“Will you stop being so damn stubborn and just get naked?”
“I would make some comment about your sudden desire for my young, nubile body, but I am too damn exhausted.”
Steve gave Tony a look. “Thank heavens for small mercies,” he said, and Tony laughed. It was high and sharp and a little hysterical, but it was definitely a real laugh. “Come on. Decontamination. Now.” He already had his shirt off, the various layers of body armor and under armor, and, naked to the waist, he went to work on the fastenings of his boots.
“I'm telling you, the suit-”
“I will take that suit off of you in about thirty seconds,” Steve said, his voice calm. “With, or without your help, Mr. Stark.” He glanced up, his hair flopping in his eyes, and he shoved it back with a battered hand. “If you'd like to avoid a real long bout of repairs, you'll handle it for yourself.”
Tony was leaning against the wall, his head hanging forward, his hands loose at his sides. “Might be worth it,” he admitted, lifting one hand to fumble at the latches of the suit. “Even though I don't think it's necessary. This thing has environmental seals that allow me to go into space. You know that, right?”
“I'm aware of all its bells and whistles,” Steve agreed, tossing his boots into the decontamination pile. He wasn't sure if the SHIELD staff would be able to get them clean, but at this point, he'd be just as happy never to see them again. Even the annoyance of breaking in a new pair of boots would be worth never having to smell any of this again.
He was getting mighty sick of things trying to swallow them. It never ended well for them, or the thing trying to do the swallowing.
“So I don't-”
“Drop your drawers, Stark, and get in the damn shower.”
Tony laughed. “Kinky, Captain.” But he was tossing pieces of the suit aside, stripping off various pieces and tossing them on the pile with Steve's uniform. In a matter of minutes, he was down to the black undersuit and his boots and gauntlets. Steve looked away. There was something oddly intimate about that, about the fragments of the suit and the skin tight mesh suit.
He unbuckled his belt and tossed it aside before going to work on his pants. “You going, or am I carrying you, Tony?”
“Fine, fine,” Tony said, walking past him, all golden brown skin and an easy smirk. “I woulda thought you'd be a bit more modest than this, to be honest.”
Steve's eyes rolled up, hard enough to risk hurting something, probably his sense of decency or fair play. “You do realize I've been through basic training, don't you?” he asked, amused. “The US Army isn't really big on preserving modesty, Tony.” He sealed the door of the decontamination unit, and triggered it with a slap of his palm on the button.
The super powered jets of hot water hit from all directions, and Tony let out a yelp. Grinning, Steve snagged a cloth from the bin and started scrubbing.
“There is a difference between being naked with a drill sergeant screaming in your face.,” Tony said, his tone arch, “and being naked with me. Being with me changes things.” He leaned in, his head tipping in Steve's direction. His dark hair was tumbled in his face, his lashes in damp clumps, his grin slightly manic. He wiggled his eyebrows. “I make things so much better, Cap.”
Steve stared at him, and then dropped the washcloth over Tony's head. “Less sass, more suds,” he said, deadpan, and Tony laughed.
“We're still alive,” he said, scraping the cloth off of his head with one hand. He dumped a healthy measure of soap over his head. “And my stylist is going to kill me if she finds out what I'm doing to my hair right now. She is a violent lady and she owns like fifty pairs of scissors. I survived attack by semi-sentient goo blob, and now I will be murdered by a very angry woman.”
“Maybe you ought to tip a bit better,” Steve said, scrubbing his hair with both hands. He rinsed it and started over, enjoying the heat of the water.
“I tip exceptionally well, I know better than to stiff the woman who can easily make me look like an idiot for the next couple of months,” Tony said. He tipped his head back and soaped up his face.
“Tony, that's every woman in your life, you do realize that, don't you?”
“Yes, but some of them are more well armed than others and have less fucks to give. Pepper and Natasha have something to gain by keeping me alive, at least short term. Paula, meanwhile, has nothing to lose except a steady customer and stands to gain a much better behaved client base,” Tony said. “It's a legitimate concern, Cap.”
He glanced over, about to say something smart, when he was caught by the sight in front of him.
