"That is absolute bullshit," Steve snaps, finally.
The room goes abruptly quiet. Bruce's brows are wrinkled under the hand he has pressed to his forehead and Natasha's eyebrows are up high. Clint is gaping at him from where he's half hanging off of Thor's restraining arm. Coulson's face is arrested. Even Tony's looking at him with surprise, layered over something remarkably like glee.
"Care to elaborate, Captain," Nick Fury says mildly, unperturbed.
Steve takes a deep breath for the purpose of calming himself - but it's a mistake. He grits his teeth against the resulting jolt of pain and the straps on the shield still strapped to his arm creak. He stands, because at least that's slightly less awful and only belatedly realizes it looks exactly like the sort of show-of-force move he hates.
He's pleased that his voice is almost steady as he says, "There's no way you didn't know about this. There's no way, because I saw at least one undercover or former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative there, and we know how closely you track everyone who's ever been connected. So you knew. No doubt about it. And you still sent us in with almost zero intel. Intel that could've gotten someone killed."
He can see Fury's thoughts shifting behind an otherwise impassive face. After a moment he drops the previous tack of denial and instead drawls, "Captain, I'm sure you can understand that the operational integ-"
"Integrity my ass," Steve snaps. "There's no one on my team that has demonstrated anything less than the utmost degree of integrity and selfless commitment since the Avengers came together and you know it. How dare you treat us like gormless mercenaries who can't keep their mouths shut one breath, then blame us disobeying orders for this mission failure the next? I don't know if you've forgotten, Director, but the Avengers aren't S.H.I.E.L.D. property. Never have been and never will be. This is a partnership, and we've more than held up our end of the bargain."
Nick steeples his fingers, his lone eye narrowing as he listens to Steve's breathless rant.
"So if you want to keep us out of the loop? Violate our trust and keep vital information from my team to serve your purposes? Fine. You have your priorities and it's not my prerogative to give you orders either. But don't be surprised when the next time you call, you don't get an answer, Director; because I will not blindly put my people in your hands again. You can't have it both ways," he finishes, punctuating the words with a frustrated thump of his shield against the table that echoes with a tang.
The sound startles even him. Feeling like he can't get a proper breath, he pauses, takes in the surroundings again. The entire room is openly gawking at him - well, Tony's grinning like a maniac and Natasha's face is emptiness personified. Fury just looks assessing. And he knows, he knows the response is disproportionate and he sucks down his temper as best he can, but he's feeling absolutely at his ends. There's more that needs to be dealt with in this conversation but he half expects his skin to start turning 'Banner green' at this rate, so he turns on his heel and locates the door, brandishing his teeth in a snarl of irritation to try and keep worse words from spilling forth - an effort that's destined to fail as his uniform shifts again at the change in orientation sending stabbing pain through him.
"And who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to alter my uniform without telling me?" Steve demands of no-one in particular as he slams out of the conference room and down the Helicarrier's hallway without waiting for an answer.
He knows he's acting like a child having a tantrum, but he's long past the point of caring. There's only so much even he can take, and he needs to deal with this uniform situation before he loses his calm entirely. He's not proud of the way S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and staff flinch out of his way as he marches in long, loud strides down the metal plank floors till he reaches the tiny hole assigned as his bunk.
He locks the door behind him with one hand, the other tugging free the clasp on his belt with rough, fumbling motions. The belt clatters to the floor beside his shield with a sharp sound as he struggles not to breathe too fast or too hard.
The tight, stiff-but-pliable imitation leather material that comprises his outfit flexes and strains under his grip as he peels it down over his hips. A ragged sigh of relief escapes him as he finally, finally gets some much-needed space in the area a man sometimes needs it the most. He tips his head back, closes his eyes and leans on a shaky hand against the doorframe, and finally breathes. Finally.
And then the pins-and-needles start.
He puts his fist through the wall.
"Well. Here it is! Your new home, Avenger's Tower. Fury-free, tax-free, and sanity-free. Certain surcharges may apply," Tony says, gesturing vaguely at the tower below them with the cell phone he's tapping a message on.
Their host's attention elsewhere, the others stare at the incredible view of New York. Steve knows he's going to be back up here with his sketchpad, and Clint is already at the very edge of the building, looking down with glee. Thor trails after him, looking ready to catch him if he should fall. Even Natasha looks mildly interested in the surroundings. Bruce just looks a little dazed, likely from some combination of post-mission exhaustion and the sedatives he would have probably taken before any debrief with Director Fury.
They really are all okay, safe now at the tower. Steve feels a final bit of tension ease in his chest as he finishes his survey of his team, eyes drifting back to Tony.
He's not entirely sure what he thinks about Tony's proposition, whether or not they'll be able to handle living together in one enclosed group, but it's a fair sight more likely to work than what they had been doing. He's long-since lost his conceptualization of S.H.I.E.L.D. as being his chain of command, along with any blind trust of them. And while they're still going to need to work together - he has no desire to change that - it's become clear that his first duty, the care of his team, that's not best served by remaining on the Helicarrier.
Tony smirks to himself as he pockets his phone, hip cocked and expensively-clad body posed just so, eyes focused in the middle distance as his mind works over something none of them can see. Steve wonders whether it's unconscious, or whether Tony knows exactly the picture he paints; toned muscles and tanned skin covered but not hidden by thin white silk and trim wool, translucent sunglasses that probably run at least four figures, dark hair mussed just so - Sex and money and a brilliant light too bright to look directly at.
Probably both, actually.
After a squawk from Clint draws eyes over to where Thor has scooped the archer up into his arms, Tony returns to the present and sips the martini that had been waiting for him when they'd touched down on Stark Tower's landing pad in the quinjet.
He makes a face and sighs, turning to look at the robot that'd brought it "Goddamnit, Dummy, how many times to I have to tell you, it is not equal parts gin and brine. This is revolting. Take it back."
The robot's claw hangs down in apparent shame and it does not take the glass from him, its arm curling tight as it turns and wheels slowly away.
"You embarrass me in front of my friends, you should feel bad," Tony calls after it, but nobody misses the affection in his voice. He shakes his head, and tosses the martini back anyway. He sighs, sounding weary under his veneer of charismatic host and Steve studies him, searching for signs of injury in addition to the lacerations on one cheek. He's wearing long sleeves, which isn't unusual, but this time they're not rolled up to his elbows.
There's a low thump and then a mechanical squeal as a crate is lowered from the quinjet, aided by some other robots of Tony's. Steve can see the scorched remains of the Iron Man armor tossed haphazardly into it. It's not completely destroyed, but the unexpected explosion had necessitated drastic action, and Tony had taken the brunt of it to protect the rest of them. He doesn't know much about the armor, but he knows it's bad. Steve notices that Tony does not look in the crate's direction as it beeps and then rattles as a new robot moves it, but he does turn when there's a soft chime from the wall the sulking robot had disappeared through.
"So, team. Explore, poke around, do whatever you want. J.A.R.V.I.S. will show you the rooms I've suggested for each of you but you don't have to take them. Have any room you want. Hell, you can sleep with me in mine, if you like," Tony says with a teasing wink for Steve. "Just ask J.A.R.V.I.S., he'll keep you from anywhere you're not supposed to be, so you can duke it out over who gets which view of the city, or take over the conservatory or whatever the hell you want. Go wild. Settle in. Let your hair down."
"This is awfully generous of you, Tony," Bruce begins, sounding more doubtful than grateful. Steve glances at him as Clint and Natasha exchange looks apparently sharing the wary sentiment. This is far more access than Tony's ever been willing to give them before now.
Tony doesn't miss the exchange, but he waves a dismissive hand at them, saying "Oh, I think you earned it today," and turning a smug glance on Steve as he leads them all into what turns out to be an elevator. He doesn't even push a button, the car moves by itself to some unknown destination, carrying them all into the belly of the grand building.
"It was worth it just to see Fury's face when we all marched out of there like mutineers."
Steve tries to look reproachful, but he really hasn't got a leg to stand on there.
