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The Inherent Absence of Light

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He’s not afraid of the dark, not really, but there’s a simple reason for that.

~~~

When Tony wakes up, tangled between sheets, a comforter so heavy that it nearly smothers him, and Steve’s arm across his hipbones, it’s pitch black. And usually, in normal, everyday life, that’d be fine. The shades are drawn against the thrum and glare of the city below, the bedroom door shut against the constant lights that come with living in an A.I. infested mansion. It’s dark, almost oppressively so, and Tony blinks a few times, unable to tell if his eyes are actually open or not, before realizing this shouldn’t ever be a problem because he doesn’t have a normal, everyday life. He launches instantly from the drowsy haze he’d been in into a full blown panic attack.

He twists against the bed, squirms away from the heavy warmth of Steve and the constricting blanket and tears at his chest until the blankets all fall away and the room is lit up with a cool blue haze. He’s vaguely aware of Steve shifting beside him, drawing back his arm and sitting up, and even through the pound of adrenaline coursing through his entire body, Tony knows that’s a conversation that he simply doesn’t want to have. Ever, really, but especially not right now. So instead he grabs for the jeans he’d tossed toward the wall the night before, and shimmies on in.

Steve’s brows draw down over his eyes as he looks up at Tony, confusion and concern battling sleep. “Tony?” The glow of the arc reactor makes his face pale and almost sickly looking.

Tony waves him away, and pulls on a shirt, dulling the bright blue glare down to a hum. “No worries, Cap, just thinking up something new, you know, sleep inventing and all. And this is just too great to miss, so I’m going to start on it. Just go back to sleep, you know, I’ll be downstairs.” He keeps talking as he backs toward the door, over and across Steve’s repeated attempts to cut in. Thankfully, Steve was still far to polite to actually interrupt someone, or at least he is off the battlefield. “Working. Great inventions, and all that. Feel free to go back to sleep, or you know, down to the gym to destroy some more punching bags. Whichever.”

He twists the door handle open and hurries from the room. He imagines how it must look from Steve’s viewpoint on the bed, the bob and weave of light flickering down the hallway, and the eventual dim returning to darkness, and he hates that part of him that shudders at the mental image of the lights fading out.

~~~

Hours later, Steve ventures down to the workshop. By that point, Tony’s half inside an old machine he’d never managed to actually get working, some old bit of metal where the actual mathematics and the mechanics involved never managed to fully meet up. Every now and then he’ll tinker around with it, try to make two plus two equal something other than four, but it still sits lifeless.

Despite the inability to see anything outside of the machine, he still knows the moment Steve opens the door. It’d be impossible not to; the music lowers instantly to something that won’t instill permanent hearing loss, which is a mixture of Jarvis’ consideration and Steve’s request. There’s also the sound of Dummy whirring himself into a fever-pitch of excitement the second Steve comes into view, and Tony knows from past experience that the good Captain will be fending off tools, shakes and the fire-extinguisher until Tony pulls himself out of the metal shell he’s currently upended in and saves the day.

Something he’s currently loathe to do. Instead, he twists around until he’s right-side up and starts cutting a hole in the side of the shell that someday may or may not house his next lab assistant. Steve stumbles around behind him, waves off Dummy, and apparently manages to distract him with something because a moment later he’s at the edge of the metal shell, hands tracing the back of Tony’s arms soothingly. “Bad night?”

For a moment, Tony considers telling him that there’s rarely a good night. He knows that Cap has his own demons in the world of dreams, he knows that this is nothing unusual. He remembers flying low over New York, during the fight with Loki and seeing Steve standing still amidst the chaos, a lost man with the world dying around him. It hadn’t lasted, and he’d been back in the fight moments later, but Tony had seen and Tony had known.

Instead, he says, “just wanted to get started on this, that’s all,” and trusts Cap to hear the ‘yes’ that’s inside the words.

Steve murmurs an “ah,” and sidles up behind him and touches his lips to the nape of Tony’s neck, right where it turns into shoulder and Tony can’t quite keep himself from shuddering. “Kinda dangerous to be doing to a guy holding fire in his hands.” He prides himself that his voice is actually steady. Mostly steady. Possibly not disinterested sounding, because that would insinuate he doesn’t want Steve to continue and that could not be further from the truth.

