Tony Stark has a total of twenty-six scars on his body.
Steve should know- he’s taken his time exploring, circling his tongue around Tony’s navel, scraping around the shell of his ear, the thick cords of his thighs.
He’s counted them, individually, when Tony had been dead to the world after 58 hours of being down in the workshop after a particularly taxing battle that had cost them
12,93 too many casualties.
He knows the length, the shape, the placement- he often rubs a thumb over an old burn on the base of Tony’s neck when they’re doing something, and Tony always leans into him.
Steve’s kissed the scars, teased them with his teeth, followed them with his fingers like a map, like Tony is aged asphalt and yellow lines and can take him anywhere, anywhere he’s ever wanted, while they’re lying on the bed on a Sunday when the world doesn’t need saving.
Steve knows the scars, he has them catalogued in his head, he can reach out and loop an arm around Tony and know which one he’s closest to. He knows them, knows the slow drag of them under his tongue, the ribbed, faded lines under his palm.
The main ones, the ones on Tony’s chest, are kind of hard to miss. That’s sort of why Tony doesn’t take his shirt off in public anymore (and yes, it had happened more than the usual person ends up shirtless, go screw yourself).
Those scars are why Tony puts off taking his shirt when he and Steve first start dating.
Not that Tony had called it ‘dating’ for a while-for the first few weeks he had sort of sidestepped around it, saying ‘this is my-’ and using words like ‘close friend’ and finally just ‘Steve’- this is my Steve, and Steve had gotten a bigger buzz out of that than all of the champagne he had drank that evening- until finally he had tripped up and said ‘boyfriend’ and then had basically froze up for six seconds while a few people had stared.
Of course, when Tony Stark freezes up, people start noticing, and Tony had just stood there with his mouth half-open and his eyes wide while everyone had started turning to him.
Then Steve (figuring half the room was already looking so he might as well give them something to look at) had crossed the room, span Tony around, dipped him, and had kissed him hard on the mouth.
A chorus of wolf-whistles (mostly Natasha) and surprised clapping had broken out, and Tony had been red-faced and mostly incoherent when Steve had pulled back.
Clint had said, I think you broke him, and Tony had pulled the finger at him as a reflex. Steve had huffed out a laugh, and Tony had laughed with him, his smile getting too loose and on the wrong side of wobbly.
Anyway, the scars-
Tony had avoided it for a good two months- taking his shirt off, he means. He had always directed Steve’s hands elsewhere, which, granted, had resulted in some very satisfying handjobs, blowjobs, even some rimming, which Tony had been particularly surprised by (but not displeased, because Steve does his fucking research), but after a while, Steve just decides to bite the bullet.
“I want to see you.”
Tony doesn’t even pause in unbuttoning Steve’s pants. “You are seeing me. Right here, Cap. Unless I’ve suddenly gone invisible, which still wouldn’t pass as the worst thing that’s happened to me this week, that fucking balloon monster’s goo took me three showers to get ou-”
“Tony.” Steve catches Tony’s hand, which is in the middle of reaching down to do something very, very nice to the head of Steve’s cock, but Steve forces himself to continue. “I want to see all of you.”
His free hand goes to the corner of Tony’s shirt and stays there- a tank top, rough to the touch, one of the ones Tony always wears when he’s down in the workshop.
Tony stops, his hands going still. “Uh.”
He sits back slightly; licks his lips. “Are you sure?”
“If you are.”
Tony snorts. “Oh, my god, don’t give me that. I’m not a 15-year-old girl getting ready for her first time, I have done this before-”
“We’ll stop if you’re not comfortable with-”
Tony full-on laughs at that. “You- oh, god.” He raises a hand to his eyes, chuckling. “You have no idea how ironic that- fuck. Fine, let’s get naked.”
He tries to make it funny, wriggling teasingly out of his pants, biting a laugh out of Steve, and then both of their pants are gone, and Steve’s top, and they’re both completely naked except for Tony’s shirt, and Tony’s eyes sort of drop to the floor.
“It’s- it’s not-” Tony stops, swallows, tries again. “It’s not really- it’s not nice, Steve. There’s a lot of damage t-”
Steve hand comes up to push slightly against the arc rector through his shirt, and Tony’s breath catches.
Steve watches Tony’s face carefully. “Is this okay?”
Tony sucks a shaky breath. “What? Oh, yeah. Yeah, this is- good. Just, uh. Shirt off now?”
“Shirt off now,” Steve agrees, half-laughing. He grips the fabric and tugs, the shirt sliding up Tony’s chest and over his shoulders, then his head, and he tosses the shirt in a pile with the rest of the clothes- well, most of them, anyway. He’s sort of lost track of his socks at some point.
Tony opens his mouth like he’s going to say something, and then he just shuts up and clenches his jaw, his eyes trained somewhere above Steve’s head.
Finally, when the silence gets too much- about four seconds, Tony’s never had good patience, sue him- Tony flexes his hands. “So, are you just going to stand there and stare, or-”
Steve says, “Wow.”
Tony stutters a laugh. “Um. Thank you? I mean, it’s pretty shiny, s-”
Steve says, “You’re amazing,” and then he’s leaning in, kissing Tony in that light, sweet way that never fails to make Tony as lightheaded as he had been the first time, and Tony’s hands go up to cup Steve’s head as a reflex.
Steve’s head, which is inexplicably moving down.
Tony starts to say something about impromptu blowjobs, but his breath is punched out of him as Steve splays a hand over the arc reactor again, but this time the edges of his hand touch Tony’s bare chest.
Tony manages to pull in a lungful of air, then another- he’s breathing shallowly, because Steve’s too good to be true and he’s looking at the arc reactor like it’s the most gorgeous thing he’s ever seen, like Tony’s the most gorgeous thing he’s ever seen, like he’s precious.
Tony can’t speak, doesn’t want to, doesn’t want to know what he’d say other than oh as Steve kisses his way around where metal blends into the skin, down the sloping scars, the ugly ones, the ones that are a blunt white and stretch out and away.
