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Coffee and Company, or Fate

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Schmoozing with the Upper Elite of New York City’s Finest is so ingrained in Tony it’s second nature. It’s old hat, the backhanded compliments and unsubtle innuendo, the cozying up to fat old white men with pretty young blondes hanging off their arms. Tony sips champagne with the best of them, though more often than not his champagne flute is a cut crystal tumbler and his bubbly tastes more like a $10,000 scotch.

Tonight though, tonight he’s had enough of the game. He’s been playing it all his life, and brilliant though he may be at it, it tests his patience sometimes. Especially now, after everything, he sees these skeevy, conniving businessmen with their bought dates and it reminds him too much of the fact that that was him, less than a year ago, drinking with people he detests, laughing at jokes that aren’t funny, all in the name of a couple million.

Tony pushes his way toward the elevator, gritting his teeth through a smile, nodding politely when people call out to him. He needs some air. Everything’s so tight in here, people crowded together, the obnoxious braying laughter, friendly debates, bragging and boasting, and Tony’s going to lose his shit if he doesn’t get out of here in the next 30 seconds.

One last quick shake of a hand to a man Tony vaguely recalls worked with his father once upon a time, and he’s free, almost stumbling into the elevator. He’d blame it on the alcohol, but he's not that drunk. Kind of eased up on that after he got back from Afghanistan, for reasons.

The doors close and he takes a deep breath, leaning against the metal railing spanning the mirrored back wall, closing his eyes.

He hadn’t wanted to come tonight, hadn’t felt up for the dancing monkey act, but the Gala was for the Maria Stark Foundation, and he may have changed everything SI stands for in the last few months but the Maria Stark Foundation was one thing he didn’t touch. Also, it’s one of the main reasons he’s here in New York to begin with.

The elevator chimes, announcing its arrival at the ground floor, and the doors glide open smoothly. The lobby is all but deserted, everyone already upstairs, ready to celebrate the start of the new year. Tony pushes himself away from the wall and strides out across the marble floor, footsteps echoing loudly in the cavernous room. He nods to the security guard and exits through the revolving glass door, shooting off a quick text to his driver telling him that he’s going to walk back to the hotel tonight. Happy responds immediately with a “Yes Boss” as Tony’s stepping out onto the pavement.

The main avenue isn’t much better than the party upstairs. People are everywhere, with sparkly hats and party favors and oversized plastic glasses with “2011” superimposed over the eyeholes. Shoving his hands in his pockets and ducking his head, Tony starts to walk, hoping he won’t be recognized. It’s a stupid hope, he’s Tony Stark, for fuck’s sake, and he smiles gamely and shakes peoples hands and signs a few autographs when passersby do inevitably make the connection.

He gradually makes his way to quieter, less crowded neighborhoods (or as quiet as a New York neighborhood can really get on New Years Eve), and he lets out a deep sigh of relief. This was a good idea, walking back. He’s felt so confined lately, almost claustrophobic, and it seems like he’s never alone anymore unless he initiates the lock down protocol in the workshop. Pepper’s always hovering, and Happy, and Phil Coulson stops by the Malibu house like he owns it at least once a week to ask pointed questions about the Iron Man suit. And there’s security, and SI people, and hell, even Rhodey calling him every few days to check up on him. He needs a damn break from the babysitting, from Tony Stark’s life.

He’s starting to really feel the December cold, cupping his bare hands in front of his mouth and blowing warm air on them. Across the street, a laughing group of 20-somethings exits a shop marked “The Hideout”, hands wrapped around steaming cups of coffee. Tony calls it fate and redirects, heading for the coffee shop.

There’s a burst of warm, coffee-scented air when he steps inside and he breathes it in deep, his body shivering joyously. The aroma wafting from behind the counter is phenomenal. The cafe is cute, little stuffed armchairs and larger couches surround low coffee tables. The walls are painted a warm brownish-red, hung with paintings of mugs of tea and overflowing bags of coffee beans. There’s even a quilt nailed to one wall, which makes him think of a grandmother’s house, comforting and warm and some place a person can go to just relax and put all their problems on hold and hide from the world. Not his grandmother, of course. He never knew his father’s mother, Howard was already well past his prime by the time Tony was born, and his maternal grandmother was a little old Italian woman who spoke no English and kept crosses on every wall of her tiny New York apartment. Tony shudders a little at the memory. She terrified him, honestly.

