir, I think you need more than a cup of-"

"What did I tell you about calling me 'sir' Steve, come on, be a pal, and really I'll take that coffee-"

"Why can't you walk, Tony?" Steve asks sternly, making sure Tony hears him.

"I can walk," Tony starts, indignantly, but Steve gives him a Look, and he sighs. "I just- Sometimes I just, I get a little funny and my body doesn't work right and I have to wait it out. Comes from not sleeping, ever, or eating, and working for days on end. Usually coffee helps. So please, Steve."

Steve walks over to the counter and pours a cup of coffee into a mug that's sitting by the pot, handing it over gingerly, so he doesn't spill it. He looks at Tony, then back at the coffee and the brown wooden box that Tony'd wanted, picks it up and hands it over gently.

"You could have just asked me to bring you coffee with the sandwich, you know," he murmurs, and Tony doesn't look him in the eye.


Steve doesn't know that Tony's birthday is coming up until Pepper e-mails him about it a month in advance.

"Aren't you the CEO of this place?" he asks her one day, while they're having lunch to discuss planning Tony's party. "Why are you helping me plan this?"

"I was his PA for eight years, and I've been his friend for longer than that," she answers with a shrug, taking a bite of her salad. "He means a lot to me, and I know how he likes his parties. Besides, I'm sure you could use the help."

Steve isn't sure whether or not he should be offended at that, and decides he shouldn't, because it's much more a reflection on Tony than on himself. Hopefully. It's always hard to tell with Pepper.

"You'll need a tux of course," she mentions, snapping him back to reality and Steve makes a strange nasal noise that makes Pepper's eyebrows go into her hairline.

"Sorry. I just- I don't have one? Or, I do have one, but it doesn't really, uh, fit anymore and I'm sure it'd be embarrassing so it's probably better if I don't-"

"Tony didn't tell you about your expense account?" Pepper says, clearly shocked and Steve blushes pink.

"I mean, he did, but that's- that's not right, is it? A tux is a personal purchase, I wouldn't- couldn't do that."

"Nonsense. It's for work. Here," she digs around in her bag, unearthing a business card. "Call them, tell them Pepper sent you, they'll give you a good deal and make you look good."

Steve nods, dumbfounded as she stands with her things to leave.

"Sorry to dash away like this, but I have to get back, I have a board meeting. You'll be fine Steve, I promise." She begins to walk away, but pauses and turns, looking at him critically. It makes him want to shiver.

"Tony likes you, so I wouldn't worry too much about the details of things, okay?"

Steve nods at her back as she moves quickly and efficiently through the restaurant.


"Great party, Rogers," Tony's voice comes from behind him, and Steve jumps a little, nearly spilling his champagne. He doesn't know why he's drinking it; his tolerance is higher than he'd like to admit from college years he'd rather erase permanently from memory, and the taste of alcohol (mainly beer) makes him a little sick, nowadays. Though, the champagne's high quality (of course) so it's sweet and sharp over his tongue, and something about that calms him.

"Thank you si- Tony. Thanks, Tony," he says with an easy smile, and Tony returns it, though it doesn't quite reach his eyes. They're filled with something else that Steve can't place, though it may just be the drink clouding them over.

"That suit is really- it looks really good on you. Awesome, in fact. Super awesome. Muy excellente, super cool, tres manifique," Tony rambles, and Steve knows it must be the drink.

"Tony," he says, in a tone that always makes him shut his mouth. He does, and peers at Steve, that same look in his eyes. "Thank you. You paid for it."

Tony opens and closes his mouth like a fish, giving Steve a once-over that makes him bite his lower lip.

"Well, I have good taste then, I'd say," Tony says coolly, taking a sip of his drink and peering over the rim of the glass, keeping his eyes locked with Steve's.

"I'd say so," Steve replies, and he swears he doesn't watch the way Tony's shoulders roll when he looks away, or how the long line of his neck stretches when he cranes his head.