Steve’s kissing him, trailing his lips over the metal, over the scars, over the weight that doesn’t seem that heavy when Steve’s touching it, and Tony feels like his knees are going to give out.
He’s not even paying attention to his breathing now, he could be fucking hyperventilating for all he cares, and Steve stands again, stooping to kiss him, one hand idly stroking the edges of the arc reactor.
Tony’s hands go up to crush him closer, and that’s when he realizes he’s shaking- he’s trembling, all over, he’s practically vibrating, with one arm locked around Steve’s shoulders to hold him up.
Steve leans back slightly, his free hand on Tony’s cheek. “You okay?”
Tony makes a soft, needy noise, feeling too heavy, too full, wanting Steve like he once wanted a bottle of vodka, wants to put him to his lips and drink him down.
He says, “I-” and then just gives up, because he’s horrible at this, always has been, so he just grabs Steve and pulls him down, his shaking fingers locking in his hair.
And Steve kisses him, his hand steadying him, because gets it, he always does.
They don’t fuck, they don’t even do anything after that, they just tangle around each other and fall asleep with Tony’s head in the crook of Steve’s neck, and wow, Tony’s way too far gone.
“We should go somewhere.”
Everyone looks up- they always seem to gravitate around the table in the mornings, Bruce, Natasha and Tony towards the coffee, Clint towards the Lucky Charms, and Steve and Thor towards the toaster.
Clint’s cheeks bulge with Lucky Charms, but he manages, “Guu whar.”
Which Steve wisely translates to go where, and taps his fork against the side of his plate. “I don’t know, somewhere. I’ve never actually seen much of America, if you don’t count the shows in the 40s, which I don’t, because all I ever saw was the back of a stage.”
Tony starts humming Star Spangled Man, and Steve bats him on the arm with his fork. “Don’t. That song still haunts me in my nightmares. I just-” he shrugs. “I thought it’d be nice to do a team thing without having to clean up New York afterwards. Something non life-threatening and… I don’t know, normal.”
“Because we’re totally the average American family,” Natasha deadpans, her hand curling around her frankly terrifyingly strong brew, because apparently Russians like coffee to taste like rocket fuel.
Bruce stretches as he reaches for the newspaper. “I think it’d be nice. Impossible, but nice. I haven’t seen much of America, either. And we could actually drive places and see things- sorry, Tony, no offence, but jets get a bit boring after a while.”
Tony shrugs. “None taken.”
Thor pounds his hand down on the table- Tony lifts his cup up and Clint lifts his bowl; they’ve both had many spilled breakfasts after unplanned Thor-age. “I agree with my shieldbrother. We should go on a quest.”
Clint blinks at Thor for a second before putting his bowl back down. “And while we’re off touring for the world’s largest ball of string, we’re going to casually ignore the whole ‘New York burning down in flames’ thing, right?”
“It’s like Fury said.” Steve starts cutting into his toast again- because he cuts his toast, what the fuck- “We’re not the only superhero team in the world.”
“Aye.” Thor nods. “We could call the X-Men to guard our fair city while we’re away.”
Tony hmmm’s thoughtfully. “Like house-sitting.”
He stretches, cat-like, and slides himself off of the bench. “Okay, I’m in. Roadtrip, guys?”
Clint shovels yet another spoon into his mouth. “Whurr wood we guu?”
Bruce says, “I haven’t seen the world’s largest ball of string.”
Natasha eyes him pityingly. “We’re not going to see the world’s largest ball of string. It’s not that big, anyway.”
Thor frowns. “What is string?”
“You’re telling me you’ve been here for almost two years and don’t know what string is.” Tony sighs, raising a hand to rub at his eyes. “It’s- it’s a thing, it’s like- twine? Fuck, I don’t know-” he drops his hand. “Are we going or not?”
Natasha makes a face. “To see the world’s largest ball of string?”
“Nope.” Tony eyes Steve’s knife, the one he’s using to cut his toast, and doesn’t even feel annoyed- he would if it was someone else, because seriously, just pick it up and eat it like any sane person- “To see the world’s largest corn cobb. Or something. Any of the ‘world’s largest things’ that are in America, I don’t really care.”
Clint opens his mouth, and Tony says, “Clint, if you make a dick joke, I swear to god.”
Steve grins. “So. Roadtrip?”
Tony rolls his eyes fondly, trying not to smile, because the guy cuts his toast, damnit. “Roadtrip.”
The definition for ‘roadtrip’- well, the UrbanDictonary definition, anyway- is as follows.
When a bunch of kids get in a car (most likely a VW Bus, most likely with tons of drugs, and drive to an exotic destination (like Vegas or New Jersey).
It happened more in the 70s.
This isn’t the 70s (Steve kind of missed that part while being frozen in the Atlantic ocean, oops), Tony refuses to buy a VW bus, Steve refuses to go to New Jersey (or Vegas, since Tony is very pointedly not drinking anymore and Vegas is pretty much an over-glamourized wine cooler), none of them mention drugs (although they catch Clint slipping something green and very weed-looking into his suitcase), they’re not driving anywhere exotic, and none of them can be classified as ‘kids’ anymore, so it basically shortens down into:
-get in a car.
Which they do.
Steve tries not to glare, but he’s been here for three hours and they had put the roadtrip on hold for this- just as they had gotten a few miles out, they had been called back for a last-minute assignment, seeing as the X-Men were momentarily held up.
It had ended up with Dr. Doom’s device going haywire while they tried to stop him from- from- whatever the hell he was trying to do this time, probably end the world or turn all condoms sentient, they don’t really pay attention anymore- and had bounced off of Tony and hit Steve in the chest.
“No side effects,” Steve says, for at least the third time in the last half-hour. “No tentacles, no surprise genderswaps, no sex pollen. We don’t know what it is, and since it doesn’t seem to be causing any lasting damage, I’m going to assume Dr. Doom screwed up again and it’s either harmless or isn’t noticeable. Can I please leave now? My team’s waiting outside.”
The doctor gives him a once-over before sighing. “I suppose. Just- call us if something happens.”
