The house had grown quiet, even though it was fairly early, especially by Malibu standards. Tony was heading down the hallway on the upper floor of his beach house, not that beach house was an apt description for the place, beach mansion, seaside retreat more likely names, but for Tony it was home. (Or one of his homes, and the one he’d brought his new teammates to after the battle of New York.)
“Or whatever they are going to end up calling it.” He mumbled to himself, still feeling a bit of an ache across his shoulders at the memory.
They’d had an early dinner (or a late lunch by California standards), this rag tag group of heroes that Nick Fury had forced together, because several of them were going out for the evening; the couples, Thor and Jane, his scientist girlfriend who had joined him a few days back, and Natasha and Clint. Banner was buried in one of Tony’s basement labs, loving reconnecting with the science he had left behind in favor of the peaceful life of East Asia Natasha had pulled him from on Fury’s orders. They had all enjoyed homemade burgers and a crisp salad with light conversation, everyone but Steve Rogers who had been most conspicuous by his absence; not that he hadn’t seemed to have been pulling back away from the group for the past several days, getting more quiet. But until then at least, he had attended these ‘family’ gatherings, as Tony liked to refer to them. It was the busiest his house had ever been, and normally detached, solitary Tony was beginning to enjoy the company. So, missing his friend, Tony had played the good host for the others, and then gone hunting for Steve as soon as they had dissipated.
Jarvis, useful butler as he was, had easily located Steve, in his room, and so Tony had headed there, mostly happy go lucky, trying very hard not to think of any ominous possibilities. Knocking softly on the door Tony waited for some kind of response, and received none. So, being the homeowner, and a decent friend of the guest within he figured, he opened it very slowly and called in.
“Cap? You in there.” He half expected a sleepy response, but received something else.
“Yes, I’m here.” Came the slow, quiet answer.
“You ah, you missed dinner.” Tony suddenly felt as if he was intruding on something as he looked into the room to see Steve, sitting on the end of his bed, looking out into the sunset that was pouring in the sliding glass doors that opened onto the private terrace for that row of bedrooms. His shoulders were hunched over and his chin was in his hands, fingers wrapped over his face. He was the picture of misery, in contrast to his room, which was the epitome of neat, military efficiency. Tony thought that he could certainly bounce a quarter off the tightly made bed. It was as tight as the muscles that showed through the white t-shirt Steve had stretched over his biceps. His military uniform has hung up, also pressed, over the closet door, as if it might be needed at any second, brass polished, cuffs crisp.
“Since I figured that you need to eat like every two hours or so because of your metabolism, I thought I’d better check on you.” Tony kind of stuttered, not having been prepared for what he found.
“I’m fine.” The answer was flat.
“No you aren’t.” Tony shut the door behind himself and approached the man, who still hadn’t turned to look at him. “You’ve been isolating yourself for days now. What’s going on?”
“Nothing. It’s just been,” there was a pause in his sentence, and a choked half sob to fill it, “a bad week.”
“Are you?” Tony began to say.
“Don’t say it Stark.” Steve cut him off as he raised his head and shook his shoulders, squaring them.
“I won’t Cap.” But in the absence of that word Tony could only just stand there, not certain if he should retreat or wait for Steve to offer up some kind of clue as to his mood. There was a moment filled with a quite uncomfortable silence where all that Tony could hear was hitched up breathing coming from the man, now more bathed in shadows than light, and the barely hidden sniffle of a tear. Tony was not good at uncomfortable silences, not that he was much better at sorting out feelings either, but something inside pushed him into giving it a go.
“Frustrated?” He asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Lost.” Was the reply, an open door that gave Tony a clue as to what was eating at his friend.
“Too quiet here eh? Too much time to think? Kind of ironic, since I dragged everyone out here so they could get away from the war front.”
“Without a war I don’t have anything.” The words hung for a few moments.
“What do you mean?” Tony had a decent idea, but he knew enough to understand that Steve needed to say some things out loud. It was like talking to yourself he figured, something he did quite a lot of, closed away in his labs. He wasn’t sure if Jarvis counted as a companion, and wasn’t going to have that discussion with his ego just then.
“Everything I knew, everybody I knew is gone, half a century gone.” Steve whispered.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that must be Cap.”
“When we were called together, as this Avengers group for Fury, when we fought against Loki and the Chitauri I thought I had a place, a job, an identity.”
“You still have that.”
“I don’t. I have Captain America, who was just a propaganda construct.”
“He was more than that.” Tony began to protest, “I mean, you are more than that.” His continued stuttering was beginning to bother the normally eloquent, confident man.
“I’m a super soldier, just looking for the next battle.” Steve said with another deep sigh.
“You don’t have to be Cap, there’s so much more for you here.”
“Sometimes I wish they had just left me frozen at the bottom of the ocean. Then at least I would have died a hero. I wouldn’t be forced to live as an anachronism personified, out of time, out of place. I’m nothing.” Tony watched as Steve’s head bobbed forward in his hands once again, his shoulders falling, too broken to even disguise the sob that fought its way from his throat. The sight and sound of it made Tony shiver. He reached out and put his hand on Steve’s shoulder, just feeling like the man needed some kind of human contact.