He can feel the movement against his back when Steve shrugs. “I’ll heal quickly.”

Tony turns off the blowtorch and twists around in Steve’s embrace. He’s leaning across the outer shell, sharp edges of metal shoved up under his armpits. Without another word, he wraps his arms around Steve’s neck and presses against the metal between them, feeling it warm beneath their bodies. His tongue licks into Steve’s mouth, kissing, suckling, tasting. Steve hasn’t even bothered to brush his teeth yet, and there isn’t even the taste of coffee lingering around anywhere; it’s simply, purely Steve.

He wonders if Steve can taste the thin breadth of whiskey on his own breath.

Steve lifts him out of the shell, which is way too hot, in all honesty, and Tony wraps his legs around his torso. They stagger toward the worktable, which is somehow blessedly clear of any of Tony’s projects, and that’s the distraction that Steve’d set Dummy on, of course he’d be doing something, and then that thought is derailed when Steve lays him down on the tabletop and climbs on top, their mouths never one leaving each others.

For a long moment, Tony wonders if this is all Steve’d planned. He was ridiculously old-fashioned like that, enjoyed extended make out sessions and holding hands, whispered platitudes and endearments. But Tony likes more, liked heat and friction and coming undone on each other. Luckily, Steve likes all this as well, and Tony breathes a sigh as a slick finger slid its way inside of him, touching, exploring, searching.

Tony gasps as Steve presses into him. It burns, low in his gut and it’s incredible and too much and he buries his face into the place where Steve’s neck turns into shoulder. Steve slides his hands along the ridges of his back, down to caress his ass and up to rub soothingly into clenched shoulder muscles, until the burn has developed into something more intense and simultaneously not enough. Tony lets out a soft whimper and closes his eyes. Steve pushes him back far enough to capture his mouth with his own before setting a slow, unhurried pace.

They slide together easily, Steve rotating him on his cock more than he fucks into him, and Tony’s more than happy to just let it all go, to let the endorphins win and start this crap of a day over with until he feels Steve’s mouth wet and hungry against the puckered skin around the arc reactor. His eyes snap open and every muscle in his body tenses up in an entirely unpleasant way. Steve shudders momentarily, then pauses and looks up at him. “Not good?”

Tony opens his mouth, closes it, then looks away. “Not bad, just not… not a big turn on? It’s kind of weird, that’s all.” He doesn’t want to scare his lover away, definitely doesn’t want this to end in a fight. Luckily, Steve doesn’t say anything. Instead, he simply hums into his neck for a moment, then pushes him a bit harder into the table, lifting his hips up and fucking in smooth and hard and unrushed.

Tony lets his eyes slide back shut, reaches up and touches Steve’s nipples, his neck, his shoulders and ass and everything. He can’t keep his hands still, just filled with the need to touch and catalog and feel the smooth silk of muscles beneath skin. It all builds way too quickly, and afterward, as Tony attempts to catch his breath, he opens his eyes to see Steve’s blue gaze focused on his chest in an almost reverent way, and something twists inside him, dark and insecure and angry and lost.

~~~

At some point, Tony starts to combine clichés. It’s not really because he likes clichés; they do their job in a pinch, but there should be some much better, original way to say something. He’ll use the cliché, naturally, if it’ll help him mock someone, but as a whole they’re a thing to be avoided. So when “it’s always darkest before dawn” becomes “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he feels he’s probably overstressed and completely justified in the three day vacation he gives himself as an early birthday present. A short period in California helps everyone. And if he just so happens to donate money to avoid the blackouts, well then. He’s a philanthropist, after all.

~~~

So, naturally, it’s not the blackouts on the west coast that he has to worry about. It’s the unscheduled ones on the east coast that bite him in the ass.

The lights across New York go out. Tony can imagine what it looks like from space, one of the biggest sources of light pollution in the world suddenly snuffed out like a birthday candle. Well, except for Stark Tower; after all, there were benefits of being the leading name in clean energy and having a self-powering generator.