“Yes, sir.” Steve nods curtly and grabs his jacket from over the chair, shrugging it on as he walks out of the room.
Since Steve has known him, Tony has only gotten one scar.
Well, that he knows about- apparently most of Tony’s scars are either incredibly tiny or you only know they’re there if you actually physically touch him.
Said scar was gotten about two months after their first battle with Loki, where they had first met- Heck, Steve still feels guilty about the things he had said back there.
You had better stop pretending to be a hero, you’re not the kind of guy to make the sacrifice play, big man in a suit of armour, take that away-
And then, Jesus Christ: Put on the suit. Let’s go a few rounds.
Like he was going to actually kick the crap out of Tony, voluntarily.
Not that Tony hadn’t thrown some verbal punches, too- you’re a lab experiment at best, Rogers, everything special about you came from a bottle.
All in all, they had both said some pretty stupid things that they both had thought they had meant at the time.
It had helped their relationship tremendously when they all found out a week later that the Tesseract had been screwing with them.
Their ‘relationship,’ at that point, being awkward nods and last names and Tony gallantly not purposely pissing Steve off.
Purposely, Steve would like to repeat.
Anyway, the scar had been from a kitchen knife that Tony had been using to chop a red pepper for one of their first ‘Avenger dinners.’ He hadn’t been paying attention- Steve had been saying something about how the Mets hadn’t changed much, and Tony had laughed and started to say something but had interrupted himself with “Ah, fuck.”
He had sucked on his finger for a few seconds to get rid of some of the blood- Steve had flushed and pretended not to see, his pants becoming uncomfortably tight at the sight of Tony’s pink mouth puckering, his cheeks hollowing.
Tony had either not noticed or ignored it, and had said, “Hey, Cap, pass me that tea-towel.”
Steve, working through his blush, had replied, “I think you’d better use a bandage for that.”
Tony had raised his eyebrows. “It’s just a scratch, O-Captain-my-Captain. I’ll be fine.”
“He says, slowly losing consciousness from blood loss,” Steve had said as he handed him the tea-towel.
Tony had smirked, wrapping the tea-towel around his hand. “I’m not that delicate.”
Steve had said, “I know.”
Tony stands up as soon as Steve comes out. “No tentacles?”
Steve feels an unnecessary flood of affection for Tony, because he had sort of taken a half-step towards Steve when he had gotten up, like oh my god you’re not dead I mean hi tentacles blah I wasn’t worried at all. “No tentacles.” He pecks Tony on the forehead, and the rest of the team pretends not to see how Tony closes his eyes and leans into it for a second.
Steve smiles hopefully. “Take two?”
Tony snorts softly. “Take two. If some other crappy supervillain interrupts us again, we’ll leave it to the highly capable NYPD.”
“Who will proceed to freak the fuck out and call us,” Clint interjects helpfully.
Steve’s mouth flickers upwards, and as it does, he tangles his fingers through Tony’s, sta-
-lab, he’s in his lab, and he should really get some sleep, he’s been awake for three days and dad’s coming home soon and he needs to get his project finished, even though he’s not entirely sure what he’s even working on at this point.
He reaches over groggily, misjudges the distance and ends up knocking over the bottle he had meant to pick up. Whiskey spills like motor oil over the floor, and Tony just frowns at it for a few seconds before getting the motivation to right it.
He reaches out for his wrench, and as he does, he drags his hand across a jagged edge of whatever the fuck he’s working on.
The sharp pain is dulled by the alcohol, but blood wells up and starts running down his wrist, dark spots appearing on his shoes as it drips.
“Fuck,” he mutters, and leans over for a rag to-
“Give me a minute, Pep, I- ow, fuck-”
“-ould be more quiet,” the nurse is saying.
Tony shrugs, he’s the top in his class anyway, he’s the smartest one here, why should he give a shit if he’s the youngest? It doesn’t mean he needs to be coddled.
The scalpel he’s fiddling with slips through his fingers and slices shallowly into his thumb.
-re drunk than he should be at this point, he has a meeting in a few minutes, so he supposes he has at least an hour to finish this.
He wobbles slightly, and puts his hand down to steady himself.
Pain shoots up his arm, and fuck, he knew he shouldn’t have left that fucking soldering iron th-
-ands are shaking and everything’s shaking and his throat is dry and he blindly reaches for a glass and he knocks it and it shatters and the sound is too loud and Yinsen is saying something about being more careful and classic withdrawal symptoms of an alcoholic and Tony bends to pick up the pieces and a shard of glass lodges itself in Tony’s palm and he’s sorry about the glass he’s sorry and it hurts and it doesn’t matter and he’s so fucking sorry and the weight in his chest doesn’t let up and oh god the car battery wire is stretched between him and the desk and he moves slowly so he doesn’t jolt it and careful and don’t look at the cameras and he’s still shaking-
Steve blinks, and he’s in the hallway, and Tony’s snapping his fingers in front of his face.
“I-” Tony’s hands, he had just watched Tony’s hands getting injured, why the hell- “Yeah, I just spaced out.”
Tony raises his eyebrows. “Oooo-kay, then. I have complete and utter faith in you. Take two?”
Steve takes an age to remember saying that, but once he does, he nods quickly. “Take two.”
Tony’s eyes skim over him. “Right. Hey, are you going to suddenly turn into a giant canary, by any chance?”
Steve huffs a laugh. “Dr. Doom’s devices don’t do that, as far as I know.”
Tony clicks his jaw. “Uh-huh.”
Steve rolls his shoulders awkwardly. “I’m fine. Are we going?”
He reaches for Tony’s hand again without thinking, and freezes, his hand halfway-closed around Tony’s.
Tony looks down at it, staring at Steve over his sunglasses. “Um. Steve?” He tugs slightly. “Car is that way.”
Steve comes out of his flinch, looking down at their hands- nothing, no flash of memories, no dirt at the back of his throat.
He fully closes his hand around Tony’s, and smiles, too relieved. “Yeah. Sorry, I’m just really space-y today. Let’s go.”
