When I'm pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin?
In retrospect, this moment had been coming for sometime.
Still, it was a sucker punch to the gut. "You're what?" Steve hissed, trying to keep his voice down. Not that anyone could hear them, what with the mansion being repaired, the high shriek of circular saws cutting into wood, echoes of hammers on stone as workers swarmed around the mansion, as thick and industrious as a hive of bees in spring. The air heavy with the sweet pulpy scent of wood, and the chalky taste of stone and dust.
"Steve," Jan hugged herself with her arms as if chilled despite the balmy evening; a rare burst of Indian Summer before the cold snap of autumn came. It wasn't here yet, in the back garden of the Ultimates mansion, but it was coming; what with the trees not being so green, showing more branch than leaves, and the spots of gold at their tips. Jan's hair was a bit longer now, not the spiky hairstyle she had when they first met; but longer and sleeker, mussed by the odd lift and surge of wind.
"It's... Hank, isn't it?" Steve bit out the words, remembered his how his blood sang when he brought him down, the sharp thunk and clang as the steel pipes fell on and around Hank. Their weight forcing him to his knees, bone fracturing under the crush of steel. Hank brought down, as he should have been.
As much as Jan acted otherwise- he knew that it laid down the first brick of the wall between them, which grew thicker and higher as time went by.
"No, it's not Hank." Jan turned around to face Steve, her eyes grave. Still clad in her battle suit, her wings folded flat along her spine and brushed the backs of her knees like a translucent cloak. Steve would have offered her a jacket if he had been wearing one, but he was still in costume, concrete dust smeared across his face and in his hair. He had been on his way upstairs to shower and change, but she called him out here, under a sky the colour of hammered brass, the air seeped in the smells of soil and green and sawdust and cement.
"For the first time in... forever, it's not about Hank," Jan's mouth set in a firm line. "I've decided to leave the Ultimates."
The announcement as sharp as a strike to the kidneys, the words hanging in the air, the din of repairs now muted in the background. For all his skill and quickness from the serum, matters of women still caught him off guard.
"Jan, honey," Steve took one step forward, only to stop when Jan shot her arm up, palm facing him. Her shorthand for him to stay where he was. Not to touch her.
They hadn't touched each other for a while now, and although yes, he understood that, still...
"It's not Hank. It's not you, either. So don't even think along those lines."
"I wasn't-" Steve shook his head, the denial automatic.
"It's- I need -I need more. This isn't enough. Hank isn't enough."
"Steve, don't make this hard, please? I've already put in my resignation. Got the ball rolling with Stark as well as SHIELD. I've decided to opt out of everything, and become a civilian."
Steve opened his mouth to say - well - anything, but the resolve in her eyes told him much more than her words ever could. However, he knew the game, how Jan needed it to be played.
"Please, think it over."
"I have." Jan's smile was tremulous, her eyes suspiciously sheened, but she still kept her composure. "It's crazy, this sort of life that we live, Steve. This fighting monsters, of giving everything and keeping nothing behind. It worked when I thought that Hank and I had more. But we didn't. We just didn't."
"There is no 'us'. There wasn't an us. Even if we were, we've stopped being what we thought we were a long time ago."
Steve couldn't argue with that. But he could not bring himself to say good bye, either. So Jan did it for both of them.
"I'm sorry that it's ended like this."
"This sounds like the whole 'it's not you, it's me' speech people keep doing in the movies."
"There's a reason why people use it as a fall back. Goodbye, Steve."
In a blink, Jan shrunk to the size of well... a wasp, and zoomed off. Steve stood there for a long time, shield at his side, watching as the sky shifted from copper to a midnight blue.
"You knew Jan was quitting, and didn't tell me?"
"I'm the soul of discretion, Steve. You had your own reasons for that ruse as T'challa, my lips were sealed, like the good help. Besides, everyone is entitled to their mysteries."
"And what's yours?"
