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Loving in the war years

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Steve forgets, from time to time, that he's not short anymore. The profound somatic changes effected on him slip out of joint with his internal body image, and he's shocked when he bumps his head on things or catches glimpses of himself in mirrors or windows. He feels vaguely embarrassed about the whole thing. Going over to the other side, not a shrimp anymore, not an artsy little dweeb the way he always had been. Growing into this powerful soldier's shape, wearing it like it belonged to him. Like it was him.

Tony, though – Tony has always been short. Steve's seen him in pictures with Howard, a little dark-eyed boy, consistently on the small side for his age. You wouldn't call Tony “small” now – his personality tends to expand to fill all available space – but he's definitely short. Steve gets very used to looking just slightly down at Tony, at the way Tony's face looks when he's defiantly angled his chin upward in a way that only succeeds at making him seem vulnerable.

“Not the size that counts, Red-White-N-Blue,” Tony had said, flippant, but with an edge to his voice. “I don't get any complaints.

It's not exactly love at first sight for the two of them. Tony is harsh and brash and brassy, and Steve is disoriented and a little more career-driven than he probably ought to be. Clinging too hard to Captain America, now that everything's changed. Tony is brusque, profane, self-assured to the point of being cocky, and really kind a jerk when you get him on the defensive.

These are all factors in why it takes Steve such an embarrassingly long time to perceive the patterns that lie like leylines under Tony's behavior, hear past the flip tone and the privilege and the arrogance to the rest of it. Once he does, he's fascinated. Because, he realizes slowly, Tony Stark is an insecure little nerd. Who is overcompensating, and succeeding brilliantly at it, and saving lives while he does. It helps when Fury finally gets around to briefing him about the arc reactor, about how it's not just the big superpowered superhero battery that drives Tony's armor, it's also the superpowered battery that keeps Tony's heart beating, keeps him from being torn to shreds from the inside out. When Steve asks Fury how the shrapnel got there, and Fury's mouth goes thin as he hands Steve another file.

Once Steve understands that he isn't seeing a bratty billionaire flattering himself with illusions of heroism, but a little guy flinging himself into freefall with little regard to safety or consequences – because Tony wants to change the world, or because he just can't not? - Steve finds himself riveted by every move Tony makes. The precision strength of Tony's forearms as he works metal. The constant motion of his long, stained, scarred fingers. The delicate grace of the curve of his lower back. The pale glow under Tony's shirt when he takes off his jacket at the end of the day, the raised circle of the arc reactor nestled just below his clavicles.

He's pretty sure the other Avengers have noticed. At least, he knows Thor has; the Asgardian congratulated him one time on finding his beloved, and Steve had only been able to blush in response, stammered denials like stones on his tongue. He'd been really, really glad that Tony was in L.A. at a board meeting. And he would bet cash money that Natasha knows everything, because Natasha always knows everything. Bruce and Clint are, thankfully, oblivious to romantic tension; Bruce because he genuinely doesn't care about other people's sex lives, and Clint because Clint is oblivious to most things.

But, true to form, things don't come to a head with Tony until they're fighting, ripping into each other over a stupid dilemma with a stupid supervillain who's barely worth fighting at all, much less fighting over. Tony risks too much in the fight and shoots his mouth off afterward. Everyone else goes out for celebratory pizza. Steve is so – so fed up with everything and everyone that he stays behind with Tony, grabs Tony by the collar of his crisp white dress shirt. He's a lot taller than Tony, a lot bulkier, and for all that Tony's a fit man Steve is the product of Dr. Erskine's work, the strongest and the best. It's not that hard for Steve to just lift Tony bodily, and at that point the next logical progression seems to be to slam him back against the concrete wall. They're in Tony's workshop, so the wall is made of concrete. It can't be a comfortable experience.

But Tony moans, closes his eyes, and swallows hard. Steve is holding him up off the ground so that they're nose to nose, and he's so shocked that he drops him, suddenly nerveless hands releasing their grip without conscious volition. Tony lands on his feet, still backed up to the wall.