He’s careful not to brush against any unclothed skin as they walk out.
It comes in fits and bursts.
First, he almost crashes the car when Natasha reaches over to change the channel on the radio. Steve remembers at the last second that she has a burn on her wrist and jerks away, jerking the steering wheel with him and nearly driving them off the road.
The second time, he’s at a gas station and everyone’s still glaring at him because of the ‘you nearly killed us all’ thing, and he passes Clint, his elbow knocking against Clint’s forehead as Clint bends down for a bag of chips.
Clint says, “Dude, personal bubble,” and Steve’s sorry gets stuck in his throat because Clint has a thin scar running along the side of his face that Steve had just brushed the top of.
Steve waits, his shoulder hunched.
Clint stares. “Uh. I forgive you?” He taps him on the shoulder. “Earth to Cap?”
“I’m fine,” Steve squeaks, because he is, there’s no sudden rush of memories or images or emotion, fuck, Tony’s head had been a haze of drunkenness and something bitter and quiet that Steve doesn’t want to identify.
Steve lets out a breath. Maybe it was just one of Dr. Doom’s one-time things.
Better check it, though- I don’t want to get distracted and drive off the road. Again. He makes his way over to Tony and grabs his hand.
Tony stops going through the energy drinks and looks down at their joined hands. “Hi. I’m guessing you missed me in the brief 30 seconds I was on the opposite side of the store?”
Steve laughs, relieved. “Couldn’t stay away, sorry.”
Tony forces down most of his pleased smile. “Um. Okay. You ready to go?”
“Yeah, I’m not hungry.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry now, you need supplies. Have we fed you twinkies yet?”
Steve grins. “It was one of the first things you made me try. You said it was- how did you put it?”
“An introduction to the deep-fried culinary genius that has enveloped America since you became a Capsicle,” Natasha quotes, sidling up to them. “Come on, we’re paying.”
Bruce, Clint and Thor regroup- Clint is carrying three bags of salt and vinegar chips, Bruce has a litre of lemonade under his arm, and Thor is holding a box of poptarts. The extra-large kind.
Tony groans loudly. “Come on, people! We need supplies!”
Thor frowns. “We have supplies. I packed my things as requested, everything is in the tru-”
“No, roadtrip supplies, we need roadtrip supplies,” Tony says, exasperated. “Have none of you been on a roadtrip before?”
Natasha blinks at him. “Yeah, before I got my master’s degree and became a lawyer. My sorority buddies thought it’d be a swell idea to let off steam over summer break.”
“Hilarious, as always, Tash.” Tony rolls his eyes in her direction. “I’m going to take that as a ‘no’ from the rest of you.”
Clint says, “Does it count if-”
“You don’t even-”
Tony holds up his hand. “It is going to have something to do with Budapest, and therefore I don’t care.”
“We were losing too much blood to have fun, anyway,” Natasha cuts in. “What supplies are you talking about, Tony?”
Tony huffs, like, you philistines, none of you have even been on a roadtrip because none of you were born billionaires, grumble, moan, argh, and says, “Y’know, supplies! Beer, and- well, not beer, because, yeah. Then there’s, uh. There’s, uh.”
He stops, reaching a hand up to scrub at his beard. “Christ, what the hell did I live off in college other than beer? No fucking wonder I was so thin.”
“Ignoring that,” Steve says, pressing his nose into Tony’s hair.
He feels Tony laugh underneath him. “Hardey-har-har-har, Cap. Okay, so supplies. Uh. Other than beer, there’s… twinkies, as always, and, uh. Bad movies, petrol, condoms-” he trips over the next word and doesn’t even manage to get it out in the end, because he’s so incredibly used to spouting out sex jokes, suddenly re-realizing that he has a boyfriend with ears who can hear and he had just pretty much implied-
“For Clint and Tash,” Tony blurts. “Because pregnancy is bad, and so is chlamydia, practice safe sex always, kiddies-”
“Breathe,” Steve says, rubbing a hand over Tony’s back.
“Breathing is also good,” Tony babbles. “I like breathing, it helps with- with- living, and- making your lungs- move-”
Bruce sighs. “I always have to remind myself that you graduated college at 15.”
Tony nods wildly. “Yep, graduated, ages ago, way before everyone else, with all the- robots and- things-”
“Quiet time now.” Steve moves a hand over Tony’s mouth.
That first night, they take shifts driving.
Steve starts off first, and when his eyes start to droop, Natasha takes over- they switch from person to person every hour or so, and the rest of them try to get some sleep.
It’s uncomfortable as hell sleeping in a car-seat, but years of sleeping in trenches that have been less comfortable has Steve prepared, although he has to keep his elbows tucked in so he doesn’t poke anybody with them.
Tony’s currently using him as a pillow, with half his torso draped across Steve’s chest-no-one’s complaining, it means more room for them.
With half-closed eyes, Steve looks around.
Bruce is driving- he drives with laser focus, his hands always at ten-and-two, and his turn ends in about half an hour.
Thor keeps shifting in his sleep, wedged against the car door, with his head tucked underneath the seatbelt.
Natasha’s leaning against the opposite car door with Clint in her lap, running one hand absently through his hair. Clint’s eyes are moving under his eyelids, and Tash is murmuring an old Russian lullaby under her breath, the words rolling like gloss over her tongue, almost too quiet to hear.
Through his eyelashes, he can see Tony’s mouth slack against his chest, his bottom lip pushed into one of Steve’s buttons. His eyebrows are scrunched slightly in the middle- Steve smoothes it out with his thumb, and Tony sighs in his sleep.
The song Natasha’s singing dissolves mostly into soft humming and the occasional cottony Russian lyric, and Steve’s eyes flutter shut.
In Steve’s house- his old house, he means, his mother’s house, the one in the 40s, the one that’s gone now-there had been a leak.
Every time it rained, it had steadily soaked the kitchen floor until the wood bulged and no-one dared to step on it until the rain had stopped. Which had been incredibly inconvenient in the winter, when it had sometimes rained nonstop for weeks.