"Besides. I was getting sick of having to fly to the Helicarrier. The traffic's a bitch. And since this whole Avenging business is starting to look like a regular thing, I figure it's time to cut the commute," he says with a shrug and a heavy layer of affected diffidence.
It's about as close to admitting that he likes being part of the team as Steve's ever heard from him, and the sheer casualness of it belies its importance.
"Of course, if you're feeling grateful, I never turn down a favor," Tony says and adds with a dirty eyebrow waggle for Bruce, "Or a game of doctor."
Bruce ducks his head, amused, cheeks pink.
"You're such a slut, Stark," Clint says, grinning widely at him.
"Well obviously," Tony replies. "I mean, have you seen us? We're fucking gorgeous."
"The Man of Iron speaks the truth!" Thor proclaims, chest puffing out slightly as he makes a show of tucking one pale lock over his ear that even Steve can't resist grinning at.
"Damn straight. Or queer. Whatever works," Tony agrees easily. "Anyway, J.A.R.V.I.S.?"
"Sir," a disembodied voice replies in the elevator. Steve honestly is still not quite convinced that Jarvis isn't a person hiding in a control room somewhere, but having seen what Tony can do, that would be even more strange than not. The lift glides to a halt and the doors slide smoothly open. A trail of little red lights blinks to life set into the ceiling and floor, forming what looks like a path down the halls.
"Ms. Romanov, if you please, I will guide you to your rooms."
Natasha tilts her head, scanning the surroundings beyond the doors, then shrugs and leads the way out, following the lights.
"Dr. Banner," J.A.R.V.I.S. says, and a trail of purple lights appears.
Steve watches, fascinated as the computer runs them simultaneously, then adds a third and fourth for Clint and Thor, quiet voice coming from multiple places at the same time.
"So Cap," Tony says as the others depart and no line appears for him, lifting his eyebrows. "Why don't we take a detour to my workshop and take a look at your suit?"
Steve freezes, mouth slipping open against his will. That… he really should have expected that. He swallows against the sudden dryness in his throat and shakes his head. "No it's…"
"It was bad enough to be the proverbial straw," Tony cuts in, phone reappearing in hand as he multitasks something. "And while you ripping Fury a new one was truly a glorious sight which I will long treasure, I don't think you want to repeat it. Besides, if I can't do a better job than those hacks at S.H.I.E.L.D. I'll literally throw myself off the tower. Just jump the fuck off."
He steamrollers over Steve's horrified look saying, "Not that I don't throw myself off the tower on a regular basis because god that is fun. So come on. Down to the shop. I'll fix you right up, get you battle-ready and polished to a shine. No more Captain Crankypants."
Steve closes his eyes and sighs, but he nods because he really has no other choice. The doors slide shut in front of them and the elevator resumes its downward trajectory even as Tony rambles on. Steve tunes him out as he shifts the strap of the bag on his shoulder, thinking about the uncomfortable uniform tucked beneath the shield. He'd been dreading bringing this up with S.H.I.E.L.D. but he needs to be prepared if there's an emergency, so he can't delay. Though he really only needs his shield, he's not ready to give up and fight without the high-tech gear. Despite the issues with the uniform today, the protective materials really have been beneficial. He might be a super-soldier, but every hit adds up eventually.
And then there's the team-building factor. It's not as though Tony would offer to bring his not inconsiderable talents to bear on just anything. He'd taken it a bit for granted at first, not understanding that Stark Tech wasn't actually the new century baseline. But a little time to see the real world and a little bit of behind-the-scenes exposure to Tony means he's starting to become aware of just how big a deal this offer actually is. Steve is beginning to suspect that Tony might not take it personally if you didn't like him, but rejecting his tech? That was grounds for divorce.
"…so, totally good for the team, being supportive, win-win and blah blah blah. All that. But best of all, I can think of so many ways for you to return the favor. Mm. So many," Tony finishes with a leer, innuendo thick in his voice.
Also, immediately crushing any sense of gratitude that might have been welling up in Steve's chest.
"Damnit Tony," Steve mutters.
But Tony just laughs, and Steve sighs, because the teasing still gets him, still sets off nervous butterflies in his belly and lingers in his mind into the evenings when he's in private, but he's also grown used to it as simply a facet of Tony's personality. He flirts with anyone he's even remotely fond of, and if he lays it on extra thick with Steve, it's only because Steve had fallen for the teasing so much in the beginning, his shock and indignation providing Tony with ample hilarity.
He's picked up the contemporary slang pretty quickly, and researched the rest. The internet has been very useful against Tony's earlier more devious attempts to mislead him into embarrassment. Now he mostly seems to be entertained by attempting to shock Steve with directed blatant interest - and he's gotten in his fair share of jolts.
Bruce had pulled him aside once to gently explain that if he didn't like Tony's new direction in his teasing, it was sexual harassment. If so, Steve could just say the word and Tony would stop - or even be made to stop, but the former was actually highly likely because Tony was very much not the sort to push his attentions where they were unwanted.
He'd appreciated the care taken on his behalf by the often reticent Bruce, but by then he didn't mind Tony's teasing. He's started to take it as the affection he suspects it really is, and what's more, after a few sharp adjustments to Steve's understanding of what's considered normal (and legal) among adults, he's actually starting to think Tony's going to be the one who's in for a surprise about "Mister Stars and Stripes." He might not tend towards the crudeness that amuses Tony like a twelve-year-old, but he's not nearly so innocent as is oft assumed.
Not if the thoughts he's currently having about the cut of Tony's tailored trousers are any indication.
So Steve had admitted that he didn't actually mind and Bruce had kindly not commented further.
"Prepare to be dazzled," Tony says, tucking a hand into his pocket and affecting an arrogant swagger as he pries his lenses off and leads the way out of the elevator into the dim, concrete corridor.
Steve shakes his head, but follows along obediently. He's seen the facilities at SHIELD and the like enough times that the technology is no longer a surprise. Technological advancement is fast in wartime, and soldiers learn to adapt. He's never been as stunned as everyone seems to expect him to be.
But the workshop blows him away. It's nothing like anything he's seen before, though he recognizes elements in each facet. It's a mechanic's greasy garage and a high-tech computer room and an art gallery all at the same time and it glows as Tony enters the room, a massive array of lights coalescing in the center of the room. It's alive, not some sterile manufacturing location or workspace. He can feel it hanging in the air like a held breath. This is somewhere that the act of creation occurs.
Tony strides right into the light, looking focused and more relaxed than Steve's ever seen him. Steve follows more slowly, carefully lowering his rucksack and shield down beside the main workbench. He stares as Tony reaches up to the light and touches it, pulling it into some form of order Steve doesn't understand. Pieces of light get shoved and folded and tossed and it seems meaningless until Tony pulls on something and it expands, blue wire models of the Avengers and their equipment spin into existence in the air in stunning detail, filling the room.
"Look at these gorgeous fuckers," Tony murmurs to himself.
Steve can't help but smile faintly.
He drags the row of them over till Captain America is front and center. As Tony hones in on it, new shapes appear on the sidelines to fill the gaps left by the rest of the team's images which have now disappeared. Monitors throughout the room start to light up to display things that aren't fitting on the main hologram. Detailed schematics, notes and equations and more appear, floating in the air around them.
"All right," Tony says, clapping his hands together and giving them a little rub as his eyes dart over information fast and light, soaking it all in. "Let's see what S.H.I.E.L.D. has managed to work up for you."
Steve is staring around the room in dismay. There's so much data, so much that's gone into the design of his gear that he hasn't had a clue about. It makes him embarrassed over his frustration, guilty about taking it for granted, because clearly a lot of very smart people had put a lot of time into making it for him.
"What a bunch of complete and total idiots," Tony says.
Steve moves closer to the images, trying to see what has Tony dissatisfied in particular. Tony notices his attention and pulls over a piece of the diagram. "Literally the first thing I look at and it's a disaster. Look at this crap. This is so stupid. They put a two-way stretch material in under the polyflex. My fucking tailor would know better. How do you even get into this thing?"