His Gucci’s clack across the dark hardwood as he makes his way to the register. The barista is a young black man with kind eyes, and as Tony approaches he greets the billionaire with a smile. There’s a hint of recognition in his eyes, but he doesn’t ask for an autograph or go all googly-eyed, just asks Tony what he can get for him.

Tony orders himself an Americano and drops a fifty in the tip jar when the guy goes to start making it. He turns around to lean back against the counter to survey the rest of the shop There’s a dark-haired couple with their heads bent together on a loveseat over in one corner of the room. They’re giggling over something the guy is showing his girlfriend on his smartphone. A middle-aged artsy-looking fellow is sitting by the single window that showcases the street Tony’s just come in from, working on his Apple computer and sipping something drowning in whipped cream and drizzled with caramel, and Tony almost changes his order because that looks downright delectable. He decides against it. He needs something a little stronger, a little more coffee and a little less flavored syrup tonight.

There’s one other person in the cafe, a handsome blonde man, late 20s early 30s, wearing, of all things, cargo pants and a long sleeved blue henley that looks about two sizes too small for his expansive (and extremely fit, from what Tony can make out) chest and shoulders. His dark jacket is draped over the back of his plush chair with a gray and blue scarf lying atop it. He’s got a small novel in one hand while he sips what looks like plain coffee with the other, and Tony’s trying to make out the title when the barista calls his name and his order is up.

Tony thumbs through the newspapers lying on the countertop for the customer’s perusal, feeling old-school for once instead of pulling out his StarkPhone to browse the news highlights, but he doesn’t find what he’s looking for.

“You have the Times?”

The barista looks regretful when he answers. “We do, but we let people leave with them after 9, to clear it out for tomorrow. If it’s not there there’s probably no copies left. Sorry,” he says apologetically, and Tony waves him off.

“No worries, I can settle for some other rag tonight,” he says, joking, and the barista laughs, says “Sorry” again, and gets back to wiping down the counters.

“I have the Times, if you want it,” Cargo Guy calls from across the room. He’s picking up a newspaper that Tony hadn’t noticed lying on the table in front of him, holding it out to Tony with a questioning tilt to his head.

The guy is gorgeous, Tony observes, seeing him head on for the first time. He’s got a strong jaw, a prominent nose that still somehow fits perfectly in his face. His eyes are startlingly blue, brought into sharp relief by the blue shirt, and his hair is just long enough for his bangs to fall messily over his forehead while still managing to be completely endearing.

“Sure,” Tony replies, walking over to accept the offered paper from the guy’s outstretched hand.

“I was getting ready to leave anyway,” the guy says companionably, shrugging. He pushes himself up from his chair and grabs his jacket, swinging it over wide shoulders and tucking his book into an inside pocket. He wraps the scarf loosely around his neck.

“Thanks,” Tony says, smiling his most charming smile. He knows it’s his most charming smile because GQ told him it was. Cargo Guy smiles back, nodding, and he’s got a really great smile, too, all those pearly whites on display, and Tony should probably walk away now before this gets awkward.

He nods, then turns and heads for the door, raising his newspaper in a casual wave to the barista, who waves back genially and wishes him a Happy New Year.

Tony reaches the door, holding it open and gesturing grandly for Cargo Guy to pass before himself, and he laughs and shakes his head good-naturedly and steps into the cold, Tony following behind.

“Well,” the blonde says, hands curled around his cup. “Have a nice night.”

“You, too,” Tony says, then he turns back to the direction he’d been walking before his impromptu coffee stop and resumes his trek.

He gets about half a block before he realizes the guy is walking in the same direction, leaving just enough distance to not be considered stalking, but not enough that it’s not a little awkward. He pauses, looks back at him, and the guy shrugs, an apologetic smile crossing his face as he says, “Sorry, I’m heading this way, too.”

Tony’s got no problem with that. No problem whatsoever.

“Then what do you say we walk together,” Tony suggests cheerfully. So what that he’d been walking in the first place because he wanted to be alone. He can make an exception. “Safety in numbers, right?”

He waits for the other man to catch up and sticks out a hand. “Tony Stark. Nice to meet you. Yes, I’ll give you an autograph. No, I can’t let you try on the Iron Man suit. Though if you’re very convincing maybe I can take you for a quick ride.” He raises his eyebrows suggestively and Cargo Guy chuckles.