At least they never ran out of bathwater.
Sometimes, on those days (or weeks, and once even a month), Steve and his mother would go around to Bucky’s grandparents and sleep on the couches.
It’s raining outside the car, which is probably why Steve is thinking about it- he’s half-asleep, in that hazy in-between state where he’s not sure if things are real or not.
He’s vaguely aware of the car moving underneath him, of Thor turning the driving wheel slowly (he’s surprisingly good at driving if you don’t count the first time where he had shouted at a Ferarri and asked where the horses were to pull it).
He feels something shift on his chest, and he looks down to see Tony nuzzling further into his shirt.
Warmth floods through him and fuzzes around the edges, and he groggily raises his hand to fit a hand around the back of Tony’s ne-.
“Motherfucker, fucking ow, motherfucking fucking ow-” Tony slaps a hand over the back of his neck, hissing through his teeth.
He turns and glares. “What the hell was that for?”
Dummy beeps unhappily and puts the soldering iron down, his claws opening and closing around open air when he drops it.
“Yeah, you better! Why would you even- Jesus, I regret ever making you, you useless-”
Dummy squeaks and starts rolling away, and Tony runs after him, a hand still on the back of his neck because fuck, that hurts. “Sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t- you burned me, come on, I’m entitled to be kind of pissed. Was it an accident?”
Dummy’s head bobs up and down, making rapid click-click-click sounds.
Tony sighs. “Right. I, uh. I forgive you. I don’t regret making you.”
Dummy beeps again, a little higher this time, and rolls towards Tony, rubbing his head up against Tony’s shirt in a way that could probably be affectionate.
Surprise flutters through Tony- jeez, how lonely had he been when he had made him a few weeks ago?
He barely even remembers it; frankly, he’s surprised that he was sober enough to hold a screwdriver.
Fuck, he doesn’t remember what the hell he had made Dummy for.
Tony awkwardly pats Dummy’s head, who beeps even louder, his claws opening and closing again.
Tony smiles involuntarily, and then realizes it like a punch to the jaw.
“Oh,” he says stupidly.
How lonely had he been that night to make a machine solely to just be with him?
He stands there for a second, trying to remember that night, and only tunes back in when Dummy whirs curiously and nudges his hand.
“Hmm?” Tony glances down. “Oh. Right. Want a tune-up, boy?”
Dummy beeps, batting a claw against Tony’s hip, and Tony huffs slightly, even though his neck still hurts like a bitch, he should probably-
Getting yanked out of the memory is like going up for air after being submerged for too long.
Steve manages not to jolt Tony awake, but it’s a close call.
He drops his hand from Tony’s neck and presses it to Tony’s hand- his right hand, he realizes, the one he had gotten the memories from the first time and to check before, but he hasn’t-
He shifts down, and runs his index finger over the scars on Tony’s right hand, expecting it when nothing happens.
And again, nothing happens when he raises his hand and pushes it lightly into the scar on Tony’s neck.
Then when he grazes over the scars on his left hand-
“Mommy’s busy, Tony, give me a second.”
“But I was playing with the circuit board, and it hurt m-”
Tony’s drunk, storming past tipsy and hitting completely and utterly wasted in record time, and he’s laughing too loud and walking too fast and he’s always too something, isn’t he, he always has been, too smart or too drunk or too young, whatever, and he puts his hand down and a nail stabs through his pinkie finger, fuc-
Steve comes back to himself, breathing hard.
His eyes flicker over Tony, who doesn’t stir in his sleep, his lashes fanned out over his cheeks.
He inhales sharply, and pulls out his cell-phone.
Text to: SHIELD HQ.
From: Cap. America.
Hey, you know when you mentioned side-effects?
As it turns out, the world’s biggest rubber band ball is a huge disappointment.
It’s at least eight times smaller than it is in the photo, and the guy at the admission desk is picking his nose when he admits them.
All in all, it sucks ass and wasn’t worth driving all the way there for.
They stay there for a few minutes, checking around the walls, just in case the real rubber band ball is mysteriously hidden behind some secret doorway for security reasons, but to no avail.
“Is the world falling apart without us yet?”
Steve checks his phone. “They seem to be surviving.”
Clint snorts. “Ungrateful bastards. If they had any sense, our phones would be blowing up. ‘please, mighty Avengers, help us because we’re too stupid to do it ourselves-‘”
“I don’t know about you,” Steve says, tucking his phone back into his pocket, “But I’m perfectly fine with getting a week off.”
“Amen,” Bruce says, sipping his slurpee.
Clint angles his phone away from him. “Maybe we’re just not getting any reception because we’re in Bumfuck, Nowhere.”
“Hey,” Tony says from behind him, affronted. “Those are top-of-the-line Starkphones. AKA, they have reception even if you’re at the bottom of the fucking Atlantic ocean.”
Steve shrugs. “Would’ve been handy.”
Tony looks at him before remembering, oh, yeah, and laughs. “Uh, sorry.”
Steve smiles. “It’s fine.” He moves to sling an arm over Tony’s shoulder, and then pauses, checking there’s no skin contact.
It’s virtually harmless.
That’s what the doctors had said- the ray had bounced off of Tony and hit Steve, hence the connection. Apparently, Dr. Doom had taken a leaf out of his fellow supervillain’s books and tried to cast a spell to distract them- it had meant to give them the ability to read the minds of everyone in an eight-mile radius, which would have provided a solid distraction.
But, of course, he had made a few minor hiccups.
Don’t worry, the doctors had assured him. It only happens once with every scar. After you’ve, uh. The doctor had coughed loudly. Uh, touched every scar, it won’t bother you again.
Steve had thanked him, and closed his phone.
The solution was obvious.
But of course it’s more complicated than that, fucking Christ- it’s more than just his virginity (shut up, it was the war, he didn’t get many chances), it’s their first time together, and it’s Tony, and he didn’t think that either of them would want to have their first time to be about Dr. Doom’s screw-up.
Or maybe he’s just too sensitive about this.