Steve isn't quite sure he understands, but before he can ask a question, Tony's tossed the pieces of hologram aside and yanked another bit of the Captain America structure over. "What did they do, just adapt this from - wait, they didn't integrate the lower body armor structure into to the x-frame? You've got to be- That's like asking for a shattered pelvis how the-"
He makes a disgusted sound and balls up all the lines of blue light with sharp motions. "No. Just no. Just. That goes in the trash," he says, launching the ball of light over at the holographic bin. His eyes grow dark and sharp as he moves on to the remaining pieces. He pulls each one up and pries it apart, looks at its guts and rips out most of them. He blurts out bits of incomplete information, half notes that JARVIS somehow seems to track as he tears through all the components. Steve watches, stunned and enthralled as he methodically shreds the entire room's worth of data. He throws away so much, leaves only skeletons and remnants of the overall look of the outfit before he stops, finally, leaning against his hands on the workbench.
"Yeah. J. We're going to start from scratch," he says firmly, sounding almost angry, reaching down to snap the cufflinks off his shirt and pocket them before rolling up his sleeves to his elbows.
"Understood, Sir," JARVIS says.
Tony glances up looking startled and Steve realizes he'd forgotten Steve's presence. He'd grown engrossed enough to actually forget the man standing two feet from him. It's something that's never happened around Steve, Tony's guard lowering enough to let him fade into the milieu. Before he can stop himself, his eyes flick down to Tony's bared forearms and he sees the bruises and what look like burns. It doesn't go unnoticed.
Steve can almost see the mask sliding down over this sincere, almost grim side of Tony he's not seen before. His shields go up fast and Tony slaps a cocky smirk on his face and says, "That's nothing. Believe me. Because let's be honest, I could design better while chained to my bed. Blindfolded. And naked."
He pauses for the dirty suggestion to take effect, tilting his head and cocking an eyebrow at Steve as he says, "Wanna work off your favor and help me test that theory?"
Well, yes, but unfortunately for him, it's not a serious offer.
Steve crosses his arms over his chest and goes with, "Don't tempt me. I'm very good with discipline."
"I don't even-" Tony's eyes brighten with mirth and he turns away, moving over to one of his computers. "JARVIS, has anyone explained bondage to Cap yet? Please tell me nobody has beaten me to this. Tell me his innocence is mine for the despoiling. Tell me that, or tell me that he understood what he just implied so that I can cry tears of joy."
There's a pause in which Steve almost thinks will mean JARVIS is ignoring Tony again, but then his relief dies a young death as JARVIS says cautiously, "I have no recorded conversations which include both the specified topic and Captain Rogers's presence."
"And your current privacy settings regarding members of the Avengers Initiative prohibits me from disclosing information about their internet history without their permission."
Tony turns delighted eyes on him. "So that's a yes?"
"Sir-" JARVIS says, sounding put out. "I explicitly-"
Tony makes a dismissive sound, flapping a hand at what Steve presumes is one of JARVIS's cameras. His eyes are trained on Steve's face as he finishes typing something on the computer and a whole new set of files spring up onto the main holographic display.
Steve stares him down. He absolutely refuses to give Tony the satisfaction. Or think of tying Tony to his bed. He suspects his cheeks are going to turn pink and betray him anyway, but he does his best to just arch an unimpressed eyebrow and use his Captain America Disapproves frown, as Tony calls it.
Tony sighs and gives up, either routed by the frown or more likely by his short attention span once again giving Steve some reprieve. Tony moves over to the workbench, scanning his eyes over the data that he's pulled up, starting to dig through it and organize his workspace to his needs. There are whole libraries of materials and colors and equations that spread out around him and Steve recognizes it for the artist's studio that it is.
Eventually, Tony pulls up a shape that is labeled "S.H.I.E.L.D./specifications_RogersSteve.Body" and plants it front and center on the screen. Tony gazes up at it for a long moment, then takes a slow, deep breath and turns towards Steve.
"I can't believe I get to say this," Tony says, shaking his head and dragging fingers through already disordered hair, eyes bright with mirth and anticipation. He clears his throat and says in a formal voice, "Captain America, I need you to take off all your clothes."
And then there's times the teasing goes too far. Steve glowers at him, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I'm actually serious. And not just about my desperate personal need to get you naked, though I'm very serious about that too, believe me. I'm going to need to get some scans of you, as close as I can get so I can get your measurements perfect. Too much space is as bad as too little; chafing, weakening protective structures by deformation. I do it for my own gear. J.A.R.V.I.S., tell him."
The A.I. obediently says, "I have indeed performed the delightful task of scanning every millimeter of Sir's naked form. Several times."
Steve's mouth twitches despite himself at the dryness of J.A.R.V.I.S.'s tone.
"So, you know, totally normal around here. Necessary for the job. Duty and honor and all that," Tony says, waving a hand as he turns away and reaches for part of the hologram that's attached to the underlying form of Steve's body. "See? This is a mess. It's supposed to be a representation of your body. No wonder your uniform doesn't fit. What'd they do, just guess?" He makes a scornful sound under his breath as he considers it. "Probably."
And it does look much less detailed than some of the other data, Steve realizes as he follows Tony's attention to the model. There's much more boxiness to the wire form of his body as Tony pulls it to the center and twists it around. None of the smooth lines of some of the blueprints he's seen of Tony's work. And teasing aside, Tony also appears to be entirely serious about the need for the data. He's right and he knows it.
Steve considers making Tony argue for it, because there's something in him that always wants to challenge Tony for anything more than he does anyone else, but perversely he's starting to think that resisting Tony's request would just cause Tony even more entertainment. After all, nobody who had ears could ever claim Tony was anything less than a contrarian.
Steve isn't quite sure how he's gotten to the point in his life where he's stripping naked in Tony Stark's workshop and it's not for sex, but he's a veteran soldier now, and functional nudity isn't actually something that bothers him. While Tony's busy with the console, he reaches for the hem of his shirt and pulls it over his head in one simple motion, taking his tags with it. His boots get quickly unlaced and his socks stuffed in them. Then his khakis and underwear are slid down his legs and folded onto the pile of his clothes. And that's all there is.
"I know it's strange," Tony continues absently, less teasing in his voice now as he considers the lights, poking a few places and adding little flags. "But it is important. Military types, especially the ones on the side of working with government contractors and R&D tend to act like comfort isn't a vitally important feature of all gear. Which is stupid, because being distracted over how cold your ears are because your hat wasn't designed to cover them or trying not to walk a certain way to avoid making your feet hurt worse because your boots don't fit… that's the shit that gets people killed. I mean-"
"Tony," Steve cuts in, because as genuinely interesting as he's finding Tony's commentary, the workshop isn't the warmest place ever and he's really hoping to get this scanning done sometime before one of the others wanders down here.
Tony's head cuts over in question, and then he freezes, entire body going snap still.
"Sweet mother of Tesla," Tony murmurs, eyes slowly caressing down Steve's torso, looking him over unabashedly. He licks his lips absently, then says, "J.A.R.V.I.S., if I'm actually passed out on the workshop floor hallucinating right now, please don't wake me up. In fact, if I'm dying, don't even try and resuscitate me this time. DNR. I've found heaven."
"Wait, this time?" Steve says, which Tony entirely ignores in the way Steve has come to recognize as immoveable short of a blistering fight. Though it might seem the same on the surface, arguing and fighting with Tony are two very different things. So instead of prodding like he once would have, Steve files that piece of information away for later investigation.
And then Tony's eyes lower to the part of him that had started this all, and Steve's mouth goes dry at the look in his eyes because… well, he's never seen anything like it on Tony's face, but part of him definitely recognizes it. Sparks a new frisson of nerves crackling in his belly. But for all that, he doesn't even have to really struggle to resist the urge to cover himself, because while there's clearly carnal appreciation in Tony's gaze, the problem-solving light is more dominant now. Plus the back-to-back masturbation sessions he'd had in his tiny room on the Helicarrier have made it easier to avoid any more… physical responses to the intense scrutiny.