Steve doesn't know what to do, so he does nothing. He can't stop staring down at the curve of Tony's jaw, the dark beard that roughens his skin.

After a minute Tony opens his eyes again. He looks up at Steve through his ridiculously long eyelashes – and when exactly did Steve start noticing the length of Tony's lashes? - and flushes faintly, pink staining his throat, the sweep of his cheekbones. “Ah,” he says. “Sorry about that.”

“Sorry about what?” Steve manages. “I'm the one who shoved you.”

“Sorry for not reacting the way you expected me to,” Tony says. His voice is flatly inflected, level and low. “Nothing you ever asked for. I'll just -” and he makes as if to leave, squirming out of Steve's startled grasp and dropping to the ground, trying to push past Steve's bulk.

“Tony.” The word is a command. Steve doesn't want Tony going off in a huff, he's been trying to do better at being friends with him, and if Tony slinks off after this to lick his wounds in private everything's going to be wrong again between them. He has to explain, to tell Tony that it's okay, he's not mad, they don't have to have a big fight. Steve is glad to see, as Tony suddenly goes still and silent, that he has not lost the ability to make men jump with nothing more than his tone.

But then the moment is stretching out like taffy candy between them, slow and sweet as molasses, and Steve realizes that he has no idea where to go from there, that he doesn't know what he's doing, or what Tony's doing, or why he doesn't entirely want Tony to stop doing whatever it is, or why this moment in time feels so ridiculously overheated and supercharged. Tony, breathing hard, looks up at Steve. Steve doesn't manage to think before he speaks, and so what he actually says is, “Strip.”

Tony's eyes widen, going huge and dark. He licks his lips, and Steve isn't sure if he wants a yes but he sees one hanging on Tony's lips, sweet and round and delectable. What Tony actually says is, “Steve, are you sure -” and Steve had no idea how much he wanted that yes to fall from Tony's gorgeous lush full kissable chapped – Tony's lips – until it doesn't. He stops thinking about why. Because why not? It's a whole new millennium, and he doesn't even look like himself anymore, and almost everything he's ever known is dust. What he wants, oddly enough, is for Tony Stark to be looking up at him like that while naked.

“I said strip,” Steve says, and Tony doesn't protest anymore. Instead he pales, and then flushes, and he reaches up with shaking fingers to unfasten the first small pale button that closes his dress shirt at the neck. One button. Two, and Steve can see the line of Tony's collarbone, the full contours of his throat. He's wearing an undershirt, and Steve can see the glow of the arc reactor filtered softly through the cotton. “Too slow,” Steve growls, shocking himself with the tone that comes out. He hadn't known his voice could sound that – desperate, that wrecked with need.

He pulls Tony's shirt open, scattering buttons on the concrete floor. The arc reactor gleams silver-blue at him from the center of Tony's chest, the undershirt cut away around it, and Tony looks him right in the eyes and then leans up to kiss him, and Steve has never felt anything like it before.

He's been kissed before, of course, even by men – wartime left them all with periodic needs and strange bedfellows – but something in the mix of desperation and desire on Tony's lips, between his teeth and his tongue, hits Steve like a drug. It's like falling from something very high up: uncontrolled, frightening, fast, breathless. Tony sucks on Steve's tongue like a lollipop and Steve makes a strangled noise into the rough of Tony's mustache. With an obscenely wet popping sound Tony pulls away, and for a moment they just stand there: two men in a basement, surrounded by buttons and robots and sheet metal, bleeding and bruised in various ways, stunned by the enormity of the thing which has just happened between them.

Tony blinks, long lashes brushing down like wings. Looks up. Blinks again. It's the longest Steve's ever heard him go without talking. Then, Tony says, “Fuck,” simple and straightforward. “In hindsight I shouldn't be surprised, you're the perfect solider, who wants a man in uniform who can't kiss?”

“It's not the serum,” Steve says, and he means it to be a protest but it comes out a promise.