He flexes his hands.
This is all based, of course, on him not telling Tony, but he knows he wouldn’t exactly react well to hey, Tony, could you kindly strip naked and lie on the bed, because I need to touch all of your scars and absorb how you got them so I don’t space out on a mission and accidentally let people die because of it.
It’s an invasion of privacy, for god’s sake!
He can see everything Tony had been seeing when he had got the scar, everything he was thinking, feeling what he had been thinking. And as close as they are, Steve doesn’t think that Tony would want anyone, least of all him, into the dark places of his mind, because god knows Tony’s had some… dark spots.
His throat clicks. He’s been told stories, he’s seen the news, he’s read the articles- Tony Stark, party boy, golden boy, graduated at 15 and was drinking way before that.
Rhodey’s told him about the descent, the slow but steady slide into alcoholism, into waking up in his own vomit and not remembering who he had slept with. Of being perpetually drunk for days- sometimes weeks- on end, his clothes always smelling of sweet smoke and always wearing sunglasses, wincing at the light and pulling every curtain he had come across.
Then, about the track marks on the crook of his elbow- they’re faded now, there are only a few that had been savage enough to scar, but for a while, they stood out red and angry whenever he had rolled up his sleeves, which he had never done in public for a good few years.
Rhodey had been there for all of that, but had never been enough to pull him out- he’s almost given up in him a dozen times, he had admitted guiltily to Steve. He’s walked out when Tony had needed him, when he was too wasted to stand, let alone give a speech, when he couldn’t even string two words together.
Pepper’s story is a bit different- at first, Tony had acted professional (his version of ‘professional’ being trying to sleep with her every chance he got), and then suddenly, the flirting had stopped, which had surprised Pepper to no end.
Year by year, he had started letting her in- offhand comments, a soft glance, an invite to someplace exotic. Their friendship had been like the alcoholism: slowly, but surely, and after a while, unable to ignore.
The ‘girlfriend’ thing had been short lived- three months before they broke it off, and at that point, Steve had been around to see Tony fall apart that time: he had spent two weeks straight in his workshop, not letting anyone else in, even Rhodey.
Most of the time, Steve tries not to think about it: Tony, with blurry eyes and limps hands, watching their retreating backs, and the crushing realization of, again, of course.
“Can we check into a hotel this time?”
Steve startles, his head coming up. “Uh. What?”
Thor frowns. “I asked if we could check into a hotel this time. Last night was drastically uncomfortable, and the imprints from the seatbelt have yet to fade from my buttocks.”
Steve squeezes his eyes shut, really not wanting to picture that. “Yeah, sure. Tash?”
Tash, bless her, doesn’t look away from the road, because that’s what good drivers do, he keeps telling everyone, instead of what everyone seems to do on TV, which is have a full-length conversation with someone, complete with not looking at the road once.
Steve says, “Get the map out, find the closest hote-”
A familiar British voice coughs politely. “The closest hotel is 23 miles down this road, Captain.”
Steve shakes Tony awake. “Tony. Tony, JARVIS is in the car, why is he in the car, did he get stuck in the car, how are we going to get him back into the Tower-”
For a second, Tony looks confused, but as he realizes what Steve is saying, he dissolves into laughter.
Tony is bent over, laughing, along with basically everyone but Thor, Steve an-
“Oh, god. Where’s Bruce?”
The drive back to the gas station is a quiet one, punctuated by Tony’s occasional giggle.
When they pull up, Bruce is sitting on the steps, eating a burrito.
Tony gets awkwardly out of the car, and walks up to him.
Bruce says, “Hey, Tony.”
Tony clears his throat. “Uh. Sorry we left you at a gas station in Fresno and didn’t notice for 20 minutes.”
Bruce waves the hand which isn’t holding a burrito. “It’s fine.’
Tony nods, and holds out a hand to help him up. Bruce takes it, and Tony claps him on the shoulder as they walk back to the van.
They climb in, and everyone anxiously pretends not to watch Bruce as they drive off.
Bruce keeps his face neutral for a few wordless minutes, and then shudders slightly, green bubbling up to the surface.
“How about we turn on the radio,” Tony squeaks.
Steve says, “Good idea,” and lunges for the dial.
He’ll tell Tony in the morning.
The Last Day:
He bolts up, his mind a blinding rush of not in the 40s why can I hear bombs Germany red smeared over his chin tanks fire BuckyBuckyBu-
Tony’s hand spreads against his shoulder and Steve whips around towards him- 2012, they’re in a hotel room with itchy sheets, everyone else is down the hall, they’re fine, we’re fine-
Tony’s face is a mix of relief and worry. “It’s just fireworks.”
Steve says, “What?” And then, “Oh. Oh, I- yes.”
There’s a knock on the door, and Steve swallows his flinch.
Tony glares at the door for a second before Bruce pokes his head in.
“Fireworks,” Bruce says. “Shiny. Pretty. Is this a dream?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” Steve says, half wanting to laugh, half wanting to crawl back under the covers. “Who-”
“Some retarded spring-breakers,” Clint’s irritated voice comes from behind him. “Fuckers, I could make a better firework in my sleep, those ones are puny, they should be ashamed-”
“Seconded,” Tony says, stretching. “Okay, obviously we’re not getting any sleep at this point unless we-”
Natasha’s voice cuts him off from across the hall. “Fury said if there are any casualties, we’re paying for it out of our own wallets.”
“Billionaire,” Tony points out, and Natasha throws open their door to glare at him.
Tony recoils. “Okay, sorry, I promise not to maim any freshmen-”
There’s an excited whoop outside that makes Steve want to strangle someone, because it is one a.m. my god just go to sleep, and then light blooms outside the window, angling up and up before bursting and showering down.
“Pretty,” Bruce says groggily.
“Pretty,” Tony agrees, shoving a hand through his hair.
Thor shoves his way into their room, because apparently wherever Steve is, everyone else turns up. “I wish to see the light show. You Migardians do differ from our techniques, but this seems adequate.”