"Hmm?" Both men were in the formal sitting room, Tony eyeing the bar, a mini skyline of various sizes of bottles and levels of liquids in their various forms. Amazing what a lot of money could do, Steve observed, within the space of two weeks, the sitting room was done, the westward wall fixed. The colours were different on this go around; sofas a warm cream instead of butter yellow, the hues of cool blues replacing the warm golds and oranges. They were here at the scene of the crime, so to speak, when Venom shredded the wall as if it were tissue paper, demanding Wanda's whereabouts.
The mansion being rebuilt, and once complete, it might have been that the death of Wanda never happened. Pietro had been too broken to stay, too resentful to be fair, so he left.
This room, where everyone got an eyeful of Tony Stark and Natasha Romanov doing --
"It can't be you and Natasha," Steve snapped. "With you two being all over each other. If it were, why would you tape it?"
Tony raised his eyes to Steve's, and Steve noted how they glittered with a brittle amusement. "There are... reasons. Those secrets again, Steve. The ones that we are all entitled to, remember?"
"But Jan -"
"Wanted to keep it from you, yes. From everyone. She wanted to... live, it seems." Tony stuck his hands into his pockets, as he paused to stare at the screen above the mantelpiece. Steve felt his face warm when he remembered the frantic stuttered breaths of Tony and Natasha's coupling. The fact that such an act could be taped and shown and greeted with snide remarks and snickers was inconceivable. Steve pinched the skin between his eyes, and forced himself to focus on this moment.
"She wasn't doing that now?"
"Steve," Tony did one of those long suffering sighs that set Steve's teeth on edge. The 'Oh what ever will I do with you' sighs, with hints of pity.
"Jan knew Hank, and science. For a long while, that was her world. Then it expanded to Ultimates, and you. It wasn't enough, and she wished to swap those experiences for others. You're not angry, are you?"
"I'm not," Steve tried to keep the edge out of his voice. "I just can't understand, weren't we good enough for her? Wasn't this life good enough?"
"A question for the ages," Tony tapped at one of the bottles at the bar. A long, slender thing, with gold flakes covering its punt, like one of those cheap snow domes. "Is it good enough for you?"
"What about you?"
"Oh no, don't evade. I asked first."
"I - it's enough," Steve bit out. "It's what I trained for, what I lived for."
Tony might have made a noise of sympathy, but Steve turned away. "I don't want to hear it, Tony."
"Understood. Of course, you know, we do need to recruit additional personnel to come on the team, and I'm off to speak to Fury now."
"Even though we don't report to him anymore?"
Tony smiled, his eyes now slightly warmer. "Quite. Nick still has those lovely SHIELD contracts, and as such-"
"He' still useful."
I have measured out my life in coffee spoons .
Three am, that time when the witching hour was well past, but before the sky leached pearl grey by sunlight, streaked with orange and rose. Tony sipped at his drink, staring at the dark. Hopefully, if he were lucky, he'd be lain low by drink. Low enough to be unconscious until evening came. To lie in the grass, numb to the cold and discomfort.
He was still awake; a tragedy, but he soldiered on, moving around the gardens, looking at the wall where the masons worked on. The stones were smooth, the integration of the modern marvels of technology dovetailing with the classic lines of Chicago style architecture pleasing. The landscaper earned her keep, with having recessed lights in the grass, lighting their surroundings with a warm glow.
Tony took a swing of Hennessey from the glass, the bottle in his other hand. As much as it would be easier to have it by the bottle, it seemed a bit barbaric. You didn't chug Hennessey as if it were beer from a keg. You poured it in the appropriate glass, allowing the air to work its magic. Sniffed at its bouquet, sipped at it, appreciated the slick and warmth on tongue, and only then - swallow.
Tony nodded with approval at the work done, and walked on.
He hated this time of the night/morning, because his thoughts tended to wander, and drag him in their wake to places where he didn't want to go.
Natasha Romanov. Vexing, infuriating, mysterious. The woman who would have been his wife. Mrs Tony Stark.