Unfortunately, none of the Avengers are actually at Stark Tower when it happens. Instead, they’re all in some conference room at SHIELD headquarters, listening to Fury bitch about something involving threat levels, the protection of the world, and synergy. Or something like that; whatever it is, it involves a crappily made slideshow. Tony’s positive that half the Avengers aren’t even listening; Thor’s nodded off three times. He gets poked in the side by Bruce every time he starts to drool. Barton’s made a tiny bow out of paperclips and elastic bands and is currently trying to shoot erasers down Natasha’s shirt. Tony plays with his phone the whole time, not even bothering to keep it hidden under the table. No one says anything, and it’s not until he overhears Coulson and Fury later that he learns it’s because it had kept him from speaking up the whole time, the same way a toddler is given a toy when his parents take him out to eat.

He retaliates later by releasing a virus into the SHEILD communication networks that programs every wireless transmission to Cartoon Network, and replaces every email and text with badly written teenage poetry. And if he’s being a bit childish about the whole thing, well then. They started it.

The other Avengers make up for their teammates lack of professionalism. Natasha’s eyes never leave Fury’s face, even as she unerringly bats erasers away from her cleavage. Bruce maintains his normal Zen calm, taking notes and asking questions periodically amidst the brutal poking of their resident Norse god. Steve practically sits at attention the whole time, nodding emphatically when Fury seems to desire feedback and getting far to excited every time he actually understands any reference that’s made.

So Tony thinks that it’s no great loss when the power goes off and not only do the lights die but the projector as well. Unfortunately, SHIELD headquarters had all sorts of mandatory reactions to the power suddenly disappearing; such as the building using its last vestiges of energy to throw the entire place into lockdown. The bolts on the windows click into action, the doors all swing shut together, and the Avengers are all left staring at one another around a table lit only by the blue glow of Tony’s chest.

“And then there’s that,” Tony says, and slides his phone into his pocket. He stands to leave, figuring that with no power comes no responsibility to give a damn. It’s then that he notices the shared, apprehensive glance between SHIELD employees. “What?”

“Damage control,” Barton balances a makeshift arrow on a fingertip. It’d be a lot more impressive, if it hadn’t been a two inch eraser. “Usually SHIELD has things in the labs. Which operate on power locks.”

Tony can do the math on that. “Which have all been turned off.” It could be a dicey situation; most scientists that Tony’d met were like Bruce without the other guy; nice guys, wearing badly fitting clothes with slight social problems. They had no real concept on how to deal with giant genetically mutated creatures suddenly escaping their bonds and crashing willy-nilly about the place. Which, in all honesty, should be a prerequisite for becoming a mad scientist; the ability to deal with high-risk situations. “Well, that’s useful.”

Fury shoots him a glare with his single eye. “So we’ll fix the problem. Congratulations, Stark. You can head on down to the generators and see why the backups didn’t come on. The rest of you get to play hero.”

“Fuck that,” Barton says, and leans back in his chair. “I’m sticking with Stark. He’ll probably need instructions on how to get to the generators anyway, especially since the quickest way there is through the ventilation shafts.”

“Of course you want to stick with me, everyone wants to stay with the genius when the lights go out, but do any of you ever invite me to your Christmas dinners?” Tony sighs theatrically. On the opposite side of the table, Thor glances around and asks if these dinners were magnificent feasts, fit for many a warrior. “And the ventilation shafts? Really? Only SHIELD would put their generators somewhere tricky. What happened to using the basement like a normal evil corporation?”

Barton ignores most of his rant with the ease of the fluent. “Yeah, whatever you say. I’m not paid to do things in the dark; I’m hanging out with the walking, talking flashlight.”

Tony can feel the grin freeze onto his face. “Genius, billionaire, walking, talking flashlight, thank you.” He resists the urge to cover up the blue glare and drop the rest of the room into darkness. It’d only send him into a panic attack as well, and that’s something he prefers to do on his own time, thank you.

“What happened to philanthropist? Or playboy, for that matter?”

Tony stands. “I’m getting ready to play mechanic in a giant super-secret facility. Philanthropist is already assumed. And besides,” he gestures to Steve. “You try being a playboy when he’s in your bed. I’m an old man, Barton; I don’t have that kind of stamina anymore.”

