Chapter 1: Follow the builder home.
It wasn’t that Tony kept surprising Steve at every turn, it was that the surprises were… surprisingly pleasant. He’d walked into Stark Tower –– now ‘A Tower’ thanks to the Chitauri, Loki and Thor, mostly –– and winced at the devastating destruction of Tony’s home. Something he’d clearly worked long and hard on, to build and design to be self-sustaining. The wreckage was all over New York; people’s homes, jobs, lives, put on hold for goodness knows how long. And still it was different, a little more painful, to step over pieces of what once was a coffee table of someone he knew, fought with, expected to die next to, and that was why his voice was a little more gentle than usual when he spoke to Tony, as he said,
“Need a hand, Mr Stark?”
He had expected Tony’d be looming over whoever his clearly ample budget had hired to do the cleaning up, but instead he found him on elbows and knees beneath a metal table that obviously didn’t belong in a living room, fiddling with wires. Tony’s back stiffened fractionally, before he turned, careful smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes in place. Steve felt a small stab of unease that this particular smile was one reserved just for him.
“Oh, hey Cap. Unless you know how to rewire a burnt out blowtorch, not really.” Tony sat up on his knees, body half twisted toward Steve. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to bare his forearms, which were scraped and bruised and Steve frowned, wondered what had happened, before remembering his healing was serum-enhanced now and everyone else’s wasn’t.
“I’m afraid I don’t,” Steve said a little sheepishly and still frowning. For some reason that made Tony smile more genuinely.
“Well, then,” he said, grabbing a dirty rag to wipe his hands on. “What can I do for you?” He got to his feet and walked up to Steve, stopping a few feet away.
“I just. Well. I’ve been –– are you wearing a suit?”
Tony looked down at his chest and then his legs, face genuinely amazed as he said, “Oh. I must’ve forgotten ––“ He waved a hand, pulled a face, dismissing it as if what he did wasn’t important, as if he thought Steve couldn’t possibly care. “Press conference, not the first shirt I’ve ruined. You were saying?”
“Ah, um, I’ve been checking up on everyone, see how they’ve been doing and you’re, uh, a little harder to get hold of, so I thought I’d come and find you. Mr Hogan let me in.”
“Oh. Right. Well, as you can see,” Tony swept an arm around the room to indicate the chaos, “everything’s just peachy.” He was grinning, as if it really was. But Steve was learning how to look now, and saw the dark shadows beneath Tony’s eyes, the slightly weary reserve in them. It brought on a burst of honesty.
“Actually, I think we’re all falling apart. The Avengers I mean. In the aftermath of the fight, we all just went our own ways. It took me two weeks to track down Hawkeye and Black Widow, never mind get hold of you. I think we should at least,” he hesitated, didn’t know how to express what he meant, really. “Debrief,” he finished a little weakly. He thought Tony would laugh, braced himself for it, but instead he just looked at Steve, a little calculating.
“You know, Cap,” he said, quietly, “I’ve been thinking the same thing. Come, have a look at this.” He threw the rag down on the metal table and walked toward a desk holding, amongst random pieces of debris, three large see-through screens. Tony tapped a few buttons, touched what looked like plans and spread his fingers. The schematics followed the movement and blew up so Steve involuntary took a step back. “It’s all right,” Tony said with a glance out of the corner of his eye, looking amused but not in an unkind way. Steve looked closer, saw they were plans for the tower, and then recognized a small picture of his shield.
“What are these?” Steve asked, stepping closer, looking at a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom and a small room labeled ‘studio’. When Tony said nothing, he looked back at him and was surprised to see him appearing bashful of all things.
“Well,” Tony said, clearing his throat, “I have all this space and I know that most of you don’t have a place to live here in New York, not really, and, well, even Thor could use something he can call a base when he’s on earth and,” he shrugged, looking down at his hands and back at Steve again. “I thought it could be useful if we have somewhere to call …um, home.”
“Right,” Steve said, having to swallow past a lump in his throat. “Right. That’s, yeah, that makes sense.” He looked back at the plans, saw a gym there, a shooting range, a reinforced lab. He shook his head, wondering how he could’ve been so wrong.
“I mean,” Tony said behind him. “We don’t have to. Obviously, it’s just an idea, something I thought, but of course it’s stupid, I’ll just ––“ He reached out to swipe away the drawings but Steve stopped him with a hand on his wrists, the bones surprisingly broad beneath his fingers.
“Is Ms Potts all right with this?” he asked, and if he hadn’t been looking closely, learning that Tony’s face was something to be studied to get to the meaning beneath his words, he would’ve missed the wince.
“Yeah. Pepper is, she’s, she’s fine. With it. She’s not, anyway, like I said, it’s just an idea.”
“I’m sorry,” Steve said, and for a second Tony’s eyes widened dramatically before his face closed down.
“For the things I said to you, on the helicarrier. I––“
“Cap,” Tony said, looking down, and Steve realized he was still holding Tony’s wrist, so he let go. “We were under the influence of the Tesseract, we all said things we didn’t mean.”
“No, I did mean them,” Steve said and Tony huffed a startled little laugh, muttered something like, well, that’s good to know, but Steve was shaking his head and talking over him. “What I mean to say is, I did think those things. I would never have said them out loud without the Tesseract but I did think them, and that is why I want to apologize. To let you know I was wrong. I know now that it’s the suit that is nothing without you. So I am sorry.”
“I––“ Tony said, looking for all the world as if he was about to run away, but he gathered himself quickly and waved a hand about, as if it didn’t matter. Steve was starting to know better. “It’s nothing,” he said quickly, and turned around. “I should probably tell you I didn’t mean––“ he muttered but then the door opened behind them and Bruce walked in, nose buried in a folder filled with papers.
“Hey Tony, the basement lab is cleared and you’ll be happy to know all your cars are … oh. Hi Steve.”
“Mr Banner,” Steve said, holding out a hand for him to shake and, of course Tony wasn’t alone. Bruce flicked a gaze between the two of them and smiled.
“Been showing the Captain your plans for Avengers Tower?” he asked and Tony spluttered a surprised cough.
“Avengers Tower?” Steve asked, a smile tugging at his mouth.
“Well,” Tony said, “it’s a joke, sort of, with, you know, just the A hanging around and,” he glared at Dr Banner. “Thanks Bruce.”
“My pleasure,” he said with a pleasant little smile and then turned to Steve. ‘So are you going to help us clear this place out?”
“I––“ Steve began, darting a look at Tony whose face was carefully composed. “If that’s okay with T––Mr Stark.”
“Of course it is,” he said gruffly, “but only if you stop the Mr Stark business and call me Tony.”
“Um. Okay, if you call me Steve. I’m only the Captain with the uniform on.”
“Is that so?” Tony asked, eyes twinkling. “I’ll remember that. JARVIS, do we have a bedroom in reasonable shape for Steve?” Tony said as he walked back to his broken blow torch.
The one down the hall from yours is in relatively good condition, Mr Stark, someone said and Steve just about jumped out of his skin.
“That’s Tony’s AI,” Bruce said, “he runs the house.”
“AI?” Steve said weakly.
“He’s an Artificial Intelligence.”
“Of course he is,” Steve said, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“You can ask him anything you want,” Tony called from the other side of the room. “JARVIS, meet Steve.”
Nice to meet you Mr Rogers, JARVIS said.
“Uh. Nice to meet you too, JARVIS, and please call me Steve.”
“Too British and polite for that,” Tony said, “I’ve been trying to get him to call me Tony for years.”
“But, you …” Steve paused, “created him.”
“Doesn’t mean he can’t have a mind of his own.”
“Does it?” Steve said to Tony’s backside as it stuck out from under the table. Beside him Bruce shrugged and wandered away.
At first he didn’t understand, why Tony did almost all the work himself. He didn’t think about it at all really, until he found Tony underneath a kitchen sink in what would become Black Widow’s floor, swearing like a sailor.
“What’s the matter,” Steve said and then there was a bang, an ow, and a fuck, and then Tony appeared, face smudged with grease. Steve was starting to have difficulty remembering what he looked like clean.
“I never did get the hang of plumbing,” he growled and crawled upright, putting a hand in the small of his back and groaning as he bent around it. “I have the right to suck at something.” Tony glared at the sink as if it personally offended him.
“I can have a go if you like,” Steve said and then rolled his eyes when Tony peered at him. “We did have sinks in the forties, you know. And unless this one comes with relays, I think I can deal with whatever’s wrong with it.” He frowned as Tony took a step back, splaying out a hand as if he was inviting Steve into his living room instead of an uncomfortable spot in a slightly wet cabinet. “What is wrong with it?” he asked, kneeling.
“It just keeps leaking,” Tony said, and Steve rolled over onto his back, lifting his head a little to look up.
“Can you be a bit more specific?” Steve asked and Tony crouched down between his legs, leaning over him to point where the tailpiece joined the P-trap.
“Ah,” Steve said, wriggling into a more comfortable position, if that was possible, his knees brushing Tony’s thighs. “You need to use a slip nut washer, not a normal one. Hand me the wrench?” He held out a hand. “Is it drained?”
“Yes,” Tony said, the warmth of him leaving Steve as he stood. It didn’t take long and he scooted out from underneath the sink, while saying, “Try it now.” Tony did and the cabinet remained dry.
“Thanks,” Tony said, handing Steve a rag.
“Why didn’t you get a plumber in for this?” Steve said, wiping his hands but Tony just shrugged, looked away and Steve assumed it was a pride thing.
Until three days later when he found Tony looking out over the city, being oddly quiet, his face lined with grief and worry. Below them, day and night, the city worked. It would take years to rebuild everything, even with everyone working as hard as they could. That’s when he understood; Tony’s stubbornness to do everything himself had nothing to do with pride. He could pay all those workers out there twice over to get his tower done, but he wasn’t going to take anyone away from repairing someone’s roof, providing someone with running water. Not when there were so many homeless people, so much destruction, so much pain.
Steve said nothing, but gently put his hand on Tony’s shoulder and squeezed. Tony stiffened, then turned and smiled, soft and private, so Steve couldn’t do anything but smile back. And maybe he had been wrong about that too. Maybe Tony didn’t reserve his pained smile for Steve, but it was Steve himself who never smiled at Tony.
Clint was the first one to take residence on his floor. Then Natasha followed. Then Thor. Steve didn’t even know how they knew, or how anyone got a hold of Thor, but one by one they appeared, quietly, out of nowhere, unassuming but immediately at home. It didn’t escape Steve’s notice that Tony’s quarters were the last to be finished. It didn’t escape his notice either, that they both kept using the bedrooms beside each other even though their own apartments were long done.
He moved onto his own floor when Natasha caught them opening their doors simultaneously one morning, one eyebrow raising high even though she never said a word. It made Steve feel uneasy, while he didn’t know why, really, so he assumed that it was because he was always a little uneasy around her. He hadn’t forgotten that feeling, that very familiar feeling he’d felt not so long and decades ago, when Peggy had decked that insolent soldier. The same feeling when he’d given Natasha a boost on his shield so she could catch a ride on the back of a Chitauri. Apparently he had a type, he thought and he left it at that, refusing to look into that any deeper. That way lay nothing but heartache and self-loathing.
Whenever he asked about Ms Potts, he got vague answers. True ones, he was sure, because he’d answered Tony’s phone once when he’d been sleeping on the couch after spending over forty eight hours with Bruce in the lab, and she’d confirmed that yes, she was in Washington and no, Steve, I don’t think I’ll be coming back anytime soon. But thank you for asking.
He learnt to stop asking because every time he did, Tony’s mouth would pinch and he’d disappear for hours, sometimes days on end.
The idea came after another attack. New York hadn’t even been cleaned up yet, never mind recovered (some guy called Doom and then the Fantastic Four had showed up. Fantastic Who? Steve had said, and then Tony had looked from him to Johnny Storm and back again, and laughed and laughed and laughed. Steve didn’t get it, but the sound of that laughter warmed him to the bone.) and their reaction times had been slow, too slow. Clint had clutched his bleeding shoulder, had said, “I need a holiday,” and Natasha had looked white around the mouth. Steve had felt a small stab of regret when he noticed, as if another escape route had been closed down.