Tony hadn't lied when he told Pepper that Natasha broke his stupid heart.
Despite everything, in spite of everything, Tony wanted to believe in what they - no - in what he thought they were.
Why not? Natasha ticked every single box he liked in a woman. They suited on every level, and it helped that she revelled in his phone being the GPS of the social life in the city. Yes, Tony was married to New York, and its parties, the shimmering, dazzling reach of them -
Oh right, where was he? Yes, Natasha, and how her traits were seductive on all levels. The unerring self belief, the cool, ingrained confidence, as natural to her as her hair and eyes. She appreciated the dazzle and sweep of his actions - three million people asking the question on a steppe in St Petersburg - her answer appropriate. Not expected - no. Wanted, yearned for, but there was the tension - the frisson of excitement- that Natasha might have said no.
But she said yes, didn't she?
They would have had the wedding of the season. Not The Hamptons, because that so demode, darling, she would coo. Natasha already fluent in the language of the Upper East Side as she spoke in throaty tones. "To have our wedding in the wrong place would be social suttee."
At Tony's raised eyebrows, Natasha all but purred, "Crass but true, darling," she ran a hand through her hair, looking a picture in black silk and pink froth, all pale skin and lean lines. Natasha turned her ankles to and fro as she idly admired the architecture of her heels with their slap of red sole. "We both know this, I refuse to be a peasant."
"Not the Hamptons, then." Tony raised his glass. How could he deny her anything?
Her obvious delight she took in picking out jewelled pieces set to the Richter scale of stun, and who could say no to a woman who appreciated a jacuzzi filled to the brim with pink Dom Perignon and rose petals? Definitely not 'no' to a woman who knew enough about pain to twist it into a perverse sort of pleasure, her fingers in the soft spaces of his throat, his thighs...
Natasha, who still drew all these feelings from him. Phantom pains he thought had been benumbed by liquor and the fair haired lovelies at the very least.
There was only one thing for it. He needed more liquor. Tony walked on, turned the corner, and walked full tilt into a wall, which had not been here in the middle of the garden. He would fire the landscaper tomorrow. This was not on.
Tony didn't know if he were more annoyed at being caught off guard, or actually having the brandy sloshing over the edge of his glass and spilling over his hand, soaking into the sleeve of his gown.
"Rogers," he greeted, as he licked the web of skin between his index finger and thumb. Well, that answered his question. He was actually more annoyed concerning the later. Waste of a good beverage and all.
"What are you doing up?"
If Tony hadn't known better, he would have thought that he heard Steve growl. Fantastic, he was in one of those moods again, cheerful as a bear with a sore paw.
"My constitutional," Tony replied, as he refilled his glass. Then, carefully, he picked his way across the garden, hoping that he might get there under his own steam. "And you? Trying to supplement your wages as a security guard? Pro tip: porn is much more lucrative."
"No thanks," Steve shook his head. In this light, the shock of blond hair on his head and skin almost silver, the white t-shirt didn't hurt the glow he had going for him in the lights either. "I couldn't sleep."
"Hmm," Tony could only emphasise. "Woman troubles?"
"No," a beat. Two. "Probably."
Companionably, Tony held out the bottle of brandy. "Everything is better after a slug of anything, I find. Alcohol dulls the edges of unpleasant feelings marvellously, much better than time does. Tastier results, at least. I have mine chased with a blonde or two, as well as lashings of Triple Sec."
Steve gave one of those laughs that you rarely got out of him nowadays, free from the smudge of sadness or sharp cynicism.
"What are you doing up anyway? I thought mornings weren't your bag."
"Ha," Tony took gulp of his drink, swirled it around in his mouth as one would mouthwash and swallowed.
"It's morning, technically."
"I'm measuring out my life with- well, not coffee spoons as much as shot glasses."
"Because my life is that much fuller," Tony held up his glass in a mock toast.
"You're a strange man, Tony."