Tony smiles at him, not the flashy grin he passes off to the world at large that's more a mask than anything else, but a real, genuine, warm smile that's like a sunrise breaking over his face, gentle and rosy-fingered, and Steve finds that he just can't not, with Tony looking at him like that. He puts on hand against the wall, effectively trapping Tony with the bulk of his body, and leaning down kisses that smiling mouth.

Tony writhes against him like a stripper and bites Steve's bottom lip with sharp demanding teeth and Steve can feel himself hardening, can feel the bulge of Tony's equally hard cock pressed lubriciously against his own thigh. It should be too fast. It isn't. It's not nearly fast enough. He's fumbling with the fastenings of Tony's trousers and Tony is scrabbling at his scale mail and it's not pretty but within five minutes Tony's only got his undershirt left and Steve's costume is down around his ankles.

“Oh God Steve,” Tony says between kisses, “fuck, baby, do you have any idea how amazing you are? Like a fucking piece of art, man, and you're so – I want you to fuck me senseless, Steve, god, want you to take that incredible dick – do you have any idea how gorgeous that equipment is, it's like it was engineered for – and – Steve, please-”

“Do we need – something – lubricant -” Steve says, blushing, surprised at himself for being surprised that Tony has a dirty mouth, for enjoying it, for wanting to hear Tony swearing as he came undone.

Steve watches Tony's throat move as he swallows convulsively, and pulls back a little, letting Tony down to his feet. “Jesus,” Tony says. “Okay. Um – there's actually some lube over in the desk, I'll – Butterfingers, grab the lubricant? And that box of condoms, no, to the left, yeah that's the one, that.” The robot obediently does so, whirring inquisitively, and Steve has to suppress the impulse to thank it when it deposits the objects in his hands. “Okay, now get out of here,” Tony tells it, waving a dismissive hand. “Go shut down, I don't need you saving the day with a fire extinguisher or something weird and tragic like that.” He looks vaguely upward. “Jarvis? You got my back on this one, baby?”

Steve tries not feel self-conscious as Jarvis answers, “Certainly, Mr. Stark. All surveillance off, our would you like a private record?” But he can't help it.

“Nope, all black, thanks.” Tony says, and then, “Condom's for you, lube's for me.”

Steve looks at the paraphernalia, looks at Tony, tries to think through the logistics of the thing. There's nowhere in the basement to lie down, and he supposes they could do this on one of Tony's worktables, but – Steve has a better idea. Bending at the knees, he again lifts Tony bodily, pressing him back against the wall again, settling Tony's weight against his thighs, letting Tony's legs wrap around his hips. Steve's cock is, at present, pressed tightly against Tony's groin – but if he shifted them a little, they would be in position for penetration. Tony's eyes go very wide, and his mouth hangs open just a little bit. Steve smiles tentatively at him, and Tony gasps out, “Jesus, Steve, you're a fucking genius, oh my god,” and grinds his groin against Steve's. The slide of skin on skin sends a wracking shiver up Steve's spine, and he gasps too.

Steve looks down at the place where their bared bodies meet, lust blurring with purer aesthetic appreciation in his Tony-addled brain. The arc reactor, uncovered now, sends a soft wash of pale light down Tony's body, throwing his genitals into high-contrast light and shadow. There's something ineffably beautiful about Tony's bare skin, the scars on his torso, the dark trail of hair leading down to his elegantly-proportioned and fully-erect dick. Everything perfect in the world, Steve thinks, dazed, packed in to a single small human body, musk-scented and smooth-planed. At this angle, Tony's eyelashes look ridiculously long; his eyes are dark with desire, and his lips are still reddened with Steve's kisses.

Steve spreads the lube liberally over his left hand and reaches around Tony's thigh to trail down the cleft between his round buttocks, and it's Tony's turn to shiver. “Come on, Rogers,” he says, and Steve feels his own cock grow improbably even harder at the begging whine in Tony's voice. God, Tony's practically panting for it. “Uh – come on, Steve – fuck me, baby, please.”