They all turn to Steve, who sighs. “Fine, let’s-”
Thor lets out a war-cry and charges down the hall, ignoring everyone’s tired glares and one person’s yell of “SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU STUPID FUCKING FRESHMEN,” from a few rooms down.
Bruce, after he gets over the groggy ‘light good and pretty mmmm tree also pretty’ phase, ends up sitting on a wooden crate next to everyone else and watching the fireworks.
No-one says anything- well, they don’t, but the college students are still yelling and some people inside the hotel that are futilely trying to sleep occasionally stick their heads out the window to scream obscenities- but the Avengers just sit against the wall of the hotel and sleepily watch the lights rise.
“Lights pretty,” Tony comments, and Bruce pulls the finger at him.
Steve laughs quietly and watches the light get reflected in Tony’s eyes- he has an arm around him, and Tony is always so warm, like he’s his own personal sun.
Steve finds himself thinking over how Tony always smiles into their kisses, how he taps binary absentmindedly onto Steve’s hip when he’s not paying attention.
Tony catches him looking and cocks an eyebrow. “What?”
Steve kisses his hair. “Nothing. Just looking.”
Tony hmmm’s, smiling. He shifts up higher so his mouth is at Steve’s ear. “Good roadtrip?”
“Good roadtrip.” Steve tilts his head down to kiss Tony, a soft, long kiss that draws out for a good ten seconds before Steve pulls back. “Uh. Can we talk?”
He says it quietly, almost too quiet for him to hear himself, but he can feel Natasha’s eyes on them.
Tony’s face contracts slightly, and Steve says, “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that.”
“Uh-huh.” Tony’s voice is impossibly quiet, but still with that determined tone. “Like, for example, Dr. Doom’s machine fucking up again?”
Steve’s next sentence is a bit louder, and he blames it on shock. “Um. What?”
“SHIELD called me.” Tony shrugs, his shoulders pushing into Steve’s chest. “They wanted to know if I was ‘good to go.’ Said something interesting about you.”
“Hrrrghf,” Steve says. “I was going to tell you?”
Tony smirks. “I assumed. Should we take this somewhere where Clint’s not taking notes on where our hands are?”
Steve glances over at Clint, who looks away innocently. “Uh, yeah. Good idea.”
“I’m not comfortable with this,” are Tony’s first rushed words when they get back to their room.
Steve nods. “Yeah, me neither.”
“No, it’s-” Tony squirms. “I mean, apart from the whole you inside my head thing while this is happening, which in itself is really fucked up, I- haven’t told you, um. Everything.”
“Okay?” Tony’s pitch is getting higher and higher. “Not okay, you’ll be in my head! I mean, come on, it’s not exactly a secret that I have trust issues up to my-”
“Tony.” Steve feels the world gravitating on that word, on the curl of his tongue around the ‘o’ as he cups Tony’s face. “It’s fine. Really. I- I don’t want to be a liability in the field, and I know how uncomfortable you are with this, I would be, too. But- if you want, we can just get this over with and I won’t mention it again.”
Tony’s eyes drop to the carpet, to the walls, anywhere but Steve.
He mutters, “Fuck.” And then, in a tired breath, “You promise?”
Tony rolls his shoulders. “Awesome. I’ll just, uh. Get naked again.”
Steve smiles slightly, remembering a few nights ago, how Tony had said let’s get naked, how he had tried to keep it light and failed miserably, how his eyes had gone raw when Steve had kissed the arc reactor, splayed his fingers against it.
Steve says, “Wait,” and Tony stops unbuckling his jeans.
Steve wets his lips. “Can I?”
Tony’s eyebrows raise, and he glances down to where his hands are in the middle of pulling his belt out of the loops. “Uh. Sure.”
He drops his hands, and Steve moves forwards to slide the belt off and drape it over the shelf to his right.
He makes quick work of Tony’s shirt buttons, hearing the hitch in Tony’s breath as he brushes his hands over the arc reactor, watching Tony’s face as he does. He pushes the shirt off Tony’s shoulders and down his arms, and puts it with the belt on the shelf.
Bending to unzip Tony’s pants, he doesn’t miss how Tony arches into the touch, how his eyes flutter closed. He pushes his pants down and lets Tony sit on the bed to pull them off fully, and then his socks, and Steve puts them both on the shelf.
His hands shift towards Tony’s underwear, but then Tony’s catching his wrists and saying in a strangled voice, “How’s about we leave those on for now.”
He hears the unspoken, I don’t want to be more naked than I’m going to be in a second.
So he nods, even though he’s seen a few small scars scattered over Tony’s hips in the past.
“Um.” He swallows. “Would this be easier if you were on your back, or-”
“It’d be easier if I was standing up,” Tony says. “But I’d prefer to lie down for this. You can just, uh. Flip me when you’ve covered my back half.”
Steve’s mouth is dry. “Okay.”
Tony nods curtly, and moves up the bed to lie down on his stomach, his chin resting on the pillows.
Steve takes a shaky breath in, and moves his hands up Tony’s ankles, letting the memories wash ov-
-ere’s grit in his eyes, and he didn’t even want to go to the beach, and now there’s a stupid shell stuck in his foot and mom isn’t paying attention to him, s-
-usic is blaring around him, and he’s not entirely sure if his foot is bleeding or not, because motherfucker, these concerts are disorientating.
Someone nudges his elbow, and Tony can’t hear what they’re saying due to the music, but he can see them mouthing, are you Tony Sta-
-uy’s tongue in his mouth, and they’re both laughing, and this may be one of the most un-coordinated kisses he’s ever had.
The guy’s mouth tastes sickly-sweet, like the vodka they’ve been drinking, and Tony barely notices the floor coming up to his face, or the pain in his le-
Someone’s pushing him down, holding his head into the carpet, and Tony feels pain burst in his knee, fuck-
Steve briefly comes back to himself to see that he’s shaking, and Tony is looking at him with wide eyes.