"Eccentric, Steve. I am rich enough to qualify for the term."
"Night, Tony." Steve gave a curt nod as he walked off leaving Tony behind, alone with the night and brandy for company.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeling
Steve liked saving people.
Liked putting his body and soul on the line for what he believed in. Hated this part of the job; the brown nosing, the parties. It wasn't really parties, Steve knew, not as much as good publicity. Normally, he would have stayed, suffered. Smiled at women as they leaned against him, the pop of lights searing his retinas, pictures to run in magazines the next day. He might have even done that salute standing on the dais, his face tilted just so.
Not tonight. He muscled through the crowds, oblivious to the snatches of laughter and perfume. He almost knocked over a waiter in his haste to get away, not even wincing at the shatter of glass and its crunch underfoot as he pushed his way towards the exit.
"Sir!" the doorman gave a sharp, short whistle as he waved down a car for Steve. Embarrassed -because he still wasn't accustomed to the little services at his beck and call that made his life easier- Steve scrambled into the car, the doorman ready to shut the door, only for Tony to slide in right before the door closed.
"Tony." Steve gritted out.
"Steve," Tony greeted, as he leaned over and pressed the speaker, giving the driver on the other side of the partition pointed directions. "To the Pink Nightingale..." he began, and ended with a salty joke that made the driver choke on his laughter. Job done, Tony leaned back in the seats took it in the same stride as if they were in the back of his limo instead of a humble government car. He did not know how Tony managed to wrangle government issue cars and drivers, but these were questions he had stopped asking.
Only ingrained discipline made Steve keep his beret on, and his tie snug. He looked outside the window, watching the city pass by. It was getting colder, the frost sneaking at the edge of the windows, despite the heated interior. The driver didn't say a word as they whizzed through the city. It was a rare window in the gridlock of traffic, when all lights were on green, and people weren't jaywalking or some such nonsense. Steve appreciated it, because there would be congestion soon enough.
"What was that about?" Tony asked, and if his voice hadn't had that ring of amusement to it, Steve might have thought he heard censure in those tones.
"I just couldn't any more," Steve exhaled on a gust of breath. "I don't mind the fighting, but the tinsel and confetti? Why?"
"Publicity, Steve." Tony smiled, as he crossed his legs at his ankles, making himself comfortable. "Betty Ross might have been a vexing presence, but she read the tea leaves re: perception correctly. People do want to be swayed in terms of why post-humans are a good thing. As much as we might be the only thing standing between them and hell, opinions do change at the flip of a coin. In addition, we're not government funded any more. We're a business, and a part of it is having the instincts of P.T. Barnum and the other -"
"Is what you do. That saving people thing, that pressing of the flesh."
Steve rubbed his thumb along his lip. "If I said, I couldn't do it any more?"
"I'd throw more money at you, offer you better licensing terms."
"I don't want that."
Tony's lips twitched with amusement. "For once, I wish you'd surprise me."
"That night in the garden, why were you there?"
"Does it matter?" Tony leaned his head against the headrest, his eyes half closed. His Adam's apple moved as he spoke, then stilled. A baring of neck, Steve supposed, to show how fatigued he was, a sort of play for - not pity, no - but sympathy, to throw the person off guard, leaving Tony to lean in for the kill.
"It might," Steve frowned at the traffic slowing to a crawl now, half wishing that he had taken the subway instead of being here. In this cocoon of a car with the slivers of illumination peeking in, and sliding out as they drove past street lights. People walking, stumbling on the sidewalk, and Steve thought if he listened hard enough, he might have heard boozy songs coming from the Irish themed bar they passed.
"I was thinking about Natasha," Tony mused, "how she might have been my Salome. Instead of ordering someone to present my head to her on a platter, she was willing to do it herself. I was thinking, that despite everything - -everything - I admired her for that."
Steve placed his head against the headrest, turned his head sideways, his cheek against the leather seats, and tried to smile. "It's good enough."
"To make you stay?"