He lets the tip of his middle finger penetrate Tony, sliding into tight heat. Tony breathes out a little satisfied “yes,” and, hungry for sensation, doesn't let him go slow; he thrusts himself down on Steve's digit, finger-fucking himself with Steve's slippery hand. “Steve,” he says. “Steve. Want to feel you. Harder, Steve, please, come one, fuck -” And Steve loses his grip, rams two more fingers into Tony fierce and fast. His blood pounds wildly through his veins. Tony moans and writhes and Steve is so hard he feels like he just might pop, his erect cock pressed against Tony's balls, receiving exquisite friction every time Tony moves.

Tony reaches blindly for the condom, tearing open the packet with his teeth and rolling the lubricated latex down Steve's hard-on in a single practiced moment. Steve pulls his fingers out of Tony's ass and hoists him a little higher and in one fluid and controlled movement he settles Tony on his dick. Tony's a little guy; Steve can lift him easily. Gravity pushes Tony down on him, forcing Tony to take his entire length, and Tony throws back his head against the concrete and howls Steve's name. He's smooth as honey and tight as a vise around Steve's cock, and Steve sees stars.

He feels like a stranger in his own skin, a trespasser in the body of this tall strong man who could lift cars, the body that could attract a man like Tony Stark. It's all so far from anything he's ever experienced that for a moment Steve feels oddly absent. Tony's surrendered to him completely, and he doesn't know how to accept that kind of surrender, not from someone like Tony. Not when Tony feels so indescribably incredible, engulfing Steve's dick like it's all he's ever wanted. “Take it,” Steve growls, shocked at how wrecked and dirty his own voice sounds. “I'm – ungh – I'm going to screw you so hard, Tony, god, going to split you up the middle -” and Tony's eyes roll up in a delirium of pleasure, lashes fluttering spasmodically.

“Please,” he chokes out. “Please fuck me, Steve.” And with an invitation like that, how can Steve resist?

“You want it hard, don't you?” he pants, unbelievably turned on by the rush of power he feels as Tony exposes his throat in a long pale gesture of submission. “Ah - Tony, such a slut, Jesus.”

Tony moans like he's dying, like he's coming apart at the seams, and his string of dirty talk has destabilized into incoherent shouts and little mewls of pleasure. God knows that Steve's come apart completely. For maybe the first time he doesn't feel oversized – or he does, but suddenly something's clicked over and it turns him on, seeing and feeling the mass and strength of his body as he pounds Tony Stark against a wall in a basement. Tony's cock bobs red and engorged against his thigh, and when Steve thrusts into him as hard as he can, once, twice, three times, four, and Tony comes with a high drawn-out wail, his come spatters Steve's legs and groin. A trail of semen drips down the curve of Tony's ass onto Steve's hands. Steve feels it against his fingers and it's the final straw, and he comes in Tony like a rocket breaking orbit.

Steve's knees go weak and he curls down to sit on the cold floor, trying not to drop Tony. His arms feel like overcooked spaghetti. “God, Steve,” Tony says as Steve deposits him on the floor next to himself. Steve takes some comfort in the fact that Tony looks every bit as wrecked as he feels. They sit together in silence for a moment, both breathing in shaky gasps. Then Tony looks up at him and smiles a crooked smile. “And I didn't even know you were gay,” he says.

“I'm not,” Steve answers, and when Tony frowns he adds, “Bisexual, I guess. That's what they call it now, right? When a fellow beds both men and ladies?”

Tony laughs, still a little breathless. “Yeah, that's what they call it. 'Beds'? You're too much, Rogers.”

Tony looks up at him. His eyes are still unusually open and unguarded in the aftermath of pleasure, and Steve feels something inside his chest bend and melt and come apart. “Obie – Obadiah – used to-”

Obadiah. Steve thinks back to the photos he'd found of Tony and Mr. Stane online, in the process of researching his new teammates and his new world. Thinks of the strange submissive body language Tony had always had in images of the two of them together: Mr. Stane's arm slung over Tony's shoulders, Tony standing beside him as if he was just a little kid, childlike and closed, even in later photos when Tony had been twenty, twenty-five, thirty years old. Thinks of just how small Tony had looked next to his mentor-guardian.