Tony fumbles blindly for the liminal edges of the waste-basket and pulls up the previous lower-body design without tearing his eyes from Steve's body. The images load, and Tony stares a little longer, but soon whatever question had kindled in his mind sparks to full life.
"Jesus, no wonder you were pissed," Tony says, finally breaking his stare and glancing between Steve's body and the schematics for the armor. He pulls at the old uniform design and sketches a few lines through the crotch area and then draws out a quick mathematical equation with his finger. The calculation spits out a number and he shakes his head. "Even with the clearly incorrect… That's… inhumane. Those morons, it's like they're trying to make it a minimizer for your dick. I'm honestly amazed you didn't take someone's head off."
"It was a near thing," Steve says dryly, glancing at his shield where it's tucked into his rucksack, and Tony's eyes glint in shared amusement as he glances over at his face.
And it's… for all that he's standing there naked, Steve's feeling relief now that the issue is laid out in the open and the worst of it is already done - and done less painfully than he'd expected. This way it's just Tony who knows, one of his own people. He hadn't even had to say it. Tony had seen the problem. Sure, Tony's eyes are unmistakably taking his measure and enjoying the hell out of it, but it doesn't feel as… invasive as the way other people sometimes look at his body. Strangers at S.H.I.E.L.D., for example. Maybe it's because Tony hasn't forgotten that it's Steve underneath all that serum-enhanced super-soldier flesh.
"Alright, J. Let's do some data gathering," Tony says, turning away and moving over to a physical computer interface. He taps at a few buttons and a machine folds out of the ceiling, lowering from its recess with a click and a tiny thunk as it latches onto one of the various tracks that run around the ceiling. It whirs as it powers up, then zips along overhead till it angles down beside Steve.
"Cap, just stand normally and stay still for a second."
Steve does as he's told, and the machine lowers down to his side, bright orange light fanning out in a sheet of tiny beams to hit his skin.
"And close your eyes, probably," Tony adds. "It won't hurt you, don't worry, but having the scan in your eyes is fucking weird. Just trust me on that one."
And yeah. Trust Tony? He's really starting to think that's one of the better choices he's going to make in his life.
The new armor is amazing. It feels like a second skin. Supple, more leatherlike than before and yet even stronger. It withstands all sorts of blows, knives and small-caliber rounds. He almost laughs at the frustrated looks on the goons' faces as everything they try fails - and then he knocks them out with a bash from his shield and before he knows it, he's come through the other side of the fight without a scratch - and even more, without being distracted by his discomforts. His attention is sharp and he's confident in his awareness of his team and their surroundings.
It's not just the relief on his genitals, either, though that had definitely been the biggest discomfort. It's the smooth seams that had replaced spots that had once chafed. It's the contoured segments in the palms of the gloves that make it so much more natural to grip and to flex. It's the way the cowl's ear-slot actually fits the position of his ears. He truly values the effort and modern materials in the shield-provided uniform that had kept him from injury, really he does. But he hadn't even realized how much he'd been missing the worn-in surety of his old leather uniform till now or how much of a difference the tiny misfits had made. And now Tony's made him the best of both worlds.
He's not going to say it aloud and inflate Stark's ego any more than necessary, but it's almost perfect in every way.
The enemies are defeated and only some of the city is on fire and Steve's standing there catching his breath and mentally counting off the status of his team. Then a frightened or foolish local police officer gets startled into firing his weapon and the Hulk gets startled into smashing through a support beam for a huge crane and the thing groans low and loud.
There's an awful moment of silence, every breath in the vicinity held, and then a snapping sound ricochets through the air. Abruptly the crane shears through itself and collapses in on one side, the massive structure hurtling down towards them - or more accurately; towards Steve. The others are at the base and can dodge or be sheltered by The Hulk but the entire bulk of it is headed right for the corridor of street Steve's standing in alone. Adrenaline surges through him, slowing time, powering musculature and nervous systems and he turns and makes a run for it. He runs, but in moments he knows it's not going to be fast enough and he turns to try and see if he can bring up his shield instead and mostly just hope for an injury short of bifurcation. The flaming tower of steel crashes towards him-
And then a streak of red and gold plows into him and scoops him off his feet. It hurts, but not nearly as badly as many tons of burning metal crushing him into the asphalt would have.
Tony's limbs are wrapped around him and so he doesn't have the right angle for thrust upwards and they soon lose their residual altitude and crash into the ground, rolling in a tangle of limbs. Seconds later there's a horrible screeching crash, the thump of it echoing down the city streets and shaking the ground beneath them. Dust kicks up and whirls past them and Steve hides his face under the shelter of Tony's suit till it dies down.
And Tony's laughing. The Iron Man's face shield pops up and his bright eyes are dancing with amusement as he looks down at Steve.
"I know I said put the gear through its paces, Cap, but really," he says in a patronizing voice that once would have set Steve's teeth on edge but now reads like a cross between fondness and worry. "Dropping a crane on it? It's a little much even for your overachieving star-spangled ass."
And Steve tries to grin at him, but there's a sharp, aching increase in pressure in his groin as the adrenaline and - and the weight of Tony pressed so intimately against him begins to excite his body. A sense of dread fills him as he realizes that the new suit is greatly improved under normal circumstances, but the underlying issue is still present.
"Oh, now he tells me," Steve tosses back, sounding a little breathless and more sharp than the teasing tone he'd intended.
Tony shifts, the Iron Man suit surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly very heavy. His eyes are narrowed as he looks over Steve more intently, resting his weight on a knee between Steve's thighs so he can lift himself enough to see. It just feels shockingly intimate through the pliant material of his uniform.
"Are you hit?" he asks, voice going surprisingly soft and serious, hands gliding over Steve with a medical firmness designed to elicit hidden sore spots. Steve's traitorous body takes it as another kind of touch entirely, and he reaches down to bat Tony's hand away before it can get even more out of hand.
"Fine," he says, though his voice sounds tight even to him. Which makes sense, considering how tight certain other parts of his anatomy are feeling.
And Steve forces himself to smile as Clint calls over the coms, "Jesus, Stark, grope on your own time." but from the look on Tony's face, it doesn't play well.
He should keep his damned mouth shut, he really should, but his mental resources are getting eaten up by trying to deal with the steadily-increasing ache in his crotch where it's pressed against Tony's armor-plated knee.
"You were saying something about me not being crushed by a few tons of metal?" he says, jabbing his shield at Tony's side and making a loud clang echo off the armor.
"Sure thing, Captain Crankypants," Tony mutters, pushing himself away and up sharply and then turning to stride away a few paces in the armor before firing the jet-boots and vaulting over the debris, presumably to go try and find The Hulk.
Steve sighs, letting his head fall back against the pavement, trying to get his body to calm the hell down. But the firm pressure of the uniform snugged up around his bits is like a feedback loop, flexing with him and inescapable. It's almost worse than when it was just too tight. Now it's too tight and stimulating. He thumps his shield against the ground and growls in frustration.
The problem with the serum's enhancements to his senses is that it had enhanced all his senses. Not just the standard five most people thought were the lot of them. And not just in his hands, eyes, ears and mouth.
So getting perky during a fight isn't exactly new, but it's been happing far too frequently and with far worse consequences. In the old leather gear he'd done what all the soldiers did and just worn the occasional hard-on tucked under his belt or down his thigh until he could get some privacy to deal with it and nobody cared because it was war. It happened.
Now there's paparazzi and he's a national icon and this damned not-leather just doesn't budge enough where it matters most.
"Alright there Cap?" Clint asks, somewhere high above them.
"Just peachy," Steve replies tersely, forcing himself up off the ground and shaking off the myriad discomforts as best he can. He still has a job to do. It's not like he's been shot. That hurts worse.