"You really didn't have to stay until the end, Steve," Pepper tells him, hands on her hips. Her dress is short, strapless emerald green that makes her eyes look devastating and her hair look like that mermaid from that one disney movie, and he's been freezing up whenever she tries to be human and speak to him.

"I- it's my job, right? Right. I'm happy to do it. I don't have much else," he laughs, self-deprecating, because she doesn't want or need to know about his sad apartment in Brooklyn.

"Right, well, if you could just go check on Tony before you leave, I'm going to head out. I have-"

"A board meeting tomorrow morning?" he cuts in, grinning, and she grins back. She grabs her coat, long and black, and her scarf from a closet in the foyer that Steve didn't know existed and waves goodbye to him, slipping out the door.

Once the door clicks shut, and Steve sighs in relief, untying his stupid bow tie. He looks around the foyer for a moment before moving into the living room, taking a seat on the couch, to rest his feet.

He's been in Tony's home before, once or twice, but he's never really traveled outside these places. He's been in the large, luxury kitchen that looks brand new, though Steve knows it must be at least a couple of years old, because the renovations on the house are recent, but not super recent.

Mostly, he likes to sit in the large, empty living room and stare into the fireplace while he sinks lower and lower into the leather couch, eyes drooping.

"Come on, Steve, feet off the coffee table, who raised you?" Tony's voice snaps through the air and Steve straightens with a sharp inhale through the nose. He looks around to see Tony grinning like a maniac, and he sighs.

"Tony, I was just about to come check on you," he says, standing, moving around to the back of the couch. "Pepper has me on sleep duty."

"Does she?" Tony purrs, giving Steve another once-over that makes his blood run a little faster through his veins. "Well, that's one thing she did right tonight, at least." He licks his lips, stepping closer.

"What did she do wrong?" Steve's eyebrow quirks up, trying to ignore the way Tony's hand has reached out, the way his fingers trace the buttons on the front of his jacket.

"Oh, you know, just, everything or nothing, who knows, take your pick," Tony says, and he's gotten the two buttons undone and Steve has to stop himself from backing away from the hand sliding inside and up his chest.

"I planned this party, you know that, she didn't do anything except tell me who to invite," Steve murmurs, though he's sure Tony isn't listening now. His eyes have gone dark again, darker than before, and his hand has come to a rest on Steve's shoulder, a good position to hold him in place.

"Then that's what she did wrong," Tony says, eyes flicking to Steve's, and just like that all his breath is gone.

"Yeah?" he croaks, and Tony smiles, easy, the smile that Steve wanted to see earlier, the one that's so rare that it breaks Steve's heart to see it.

"Yeah," Tony murmurs, not really paying attention, pulling Steve down.


Tony thinks he might be dying.

Not in the "we're all going to die one day/our bodies are slowly deteriorating from birth/etc" dying, but the "I can't breathe/someone please call an ambulance/help I've fallen and I can't get up" kind of dying. He feels like he's drowning, struggling to stay afloat while water fills his lungs and he doesn't know what to do about it.

Well, he should fire Steve, that's what he could do about it, except that Steve's definitely the best PA he's had since Pepper, and he can't let that go all because he has a stupid crush that leaves him breathless whenever Steve's near him. So, he's just going to deal with it and smile at Steve and then maybe get an inhaler or something.

But then Steve walks into his house, his mansion, his home wearing a tux that was clearly paid for by the expense card that Steve never uses. The sight makes Tony's mouth go dry, and sometimes he hates his life, hates Stark Industries and wants to give all his money away, but then times like this, when his ridiculously hot PA looks even hotter than usual, Tony actually really loves his life. And his money.

And, to be honest, Tony couldn't survive one day on what Steve makes. He should really give him a raise.

Though, Steve probably wouldn't take it, as noble as he is or whatever, and Tony couldn't possibly explain an increase in salary due to how his ass looks in a pair of tuxedo pants, but maybe he can just say that his performance merits it or-

"Tony, happy birthday," Steve smiles at him, and Tony's mouth is still so, so dry and oh, that's a package (no, not that kind. well, yes that kind, but that's not what's being handed to Tony) wrapped in the Sunday comics, and Tony thinks he might cry.