He thinks back even farther, to the man he'd seen with Howard a few times, big and bullish and taciturn. Steve knows, from that file Fury gave him, that Mr. Stane had sold weapons behind Tony's back, had been hawkishly unwilling to separate Stark Industries from the military the way Tony had wanted to, had died. He doesn't know how. That wasn't in the file. “I met him a few times,” he offers at last, not knowing what else to say, how else to make it through the minefield, but even so something goes very still in Tony's wide dark eyes.

“Yeah?” Tony says, clearly going for nonchalant but the word comes out high and squeaky and Steve feels momentarily sick at having been – used – to duplicate that. It's like he's been wearing Obadiah Stane's clothes, or his skin. He really wants a shower.

It must have shown on his face. “Look,” Tony says, speaking very fast, “if me being a little kinky like that is too much for you hey, I get it, no big deal, I've got way more baggage than you probably want to deal with any more than you have to but I just – I wanted you to know – so there's that, I can go now if you want, no problemo -”

There is something frail and devastated in the lines of Tony's face, and something that looks strangely like shame. Tony thinks he's being rejected. Shit, Steve thinks, letting the satisfying curse slip out in the privacy of silent thought, shit I've got to fix this or it'll all be ruined. Steve reaches out and grabs Tony's wrist, not letting him get up. He can feel the flutter of Tony's heartbeat at the pulse point. “No,” he says. “No, don't go.”

Touch was the right thing, more expressive than words could ever be, the solid comfort of flesh against flesh and bone beneath. Tony settles, breathes, and some of the panic goes out of his face, but the intimacy between them doesn't recover. Tony does feel better, Steve can tell, but he's also reassembling his carapace of flippancy and ironic distance, and Steve doesn't want it. He wants Tony's soft underbelly beneath the armor, wants to be let back in to the place where Tony is small and vulnerable and wrecked and likes being held powerless while he's screwed.

Tony flashes an insincere megawatt grin, being careful, not showing weakness. “Fuck, Rogers, you didn't have idea how much you'd like throwing your weight around, did you? Baby's first powerplay, I'm honored.” It's a good strategic move, Steve thinks – retreat to higher ground, back to smut and snide remarks. He can't think of anything to counter it. Because Tony's right about everything except how Steve means it, everything but that Steve is discarding him.

Tony's eyes are flat and shining as Steve picks himself up off the hard concrete, gathers together the remnants of his clothes, and stammers something about getting cleaned up. Tony stays on the floor, naked except for his socks and a wristwatch that isn't even close to being on the market yet, looking debauched and lovely and unattainable. It all seems so unbelievable, so unreal. When Steve goes back upstairs, it's in a rout. If things aren't completely ruined, they sure are cruddy.

That evening Tony doesn't avoid him, doesn't spend all night in the workshop or refuse to stay at the Mansion or leave rooms when Steve enters them. He's very carefully just the way he always has been, and the sharp edges of his care are slicing Steve to ribbons. Tony shouldn't have to be this controlled with him, shouldn't have to wear his defiant energy, should be allowed to be human-sized.

The thing is, Tony was completely right about Steve's previous experience with power games. Because the last time Steve had had sex he'd been a puny little shrimp and not exactly likely to get off on his own physical strength. Because Steve still isn't used to being tall and strong and powerful, and yes, he was a little shocked at how good it had felt to pin Tony down, how sweet and right it had been to hold Tony's hips in his hands and feel the bones shifting under the skin as Tony moved, how much he'd liked the sound of Tony's voice begging him for sex. It disturbs him, both mentally and physically. He feels out of place in himself again, but in the reverse way.