His hands are on the backs of Tony’s knees now, biting into them slightly, and Tony says, “Are you oka-”
Pepper’s hand is on his shoulder, rocking him back and forth, saying, “Tony, it was just a scrape, you’re having a flashback, you’re fi-”
A wooden spoon rasping against his tongue, and he’s three years old with pudgy hands, and Jarvis is lifting him up and they’re both grinning, because they don’t get to do this oft-
Rhodey is screaming his name and there’s a building collapsing around him and the Iron Man suit is giving out and his chest is flickering and he can feel it he can feel it he can feel it-
Steve’s full-out panting. He lifts his trembling hands and places them on the bed, on either side of Tony’s hips.
Tony swallows. “Are we having fun yet?”
Steve tries for a laugh, but it comes out choked. “It’s fine, it’s just-” he scrapes a hand through his hair. “Disorientating.”
-e hits the ground with a thump and the air is pushed out of him, and the man is on top of him, straddling him, and there’s something cutting into his shoulderblades.
Tony lashes out, and the man growls and forces his tongue between his teeth-
Tony doesn’t know where he is. It feels like there are mothballs under his tongue.
He raises a hand, and it comes back with dark, glossy blood on his fingers.
“Head ‘urts,” he manages, and spots dance in front of his ey-
Steve croaks, “Flip.”
-laughing and laughing and laughing and there’s a girl holding a pill to his lips and there’s a strange pain in his shoulder and he’s laughing so hard he’s crying and-
Tony tries to say, dad, but it gets drowned under the blood in his mouth.
Howard either doesn’t hear it or doesn’t care, and the next slap makes stars bloom under Tony’s swollen eyelids.
The next one splits his lip, and the next one isn’t a slap at all, but a knee to the stomach, and Tony falls to the floor.
Fall to the floor, fall to
the floor, he’s
falling and he’s always falling and
it’s like a routine, lately, with all the drinking he’s been doing, just with less internal bleeding.
Howard’s yelling, because he’s
always yelling nowadays, something about
and piss-poor excuse for a Stark
piece of shit.
Tony slurs, tell me something I don’t know,
says dad, please.
Howard’s shoe connects with
ribs and his
back hits the stairwell
before slipping, hitting every stair in turn.
He grabs a bottle, nearly drops it, and brings it to his lips before realizing that there’s nothing in it.
He frowns at it for a second, and his wrist is bleeding-
-shoving a needle into his arm, gritting his teeth, pushing it in further, and it hurts, but it’s better than whatever the fuck he’s-
Steve says something, and it’s garbled, and he’s sweating, and Jesus Christ, Tony.
His fist hits the mirror too hard, and glass shatters down around his wrist.
He barks out a yell, holding his clenched fist to his chest, but at least the face in the reflection is muted and half-gone and split down the middle-
Tony says, “Steve, I-”
Steve kisses him desperately, trying to pour his love through his lips, trying to prove it, trying to wrench some of that loathing out of Tony’s rotted fucking scars, trying to say I love you, we love you, you are loved, you are everything, I love you, in a way that Tony will actually believe.
His hand moves down to Tony’s chest, and Tony says, “Don-”
-water, water in his lungs and forcing its way down Tony’s throat and he needs to breathe at some point, doesn’t he, he’s human, he’s too fucking human and he needs to breathe and the man is jeering as he shoves Tony’s face further into the water so his ears are filled-
Long, slim, dirty fingers on his chest, in his chest, and Tony screams and thrashes and it hurts, it hurts so fucking badly, it hurts like a fucking personification of everything that-
no don’t touch me don’t
touch me get
away from me no please don’t I
don’t want to just
let me die just pull the wire out
just let me die please
don’t touch m-
Tony runs his fingers over his chest, scanning over the qualities of vibranium, feeling the familiar raised lines in his skin.
Pallidium poisoning: dark spot in an x-ray, bright spot in an MRI, and he’s been dying for a while, hasn’t he?
He breathes out slowly, fingering the scars, thinking, Malibu, 2012, I’m fine, and picks up a glass.
Steve says, “I’m yours.”
He says, “I love you.”
He says, “You’re everything.”
Tony says, shakily, “Ste-”
“-he says, slowly losing consciousness from blood loss,” Steve says in his famous holier-than-thou voice as he hands Tony the tea-towel.
Tony ties the tea-towel in a knot around his hand- he’s bandaged it with worse, seriously, he once almost bled out from a cut to the knee after bandaging it with a napkin.
He glances up, and Steve is looking at him, and he nearly loses his voice, and fucking Christ, he’s in trouble, because when Steve looks like that he starts thinking things he shouldn’t, like what he hasn’t said to Pepper yet, what he doesn’t think he wants to.
He finds his voice after a few seconds. “I’m not that delicate.”
When Steve finally comes back to himself, his forehead is pushed up against Tony’s.
It’s a while before either of them can say anything, before Steve swallows and manages, “Pretty sure that’s all of them.”
“Y-yeah.” Tony’s throat bobs up and down. “Fucking hope so, don’t want you spacing out an-”
“It was 28,” Steve says. “You have 28.”
Tony blinks. “28 what?”
“Scars,” Steve says, and then blushes, which is stupid, because they’ve just done something unbelievably intimate, he’s been in Tony’s head, he shouldn’t be embarrassed because he knows how many scars Tony has.
But Tony just stares at him wordlessly, his hair sticking up and shoved across his forehead and still somehow one of the most gorgeous things Steve’s ever seen.
Tony says, “I fucking love you,” and tugs him down into a kiss.
Steve counts the scars again, just because, even after the sun starts coming up and Tony looks up at him through his lashes, lazy and happy and stupid.
Steve grins, kissing his nose, and remembers- the nicks, the half-moon bruises, the blood curving down the pad of his thumb, and then Steve.
Steve, trailing his lips down Tony’s collarbone, down the wings of his shoulders, the knob of his spine.
Steve, like -and Tony, like breathing and drowning, like gasping and pulling and reaching and keeping each other afloat as they’re treading water.
Steve, with messy morning-hair and river-soft eyes, pressing his mouth against every single scar, one by one.