Being naked with Tony was a bit different. Steve stared, uncomprehending, as Tony shifted his weight from one foot to the other, his hands in his hair, working up a good mass of bubbles. The lines of his back, his shoulders, his hips, his arms, his legs, were all familiar, but now, there was nothing between him and Tony but the water that ran heavily over his skin. As Tony arched his back, every muscle pulling tight with the motion, Steve's eyes followed the ripple of his skin.
That's when he realized that Tony's ass had no tan line.
Steve's head snapped around, tearing his gaze away, but it was too late. Now that the thought was in his head, there was no way that he could get rid of it. He glanced back, a quick darting little look, ashamed of himself for doing it, but unable to stop. There was no doubt about it, the golden tan of Tony's shoulders and back, his arms and legs, extended over the tight lines of his ass.
And Steve had a sudden, overwhelming vision of Tony sprawled out naked in the sunshine, unashamed and unconcerned. Of all that skin on display, warm and relaxed, maybe even risking a quick catnap under the summer sun.
Steve's head snapped up, sucking in a breath a little too fast and getting a mouthful of water. He choked on it, his brain snapping away from thoughts that had turned very quickly and very inappropriately to the nearly pornographic.
“Hey, hey, whoa!” Tony's hand landed on his shoulder, and Steve jolted, turning his head away, his head and his body, because yes, adrenaline and worry and hot water and thoughts that he should not be having about his teammate had rather obvious effects. “Cap?”
“Sorry,” Steve managed, coughing again to clear his throat. “That went the wrong way.”
“Yeah, don't think the serum helps you breathe water, but what do I know?” Tony backed off, but now he was staying close, casting worried looks in Steve's direction. “Everyone else's okay, right?”
“We were the last. Everyone else got tossed in decontamination before we cleared the scene,” Steve agreed, trying to focus on scrubbing himself down. His hands rubbed over his arms, feeling the muscles bunch beneath the skin with each pass. “Bruce and Clint first, Thor got a brief pass, probably didn't need it, but he didn't object.” He gave Tony a look. “Some people don't fuss as much as you.”
“Speaking of fussing, when did Na-”
“Apparently, she came slamming in just after Clint and Bruce got started and simply stripped under the showers,” Steve said, and Tony burst out laughing.
“Of course she did. That woman does not have time for anyone's shit,” Tony said, and there was affection in his voice. “Poor Bruce.”
“I'm guessing he was too tired to do more than hand her a bar of soap,” Steve said. Which was a state he desperately wanted to be in.
By the time they got out of the shower, through the antibacterial spray, past the medical screening, and into the little makeshift antechamber where they could dress, Tony was shivering. He'd spent far too long far too damp, and the heating in this part of Stark Tower left something to be desired. Then again, warmth bred bacteria. Balancing human comfort against decontamination protocol was always difficult, and Tony wasn't usually concerned with comfort until he lacked it.
At least they'd been able to get home first. SHIELD's mobile decontamination trailers were an affront to the dignity of man.
He pulled on a pair of paper-thin underwear, fingers shaking, back to Steve so that it wouldn't be evident, and also because Steve was acting a little weird. Jumpy. Not like Cap, even after a fight -- usually he was eerily calm, almost passive once the shouting was over. But then, almost getting eaten could make anyone a little nervous.
Something warm draped itself over his shoulders, and Tony let out a small whimper of relief.
"You missed the blankets," Steve said, voice amused. Tony pulled the blanket tighter around himself, huddling down into it. "Ready to go?"
"I want brandy," Tony said, as they stepped into the elevator that would take them up to the Avengers' common floor. "That's what you give people who've had a shock, right?"
"Yeah, if you're skiing the Alps," Steve replied.
"That would be significantly more fun," Tony said. "Wait, no, I don't want brandy. I want whiskey. In coffee."
Steve sighed. "Should I bother trying to get you to drink something that will actually hydrate you?"
"I think you know the answer to that."
"Cocoa," Steve said. "You do not need caffeine and none of us need a caffeinated you right now."
"That's just mean," Tony replied.
"I measure the whiskey."
Tony sighed as the elevator stopped. The doors opened on what looked, at least to Tony, a little like heaven.
Bruce and Natasha were on the couch, mostly dressed but also wrapped in blankets. Clint was draped over Bruce, who did tend to run hot after de-Hulking, and Thor was in a nest of pillows at their feet. There was a Tony-sized space between Natasha and Bruce.