He opens it carefully, because he wants to read those comics later, and uncovers an old cigar box. Wrinkling his forehead and ignoring Steve's eager looks, he opens it, smiling at the sight of an old pocket watch on a chain, sitting atop a pile of tissue paper.

"I didn't know what you'd like, and you're always late for things," Steve says, shrugging. "I don't- it doesn't work, but I thought you could fix it. Or send it to someone if you didn't have time or-"

"Thank you, Steve," Tony says, really meaning it, running his hand over the design on it. It's the only real present he's ever gotten, besides something Pepper gave him years ago, long before she figured out that Tony doesn't want anything from people (besides someone to listen to him, but he'd never admit that, not to Steve). Most people don't try, because they know Tony's not really their friend. In fact, he doesn't really know anyone that he doesn't pay to interact with him.

"You're welcome, Tony," Steve answers, a small smile painted over his mouth, and Tony wants to grab him and kiss it.

He snaps the lid of the box closed and clears his throat.

"I'll just put this upstairs. Be right down. People should start showing up soon, make sure the closet in the front stays closed, Pepper will get pissed," he rambles, but before Steve can answer he's up the stairs and safely in his bedroom.

He opens the box and peers at the watch again, his chest tightening.

Oh man, he's in trouble.


When their lips meet, Steve isn't expecting it.

Well, he's expecting it inasmuch as he was expecting Tony's hand in his jacket or Tony pulling him close in the first place, and he thinks he reacts pretty well for the element of surprise.

By which he means, at least he doesn't punch him in the jaw as a reflex.

But, Steve finds it's not as weird kissing his boss at all, and he finds the scratch of goatee against his chin really is just as much of a turn on as he thought it would be. It just feels like a kiss. A good kiss. He can taste the same sweet and sharp champagne from earlier, though it's muted by something that Steve thinks is just Tony.

His hand comes up to cup Tony's jaw gently, fingers barely brushing and Tony makes a noise into his mouth, surging closer, and Steve's hand slides into Tony's hair, tangling there.

When they break apart for breath, Tony smiles, dazzlingly, and Steve has to kiss him again, running his tongue along the seam of his lips and then into Tony's mouth, exploring. Tony gives as good as he gets, and Steve tries to keep up, tries to keep thinking, but Tony's hand is on his hip, thumb rubbing circles and the other is around his waist, down his back and squeezing his ass, making him breath sharply into Tony's mouth.

"Bedroom?" Tony asks into Steve's mouth, and Steve has to pull away then, because it's not right for them to do this. It's not right, no matter how good it feels.

"I should- I should go," Steve rasps, fingers going to his mouth, feeling his lips. "I- you don't need anything else, right? I should go. I'm sorry, I just-" He scrambles around for his belongings, ignoring the throbbing between his legs that tells him to stay right where he is.

"I'm sorry, Tony," he says, and bolts for the door. Tony is too dumbstruck to answer.


Steve goes into work the next morning, but Tony doesn't. Pepper reassures him that it's normal, and that once Steve's cancelled all of Tony's meetings for the day, he can leave and go do what he wants.

The issue is that Steve isn't sure what he wants, because every time he closes his eyes, he can remember the feel of Tony's lips on his, the way his calloused fingertips burned through his shirt to scorch his skin. But he can also remember that Tony is his boss and he needs this job much more than he needs to make out with someone.

He sighs as he turns off his computer, running a hand through his hair as he moves toward the elevator.

Well, he did it, Tony thinks as he ruminates in a hotel bar after Steve's fled from him. He's successfully driven away another PA with his aggressive sexuality and stunning charm. Or something.

Whatever, all he knows is Steve ran from him last night after kissing him, and Tony's never been good at reading signs. And, he tends to be glass-half empty.

Maybe that's why when the woman in a slinky black dress with auburn hair sidles up next to him at the bar, he's more than happy to follow her up to her room.


He cannot understand how Tony gets himself into these messes.

