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The first kiss sent stars spinning through Steve's vision, and he was pretty sure they had little to do with the fact that Tony Stark had just banged his head into a wall and more to do with the fact that Tony was sucking at his face as if it held the last drop of oxygen in the world. It definitely had something to with the fact that Tony, who had been so careful the first weeks of their budding relationship, was pressed against him so desperately that he hadn't bothered to take off more than the helmet of his suit. Tony quickly realized that this would be more of a hindrance than a help, and stepped back to pry his armor off with shaking fingers, giving Steve an uncomfortable amount of time to second guess himself.

Steve was a virgin. Not just to men, but to sex period. He had never had sex with anyone. There had been fooling around during the war of course, and then after with Tony, but he had never had proper sex. And here was Tony, in nothing but his boxers, which did little to hide the sheer size of his already stiffly erect cock.

Tony had managed to strip off most of Steve's uniform before Steve began to push him away, mortified and completely beet red. He could barely hear his own stammered excuses and the devastated look on Tony's face broke his heart.

“God, Steve. I'm so sorry. I should have gone slower. Do you--?” Steve brushed by him, eyes down, trying to look anywhere but at Tony.

“No, Tony. I don't want to talk about it.” Steve hated the shake in his voice.

“Baby...” Steve grabbed a blanket, throwing it around his body before leaving the room.

“Don't call me that.”

~ ~ ~

Steve had never been more thankful for his tiny little flat in Brooklyn in his life. Having fled Tony's room and found some clothes, he had hailed a cab, mind still churning even as he arrived. It was little more than a couch a stove and a small bed, but the radio was his pride and joy. Vintage WWII in perfect order, just like the one he had had at home before the ice. Fiddling with the dials until he found a baseball game, Steve flopped down on the couch with a huge sigh.

He could not believe himself. He loved Tony, worshiped him even, and yet he couldn't even bring himself to stay and talk about what had made him so uncomfortable. It wasn't that Steve hadn't wanted to have sex with Tony. To the contrary. The wash of arousal was still faintly curled below his belly button. But it had been too sudden, too urgent, and Steve had gotten scared.

“Look at you, Rogers,” said a mean little voice in his head that sounded a lot like Bucky. “Scared to love the one person you care about.”

“Shut up,” Steve said aloud. “Just shut up.”

~ ~ ~

:Oh God, Bruce. I've ruined everything!” Bruce started as he found himself with an armful of distraught Tony. The two of them had come to a sort of understanding, and their relationship, while completely platonic, was very intense. Ever since Bruce had come to live in Avenger's Tower for good, Tony came to Bruce for everything from quiet companionship to design advice and they had become very close. No one had been happier than Bruce when Tony finally asked Steve out after weeks of pining. So he was immediately on guard when Tony greeted him with open weeping. Steering Tony to a chair, he sat down next to him, pulling Tony's shaking frame to his own.

“Alright, Tony. From the top. What happened?”

“I was scared that I had lost him. He was trapped under that building, and then when he was safe I was so relieved and when I had him to myself I just took advantage of him. He bolted, Bruce, and JARVIS says he left the tower and I don't know where he is, if he's coming back...I don't even know if he's safe, or if I'll get a second chance. See? I've ruined everything!” By this time, Tony was crying in earnest, and Bruce rocked him gently back and forth.

Bruce knew as well as anyone that Tony was prone to hysterical melodrama, but the genuine agony in Tony's weeping made Bruce hesitate to write this off. Tony had said Steve had left the tower. It was common knowledge that Steve had a flat of his own somewhere outside the tower, but ever since he had moved in, Steve had only gone there when he was really upset. In the month that Steve and tony had been together, Steve hadn't gone there once. If Steve had really decided to leave Tony, that would be the only place he would have gone. It was the only place Tony couldn't follow him. Bruce refused to consider the logical conclusion that Tony would fall apart if Steve left, and instead focused on Tony, pulling his grieving friend to him until his sobs had eased.

~ ~ ~

The next day, Bruce sought out Pepper when he saw neither Tony nor Steve for the whole afternoon. JARVIS had reported that Steve had not returned, and that Tony had locked himself in his lab shortly after Bruce had left, saying he wanted no disturbances.

“I am concerned for Master Stark,” JARVIS had confided. “He is very distressed.” It was about then that Bruce was determined to find Pepper and see if there was anything he could do to help his friend. He found her fussing in her office, clearly distracted.

“Tony's still locked in his lad, isn't he?” Pepper said sadly, folding herself into her large office chair. Bruce nodded, making a helpless little gesture.

“Is there anything we cane do? E asked. Pepper sighed.

“I've known Tony a very long time, Bruce,” she said. “A very long time, and if there is one thing I've learned, it's that behind all that bluster and bravado is a cripplingly insecure human being. I've always though of him as pretty manic depressive, and he self medicates with alcohol when something even begins to look like ti is going wrong and this...”

“This means he's probably halfway through a bottle of his highest proof vodka,” Bruce supplied.

“He was like this after Obie, too.” Bruce knew the bare bones of what had happened, everyone did, but Pepper had seen the fallout first hand. “He was so devastated, Bruce. I can't even begin to explain it. He would just sit in his lab, playing with one of his arc reactors and crying and no one could convince him to leave for 5 days. By the time he staggered out, he reeked of stale sweat and cheap vodka.” Bruce could tell Pepper was trying not to cry. Bruce liked Pepper. She was a stalwart, down-to-earth counterpoint to Tony, and the Avengers at large, so he found is increasingly painful to see her so distressed.