Of course, when Steve loses his temper and yells at the hapless cop who'd set off the disastrous chain of events and the others send him worried or disapproving looks at his uncharacteristic outburst, Tony just eyes him with amusement. Eyes him with humiliating understanding and then pats a heavy metal hand on Steve's shoulder and says, "So. I think maybe now is a good time to suggest that we head home and make some more adjustments on your armor."
"This is ridiculous," Steve mutters as Tony walks around him in a slow circle. "Nobody else has this problem."
"Hm," Tony says meaninglessly, looking over his armor with an assessing eye that lingers on his blue-clad crotch. Eventually he stops in front of Steve, eyes fixed. He squints, fingers tapping against his lips slowly as he thinks through whatever potential solution's on his mind. But he's not entirely out of it. Not so far gone he'll miss an opportunity to tease. After a moment, he gives the appearance of shaking his attention back and says, "Hm? Oh right. You need something. It's not just stare-longingly-at-Cap's-massive-dick time."
Steve rolls his eyes and pretends not to be amused.
Tony grins and meanders away towards the computers, pulling up the console for the scanning one he'd used before. "Yeah. Unfortunately for literally nobody in the entire universe, you have a disproportionately large dick. It's making things hard. So, so hard."
"Golly, I've never heard that one before," Steve deadpans.
He can see Tony laughing silently from the ripple in his back, his shoulders relaxed and posture open. He can also see some of the deep but fading bruises on Tony's arms, a couple ugly new ones on his shoulders. He's either forgotten about them, or isn't hiding them from people this time. And while he hates to see anything that would cause Tony pain, Steve's pleased at the trust it possibly signifies.
"So yeah," he continues, typing away at the console. "I want some more scans, but this time let's get some in motion. Because I think the basic fit is fine to start with, but it's the action that isn't being taken into account properly. Dynamic systems and all that jazz."
Steve nods, because it makes sense. And also he'd really like to get out of this damned thing. He sets his shield aside on the workbench and then starts stripping out of his uniform without hesitation.
Tony rambles on as he types away at the computer, initializing the scanning device. "You're not just a ridiculously-well-endowed version of a ken doll whose junk stays in a perfectly stable bump. You've got to be able to move. I mean, you kick people in the head. The head. And not just when they're bent over. You're going to need some-"
Tony's voice cuts off sharply, and Steve glances up in question.
"Sure. Right. Naked scanning. Good plan," Tony murmurs, turning away, back ramrod straight.
Steve scowls at his now-bare legs. "I thought-"
"Nope! Of course! Yes. Absolutely. Nakedness is absolutely a requirement for today's scanning," Tony blathers, grinning wildly as he lies and nobody is fooled.
Embarrassment flares at his face, but Steve refuses to give Tony the satisfaction of seeing him scramble. Tony doesn't ever actually bluff, not truly, because he's absolutely willing to bet the farm when provoked and everyone who knows him at all knows it. But because that tipping-point is unpredictable at best, nobody risks it, so at lower stakes he pseudo-bluffs all the time, just to get a rise when he inevitably wins by his opponent's forfeit instead of his own power. Steve is starting to learn that it is not only sometimes prudent but also thoroughly amusing to call his bluff anyway, even if it makes losing more or less inevitable.
He also gets the sense that very few people ever do.
"Okay, great. I'm all ready then. How do you want me?" he says with as much earnest calm as he can manage, gazing innocently at Tony. It's a skill he's perfected over the years of dealing with military and political blowhards who were so out of touch with reality that earnestness confused them. It fools nearly everyone, probably because most of the time he truly means it.
Tony's eyes narrow, and Steve thinks that it's actually pretty impressive that Tony's already started to catch on to his own more subtle tricks. But there's still enough doubt that he hesitates, skin around his eyes tightening as he thinks, and Steve feels a smug pleasure at the win. Because winning is relative when it comes to Tony Stark, so even a moment's worth of confusion is gold.
The smugness must show, though, because Tony barks a laugh.
"Great," Tony replies blithely, grin turning wolfish as he sits on a stool and spins it to face Steve again. "Alright then. Let's start with a little Captain America Strut. You know the one. The one that makes all the boys and girls go 'ahh'."
He doesn't forget about the "This Time."
A few searches on the internet tell him enough to flesh out some of the basics that were in the official file S.H.I.E.L.D. had provided him at the formation of the Avengers. There's a lot of speculation from the news about the various tumultuous events in Tony's history, and it's not like he'd expected that Tony hadn't had his share of troubles to get to where he is today. But there's a lot missing. He's been through enough, seen enough tidied-up files in his time to know when there's more - worse - to the story.
He asks Natasha for Tony's file one morning before breakfast. Catches her in the hallway away from the communal areas to make his request in private.
She pauses for a moment, face impassive as she evaluates. He thinks for a moment she's going to suggest he ask SHIELD but she's far too smart to miss his meaning. He's pulled her aside and asked her specifically for something he could get on his own - if it were just the regular file he wanted. So clearly that's not what he wants, and he knows she knows that.
He sees the faintest flicker of something that resembles worry in the way her eyebrows twitch towards each other, and then she's smiling faintly and saying a soft, "Of course, Cap," and striding away down the hall towards the kitchen.
The file appears in his room before dinner, a copy of handwritten notes, things that couldn't be hacked and stolen or erased out of the digital files. He doesn't doubt Tony would have deleted everything of value from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s computer files any of the number of times he's made access for himself into their systems. He's also not surprised that Natasha has backups. The real stories of Iron Man's origins and subsequent lone-wolf struggles for survival - or at least as close to the stories as anyone had ever gotten, since at every junction he's been able to examine, Tony had spun tales and danced around things and said next to nothing on the subject that wasn't puff.
What he reads…
He marches out to the kitchen, chest tight, needing to lay eyes on him. To lay eyes on all of them, but Tony most of all. And he knows, he knows it was all years ago that Tony was tortured and subsequently assaulted by someone he'd trusted and left to die on the floor of his workshop. Or dying a slow death of poison from his own reactor. Or bleeding and alone, with no one but his robots to watch him fade away. He knows.
But it doesn't stop him from surging into the kitchen like he's on a mission, fists tight and jerking to a halt as he scans the room for his team, checking heads. Checking-
And they're fine. Everyone's fine, of course. Tony's fine. He's fine, just standing at the stove, fussing with some pasta and -
"Something up Cap?" Clint asks, and Steve follows the sound of his voice up to where he's perched.
More eyes turn towards him. Bruce is sandwiched between Natasha and Thor on the couch watching a show but they all turn at Clint's question and he forces himself to relax and put a smile on his face. He glances at the stove, pretending he's not staring at Tony.
"Just hungry," he says with a shrug, heading over towards the cooking and the cook, wanting to see the reassuring glow of the arc reactor again, steady and strong through his shirt.
Tony glances over his shoulder as he approaches, dark eyes dancing with amusement.
"Food'll be ready in ten," he says, but then his lips twist wickedly and he adds in a low voice, "But you know, if you're too hungry to wait, I've got something else you can swall-"
"Oh my god," Clint groans, cutting him off by hurling a tiny paper airplane at his head.
Tony bats at it with the spoon from the pasta and misses but the gust sends it careening to the floor to join the roughly dozen of its counterparts.
"Hey babe, don't be jealous, there's more than enough to share," Tony says, flashing his flirtiest smirk up at Clint.
Steve tries to laugh as Clint spews a string of improbable expletive-laden suggestions for everyone's entertainment, he does, but it just feels so impossible in the face of how easy Tony's posture is, how bright and alive that grin is here with the team, trading barbs. And how easily all of this could have never happened. How easily Steve would have missed the man who-
"Steve, you okay?" Tony asks quietly, eyes studying his face more intently now.
He nods jerkily, then lies, "Yeah, of course."
Tony arches a skeptical eyebrow at him so he pats a firm hand against Tony's shoulder for reassurance of both their vitality and makes himself walk away, heading towards the attached living room area where Thor and Bruce have both returned their attention to the television and Natasha is watching him with lips pursed in understanding.