Steve had been halfway home before getting an urgent call from Pepper, screaming at him that Tony needed to be picked up right away and he'd gotten himself locked in some sort of room and was in really big trouble and Steve couldn't catch most of it, but managed to calm Pepper down enough to get her to text him the address.

He didn't stop to think as to why Happy couldn't have picked Tony up, and really, he wouldn't have been able to come up with an answer.

The address turns out to be a hotel-- one of the nicer hotels in the area, though definitely not anything that Tony would stay at through his own bookings-- and when Steve approaches the front desk, the man behind it immediately grows cross, a stormy expression clouding his face.

"I take it you're here for Mr. Stark?" he asks, his tone so icy that Steve was honestly a little bit afraid.

"Yes sir," he answers, trying to be respectful as possible.

"This way," the man murmurs, leading him out and down a small hallway to an elevator.

"It only goes one place," the man tells him, pressing the button, waving Steve in when the doors open.

The doors slide shut, and Steve's stomach lurches as the elevator moves up. What exactly has he gotten himself into?



Tony's voice edges on desperate as Steve opens the door and freezes in the doorway, staring at Tony.

"Uh, sir?" Steve has a tendency to regress when he's hit with something unexpected, and honestly Steve wasn't sure what he was expecting when he opened the door, but it definitely wasn't Tony tied to a bed, mostly naked. His shirt's unbuttoned, though still mostly closed over his chest, like whoever unbuttoned it started from the bottom. The lights in the room must be weird, because there's a faint blue glow coming from his chest.

"What did I tell you, Steve, don't do that. And come help me down! Why are you just standing there? I understand that sometimes I'm very nice to stare at but really, my hands are going numb and-"

"How did this happen?" Steve asks, brain finally kicking into gear as he walked over to the bed, working on the closest tie. He tries to ignore the smell of Tony's cologne and some other scent-- he thinks it may be a woman's perfume-- and the lipstick smeared on his throat and the scratch marks peeking over his shoulder.

You left him last night, Steve reminds himself, focusing on the tie as Tony squirms on the bed. Whoever did these up must have been in the military. He gets the first one free, but the bed's so large that Steve can't reach the other one by standing at the edge of the bed.

Tony looks up at him, a grin slowly spreading across his face.

"Well now, how are we going to fix this?" he says as invitingly as he can with one arm flung uselessly beside himself and the other attached to a metal headboard.

Steve sighs and rolls his eyes as he climbs onto the bed, straddling Tony's hips to work on the other tie.

If Steve thought the first one had been hard to untie, this one was like climbing Mount Everest during a snow storm. Or something. Whatever, it is hard to concentrate with your boss below you, moving restlessly.

"Hang on, I've almost got it," Steve mutters at him, trying not to look down as Tony writhes.

"Come on, come on, I really have to pee. It's been like, six hours, and I am not paying for this bed, even though I could actually just buy the whole hotel and no one would ever have to know, but I would know, Steve, and you would know, and I just can't let that happen. You understand, right? Please tell me you-"

"There you go, Mr. Stark, all free. Here are some spare clothes, and I'll be waiting for you downstairs." Steve clambers off the bed like a shot, turns on his heel, and resolutely does not listen to the babbling that follows him out the door.


Later, when they're in the car, Steve notices Tony flexing his fingers, like the blood flow hasn't returned to them yet.

Silently, Steve takes his hand and digs his thumbs into Tony's palms, massaging. He swipes his thumb around Tony's wrist, assessing the damage before gently rolling it. He's done after a few minutes and drops it, motioning for the other one. Tony hesitates, and Steve looks up. There's a question in Tony's eyes, a twist to his mouth that makes Steve inexplicably sad.

"Is it not helping?" Steve asks him, quietly.

"No, no, I just-" Tony shakes himself out of it, and in the next moment his face is normal again, carefully crafted to show Steve that nothing is amiss. He puts his hand in Steve's and smiles.


That night, Steve can't get the images out of his head.

The lipstick stains, the scratch marks, the scent, the way Tony moved under him, the way Tony's hips felt against his own, the callouses on his hands that caught against Steve's-- born from years of drawing and sketching. He can only assume that Tony's come from years of welding and working, and he can't stop himself from imagining how they'd feel on his skin, sliding across it.