“So you don't think there is anything we can do?” he asked, resting his hand over Pepper's shaking one.

“Not really,” she replied. “He's stubborn, our Tony, more so when he thinks his back is against the wall.”

“Do you think I should go talk to Steve?”

“Do you know where to find him?” Bruce didn't and he bit his lip in a mixture of anger and helplessness. Pepper could read these emotions in his face, and turned her hand over to give his a quick squeeze.

“All we can do at this point is wait it out. He'll pull through. He always does.” Pepper gave a watery smile.


“Yes sir?”

“Keep an eye on him, will you?”

“Of course, sir.”

~ ~ ~

It was a week before Steve returned to Avengers Tower. On day 5, Bruce awoke in the middle of the night with a sicking and indescribable feeling of dread. Meaning to walk it off by heading outside to the balcony, he stepped into the living room, only to freeze at the indistinct shape he saw on the floor, praying to any god he thought might be listening that this wasn't what he feared.

“JARVIS, lights at 100%.” As the lights flared on, Bruce felt his stomach clench in familiar fear.

Tony lay passed out on the floor in a puddle of vomit, a mostly empty bottle of vodka clenched lightly in one hand. Even from this distance, Bruce could tell he was barely breathing, his skin ashy gray. It was so clearly alcohol poisoning, and Bruce could only pray it had been an accident.

“Call an ambulance, JARVIS,” Bruce said, voice tight.


“NOW!” An alarm klaxon blared once throughout the whole tower, and if Bruce hadn't been so intent on rolling Tony into a recovery position so he didn't choke on his own vomit, he would have jumped. The others, all in various stages of fluster and awareness all ran into the room, pulling up short as they saw Bruce leaning over a supine Tony. Pepper was as white as fog, and looked like she was about to cry.

“The man of Iron is not well,” Thor said, his booming voice thick with concern. “Perhaps this is why Steven is not with us.” Bruce let out a desperate little sigh and said nothing, even when the paramedics came to take Tony away.

Day 6 found Bruce dumping every bit of alcohol he could find his hands on down the drain.

Tony hadn't returned from the hospital when Steve returned to Avengers Tower. The others, still in various stages of shock, disbelief and anger left Pepper to confront an increasingly tense Steve. She did so by punching him in the face.

“You bastard!” she howled, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. “How could you? Tony loves you, more than he loved anyone before, even me, and then, what's worse, something happens and you vanish for a whole week without telling anyone anything! Do you have any idea what he's like? He blames everything on himself. He's always seen himself as a failure, someone who deserves all the pain, all the betrayal, all the shit things that happen to him, and then you come along, make him think that maybe he was wrong and then you pull this!” Steve looked at her for a long moment, his face collapsing.

“So he doesn't want me back then?” Pepper started, the grief clearly written on Steve's face taking all the bite out of Pepper's anger.

“Oh Steve,” she murmured. “He wants you so much that he would rather die than be without you.” All the color that was left in Steve's face fled, and he staggered one step closer to Pepper.

“Pepper, where is he? I need to talk to him.”

“He's in the hospital. He almost died of alcohol poisoning. If Bruce hadn't found him in time...” She trailed off, not meeting Steve's eyes. “But anyway, Bruce just left to go pick him up. He should be home soon.” Steve nodded, numbly, and staggered into the living room, where he collapsed on a sofa, burying his face in a pillow. This was how Tony found him 20 minutes later.

“I didn't think I'd see you back here,” Tony said flatly, folding his arms across his chest to hide the faint glow of the arc reactor. Steve looked up, eyes puffy and red rimmed, and Tony could tell he had been crying, and recently. Something new and uncomfortable twitched behind the reactor. Shame? Tony had never felt very bad about his binges before, but seeing Steve so wracked with guilt was almost too much. A small, vicious, ugly part of him was crowing with glee, saying it was just what he deserved, but a much bigger part of him just wanted to fold himself into Steve's embrace and be told everything would be ok.

“God, Tony. I'm so sorry.” Steve's voice sounded wrecked, and it was the last straw. Tony managed to stagger to the couch before he collapsed. All Tony wanted to do was fall into Steve's arms, but he hesitated, unsure if he was still wanted.

“All I need to know is why, Steve.” Tony's voice was small. “Why did you run?”

“I was scared.” It came out barely more than a whisper.

“Captain America? Scared?” Tony's laugh was weak and watery.

“Everything was going so quickly,” Steve went on, not rising to the weak bait. “I've...” Steve paused. “I have never had sex with anyone before, not a man, not a woman. And then I was sure you wouldn't want me back after I had rejected you out of hand like that, and I couldn't come back here and face that. If only I had known...” Steve crawled the last remaining distance between them, burying himself in Tony's chest. Tony wrapped his arms around his broad back, unable to speak as he watched Steve struggle not to cry. The joy of seeing Steve, of holding him and being forgiven, was at war with how rattled Steve seemed. Steve, Captain America, who could keep his head in any crisis, who had become the leader every member of the team had grown to trust and respect, was clinging to him like he was drowning.

“We'll be ok, Steve.” Tony said, as much as for himself as for Steve. “I promise.”