“Wow, they’re not kidding when they say ‘playboy’, huh?” he says, shaking Tony’s hand, and the words sting a bit but Tony brushes it off with a chipper “Yep!” and a toothy grin.

“Steve Rogers,” the man says. “Nice to meet you, too.” His smile softens as he lets go and they resume walking, this time together.

They walk quietly, and Tony has half a mind to open up the newspaper tucked into his armpit, but he thinks maybe that would be awkward, even rude, so he decides against it. Conversation, then.

“So, Steve Rogers, no parties to bring in the New Year? Champagne flowing, confetti streaming, Auld Lang Syne-ing, and all that jazz?” He glances over to see Steve’s brow furrowed slightly.

“No,” he says, voice quiet, and Tony sucks, why’d he have to bring up how obviously alone the guy is? This is why he doesn’t do conversations with people that aren’t business partners. Because he’s insensitive. Pepper’s told him so. Steve continues before Tony can change the subject. “I’m on leave.” At Tony’s surprised look, he says, “I’m in the Army. Most of my friends are still over there, and I haven’t got any family left, so it’s just me, really.”

“Army, huh?” Tony asks, and Steve nods. “Where are you based?”

“I move around a lot,” Steve hedges, eyes flicking away. “Middle East, mostly. Iraq, Afghanistan.”

Tony snorts. “Yeah, I’m pretty familiar with Afghanistan myself,” he says darkly. Tony can see Steve glance at him cautiously out of the corner of his eye.

He’s got no fucking idea why he’d bring his imprisonment up, of all things, but he suddenly finds he wants to talk about it with someone. Pepper and Rhodey are always trying to get him to open up about his extended stay in the shithole of the world, but it puts him on edge, rehashing those memories to his friends, sharing the horror of the situation and the fear of his heart failing during those long, cold nights. And the shrink he’d been forced (by Pepper, of course) to see when he’d first gotten back was an unmitigated disaster. He’d pretty much spent the hour alternating between hitting on her and attempting to psychoanalyze her, answering her gentle probing with unsubtle questions of his own. If the way she stormed out of the office that last visit was any indication, he’d pissed her off pretty good and wasn’t invited back.

But this, talking to Steve, even just that little bit, seemed surprisingly easy. Maybe it’s the anonymity of it, of talking to a complete stranger who isn’t being paid to listen to his fucked up thoughts and feelings and offer bullshit suggestions for dealing with his recurring nightmares. Maybe it’s that Steve is military, being over there in the sandbox the way Rhodey isn’t, not really, knowing the feel of the grit constantly between his teeth, day in and day out, every meal, regardless of how many times he rinses his mouth out. The feel of the sun beating down on the back of his neck, hotter than hell during the day, then the temperatures dropping him into a different kind of hell at night, seeping into his bones, making his joints ache.

Or it could possibly be Steve himself, quiet and confident in the way he holds himself, friendly and welcoming. He’s only known the guy for going on ten minutes, but he can tell he’s good people. He knows things like that, he’s a good judge of character. (Obie doesn’t count; Obie’s a whole other story with all kinds of father-figure-shaped baggage, so he doesn’t really need to come into play here.)

Steve hasn’t said anything, just continues to walk steadily ahead. Tony shrugs to himself, decides to take advantage of it. He’s feeling talkative about it, for once, and Steve doesn’t seem to mind.

“I get panic attacks sometimes, wake up and think I’m still in that cave. That they’re gonna come in any second and shove my head in a bucket of water, drown me for information.” His shoulders are tense, but it’s almost a relief to say it out loud. Steve just makes a noise in his throat that could be agreement and could be sympathy.

“Sorry,” Tony says, thinking maybe Steve does mind after all. “Dumping all my shit on you like that. That’s what my $400 an hour psychiatrist is for.” He laughs ruefully.

Steve shrugs, meeting Tony’s eyes. “It’s no problem. I understand.”

They say nothing for a minute or two, before Steve speaks again. “It gets better,” he says gently.

Tony snorts. “But it never goes away,” he returns flatly.

Nothing for a minute, then Steve responds, voice sad. “No. It never goes away.”

They walk several blocks, lost in their own thoughts, before Tony changes the subject. “So where are you headed? I mean, right now, where are you going?”

Steve shrugs again. “Thought maybe I’d go to the park, watch the celebrations from there.”

Tony hmphs and Steve looks over at him, questioning. He explains himself. “Their show isn’t terrible, but don’t you want to see the ball drop or something?”