Clint looked at him and obligingly lifted his feet off the otherwise-empty cushion. Tony dove for it.
"You said you'd make the cocoa!" he called over his shoulder. He landed in the middle of the heap of Avengers just in time to see Steve smile tolerantly.
"I'm making drinks," he said, knotting the blanket around his waist like a towel. Or, given his physique, an oversized loincloth on a Greek statue. "Hands up for cocoa."
Everyone but Bruce raised their hand.
"Hands up for Irish cocoa."
Tony raised his other hand. Natasha kept hers up. Thor looked perplexed. Tony leaned over and murmured "Booze" in his ear. Thor raised his other hand too.
"All right. Make a hole for me when I get back, or I'm drinking it all myself," Steve said.
Natasha scooted away from Tony, towards the arm of the sofa, and Clint curled himself up into a ball on top of Bruce, who was, Tony noticed, actually asleep. He slid closer, huddling up against Bruce as well.
Steve returned quickly enough that he'd probably caved to efficiency and used the microwave to heat the milk; he seemed to hesitate for a second when he saw the empty space between Tony and Natasha, but then he settled in and handed around the mugs he'd prepared. Tony cleared one hand out of the blanket, grasped his mug, and drank deeply while Steve settled in. He was even warmer than Bruce. But he was also sitting stiffly, as if he was either wounded or uncomfortable.
"Hey, Cap," Tony said, quietly, so as not to wake Bruce. "Seriously, are you okay? Are you hurt?"
"We got checked out," Steve reminded him.
"Well, if you're bleeding internally -- "
"I'm not bleeding internally, Tony."
Tony looked up at him. His jaw was set, a muscle twitching in it, and his neck was tense. Tony passed his mug to his other hand and raised newly-warmed fingers up to the nape of Steve's neck, pushing in gently. Steve sighed quietly but he didn't brush Tony off, so Tony sipped from his mug and casually kept kneading, working out one little knot in his neck and then a larger, lower one on his shoulder.
"This time last week I was in Louisiana," Tony said conversationally. "It was like a million degrees, it was great. Jazz, jambalaya. Tons of sun."
Steve tensed briefly, but Tony pushed his thumb into the gap between two vertebrae, and his shoulders dropped like strings had been cut.
"I thought you were at a conference," Clint said.
"And as keynote speaker it was widely understood that I knew more than everyone else and could skip other peoples' panels without consequence," Tony replied.
"You did seem pretty tanned for someone spending a weekend inside with other nerds," Natasha said.
"Engineers. Not nerds. Very cool engineers. Obviously, or I wouldn't hang out with them," Tony corrected, pressing himself harder into Steve's side so that he could get a little leverage against the base of his skull. Steve sighed again, then leaned forward, apparently surrendering.
Natasha gave Tony a raised eyebrow over Steve's back, but Tony ignored whatever weird thing she was trying to say with her face and dug his knuckles into Steve's scalp. Steve had very fair skin -- his back was smooth and unblemished, probably the Serum's work, though there was a sprinkling of freckles over his pale shoulders. Tony ruffled the hair at the back of his head, patted his neck, and let his hand rest on the bumps of Steve's spine.
Tony was warm now, squeezed in between several other people, including Thor (who was dozing against his knee, keeping his feet warm). Whatever Steve was freaking out about appeared to have passed. Plus he had a mug full of alcoholic chocolate, and when Natasha saw he'd drained his, she poured half of hers into it as well.
Eventually Steve leaned back and closed his eyes, breath deepening. Tony brought his hand down, cuddling deeper into his blanket, and fell asleep with his nose pressed into Steve's bicep.
Steve stumbled back into consciousness with an ease that usually eluded him. More often than not, he snapped awake, shaking off sleep in the blink of an eye. If he was lucky, he didn’t have fragments of dreams and a sense of loss chasing him back into the waking world.
Now, however, he found himself inhabiting that languid, comfortable place between sleep and wakefulness, warm and somehow peaceful. He shifted, wondering why he wasn’t lying down, how he’d managed to fall asleep sitting up. And what the warm weight across his chest was.