“I have a place,” Tony had said and Steve had smiled at him, said,
“Of course you do.”
Chapter 2: Free Your Mind (and the rest will follow)
There was something soothing about the give and take of the ocean, the way the waves would come and go, even if Steve was to return in another seventy years, chances were this would still look the same. Tony’s house in Malibu was beautiful, and even though Steve was a city boy, born and bred, he hadn’t felt this peaceful in a long time.
“What’s up, Capsicle,” Tony said behind him and Steve rolled his eyes, “you look even more lost than usual.”
“I don’t look lost. And don’t call me that, Stark,” Steve said without turning around. But maybe he did look a little lost, sitting on the floor by the open window, with his feet tucked underneath him, drawing pad forgotten in his lap. He didn’t even know how long he’d been there or when Tony entered the room.
“Point taken, old man, and yes, you do.” Steve glanced over his shoulder, to see Tony looking at him, Stark Tablet in one hand, the other tucked behind his head as he was sprawled out over the white leather couch. “You look like a lost puppy. A beaten and lost puppy. That’s given up the search for home.”
Steve didn’t say anything, hoping Tony would either keep quiet or get bored. Instead he got to his feet and padded over on his socks to sink down beside Steve with a groan.
Who’s the old man now, Steve wanted to say but he didn’t, had slowly been turning away from the barbs that some time during the past couple of weeks had become friendly, teasing, wanted. Tony was warm and solid beside him, and Steve couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stand the way it made heat pool in his belly, the way he could close his eyes at any time and know exactly where in the room Tony was. He turned away and thought of Peggy, but when he tried to remember the kiss, it was Tony’s face he saw. Steve pressed his fingers into his eye sockets.
“Hey,” Tony said, with concern in his voice now, “what’s up?” He put a hand on Steve’s arm and Steve flinched, shrugged it off, regretted it instantly because Tony Stark was many things, none of them stupid. He could almost feel the way Tony’s gaze darted around in confusion and his breath stilled at the exact moment Tony noticed the magazine Steve had forgotten to close. “Oh,” Tony said and Steve couldn’t look at him, rubbed a hand over the back of his neck where he felt too hot, instead. There was a photograph of Tony and a man, kissing on the steps outside a hotel, the headline reading, ’Tony Stark bats for the other team’, and stupidly, stupidly Steve had thought it was about baseball. So he had grabbed it, hoping for a wide range of ammunition to make fun of Tony in baseball gear. It provided a wide range of ammunition all right, but none of it was funny.
Tony got to his feet, looked down on Steve and his face was hard in a way Steve hadn’t seen directed at him in a long time. “I get things were different in your day, Cap, and that you might need some time to adjust your settings but I’m telling you, if you’re gonna have issues with my sexuality, if you’re gonna turn out to be a homophobe, then this,” he waved his hand around, encompassing the house, the pool outside with Natasha sunbathing beside it, Thor and Clint in it, behaving like five year olds, and Bruce reading in the shade, “then this won’t work. Because I refuse to live and work with someone who doesn’t believe in equality. Especially when that someone walks around in a spandex american flag. Got it?”
Steve stared at him, wanted to say something but his throat felt swollen and Tony’s eyes narrowed, a flicker of raw hurt quickly buried beneath a more familiar sneer. “Right,” Tony said and turned and walked away.
He didn’t see Tony anywhere for three days, and on the fourth, Natasha cornered him by the fridge.
“Look,” she said, pointing at him with a spoon. Steve’s eyes widened a little because in Black Widow’s hands, that was a lethal weapon. “You’ve got to make this right. I know the problem isn’t what Stark thinks it is.”
“Tony,” he said automatically, “his name is Tony.”
Natasha smirked at him a little, lifting an eyebrow in a, see? My point exactly. “But,” she went on as if Steve hadn’t interrupted, “we were just beginning to function as a team and misunderstandings like this will be our undoing.”
“I don’t know ––” Steve said, still warily eyeing the spoon even while it disappeared into her strawberry yogurt.
“So,” she said, talking over him, “the way I see it, you have two options. You deal with your hang-ups, you tell Tony how you feel, you screw each other’s brains out for a few days and we can go back to how we were, or,” and now her eyes turned a little softer, traveling over Steve’s fiercely flushed cheeks before settling on a point somewhere above his right shoulder. “You bury this deep inside of you, until the flame flickers and dies. If you can’t get past your inhibitions, you take that part of yourself and you suffocate it until it’s gone.” She looked at him again. “It can be done, trust me, I know.”
Steve swallowed, turned away toward the window. He could see the sea rise and fall like gentle breathing. He thought about the warmth that filled his chest whenever his eyes fell on Tony for the first time every morning. (Or afternoon, or night, or whenever Tony felt like appearing.) He could live without that. He could.
“You’ll be alone,” Natasha said behind him. “Perhaps for the rest of your life. So think very carefully before you make this decision, Steve. Your heart isn’t the only one on the line.”
When he turned to ask her what she meant, she was gone. He knew she was right, but the thought of voicing it was as unwelcome as ice down his spine.
As if on cue, Tony walked in, beelining straight for the coffeemaker before he saw Steve standing by the window. He sputtered to a stop, and god, he looked awful, the circles beneath his eyes almost as dark as the oil on his shirt.
“Oh,” Tony said, and Steve wanted to ask him, are you okay, have you slept, have you eaten, where have you been, will you sit down and let me –– and well. Maybe he couldn’t walk away from this as easily as that after all. Tony’s eyes flickered for a moment, a pleased widening before he seemed to remember he wasn’t all that fond of Steve right then. “I’ll just ––” Tony pointed over his shoulder and turned to go.
“Wait,” Steve said, hurrying forward and stepping between Tony and the door, as much to stop him as to keep his own brain from taking over, “I want to talk to you.”
“I’m not so sure I want to hear what you have to say,” Tony said. His face was carefully blank and this, more than anything Tony could say, told Steve how very close he’d come to losing the precarious friendship they had built. Because Tony’s face always showed some sort of emotion. Only when he was treading water and losing ground, which hardly ever happened, did he keep himself so very carefully in check.
“Okay,” Steve said. “I won’t make you listen when you don’t want to, but I’d like an opportunity to explain myself before I’ve ruined everything.”
“Before you’ve ruined––? Eh. Okay,” Tony said and he looked down the hallway, a little wistfully, as if that way lay escape and it was passing him by. “Okay,” he said again. “Can I just, I’m really tired. And filthy. Can I have a shower and I’ll meet you in the living room in half an hour?”
“We don’t have to do this now,” Steve said, almost reaching out for Tony, but he stopped himself, aware of his every move now in a way he never had to be before. Tony looked dead on his feet. “Rest, and then maybe tomo––”
“No. No we have to do this now before I have a chance to ostracize myself into my workshop for another week working on … stuff. And things. Just. Bring coffee. Lots of it.”
“Okay,” Steve said, frowning, lost by half of what Tony said but that’s nothing new.
He went into the living room half an hour later, so preoccupied with not dripping coffee on the plush carpet that he nearly dropped both mugs when Tony said, “Look,” as he jumped off the couch. (Steve normally didn’t drink coffee, the caffeine had no effect on him and he didn’t like the taste. But it smelled good, and it would give himself something to hold on to.) Tony rushed over, rescued his cup, sipped it with an almost indecent moan and then peered into Steve’s.
He frowned. “You don’t drink coffee,” he said, and took Steve’s mug as well.
“Look,” Tony began again, putting both cups on the coffee table, one already empty, and then turned toward Steve who still stood only halfway in the living room. “I may have overreacted a little. I just hadn’t thought--”
“--but I should have understood that it’s hard for you, after all, the forties were only six months ago from your point of view, and I know that photograph in the magazine of me--”
“--and that guy kissing was sort of unexpected and must have been a shock to the system, but I really didn’t assume you’d be, well. I really don’t need a formal apology so let’s just pretend this didn’t happen and I promise I will keep my ––”
“Yes?” Tony looked at Steve instead of the ceiling, eyes wide in vague surprise as if he didn’t expect Steve to still be there.
“I don’t have a problem with your, eh, orientation.”
“You don’t? I––” Tony’s mouth snapped shut when Steve sent him a quelling look.
“I don’t have a problem with you. At all. It will just be difficult, for me, to accept... it... when for the better part of my life, all of it really, up till now, I’ve learnt to be disgusted––”
“Right,” Tony said, shutting his eyes and balling his fists by his side, just as Steve finished,
“––with that side of myself.” There. It was done. He’d said it, admitted it to someone for the first time in his life, and Tony was still talking.
“I’ll just get out of your way with my disgusting hab–– wait. What?”
Steve frowned. “I said--”
“I heard what you said.”
“Then why did you ask--”
“Steve. Steve, are you –– Steve, look at me.” Steve, who had turned to the window again, hoping the ocean could calm his frayed nerves, looked at Tony. “Are you saying that you’re gay?” Tony asked him. He was completely still, all his attention focussed on Steve and it was a little frightening.
Tony flapped a hand around. “Homosexual,” he said, slowly. “You like men. Not women.”
Steve thought about that for a moment, thought of Peggy, of her voice and how it was the last thing he’d heard before––
“I think, I like both. Is that possible? I don’t know how to say this, how to talk about this, I never––” Steve sighed, ducked his head and closed his eyes. “I don’t know how to do this,” he said quietly. He should’ve waited, should’ve taken some time to think about this more but, well. He was trying to set things straight, so he went with the truth. “I don’t want you to believe I think badly of you. I don’t. You are my friend and I care about your opinion of me. I am...I am glad that people are starting to accept love is universal, isn’t something to be pushed into a compartment, but I can’t... I’ve had to hide this part of me, I’ve had to ignore this part of me for so long. I’ve learnt to loathe it, to fear it. I can’t just flick a switch and be okay with it now. I can’t. It might take years, if ever.”
He looked up, saw Tony standing a few feet away, closer than he was before, his hand lifted and forgotten in an aborted move. He looked speechless, and Steve would be amused about that later, he didn’t think he’d ever been in the same room as Tony and silence for this long. But right then he felt raw around the edges, exposed. He needed to be alone and let this sink in. So he turned on his heels and walked out of the living room.
Chapter 3: What Is Love? (baby don't hurt me)
It started three mornings after that.
Steve had done his best to avoid everyone without seeming to, going for breakfast earlier, running longer, swimming later. He was in the small room he’d discovered accidentally on his second day in Malibu, mysteriously stocked with all kinds of art supplies and Steve wondered again who Tony’d brought there, and kept there long enough, to warrant easels and paints and canvases.
He was drawing New York’s skyline, the way he remembered it, not the way it was now, when a small screen appeared out of the ceiling and a website popped up. It was white with a blue background and Steve frowned at the title for a moment before it dawned on him.
“JARVIS,” he said, mind still boggled by the fact he could be here as well as in New York. At the same time. “I didn’t request any, uh, information.”
I’m sorry, Mr Rogers, there must be a glitch in the system.
“That’s, that’s quite all right,” Steve said, but he felt a tight knot coil uncomfortably in his chest as he watched the screen go blank and retract, the words ‘I Think I Might Be Gay, Now What Do I Do?’ refused to leave his retinas as quickly. His hand trembled a little as they sketched charcoal grey shades of buildings. He stayed for another half hour, unwilling to be so unsettled, but eventually having to give in to the parched feel of his mouth, he left for the kitchen.
On his way there, he passed the living room, Tony and Bruce sitting cross legged on the floor playing chess. He heard Bruce tut, saying, “You have no patience for this game, Stark.”
Tony threw his hands in the air, “I could be doing things, useful things,” he said but his face was soft and he grinned at Bruce, the way he had when he’d poked him with something sharp on the Helicarrier before handing him a bag of blueberries.
Steve walked by, still thirsty with an added craving for blueberries.