He sighs into his pillow, squeezing his eyes shut and hoping for sleep.


Tony goes on a trip with Pepper, and despite Pepper's protestations, gives Steve a few days off. Steve can't help but think something's wrong, like he's done something amiss, but he was sure things between them had been okay-- if not the tiniest bit awkward-- between them.

Steve decides to spend his night off in a bar called the Shield, nursing a rather large beer and idly watching the Mets game on tv. He notices, but doesn't say anything as a man sits on the stool next to him, motioning for a beer of his own, and he certainly doesn't pay attention when the man turns toward him slightly, clears his throat, and says,

"So, you come here often?"

Steve turns just enough to see him and-- well, he's not bad looking, he's really kind of cute, if you're into a sort of rugged looking men but he's dressed rather well, so Steve cracks a smile for him and raises an eyebrow.

"Really?" Steve half-laughs, "that's the best you've got?"

There's a moment where he's sure he's said the wrong thing, and the man's looking at him strangely, but then they both laugh at the same time and hunter man sticks out his hand.

"I'm Clint Barton," he says, a smile forming and oh, Steve thinks he's much cuter now. And, whatever, if the voice in the back of his head reminds him he's more than halfway head over heels for his boss, well, Steve just smothers it and grins at Clint.

"Steve," he replies, shaking Clint's hand. "Steve Rogers. And, yeah, I guess I come here kind of often."

"Well great," Clint laughs, easy and smooth, his hand lingering on Steve's for just a moment too long. "I'll be sure to make this a regular thing, then."


"Tony, what is wrong with you?" Pepper's standing over his desk with her hands on her hips, staring down at him with the fury of a thousand, well, Peppers, because one Pepper fury is bad enough, let alone thousands--

"Tony." Her voice is stern and Tony shrinks into his chair.

"Nothing's wrong with me! Well, except the usual, you know, daddy issues and hero complexes and what have you. Why do you ask?" He smiles sweetly at her, and her eyebrow arches high into her hair.

"Where's Steve, Tony?" So they're playing this game, then.

"I gave him a few days off. Look, it's just a couple of meetings, I didn't want to drag him all the way to Japan just to- just to get me coffee and organize my papers. I can do that myself, Pepper, I don't even really know why I need an assistant, I have JARVIS--"

"Tony, shut up." His mouth closes quickly and she leans over the desk slowly, so she can look right into his eyes. Tony shrinks some more, but she reaches out to grab his tie, holding him still.

"I'm only going to say this once. Whatever happened between you and Steve-- and don't tell me nothing happened, you two are more nervous around each other than I've ever seen you be with someone-- you need to fix it. I don't care what it was, I don't care what you do, just fix it, because I do not have time to run your company and be your assistant."

She lets go of Tony's tie and straightens slowly, smoothing her blazer.

"Now, do you need anything else, Mr. Stark?"

Tony shakes his head so quickly he's afraid it'll pop off.


Tony and Pepper's trip takes much longer than originally planned, so Steve gets almost a week off of work.

"I'll pay you, of course, don't worry, Steve, I'm really sorry about this," Tony's voice sounds frantic over the phone, and Steve wonders what's happening.

"Tony, you don't need to pay me if I'm not actually doing anything, it's fine," Steve tries to protest, but Tony just makes a series of tutting noises into the phone.

"No, Steve, no. Paid vacations are totally a thing, and besides, I like giving my money to people who are hardworking like you and please, just, don't argue with me, okay?"

You can't fix everything with money, Steve wants to tell him, but he figures it doesn't really matter. There's not much to fix.

"Alright, Tony, thank you. Really."

"No problem, see you in a few days."


The truth is, Steve has found himself at the bar more times this week than he's really comfortable with. He goes in around the same time every day, orders a beer and pretends to watch the game until Clint shows up. And he always does, and he always sits in the seat next to Steve and chats him up, which is fine by Steve, since it's not like Tony will ever want him again, that much was startlingly clear by the way he went out and found himself a woman the same night he kissed Steve, and-- No. Whatever. It's not worth it to get into. Steve is trying to move past it and onto something else.