Steve shakes his head. “Too many people,” he says. “Where are you going?” he asks Tony curiously.

Tony lifts one shoulder nonchalantly. “Back to the hotel, probably. I’m not really in the celebratory mood.” He takes a sip of his neglected coffee, sighs with pleasure. “Actually, I kind of ditched my own New Year’s party. One that I’m supposed to be hosting.” Steve’s got a vaguely horrified look on his face and Tony laughs. “I’ve had about enough bullshitting for one night, and don’t they say whatever you’re doing at the start of the year is what you’ll do for the rest of it? Thanks, but no thanks, I’d rather not be stuck kissing corporate ass for the next 365 days.”

Steve chuckles lightly. He gulps down the last of his own coffee before tossing his cup into the next trash can they pass.

“So you’d rather be alone in a hotel room for a year?” he asks, voice teasing.

“Who said I’d be alone?” Tony replies, leering suggestively. Steve laughs outright at that and pushes Tony’s shoulder playfully. Tony grins.

“Hey, are you hungry?” he asks suddenly. “Wanna go somewhere and get something to eat?”

Steve half-shrugs, says, “I could eat,” and Tony nods decisively.

“Then let’s eat, Soldier.”

They end up at an all night diner that is, unsurprisingly, empty. Everyone’s got someplace better to be, even the waitress, apparently, because she has her nose stuck so deep in her phone it takes her a full five minutes to realize she has customers at all.

Tony and Steve spend the extra time getting to know each other. Tony learns that Steve enlisted way back in 2003, and that he’s a Captain. His specific role in the Army is “Classified” (which really just means a little more work on Tony’s part to figure it out, “Classified” has never stopped him and Jarvis from finding out before), and that he was actually in Afghanistan at the same time Tony was on his little impromptu vacation. He also learns that Steve was a sickly kid before a sudden growth spurt, that prior to volunteering he was an art student, working part-time for a small comic book company. He has no living relatives, but he grew up in New York, and this is his first New Year’s off since he joined up, and he wanted to spend it in his home city.

Tony gives Steve an abridged version of his own background, though he skips over the shitty stuff (which, depressingly, is most of his childhood and a good chunk of his adult life). He tells Steve about Jarvis, the butler, and growing up with him, and he tells him about JARVIS, the AI, which Steve finds fascinating and has him asking all kinds of questions about computers and technology and artificial intelligence.

The waitress finally takes their order and heads back to the kitchen and Tony pulls out his cellphone. He’s got three missed calls from Pepper and two texts informing him that he had better be at the first shareholder’s meeting of the year tomorrow morning or she’s quitting. Tony snorts at that, she’d never leave him, not with all the shoes he buys her, and shoots off a quick, smart-ass reply saying he’ll be there, no promises on what state he’ll be in, it’s New Year’s after all. Then he puts the phone on the table in front of him with a flourish.

Steve glances at it curiously and Tony grins. “JARVIS, say hello to Captain Steve Rogers. Steve, JARVIS.”

JARVIS’s voice replies, sounding slightly more tinny from the phone’s small speakers than it usually does down in the lab. “Hello, Captain. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“Please, it’s just Steve,” Steve tells his phone, awed, and Tony practically wiggles in delight as Steve starts up a conversation with his favorite AI.

The waitress drops off their food, greasy cheeseburger sliders and fries for Tony and sketchy-looking steak and eggs with a strawberry milkshake for Steve. They talk through their coronary-inducing but entirely delicious meal, about work and art and politics and Steve’s irrational hatred of the Yankees, and Tony’s relaxed and happy for the first time in a long time. He pauses for a second when he realizes, and Steve notices, freezing with a french fry halfway to his mouth, eyes going from dancing to anxious in a heartbeat.

“What’s wrong?” he asks worriedly.

“Nothing,” Tony says, waving away the concern, irritated with himself. Steve doesn’t look convinced, and Tony huffs a sigh, giving in. “It’s nothing, really. It’s just strange, talking to someone like a real person. I don’t do that a lot.”

Steve only looks confused now, so Tony rolls his eyes and elaborates. “Usually it’s just reporters trying to drag things out of me, or business associates which is just, suck, it’s just giant suck all the time. Or it’s fans, or someone trying to get their hands on my tech, or military brass trying to strong-arm me into giving up Iron Man. Or start building weapons again, even better. No offense,” he says belatedly as he sees Steve looking at him with pinched eyebrows, lips pressed tightly together.