“You’re still a hero.” He whispered. Steve turned to look at him then, red-rimmed eyes as obvious as the swollen lips in betraying the tears so recently fallen.
Tony tried to smile, but the attempt failed, only making his gut flip-flop involuntarily again.
“Where do I belong Tony?” Steve asked; his head cocked in a pleading sort of way Tony thought.
“Right here.” Tony affirmed quickly, feeling the need to catch his own breath for a moment staring at the man. “You belong here, in this time. I know it looks pretty grim right now, but we’ll find you a place. Hey, I have a ton of money,” he grinned, “We’ll buy you a new life, whatever you want.” The words tumbled out of his mouth, without his brain quite registering having put them together. He was the kind of person who always turned to humor; pithy one-liners, when situations got uncomfortable, and this situation was steaming towards epic discomfort. It became even more so when the disarming, nervous, cartoon smile was answered by Steve placing his hand over top of Tony’s, sighing a great long sigh as he did it.
“You are a good friend.” And he looked straight at Tony, his face half lit by the last rays of the sun, the other half in a shadow that did nothing to quell the queasiness Tony was still feeling. The smile faded into something more natural, and suddenly it was his own breaths that Tony heard through the silence. “Some days are just much harder than others.” He whispered, his smoky blue grey eyes closing even as his hand clutched at Tony’s just marginally harder. Tony was glad their gaze had been broken, because he could feel his own eyes getting wider, and the roiling in his gut was beginning to scare him.
“It is easy to feel sorry for myself when I have the time to think.” Steve muttered. “And it is a fine line between despair and anger, and some days I don’t know which path to take.” He moved his hand away from Tony’s and balled his fingers into fists, forcing them against the bedclothes so hard that Tony could see the muscles cord under the skin of his arms.
“Well now there, there is something I can help out with. I know all about anger.” Tony said gleefully, happy to have something to latch onto besides those eyes. “What you need Cap,” he pulled his hand away from the other man’s shoulder and sat down beside him (which in hindsight might not have been the best idea, proximity and all), “is an outlet. Here in the twenty-first century we call it ‘beating the living crap out of something’.”
And Tony’s joix-de-vie smirk was back.
“Jarvis?” He called out to the AI butler.
“Jarvis, is there anyone in the gym right now?”
“Good,” Tony smirked at Steve who was looking at him with knitted eyebrows. “Lock it down, Captain Rogers is going to be coming down for a private workout.”
“Very good Sir, shall I place an order for more heavy bags then?”
The right side of Tony’s smile curled up. “Excellent idea Jarvis, and send me a digital reminder to start work on designing a hardier sparring dummy for our guests will you?”
“Of course sir.”
“Go and have a good workout Cap.”
Steve was still stunned at everything that had transpired so rapidly, but he stood from the bed, thinking that perhaps Tony had a point. And for his part, Tony knew two ways to cheer up a man who was feeling miserable and angry, the first one involved Surf and Turf, and the second one, well, he’d let the second one play out if it came to that. (But the thought of it kind of excited him for a second or two.)
Thank you so much for the positive feedback on chapter one, I hope you enjoy a little more teasing.
The workout had started much as they always did for Steve Rogers, wrapping his wrists and knuckles, stretches, and then held breaths and snapping punches, followed by the harder blows and the shuddering of the heavy bag as even its supports began to strain against the increasing power of the hits. Regular powerful deliveries, which started out nearly mindlessly began to transform into focused blows, transferring anger into rage.
Each hit came with the image of another face, and the deep agony of the realization of loss. Bucky’s face, then Dum Dum’s and Gabe then James, Jim and Jacques. Those he had watched die, those he had left behind, the team he had once led, the time he had taken control of his destiny, or at least how he had seen it back then. He’d spent his childhood hearing about the first war, idolizing the heroes who had protected the world, even as he fought against his own physical limitations. It had been easy then. He slammed against the bag again, hearing the creak of the beam that anchored it.
He’d driven himself towards getting into the army, and once he’d managed that he worked for Erskine’s approval, to get himself into the super soldier program, thinking that once he had proved himself then, that all his dreams would come true.
“Simple dreams!” He cursed as he unleashed himself on the bag. It shattered, as they always seemed to, and so he yanked it down, and tossed it to the side, hanging another, which had been waiting in a neat pile; Jarvis’s doing he supposed.
Captain America had let him be the hero he wanted to be, Captain America had let him run missions, fight evil, and save the world. And Captain America had brought him to Peggy, and suddenly it was her face that filled his vision, and the memory of that simple kiss, and the promises it had made him, feelings he fought the hardest to bury.
She would have been waiting for him, she would have been the key to making him whole, which was what he thought about. He had missed dinner, and everything had just stopped there. He died as Captain America, not as Steve Rogers, because Steve Rogers never got to live. He unleashed a volley of quick blows on the new bag, hardly breathing in between, clenching his teeth, and feeling the anger roll off of him. Almost seventy years. Everyone was dead, and even if they weren’t, no one had tried to contact him, at least not as far as SHIELD was telling him. They’d had a lifetime to deal with his death, those that would have mourned him. He’d had what? Weeks? Months? Time really meant nothing anymore. He hadn’t gone in search of them, what could he even offer, a reminder of what they had left behind, in the ice? No. It had been kinder to stay dead. The second bag flew across the room, tumbling sand and laces as it went, and though he wanted to scream with the rage he felt, Steve simply clutched his fists together till it hurt and closed his eyes. The faces that flowed before him were now those of this new team, Thor, Clint, Natasha, Bruce, and then finally Tony, silly screwed up grin, eyes sparkling with the adrenalin rush that seemed to rule his every waking moment. It was a pure happiness with the life he had chosen; being Tony, being Ironman, being part of the Avengers. He had everything and the personal confidence to use it all.
