Tony struggled to catch his breath, then made an experimental fist and tugged at the nest of cords trapping his wrists. No joy. He had one armored leg free, but that didn't do him much good when the other was caught within three knotted cables in some sort of fluky fucked-up server room shibari.
This is what he got, Tony thought, for rushing around on waxed floors in his boot armor. He’d tripped, slid (what was that statistic about the number of horrific accidents that happened around the house, or work, or within two miles of it or something?) and grabbed at the first thing he could to keep his balance, but the panicked twist of his hands and tension from yanking the cables had resulted in...this.
Still, he hadn’t actually pulled any connections out of the equipment, so that counted as a win. Sort of.
He was half-lying on one hip, wearing only boxer shorts, arms stretched over his head and held fast against a server rack, the edge of which was digging uncomfortably into his shoulder. A loop of cable also hung a few inches below his neck. He had one leg free and resting on the tile, and the other suspended two feet off the floor by the cables looped around it. Tony could probably pull his trapped leg out with one good yank, but he couldn’t see the labels on the cabling from here, and he really didn’t want to cut anything important when there were seventy-seven (mostly) crucial open programs running on the workshop machines alone. Plus, pulling his leg free could drop his head lower, onto the nooselike cord under his chin.
Yeah. This was fantastic.
“Well, shit,” Tony muttered, shifting his center of balance slightly to one side. “Smooth move.”
“JARVIS,” he shouted, even though shouting wasn’t technically necessary.
“Yes, Mr Stark,” came the reassuring, unruffled voice in reply.
“Got a little problem here, as you can see.”
“There are no cameras installed in server sector two,” JARVIS pointed out.
Tony squinted at the ceiling, remembering that he hadn’t gotten around to putting them in yet, nor the full complement of overhead bank lights. Other things had been more important, like setting up the Avengers’ living quarters.
He had no regrets. Mostly.
“JARVIS, I’m tangled up in cables and need assistance. Get Dummy.” He surveyed the narrow path between the racks. “No, scratch that plan. Not enough space to maneuver.” He looked up at his trapped wrists. “Or enough fine-motor control. I need opposable thumbs.”
“Shall I call 911, sir?” JARVIS inquired calmly. “Will a hatchet be required? Jaws of life?”
“No!” Tony exclaimed. “God, no. Who’s around? Please tell me someone’s in the building.” It was somewhere around midnight on a Friday. Fat chance.
After a pause, JARVIS replied. “It appears that maintenance worker Glenda Bullard is emptying wastebaskets on the second floor and Captain Rogers is in his quarters.”
“Is he awake?”
“Yes, he is.”
Tony took a deep breath and bit his lip. Cap was gonna laugh. “Get Rogers,” he sighed. “Direct him here and allow access to secure areas.”
“Yes sir,” said JARVIS, and Tony waited. His nose itched. He jiggled his hands impatiently.
“Captain Rogers is on his way, sir. He’s getting dressed.”
“Gett-” Tony pressed his lips together. Had Cap been chilling in his drawers? In a towel? In the buff, maybe? “Got it, JARVIS.”
Tony had been checking out a 42U failure alert in the server room in his armored boots and a pair of red silk boxers. He really wasn’t one to talk.
Six minutes later that felt like sixty, Tony heard the slide of the door at the end of the rack room. “Over here,” he said, looking up as the footsteps approached and halted and a long shadow fell over the narrow space between the racks.
His rescuer, in a gray sweatshirt and navy blue shorts, hair shower-damp, nodded at him, running a hand over his chin and pressing his fingers to his mouth thoughtfully as he surveyed the scene.
Yes, he was definitely trying not to laugh. “I could, uh, use a hand here, Cap.”
“Sorry. Are you hurt?” Steve asked, crouching down, fingers curled around Tony’s trapped, armored boot.”What happened?”
“No,” Tony shook his head. “I was checking out an issue and tripped and I...grabbed stuff and caught on...everything.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Really?” Tony wrinkled his brow. “No. Yes. One. And uncountable cups of coffee.”
“Where do I start?” Steve sighed, long-suffering, like he’d had to untangle Tony more than this one time.
“Hands,” Tony said, swinging his wrists feebly. “If you could just get my hands free, that’d be great.”
Steve edged into the narrow space. “Got it.”
“Try not to yank any of the cables out, Charles Atlas. I have critical programs running on this stack.”
“I’ll be careful,” Steve assured him, straddling Tony’s body with his legs apart. He leaned over to pick at the tangle around Tony’s wrists, then noticed the cable looped at his neckline. “This first. Geez, you could have strangled yourself.” Steve pulled the loop up, and lacking a place to stow it or a free hand to hold it while he worked to free Tony’s arms, he hesitated, then stuffed it into the top of his nylon running shorts.
“I know,” Tony grumbled, staring at the culprit cord just above his eye line, and the little triangle of smooth skin -- a curve and jut of hipbone -- peeking out behind it.
“Hard to see back here,” Steve muttered, and adjusted Tony’s arms slightly as he edged his feet forward. Tony squeezed his eyes shut and dropped his head. He found he’d been holding his breath, and let it out in one hot rush. Steve’s hands stilled. Tony opened his eyes and realized he’d exhaled into Steve’s crotch.