He pulled a small bottle of Mighty Mango Naked juice out of the fridge (blushing, damn it, again), and sat down at the kitchen table, pulling the stack of mail closer. There was a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and Steve pushed it beneath the newspaper before his blush could deepen. (He’d asked, “Who’s Victoria and what’s her secret?” and Natasha had looked startled for a second before laughing. The first real, out loud laugh he’d heard from her, and he had realized then, that coming here to Malibu, all of them, had been a good idea.) He didn’t want to look at the paper because seeing more pictures of a destroyed New York would make him feel bad for not being there, helping, and he wanted to hold on to their little bubble of peace for a while longer.
He flipped through brochures offering lawn services, swimming pool cleaning services, Have Your Own Hot Tub offers and read an article in a glossy magazine from a nearby hospital, telling of their children’s ward and how people would come by and read to them, as volunteers. Maybe he’d do that, he thought, taking a sip from his sweet and still tangy juice, cold against the roof of his mouth, he could do that. He’d like that. He flipped it over and there was a pamphlet, purple with pink and white, and it read, ‘GLBTQ, support meetings in your area’. Steve frowned, read on, searching for the meaning of the abbreviation and his hand tightened around the bottle.
It could be a coincidence. It could be. Only yesterday he found a brochure on how to deal with breast cancer and where to find support. It didn’t mean anything.
He stood, hand clenching and relaxing over the tabletop twice, before he snatched up the pamphlet and left for his room.
The phone call was short, ended with, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”
“That’s all right,” the woman said mildly, “call back any time you feel like it.”
“Want some eggs?” Bruce asked him the next morning. He was smiling, open and kind and Steve wondered when that happened, how that happened, Bruce smiling like that, instead of looking apologetic for being in the same room as them. The only thing he could think of, was Tony. As if summoned by Steve, he appeared in the kitchen.
“I’ll have some of those gorgeous eggs of yours,” Tony said, breezing by and running his hand in a small circle over Bruce’s back while on his way to the coffee machine.
And, oh, Steve thought.
“Steve?” Bruce said, holding up a spatula covered with little clumps of white and yellow, thin strands of cheese stretching and breaking.
“No,” Steve said. He wanted to put his hand over his chest where it hurt. “Thank you, but I’m not hungry.”
“Not hungry?” Tony said, extracting his head out of the fridge in astonishment. “What––“ but Steve was across the hallway before he could hear more.
When a few hours later, drawing or reading up on world history of the past seven decades did nothing to still the tremor in his fingers, Steve went down to the gym. He watched Natasha and Clint spar, his mind blown with the elegant beauty of their movements, as if they could read each other’s minds, as if they knew how the other would act before they did. It was a dance, intricate and sweet, almost, the way they kept smiling after every near miss. Then Natasha got a hit in, unexpected by the looks of it, her foot colliding hard with the side of Clint’s head.
“Are you all right?” she asked, lowering her leg without the slightest imbalance and stepping closer to Clint.
“Hmpf,” Clint said, clutching his face, “‘m fine.”
“That’ll teach you for keeping your eyes on my ass,” she told him, but it was soft, and she smiled, before she gently pulled his hand from his face and touched his lips with hers. Steve was surprised, but he he didn’t move, thought it would be an offer of comfort between two people with a lot of history.
It wasn’t. The kiss deepened, Natasha’s hand cradling Clint’s head as he tilted to fit his mouth better against hers, pulling her closer with his hands on her waist. Steve shuffled, trying to sneak out quietly but of course as soon as he moved, they knew he was there.
“Sorry,” he said immediately, “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Clint said, as they separated, hands still resting around each other’s waists.
“Still, that was private and I––.” He had no way to finish that sentence without feeling more embarrassed.
He just turned and was about to slip out when Natasha said, “Steve?”
He stopped, looked over his shoulder.
“Everyone deserves some comfort, wherever they can find it,” she said. “Especially in our line of work. Tomorrow it could all be over. You don’t want your last breathing thought to be; if only. Remember what I told you before. Think long and hard before you decide, all right?”
Steve nodded because he didn’t think he could speak and left.
The next morning Jane Foster wandered into the kitchen, wearing what must’ve been a pair of Thor’s pajama bottoms because the hem trailed off somewhere behind her, yawning so wide Steve could’ve sworn he heard her jaw crack.
“Good morning, Miss Foster,” he said and she scowled.
“Call me that again and I’ll punch you,” she squinted up at him and hummed, “or pinch you at least. It’s Jane and is that coffee?”
“Jane,” he said, suppressing a grin, “and yes it is.”
“Gimme.” She made grabby motions with her hands, arms outstretched.
“I’ll pour you a fresh one, I’ve already drunk from this one.”
“Don’t care. Gimme. Now.”
“Okay,” Steve said on a laugh, handing over his mug and Jane slurped from it, loudly.
“Ahhh. Better.” She looked up, blinking as if she saw him for the first time. “Morning, Steve,” she said and smiled at him brilliantly. If Steve hadn’t met Thor’s hammer up close and personal, he might’ve been a bit smitten. “So,” she continued, hopping onto the worktop as Steve poured himself some fresh coffee, “you look mopey, why are you mopey, you’re Captain America and you saved the world. Plus you have an ass I could bounce a quarter off, you shouldn’t be mopey.”
Steve choked on his coffee, taking a too large mouthful and burning the roof of his mouth in the process. “Nice to meet you too,” he managed after she’d pounded on his back with small, but surprisingly strong hands. Her eyes widened comically and then she laughed, loud and melodic.
“I thought you were going to be a stuck up old fashioned pain in the ass, but you’re funny,” she said and Steve put his mug safely down.
“What gave you that impression?” Steve said and Jane looked over his shoulder, said cheerfully, “Hi Tony!”
But when he turned there was no one there. He closed his eyes as he turned back, heart pounding in his chest.
“That was a joke, he never … are you all right? Steve?”
“Yeah, I’m, yeah.” He rubbed his face, glanced at her from the corner of his eye and saw real concern in the small frown on her forehead. “Miss––“ She scowled. “Jane. Could I ask you a personal question?”
“Shoot,” she said, pulling one leg up to rest her chin on.
“The other day, I overheard Thor say that you, uh, had a relationship with ––“
“All lies!” she said loudly, eyes wide, cooling coffee sloshing out of her cup and onto her thigh but she didn’t seem to notice. “Wait,” she said when she saw his stricken face, “who were you going to say?”
“Miss Lewis,” he said weakly.
Jane frowned for a moment. “Miss… oh! Darcy. Yeah, well, I wouldn’t call it a relationship but it was cold and we were a little drunk and curious, so yeah,” she shrugged, “no big deal,” and then, “Is it?”
“No, it’s not. I just… wait. Who did you think I was going to say before?”
“Oh, Tony Stark,” Jane said with a dismissive wave of her hand and Steve felt his eyes widen. “What?”
“It’s just, you’d, well, you’d deny being with Tony but not with Darcy?”
Jane pulled a face. “Yeah well, with Darcy it was just a bit of experimentation and it was nice and what not, but Tony Stark is just a notch on a bedpost, you know?”
Steve didn’t, but he nodded anyway.
“Is there something the matter?” she asked him quietly, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You probably have better friends to talk to, but sometimes it’s easier sharing with someone you don’t know.” She paused, and her eyes darkened. “And I won’t go blabbing like some people,” she added and for a moment Steve wanted to laugh, feeling sorry for Thor. But maybe this was good, if he could just say it often enough, it might become easier.
“In my days,” he began, not looking at her, (and god, it still felt odd to say that, as if his days were really so long gone, and they weren’t, they really weren’t). “In my days it was unacceptable to love someone of your own gender. It was illegal. It was wrong and unnatural. I grew up believing that.” He pressed his mouth shut, not knowing how to continue, but apparently he didn’t need to.
“Ah,” Jane said and then nothing while she poured herself some fresh coffee. “You know Steve? You come to terms with whatever you’re feeling in your own time. There is so much you need to catch up on. Computers, internet, phones, politics, god, everything. So take your time learning all that, and learning who you are now, in this day and age. It’s all well and good that the world shouts out how fine it is to be yourself, it’s a whole other kettle of fish to believe it. Kids growing up now have trouble with it, so don’t you go feeling bad because you can’t just flick a switch and be hunky-dory with stripping off and flaunting your very shapely butt in a rainbow thong at the gay pride parade.”
“Okay,” Steve said, feeling a little lost toward the end there, but also, strangely, feeling better. “Okay,” he said again and smiled. Jane smiled back at him and waved as he stepped out of the kitchen.
To bump into Tony.
“I wasn’t dropping any eaves,” Tony said, hands in the air as if Steve was pointing a gun at him instead of a cup of coffee. “There were voices, people, talking, in the conversationally manner, so I didn’t want to interrupt but I wasn’t listening, I swear.”
“It’s all right,” Steve said, bemused. And it was, it must’ve shown on his face because Tony visibly relaxed.
“Is that coffee?”
“Yes,” Steve sighed and held out his mug.
Chapter 4: Push me (and then you touch me)
Thursday movie night (including Shawarma, which Steve wasn’t too fond of. Call him old fashioned but he liked to have at least a vague idea of what he was eating), seemed to have migrated from New York to Malibu, and halfway through The Help, Steve grabbed the empty bowl to make more popcorn, not at all an excuse to see what was keeping Tony.
Steve found him in the kitchen gently patting Thor’s bicep, who was leaning in the doorway.
“No worries, big man,” Tony was saying, “Jane’ll be back soon enough.”
“I know,” Thor said, “I just miss her.”
Natasha gave Steve an odd look when he returned without the popcorn but said nothing. He sat down again, trying to give his attention to the television, but he couldn’t. Something kept pulling at the edge of his mind, but before he could think on it further, Tony waltzed into the room and plonked himself down between Steve and Clint.
“There’s another movie I want to watch,” he said, grabbing the remote. Natasha looked like she was about to protest, but then he said, “It’s called Get Real. It’s a bit old,” and here he looked at Steve, “for us. For you it’s still the height of cinematic innovation, but it’s very good.” Natasha looked at Tony and then at Steve, and said nothing as he pressed a few buttons and a new film began to play.
“Excuse me,” Steve said halfway through, his palms sweaty and throat dry, and he thought he heard Tony call, Steve, but his ears were ringing.
“JARVIS,” he said the next morning, sunlight softly pouring through his curtains.
Good morning, Mr Rogers, what can I do for you?
“Do you remember that –– that helpline I called the other day?”
The GLBTQ support line, yes sir.
“Do you have their number stored?”
I do, sir.
“Could you call them for me please?”
Of course, Mr Rogers.
Bruce was alone at the breakfast bar when Steve walked in some time later, reading what looked like a gossip magazine.
“Hi,” Steve said, pouring himself some coffee and grabbing a bowl of cereal.
“Oh, morning Steve. Everything all right? You kinda disappeared last night. Tony was worried.”
“Um. I’m fine, Bruce. Thanks. I,” he sat down and stirred his breakfast so he would have something to look at when he said, “Can I ask you something personal?”
Bruce looked up and gave Steve a small, bemused smile. “Shoot,” he said, turning in his seat a little.
“Are you, um, are you and Tony…?” he let the question trail off, hoping Bruce would get the idea. But Bruce just frowned at him questioningly and Steve steeled himself to spell it out when Bruce’s eyebrows lifted.
“Oh no,” he said, “no, it’s just the ladies for me.” He smiled and looked over Steve’s shoulder. “Although I sometimes think that’s a right shame with all the fine examples of manhood walking around here.”
Before Steve could say anything, Thor said, “BRETHREN!”
“I don’t know about that, Thor,” Bruce said, but his eyes were twinkling, “Since Loki is your brother too…”
“Adopted,” Thor sulked as he pulled a bag of Twix from the cupboard. He poured a cup of coffee, looked at Bruce, grabbed a bag of Snickers too and left.
“I think you hurt his feelings,” Steve said but Bruce laughed.
“He has plenty of sugar, he’ll be his happy self soon enough. But I’d better go tell him I didn’t mean it.”
“Thanks,” Steve said quietly, as Bruce rose to his feet.
“For what you said just before Thor came in. I know you are trying to make me feel better.”