Everything was silent in the room, until Jarvis spoke.
“There are more bags Captain Rogers. I can have one of the bots set one up for you if you wish?”
“No thanks Jarvis, I think I’ve done enough damage. Is there a broom somewhere? I’ll sweep up.” He felt the adrenalin ebbing, letting him focus again.
“Mr. Stark would be very unhappy if I allowed you to do that Captain Rogers.” And as if waiting for the AI’s cue, another bot emerged, with tiny little whirling brushes at its base, following the trail of sand and debris. “If you are finished with your workout there are fresh towels in your bathroom Captain Rogers.”
Shaking his head in an amused sort of way Steve could not help but smile.
“Having you back in my time would have changed the entire world Jarvis.”
“I expect it might have Captain Rogers.”
He wasn’t certain if the workout had changed the way he’d been feeling, it had all started out in the same way his pensive times always did; examining the loses over and over, sinking into the misery. But it had ended far differently; for the first time since he’d awakened in the mocked up bedroom, listening to a baseball game that was out of place even for him, Steve Rogers felt a small measure of hope. And he felt tired and hungry, which might have distracted him enough to clear his thoughts.
It didn’t help that as he mounted the stairs to the floor of bedrooms he smelled what he assumed was the remnants of the earlier barbeque that Tony had spoken of. It made his stomach growl. Even though he hadn’t admitted it to Tony earlier, he had been hungry, the effects of his altered metabolism were just as Tony had said, and Steve wondered if it would be alright to go to the kitchen after he had cleaned up, and ask Jarvis about some leftovers. Opening the door of his room though, the smell of grilling steak assaulted him in a tantalizing fog, and he looked past the simple furniture, out to the patio, to see a smiling Tony, bathed in the light of lanterns, barbeque tongs in one hand, beer in the other, grinning like a fool.
“You have to be hungry now.”
Steve shook his head in disbelief.
“You have,” Tony glanced down at his watch, “five minutes to clean up or these steaks will be ruined, and I am not taking responsibility for that.”
“Fine.” Steve said, with a humorous lilt to his voice, which he could not contain. He turned, yanked off his damp tee shirt, and laid it over the edge of the wicker laundry hamper.
“Oh hell.” Tony whispered to himself as Steve disappeared into the bathroom, the image of the muscles of his back burned into his retinas. He took a long drink from the bottle in his hand, still not turning away from the vision, distracted by the defined curves and shining skin until the steak behind him snapped on the grill, dragging his attentions back to the food. He flipped the steaks and took another drink, then he prodded the lobster tails to make sure they had perfect grill marks on them as well.
He started plating the steaks when he heard the water from the shower shut off and was on his way to placing the meal on the table when Steve emerged from the bathroom, towel wrapped around his waist, chest bare, fingers combing through his blond hair. And if his back had been a pretty sight, the front was even better. Tony gagged on a sip of his beer and nearly dropped the plate he was holding. Those pecs were solid, still glistening with a few drops of water, heaving slowly with every breath. The biceps, which had been visible straining against the white shirt, were perfect curves. And the V that ran from his navel to the edge of the white towel was chiseled like marble. Tony knew his eyes were getting wider.
“I’m going to get dressed, do you mind?” He was gesturing with his hand for Tony to turn around.
“Oh, yes, of course.” Tony stuttered, and he turned, and put the first plate down, and finished off his beer. He plated the second steak and lobster tail without looking back, and only when he had the vegetables on the table as well did he shut off the grill and turn back around.
Steve was pulling on a clean white shirt, already having his Dockers slipped over his hips; just about the only thing Tony ever saw the man wear, that and his military uniform, and the Captain America suit. The shirt was as crisp as the sheets on the bed Tony had noticed earlier, as crisp as the pleat in the tan Dockers, and Tony began to wonder if the man ironed everything he owned.
Tucking his shirt in to the waistband of his pants Steve gathered up the damp towel he had used and went back to the bathroom to hang it up so that it dried properly. He chanced to look at himself in the mirror before coming back out, running his fingers through the quickly drying strands. Tony had looked at him very intently when he had returned, and Steve wasn’t quite certain what the look meant, or how he felt about it. It was a curious thing, which didn’t stop him adjusting his hair a little and smoothing his shirt anyways.
He walked back out onto the patio, now crowded with a barbeque, a table and two chairs, and a cooler backed up against the railing.
“Catch!” Came the call, and he swiftly grabbed the two beer bottles that had been lobbed at him out of their lazy arc.
“Two?” He asked as he sat down at the table as per Tony’s invitation.