Like Clint, for instance.

Clint is nice, at least to Steve he's nice, and funny and interesting and definitely interested and Steve's pretty sure he could be too.

Except all they do is meet at this bar and talk for a few hours. They never go on dates or anything and it's frustrating. Steve doesn't even have his number. How can he move on if he's stuck in one place with Clint?

"Do you want to go out sometime?" Steve asks suddenly one night, interrupting some spiel Clint was on about snipers in the military. Clint's brow furrows, and then smoothes out as he smiles, takes a drink.

"'Course I would, blue eyes," he says, eyes sparkling. "Where do you want to go?"


They make a date for the next night at some restaurant that Steve's never been to, but Clint assures him it's great. He picks out the nicest outfit he has-- which may or may not include his snug khakis-- and sets it aside. He takes a shower, reads some of his book about WWII strategy, turns off his light, and goes to sleep.

Steve wakes to his phone ringing at four in the morning and he's out of bed faster than could be considered human, snatching up his phone.

"Hello?" he says breathlessly, and is met by silence. His brow furrows and he pulls the phone away from his ear and looks at the caller I.D.

"Tony?" he says gently, sitting on the edge of his bed. "Do you need something? Is something wrong?"

"No, Steve, I- I must have dialed you on accident, I'm sorry," Tony finally says, but doesn't sound confused like most people would. He sounds sad. "I'll just- I'll see you Monday."

He hangs up before Steve has a chance to respond.

Steve sighs and falls back onto his bed. Now he'll never get back to sleep.


"You look beat, long night?" Clint asks when they meet outside of the Shield to walk to the restaurant.

"My boss called around four in the morning last night, dialed me on accident, and I couldn't get back to sleep," Steve shrugs. He knows he has nasty circles under his eyes, and really, he isn't sure how long he's going to last.

"Sounds like a crazy boss," Clint responds, and Steve can only nod.

They make it to the restaurant without much trouble, order their food and eat. Clint's right, it is a good place, but Steve is really just too tired to fully appreciate it. He drinks three cups of coffee, hoping it will help, but it doesn't not really. Clint suggests they head back to the Shield for a drink, and Steve agrees, hoping the alcohol will knock him out.

There's another game on the television, and the noise is soothing and before he knows it, Steve's falling asleep at the bar. Clint's nice about it, helps him up, walks him home and only presses a light kiss to his forehead when he puts Steve to bed.

Steve would like him a lot, he thinks as he falls asleep, if he weren't so embarrassingly head over heels for his boss.


Steve has to meet Tony and Pepper at the airfield-- not the airport, of course, because Tony has the company jet, and someone told him that he designed the jet and Steve can't even really fathom that-- and he's there fifteen minutes early, sitting in the passenger seat of the Audi that Tony told Happy to bring.

Steve doesn't think it's safe for Tony to drive a car after a flight from Japan, but he supposes he's not really in a position to argue.

The plane lands more or less on time, and Steve steps out of the car to open Tony's door for him, and he's met with a rush of bags and documents and a flash of blonde hair, and Tony saying, "Sorry, Steve, hang on, I'll help you, or not, just hang here."

He's left standing by alone on the airstrip, holding what is probably billions of dollars worth of designs, as the Audi speeds off without him. He can hear Tony's cackle, and the good-natured laugh of a woman.

"Come on, Steve. We'll take you back to the Tower."

Steve turns, and Pepper's rolled down the window to the limo Happy has for her, looking at Steve. She opens the door and slides over, and Steve takes one last look at the long gone Audi and nods, slipping inside the car.


That's the day he decides he's done. Steve is not and cannot be in love with his boss. There's just no use to it, because his boss is Tony Stark, genius playboy billionaire philanthropist, emphasis on the playboy billionaire more than anything else Steve's seen.

He'd come back to the Tower to a securely locked door and some very suspect noises coming from behind it. He'd sat down at his desk, stuffed his earbuds in and turned his music as loud as it would go.