Steve shakes his head sharply. “No, it’s— None taken. Tony, that’s, I can’t—“ He stops, takes a breath. “That’s terrible. You have every right to decide what you want to do with your suit, and with your company. It’s yours,” he reiterates passionately.

“Be nice if everyone saw it that way,” Tony grumbles good naturedly, attempting to lighten the mood. He hadn’t meant to upset Steve, had actually thought he’d be on the military’s side, like Rhodey, and he’d already half-prepared an argument for that scenario. But here Steve is, not only on Tony’s side, but genuinely upset for him, as well.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I think you did an amazing thing, stopping weapons development. There are enough weapons in the world already. You’re very brave for standing up for what you believe in.”

Suddenly uncomfortable from the praise, Tony laughs it off. “You wouldn’t be saying such nice things if you knew me before all that.”

Steve’s mouth twitches up at the corners. “I don’t know, Tony. Maybe it’s always been there, this side of you. Maybe you just realized it’s okay to be someone you can be proud of.”

Tony doesn’t know what to say to that, so he doesn’t say anything. He signals the waitress over with the check and hands her a bill entirely too large for their small meal and tells her to keep the change. He bats Steve’s hands away when he attempts to give him cash for his portion of the meal, laughing when Steve tries to shove it in his shirt pocket.

“What’s the point of having Tony Stark for a friend if you don’t even let him pay for your food?” Tony quips. Instead of laughing, Steve looks slightly appalled.

“You don’t need to pay for me to be your friend, Tony,” he says indignantly.

“Whatever you say, Soldier,” Tony drawls. Steve gives him a look that has Tony snickering under his breath.

Tony scoots out of the vinyl booth, Steve tucking his cash back into his pants pocket and following. At the door, Steve reaches past Tony to hold it open for him. Tony fans a hand in front of his face and breathes in a falsetto, “My hero.” Steve smirks, bends at the waist in a gentlemanly bow, and follows him out the door as Tony sashays past.

They’re walking, side by side, listening to the sounds of a New York City evening, people shouting and laughing from rooftops parties and inside bars. Tony peeks over at Steve occasionally, and even catches him looking once or twice, but Steve just smiles back at him before looking ahead again. Tony doesn’t know if he’s reading this right, he’s a little out of practice (with women; with a man it’s been years). He hasn’t been romantic with anyone since before he left for that last weapons demonstration all those months ago, hasn’t really even thought about it recently, what with everything that’s been going on, but something about Steve draws him in, makes him want more. He thinks maybe Steve feels it, too, and then suddenly he’s not thinking anything because Steve’s hand brushes his where they’re swinging down by their sides. He startles a little, but neither of them acknowledge it and when it happens again Tony doesn’t pull away.

They’re so close now their shoulders bump gently when they walk, and then Tony feels warm fingers weave themselves between his and he squeezes back. He can feel that he’s grinning like a loon, and when he looks Steve’s way his cheeks are flushed pink and Tony would bet one of his private jets that it’s not all from the chill outside.

They walk hand in hand until they’re only a block from Tony’s hotel. There, Tony pulls Steve to a stop and the other man turns around to face him, question in his clear blue eyes.

Tony’s having a fierce internal debate with himself. Should he invite Steve up or not? On one hand, Tony’s at least partially convinced Steve wouldn’t be against the idea. And he seems like the kind of guy who can be discreet, won’t go spreading rumors tomorrow morning or selling a story to the papers. On the other hand…

On the other hand, he genuinely likes this guy. It wouldn’t be right to bring him up, have his wicked way with him, and then show him the door in the morning like every other one-night-stand he’s ever had. Because the other option is out of the question; he can’t be in a relationship on a good day. To start one right now, when he doesn’t even know how long he’s going to live, is needlessly cruel. To both of them.

Steve’s still looking at him expectantly, so Tony makes his decision. “My hotel is right there,” he points. Steve looks over his shoulder, then back to Tony’s face. “If you’re still trying to get to the park, you’d better hurry, you’ve got less than an hour ’til go-time.”

Steve takes the dismissal gracefully, just smiles slightly and leans in to give Tony a tiny peck on the mouth. Tony licks his lips as Steve pulls away, opens his eyes. He didn’t even know he’d closed them.

“Thanks, Tony, for everything. It was a real pleasure meeting you.” And he sounds like he means it, and as Steve turns to walk away Tony’s resolve crumbles to little bitty pieces.