“You’re one beer behind.” Tony said, taking another swig of his own, and pointing at the empty beside the barbeque with his pinky. “Soon to be two if you aren’t careful.”
Steve shrugged and thumbed off the bottle cap, taking a drink.
“You know that’s a twist off.” Tony told him with a smile.
“Twist off? You certainly have made things simpler in this decade.”
“You just do that so you can show off don’t you Cap?”
“Perhaps,” he answered with a smirk, wanting to leave his earlier mood behind, and feeling Tony’s light-heartedness in every motion and word. He took a long drink, emptying nearly half the bottle.
“Now eat, before it gets cold.”
“Yes Mother.” That comment earned him a sarcastic headshake and pursed lips. He helped himself to a good spoonful of the grilled vegetables that Tony had piled onto a communal plate between them. “Is this?” He poked at the curled shell sitting beside his steak.
“Lobster? Yes.” Tony had already shoveled a forkful of it into his mouth.
“Wow, I’ve never had lobster before.”
“One of the good things about this decade then?”
“Try it with the melted butter.”
Tony enjoyed cooking when he got the chance, and he enjoyed watching his friends eat, especially when they were enjoying what he had prepared. And he found he really enjoyed watching Steve eat, there being a real satisfaction in seeing a break in the previously sullen mood; and, he admitted to his ego, with introducing the man to the finer things in life. It was almost as good as experiencing them for the first time himself.
“I have to apologize, for destroying two of the bags.”
“Ah, just two? Between Bruce and Thor we go through a dozen a week around here. Two is nothing. The important thing was, did it help?”
“I suppose it did, a little.”
“Good. So maybe you want to talk to me, tell me what’s on your mind Cap?”
The great sigh made Tony wonder if Steve was ready to open up just yet, but he was pleased when he did get an answer.
“Just trying to find my place in this world I guess. It’s so very different than the one I left behind.”
“Very different? It’s still the good guys versus the bad guys.”
“Yeah, but at least our bad guys were human, like us. And it was easier to figure out who they were.”
“You still had spies.”
“Yes, but you could generally sort out that the person behind the gun barrel pointed at you was your enemy. And their weapons rarely glowed.” Steve shoveled, politely, another forkful of steak into his mouth.
“The Tesseract was an alien device.”
“Used by our own mad scientists.”
“Hey! My Dad was one of those mad scientists thank you very much.”
“And more proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Steve finished off his beer, and purposely thumbed open the new one Tony had left for him.
“Now wait a minute, I resemble that remark.” Tony broke out into a fit of laughter, something Steve couldn’t help but join in along with. When it faded Steve looked right at Tony with a serious set to his jaw.
“Your Dad was part of the team that gave me this gift.” He turned his hands over in front of himself, sighing. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Glad you still think that way.”
“I have to, I only had one dream, to be a soldier, to get out into the fight. Between him, and Dr. Erskine and Colonel Phillips I got that chance. I did good things.” The pause was prolonged before Steve spoke again, and his volume had dropped significantly. “Now I don’t know what to dream for.”
“The bad guys are still out there Cap, and they are stronger than before. And we need you. You’re the only leader this Avengers group can have. You’ve got no ulterior motives or hidden agendas, no dirty secrets, no ego to feed; you’re the only one who can look after this motley crew. You’re the only good one out of all of us.” Tony finished his third beer and set the bottle down, looking right at Steve for a few good breaths, as if he was trying to make up his mind about something. “And, you need another drink.”
“Thank you.” Steve whispered, a little overwhelmed by the speech, a little unsure of the look. He watched Tony stand from the table, try to move around the chair legs, and then pitch forward, tumbling over his own feet. In a split second Steve was up and had caught Tony before he ended up face first on the concrete floor.
“Whoa Tony.” He pulled the unsteady man to stability, feeling him teeter backwards a bit, seeing his eyes lock right into his, not letting go, hearing the labored breaths. For a few moments there was no response to his actions. But when one came it nearly knocked Steve over as well.
“Oh God Steve, you are hot.” And he felt Tony’s hands lace around his neck, and draw his face forward, pushing his mouth hard over his, twisting his face to capture the full spread of Steve’s lips. Steve hardly had time to register the sensation and the insistence of that mouth before Tony sagged back, gasping, chest heaving.
“Tony, you’re drunk.”
“Yes,” he nodded, “yes I am. But in the morning I’ll be sober, and you’ll still be hot.” And he pushed his mouth onto Steve’s again before the other man could pull away, or object. Tony felt the strength in Steve, and the smoothness of his skin under his lips and it made him desperate for more. Only the need for a breath forced him away.
“Tony?” Steve had to gasp, as did Tony again, he noted. “I don’t understand.”
“Steve, you’re amazing, and gorgeous, and humble, and innocent, and I just want to kiss you. Please, let me give you this.” Steve looked into Tony’s face to see his parted lips, his wide eyes, his flushed cheeks, and he knew it wasn’t from the alcohol.
“Tony, I don’t know, I don’t,” it was Steve’s turn to stumble over his words, “I don’t know if this is what I want.”
“And yet you are still holding onto me.” Tony raised both eyebrows with an expectant look coloring his face to its more typical smugness.