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,
"That is not what I meant, at all"
With that tentative confession in the back of the car, Steve and Tony fell into a routine.
The battles, with their sharp edges and unexpected outcomes. The sunlight winked against Sam's wings before he drew them towards his body, and fell towards the ground, his body twisted by the swirl of the wind as he zoomed past Steve's post on the roof of an apartment buidling. Only for the Gryffin - another one of those yahoos who got twisted by some other next gen experiment -to break form from the Swarm, and follow.
Wait for it, Steve raised his shield, calculated the distance, swung his arm back, brought it forward and let the disc fly.
The colours of the shield - red, white and blue - in nothing but a blur as it hit the junction between the mutant's head and neck. A strangled 'squawk' before it fell to the ground unconscious, with fur and feathers floating in the wind.
"We're done here. Nice work, Sam. Playing possum like that." Steve complimented a short time later. It had been good work, and even nicer still, now that the hostiles, were being rounded up by the SWAT teams, and read their Miranda rights.
Sam made a great show of looking at his watch. One of those rugged pieces that promised to withstand deep sea pressures, be resistant to typhoons and quicksand, and a guarantee to still mark time at the end of the world. "It took long enough."
"You're okay, Sam." Steve laughed, as he hitched his shield on his back, taking in the army of medics and various security personnel. Backdrop being down town Manhattan, and they were able to control the hostiles. New York wouldn't be harmed again - not on his beat if he could help it.
"If you need me," Sam snapped a sharp salute. "Call me. We should meet up, whenever you next have down time."
"Yeah," Steve smiled, knowing it would never happen. "Sure."
"You should avail yourself of downtime," Tony held up his glass in front of his eyes, and from Steve's vantage point, it looked as if Tony wanted to swallow the florid colours of sunset, as they danced and warped in the walls of his tumbler. They were in the sitting room this time. Tony dressed to the nines, and getting himself on this side of blotto before going out to dinner. "All work and no play makes Jack an exceedingly dull boy, Steve."
"And go where?" Steve stared at the backs his hands, his fingers splayed against his thighs. "All the places I knew, I knew them forty years ago. The first time I got on a plane, it was on the way to France."
"The world hasn't changed much. As long as there's money, various pathways are smoothed."
"That makes no sense."
Tony tilted the liquid in his glass. "You can't stand in one place and just... wait, Steve. There's always something to work towards. Even if it's just the next distraction."
"I don't want a distraction."
"You do," Tony dropped his gaze to his glass, and Steve noticed how thick and dark Tony's eyelashes were against his cheekbones. "We all do."
"I need you to find someone for me."
Tony raised his gaze, and Steve saw the mild surprise. "You have the internet for that, I trust."
"I'll see what I can do, but you know it isn't free."
"Quid pro quo, is that you what you call it, Tony?"
"It's crass, I agree, but it keeps us honest."
"A secret. A 'handing over of mysteries' if I were to quote you."
"I'm insulted you'd think I'd say anything so banal."
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep... tired... or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Steve wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He tried to will himself to stop shaking, knowing that his body was souped up with adrenaline.
After the fight or flight response, the dizzying highs as he pushed his body -and there seemed to be no wall, no limits- the battle ended. He came down, and tried to hold it back, his mouth filling with spit. Breathed heavily through his nose as they were on the helio, ignored Clint's pointed questions, and held it back long enough as the landing skids touched the grass. He bolted past the waiter robot drones, into the bathroom off to the left of the parlour.
Barely made it to the toilet before he threw up, choking on the bitter bile of his vomit, the chill of tiles under his knees. Steve rested his head against the lid of its seat, waiting for his cheeks to stop burning, and hoped that this moment would pass soon enough. Please God, let it be soon, so that he could put his game face on, and lead the debriefing.
He was too weak to protest at the slap of barefoot on tile, the rumble and gurgle of the toilet being flushed, and he still couldn't get up.