“Thank you for that completely unwanted piece of highly personal information,” Fury says as Steve blushes bright red beside him. Or at least Tony assumes that’s what he does; it’s difficult to tell in the current lighting. “We’ll all do our best to not give a flying fuck. Now you two,” Fury’s single eye rotates between Barton and Tony. “Go play in the ventilation shafts and fix the problem. The rest of you go deal with whatever it is that is probably escaping from the science lab and wrecking havoc on my building. You,” he stabs one finger toward Bruce, who simply lifts his eyebrows in mild interest in return. “Find somewhere comfy and do not destroy my building. And you,” he rounds on Coulson. “play babysitter and keep them from driving the rest of my organization insane. I do not need more people vying for sympathy leave. This is a threat-assessment organization, not some freak show.”

Coulson inclines his head once while Tony sprawls backwards in his chair, one foot propped up on the table. “I’d just like to point out that this so-called threat-assessment organization can’t afford my hourly rate. In case anyone wants to ask more questions about philanthropy or anything.”

“You know, I still have a few episodes of Supernanny TiVoed.” Coulson says mildly. “I’d be more than happy to watch them along with the merry sound of you drooling in the background.”

Tony stands, hands in the air in mock surrender. “I can’t fix anything if you taser me, Agent.” He sighs and turns to Barton. “Lead on, Mole-Man. Burrow your way through these vents and lead us to the prize.”

Barton simply stares a moment before laughing. “Seriously, man, what do you put in your coffee? Other than snark, despair, and the crushed dreams of little children who think that if they work hard they’ll succeed in life?”

“Brimstone, mainly. But sometimes I’ll add a bit of arsenic and vitriol. You know, for flavor.”

“If you two are done,” Fury’s tone suggests they’d better be, or some poor underpaid sap would soon be mopping both of them off the floor, “please fix this so that I can go back to pretending that none of you exist and that I don’t have significant cause to sign assassination papers on you.”

“Tasha would probably do it, too,” Barton mutters. Natasha tilts her head to the side, as if considering the possibilities. Barton shrugs in response, and with an irritating show of grace, heaves himself up onto the table top, removes the vent cover, and shimmies his way inside.

Tony simply sighs, and resigns himself to getting one of his favorite suits dust-stained.

The sad thing is that it’s not a problem worth any of their time. It turns out that a few weeks ago some absent-minded janitor had simply tripped a few of the wires that connected the backup generator to the outside world and it had never been fixed. It takes Tony less than two minutes to get everything back into place, which apparently isn’t even enough time for the mutant creatures to realize they could now eat their captors.

~~~

As a child, he’d been terrified of the unknown, had done his best to learn everything as fast as possible. His teachers had called it genius, a statement his father had concluded was genetically sound. Tony had wanted to know everything, had destroyed and built, ransacked and created.

But he’d never been able to apply that same idea to the dark. It hadn’t been a fear of monsters under the bed, or of intruders appearing out of nothingness when the lights went out. But he’d found himself listening to every sound that the house made around him, to his parents walking across the floor upstairs and the walls creaking as they settled. Ever noise was amplified. Every sound echoed.

He’d slept with a nightlight until he’d gone off to school, some prestigious place where he hadn’t had to head with family and where the lights-off policy was strict. And after that, he’d simply invested in a walk-man and a years supply of double A batteries. Somehow the loud strains of Black Sabbath made everything else seem unimportant.

Of course, years later, there’s that thing with the terrorists in the desert. And after that, fear of the dark is immaterial, because there is literally nothing to be afraid of anymore. The arc reactor takes care of that, a built-in flashlight with a life-saving side effect. No darkness, no fear. Easy. Simple.

~~~

The best thing about being a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist is hands down the genius. But a serious play could be made for the billionaire thing as well. Because that’s how he discovers the Best Thing Ever.

Footage of The Black Widow performing the world’s best strip-tease for a hassled, overworked Pepper Potts.

Tony’s trying to update the security program with a new feature that will allow Jarvis better interface access. With the new code, all he has to do is suggest an idea and if it happens in any building Tony owns, then Jarvis can bring it up. So when Tony tests it out, he tosses “dance” into the search parameter. He figures that he’ll find a bunch of nerds doing some happy dance; if anything, it’ll be great YouTube fodder.

Instead, he pulls up a months old file of Natasha taking her clothes off to “Welcome to the Jungle.” And though it isn’t what most people think of when they think strip tease, Natasha manages to pull it off with her usual efficient grace.