He slings himself down onto the couch beside her and focuses his attention on the girl amidst a crowd of admirers on the screen who's in a huge pink ballgown eating strawberries and talking about tech like Tony does. He's unutterably grateful for the tiny hand that slips into his own.
The diagram of the armor for Captain America hangs in the air before him, Tony standing at his side with a broad smile as he leaves his hand hanging out in a gesture of revelation.
"I'm confused," Steve murmurs, staring at the rather-prominent crotch of his uniform, done up in red white and blue over the cutout shape that forms what can only be a- "No, wait, I think maybe you're confused."
Tony snickers at that and says, "Nonsense. This is an excellent, shiny solution Cap'n."
"No," Steve says flatly, feeling decidedly more mocked than ever before by the red and white stripes running the length of his dick.
Tony's arm lowers like a pneumatic hose has been cut, lying flat down his side again.
"Well it would work," he says, actually sounding hurt. "Nothing else I try has."
Steve shakes his head, mouth hanging open momentarily as he slides a hand through his hair. "Tony, no. Think of the children."
A smirk supplants the pout in an instant. "Did you seriously just-"
Steve rolls his eyes skyward because he can't stand staring at the thing anymore and he's used to Tony teasing him till he hardly knows what's up or down, but this is too much.
"Tony. There is no universe in which this would be appropriate."
"I'll concede the décor, but this, uh, the piece-"
Steve turns an incredulous look over his way, his eyebrow arching. "If you can't even say the word with a straight face, there's no way-"
"I can so!" Tony protests. "It's a fine, medieval piece of garmen- is it medieval? Actually, I'm thinking it might be more Elizabethan. Something-something Shakespeare. And here you thumb your nose at me sir - at my creation, sir. Do you sir?"
"Say it. Out loud."
Tony looks at him, face arrested a moment. "God I hope that's not a reference," he manages under his breath, sounding vaguely strangled.
Steve just crosses his arms.
Tony lifts his hands in placation and he clears his throat. Then his mouth twitches, wrinkling the sharp line of his beard at his cheek, just as quickly stifled. But when he tries to open his mouth again, his eyes crinkle at the corners and his brows flex towards each other, eloquent shapes telling of his struggle as he purses his lips.
He takes a deep breath and clears his throat. "I can do it. I can. It's uh. It's just a codp… a cod…"
Tony clamps a hand over his mouth and swallows down what sounds remarkably like a giggle, turning back to the displayed hologram. The laugh bursts forth anyway as he looks at his monstrous creation and he reaches out and balls it up, throwing it at the recycle bin.
Steve sighs, amused but relieved.
"Fine. You win. No codpiece," he says, sobering. He sighs, swiping the heel of one hand along one of his eyes, making the shadows stand out even more as he turns back to the lights. "Guess that's what I get for designing drunk. But don't you come crying to me about testicular tortion for at least a week. These ideas don't grow on trees, Rogers. Not even the bad ones."
"Yeah. I know it's a lot of lettuce," Steve replies absently, studying the perfect digital model of his naked form hanging in the air between them. It's eerie, because sometimes he still doesn't recognize himself. Even without the stars and bars, the person looks like Captain America, and that's not always a pleasant feeling.
Tony eyes him strangely when he looks over and he shrugs rather than explain what appears to be more outdated slang.
"I do appreciate it," he says.
"Okay, well," Tony says, fingers flexing on the edge of the arc reactor under his shirt, sounding vaguely impatient or uncomfortable now.
It's not like he'd asked for Steve to come and opine about his progress on the designs or invade his workshop. Steve had just wandered down here on his own, using the armor as an excuse. He ducks his head and says, "Right, right, I'll leave you to it."
He nods to Tony who's already turned back to the model, and makes for the door, feeling oddly disappointed.
"Fuck. Fuck," Steve repeats, with a slam of his shield against the wall for punctuation. The pain is shocking. Stupidly mind-numbing and he doesn't even care that someone might see him. He pries off a glove and shoves a hand down his pants, using his super strength to rearrange things so that he's not having his balls twisted off.
"Cap?" Clint's voice comes over the comms, sounding very worried. "Cap are you hit?"
"No," he gasps out, but it doesn't sound convincing, he knows it.
"You are in need of assistance, shield-brother?" Thor booms.
"Cap, I can-"
"Tony," he blurts. Because this is entirely his fault and not just because he'd been the one to engineer the suit. Apparently he'd also thought it would be a good idea to grab Steve around the hip and hold them together from neck to knees as he rocketed them down to the fight with reckless, adrenaline-jolting speed. His body had decided that it was very exciting, especially with the way the vibrations had felt through the armor pressed tight to his pelvis.
"Oh shit, okay, hang on," comes the amused reply, and although he's glad it means he doesn't have to explain, he hates him for it as Tony laughs aloud. "I'll be there in a bit. Just stay low. Birdbrain; he's fine, stop fluttering. I'll handle it."
Clint says something rude that Steve tunes out, too busy cradling his half-swollen penis in his palm, willing it to subside.
The discomfort had started fast and though he'd made it through the fight, arousal and adrenaline had made themselves known in the worst way. As soon as he'd taken down the last nearby target, he'd stumbled here into this alleyway, just off to the side, desperate to get the lances of pressure off.
By the time Tony lands in a whine of repulsors and a flare of heat, his hand is shaking with the strain of stretching the strong material of his suit.
"You said this would work," Steve hisses as he fumbles his free hand up to turn the mic off on his comms and pull his cowl back for breathing room. "It's worse. How is it worse?"
Tony, completely uncowed, just crouches down in front of him, setting one armored arm on Steve's upturned knee. At least it means he's providing significantly more privacy than just the shield, should any stupidly reckless reporters or civilians find their way to the opening of the alley.
"I said it would probably work. After I finished testing and adjusting it. Which has not happened yet. Seriously, nobody ever listens to me and then they end up with their nuts in a vise and suddenly it's my fault again," Tony says, voice supercilious and warmly mocking, the bastard. He doesn't even put his face shield up, just crouches there and watches him suffer, head tilted in observation.
"You bastard," Steve groans despite himself, tipping his head back against the wall, frustration welling over as his shaking hand brushes heated skin.
"Well now I'm just turned on," Tony offers, voice still coming through amused through the mouth slot in the mask.
It really doesn't help the situation, because lately, Steve's body' been less and less inclined to take Tony's teasing as anything but sincere in its licentious offerings.
But thankfully Tony doesn't waste any more time on tormenting him. He taps something on his forearm plate and then after a moment a fingertip slides back and a tiny vibroblade slides out. "You trust me?"
Steve nods sharply.
"Okay. Move the hand and then stay very still," Tony says.
Steve breathes out hard and holds his breath as he lets go of his suit and the pressure sharply intensifies again. But he clenches his fist and Tony reaches down between them and with tiny, surgical strikes cuts into the complex layers of the crotch of Steve's uniform until Steve hears a snapping sound and the pain disappears in a tingling rush.
"Ohh," he says, melting back against the wall.
"Jesus," Tony mutters under his breath. He's silent a long moment, unmoving, so Steve forces an eye open to look at him.
"Now what?" he asks, starting to catch his breath a little. Tony jolts fractionally.
"Uh, okay. So the under-structure is nixed and the outer won't hold long. It definitely won't protect you from anything, but it should be enough to get you home so we can figure out the next step without anyone being the wiser."
Steve sets about buckling his belt again, feeling wearied by the relief. Tony rises again once he's set himself to rights and Steve nods his thanks. He accepts the extended forearm to grip and lever himself back up to his feet, then finishes dusting himself off.
Tony cocks his head the way he does when he's listening to coms, and Steve fumbles his earpiece back in from where it's been dislodged, getting his cowl back on straight in time to catch.
"-Hill and bring the rest of them back to SHIELD. Unless you need us to wait?"
"No. Sounds good," Tony says. "I'll give Cap a lift back to the tower."
The rest of the chatter on the line returns to normal post-mission bickering and cleanup, and Steve turns it back down. Tony turns his head to face Steve again and extends a hand.
"Come with me if you want to live," he intones.