Bruce looked at him, perhaps tracking back through their conversation and then his face cleared. “Steve,” he said, putting a hand on his lower back, “have you ever considered maybe no one is trying to make you feel better, but that you might be realizing there is nothing to feel bad about?”
Steve found Tony in his lab two hours later, allowed himself an appreciative moment of ogling Tony’s cars, his conversation with the lady from the support group running through his mind.
“Steve,” she’d said, when their conversation had run to an end, “don’t you think that everyone deserves to be loved, whether they’re a man or a woman? Maybe there’s someone out there who really needs you, and you’ll just have to ask yourself whether or not you’ll deny them based on their gender. I don’t think you will.”
He’d thanked her, and had sunk back into his pillows. For some reason his mind drifted to Tony comforting Thor.
Tony had reached out to Steve that first time in the Helicarrier and Steve had brushed him off. Tony touching Bruce’s back, Tony patting Thor’s arm. Tony punching Clint’s shoulder, Tony not touching Natasha at all, but buying her that special brand of coffee she liked.
Tony had reached out for Steve again, when he’d felt off that day he’d seen the article of Tony kissing that guy. And Steve had brushed him off, again. Tony was just tactile; his way of showing he cared because he didn’t know how to say it. God. Steve was an idiot.
“Hey,” he said, blinking and pulling his mind back to the present. Tony jumped, swiveled around on his chair.
“Steve,” he called, waving him over, “what brings you here? No, wait.” He held up a hand when Steve was about to speak. “I want to say I’m sorry. That movie last night, it was too much, wasn’t it? I was just trying to show you, well. You know. Anyway, I was out of line.”
“No,” Steve said, but he was frowning, “that’s okay, I–– hold on… You’re the one leaving those pamphlets around, aren’t you? The website that popped up in my room? They’re not coincidences?”
“Ah. Um.” Tony looked sheepish, ran a hand over the back of his neck, before he stood, wiping his hands clean on a rag. “No. I mean, yes. That was me. I,” he sighed, closed his eyes, and softly said, “I just wanted you to know you’re not alone. People struggle with this every day, and I thought if you had someone to talk to… well.” He shook his head.
“No,” Steve said, taking a step closer and Tony’s eyes widened a little when he opened them again. “That’s all right. But,” he went on, his hand only trembling slightly when he put it on Tony’s shoulder, “I had someone here to talk to all along, didn’t I?”
“Steve,” Tony said, voice a little hoarse. For a brief moment their eyes locked, and then the alarms went off.
“JARVIS?” Tony said to the ceiling.
There is an attack on Washington DC, Mr Stark. Director Fury is calling for assembly.
“Great timing,” Tony muttered when he looked back at Steve.
Steve dropped his hand with a sense of resigned loss. “Suit up?” he said.
“Suit up,” Tony agreed with a wry smile.
“Iron Man,” Steve yelled, “Tony!”
The red and gold blur kept falling to the ground, the city around them too still in the aftermath of the fight, but Steve’s ears were ringing. “Thor,” he yelled, frantically looking left and right.
“I see him,” Thor said in Steve’s communicator and next, a streak of red shot through the air. Thor wrapped his arms around Tony and brought him to the ground. Steve ran.
“Tony,” he panted, skidding to a stop on his knees. Thor had already ripped off his faceplate, but the light in Iron Man’s chest was dark. “Tony,” he repeated, palming the chest plate. The ground shook with the Hulk’s heavy footsteps and Natasha and Clint appeared in the edge of his vision. Steve pressed his cheek against Tony’s mouth and felt nothing stir. He took a deep breath and pressed his lips against Tony’s but before he could blow, Tony gasped and sucked the oxygen straight from Steve’s lungs. Steve sat back on his heels, heart hammering like mad against his ribs.
“Wha––“ Tony said, eyes fluttering open, “–– what happened? Where am I? What’s going on?”
“We won,” Steve said, a smile tugging at his mouth, the relief he felt too much to contain.
“Oh. Oh that’s good,” Tony said, flailing his arms a little. “Great job everyone, well done. Why, ugh,” he rolled from side to side a bit, “why do I always end up like flipped turtle at these things? Someone help me up, will you?” He looked up at the half circle gazing down on him and said again, “What? What’s wrong. Did someone kiss me?” he asked, with a goofy grin, that promptly fell off his face when Hulk said,
“Hulk kissed me?” Tony squeaked and Steve would’ve found this endlessly funny if he hadn’t just witnessed Tony almost die. Again.
“No,” Steve said, looking down at his hands, “not Hulk.”
“Oh,” Tony said, eyes widening and when Steve looked up he saw the bridge of his nose was tinged pink. “Oh,” he said again and smiled.
“Holiday’s over, boys and girls,” came Fury’s voice through their earpieces and Tony groaned, thudding his head against the pavement.
“Who patched you through?” he said.
I did, sir.
“We’ll have words JARVIS, later. Words.”
“As I was saying,” Fury cut in while Thor hauled Tony to his feet, “holiday’s over. I hope you all charged your batteries, rubbed each other’s backs and caught up on your Twilight reading because I want all your asses back in New York tonight.”
“What’s Twilight?” Steve asked quietly.
“You don’t want to know,” Natasha said darkly, glaring at Clint, who suddenly found the toes of his boots very interesting.
“And Stark,” Fury said, “I better not find you’ve been debauching a national––“
“La-la-la,” Tony said loudly, “people listening Fury, not that I have a clue what you’re talking about.”
“You better not,” Fury said while Steve asked Bruce, who was clutching his head with one hand, his torn pants with the other,
“Who’s been debauched?”
“Eh, I think he meant you,” Bruce said, a little ruefully.
“But I haven’t ––“ Steve looked over at Tony, who accidentally caught his eye, and they both quickly turned away. Steve cleared his throat. “Well. I better, uh, go see if they need help clearing up.”
Chapter 5: Come as you are.
Tony slammed the door so hard, the glass shattered with a loud crash, sending Steve running down the stairs before he was aware of what he was doing.
“Tony?” he said, skidding to a halt before he ran barefoot into the shards. He looked around, body ready for attack, mind a terrified reel of possibilities. Tony sat on the sofa, hand hanging off the armrest, blood slowly dripping to the carpet from a shallow cut, and his first thought was thank god. ‘Tony?” Steve said again, carefully making his way over, “are you all right?”
Tony didn’t look up, his eyes were dark and unreadable, and he seemed utterly still and composed. Steve crouched down in front of him, pulling a handkerchief out his pocket so he could take Tony’s hand in his and press it against the wound. “Talk to me,” Steve said quietly. He didn’t think Tony would, he thought he’d be sent away, that Tony would say something mean and hurtful to make him leave and Steve braced himself. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Maybe that showed, because Tony suddenly looked at him and said, “Pepper’s getting married.”
“What?” Steve breathed before he could stop himself. “But the two of you ––“
“I know, Steve. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Of course,” Steve said, looking down at Tony’s hand and taking the hanky away when he saw the cut had stopped bleeding. “We should put a bandage on this.”
“Can I–– Is there something else I can do for you?” asked Steve gently. One emotion after another spilled over Tony’s face, too fast for Steve to decipher, ending with a soft smile.
“I was thinking, it’s kinda unfair that you got to kiss me while I was unconscious.”
“I wasn’t––“ Steve began, flushing furiously and Tony chuckled, low and hoarse.
“So it’s only fair if I could experience it again now that I’m awake.”
“Oh,” Steve said and he swallowed. He must’ve hesitated too long because Tony looked away.
“We don’t have to of course, I was just ––“
Steve leaned in and pressed his mouth to Tony’s.
It was very different from when Steve’s only concern was to blow life back into Tony’s lungs. The first thing he noticed, was the scrape of his goatee, which wasn’t soft at all, but which was a sweet, sweet contrast to his pliable lips. Tony made a small sound and Steve wondered if his eyes were open, but was too shy to look, kept his own firmly shut. He startled a little when he felt Tony’s hand cup his jaw, thumb softly trailing beneath his cheekbone once before his hand moved to the back of Steve’s neck and pulled him in closer. Tony tilted his head to fit their mouths together better, pulled back a little so he could press a kiss to Steve’s lips once, twice, drawing him in. Steve fell gently to his knees between Tony’s thighs and tentatively put a hand on Tony’s leg.
The hot press of wet against the seam of Steve’s mouth came as such a surprise, he gasped, opening his mouth and Tony pressed his tongue in further, against Steve’s own, and this time it was Steve who made a strangled noise. He pressed back, felt clumsy and god, what was he doing?
Tony must have felt his shoulders tense because he eased back a little, enough to say, “Hey, this is good. It feels great, but we can stop, anytime.” He pressed his mouth the Steve’s cheekbone, a gesture so gentle and affectionate, it caught Steve’s breath. He didn’t say anything, didn’t think he could if he wanted to. Instead he slid his hand up Tony’s thigh, to his lower back, gathering the fabric of Tony’s t-shirt –– soft and worn and well-loved –– in his fist and urged him closer. Tony slowly kissed him again, and Steve just let him lead, a dance of warmth and comfort and joy.
He felt breathless and dizzy when he sank back on his heels and even Tony looked a little flushed, his hair standing on end from where Steve had tugged it. Steve knew he had a silly grin on his face, but it faded when he saw Tony’s expression change from soft and relaxed to guarded. Steve frowned, wanted to ask, “What’s wrong?” but Tony rose to his feet and patted him on the shoulder.
“Thank you,” he said, “that made me feel better,” and walked away.
Steve felt like he’d been doused with a bucket of cold water.
Back in his room, the fading sunlight catching the flecks of dust as they drifted around like algae in water, Steve touched his lips with his fingers. To Tony this was just a distraction from the shock he’d gotten earlier. Steve wanted to feel angry, or used, but he couldn’t. If this was what Tony needed, Steve would give it.
Someone stole a vial of an extremely contagious disease and Steve was the only one allowed to go after it, because he was the only more or less guaranteed to be immune. Tony kicked up a shit storm, but Steve just quietly left with Agent Hill while Tony raged at Fury, picking up his suit and shield on the way. He tracked the vial down for three days straight, without rest, and ended up having to kill the guy as he was about to release it in one of New York’s water reservoirs. The man was a delusional scientist who thought the solution to the world’s overpopulation was simply to take out half of its people and Steve felt more than bone-weary when he returned home.
That was why he didn’t have the presence of mind –– and lets be honest; the will –– to ask Tony, what is this? What are we doing? when he found Tony on his couch, watching cartoons. A strange warmth unfurled in his chest at the sight. Tony rose to his feet as soon as Steve walked in and, after taking his shield away from him, pulling him in for a long, deep kiss.
Last time Steve was too preoccupied with new and oh god and what am I supposed to do, but this time he noticed how Tony’s breath hitched if Steve gently nipped at his bottom lip, how he tasted slightly of cinnamon and coffee, how his clothes felt soft and warm, but the muscle underneath was surprisingly hard and compact. He noticed how Tony searched for clues, how he’d wait for Steve to lean in before pressing his tongue between Steve’s lips, how he didn’t make the kiss more urgent until Steve’s fingers tightened on his bicep. How he pulled away at the slightest tensing of Steve’s shoulders.
“I’m so tired,” Steve said, forehead pressed to Tony’s temple, because he didn’t know how to say, I need you, and I want this.
“I got you,” Tony said, as if he heard anyway, and pulled Steve toward the sofa.
Tony lay down and pulled Steve on top of him. “I’ll crush you,” Steve said, bracing one hand against the back of the couch, the other by Tony’s shoulder.
“You won’t,” Tony said, “and I’ll like it. To feel the weight of you. C’mere.”
Steve went, carefully settled on top of Tony, trying to keep as much of the weight off him as he could regardless, but Tony wasn’t having it. He kept running his hands over Steve’s back, pressing down, trailing kisses over Steve’s jaw and his neck, and when he found Steve went boneless when he bit down on the muscle over his shoulder, Tony worked Steve’s suit open as far as he could, and sucked a bruise into the tender flesh.