He needs to understand about this, for his own peace of mind as much as Tony's. He briefly considers asking Natasha, who he's pretty sure knows all about this sort of thing, but when he thinks about it it's really not fair to make her deal with his mess, and she probably has better things to do than give love advice to a clumsy soldier. Besides, he thinks uncomfortably, the impulse that made him think of her first might be a sexist one.

Thor offers unsolicited advice after breakfast the next morning, after Tony had grinned and bantered and not eaten anything and then left with a horrible stiff cheer swinging in his shoulders. “My friend,” the god of thunder says, “Truly, I believe you must give him one reason to stay here, for then surely Tony Stark would turn right back around, just as your sages have said it.”

“Um,” Steve mumbles, feeling the blush rise up his neck, not prepared to handle the strange – and probably warped, this is Thor – pop culture reference. Or the idea of giving Tony a reason, either one.

Pepper, fixing a bagel with cream cheese and lox, shifted her attention subtly to focus on him. “Ah. I – well, that is – I have to -” His escape from the table is no less shameful than his flight from the workshop had been.

Alone in the sanctuary of his room, with no thunder gods or assistant-assassins or genius millionaire playboy philanthropists – the room is ridiculous, its windows are massive and have the best view, trees and city both, and you can walk into the bathtub – Steve eschews his usual comfortable Danish sling-back chair and sits crosslegged on the floor. He looks up nervously at the empty air, and says, “Jarvis?”

The air answers, “Yes, Captain Rogers?”

“Steve,” Steve insists, and Jarvis acquiesces. “Can you, um, help me with a research project?” Tony had given him a slim little tablet computer, but Steve had found that he preferred Jarvis' projected displays, and the AI didn't seem to mind Steve using him as an email client. Sometimes, when Steve reaches out fingers to touch empty space, not moving creatively through the interface the way Tony does but just click-and-dragging in the air, Tony smiles. But Tony isn't here now.

“Certainly, sir. Shall I open you a new project folder, on your private server?”

“Sure,” Steve says.

He spends the rest of the day reading. Not just new stuff – he actually goes back to the nineteenth century, reads some Freud, thinks about sensation and dominance and the death drive. There's a lot of new stuff too, safewords and dungeons and he slogs through a few pages of this French man's book that's all about internalized discipline and externalized punishment. There's nothing going on that day, hanging out with Tony isn't exactly an option, and Steve doesn't really have anything else to do but read and think. He wanders downstairs for a sandwich and then goes back up. Bruce, nursing a cup of tea at the table, shoots him a worried look but doesn't say anything. Tony is somewhere else.

It needs to be okay, he realizes, for Tony to incorporate the bad things that've happened to him into his sexuality. It's a good thing, really. It means that Tony's found a way to transform old pain into something better. Steve didn't do the same thing to Tony that Obadiah had, because Steve was a part of the way Tony was fixing that history. He wonders, uncomfortably, if his reaction to that hadn't been more about his own response, more than Tony's, panic about the way he was feeling projecting outward to become Tony's problem, Tony's fault, when of course it was Steve's problem not his.

If it can be loving, he thinks, imagines wrapping Tony up safely in his arms, letting him stop for just a minute, being able to defeat his demons just with simple touch, a single command … his breath catches as he realizes just how fiercely he wants this. He'd had a little crush, sure, maybe, once he'd figured out how to get beyond Tony's brash exterior, but not … not this overwhelming swell of heat and tenderness, salt and old as an ocean but warm. Okay, he thinks, venting a long sigh of relief. Okay, I get it. I get it now.

It's getting late, the sun set hours ago, and the hallway outside Steve's room is dark. Somewhere, probably, someone is watching the Daily Show, and someone is playing Skyrim, and someone – probably Bruce – is still working in a corner somewhere. He pads, barefoot and quiet, down to the workshop first. It's the best bet when Tony is upset or out of sorts. But it's dark, the glass opaque, the only inhabitants the robots and computers that Tony talks to like people, or like pets. Steve checks the kitchen next, and then the workout rooms, and finally goes back upstairs to the room three doors down from his, and knocks softly on Tony's door.

