Tony groaned as he picked himself up off the mat again. It was wonderful how he found new and interesting body aches at his age. He had no idea that he could feel pain in that part of his hip and elbow. He brushed his damp hair out of his eyes and struggled to get into the stance Steve had taught him.
Steve, of course, looked as fresh as a daisy but had the power of a freight train behind his punches. He bounced back and forth on the balls of his feet, looking like a well-bred, sleek racehorse. A slight, secret smile crossed his face as he settled back into a boxing stance opposite Tony. “Ready?” he prompted, holding up his fists.
A half hour of this so-called training and Tony was covered in a thick sheen of sweat and irritated to his core. Big, blond, muscular Steve hadn’t even built up a trickle of sweat as he easily batted off Tony’s ill-thought-out attacks. God, did Tony hate every single blond hair on his head right now. He spat out, “Ready.”
Tony took one step forward. Steve feinted to the left before swinging at Tony. This time Tony was prepared, and stepped aside quickly. Steve rushed past him and Tony scored a hit. For the first time that day. But his victory was short lived as Steve recovered and turned quickly to land a punch on Tony. Tony crumpled again.
Steve reached down to help Tony up. “Getting better, Tony,” he said.
By the time he got to his feet, he had figured out a dozen ways to kill Steve in his sleep and not get blamed for it. He didn’t care if Steve was a beloved American hero. Steve was going to pay for this one way or the other.
“We should try something else,” sadist Steve mused as he looked around the gym.
Tony should have taken the opportunity to flee while Steve was distracted. “You know, I fight in an high-tech, cutting-edge armored suit. I think you are familiar with it. In case you’ve forgotten – it’s that amazing red-and-gold outfit I put on, the one I use to take out legions of robots. Why do I have to learn neanderthal fighting with fists stuff?” he whined as he followed Steve over to the weight bench.
Steve shook his head. “But you don’t always have the suit. One EMP at the wrong time, and you’re down for the count.” He rummaged through a pile of equipment, finally finding a couple of pads he slipped over his hands. “Let’s try something simpler. Hit my hands.”
Tony punched one of Steve’s hands, then the other. “I’m resourceful. And one of the smartest people in the world, if not the smartest.” When Steve looked at him skeptically, he added. “I’m in the top ten at least.” At Steve’s urging he hit the pads again, this time with more effort.
“Good, Tony. You’ve got to get used to hitting a real body. Maybe that’s what’s holding you back.”
“Again, I have an armored suit. With repulsors.” Tony had the brief thought, was Steve ever not stubborn about anything? The man had his opinions, and Tony had seen him not budge on an argument over scented hand soap in the bathroom. Clint was never going to suggest clean linen scent again.
“Not the same thing.” He tapped Tony on the arm to try again.
Tony took a swing. “Repulsors, Steve. I can hit anything and make it stop.”
“But that’s not what happened last month, right?” Steve reminded him. They both stopped in their tracks as they remembered the fight with the Wrecking Crew and how a chance lucky hit had damaged the armor and jet boots. Defenseless, Tony had been stuck on his back like a turtle.If Steve hadn’t gotten there in time ….
“Right,” Tony conceded. He punched the hand pad again.
“You always talk about wanting to protect the ones that you love. Consider this my way of protecting the man I love.” Steve bent over to kiss his forehead. “Let’s go through this again.”
“You have a strange way of showing love, Rogers.” Tony huffed out a breath and rubbed his hands on his sweatpants. Steve always had a way of melting his anger.
He lifted his hands into a ready stance and smiled up at Steve. “But I love you anyway.”
Badge art by Inoshi.