They kissed until they were breathless, until Steve’s mouth felt swollen and throbbing. Until the skin around it felt raw. They kissed until they had to break apart every few seconds because they couldn’t hold back the little gasps and moans. They kissed until Tony’s hands were restless and feverish as they gripped and tugged at Steve’s suit. They kissed until Steve could feel Tony’s erection pressing against his thigh, and his own painfully trapped in his pants. He thought of doing something about it, about trailing his hands further down over Tony’s chest, and down, to undo his belt buckle, to slip his hand inside and it made his heart race.
He didn’t remember falling asleep, didn’t know how that moment happened, how it caught him unawares, how Tony was whispering in his ear one second, only to wake up alone the next. Dawn poured through the large glass wall and Steve thought if he would draw how he felt in that moment, it would be blue.
He sat up and allowed himself a few seconds with his head in his hands before heading off to shower. Only a few seconds, because he knew what this was, that this was something he did for Tony and he should let it be no more than that, no matter how much he wanted it all.
“Why so glum baby?” Clint asked, and then ducked out of the way before Natasha could poke him in the ribs.
“You are such a dick, Barton,” she said, returning her spoon into her yoghurt.
“Careful, there’s ladies present,” Clint replied, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder in Steve’s direction.
“She’s got a point,” Steve said wryly and four pairs of eyes turned to him.
“Now I’m sure something’s wrong,” Jane said, a small hand curled around a mug of coffee and Steve tried not to wince as she crunched on peanut brittle for breakfast. “Is this about your gay freak-out? Or Tony? Or both?”
“Jane,” Steve whined, dropping his head in his hands.
“What? It’s not like we don’t all know. And we’re here for you. We want to help. Come on, spill.”
“I don’t really feel comfortable––“
“He just needs to suck his ––“ Clint began.
“Barton,” Jane and Natasha yelled as one, while Thor asked, “Suck what?” He thumped Steve on the back, who was busy coughing up the orange juice he’d choked on. Every hit brought his face closer to the table, so it was just easier to put it down on the wooden surface.
“Dear god,” he managed, his eyes stinging. “What have I done to deserve this.” He felt his hair sticking up and tried to flatten it as he lifted his head and said, “I’ll just ––“ but Clint came up and pushed him back into his seat. “What?” Steve said, as Clint studied him with, quite frankly, worrying intensity. Then, Clint’s hands flew through Steve’s hair, making an even bigger mess of it. “What are you doing?” Steve asked, trying to reach for his hair again, but everyone apart from Thor, yelled,
Steve looked around, only to see Jane and Natasha staring at him, and felt nothing short of terror when they gleefully pronounced, “Shopping.”
“I take it back,” Steve said four hours later. “When I said waking up to chase giant rats in the sewers was the worst thing in the world, I clearly lacked this sort of experience. This is much worse.”
“Stop complaining,” Jane said as she shoved him in yet another changing room, his arms stuffed with shirts and sweaters and jeans.
“But I don’t need––“ he began, and then the door was pushed shut in his face. At least he’d managed to convince them to stop walking into his cubicle whether he was dressed or not. It’d only taken three hours and forty-five minutes. Steve didn’t think he could handle Janes hands on his butt one more time.
He pulled off his button-up and slacks for the umpteenth time that day, and stood contemplating the pile of clothes for a minute. There was no way he was every going to wear a t-shirt with a skull on it, bad memories, so he’d just tell them it was too small. The jeans looked all right, so he pulled those on first. They fit snugly but comfortably and Steve didn’t want to spend too much time on how Jane had managed to pick out his exact size every time. There was a nice short sleeved burgundy polo shirt Natasha had chosen, which he liked. It had a band of plaid on the inside of the collar and the rim of the sleeves, which spanned his biceps nicely when he put it on.
“Oh yes,” Jane said, when he stepped out of the changing room. Every single employee of the store seemed to be standing there, ogling him and Steve felt himself flush.
“This all right?” he asked, ducking his head.
“You look gorgeous, Steve,” Natasha said and everyone else made squeaky sounds of agreement. Steve was about to duck back into the cubicle, but a thin man with a name badge reading Dave, beat him to it.
“Oh no you don’t,” he said, barring the entrance, arms dramatically propped against the doorframe, which was quite comical because he was so thin Steve could’ve lifted him up with two fingers, but Dave was unfazed. “I saw what you were wearing when you walked in and that was clearly a crime against humanity. You’re keeping those one and I am burning your old clothes.”
Steve lifted an eyebrow.
“Or maybe not burn. Just, um, put them in a bag.”
“He’s right Steve, come on,” Jane said, tugging at his arm.
“So are we done shopping now?” he asked, wearily eyeing the dozen bags at Natasha’s feet.
“Oh yes,” Natasha said. “We’re done shopping.” Steve wanted to sigh in relief, but the grin on her face bode nothing good.
“Hairdresser’s next,” Jane said and laughed at Steve’s expression.
It was still too many hours later that they arrived back at the tower, and Steve felt a little traumatized. He had no idea what the hairdresser did to his hair, and why it took so long, only to make it look like he’d just fallen out of bed (and okay maybe the hair stuff did smell kind of nice, but still). There had been a moment of near panic (you want to do what to my eyebrows?) and some very wary armrest gripping throughout the rest of it, so when they got home, Steve’d liked nothing better than to fall into bed and sleep for a week.
“We’re having a nice dinner tonight,” Natasha stated when they all walked into the kitchen, Steve burdened with bags of clothes and shoes. “Bruce and Clint are cooking, and everyone’s going to dress up.”
“Okay,” Bruce said easily, and even Clint looked nearly as excited as he did when he was pointing an arrow at Loki.
“Can I wash this stuff out of my hair?” Steve whispered to Jane, who looked up at him, thunderous.
“Don’t you dare,” she said, pointing at the doorway. “Go change into your nice new suit.”
Steve glanced at Thor, who was leaning against the counter and looked up from glaring at his Stark phone. He scrunched his face and lifted a shoulder in the universal body language of what can you do? Steve sighed, but if he’d learnt one thing in the twenty-first century, it was to pick his fights.
Steve very carefully changed, making sure his hair didn’t get flattened, because he could deal with a lot of things, but he doubted a disappointed Jane was one of them.
The suit was nice. A charcoal grey pinstripe with a lavender shirt. He decided to forgo the tie and jacket, but put on the waistcoat. He stood in front of his bedroom door for five minutes, fighting the urge to take it all off again and slipping into his comfortable shirt and slacks, but Natasha and Jane had spent the entire afternoon getting him a more modern wardrobe, as Natasha called it, (you dress like my friend Eric, and he’s at least twice your age. If you don’t count the, well, sleeping,) so, “Suck it up,” Steve said to himself, and opened the door.
He was placing napkins on all the plates in the dining room when he saw Natasha roll her eyes. Steve turned to look for the cause and saw Tony stand in the doorway, in an grease stained t-shirt, a streak of oil on his right cheekbone.
“JARVIS,” he said, his voice a little high pitched, “you could’ve told me I needed to get dressed up.”
I did sir, twice while you were dismantling the Bugatti engine and three times while you were putting it back together again.
“Well, you should know when I’m not listening, it’s what I pay you for.”
You don’t pay me at all, sir.
“Whatever, I made you. I can ––“ Tony caught sight of Steve then, and his eyes practically bulged out of his head. He made a noise that sounded a bit like, “Gnurgle,” and for some reason, Steve felt everyone had gone suspiciously quiet. “Um,” Tony said, when the silence stretched and thickened, “I can, uh, go change?” He looked ready to flee, half turned toward the door, which is when Jane grabbed him by the elbow and said,
“Oh no you won’t. Dinner’ll be cold by the time you’re back. Go wash your hands.”
Steve heard Tony mutter something like, “Yes, mum,” and found he couldn’t blame him, really. “At least I’m wearing Armani?” Tony tried when he walked past Natasha, but she just narrowed her eyes at him.
“It’s ripped, Stark, in three places.”
“Right,” Tony said, his eyes darting back to Steve, as if he had no control over them. “I’ll just, um ––“ and he ran.
It didn’t come as a surprise to Steve at all, that everyone sat down in a hurry, leaving a seat free beside him.
“You look fine to me,” Steve said, when Tony sat down, his hands and face now clean. Tony gave him such a soft and hesitant smile, Steve’s heart skipped a beat. Tony’s thigh nudged his, accidentally probably, but Steve suddenly felt a little reckless, a little high on anticipation, so he stuck his hand under the table and squeezed Tony’s knee, once.
He didn’t imagine the faint flush on Tony’s cheeks as he looked down at his empty plate.
“Wine?” Bruce asked beside him, eyes twinkling, and the moment was gone.
Fury demanded they came in for practice and tactical meetings on a weekly basis, and in between those there were super villains popping up like mushrooms from dark, dank earth. There were too many near-death experiences for everyone, Fury yelling over the comms that there were reasons they didn’t allow fraternizing as Clint took a bullet for Natasha, and when Tony told Fury to, “Shut up or shove off,” Steve could only agree. They were stretched too thin, Natasha a ghost as she drifted from the tower to the SHIELD hospital where Clint slowly but surely recovered. Bruce hulked out twice by accident, once breaking their communal living room and once breaking Harlem. Again.
More and more Tony’d retreat into his workshop, and more and more Steve’d find himself trapped against a wall, with Tony’s mouth on his, hot and feverish and fraught, words like, please and promise and be careful things they’d mutually forget about afterwards. Sometimes Steve would seek Tony out, would appear in his garage where he was tinkering with his cars, and wait until Tony noticed him, his heart pounding with something he couldn’t identify beyond want and need.
They had an impromptu party when Clint returned, still limping but on his way too all better, and Steve stayed for an hour or two, but when Thor brought out the mead, he slunk away to his own floor and turned on the television. It only took ten minutes before,
Mr Rogers, Mr Stark wonders if he may enter?
“Of course,” Steve said, sitting up and running his hands over the couch to turn off the TV but it was too late.
“Scrubs?” Tony said, leaning against the door, feet crossed at the ankle. “Really?”
“It makes me laugh,” Steve said softly and for a moment they both stared at each other in silence, unsure of how to proceed. It’d never been this deliberate, not really, but there was no mistaking the intent. The air was thick with it, and Steve’s heartbeat was already picking up. He imagined even the arc reactor flared a little more brightly through Tony’s shirt. And then Steve lifted his arms. It only took three strides before Tony was in them, straddling Steve’s lap, hands in Steve’s hair, tugging him back so he could take Steve’s mouth.
“Steve,” Tony was saying against Steve’s mouth, against his jaw, against his neck, his hands roaming, hips hitching in little jerks like he wanted to stop but couldn’t. “Steve.”
Steve murmured, “Tony, I want––“ but didn’t know how to go on, how to say it, how to translate that slow burning in the pit of his stomach that was rapidly becoming a coiled tight heat.
“Anything Steve, anything,” Tony whispered, taking Steve’s earlobe between his teeth and sucking gently. Steve moaned, his hands finding Tony’s hips without any higher brain function on his part and grinding them together. “Oh fuck, ohfuckohfuck, tell me what you want Steve.”
Steve didn’t know what to say, part of him still too embarrassed, too shy but lust was clouding his brain, overcoming his inhibitions and he took Tony’s hand, pressed it against the bulge in his jeans.
“Yes,” Tony hissed, deftly flicking open the button with his thumb and pulling down the zip. He wriggled them a little, Steve wasn’t quite sure how, but his jeans slid down his hips, enough for Tony to take his cock in hand and squeeze.
“Oh god,” Steve moaned, his head falling back. He wanted to look but couldn’t open his eyes. Tony was talking, one hand slowly working Steve up and down, the other braced against Steve’s chest and it took a few long seconds before Steve could tune in.
“Do you have any idea, jesus Steve, you’ve been driving me crazy. With your bed head hair and the tight jeans and the t-shirts, my god where did you find those, they should be illegal for fuck sake, I think I walked into a door twice just from daydreaming about your arms pinning me down, and ––“
“Do you ever shut up?” Steve asked him without any real heat, not knowing how his mouth could still form words, while all his brain did was fire off things like, good and hot and more. Tony’s hand was calloused, just the right side of too rough, his fingers tightening and loosening on their up and downward path.
