“You could be doing this with Hawkeye. Or Thor. Or Hulk,” Tony tells Steve. "Sam would probably jump at the chance to get hit in the face by Captain America." He doesn't mention Natasha because he's pretty sure Natasha and Steve do spar sometimes and it's probably terrifying to see. “I have other things to do today, you know.” He re-tightens the gloves, jerking on the velcro straps as if that will somehow alleviate the tightness in his shoulders.
“Of course you do, Tony,” Steve says. He looks completely calm, which somehow manages to fan Tony's irritation to greater heights. He's not even sure what he's irritated about, in particular. Time in the gym with Steve is usually a perk in this whole Avengers business. Just not today apparently. Because today, everything is irritating. “But you agreed to this. Training is important too,” Steve is implacable.
“Is it more important than tracking down the Cabal? More important than running the company that keeps this Tower and all the fun toys in it running?” Tony knocks the gloves together to test the fit and steps onto the mat. Steve just raises an eyebrow at him, ready for anything, probably. He's been ready for five minutes already, smug boy scout that he is.
“I don't even fight hand-to-hand most of the time!” Tony complains. He takes the first swing, easily blocked. Steve barely even moves. “Maybe you've forgotten the part where I wear a high tech suit of armor!” He takes another swing, and another, some part of his brain still chiding him for going wide instead of striking the way Happy and Steve both have shown him. “It can fly! I can shoot things!”
He throws a proper punch this time, puts his weight behind it, but Steve just side-steps out of the way, an annoying little grin pulling at his lips.
“That would explain why you're so bad at this,” he deadpans, and Tony scowls and tries again, stepping in for a one-two combo he's pretty sure he hasn't used against Steve yet. Of course, that doesn't mean Steve hasn't seen it before, and he blocks the jabs easily.
“I am—” Tony tries for an uppercut, a rib-jab, forces his feet to move faster, “so done with your sass today Cap, I swear I—”
He hits the mat hard, not even registering his legs aren't under him anymore until he's too close to really catch himself. Goddamnit. He huffs an angry breath against the sweat-sticky mat and rolls onto his side to glare up at Steve.
“You said boxing,” he points out, and he is not pouting, no matter what that amused quirk to Steve's grin indicates. “Not whatever aikido bullshit that was.”
“I said training,” Steve corrects him. “I said I wouldn't try to hit you. You think every time you end up somewhere without the suit you're going to be as lucky as last time?”
Last time had involved the Savage Land and Justin Hammer and the sort of stupid bet with Steve that Tony is never, ever, ever falling for again, no matter what Steve says or how tempting it is or how right Tony knows he is.
“I handled it, it was fine.” He'd even gotten a new kind of tech out of the whole thing. Rock armor! Definitely useful and not at all the lucky stroke Steve seems to be implying.
Tony hauls himself back to his feet, trying to keep the twinge of the bruise at his hip from making it to his face. Steve's shift into “concerned team captain” mode means he probably wasn't successful.
“Did I hurt you?” he asks, and his guard falls and something just—clicks over in Tony's brain. He steps in between Steve's legs, pivots, grabs his shoulders, and throws Captain America over his hip to the mat.
For one miniscule slice of a second it almost works, but Steve's got so much more training and practice at his fingertips than Tony could ever think to predict, and he twists, sticks a hand out, and Tony goes down with him.
They end up smashed together, Steve's elbow in Tony's ribs trapping his hands and Tony's head in some kind of lock he can't quite figure out, legs tangled uselessly. He doesn't have anything like Steve's core muscles; there's no way he's getting out of this gracefully.
“I give, I give, uncle,” he says, the words muffled against Steve's t-shirt, and the hold on his head loosens and even his legs are freed up a bit.
“That was pretty good,” Steve says. Tony rolls off him and lies flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling until Steve bends over him.
“You okay?” he asks.
“I didn't actually mean to do that,” Tony admits. “I didn't even think about it.”
“I know,” Steve says, and the lines around his eyes are crinkling with mirth. “That's why it worked.”
“Oh.” Tony replays the sequence in his head, trying to see it again, to feel what his body was doing. It was similar to bringing up his palms for a repulsor blast, but the blast itself still takes conscious decision, a conscious command. “Is it usually like that for you?”
“Sometimes,” Steve says. He stands and offers Tony a hand up. “On my good days, or if we're fighting someone …. not very sophisticated.”
“I am almost jealous of that,” Tony tells him, taking the proffered help. He has to blink a bit once he's upright, wavering on his feet as gravity and balance both pull at his limbs at once, but he waves off Steve's concerned look and steadying hands. “I'm fine, I'm good.”
“You going to tell me what you're all worked up about?” Steve asks.