There's light spilling goldenly out underneath it. “Tony?” he says, not loud but pitched to carry through Tony's barriers. “Hey, Tony, can we talk? I-”

The door opens abruptly, and Steve, leaning against it, stumbles forward. Tony reaches out a reflexive hand to stabilize him and Steve feels like the air's turned to honey, thick and sweet and unbreathable.

Tony looks like hell, dark-circled eyes and pale lips and hair a strange tousled birds-nest. Steve, panicking, can't find the words. Tony just looks up at him, those big eyes dark and solemn and serious and shrewd, cautiously open now but Steve knows how easily they could go flat and distant. He doesn't have any words.

Tony speaks first. “You really didn't, did you? You didn't know you liked it like that. You knew about men, but not about dominance.”

Steve flushes and shakes his head. “I don't usually … I try not to make it too obvious, you know? Everything the serum did to me. People treated me so differently, and I didn't like it, and it was better to just minimize the whole thing.”

Tony smiles wanly, and his eyes crinkle at the corners. Steve draws in a breath. “I can see how that might freak you out,” Tony says. “If it had never been like that for you before.”

Holding on to their tentative thread of connection, Steve asks, “When did you -”

There – that flatness, that sudden matte tone that absorbed light and didn't release it again. “Yeah, I don't think either of us really want to get into my sordid past, Steve.”

“Okay,” Steve says, trying to be generous, to yield ground, “but you don't need to hide it like some sort of shocking horror, Tony, not from me.”

Tony's eyes are fathomless. The yellow light behind him picks up the brown tints in his hair. “Especially from you,” he says, leaning heavily against the doorframe. Steve realizes that he's been drinking, is starting to come out the other side of sober again. “Look,” Tony says, “I don't do apologies for my life, okay, it's been a pretty crappy one and yeah, a lot of that's down to me and my shit choices but it's still my life. We're made to adapt and survive.”

“Do you have any idea how much I love you?” Steve says, and Tony's hand clenches convulsively around the blond birchwood hingesite. “Tony. I would never want you to apologize. I should. I had a readjustment moment. It wasn't even really about you. I thought – I thought you were wonderful.”

Tony doesn't say anything, just stands there clutching the doorframe like he'll fall down if he lets go, and Steve swallows. “Um. That's not actually what I meant to say. I wanted to ask if you'd go on a date with me. This weekend. We could go to Coney Island?” He hadn't known it was going to be this hard to ask.

But something collapses into softness in Tony's face, the horrible hard tension of his body abruptly evanescing, and a smile tugs at the corner of Tony's mobile mouth. “A date?” he says.

Steve smiles back. “Yeah, a date. You, me, food, conversation, ferris wheels.”

“Where does the kinky sex fit in?”

“Maybe later,” Steve says, reaching out to cup Tony's cheek in the palm of his hand. Tony leans into the pressure like a cat, making a small contented sound that Steve's never heard before. “We've got all the time in the world.”

“Good girls don't put out on the first date?”

Steve laughs. “I would think you'd have had enough of me!”

Tony hesitates. Steve can see the thoughts whirring through his head a thousand per second, can see Tony struggling to make sense of everything that's happened between them in the last day and a half, sex and power and love and now dating. It's like Tony's afraid to reach out and pick that last idea up, like it's a cute animal that he thinks might bite him if he tried to stroke it. Tentatively, Steve tries an innuendo - “I sure hope you haven't, because I've got a lot left I want to give you” - and this time Tony's the one who blushes.

“Okay,” Tony says, letting his breath woosh out. “Okay. Coney Island. A date. I can do that.”

Steve leans down and kisses him, slow and gentle, letting himself get momentarily lost in the soft fullness of Tony's lips and the scratch of his goatee. “Coney Island tomorrow,” he says. “Sweet dreams tonight. Good night, Tony. Thanks for not holding it against me.”

Tony, a little breathless from Steve's kiss, cracks up laughing. “Holding it against you?” he says, and Steve kisses him again just to shut him up.