“There are one or two occasions where my mouth is too preoccupied for talking, but I don’t think you’re ready for either,” Tony said, and Steve could hear him grin, so he had no choice really, he had to look. It was like Tony’d been waiting for it, because as soon as their eyes locked, Tony’s dark and huge, Tony did something with his thumb, sweeping it through slick and Steve moaned loudly, arching into Tony’s hand.
“If I’d known you’d be this vocal, I’d have done this ages ago,” Tony said, sounding wrecked.
“I’ve been waiting,” Steve sighed, breaths coming harsher and harsher by the second, his hands curling and stretching in the fabric of Tony’s jeans, “for you to do this.”
“You’ve been waiting,” Tony choked out, and then his free hand was fisting Steve’s hair, tugging him forward into a slick kiss. His other hand sped up, strokes becoming faster and harder and less coordinated and perfect. Steve couldn’t hold on any longer, the thought of Tony wanting to do this too, of him thinking about it, was too much. He veered up, breaking the kiss but pulling Tony close to his chest, his eyes screwed shut and mouth open, cheek pressed against Tony’s, while he pulsed and pulsed all over Tony’s fingers.
“Oh my sweet jesus,” he said, as he slumped boneless into Tony’s arms.
“Blasphemy, Rogers,” Tony whispered, but Steve heard the tremor in his voice.
“Can I?” Steve asked, pressing his hand against the bulge in Tony’s pants.
“Oh god please yes,” Tony said, completely unashamed and Steve laughed softly.
Afterwards they lay side by side on the couch, Steve’s mind buzzing in overload, and Tony asked, “Are you having a breakdown? Because I’d like to know sooner rather than later if you’re going to freak out. So I can remove myself from the scene because I will undoubtedly make it worse. I always make things worse, but I’m sure you know that already.”
“I’m not having a breakdown,” Steve told him, and it was mostly true so Steve kissed Tony’s jaw, and then his eyelids, which was probably ridiculously sentimental, but in that moment, he didn’t care. “Come to bed with me,” Steve whispered. “Just, to sleep, I mean. It’s late.”
“Uh,” Tony said, his eyes widening in what looked like panic, “that’s probably not, um, the best idea, I have things. Work. To do. Yes.” He got off the couch and looked down at Steve. A flicker of indecision brightened his eyes but then it was gone. He bent down and pressed a kiss to Steve’s mouth and left.
Right, Steve thought, I’ll have that breakdown now, then.
If anyone's wondering what Steve more or less looked like in that suit, this is it *g*.
Chapter 7: Take me away
It would be ridiculous to have any illusions that not everyone knew exactly what was going on. They didn’t act any different in front of the others. (Not counting the looks, sometimes enough to end up in an empty office at SHIELD, or the changing rooms of the gym, or even the back of the limo, once, on their way home from a charity event, breathing harsh and stuttered in each other’s mouths.)
Steve’s mind swung like a constant pendulum from mortification to earth shattering lust, with a confused ache that deepened every time Tony left in the middle of the night. He’d always be back the next day, or the day after that, hissing things like, “Fuck, you make me feel like a teenager,” into the dip between Steve’s clavicles.
Is this what teenagers feel like, Steve wanted to ask, but he couldn’t, his brain short-circuiting when Tony’s hand cupped his balls.
So everyone knew, more or less, and while Steve was often looked at with a pitying sort of fondness, he eventually told Natasha and Clint in no uncertain terms what exactly he’d do to them if they didn’t stop sending Tony those filthy looks. “This is none of your business, I know exactly what I’m doing,” he’d said, and then Bruce stepped in behind him and asked, quiet and kind, “Do you, though?”
Steve resolved to talk to Tony, but the words what does this mean never made it from the jackknife jumble of his thoughts, they were stuck between, this is wrong, so wrong, and I’ll do anything, anything you need me to.
“Hey,” Tony said, raspy and hoarse from kissing for what felt like hours. It had been a little light out, still, when they’d fallen on top of Steve’s bed, but now night had fully fallen.
“Hey yourself,” Steve said, too fond, but he couldn’t help himself. Not with Tony languid and sleepy looking half draped over his chest. Steve felt aroused, but it was a slow burn, not the frantic urge he’d felt when Tony tugged him against a wall, or when they’d barely made it away from the other Avengers before falling on each other. Steve carded his fingers through Tony’s hair and cupped his cheek, Tony leaning into the touch.
“I wanna try something,” Tony said, “something different. But I don’t know if you’ll want it, if it’s too soon. For you. I mean. Not for me obviously, since I, well, you know. Um.”
“Tony,” Steve said, taking pity, and Tony pulled a face before looking at him. “I trust you.”
Tony’s eyes widened a little. “I –– God, I’m not even gonna try and tell you what a bad idea that is, I always ––“ Steve lifted his head and pressed a kiss to Tony’s mouth to shut him up but Tony just continued talking when he pulled away, “–– screw up sooner or later and ––“ Another kiss, longer, deeper, Steve moving his hand to Tony’s neck so he could keep him where he wanted him. Steve loved kissing Tony, could do it for hours, had, in fact, done it for hours. Would like to keep doing it, forever possibly. But that’s a thought he pushed away, sure it would be unwelcome to Tony if he knew, so instead he dropped his head again, and laughed when Tony just kept on talking.
“Tony,” Steve interrupted, sounding a little breathless already, “I thought you wanted to do something.”
“Oh. Yes. I –– you’re sure?” Steve nodded. “You’ll tell me if you don’t like it, won’t you? Steve?”
“Yeah,” Steve sighed, “yeah Tony, I will.” Tony was slowly unbuttoning his shirt, pressing kisses to the skin he was exposing little by little. Steve fought the urge to squirm, biting his lip to keep the noise in. He knew Tony liked it when he was vocal, but he was still too self-conscious about it. At least until he was too far gone to care. He felt a hot breath through his jeans and bit his lip harder, and then Tony was unbuttoning him and Steve lifted his hips to make it easier to get his pants off.
“Tony,” Steve said, small and desperate when he caught on that Tony wasn’t going to make his way back up again.
“That’s right,” Tony said, and then he pressed his mouth to the base of Steve’s cock and there was no holding back the noise anymore. Tony licked and kissed every inch of him, the heat almost unbearable. Steve felt embarrassed, his shoulders tense and hands fisted into the sheets but he couldn’t tell Tony to stop, he just couldn’t.
“All right?” Tony asked him, barely lifting his head so Steve could feel the cool breath against him.
“God, I –– Tony that, that feels amazing,” Steve said, eyes screwed shut.
“And I haven’t even started yet,” Tony said, sounding just a little smug, and Steve wanted to say something but then Tony took Steve’s cock in his mouth and all higher brain functions left the building. Steve’s hips bucked of their own volition and Tony stilled them with his hands. When he sucked, hard, on the way up, Steve let out a moan even the fist stuffed in his mouth couldn’t stop.
“I’m not going to last, Tony, please,” Steve said, tugging at Tony’s hair.
“That’s fine, that’s great, come on Steve,” Tony said, pulling away, and then, “look at me.”
Steve did, opened his eyes and looked down. Tony held eye contact and Steve could feel the telltale build as his thighs began to tremble, the muscles contracting so hard, he thought they’d cramp, but then Tony put a hand around the base and began to pump hard and fast, his mouth following and Steve came with a shout, raising up off the bed, clutching Tony’s head as his vision went white.
“Did I break you?” Tony asked, arranging himself on the pillows beside Steve, “because you just keep saying oh my god. You know Fury will kill me if I have to report I broke Captain America by blow job.”
“Tony,” Steve said, aiming for exasperated but hitting breathless instead. He picked a pillow from beneath his head and threw it weakly. “You’re incorrigible.”
“I know,” Tony said, catching the pillow and tucking it under his head. “Don’t tell me that’s news to you.”
“It’s not,” Steve said, rolling onto his side and smiling at Tony, “and that was really amazing. I can’t believe you just did that, but it was great, and I want to do that to you, sometime. Just not ––“
“Hey no,” Tony said, propping himself up on his elbow, “you don’t have to, that’s not why ––“
“I know that, Tony.” Steve rolled his eyes. “But I still want to. I meant just not now since I doubt my legs will be able to hold my weight.” He hesitated for barely a second and then leaned in. “So maybe you did break me, a little.” Tony’s eyes widened comically and then Steve kissed him.
“Can I…” Steve whispered, his mouth just below Tony’s ear, hand trailing meaningfully down.
“Uh,” Tony said, looking a little embarrassed. He dropped his head to Steve’s shoulder. “I kind of, um, already did.”
“What?” Steve asked, lifting Tony’s chin with one finger so he could look at him. “Just… now? From ––“
“From watching you, yeah. It … you looked stupidly hot and you were enjoying it so much and then you just gripped my head and held me there and well. Apparently I am reverting to my teenaged state.”
Steve laughed softly, said, “Come here,” and kissed Tony again. “Will you stay?” he asked a few minutes later, his lips still against Tony’s.
“Steve,” Tony said, and he sounded wrecked, “I really shouldn’t.”
“Tony,” Steve began but Tony shook his head.
“You said earlier you trust me. Believe me then, when I say this isn’t about you. Or us. Not really. It’s just. I can’t.”
“Okay,” Steve said, trying not to let his disappointment show. He doubted he succeeded though because Tony looked miserable.
“I’m sorry,” Tony said.
“No, don’t be. I had a great night with you, I don’t want this to ruin it. Just stay a while longer, we don’t have to sleep.”
“Okay,” Tony whispered and settled back into Steve’s arms.
Chapter 8: Shook me all night long.
They were all hanging out in Tony’s living room (because he had the biggest TV) for a few hours before Tony had to leave on a business trip to Hong Kong. Clint was throwing popcorn with frightening precision in Thor’s open mouth, who was snoring on the other couch, while everyone else watched the first Harry Potter movie. (It was allowed now, Steve had read the book.)
Tony would only be gone a week but they’d still stayed up far too late, and when Steve’s arms had trembled under his weight while Tony worked both of them together with one hand, something must have shown because Tony’d pulled him in, tucked his head in the dip of his shoulder and murmured comfort Steve heard but couldn’t remember. He hadn’t asked Tony to stay, he never did anymore, sensing it hurt them both on some level, even though Tony had looked at him, on the verge of saying something, before leaving.
“All right,” Tony said, looking at his watch and stretching, “time for me to go. Try not to burn down the Tower, I’m looking at you Clint and please tell Thor if he breaks the coffeemaker again you’ll all have to do without until I’m back. It was then, when Tony ducked down, said, “See you soon,” and pressed a kiss to Steve’s lips before turning around and leaving, that Steve wondered if this wasn’t becoming something more after all. Tony didn’t seem to realize what he’d done until he was halfway across the living room. His gait only faltered for a fraction of a second, but he didn’t turn around, just kept walking. Steve resolutely didn’t look at anyone, while he knew they were all gaping at him.
Then Thor snorted particularly loudly, spraying popcorn everywhere. He woke up with a start, began to challenge the “Small beasts made of tasty butter” that tried to suffocate him and Natasha recorded it all on her phone. It would be on YouTube before the night was over, and it would be taken down again by Fury before morning.
Nothing unusual then.
Still. Steve moped. And pined. All week.
“You’re moping,” Jane told him, “and pining. It’s pathetic. I am going to show you how to use xtube.”
Clint’s eyes bulged. “You watch xtube?”
“What’s xtube?” Steve asked as Jane smirked and said, “I do a whole lot more than watch it.”
“You’re killing me,” Clint said, well, squeaked, “you are actually killing me.”
“And if she won’t, I will,” Natasha said, smacking him over the back of his head.
“What’s xtube?” Steve asked again a little louder, but they ignored him, all talking at once and he just decided to check it out once he’d finished his macaroni and cheese. He was getting the hang of the tablet Tony had given him, and didn’t need help anymore googling stuff.
Oh, was just about the most coherent thought he had for the rest of the night. At first he was shocked and not a little appalled and he learnt very quickly to be very careful with what he clicked on, but then –– then.