The room was dark and warm, the only light coming from the fire that someone had started in the hearth. He would’ve blamed Thor, but he suspected that Jarvis was taking care of all of them. Thor was snoring on the floor, a low rumble of sound that was almost comforting. Clint’s snoring was a static rumble, and Steve was glad that his face was mostly buried in the back of the couch.
His eyes opened slowly, not particularly eager to abandon this warm, comfortable place in which he found himself. He took a deep breath, and something tickled his nose, soft, damp spikes of hair. Steve blinked, sleep fading now, to find that Tony was sprawled halfway across his chest, his face buried in Steve’s neck. Judging by the fall of copper curls on his other shoulder, Natasha was on his other side, but his body was curled towards and around Tony’s.
It wasn’t the first time he’d woken up in the middle of a pile of his teammates; the Commandos had ended up a lot of places where there was no protection from the elements and supplies were always short, even for them. On cold nights, Steve had surrendered his coat to someone else. Cold didn’t bother him much anymore, and the serum kept his body temperature high. It hadn’t taken long for the others to figure out that sleeping next to Steve was the easiest way to stave off a chill. Once Buck had made it clear that Steve owed him some body heat from an entire childhood of huddling against his back, everyone had just drawn lots as to who got to use Steve as a pillow that night.
Steve didn’t mind over much, it was kind of comforting to have everyone close.
Except now his arm was around Tony’s shoulders, and Tony’s face was buried in his throat, the prickle of his goatee on Steve’s skin making his breath hitch. Steve tried to shift, and that just made it worse, with Tony’s arm around his waist, his body angled along the length of Steve’s side. His breathing was soft and warm and every time he inhaled or exhaled, Tony’s lips moved against Steve’s neck.
That was when he remembered what he was wearing, or rather, not wearing.
Tony’s skin was warm under the palm of his hands, under the twitch of his fingers. Every time he moved, breathing or muttering under his breath or just twitching in his sleep, his bare skin slid against Steve’s, and Steve’s brain was awash in the sensation. It was so close to a few dreams he’d had that he wondered if he was still asleep.
And if so, why his brain was determined to kill him this way.
He wondered if he could get up without waking either Tony or Nat, and he was pretty sure that wasn’t happening. Even if he could slip out of Tony’s arms, he knew enough about Natasha’s reflexes to know that she would be awake before he could even get his feet properly on the floor.
He leaned his head back and sucked in a breath, trying to calm down his almost painful erection. His eyes closed, he started writing after action reports in his head, considered replaying a baseball game or two, maybe one of the Dodger’s more embarrassing defeats would do it. There were certainly enough to choose from.
But the moment his eyes were closed, all he could think about was the warm expanse of Tony’s skin. He wondered if Tony spent every vacation naked. If his winter vacations (okay, he shouldn’t have brought up skiing in the Alps, he really should not have) involved sprawling out in front of the fire with a bottle of something very potent and without stitch on.
Steve was breathing slowly now, slow and deep, sinking into something that he could almost convince himself was not a fantasy. But he could see it, easily enough. He could see the slight smirk on Tony’s lips as he lounged in front of the fire, a warm toddy in his hand, his eyes half closed. That golden skin gilded by the flicker of the flames, his dark hair falling over his forehead as he relaxed back against a pillow.
Steve wondered if Tony just liked hanging around naked, or if he did it because he didn’t bother with clothes, or if he did it because there was someone there with him, someone that Tony enjoyed teasing with those long, graceful fingers and dark eyes. The idea was depressing, but not nearly depressing enough.
Tony chose that moment to shift in his sleep, stretching up and rearranging himself against Steve’s chest. Steve’s breath froze in his lungs, and Tony’s head slipped from the crook of his neck. He had a moment of relief, tempered by a shameful sort of disappointment, before Tony cuddled down again, the prickly expanse of his jaw scraping across Steve’s nipple.
His whole body jolted, arching straight off of the couch at the stimulation.
Tony woke with a startle as the pillow under his face moved, and for a moment he had a vivid flashback to one of the more nonsensical nightmares of his childhood -- the pillow is a giant cockroach! -- before he sat up straight on the couch, backwards into Bruce.