“I, well, I.” Steve didn’t move his arms from around Tony’s back, and didn’t protest as Tony came to him again, this time more slowly, brushing at his lips, whetting them with the tip of his tongue, coaxing his mouth open and then darting within to taste him, and to swirl around with insistence. As Steve closed his eyes he righted them both from their tango-like stance, and felt Tony wrap their arms together, hands clutching at the solid biceps, chest pushing, heaving against his own.
“Tony,” he tried to say, breathless all of a sudden, “I can’t. I’m not like you.”
“Yes you are Steve. More than you probably want to admit.”
“Please don’t take this the wrong way Tony, but I’m not a narcissist. That’s not what my life has been about.”
Tony was the one to pull away from Steve just then, not angry, or hurt by the words he knew were true, but with the need to explain, properly, without being colored by the desire that was raging under his skin.
“I’ll never patronize you so much as to say I understand what it feels like to be plucked out of your time and dumped into a completely new one. But I do know what it’s like to be a hero, and I do know what it takes from you.”
“Tony?” All Steve could think to do was whisper his name, his own gut awash with feelings he couldn’t even begin to sort out. The images and memories of Peggy came to the fore, the way her lips had felt, pressed against his, the way his legs had begun to feel unsteady, the way it had been hard to collect a coherent thought for a good few minutes. He hadn’t ever thought he would feel that way again, suddenly alive, suddenly aware, but it was all back, and it scared the hell out of him. He tried to focus on Tony’s words to keep his mind from swirling away into confusion.
“You and I, we chose this life. We could have walked away, hell, run away, but we didn’t, we don’t. We see a sunrise in the morning, or a sunset at night never really knowing if it’s the last one we are ever going to see. And sure, we’re scared about that, and we fight like hell against it, but in the end we keep going out there, because it doesn’t matter. We’re going to protect this world, at all costs. Whether it’s going down on a plane into the arctic to keep a madman from blowing up the US, or forcing a nuke through a rift in space to blow up an alien mothership. We don’t think about it, we just do it. You are Captain America, and Steve Rogers, they are the same person, and he’s a pretty fine person if you ask me. Hey, if you ask anyone in this house they’ll tell you the same.”
Steve felt the tears beginning to prickle behind his eyes again, but he forced them to stay open, willing the moisture to stay away by clenching his fists and gritting his teeth.
“Find the joy in your life, give yourself permission to stop mourning Steve. Our lives aren’t easy for so many reasons, we are always going to feel every loss deeper than most because we are going to blame ourselves. So if every once in awhile a hero gets offered a soft bed, or a good meal, or the promise of friendship, even intimacy from someone who understands, because he or she lives it too, there’s no shame in taking it. You know better than me Steve; you’ve already died once. Are you ready to take a chance on living?”
“I don’t know what to do Tony. Things were just so different where I came from. No one talked about feelings, you did your job: I went to war. I didn’t have anything else.”
“I know this isn’t typical, I know that I’m asking you to step really far out of your comfort zone. But I am asking honestly.”
“It isn’t that you’re a man Tony. I just,” he dropped his head in embarrassment, “I’ve just never done anything like this before.”
Tony’s brow wrinkled. “You mean?”
“I don’t want to disappoint you, or hurt you.”
“You really are the most amazing man Steve. Still thinking of everyone else before yourself. Well I don’t care what you know or you don’t know. I’m asking you to trust me. Can you do that?”
The answer came with strong hands caressing down Tony’s sides, urging him forward into Steve’s chest, a hand curling around his neck to cup his head carefully but firmly, and lips brushing themselves against Tony’s already parted ones, a shy tongue deepening the kiss from the very outset, fed by hunger, and desperation, and hope.
Well, here comes some of the lemons you have been waiting for (I hope.) Enjoy, I hope I can paint a sexy, slashy picture for you all.
“We should,” deep breath, “take this inside.” Another breath. He was trying to coax Steve in from the patio, which, for all its shade, was not as comfortable as the expensive mattresses Tony had outfitted all his guest rooms with. He could hardly believe how giddy he felt; and it had nothing to do with the three beers from dinner, or the one while cooking it, or the two before that. He felt as sober as he ever had, his heavy breathing and lightheadedness was solely due to the company he had in his arms, and the anticipation of where things could go.
“I should clean this up first.” Steve tried to offer.
“No, I’ll get to it later.” Tony urged him through the French doors with a gentle pull on his waist and swivel to put himself in front of Steve and between him and the dinner dishes.
Steve doubted that it would be Tony who got to it later; he thought it was more likely to be Jarvis. He thought that Tony Stark probably hadn’t cleaned up after himself since he’d built the AI and the bots. And he remembered how hard it had been to even get an iron and ironing board out of Jarvis so he could press his own shirts. And then he started wondering why he was thinking about such ridiculous things as he felt Tony’s hands, slightly calloused hands, pulling that finely pressed tee shirt out of the waistband of his pants. In a moment it was off, and tossed carelessly to the floor, something the normally meticulous Steve didn’t even care about then.
“Oh my God.” Tony’s hands went to the defined muscles of Steve’s chest, finally getting to touch the thing that had been distracting him for hours. “I cannot believe that you didn’t have hoards of woman chasing after you Steve.”