Two hours later Steve was still hard as diamond when Tony called, even though he’d already jerked off twice, thinking about Tony and doing those, things to him and with him and for him and oh god.
“Steve?” Tony said, sounding a little more worse for wear than usual, and immediately Steve sat up.
“You all right? What’s wrong, what happened?”
“Uh, you do know that I can um. Well. See your browser history?”
Steve looked around his room, confused. “You can see my … what?”
“I can, uh, well the thing is, I can, oh jesus fuck what is … were you … this is just … Uh. Steve, I can see what you’ve been looking at. On the internet. I mean.”
“Oh.” He let that sink in for a minute, his blood supply clearly not caught up to his brain yet. “Oh!”
“Oh my god,” Steve said, mortified. He felt his cheeks burn and buried his face in his hand, dropping his phone.
“Steve,” it yelled at him, “Steve don’t be embarrassed, it’s fine, STEVE.”
“Yeah, I’m, I’m still here, and I’m just. Sorry. This is really, really awful,” Steve said, feeling like something was trying to strangle him, and goddamnit, he could feel tears pricking in his eyes.
“Hey,” Tony said, “hey it’s not awful, Steve it really isn’t. In fact,” Tony made a pained noise, “the thought of you, watching this, is, well, it’s kind of. Hot. Very. Actually.”
“Really?” Steve said. “You’re not, you’re not disgusted?”
“No, Steve, of course not. Like I’ve never watched porn, like I don’t still watch porn, less when you’re around but um, yeah, it’s normal. And it’s normal to, uh, like it. Did you?” Tony sounded tentative, careful, not like him at all. “Like it, I mean?”
“Uh,” Steve swallowed, took a deep breath, “yeah. I –– I did.” There was a high sort of keening noise and Steve frowned at his phone. “You still there?”
“Yeah. Yup. Still here, very much still here, I just, can you, could you talk? About it? Would you?”
“You mean…?” Steve’s heart picked up a beat, mind drifting back to all the things he’d imagined doing to Tony.
“Yeah, please, I’m, I need––“
“You don’t have to, of course, I know this isn’t … comfortable, for you,” Tony said, sounding choked.
Steve bit his tongue. Covered the phone with one hand and said, “JARVIS, can you shut down any sort of, uh recording of ––“
Done, sir, JARVIS said swiftly.
“Tony, are you there?”
“Yeah, I’m here, it’s fine, really don’t––“
“Are you hard?”
“Oh god, am I –– Steve, you have no idea. The thought of you, alone in your room, oh please keep talking.”
Steve swallowed hard, squeezed his eyes shut and took another deep breath. “I want you to touch yourself.”
“Yeah, I am,” Tony said, and he sounded a little more faraway, and Steve suspected he’d been put on speaker. He heard the bed creak. Oh sweet jesus.
“I don’t know what to say,” he admitted quietly.
“Anything, Steve, anything,” Tony said, voice low. “Tell me what you’d do to me if I was there now.”
“I’d,” Steve imagined it, felt his breathing catch and quicken. “I’d put my mouth on you.”
“Oh fuck, yes, I’ve wanted you to Steve, so badly,” Tony moaned.
“You have? Why didn’t you say so?”
“Don’t want… to push you, oh, keep talking, anything, you’re voice alone is –– I won’t last.”
“I want to fuck you,” Steve blurted out, feeling the blush burn all the way down his chest. Tony said nothing but Steve could hear him breathing hard, and the thought that he was too far gone to talk, touching himself with those work-calloused hands … “I want to hold you down and, and fuck you slowly, your legs on my shoulders, and,”
“Oh, yes, I want, I want that, please, Steve.”
“I’ll make it last, for a long time, and even if you, if you come, I’ll keep going.”
“Oh my fucking god,” Tony said, and then there was a broken off noise and Steve imagined Tony arching off the bed, his hand stilling, squeezing, come flecking his chest and Steve had to shove his hand down, needing barely any stimulation at all, before he pulsed all over his own hand.
“Steve,” came Tony’s voice, soft and quiet, after a long silence. “You know I’m happy, I’m fine with what we have, right? What we do, I mean. I don’t need to, you know.”
“Yeah,” Steve said, smiling even though his heart was beating at breaking speed. “But I think I do. Want.”
Chapter 9: Where we learnt to celebrate.
Tony barged through the door on Sunday night, tie half askew, hair sticking up at all ends as if he’d repeatedly been running his hands through it. He completely ignored everyone, made a beeline for Steve, who was hauled to his feet and into the elevator. Tony pressed a button and then he tugged Steve down by the v-neck of his sweater and kissed him.
“Did you mean it,” he said, when the elevator doors opened. They stepped out and were, to Steve’s surprise, on Tony’s floor.
He didn’t even have to ask what Tony meant. “Yeah,” he said, already breathless, already painfully hard, “yeah, I meant it.”
“Thank fuck for that,” Tony groaned, and then kicked his bedroom door shut behind him. They stumbled their way across the room, mouths hitting as much as missing, their hands scrabbling over fabric without actually taking any clothes off, but it didn’t really matter. “Damnit,” Tony said, dropping his head to Steve’s shoulder and Steve ran his hands over his back. “I want to take this slow, but I don’t know if I can, and what, what is that sweater, is that cashmere? Are you trying to drive me insane, Steve, I want ––“
“Shh,” Steve said, “it’s all right.”
“Why am I so fucking nervous, I’m never this nervous, I shouldn’t be nervous, I’ve done this more times than you can imagine. Okay that’s the wrong thing to say isn’t it, I’m screwing this up, am I screwing this up? Because I’m trying,” he took a deep breath, calmed a little and whispered, “I’m really trying,” and Steve wondered if he wasn’t talking about something entirely different now.
Steve dropped to his knees and Tony gave him a bewildered look until Steve unbuckled Tony’s belt and then Tony’s eyes widened, before his head fell back and he let out an indecent noise. His hands tangled in Steve’s hair as helped Tony out of the rest of his clothes, and when Steve took Tony in his mouth, careful about his teeth, just like he’d read about, it didn’t feel wrong at all. He let Tony guide him, his hands moving Steve’s head gently back and forth, his moans becoming quieter but more breathless every second He never allowed Steve to go too deep, said, every once in awhile, “Use your tongue,” or, “Oh, there, like that, yes,” or “You look gorgeous, oh shit just look at you,” and then, “Stop, stop I want –– oh –– I want to come with you inside me.”
That made Steve pull off and he had to rest his head against Tony’s thigh for a second because he felt dizzy. They were going to do this, they were actually going to do this.
“Come on,” Tony said above him, unbuttoning his shirt with one hand and tugging at Steve’s arm with the other. “Take off your clothes.”
“Yeah,” Steve said, rising to his feet, “but first ––“ He took Tony’s face between his hands and kissed him, relishing how familiar it was now, how Tony tasted so good, so eager, always willing to kiss Steve whenever he wanted.
“Jesus, you taste like me,” Tony said against Steve’s mouth, “that’s so… this is unbelievable. Am I dreaming?”
“If you are, please don’t wake up,” Steve said, pulling his sweater and t-shirt over his head in one go.
“I will never get tired of this,” Tony said, as if he was admitting some secret. He ran his hand over Steve’s chest, over his abs and began to slowly undo his jeans.
I will never get tired of you, Steve wanted to say, but he didn’t think Tony wanted to hear it. So he kissed him again instead, stepping out of his shoes.
Tony let his shirt drop to the floor, was about to lift his undershirt off but he hesitated, eyes flicking to Steve’s.
“I want to see it,” Steve said, “it won’t freak me out. I want to see all of you.”
“Are you sure? It’s … bad. It’s scarred and ugly, I ––“
“Nothing about you is ugly,” Steve murmured, trailing his hands over Tony’s sides and down, taking the hem of his shirt between his fingers, and slowly, so Tony could stop him if he wanted, he lifted it.
Steve noticed Tony was holding his breath, and as much as he wanted to explore the arc reactor in great detail, he knew this probably wasn’t the time. So he just lightly trailed his fingers over it, not stopping on the way down until both his hands cupped Tony’s hips, thumbs brushing the sensitive hollows just above them. He walked Tony back to the bed, pressing kisses to his mouth, his cheekbones, his eyelids, and Tony went gentle and yielding.
“Why are you still dressed,” Tony asked when he was lying on the bed, propped up on his elbows.
“I thought,” Steve said, ducking his head, “you might like to watch.”
“Oh,” Tony said, “yes, yes I do.”
So Steve began to strip off his jeans, slowly, ignoring the blush that worked its way up from his chest all the way to his ears. He wanted to push past all his insecurities tonight, because if there was someone he could do it with, it was Tony.
When Steve pushed down his pants and boxers in one go and looked up again, Tony was lying back, one hand tucked underneath his head, the other lazily stroking his shaft and Steve nearly swallowed his tongue.
“Come on,” Tony said, lifting the hand from beneath his head and holding it out to Steve, “if I have to go any longer without touching you, I think I might waste away.”
“You are ridiculous,” Steve huffed, but he crawled onto the bed, and hesitated only a second before he kneeled between Tony’s knees and began to kiss his way up his chest.
“You love it,” Tony said, carding his fingers through Steve’s hair, gently urging him up.
“God help me, I do,” he said, the words out before he had a chance to filter them. He stiffened and slowly looked up, afraid he’d ruined it, but Tony was only looking back at him, eyes wide and pupils blown.
“Enough talking,” he said, and pushed at Steve’s shoulders. “Lie on your back, I’ll make it easy for you just this once, but next time I’m making you do all the hard work.”
“I want to do the hard work now,” Steve said, resisting Tony’s push and then bit his lip. “I mean, I want to make you feel good.”
Tony went slack jawed for a second and didn’t sound completely recovered, when he said, “Oh you will, Steve, you will, but yeah, anything you want gorgeous.” He tugged at Steve’s hair and pulled him down for a kiss, then wrapped his legs around Steve’s thighs and urged him down. Steve moaned when his cock pressed against Tony’s and then hitched his hips, the slick slide a hot and wonderful feeling.
“We can just do this,” Tony said as he nipped at Steve’s jaw, “tonight, if you want. We don’t have to.”
“But I want, oh, I want to. If you do,” Steve said, lifting himself up on his elbows.
“Of course I do,” Tony said, his hands sliding over Steve’s ass and tugging him even closer so Steve went cross-eyed with want for a second.
“Do you have, um, condoms, and … stuff?” Steve asked him, and Tony nodded.
“In the bedside table,” Tony said, “pick any flavor you want.”
“Flavor?” Steve asked, reaching over Tony and almost forgetting what he was doing when Tony pulled himself up on Steve’s ribcage and took one of his nipples between his teeth. “What do they have flavors for?” He picked the strawberry one and a condom and settled down again.
“I’ll show you sometime,” Tony said, with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “Let me do this bit.” He reached for the lube. “I’m too impatient to take it slow tonight.”
“Okay,” Steve said, sitting back on his heels, “can I, um, watch?”
“Can you –– oh god –– this is going to be over very quickly. Yes, yes of course you can.” Then, Tony slicked three fingers and Steve watched with increasingly labored breathing as he rubbed a wet finger over his hole and then pushed in, one smooth move, all the way to the knuckle. He made an incoherent noise and his gaze flicked to Tony’s face. He was biting his lips, head pushed back into the pillows, back slightly arched and eyes closed. His finger pumped in and out a few times and then a second one slid smoothly inside. He couldn’t help himself. Steve reached out and gently circled the pink rim stretched around Tony’s fingers.
“Oh jesus fuck,” Tony groaned and when Steve looked up Tony was staring right at him, mouth open and eyes black with desire.
“One more,” Steve said, “go on, Tony, one more.”
“Yeah, yeah I’m, I’m working on it,” Tony moaned, scissoring his two fingers and then slowly beginning to push in the third. “Put on the condom, Cap, I don’t think I can wait much longer.”