At first he isn’t sure what’s he’s found. The footage shows Natasha in her usual secretary outfit, putting a few files on Pepper’s desk then heading for the door. It’s only when she turns the lock that Tony realizes he’s found something interesting. When she starts unbuttoning her blouse to the line “if you’ve got the money, honey, we’ve got your disease,” Tony slams his laptop shut and bolts for the stairs.

When life hands you Christmas in April, you don’t ask for the gift receipt. Instead you loft your awesome present in the air and go gloat to your friends. Then you try to figure out ways to use said present to annoy your parents.

Which is where the metaphor basically falls apart, but Tony isn’t too worried. Instead, he shares Christmas with Barton, who acts like God himself has given him the Bow of Destiny.

~~~

They run into Natasha the next mooring in the kitchen. She’s sitting on the countertop, yogurt in one hand, a magazine in the other. Tony resists the urge to comment about awkward settings to Barton, and simply reaches over Bruce’s shoulder for the orange juice.

He’s actually not planning on saying anything. Not because he’s a good human being or because Natasha is the scariest person he’s ever met or anything rational like that-- it’s really just because he hasn’t had a cup of coffee yet and some things are just way more important than choking to death on a yogurt spoon. But apparently, Barton has other ideas. Tony’s just managed to pour himself a mug full of delicious black brew when Barton, leaning against the opposite counter and spinning a plate on his fingertip, begins to whistle the opening riff to “Welcome to the Jungle.”

Tony nearly drops his mug. Natasha doesn’t really respond, though her movements seem to slow down dramatically. As though she were considering the facts, figuring out who had said what, weighing her options…

It was possible that Tony gave her way too much credit for clairvoyance. He doubts it, though.

But hell. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that. He joins in on the lyrics, pulling off a horrible mockery of Axl Rose’s voice. Clint continues bopping his way through the guitar part, head swaying from side to side. Bruce glances between the two of them, eyebrows raised and an amused expression vying it’s way across tired features. Natasha continues on her yogurt, eyes still focused on the magazine in front of her.

And then Tony hits “If you’ve got the money, honey, we’ve got your disease,” and simultaneously, both he and Barton jump clear of the furniture and drop into a dirty gyration. It’s probably ridiculous-- they’re two grown men dancing around while simultaneously singing off-key, but it’s totally worth it for the way that the bland expression momentarily falls from Natasha’s face.

It’s not quite anger-- there’s a bit of sadness, perhaps, a trace of irritation and even slight amusement. Then she puts her yogurt and magazine aside, looking for all the world like she might be mentally criticizing them.

They’re interrupted before they can get halfway through the song, which is probably a good thing. Steve and Coulson walk in just as Barton’s sliding an imaginary feather boa between his legs in what someone somewhere may possibly consider a sexy dance move. Steve’s eyes go wide instantly, and he looks around the room frantically, with the ‘please let this be some modern day thing I don’t understand but it will all make sense someday’ expression that he tended to wear far too often these days.

To his credit, Coulson doesn’t even miss a beat. “Clint, people eat here. At least try to keep from offending some of our more upstanding group members.” Thankfully, no one takes the easy shot on who qualifies as an upstanding group member.

Barton grins unrepentantly and sidles up to Coulson, looping his imaginary boa around the agent’s neck and pulling himself close. “I didn’t hear you complaining about my dancing last night, sir.”

And Tony’d been sure that there was no way for Steve to get any more red. He misses out on Coulson’s reply (which, honestly? Not sad about that at all), blows a few kisses toward their resident Super Soldier, and wiggles his way toward the lab. He’s not planning on coming out for a few days at minimum, at least until Natasha’s need for vengeance has run it’s course. Or until it’s satiated itself of Barton, really, Tony’s not picky in the least.

~~~

They don’t have to wait too long before Natasha gets even. The next morning, Jarvis awakens Tony just before the sun comes up. “Sir, Agent Barton’s location has just been discovered outside the tower, and he’ll need your assistance if he wishes to come in.”

Tony blinks toward where he knows one of the cameras are located. He’s lounged out on the sofa, and can still feel the imprint from the seams of the couch cushions across his face. “Why would he need my help to come inside? Barton’s a big boy, he can find his way home without me.”