“There aren’t many women in foxholes Tony.”
“I thought that was atheists?”
“Them either.” The smile made Tony’s legs feel weak.
As they bantered, Tony backed them up, in careful steps towards Steve’s bed, a bed he intended to leave in complete disarray by the time he was done. Both men were breathing audibly in the otherwise silent space, and Tony loved hearing it, hearing how he was unhinging Steve, and himself if he was being honest. He brought his mouth down to Steve’s neck and exhaled slowly, raising gooseflesh that he just as quickly brushed with his lips. Steve offered the angular curve of skin by turning his head.
“What do you? What do you want to do with me Tony?” He stuttered, eyes closed, trying to sort out the feelings that were assaulting him from so many sides.
“What do I want to do? Or what am I going to do to you Steve?” Tony’s words fell from another teasing breath that made Steve shudder, unable to open his eyes for fear of the overload of seeing Tony’s smile.
“Both.” He whispered.
Gentle hands pushed him to sit on the bed and then to lie back, shuffling backwards as he kicked off his shoes. He felt Tony’s weight shift the mattress a little, and felt his presence hovering over him.
“I want,” The whispers began, close to his right ear, “to undress you.” Fingertips traced down his naked chest and Steve moaned softly. “Oh look.” Tony laughed softly, and pressed a kiss over Steve’s breastbone.
“I want to touch you.” Fingers followed the definitions of the six-pack on Steve’s abdomen, feeling a deep exhale.
“I want to make you lose control.” Those fingers traced just above the waistband of the Dockers, teasing by curling underneath. Steve fisted the sheets.
“I want to make love to you.”
Steve felt his whole body freeze and then sink, trembling against the bedclothes, he knew he couldn’t move or even speak for that moment as the words washed over him.
“Tony?” He stuttered, quietly on a halted breath.
“Don’t worry.” Tony pressed a simple kiss to Steve’s lips, which caused the man to start a little, not having expected it. “What I’m going to do is just kiss you, in a few places I hope, and caress you, and I promise that I won’t take off any more of your clothes. I’ll take it really slowly, and you just tell me when to stop.”
Tony watched Steve’s expression soften, his lips, which had been pursed, parted along with his relaxed jaw, and finally his eyes opened again to look up, wide and liquid. A quiver ran the length of Tony’s spine, delicious and long as he leaned in to kiss Steve again, feeling the other man’s warm hands wrap around his back and hold him, hovering, close enough to feel each other’s breaths. And he nodded, which made Tony grin.
“Can I see you too?” Steve whispered, hands drifting down Tony’s back to pull at his shirt as well.
“Are you sure? There are scars.”
“We all have scars Tony.”
“Yeah, we do.” He sat back on his haunches as Steve let him go, straddling Steve’s hard legs as he shrugged out of his shirt, casting it away, and then pulled his tank top away from the circle of the arc reactor embedded in his chest and off his shoulders and arms. It joined the other fabric on the floor.
Tony smiled almost shyly in the blue light of the device, the only light in the room besides what was filtering in from the terrace.
“Mad scientists.” He whispered, letting himself enjoy the attention as Steve’s gaze combed over the muscles in his chest; not so well defined Tony could admit, but attractive enough if some folk were to be believed.
“If I touch it, will it hurt you?”
Tony shook his head and followed Steve’s fingers with his eyes as they reached up cautiously from his supine position to just trace the edge of the circle carefully.
“I read the story. You really are a genius Tony.”
“Thank you.” It was Tony’s turn to whisper.
“Can I kiss you again?”
“Oh God yes.” And Tony leaned in, rocking his hips against Steve’s knowing his own excitement had to be palpable but not caring, loving when he felt the beginnings of Steve’s arousal against him, loving even more when their mouths met, and he was able to taste the shy kiss again.
With paintbrush gentle strokes Tony had run his fingers over Steve’s cheeks and lips and planted careful kisses on his eyelids, trailing both affections down to his neck and clavicles and right down the center of his chest. At times he remained hovering above and at times he let himself slide down to lay beside Steve, all the while caressing as he had promised, and listening to soft moans and cries, feeling his own body simmering, and carefully, innocently (well, not really), brushing his pelvis against Steve once or twice, to gauge the response of the man to his desires. (And to tease himself into further ecstasy). It only made Tony more desperate when Steve did not pull away. But he held true to his words.
When his gentle touches finally lulled Steve to sleep Tony lay and watched him for a few minutes, memorizing the curves of his body and the soft way his eyelids fluttered as he dreamed. (Tony hoped he was dreaming of him.) He made no move to cover the man, wanting to be able to look at him for as long as he could. Then he carefully rose up off the bed, and went quietly back out to the terrace to tidy up the dishes into the cooler. No point in leaving snacks out, only to wake up to find a flock of sea birds taking up residence. He transported the cooler and the Barbeque utensils to the hallway for the bots to remove, and left the actual Barbeque for what he hoped might be subsequent use. As he cleaned he replayed the actions of the night, feeling each emotion and shiver rush through and over his body again, and the arousal, which had never completely gone away, began to throb against him as his breathing began to hitch. Watching the sleeping Steve, dreaming of what lay beneath those perfectly pressed trousers pushed him too close to the edge for comfort.