“What do you mean?” Tony asks, because sure, his initial attacks were sloppy, but they usually are and—and Steve's not buying it.
“You're tense,” he says. “You usually don't fall that hard.”
Tony snorts. “Yeah, right,” he says. “You knocking me down in training is definitely an indication of my stress levels and not just an every time thing at all.”
Steve just watches him, impassive, arms crossed over his chest.
Tony puts his gloves up in front of his face.
“Are we training or talking here, Cap? Come on, weren't you the one saying this is important?”
“We're training,” Steve said, and he put his guard up and started circling. “But training isn't always about what you do with your fists.”
“No, recent evidence would suggest it's sometimes about what you do with your legs,” Tony shot back. “Or your hips,” he added as Steve smoothly slipped to the side, just on the edge of Tony's range.
“Sometimes,” Steve agreed. He blocked one jab, then another, and brushed his hand across Tony's shirt, over his ribs. Tony danced back.
“I thought you said you weren't going to hit me,” he scowls.
“If I were trying to hit you you'd know it,” Steve says, which yes, fine.
Tony cracks his neck and raises his hands again. “Have it your way,” he mutters, and dives back in.
The fourth time he ends up flat on his back, staring at the really very boring (he should do something about that) ceiling, he stays down. There's no point to getting up again. He's never going to land a hit on Steve, and every successive little brush Steve makes against his shirt or his side or his shoulder or thigh is another reminder that his guard is sloppy and he's not fast enough and this is an exercise in futility, really. He's not even having fun. Usually he at least gets some enjoyment out of seeing Steve sweat through his shirt, but today that just reminds him of the laundry that's still going undone because Thor thought it was a good idea electrocute the machine when it didn't turn on. Because it wasn't plugged in.
Tony groans and puts his arm over his face. This day is never going to end. He needs a vacation from his entire life.
Something cold nudges his elbow. He ignores it.
“You should have some water,” Steve says. Tony drags his arm off his face to squint against the lights and give Steve his best petulant look.
Steve holds out a water bottle, unmoved.
Tony closes his eyes again.
“Clint put gum in the DVD player,” he says. “It just sat there, opening and closing for hours. I had to take the whole thing apart and pull strands of purple Bubbilicious out for 20 minutes before it would close again. I still don't know if it will play anything.”
“He said he wanted to see if it would blow a bubble.”
“Did it?” Steve asks, almost like he can't help himself.
“No, there's no air pressure involved.”
The bottle touches his skin again, near his hip where his shirt's rucked up this time.
“You really should have some water,” Steve repeats, and Tony sighs and heaves himself into a sitting potion.
“Sam was poking at some files last night and managed to put half the database into lockdown,” he reports, twisting off the bottle cap. “I'm pretty sure Natasha changed the password and is going to blackmail me for unknown favors.” He takes a sip, which turns into a long swallow, which turns into chugging half the bottle because hey, Steve's right, he really does need some water. When he finally puts it down Steve's just watching him like maybe he's trying not to laugh.
“Sounds like you're having a rough day,” Steve says, and the tone is right and everything but he's grinning.
“Did you have to explain basic concepts of electronics to a Norse god before you had your coffee this morning?” Tony asks, poking him in the ribs. “No, you know why? Because you were out running so I had to.”
“I'm flattered you think I'm competent enough with modern technology to have that conversation, Tony,” Steve teases, and Tony kicks at him vaguely. Steve just laughs and grabs his foot, then his hands as Tony tries to bat him away.
“At least Hulk hasn't—” Steve starts, and Tony winces. There's a rumble, and a very expensive crunch of concrete and rebar and wood paneling dying a violent death as Hulk barrels through the far side of the room and continues straight through the outer wall off the building.
Thor and Sam are flying in his wake, Clint sprinting along with an arrow already out of his quiver.
“He got a text about double-chocolate chip cookies in Central Park,” he says by way of explanation. Tony is only mildly surprised that this parses as a reasonable explanation in what is currently his life.
“Sorry,” Steve says, but Tony is past anger at this point and rapidly approaching apathy.
“It's fine,” he says, turning away from the destruction. “I really just--” there's a tiny click and he manages to turn around just in time to see Natasha slipping out the hole as well, camera in hand. She winks at him.
“I'm done,” Tony admits.
“Well, in that case,” Steve says, leaning in, “you must be free for the afternoon.”
Tony eyes him warily.
“Maybe,” he allows.
“I'm pretty sure the showers are still undamaged,” Steve notes. He's not quite blushing, but it's a near thing. He's still holding Tony's hand. They're sitting very close together.
Tony is going to owe Natasha all sorts of stealthy gadgets if he wants even a glimpse at that picture.
“Better get moving before anything else happens, then,” he says, and Steve pulls him to his feet with a grin.