"It's funny, because you're wearing a metal exoskeleton," Steve deadpans, though he takes Tony's hand without hesitation.
There's a teasing digital gasp through the helmet. "Well, aren't you just full of surprises?" Tony replies as he hauls Steve to him with a dramatic speed and pulls their bodies flush as the jet-boots whine to life. "You know, I consider The Terminator to be a classic romance film."
Steve tries not to smile. Really, he does.
"Thank you," Steve says suddenly, trying desperately to wrangle his thoughts back to something resembling the appropriate instead of the direction they're currently headed. Yes. Gratitude is appropriate.
"Uh," Tony manages, looking up at him through his eyelashes from where he's crouched in front of Steve. "You know, I may be on my knees but I haven't actually started giving you a blow job. That was entirely in my head so far. Or wait - are you saying - did you want a blow job? Was that a 'Why yes, thank you, I'll take one of those after all'?"
Steve sighs, pressing his fingers to the bridge of his nose. Context. Context would be good. "I meant for all of this," he says, waving an arm at the holograms and scanning equipment and gutted remains of Captain America uniforms. "I realized I hadn't actually thanked you at all. That was a definite oversight on my part. I'm incredibly grateful for all your efforts. What you've made is… it means a lot."
As Steve fumbles through expressing his thanks there's a sense of something almost shy in Tony's eyes, dark lashes flickering, eyes catching the light enough to make them seem even more luminous than usual. But it's only there for the barest moment and then he shrugs it off.
"Oh, is that all? No thanks required. Happy to help," he says, batting a dismissive few fingers up at Steve. But then he tilts his head, eyes trained back on Steve's crotch where it sits so precariously close to his face as he adds, "I'm also one hundred percent fine with getting on my knees and servicing Captain America, you understand this, right? Because yes," Tony says, making a low, appreciative sound in his throat as his hands flex like they're framing him.
Steve sighs, rolling his eyes skyward as Tony starts humming the national anthem under his breath as he settles gentle hands on the bulge of Steve's penis under the latest version of the suit. There's not much material between them. It's only a prototype, completely missing its outer-layers at the moment.
"JARVIS. I believe I must have done something really, really great in a previous life," Tony announces.
JARVIS ignores him.
"You've done some really great things in this life," Steve points out, because it's important to him that Tony feels appreciated here, and he's learned all too well in recent months living here that Tony's arrogance doesn't exactly cancel out his insecurities. Far from it, in fact.
Tony's eyes are dark and unreadable in the tiny glance that gets flicked up his way, and Steve has to swallow against the sudden dryness in his mouth at the sight. There's a lock of hair that's curled loose from the others and Steve's fingers tense with the urge to slide through the dark strands. Instead he closes his eyes and tips his head back, concentrating on his breathing as Tony shifts the materials again.
The overall fit is better already, but the underlying structure is something like a built-in jock-strap and it still needs a few adjustments. It makes the bulge of his groin slightly more prominent when just standing than the previous models, but it's subtle. No seams that give away its structure and it seems to move much more easily with the shifts than the one-piece pelvic shape that he'd started with.
"My Cap-tain tis of thee," Tony sing-songs to himself as he massages Steve gently into place and tightens one of the straps. "Let me serve my coun-try. Down on my knees. Just drop your tro-u-sers…"
"Tony," Steve begins, feeling a little desperate because in a few more seconds, there's going to be no way Tony doesn't notice the effects of his words and touches, and Steve will never, ever live that down.
But Tony lets go of him and slides back on his haunches, getting to his feet in a smooth motion and heading for the computer again. He snaps his fingers and points as he throws himself down onto the rolling stool and rolls away with a rattle. "Seriously, Steve, lose the pants. I need to make an adjustment," he tosses over his shoulder.
It's stupid, but his stomach seems to do something funny every time Tony calls him Steve instead of Cap or Capsicle or Rogers or Captain Crankypants or any other name he can think of. It feels a lot like fondness. Of course, when he does it while ordering Steve to take his pants off… fondness isn't quite enough to cover it.
His dick seems to agree. It's been well on its way to perking up already, and now he feels an unmistakable curl of real arousal settling low in his belly. Which is going to be a disaster if he takes off his pants right now. He mentally curses Tony's effortless, meaningless innuendos and stalls, putting his hands on his hips.
"Oh now you're serious?" Steve says.
Tony grins, tapping at the console. "Baby with you? I'm always serious."
"Really?" Steve says, voice flat.
Tony laughs under his breath as he pushes off and rolls the stool back over to the workbench and rattles around in one of the tool bins.
"Well in that case, you should probably quit offering me blow jobs. One of these days I'm going to call your bluff," Steve says, somewhere between actual annoyance and irrepressible amusement. "And then where will you be?"
Tony jerks, tool clattering out of his hand as he spins back to face him, expression going into a parody of shock.
"Bluff? What bluff? I'm not bluffing. He thinks I'm bluffing. JARVIS am I bluffing?" he calls at the ceiling.
JARVIS wisely remains silent as Tony presses a swooning hand to his forehead, falling halfway back against the workbench.
"Please. Oh Captain, don't you tease me like this," Tony says in mock distress, hand fluttering over the arc reactor. "I don't think my poor heart can take it. It'll melt and overload and you'll be forced to put in my spare which is so disturbing you probably won't do it and it'll be all your fault for teasing me to death."
"Who said anything about teasing?" Steve replies, and he's fairly certain he'd meant for it to come out as exactly that; teasing. But in reality, it comes out low and far, far too serious.
Damnit. He's going to tip his hand, isn't he? Then again, it seems he always does wherever Tony is concerned. Besides, he's never been one hide.
Tony goes still, hand falling slowly away from his chest. His eyes are dark and intent now. There's a bevy of calculations running behind those eyes, assessing, comparing. Running hypotheticals, testing premises and assumptions. Throwing them out, dragging them back reframed.
"Not teasing?" Tony says faintly, gaze locked on Steve's face, apparently coming only to the conclusion that he needs more data.
"No. Actually not in the slightest." His heart is pounding, stampeding its way through his chest and he crosses his arms, trying to pretend that he's not terrified of getting shot down. Or that his cheeks aren't already beginning to flush. "And you? Not bluffing?"
"Oh fuck me," Tony whispers.
Steve arches an eyebrow at him.
"If you'd prefer."
Tony surges up off the stool and strides forward to erase the few feet of space between them, though he doesn't touch, hands hovering in the air at his sides. They remain just centimeters away from touching Steve, but held back like he's struggling to resist.
"Uh," he says dumbly, eyes flicking over Steve's face and then his body, and then searching his face again.
And Steve almost expects his mask to come back up, the veneer of teasing that would let them laugh this off as another game of chicken, of banter and pushing each other's buttons just for the hell of it. But it doesn't. Tony is right there with him, and the vulnerability he's allowing makes Steve's heart ache.
"Tony," he says, letting his eyes drop down to the soft bow of his mouth, lips slightly parted in anticipation. "I'd very much like to touch you now."
"Okay," Tony breathes.
Steve uncrosses his arms and carefully reaches out to slide his hands along Tony's ribs. He curls his palms over the thick, compact muscles under the stretched cotton and drags Tony the remaining inches to him, pulling their bodies flush together. One last breath gets savored; he feels the soft heat of Tony's own against his lips, then he bows his head.
He parts his lips over Tony's slides his tongue slow but sure past the smooth, cool flesh just beyond his lips till he can feel the tip of Tony's tongue with his own. It's electric, the layered sensations and it jolts Tony into action. His tongue surges into Steve's mouth, his head angling to deepen the kiss as he presses into Steve like it's the only chance he'll ever get.
Steve opens for him because what else would he do? He hears his own voice hum in appreciation as he twists his head to drag their lips along each other, tongues twining and untwisting together as they switch sides, settling into the kiss like they've been doing it for years.