“Steve, wait.”

Tony closes the distance between them, stopping just inside of Steve’s personal space. Steve’s hands come to rest on his hips lightly and it’s like they belong there. Tony feels a little bit breathless. Jesus, he’s fucking swooning, and he decides that he doesn’t even care, he’s dying and this may make him the most selfish asshole on the face of the planet but he’s going to enjoy the time he has left, and this right here, he wants this for a little while longer.

“Come up to my room with me?” he asks softly. He realizes how that sounds, isn't sure he doesn’t want it to sound that way, but elaborates regardless. “We don’t have to… I mean, it would just be nice to have the company. So I’m not alone for the rest of the year, and everything. Because that would just be tragic.”

And what’s surprising is that he means it. They don’t have to sleep together. It would be nice, more than nice, spectacular, he’s willing to bet, but it’s not necessary. Tony likes Steve, likes talking to him and joking with him and learning all about him, and if all they did was chat Tony would be happy just to bask in that. He’s missed real companionship.

“Okay,” Steve says simply, and if he were more of a sap Tony would say his heart soars at Steve’s answer. He isn’t ready to let this go yet.

They turn to walk the last block to Tony’s hotel, Tony leading the way, fingers threaded through Steve’s larger ones. They enter the ritzy building, cross the luxurious lobby, empty like everywhere else so close to midnight on New Year’s Eve. They wait for the elevator, fidgeting nervously, and it arrives with a ding, doors sliding open. As they step into the empty car Tony presses the button for the penthouse, fumbling in his back pocket for his keycard and scanning it before the elevator starts it’s ascent to the top.

Steve’s standing behind Tony now, and Tony feels him step close, feels the other man’s body heat all along his back. They’re not touching at all, but it’s intimate, how close they’re standing, and then Steve leans down to press a soft kiss to the side of Tony’s neck. Tony’s head falls to the side, giving him access, and Steve keeps pressing gentle kisses there, hands coming up to grasp Tony’s hips. Tony has a moment to fantasize about how big those hands are, how strong Steve probably is, before he feels the flick of a tongue against his neck and he loses track of everything but that mouth as he groans aloud.

He turns around, reaches up to wind his arms around Steve’s neck, and finally, finally kisses him properly.

The way Steve kisses makes Tony practically melt into the floor. It’s pleasant and soothing, full of heat and searching. It makes Tony feel exposed, vulnerable, in ways that with someone else might make him uncomfortable. But he feels safe with Steve, protected, almost, and he lets the other man explore his mouth thoroughly.

The elevator dings lightly, announcing their arrival at the penthouse. Without separating Tony backs into the room, pulling Steve with him. They stumble past the kitchen, get partly down the hallway that leads to the bedroom before Tony ends up pressed against the wall. Steve breaks the kiss, taking a step back, and Tony whines in protest. He unhooks Tony’s hands from around his neck and presses them to the wall above his head, stepping back in to press his body flush against Tony’s. The whine turns into a full-throated groan and Tony would need to be a much stronger man to stop himself from arching up desperately, seeking friction.

Steve goes back to kissing and sucking his way down Tony’s neck, which Tony is totally okay with, and then he tugs at Tony’s bowtie with his teeth, which Tony is absofuckinglutely one hundred percent okay with as well. Capturing both of Tony’s smaller wrists in one of his enormous hands, he draws the other slowly down Tony’s arm, wrist to elbow to shoulder, drags his fingers teasingly across Tony’s collarbone, yanks gently at his bowtie. It comes undone easily and Steve gets to work unbuttoning Tony’s starched white dress shirt.

There’s a moment of panic when Tony remembers the arc reactor, how could he forget about it, but then the shirt is open and his chest is exposed and Steve pauses briefly to catch Tony’s eye.

Panting, Tony just nods, giving the okay to whatever question Steve is asking, and then Steve’s looking down at his chest, straight at the reactor.

The blue light makes Steve’s eyes glow an unearthly color as he caresses his free hand over the glass face, and Tony has to fight not to tense up, it hasn’t been all that long since Obie, after all. He thinks that if he’s managed to judge Steve that wrongly he probably deserves to have the thing yanked out of him anyway. He doesn’t think he’s wrong this time, though.

Then Steve’s letting go of his wrists and reaching both hands inside Tony’s shirt, pushing both it and his jacket off Tony’s shoulders and away from his body. They fall with a dull thump to the hallway floor and Steve’s hands are back to exploring his chest, shoulders, stomach, and Tony’s shivering from the sensations, unable to control the tremors racing through his body.