The door was still closed at six pm, when Steve was done for the day. He buzzed in on the intercom.

"I'm leaving for the day, Mr. Stark. Please, as always, do not hesitate to call if you need something. I know you won't. Have a pleasant evening," he said, as evenly and as not pissed off as he could manage. He stood and gathered his things before Tony could reply to him. And that was it. Steve was done.


"Steve, if you're jealous, you don't have to talk to me passive-aggressively through the intercom, you can just knock on the door. We would have let you join," Tony smirks at him the next morning, still wearing the same shirt as the day before and his hair mussed up.

Steve feels his eye twitch, his hand tighten around the plastic cup that gives in easily under his strength. If Tony notices the reaction, he doesn't say anything.

"Mr. Stark," he says even and low, and there goes Tony's eyebrow, quirking up into his hairline. "Do you know how grossly inappropriate what you did yesterday was? Now, I am here to assist you," Steve continues, and something in his face must be terrifying, because Tony's backing up, and Steve's following him.

"I am here to help you with something you need. I am here to get you coffee and handle your schedule and unjam your tie from the copier-- oh yeah, don't think I didn't notice that--" Tony's legs hit a chair, and he falls into it, letting Steve loom over him. Steve looks at him for a moment, takes a deep breath.

"I am not here, however, for you to insult and treat like an object that does not matter. I am a human, a person and I don't know if you spend too much time with robots to understand that, but you cannot make me go to an airfield, wait for you, and then leave me there alone so you can get a cheap thrill with some flight attendant. Your behavior is reckless and dangerous, and I don't know if I can be a part of it any longer," he finishes, throwing his hands in the air.

Tony is silent for a full two minutes, which, honestly, is much more than Steve ever expected.

"Is this your two weeks', then?" Tony asks him, voice quiet and broken like Steve's never heard before. He looks up, catches Tony's eye and has to look away again.

"I guess so."


"You told him he spends too much time with robots to understand that you're a human?" Peggy's face looks pained from what Steve can see of it through his fingers. His face is currently in his hands as he tells the story of his two weeks' notice to Peggy.

"Yes," he groans through his fingers, and he can feel her wince beside him.

"Perhaps that wasn't the best plan of action," she says gently, and Steve scoffs.

"Well, it's the one I took! And now he barely looks at me. He never even asks for coffee anymore, and he spends all his time down in the lab, making God knows what and not eating."

"Are you- you're worried about him, Steve," Peggy says, like she can't quite believe it.

"Of course I'm worried. He's running himself into the ground, and I pretty much single-handedly caused it."

Peggy doesn't say anything for a long time, and when Steve peeks through his fingers at her, she looks sad.


"What do you mean, you need a new PA?" Pepper barks at him over the intercom, and Tony winces.

"I mean, Steve snapped, went all Hulk on me and yelled, and gave his two weeks' notice." Another person successfully pushed away, score a hundred million for Tony.

"What did you do to him, Tony?" Pepper asks, clearly exasperated.

"Everything, nothing, I have no idea. He just told me I spent too much time with robots to understand that he was a human, called me socially inept, grossly inappropriate, and I think he also seriously considered punching me."

Pepper mumbles something that sounds like you'd probably deserve it, and damn if that isn't the truth that Tony hates to hear.

"Fine," she says finally, her voice infinitely gentler than it had been not half a minute ago. "We'll find you a new one. But, if you can, maybe you should make it up to Steve, so he doesn't quit."

Tony can't imagine why he'd want to stay on anyway, but just mumbles an affirmative at her and cuts off the conversation.

He doesn't even understand what he's done to make Steve so mad at him, he just knows that he hates it, hates the way Steve looked at him, spoke to him, hated how every single thing Steve had said was absolutely true.

This is why you can't have nice things, Tony, he thinks to himself, but that was ridiculous, he surrounds himself with nice things, doesn't he?

Except for Steve, who is so good, so nice and sweet that his smile makes Tony's teeth hurt, and he is all Tony wants.