"Nrrwha?" he managed, looking around, wide-eyed, heart thumping. Steve was panting, one fist gathered in the blanket over his legs, the other rigid against the back of the couch.
"Cap?" Tony asked. Natasha, on his other side, was awake but wary, silent and still. Bruce must have been exhausted, because he hadn't moved even when Tony slammed into him.
Steve lifted his arm off the back of the couch, rubbing his face. Tony could see gooseflesh on his skin. "Yeah. Sorry."
"Dream?" Natasha asked. She looked alarmed.
"Yeah," Steve repeated. He visibly got his breathing under control. "I uh. Huh."
Tony adjusted the blanket around his shoulders, tilting his head. Steve didn't respond well to questions, sometimes, but silence often made him talk.
"This is nice," Steve said instead, "but we should be in bed. Our beds. Individually."
Natasha's face was brilliant. Tony grinned.
"I'm going to -- bed," Steve finished, and he stood up, a little awkwardly, holding the blanket where it was knotted at his waist...
Not the bad kind of dream, then, just an awkward one to have around your coworkers. Of course, that kind of thing was probably bound to happen if you were a young super-soldier surrounded by attractive people who were accidentally sleeping on your chest. He wondered idly how active Steve's sex drive was. He knew Steve's actual sex life...wasn't.
Then he stopped wondering, because that was faintly inappropriate and something he'd been avoiding thinking about, successfully, for some time.
"Yeah," he said, poker-faced, because there was no reason to make Steve feel awkward about it. He levered himself off the couch, tugging on Clint's ankle to wake him up too. "Real beds, kids. Jarvis, dim the barbecue."
The fire in the hearth dimmed down but didn't fade completely. Trying to wake up Thor when he was asleep was pointless, and waking Bruce suddenly wasn't advised in the Care And Feeding Of Bruce Banner manual, so they might as well keep the room warm for them. Tony reluctantly tossed his blanket over Bruce, hitching up the cheap disposable post-decontam underwear, and ignored the low, teasing whistle from Natasha.
Well, he might have put a little strut in his walk as he went to the bedroom he'd moved into when he and Pepper called it quits (she deserved to keep the penthouse, he wasn't going to argue). But it was half strut and half hustle, because a warm bed sounded really good.
"Goodnight, Tony," he heard Steve say, and he held up a hand in acknowledgement as he darted into his bedroom and shucked his underwear, sliding under the electric blanket Jarvis must have fired up earlier.
"Jarvis, note," Tony said.
"Shall I file it under irrational mumbling or drunken good ideas?"
"Ugh, you pain in my ass. Note: Steve seems tense. When I wake up, remind me to do something thoughtful to help him settle down a little. Also, come up with something thoughtful for me to do."
"I shall begin brainstorming at once, sir."
"And wake me whenever someone starts cooking breakfast."
Steve glanced over his shoulder. “Some sorta eggs,” he said, smiling. Tony had made it to the kitchen, but he wasn’t sure how. He was pretty sure Tony’s eyes weren’t open, and he seemed be following his nose towards the coffee pot. Steve caught his shoulder and turned him away from the stove.
“Some sorta eggs?” Tony repeated, leaning against the counter. He was smiling, sleepy and amused.
“Well, they started out as fried eggs,” Steve admitted. He poked at them with his spatula. “Closer to scrambled now.” He shrugged, giving Tony a wry smile. “It’s eggs, sorry, I can’t promise more than that.”
Tony pried one eye open, blinking at Steve in an owlish sort of manner. “I’m not picky,” he said, scratching idly at his stomach. His shirt rose up with the movement, exposing a strip of tan skin low on his belly. He yawned. “Eggs and cooked. That, that sounds damn good right about now.”
The coffee machine beeped, and Tony made a sound that would’ve counted as obscene coming out of anyone else that Steve knew. Hell, it probably counted as obscene coming out of Tony, too, but he was doing his best not to think like that.
His dreams last night had taken on a distinctly carnal edge, and he didn’t need additional ammunition.
“I need a vacation,” Tony mumbled into his coffee.
Steve arched an eyebrow in Tony’s direction. “You just got back from a vacation,” he pointed out, unable to stifle a smile. Tony sounded so adorably disgruntled.