He retreated to the bathroom to wash up his hands and took careful stock of himself in the mirror. His hair was messed, in a love-making, bed-head kind of way that made him look a little more roguish, which he liked. His cheeks were flushed, and his lips full red, remnants of the passions, unrequoited as they stood. And speaking of standing: his arousal was hard and plain against his pants, still aching, now even more with every brush of the constricting fabric against it.
“God.” He whispered to himself, and he looked into the mirror again, beyond his own image, to see, at just the right angle, Steve, still sleeping, his chest rising and falling much as an Angel’s might he figured. Without even thinking about it his fingers went to the throbbing and he began to knead, his breaths quickening as he did so. In moments his other hand had joined in, and he’d undone the button and zipper and was freeing himself from the constraints. Held in his hand, the pain barely abated and he began to stroke himself slowly. Knowing though that remaining over the sink was a terrible idea for so many reasons, he spun and reaching for the crossbar of the enclosed shower, bracing himself with one hand while the other continued to feed the tensions within him.
With visions of Steve and the memories of how his skin had tasted it didn’t take long before Tony felt the familiar clenching in his gut, and the unconsciously held breath in his chest. Once enraptured by the sensations he hardly noticed the movement in his periphery, and even when he did, it was too late to stop.
“Oh. God. Steve.” And the release came in convulsions of his body, deep gasps and a trembling that left him afraid that again he would fall in front of the man. Soft hands lit on his shoulders as he let his head droop forwards, too lost in the orgasm to even feel any shame just then. But it came soon enough.
“Steve, I’m so sorry, I just needed, I just couldn’t.” He fumbled to put himself to rights before he even dared to turn around to see Steve. Any hope that Steve might see him as serious, as anything but sex starved was snuffed out. 1940’s morality certainly hadn’t bargained for this. He took a deep breath and prepared to apologize.
“Steve?” He began. And all he saw was the man he had so recently been focused on, leaning back against the vanity, his lips parted, slowly breathing as a palm brushed against his own ferociously obvious erection.
“You looked so beautiful Tony.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have watched you, but I couldn’t stop. You looked so incredible.”
“Oh God.” Tony practically threw himself against Steve, forcing a kiss onto him, the relief palpable in his chest. “I just wanted you so much.” Even to him, the voice sounded like a plea. “I needed.” And then it trailed off.
“I need it too.”
“Maybe I should go?” He didn’t want to, but he also didn’t want to take this beyond the edge, not for one night, he wanted so much more.
Steve reached out for Tony’s hand and curled their fingers together, holding him back.
“No. I want you to stay.” And he brushed their clenched hands against himself, closing his eyes with a very quiet moan as he did so.
“Are you sure?” Tony voice was an eager mixture of want and trepidation.
“Oh thank God.” Tony unsnarled their hands and firmly cupped Steve, unable to hold back his desires. Another moan and his whole body trembled with the anticipation. With his other hand he loosened the military web belt, thanking the stars that it only required the one hand. He could feel Steve’s abdomen starting to heave with staggered indrawn breaths, and saw his hand pushed away as Steve undid the fly and shrugged his hips free. Grip lost for only a moment, Tony returned to caressing the hardened rod with vigor, his own breaths now hitched. Stealing a desperate kiss between gasps.
Steve hitched his thumbs into the waistband of his shorts, hoping Tony would understand how much more he wanted. He did. But as they were drawn down Tony followed, sinking to his knees before Steve. He couldn’t help but hiss out as his sensitive, swollen head brushed against the rough of Tony’s beard. But just as quickly that sensation was lost as a hand cupped him, and another wrapped the base of him, and that velvet skin was drawn across Tony’s soft lips. He gripped the marble countertop, let his head fall back and moaned loudly. Moans which turned to cries as Tony’s warm tongue darted out to swirl over him, followed by the hot mouth that engulfed him completely.
The taste of his mouth, and the taste of the salt on his skin had nothing on the taste of having Steve in his mouth. The musk, the strength, the feel of him brought Tony back to life again, and his own muffled cries joined Steve’s. But he did not stop. He continued to let his tongue swirl over Steve’s head, let one hand pump at his base, and carefully drew his teeth along the shaft. The way he knew Steve would start to come apart.
“Oh God Tony.” Steve gasped through gritted teeth.
Tony could feel the muscles across Steve’s thighs and pelvis tightening and he began to move deeper, and to pull harder.
“Oh God, I’m going to snap this vanity in two if you don’t stop.”
“Break it!” Tony cried out and then pulled as hard as he could, following it by plunging himself downwards as he felt Steve shudder, tense and then convulse. The counter survived, but Steve barely did, neurons firing from his groin, all the way up his spine to his brain. Stars washed out his vision for anything else, and every part of his body began to scream at him in joy. Sliding to the floor as Tony finally released him, he had tears squeezing from his eyes, and useless hands draping around Tony’s waist, his head fell to Tony’s shoulder, positions reversed with Tony now supporting him.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
When he finally felt that he could control his appendages, and his voice, Steve lifted his head to find a smiling, indulgent Tony looking at him, the soft corners of his mouth just turned up, begging for a gentle kiss Steve figured. So he brushed his mouth over Tony’s, and let his fingers wander up the other man’s chest, drawing them over the arc reactor.