Steve lost his scarf and jacket somewhere between the kitchen and the hallway so Tony gets to work on his shirt, rucking it up to expose an insane set of abs and probably the most mouth-watering pecs he’s ever seen. Steve helps, pulling it over his head and off, and then they’re finally pressed together again, skin to skin, and their mouths meet eagerly somewhere in the middle.

They kiss some more, hot and needy, until Steve’s grinding his hips relentlessly into Tony’s, making little high pitched noises in the back of his throat with each thrust. Tony’s pretty sure Steve’s completely unaware he’s making them at all, which just makes it even more sexy. It crosses his mind that they should probably move this if they don’t intend to end up in a puddle on the hallway floor.

“Steve,” he pants, when Steve breaks off to mouth at his neck once again, and his voice comes out hoarse and deep, and Steve groans. Tony’s stomach does a little flop at the sound and he closes his eyes to regain his composure.

“Steve,” he tries again. Steve makes an affirmative noise against his skin and the vibrations make Tony shiver. “Bed. Let’s— Bed,” he manages to get out. He feels Steve nod, then he’s being kissed again and he forgets why they stopped in the first place.

Steve’s hands run down his back and cup his ass, and then suddenly he’s being lifted from the ground like he weighs nothing at all. He wraps his legs around Steve’s waist and his arms around his neck, and he can feel how aroused Steve is as their bodies press tightly together. He’s never been more turned on in his life as Steve literally walks them through the open bedroom door. He doesn’t stop when he reaches the bed, just climbs up with Tony still clinging to him with all four limbs, crawling until he can lay Tony’s head down on the five-star pillows. His body covers Tony like a huge human blanket, and it should be oppressing, claustrophobic, but it’s the exact opposite. It’s comforting and warm and Tony feels sheltered and cared for, and he stretches up to kiss Steve affectionately on his reddened lips.

Tony reaches down to unbuckle his belt, pulling it off and throwing it somewhere to the side. He gets to work unbuttoning Steve’s pants as Steve starts in on his. They kick off both pants and underwear and then all that lovely skin is being pressed down onto him and Tony arches up, melding them even closer together. He hisses as their erections meet and Steve’s eyes flutter closed and he swallows visibly.

“How— how do you—“ he stutters, cutting off in a ragged groan when Tony grinds up into him.

In lieu of answering, Tony reaches an arm out to the side, knocking things blindly off the bedside table before he manages to fumble the drawer open. He finds the lube and a condom and presses them into Steve’s hand, says breathlessly, “I want you inside me.” He feels Steve’s cock twitch and smirks, and Steve bends down to bite his collarbone in reprimand. Tony yelps and smacks his arm, but Steve just chuckles and kisses the reddened spot tenderly.

Tony hums encouragingly as Steve makes his way down his body, pressing a soft kiss to the center of the arc reactor that leaves Tony’s throat strangely tight. He works his way south, mouth roving over the flat plane of Tony’s stomach, the dip of his belly button, and then skips over his cock to press wet lips to the tops of Tony’s thighs. There’s a slick finger nudging at his hole and he doesn’t even have time to react before Steve is swallowing him down completely and breaching him at the same time.

Tony gets lost in wave after wave of sensation as Steve sucks him and opens him up thoroughly. He doesn’t know how much time passes but it’s enough for him to feel open and ready by the time Steve pulls off.

He crawls back up to find Tony’s mouth and Tony can taste himself on Steve’s tongue, which only turns him on more. A needy whine escapes his throat, he wants Steve in him now, and Steve pulls away to put the condom on and slick himself up. Then he’s lining up, cock nudging against Tony’s entrance, and he starts to push slowly inside.

It’s been a while, but it feels as amazing as he remembers, the burn and stretch of it, and when Steve’s fully sheathed inside him they both still for a long minute and just breathe.

Steve kisses him as Tony’s body adjusts to the intrusion, tongues sliding together, and then he starts rocking gently and sparks light up all along Tony’s body, nerve endings firing off jolts of pleasure as he moves. Tony moans and spreads his legs wider as Steve starts to thrust harder, with purpose.

There’s a sudden flash of light from the windows followed by a large boom, and they both freeze in a panic. It takes a second for Tony to put the pieces together and then he’s laughing. Steve stays frozen, still buried inside him, and is looking at him like he’s crazy. “Tony, what—“

“Happy New Year,” he says, and then he’s losing it at the look of dawning comprehension on Steve’s face. Steve blushes, then he groans.