“Okay, yeah,” Steve said and he fumbled the condom packet a few times because he couldn’t take his eyes off Tony’s fingers,
“Come on,” Tony whispered, his fingers sliding out with a soft, wet sound. He slicked his hand with more lube and ran over Steve’s shaft, who shuddered at the contact. “Yeah, come on,” Tony said again, tugging at Steve’s arm so he was leaning over Tony again. “Line yourself up and push in, slowly, because you’re packing some heat, my friend.” Tony put his hand over the one Steve had wrapped around his cock, helping him guide into place.
“Oh,” Steve said, his thighs trembling, as he slid just inside “oh, are you sure, you’re still so tight, oh god.”
“That’s the idea, gorgeous,” Tony said, letting go and settling back into the pillows. “Go on, slide home slowly, that’s, oh yeah, that’s it, you feel good, this feels good, Steve.” Tony hooked his legs over Steve’s thighs and pulled him in so Steve drove all the way inside. He couldn’t hold himself up anymore, the sensation was too much. He sank down and tried not to squash Tony but he didn’t think he was succeeding. Tony kept running his hands over his back, murmuring into Steve’s ear, saying, “It’s all right,” and “You feel amazing,” and “Go on, try moving a little.”
Steve lifted his hips carefully, clinging to Tony’s arms, screwing his eyes shut and burying his face in Tony’s neck when he felt himself twitch. It was too much, the heat, the pull, this being Tony, this being everything.
“Tony,” he whispered into the skin where his neck and shoulder meet, “Tony, I can’t, this is, it feels too good, I can’t hold on.”
“Oh god, are you going to come? That is, yeah, come on Steve, move, take what you need, it’s fine, you can do different things to me after, you can use your fingers and mouth, I want you to come. Move Steve. Go on, please. I need you to.” Tony arched his back and clenched down on him, hard.
“Goddamnit,” Steve hissed, and he jostled Tony, worked his arms underneath him so he had him in a solid grip, and then pumped his hips, the ecstasy building and building at the base of his spine, until he felt every single muscle in his body beginning to seize up. Tony kept moaning encouragements in his ear but Steve couldn’t make them out, his blood rushing with thunderous speed through his veins. The pleasure escalated to a crest that he rode for one, two, three thrusts and then it seemed the entire world came to a standstill, a frozen moment where he arched into Tony, his teeth around the muscle of his neck and then he came and he came and he came.
They were both breathing hard, and Steve kept saying, “Oh my god,” couldn’t seem to stop himself, Tony’s arms wrapped firmly around him.
“You all right?” Tony asked when Steve’s breathing had slowed a little.
“Yes,” Steve said, lifting his head a little and wincing at the already blooming bruise on Tony’s shoulder.
“Hey,” Tony whispered, wiping the hair out of Steve’s face. “No feeling bad. I loved every single minute of that and I will look at that mark in the morning and remember it all, okay. It’s good.”
“Okay,” Steve said. He was smiling like an idiot but he couldn’t help it, so he pressed a kiss to Tony’s mouth instead. It turned deep and wet, Tony sucking hard on Steve’s bottom lip and then he lifted his mouth to Steve’s ear and said, “I’d really like to come now.”
Steve looked at him and smiled, said, “Yeah.” He bit his lip, rolled his hips, “Just gimme a sec,” and then he laughed softly when Tony’s eyes widened as he felt Steve thicken again inside him.
“Already?” Tony asked, clearly awed.
“Serum,” Steve said, smiling at him.
“How many times?” Tony said, his eyes rolling back when Steve lazily pushed in.
“Usually four, tonight probably five.”
“Oh god,” Tony groaned, “we are going to have so much fun.”
Steve set a slow, deep pace, loving the way he could take his time now that the edge had been taken off. Harder Tony kept saying, his nails digging into Steve’s back, faster, Steve, please. But Steve didn’t listen, took his time to learn what every single change in direction and speed did to Tony, until Tony was digging his heels into Steve’s back and cursing up a blue streak. Then he remembered their phone conversation, and shifted to put Tony’s legs on his shoulders.
Tony moaned loudly, his hands scrabbling helplessly in the sheets, back arching as far as it would go and Steve felt the heat flare in his gut again. Steve picked up speed, driving in harder and faster, his eyes never leaving Tony’s face. Tony's eyes were closed, his head tossing from side to side, and then he took his cock in hand and set a brutal pace to match Steve’s. When he came, he cried out Steve’s name, body arching off the bed. The way he clenched brutally and without rhythm around Steve was too much and Steve went rigid again, silently coming apart for the second time.
Steve slipped out and took off the condom, wiping Tony clean with his shirt and then settled in beside him, one hand slung over his chest, his fingers just touching the rim of the arc reactor so he could feel it whir. They didn’t talk for a long time, just lay side by side in silence, until Tony softly kissed Steve, and said, “Stay.”
Steve smiled into the kiss and pulled up the sheets around them, his hand on Tony’s hip, spelling I love you into his skin.
Chapter 10: These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Title from Scheherazade by Richard Siken.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was still dark when Steve woke up and he had to blink a few times to orient himself. The door was in the wrong place, and so was the window, and the sheets felt nothing like his. Beside him the bed dipped, and he remembered.
“Tony?” he asked.
“It’s all right, go back to sleep,” Tony whispered and he moved again but Steve caught his wrist.
“What’s –– oh my god, you are soaking wet. What’s the matter?”
“It’s nothing, really, just ––“ Tony tried to tug his hand loose but Steve sat up.
“Don’t, don’t push me away,” he whispered, “please.” He felt his own hand tremble a little, and knew this was a risk he was taking. It could make Tony shut down completely and he might not see him resurface from his workshop for a long time. Tony just looked at him, and then he sighed, twisting his hand so he could thread his fingers through Steve’s.
“It was just a bad dream, they happen sometimes. I was going to shower and come back. Promise.”
“Okay,” Steve said, squeezing his hand once and letting go. “Okay.”
When he woke up again, light was spilling through the gap in the blinds, and Steve found himself wrapped around Tony’s back, who hummed, “Morning.”
“Sorry,” Steve croaked, voice still thick with sleep.
“Don’t move,” Tony said when Steve wanted to roll away. He reached for Steve over his shoulder, pulling him in close for a kiss. Steve ran his hands over Tony’s back, then around over his stomach.
“Mmm,” he murmured, “morning.” Tony shifted a little so the kiss could deepen, and the low morning burn flared and Tony laughed softly when he felt Steve twitch. “I want,” Steve said against Tony’s mouth, “I want you to do it to me.”
Tony sighed, his eyes fluttering closed, and he was all soft and languid beneath Steve’s hands. He fumbled with something Steve couldn’t see and then Steve jumped a little when he felt something cool against his fingers. Tony said, “I will, gorgeous, I will, but I’m still loose and it’ll be easy and nice and we have all the time in the world…”
“Oh,” Steve said, kissing Tony’s neck and his shoulder and then he reached between then, pushing two slick fingers easily into Tony.
“Yes,” Tony said, arching into him a little, “just like that. Mmm feels good.”
Tony handed him a condom and a few seconds later, Steve was pushing in, slow and gentle and easy, his hands tracing the lines of Tony’s body as they rocked themselves to an unhurried climax.
Afterwards Steve watched Tony sleep, his nose buried into the pillow, hand stretched out as if he was reaching for Steve even in his dreams. For all of five minutes it had felt like Steve was Tony’s distraction from the physical pain of being replaced by Pepper so soon, but it didn’t feel like that anymore. Not when Tony looked at him, warm and vulnerable and full of promise, and Steve wondered, if he could have this, if he could be that lucky, because he traced the back of Tony’s hand with his fingertips and he wanted, so badly, it hurt
Tony was talking to Pepper on the phone, her face appearing on the screen by his elbow. Her eyes were narrowed and a deep frown settled on her forehead as if it was there to stay. Steve turned to walk away again but then Pepper said, “You should just talk to Steve, Tony,” her voice low and tired as if it wasn’t the first time she’d said this.
“I can’t,” Tony said, “it’ll put an end to this and I don’t know if I’m ready for that.”
Steve froze, wanted to move, but couldn’t. He shouldn’t listen to this. If Tony wanted to, oh god, break up with him, Steve should do him the courtesy of doing it face to face.
“You do realize that you’re just selling yourself short again, don’t you.” Pepper sighed and rubbed her face, a touch of annoyance in her eyes now.
“I’m not, why would he even, it’s just convenient, I’m here and I’m willing and why would he even want… me.”
“Look,” Pepper said, finally snapping, “if you think Steve overcame all his issues so he could have a no strings attached fuck-buddy, you’re out of your damn mind.”
Steve stepped back, was about to leave when Tony gave the screen a little shove so he could look Pepper right in the face, which brought Steve exactly in her line of vision. “Steve,” she said, eyes widening.
“Yes, that is who we’re talking ––“ Tony spun around and groaned. “Oh fuck.”
“I’m sorry,” Steve said, taking a step closer, Tony still gaping at him. “I didn’t mean to listen –– Tony, I think you just hung up on Pepper, you can’t ––” he walked up to Tony and reached for his computer but Tony stopped him with a hand around his wrist.
“Tell me I’m wrong,” Tony said, and Steve crouched down in front of him. Tony’s face was open, hiding none of the desperation, the fear of being hurt, but also allowing the smallest flicker of hope. Steve worked his wrist loose, but before Tony’s expression could shut down completely, Steve took his face between his palms, leaning in to look him right in the eye, and said, “You’re wrong. You’re so wrong,” and kissed him.
Tony slid off his chair, straight into Steve’s lap, and Steve felt overwhelmed under the warmth of his mouth, because this was happening, this was real, this was everything.
“I thought you didn’t want…” Tony said between dragging his mouth over Steve’s jaw and back.
“Of course I did,” Steve said, holding him closer, pressing them together, tilting his neck to give Tony better access, “of course I did. I thought you didn’t want, well, me.”
Tony stopped kissing him abruptly, sat back to look at Steve with wide, wondrous eyes. “How?” he said. “How could you possibly think that? Steve, you’re, you mean ––“ Tony couldn’t say it yet, bit his lip instead, then blurted out, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I made you feel like that. I want this. You. So badly.” The last two words came out breathy and hoarse and Steve had to pull him in again, kiss him with all he had, frantic and desperate and urgent. Tony moaned in his mouth, tugged at his hair, releasing the scent of hair gel and shampoo.
“You never stayed the night,” Steve said when they came up for breath. “Before. You never wanted me in your room. I thought it was your way of keeping me out, of making it clear there was a line not to be crossed.”
Tony winced and looked away but Steve cupped his chin with his thumb and forefinger and gently turned Tony back to face him. He kissed his lips softly, then pressed their foreheads together and said, “It’s fine. You don’t have to explain. Now that I know that you, that you want this too… I couldn’t be happier.”
Tony smiled against Steve’s lips and they lost a few moments to touching and feeling and learning how it tasted with a possible flavor of forever instead of only for now, and then Tony pulled away again and whispered, “I have nightmares. Bad ones. I thought they’d scare you off. That’s why I always left. It’s from,” he tapped his chest, the sound a dull thud against the arc reactor. “I come with a lot of baggage and I felt you shouldn’t be made to carry it.”
“Oh Tony,” Steve murmured, pulling him close and hooking his chin over Tony’s shoulder. “If I’d known I’d have wanted to be there even more. I can’t stand the thought of you suffering. I want to be there. Please.”
“Yeah,” Tony said a little breathlessly, pulling back so he could kiss Steve’s temple, a smile forming against it, “yeah, okay.”
This is technically the end, but there will be two follow-up chapters (of the PWP kind) in the very near future because a (very naughty) little birdie told me I WANT TO READ STEVE BEING RIMMED UNTIL HE SOBS. You have been warned.
Thanks for all of your kudos and comments, this fandom is incredibly and overwhelmingly generous. Also, thank you for putting up with this less than coherent story, I usually don't post W'sIP because I always change my mind about something at some point. In this case, it was about explaining that Tony kept Steve at bay because of his PTSD issues and because he basically thinks he's unworthy. I wanted this fic to be about Steve and didn't want to turn it into a Tony angst fest, no matter how delicious I find those. So if that obvious gap bothers you, my apologies.
And again, thank you hardticket for the wonderful beta job.