Tony's hands drag down Steve's sides, curl over the swell of his backside and squeeze, then slide right back up again, flitting from feature to feature. Calloused fingers drag through his hair, stroke down behind his ears, squeeze at his collarbone. Tony moans against him, presses them tighter together till Steve can feel the hard edge of the arc reactor through his shirt.
It's so good, it's so nearly a perfect thing feeling Tony against him warm and real and exactly as intense as Steve had imagined. He could do this forever, he realizes, tracing his tongue along Tony's teeth. Kissing Tony is amazing. Forget about blow-jobs and fucking and-
Then Tony drags a thigh between Steve's and grinds.
Steve winces and breaks the kiss, letting go of Tony with one arm to fumble at his waistband. Tony's mouth latches onto his throat and his hands join his a moment later, as intimately familiar with Steve's uniform as he is now. The constricting material gets pried loose, his partially-constructed trousers peeled down over his hips until his erection springs free, thick and heavy as it slaps against Tony's abdomen.
Steve chokes back a groan at the sudden relief and the sensation of Tony's warmth against him so intimately. He leans against him, pressing himself against him in a slow grind and lowers his head, searching for his mouth again. But he never makes it.
Tony twists out of the arm Steve has wrapped around him and grabs him by the hips. He propels Steve backwards, guiding him the few feet to where the couch sits and then shoving him down onto it. Tony promptly drops to his knees between Steve's feet, eyes dark and dangerous and hungry.
"I never bluff," he says, daring him to argue.
And then he swallows Steve whole.
Steve tries to remember how to breathe. He also thinks, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this more than makes up for all the painful mishaps in superhero tailoring that led him here.
It's like nothing he's ever felt. He'd thought - he'd imagined it would - and he almost regrets all the times he's turned it down because of his role as Captain America, back when it hadn't seemed right to accept, but he doesn't because Tony.
It's difficult to even really understand the sights in front of him. That Tony's is… and he's so… it's too big. Tony's lips are stretched tight around him and it's impossible how much of Steve's cock is disappearing between them. He should be choking, not moving like it-
Tony goes deep and hums low and pleased and the next thing Steve knows he has his fingers tangled up in dark hair, strands soft and vaguely sweat-damp and so real, so much better than he had imagined. When Tony swallows around him his fingers clench reflexively, tugging hard on the hair beneath them.
"S-sorry," he stammers as he tries to let go.
But Tony's eyes are snapping up to his, bright with challenge, with taunting that has so often set Steve off. He's daring him to let go, daring him not to. He pauses, tongue tracing tiny little shapes at the edge of his foreskin and waits. Slowly, Steve curls his fingers tight, enthralled as Tony moans around him when he pulls slowly at the silky threads and follows the tension to swallow him all the way down again.
Steve sends his other hand dragging through Tony's hair and then grips tight, keeping tension but following Tony's lead.
Dark facial hair scrapes against the sensitive crease of his hip as Tony twists and then pulls back. It's so real and visceral and nothing like he'd expected from his internet research. And Tony. Tony. He moves with a grace and coordination that Steve can only wonder at, timing breaths through his nose perfectly between dips, tongue flicking light and fast over Steve's too-hot skin.
"Oh god," he gasps, hips twitching as Tony barrels down again and sucks, pulling tight around him like nothing he could've imagined. His fingers pull closed, his thighs tremble. As ever, Tony is an oncoming storm. A force of nature. Relentless.
Yeah. He's not going to last long against this, he realizes, feeling the unmistakable coiling deep at the base of his dick, his balls pulling up. He tries to say something, to tell Tony to slow down or to move but it goes nowhere, dying a gasping moan in his throat.
For some reason it's the rough hand that slides up his hip, the fingers that curl under the hem of his shirt and cling sharp and desperate to his skin that shoves him over the edge.
His body stills, going tight and funneled down to a point, everything welling up into a space that's too small, too impossible to contain. His head goes light, white and silent and yet roaring like a thunderstorm. He can't breathe, doesn't care because-
Then the barrier shatters and he's erupting, spilling himself down Tony's throat, ragged gasps tearing themselves from his throat as he struggles to breathe under the rigid frame of his body.
Tony swallows against him, drinks him down at every pulse, his shoulder pressed hard against Steve's knee, arms tight along his thighs as he twitches. He stays there till the aftershocks are all that's left, then he pulls off, breaths ragged and saliva clinging to his lips as he burrows his forehead against Steve's hip.
The warmth of his breath tingles over the sweat on his skin.
"Oh god," Steve says again.
"Not quite, but I'll take the implied compliment," Tony rasps, laughing against his hipbone. He sounds as wrecked as Steve feels.
Steve shoves his head but there's no force in it. Instead his fingers fumble through his hair, then stroke reverently down to his shoulders to slide under his arms and lift. Well, drag, really. His strength is there, it's just uncoordinated while his nervous system resets itself. Tony half falls on him as he slides with the pull, his legs slipping wide to brace over Steve's lap as his face lands somewhere near his neck.
Tony makes a contented sound, rocking his head a little and dragging his lips and his beard against Steve's throat. Steve runs a hand down Tony's spine, curves it down over his backside, squeezing appreciatively at the shape so well-muscled, so well-developed by lifting the weight of his armors.
"What do you… I can," he begins, voice breathless.
"I can't," Tony replies, huffing a sharp laugh against Steve's throat. "Not for… fuck it, I'm too old for this schoolboy came-in-my-pants shit. Not that we have to wait for me, but I'm going to need an hour at least before I can… can."
"Okay," Steve murmurs, awed.
They lay there against each other in silence for a moment, fingers roaming idly, gently, shockingly intimate. And… right. Steve feels entirely alright like this. Then Tony shifts, sitting back enough that he can see Steve's face, fingers going lax.
"You called my bluff," he accuses, contradicting his earlier claim and frowning suspiciously, eyes calculating, always calculating. There's a genuine wariness pulling itself together in the back of his eyes, a flicker of uncertainty. Doubt. Recall of past mistakes, past betrayals. Assessing, reassessing.
It's painful, knowing how easily he could hurt Tony right now. Knowing that there's a good chance he may say the wrong thing. He's always saying the wrong thing to Tony, somehow, no matter how hard he tries. And he wants to speak from his heart, explain just how right he feels and how long he's wanted this, wanted Tony… but he's very much afraid that would be the wrong choice. He just… he has to say something, because to not try would preclude the suggested 'next time' or damage the hard-won trust they've built and thereby be the worst option of all.
So Steve narrows his eyes, schools his face into his Captain America Disapproves frown, and gambles on what has always been there between them.
"Tony," he says carefully. "Was I… was I not supposed to?"
Tony stares at him, aghast. Short-circuited. Like there's an error in the data and he can't process. Any sign of distance is overwritten by dismay.
"I always take people at their word. It's the right thing to do," he says, nodding sagely, pouring as much earnestness as he can into his expression.
"Ah…" Tony begins, unblinking as he swallows and nothing else comes together.
But Steve can't hold the serious expression any longer and he cracks. A split-second later, Tony catches on, reads the teasing in it. Relief wars with indignation in his features.
"God your face," Steve says, laughing, his head falling back against the couch cushions, fingers tightening where they're curled against Tony's ribs, savoring the contact. "Yeah, genius. I never fold on a good hand and I call bluffs. I know you don't pay any attention to me on our missions but it's kind-of what I do."
"Oh ha-ha," Tony grumbles, though his fingers are now dragging gently against the short hairs at the back of Steve's neck, relaxed and affectionate and there's a smile fighting for territory on the edge of his mouth. "See if I pay any attention to fixing your damned suit now."
Steve lifts his head from the back of the couch and fixes him with an eyebrow.
"It's up to you," he says honestly, and Tony's scowl softens. "But you know," Steve continues, running a thumb up under Tony's shirt. "I'd owe you a pretty good favor if you did. A big favor."
Tony blinks at him, mouth hanging open. "Did you just-"
Steve's smile is slow and sweet and entirely wicked.
Tony tips his head back and yells, "JARVIS!"
There's a pause. And then the A.I. grudgingly replies, "As you say, Sir. DNR."