Jarvis doesn’t reply immediately. Instead, a hologram image of the tower springs up on the coffee table, and there’s Barton, swinging upside-down from the giant “A” on the side of the building. Tony swears softly and closes his eyes again. “Shall I contact Agent Coulson?” Jarvis asks as Tony heaves himself to his feet and triggers the sequence that assembles his armor.

“Why wouldn’t he already know? Agent Phil Coulson, who knows all and tasers people to watch reality television,” Tony mutters as the robotic arms manhandle him. “Let him know in about five minutes. Just give me a chance to bring Barton in and get clear-- no, wait until I get to Steve’s room, this isn’t a conversation I want any part of, and Coulson still has his freaky fan boy shit going on, he won’t go into Steve’s room. I just found the damn file and Barton started that stupid dance scene--”

He’s still grumbling as he detangles a far-too-cheerful looking sniper from the outside of the building. He’s ensnared by a pink feather boa, and if there had been any doubt about who was responsible for this, then that clears it up pretty well. Tony’s even lucky enough to escape before Coulson shows up.

Natasha’s revenge for on Tony is much more subtle, and she manages it even though Tony sleeps the next couple of nights tangled up in Steve’s bed.

He wakes up in the middle of the night, the echoes of nightmares mixed with board meetings still flickering behind his eyelids. Tony stretches, figures he’ll grab a glass of water before going back to sleep, and stumbles toward the bathroom sink. He’s halfway there before he realizes the light is half as bright as it should be, which means he has to replace the clip inside of the reactor before it totally goes bad.

Tony swears and reverses direction mid stagger to head toward the lab. He’s feeling around his chest to pull out the used clip when his hands glance over a piece of paper instead. He stops, pulls the paper free, and as the blue light intensifies his pulse slows down. Tony inhales slowly, lets it all out at once. Of course Natasha would know about this, would go directly for the weak spot in his armor. That’s what master assassins did, after all.

He glances at the paper, and realizes that there are words scrawled neatly across the side that had been turned toward his chest. Don’t tease her about this. Tony considers it, then crumples the paper up and tosses it toward the trash can. He might be able to manage that. It was doubtful, but he’d see what a night of sleep could do.

The next morning Tony sends Pepper a basket filled with lingerie that he imagined would look good on Natasha’s body, along with a copy of the dance footage and a mixed CD of music. It’s the closest he can get to an ‘I’m happy for you’ gesture. And if he sends it during a board meeting, well, it’s not like that’s the worst thing the lot of them has ever caught him doing.

~~~

Every now and then Tony wonders if it’s really an issue. It’s possibly the same idea that schizophrenics have-- if you go long enough on the medication, then maybe there’s a chance you’ve actually been cured and that the pills aren’t doing anything anymore. Tony’s been careful lately; no heavy jackets that cover everything up, keep the mirrors at a safe height, no smothering blankets.

So naturally he decides to throw total caution to the wind and break all of these rules at once, just to see if he’s still as broken as he believed. He lays out a double-breasted suit jacket and steps boldly up to the largest mirror he has access to; the one in Steve’s bedroom (technically, Natasha has one as well, but Tony prefers his liver in it’s current location).

He studies himself in the mirror, and that’s not too bad. One of the positives (and Tony is nothing if not a positive guy) with this newfound fear of the dark is that he needs the light his arc reactor creates. He’s become accustomed to seeing it inside his chest. Imagining a whole human torso, sans chrome and neon, is almost an alien thought now.

He takes a deep breath, then slides his hand across it. The metal is warm against his palm, smooth and slick. The blue light disappears. He keeps his hand there and examines the way he looks in normal light, examines the color of his skin and the brown depth of his eyes until the itch under his hands grows too much. Eventually, his hands drop to his sides and the relief is almost as instantaneous as the sudden change in light.

He doesn’t even try putting the suit on. Really, double-breasted jackets are out of style, anyway.
~~~

Of course, it’s when it blindsides him that this midlife phobia is the worst.

Tony waits until Steve’s getting ready for bed before he strides into his room and makes himself comfortable at the foot of his bed. “I want you to fuck me,” he says in the same tone of voice that he uses when he wants another cup of coffee.