Steve glanced down then, and Tony looked away hurriedly.
A pause. “Do you have a flashlight?” Steve asked.
Tony nodded, then rolled his head back quickly when his nose grazed the front of Steve’s shorts. He smelled daisy-fresh, like Irish Spring and fabric softener. “Uh... yeah. On the far wall. Should be one on a hook by the door.”
Steve carefully extricated his leg from Tony’s side, and gave his bound wrists a brief squeeze before letting go. “Don’t go anywhere,” he said, grinning, and Tony rolled his eyes.
On his return, Steve situated himself over Tony again, flicked the light on, and began to pick apart the twisted cord. When Tony looked up, he saw the Maglite clenched between his teeth.
“How did oo do this t- yrslef?” Steve managed. “Thrs knots."
“Just lucky, I guess,” Tony shrugged. When Steve slipped a length of loosened cord through, the raw end scratched the tender flesh inside his wrist and he flinched, knocking his forehead into the juncture of Steve’s legs.
“Ow!” Steve bent slightly and dropped the Maglite from between his teeth. It hit the top of Tony’s head with a loud thunk.
“Jesus!” Tony yelped, and Steve bent down to his level. “That hurt. Shit, are you hurt?” Steve’s eyes were screwed shut and he was biting his lip. “Did I rack you?”
Steve’s shoulders shook and Tony felt awful, until Steve lifted his head and started to laugh. Loudly. He covered the top of Tony’s head with his palm and then lifted it away and inspected it. “I think you might get a little goose egg from that, but there’s no blood.”
“It was heavy,” Tony snitted. "I thought you had better reflexes."
“At least it didn’t smack you in the balls,” Steve pointed out.
“Super-soldier,” Tony replied. “You’ll survive.”
“Thanks,” Steve said drily. He shook his head.
“Seriously, you okay?”
“Fine,” Steve said with a grunt, hoisting himself to his feet again, Maglite in hand. Tony looked up into the bright beam. “You sure I can’t just...cut the wire?”
“Ha ha,” Tony said. “No.”
“Worth a shot,” Steve replied. “Wait. Here we go.” He pulled at two of the cords carefully and Tony was able to slip one wrist out, then the other. He was lowering his hands when Steve caught one, and crouching, rubbed his thumb against Tony’s skin. “You seem to be alright,” he said, and Tony could smell peppermint toothpaste on his breath. He shivered.
“But you’re cold,” Steve added.
“Yeah,” Tony answered, because sure, it was the air conditioning in here that made that feeling trip-dance up his spine just now. “You have to keep computer equipment at a certain tempera-”
“...and you’re in your skivvies.”
“I got some caustic stuff on my clothes. They’re soaking in the workshop.”
Steve shook his head. “No chemical burns? You’re a walking disaster tonight, aren’t you?”
“I’ll live,” Tony said, as Steve stood and pulled off his sweatshirt, then dropped it in his lap. “You don’t need to...”
“Just put it on, Tony,” Steve ordered, exasperated, and Tony slid the gray garment over the back of his shoulders. It was still warm from Steve’s considerable body heat, though. It felt good.
Steve turned, edged over to Tony’s armored boot and slipped the thick, twisted cables around it under and behind, defined muscles along his back flexing as he worked to free the limb. “Guess you’re all set now,” he said.
Tony nodded and gripped the handle on the server rack to stand, then stumbled forward, but Steve was there to catch him, and sweatshirt or no, his bare chest was warm. “Foot’s asleep,” Tony gasped, and Steve helped him straighten and stand, pulling up the falling sweatshirt and draping it over him again. Tony grabbed Steve’s arm for balance and shook his offending leg.
“Can I help you get your armor off?” Steve asked.
“No, I need a power screwdriver,” Tony said. “I’m okay. I’ll just go back to the workshop and um, do that now.”
Steve nodded, his hand still on Tony’s arm. “Wait,” Steve said. “Was there something you wanted to do?”
Tony looked at him, at those blue eyes open and questioning. “Yeah,” he said softly, and slid a hand behind Steve’s neck, pulling him in. “This.” Tony pressed his lips to Steve’s. He felt Steve’s shoulders stiffen, but after a moment his lips parted, very slightly. Tony took advantage of the response, let his tongue flick out -- just a taste. He felt Steve’s arms hover at Tony’s sides, then settle lightly on his hips, and Tony deepened the kiss.
Tony pulled back, watched Steve’s eyes flicker open.
“I meant,” Steve said slowly, a corner of his mouth turning up. “Did you finish doing what you came here for...with the...” He glanced at the server racks and back to Tony.
“Oh,” Tony said, eyes tracking Steve’s, “I...I did. Uh huh.”
Steve nodded. “Okay.”
Hours later, when Tony stretched in bed, lit by the slant of morning sun through the window, Steve’s arm came around his waist, pulling him in tighter as he pressed warm lips below his ear.
“Next time you wrap a present for me,” he murmured. “Just use ribbon.”