"This is new. Steve, I never knew you had it in you, you old dog. Going into battle three sheets to the -"
"This isn't because of drink, Tony."
"Spoilsport. It would be nice to have something in common with you motley lot," Tony sat on the ground beside him. Oh, that robe, again. His face was flushed, his hair wet from the dampening gel in his suit. Steve realised that he might have been here a while.
They were in a - wet-room if he got the terminology right. Just a room with a toilet and a basin, but because Tony wasn't satisfied with the term 'just', this room was the size of his old apartment in Brooklyn, the floors and chrome as bright as sunlight.
"It's not," Steve repeated. "When there are big battles, I'm okay in the moment. Sometimes at the end, it happens," he turned his head away.
"Sometimes. Other times, little skirmishes."
"Hmm," Tony tsked thoughtfully. "That's a lot of downsides. Being who I am, I'm intimately aware of the taste of vomit, and no matter how familiar it is, you can't get used to your body rebelling. But we all have our little addictions."
"It's not the same."
Tony chuckled. "Of course not, you haring off to battle at the drop of a hat, leaving your life behind. Me creating various distractions in the form of a thousand lives, all smooth and burnished and chronicled in the pages of People and Newsweek. You're praised to the skies in The New Republic. Your cultural currency as weighted and minted by the New Yorker, mine by Harper's Bazaar and Tattler. How delicious, Steve. That might be the biggest secret of them all. How alike we are."
Steve set his lips into a firm line, and stayed there, his forehead against the seat of the toilet, his eyes on the floor. Waited until Tony pushed himself off the floor, and closed his eyes, hoping that he'd leave. Heard the splash of water in the sink, and the clunk of something hollow against the marble floor.
Opened his eyes to see a glass of water on top of an envelope and Tony gone.
I grow old... I grow old...
shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled
Despite Steve's irascible attitudes to the brave new world he found himself in, there were some benefits. Like breakfast cereal, which was a meal in a box - just add milk. Oh, and daytime TV.
It never failed to surprise or delight, moving pictures shrunk down from the size of the Nickelodeon at the corner in his day, to the size of a radio screen. The was something about the pictures, of people's lives playing in front of him like some sort of extended movie. Steve stood were he was, by the kitchen island, crunching on his cheerios, as Clint strode in, civvies clad, wearing his glasses. He paused in mid stride as the couple on TV fell into bed, all giggling and half dressed.
"Heyy-" Clint gawped at the TV for a moment, glanced at his watch, and whistled. "What's this and so early in the day?"
"It's Maxi and Franco," Steve explained as he scooped cereal into his mouth. "They're getting together, sneaking behind Spinelli's back. They just can't get enough of each other, and yet Maxi feels guilty after they do what they do."
"Port Charles," Clint gave a short, sharp laugh. "The stuff that happens there, makes the Triskelion seem like a nunnery."
Steve raised his eyebrows in question, and Clint shrugged. "Laura," he explained, his eyes still on the TV. "She'd watch it after she got Nicola settled in after her mid afternoon feed." His voice was easy, matter of fact, even, but Steve knew what it cost Clint. His family gunned down, and betrayed by someone he metaphorically shared a foxhole with. "I eventually got her a subscription to Soap Opera Digest, just because. How did you get into watching this anyway?"
"Moving pictures," Steve explained, as he reached for the remote, lifted it and pressed MUTE. Maxi and Franco's shenanigans could wait. "Before the war, before everything, I'd take Gail to the pictures. Although -" he gestured towards the TV with his spoon. "Nothing like... that."
"I'll say," Clint dragged out a carton of orange juice from the fridge, poured it into the glass, and put the glass of juice in the fridge. "What's this, then?" Before Steve could react, Clint scooped up the dossier from the island, looked at its title, and replaced it. "Is this what I think it is?"
"I don't know."
"You want to let sleeping dogs lie on that one. She left."
"She's happy, and in Düsseldorf. She's content, Steve -" a firm grip on his shoulder, and Steve raised his eyes to Clint's. "Let it go."