“Can this get wet?” He whispered.
Tony nodded, just as lacking in control.
“Have a shower with me?”
Tony nodded again, biting his lower lip.
Both men stood, slowly, and Steve helped Tony out of his pants. They shared a full embrace before stepping into the warm spray of the water, letting it run over tired muscles. Front to front, Tony slipped his arms around Steve’s waist, and Steve cupped Tony’s jaw with both hands, turning his face just slightly, coming to him with parted lips, grinding against him with everything he had left, capturing his tongue and then his whole body with the glow of their shared exhaustion. Tears slipped from Steve’s eyes, washed away by the water as he let one hand reach up to tangle in Tony’s hair holding him in the kiss, while the other went down between them to grasp Tony and slowly bring him to his own relief.
Thick towels added to the drowsy air around the men as they dried each other off and returned to the bedroom, still mostly dark. Steve saw that the towels were hung up to dry properly, which only made Tony smile. They sat on the mussed bed and Tony threaded his fingers into Steve’s, leaning against his solid arm.
“Tony?” Steve was keeping his voice low, the room just seemed to demand it.
“Tony? Because I liked this, with you, does that mean I’m gay?” The question came out slowly, with pauses as Steve screwed up his courage to ask it.
“Let me answer your question with another, if I might?”
“Let’s just say that Natasha walked in here, in that black suit of hers. Clint wasn’t in the picture, it was just her and you. And she started undoing those buckles and zippers, and she looked right at you as she undressed, and begged you to make love to her. What would you do?”
“You mean after throwing up?”
Steve paused again, Tony could hear him breathing through parted lips.
“If Clint really wasn’t her partner?”
“Free and clear my moral friend. Now, what would you do?”
“She is beautiful.”
“She is.” Tony agreed.
“I think that I would probably want to be with her. Yes, she is very beautiful.”
“Then you my friend, are not gay.”
“Then what am I?”
“You are enlightened.” Tony smiled at him.
“And what does that make us?” Steve clutched a little harder at Tony’s hand, and turned it over as if examining it.
“I don’t know Steve.” And he didn’t. Everything was so confusing for Tony just then. He couldn’t recall ever having the same depth of feelings that he was feeling just then, sitting in the dark with Steve. Sure he’d felt lust and desires, for men and woman, and he hadn’t denied himself much in terms of pleasures. He knew he was, just as Steve had said, a narcissist. But now his skin was tingling, and his gut fluttering, and he wasn’t sure of himself, for the first time in a long time.
“Friends? Partners? Lovers?” The question hung as Tony looked at Steve, with his tousled blond hair, still wet and only finger combed, and his liquid eyes in the semi-dark, all pulling at Tony’s heart. He’d given himself a lot of labels in his time, mostly out of ego, he didn’t want to give himself this one, he wanted Steve to do it. So he whispered his answer.
“We’ll figure it out. I promise. We can take our time. I’m sure we won’t die tomorrow.” He turned to face Steve and brushed his fingers down the side of his smooth cheek. “I want to take our time.”
“Is ‘this’ going to happen again?”
“If you want it to.”
“I think I do.”
“Me too.” Tony leaned in and kissed Steve softly. “Let me take you out tomorrow night, I know this club, much better alcohol. Maybe you’ll actually get tipsy?”
“Probably not. I can’t get drunk, my metabolism and all.” He shrugged.
“Well then, I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t have ‘getting you drunk so you’d sleep with me’ as plan A.” As always, Tony turned to humor when he couldn’t think of what else to say.
“You planned this?” Steve pulled away for a second, until he saw Tony’s grin and understood that he was being played. He let himself laugh.
“It’s a nice club never the less, we’ll enjoy the Scotch, a cigar or two, maybe we’ll find some company, do some dancing, maybe more? Or maybe we’ll come home, just the two of us.”
“You don’t think people might talk?”
“The inflated costs of the drinks more than pays for the discretion of the staff. No one will say a word, no matter what they see or hear.”
“Okay.” Steve nodded, hiding a little yawn behind his free hand.
“You should sleep.” Tony urged.
“Will you stay?”
“Yeah. I’d like that.”
“And what do we say if someone sees you coming out of my room in the morning?”
“I’ll just tell them that you got drunk and I stayed to watch over you.”
“I think it might be more believable if we said that it was you who got drunk and me that looked after you.”
They both lay back on the bed, moving about to find sheets in the tangle, turning towards each other, bodies exhausted, minds the same. Steve’s voice was so slow and tired sounding.
“So tomorrow we see our sunrise, and live for the moment?”
“Perhaps we should just say that we’ll live each day as we come to it.” Suddenly the other idea seemed too vain, too much like the person he had been before this Avengers Initiative, before this night. And suddenly he understood that he owed them both more than that.
“Alright.” And Steve let his eyes close. “Goodnight Tony.”
“Goodnight,” Tony leaned down and kissed Steve gently on the forehead, “my Lover.” The smile from Steve was all he needed, and he settled himself beside the warm body and let his own eyes close.
Thank you so much for taking this fun little journey with me. I really enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.