“Tony, stop. Stop laughing. I can feel you, oh god—“ and he thrusts once and Tony’s laughs cut off on a loud moan.

It’s good, fucking amazing, Steve pistoning into him, hard and deep and perfect. It’s not long before he feels himself getting closer, hears it in the way Steve’s breathing changes that he’s close too, as Steve’s thrusts become less controlled. Tony hovers on the edge for endless seconds and without warning Steve reaches down to palm Tony’s cock, strokes once, twice, and then he’s coming, vision whiting out at the edges, and he can just hear Steve choke on a breath as Tony tightens up and Steve thrusts one last time, deep, and he’s coming too.

When Tony comes back to himself, Steve pulls out slowly, tying off the condom and tossing it into the trash bin across the room. Tony hmphs an impressed noise and Steve shrugs, smiling, before he leans over to kiss Tony softly on the mouth. Tony whines when he pulls away, so Steve pecks him on the end of the nose, once on each eyelid, and then again on the mouth, eyes open and gazing into in his, and Tony’s heart clenches in a way that has nothing to do with the failing arc reactor. Eyes flicking between Steve’s, he takes a chance.

“Stay?” he asks, pleading. He’s been pretty pathetic tonight but he’s beyond caring now. He’s still not ready to let this go. Not yet. He just wants tonight. If he’s going to die, if he can’t have this for real, he at least wants tonight.

Steve nods, expression too complex for Tony to figure out, somewhere between tender and indulgent. Then he lays down on his back, pulling Tony to his side. Tony nuzzles into Steve’s massive chest, feeling loved and protected, even if only for the night, and he drifts off to the sound of fireworks and Steve’s steady heartbeat.

He wakes up the next morning to his phone chiming a text from the nightstand. Fingers clumsy with sleep, he attempts to unlock it, succeeding after a few tries. He finds a message from Pepper, informing him that the SI meeting begins downstairs in half an hour and she expects him to be on time and fully dressed.

Tony groans, stretches his arms over his head, pushing his hands flat against the headboard, and he pauses when he feels little aches makes themselves known all over his body. Memories come flooding back from the night before and Tony sits up abruptly and looks around the bedroom. His clothes from last night are folded neatly on the reading chair in the corner, belt resting on top. And his phone had obviously been placed where he could easily find it. There’s no other sign that anyone else had ever been there except for Tony’s sore muscles and the slightly sticky sheets.

He flops back to the bed, arms flying out to the sides, and something crumples as his hand lands on the pillow next to him. He grabs it, sitting up slowly and pulling the hotel paper into his lap, rubbing the residual sleep from his eyes.

Tony,

I’m sorry for leaving without saying goodbye, but I know myself, and I know I’d never be able to leave at all if you were awake and smiling at me. I’m a coward, I know, but your smile is amazing.

I want so much to stay here with you, see if we can’t make something out of this. But I’m shipping out again tomorrow, and you’re going back to California soon, so maybe it’s just not the right time for us.

Thank you for last night. All of it. For talking to me, for giving me a chance, for trusting me with so much, after everything you’ve been through. You’re incredible, and so brave, Tony, don’t ever forget that. And don’t let anyone tell you any different, because they’re wrong.

Maybe one day our paths will cross again, and then we can pick up where we left off.

I hope they do.

Yours,

Steve Rogers

There’s a little arrow on the bottom of the page, and Tony turns it over.

Sleeping Tony Stark— You’re beautiful.

Underneath is a sketch done in black ink, of Tony asleep, legs tangled in the covers of the hotel bed, arc reactor exposed and shining bright. It’s breathtaking in it’s simplicity, the details done with such obvious care. Tony stares at it for a long time, wondering if this is how Steve sees him, saw him.

He could find him. Easily. JARVIS could run a search, see where he’s based, specifically, when he comes back.

Tony immediately shakes the thought out of his head, letting his hands drop back into his lap. Steve’s right. It’s not the time, especially for Tony. Maybe, if it wasn’t for all the trouble with SI, if he wasn’t dying from palladium poisoning. But there is trouble, and he is dying. It was good, it was perfect, and hopefully it’s enough to get him through whatever comes next.

And maybe, if by some crazy twist of fate things work out, then maybe their paths will cross again.