"Yeah," Clint gave a curt nod. "I'm no Dear Abby, and much better at giving advice re: sit reps, or variables to consider when sighting a target. Or counselling greenhorns when they get the shakes from a first kill. But this isn't a soap opera, man. There are times you don't get second chances, and even if you do, you don't want them. This is one of those times."
Nothing but dead air to that one, and Steve only scooped more cereal in his mouth, not tasting the sweetness of it. Clint got the hint, and left his glass in the sink as he took the filled carton of OJ.
As soon as Clint left, swinging the door behind him, Steve held the dossier in his hands, and stared at it for a long while.
Death by water, Tony thought as he opened an eye, saw nothing but the untouched Evian on the bedside table. No such luck with the Chivas Regal, however. Sighing, he turned over, and found an empty space.
It figures, women tended to leave when the wine ran out and the songs stopped being sung. Judging by the angle of the sun from his bedroom and the lack of heat from bed, they left a long time ago. It might have been high afternoon.
"Darker," Tony croaked, pressing his pillow over his face, and the light in the room dimmed a little. Revolting. It was one of the better days, when the pain in his bones were a dull ache instead of the thrum they could have at times. That was something at least. But no wine, no women? Just what?
The knock at his bedroom door interrupted his thoughts. It was not the polite, discreet knock of the help, but a regular policeman's knock, loud and sharp enough to roust people out of sleep if they were in the deepest part of R.E.M.
"Come in," Tony's voice was muffled through the pillow. The door opened, there was a whoosh of something in the air before it landed on the sheet. Still drugged by sleep Tony dragged his hand down the coverlet, and skimmed his fingers over its surface. Smooth and glossy paper, wait -
"What is this?" he pushed his pillow away from his face, and dragged himself up on his hands to rest against the headboard. He looked up, saw Steve leaning against the door frame. Tony could never understand it, how clean Steve looked. His hair wheat coloured, his eyes cornflower blue, and just perpetually rested, despite everything. A disgusting state of affairs, that. With a huff, Tony looked down, saw the envelope on the sheet across his chest and lifted the dossier. "It's unopened," he murmured, flicking his finger against the top corner of the envelope.
"Yeah," Steve rubbed the nape of his neck. His cheeks and ears were flushed, his eyes on Tony. "I didn't need it. I shouldn't have asked you to do it."
Tony sat up. No, he would not going to be asleep any time soon, so he swung his legs off the bed, and on the carpet. He was naked, and even with the temperature controlled room, he still felt the chill. "Will wonders ever cease? When did this damascine moment happen?"
"So you made this choice in between Maury and Oprah?" Tony padded around his room, trying to find a bottle of anything alcoholic anywhere.
"Ha, ha. I didn't speak to Dr Phil if that's what you're trying to say."
Tony did not have to pretend to be amused. Steve, when he forgot who he was, could be a funny guy. "Oh, right?"
"When Jan left, I thought she was poking at me, but she wasn't. I have to respect her choice, and me not opening that, " -Steve pointed his thumb in the direction of the dossier lying on Tony's bed - "is a part of it."
"This sounds like an after school special. We pause with a break from our sponsor. When we come back, we'll be talking about the 'bad touch'. Or, knowing our safe words. Ah, triumph. Come to me, gorgeous." Tony crooned upon finding a small flash of Martin's gin in his sock drawer.
"Ha," Steve waved his hand in dismissal. "Thanks. I-I just thought you should know."
"My apologies," Tony said as he twisted the cap of the bottle open. "I can't give you back your last secret. Non refundable, you know, and I have none to trade. My life is an open book."
"It doesn't matter," Steve shook his head. "I'm staying. For now, but I hope I'm not called on duty tomorrow, I have plans for tonight."
"Drunk," Steve laughed, and his self consciousness charmed Tony. "I want to get absolutely blotto."
"I think," Tony grinned, offering Steve the bottle of gin. "We can do that."