Steve pauses, fingers resting on the buttons at his sternum. “Is this supposed to be unusual? I thought we did that all the time?” There’s a little quirk of a smile on his lips, and even though Tony can’t get him to say “fuck” with the same wild abandon that he says “sex,” at least he doesn’t say things like “making love.” Because they are two fully grown adults, thank you, who do not need silly phrases when they’re getting it on.

Tony ignores the little voice that sounds entirely too much like Bruce inside his head telling him that “getting it on” is also a silly phrase. It’s currently unimportant. “Considering we’ve been sleeping together for a few months, it had better not be unusual.” He glances at the wall over Steve’s head, chews his lips and decides fuck it, let’s go for broke, because he has a rich and vivid fantasy life, and all the guides to a great sex life say that communication is the best start. “I want you to pin me on the bed.”

Steve’s eyebrows go up almost to his hairline. Tony continues, “I mean, we kind of do that sort of thing, where you hold my wrists down or cover my mouth, or kind of tell me what to do in that cute ‘you can always say no’ sort of tone you have. And sometimes you pull the Captain America thing out and start scolding me when I’m not quite sucking you right because hey, bratting’s pretty hot, too,” Steve comes over to stand between his thighs and Tony’s words start falling on top of each other, all eager to come out now that the subject has been breached, “and all that but I wanted to try something a bit more intense and hard and if you’re not cool with it then there’s always a lifetime of vanilla sex, which is also hot, just maybe not the--”

Steve leans over him, fingers embedded tightly in his hair, and Tony lets out a slight groan, words flying off into the corners of the room. He likes this sort of thing, mainly because it’s with a Steve whose always so gentle, so afraid to hurt someone. Watching Steve lose control is almost the sexiest thing ever. Watching Steve keep complete control while still fucking him within an inch of his sanity is even hotter.

Steve tilts his head up, brushes a kiss across chapped lips and says, “sure, we can give it a try.” And just like that they’re clawing at each other, throwing shirts and pants to the far reaches of the room. Steve drags him around the bed with him to get at the drawer with the lube, and Tony bites at his lips, sucks a bruise onto Steve’s collarbone that’ll be gone by morning,

There’s no foreplay, no gentle kissing or touching or anything. Steve flips him onto his stomach on the edge of the bed, kisses wetly from the nape of his neck to the base of his spine, taking a moment to nuzzle into each of Tony’s hotspots because that’s the sort of thing that Steve likes, before parting Tony’s cheeks and blowing warm air against him before touching him lightly with his tongue. Tony shivers, his arms braced under him like a cat. The glow of the arc reactor is bright against Steve’s blanket.

Finally, Steve sits back and Tony can hear the snick of the lube being opened. He lets his head drop forward as Steve gently circles around his now wet hole, before finally pressing in. He works the finger in deeper, pulling out to add more lube, then coming in with two fingers. Tony breathes the best he can, times his inhales with the thrum of skin on skin, and is about to tell him to get on with it when Steve’s hand comes down, sharp on his ass.

For a moment, he thinks he’s dreaming. Then Steve’s working one final dollop of lube, is slicking himself up, and pressing in. It burns, in a way that will never go away, and Tony sucks in a breath as he stretches, his hands clenched into the bedcovers, making furrows in the sheets, and Steve just keeps sliding in. He slides, and Tony stretches until he’s finally seated within him, blond pubic hair tickling at the base of Tony’s spine.

For a moment, they lay together. Tony can feel the throb deep inside him, the intense, intimate beat of Steve’s pulse as it echoes through his own body. He can feel his own muscles fluttering as he slowly relaxes. Finally, Steve props himself up on arms braced around Tony’s shoulders, hitches his hips back and thrusts in slowly.

Tony gasps, pushes back into Steve, hands clenched tightly in the bedcover. His knees creak from the awkward angle, brushing up against the edge of the bed with every thrust and it’s just that shade shy of painful and nowhere near enough. “More,” he growls, reaching back with one hand, wanting a hip, a grasp of side and muscle and anything and--

A moment later, Steve gives it to him. He pushes on Tony’s shoulders, drives him straight into the bed and grabs onto the flailing hands, pulling him back just as his hips hitch forward. It’s almost shocking, like being impaled and it’s so unimaginably delicious that Tony buries his wail into the bedcover. He squirms happily, too far strung out to do much more.