“That was business.”
“Got a mighty fine tan for a man who was there on business,” Steve said, stirring the eggs. “Plus, you admitted that you ditched every event that wasn’t directly about you.”
Tony wandered over, hovering just behind Steve’s back, peering over his shoulder. “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” he said.
Steve did his best not to tense up, but Tony was so close now that Steve could swear he could feel his body heat. “Pretty sure that is a bad thing, Stark,” he said. He waved the spatula at the counter. “Hand me a plate, would ya?”
Tony stepped back, only a couple of feet, but enough for Steve to take a deep breath without worrying that he’d end up bumping into Tony. When Tony handed him a plate, he kept his body angled out a bit, just enough to keep Tony at bay. Tony leaned against the counter as Steve plated some of the eggs. “I consider it conservation of energy,” Tony said. He took the plate that Steve offered him, and paused, a smile creasing his face as he considered his arm. “It is a nice tan, though, isn’t it?”
Steve’s shoulders tensed. “It reeks of indolence,” he agreed. He absolutely was not going to think about Tony’s ass. That would be a bad choice, in the middle of the joint kitchen.
“I’m fine with this, it’s got ‘idol’ right in there,” Tony said, smirking at him. He dug in a drawer, coming up with a fork. He dug in, still leaning against the counter.
“You would,” Steve said, smiling. “We have a table, you know. Chairs and everything.”
“Waiting for you,” Tony mumbled around his eggs. “Like a good host.” He reached out with his fork, poking Steve in the bicep. “You’re tense.”
Steve dumped the rest of the eggs on his plate. “Some of us don’t get to go sunbathing in Louisiana,” Steve pointed out. “Some of us have a job to do.”
“What does that have to do with being tense?” Tony asked, padding after him as Steve went to the table. There was something endearing about his bare feet and his tangled hair, and Steve shook his head. Tony dropped his plate with a clatter, and Steve stopped, halfway into his seat. Tony pointed his fork in Steve’s direction. “I got it,” he crowed. “Jarvis, delete the note from last night, I’ve figured this out, you are useless and I do not need your help.”
“I am ecstatic to hear it, sir,” Jarvis said.
Steve studied the fork that was hovering around his pectorals. “I’d ask,” he mused, “but I’m fairly certain I don’t want to know.” He leaned over, digging into his food.
“Let’s take a day,” Tony said. Abandoning his plate and the table, he stalked back to the coffee pot. “Let’s take a day and just relax. Sunbathe by the pool, we can sip drinks with little umbrellas and sticks of fruit in ‘em and nap and do a lap or two if we end up feeling particularly energetic.”
Steve froze, eggs going cold in his mouth. For a moment, he forgot how to breathe. But Tony was staring at him, his face alight, his mouth turned up in a manic smile, and Steve could just see him, bare and unconcerned, sprawled out on one of those complicated deck chairs beside the Tower’s pool.
It took him a couple of tries to swallow his eggs. “I don’t think-” he started, and Tony made a face.
“Stop thinking, that’s your problem right there, Cap, there is no-” He poured coffee, waving the pot around between his words. “Don’t think. Just imagine.” He strolled back. “Plush Egyptian cotton towels, warm water, sun through the skylights, pina coladas strong enough to send a horse to rehab.” He took a sip. “Have something tropical catered, add a fire pit or something, we can take a damn day.”
Steve stared at him, trying not to think about how good that sounded. He opened his mouth, ready to object again, but it was hard. It was hard to turn down something he actually wanted. He was doing it so often now, keeping everything under control, keeping everything under wraps.
And how bad could this be? Here, in the tower, with the whole team?
Tony tipped his face forward, his big dark eyes pleading. “Come on, Cap,” he said, his voice dropping to a coaxing tone, all spun sugar and dark promise. “For me?”
Steve knew he shouldn’t do this. Shouldn’t even allow himself this much. But at this point, it was put Tony off with a simple agreement, or start imagining him naked and wandering around the kitchen.
“Fine,” he said, and it was grudging, it was disgruntled, and Tony grinned anyway.
“This,” he said, leaning back in his chair, “is going to be great.”
Steve was pretty sure he was doomed. He went back to his eggs. As a last meal, it left something to be desired.