Slowly, Steve stills behind him, which is the last thing Tony wants, why would he do that? He pulls Tony’s hands together behind his back, inching them together and giving Tony every chance possible to stop him, until Tony’s wrists are crossed at the small of his back, pinned with just one hand and wow, if that isn’t the hottest thing Tony’d done in a long time. He gasps, lifting his head up just far enough to breath out “Fuck yes,” and Steve pushes him back down gently, one hand on the back of his neck, the other still at the small of his back. It’s intense, overpowering, and he twists his head to the side, panting, even as his ass keeps snapping backward against Steve’s hipbones.

His cock is pressed against the edge of the bed and the pressure isn’t quite enough and Tony’s grateful for that, or it’d all be over way too quickly. Steve leans over him, connecting their bodies a centimeter at a time until he can nibble at the skin at the base of Tony’s neck, and Tony’s amazed that he hasn’t exploded yet, that he isn’t a puddle of skin and arc reactor goo all over the floor--

And that’s when the dimness of the room hits him. He can see well enough, from the moonlight seeping in from the open window. He can just make out the distorted figures of their shadows, monstrous against the wall, and it’s all natural. No unearthly blue shimmer, no neon and chrome headlights. Just two people, just one room.

And for a moment, he thinks he’s going to panic again. His breath chokes inside of him, and Steve’s stilling, hands still holding, but there’s no movement, and all he can see is Obie reaching into his chest and snuffing that light.

It pisses him off. He’s pinned between the firm softness of the bed and the unyielding super-soldier behind him, exactly where he wants to be, exactly where he asked to be, and he’s panicking. All because the room’s a slightly different color than before. He’s about to say forget it, to tell Steve to let him flip over and finish that way, when the pressure on the back of his neck is gone, and is instead wrapping around his clavicle, thumb hooking into bone and forefinger nearly digging into his throat. Steve pulls him upright with a soft growl in his ear,

The light spills out in the room, eerie and blue and full of life. Steve keeps his arms pinned tightly between the rigid muscles of his abs and Tony’s back, all the while pinning Tony in place against his chest. His face just brushes against the softness of the bedcover, his cock still brushing up against the corner of the bed, but he can see now, can see the unnatural glow of the room and it’s enough.

Tony lets out a small whimper. They can’t quite manage the punishing pace from before, but it doesn’t matter; gravity and the rough pull of Steve’s hand against his throat helps out enough. He lifts up and down, sliding Tony against the bed until Steve manages a strangled noise and pushes him forward, face mashing into the covers with his ass high in the air, fucking into him fast and hard and Tony can’t imagine not coming right then and--

And slowly Steve stills, hips hitching erratically for a moment, and Tony lets out a whine of desperation, because he’s still so close. Steve drops his hands, and, still firmly embedded within Tony, reaches his hand around and grasps him, stroking one hand up his length once, twice, and Tony’s undone, ripping apart at the seams, and it isn’t until he realizes how tender his throat feels that he realizes he’s keening and has been the entire time.

Eventually, the world rightens again. Steve rolls them both over and cuddles him close, one hand just grazing the edge of the arc reactor, the other stroking through the come still coating Tony’s abdomen. “Maybe next time we can try a blindfold,” he murmurs, as through suggesting a different brand of creamer. “I think a red one would look beautiful on you.”

For a long moment, Tony can’t even speak. He stares straight ahead at the wall, just left of the mirror he’d tried so hard to get Steve to remove. He swallows, blinks, then finally whispers “what did I ever do to deserve you,” hoping that the slight hoarseness will be attributed to sex. American’s dead by Stark Tech. Yinsen. Terrorists. Vanko. Artificial organs.

There’s a soft laugh from behind him, and Tony can feel the press of lips into the nape of his neck. “I could as the same question of you.” He can hear the ideas. Peggy. Erskine. Flying a plane into the ocean.

Bucky.

Not for the first time, he wonders if Steve Rogers might be a little afraid of the dark as well. Because sometimes, this fear makes sense. Darkness is the absence of light, after all, and when light becomes life, it’s easy to cling to. Tony entwines his fingers with Steve, and lets him caress the puckered edges of skin, and watches the shadows of their hands against the wall.