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A High and Lonesome Sound

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Steve doesn't sleep. It isn't that he can't sleep -- it's that he dreads sleeping and puts it off as long as possible. He doesn't need to sleep as much as other people, which helps; but when he does, when he can't deny his exhaustion any longer, lying in the dark offers no promise of comfort or relief.

No one in Stark Tower has noticed yet. He's careful, you see, not to visit any one person more than once a week and sometimes he doesn't even stay in Stark Tower. Sometimes he goes down into the city -- this is the city that never sleeps, after all -- and eats in a diner or sees a late movie, or even walks around the city to see how much it's changed since the New York that he knew. Sometimes he rides the ferries all night and talks to people, and if someone recognizes him, if someone says, "You're Captain America!" he says yes, he is, signs autographs and admires tattoos, smiles for pictures taken on their tiny phones.

If he stays in Stark Tower, he can work out in the training room, or watch television, or keep company with whoever is also awake. He'll watch Bruce do experiments or spar with Natasha or Clint; or drink with Thor and listen to his stories, or the two of them will try to unravel the mystery of twenty-first century Earth together through the computer or the television. (When they watch The Wizard of Oz, Thor's favorite part is the flying monkeys.) Or he'll sit in Tony's workroom, while Tony's music blares and Tony tinkers with some new piece of machinery, and Steve draws or reads or even just sits in one of Tony's classic cars with his head back and his eyes closed until Tony says, "Up and at 'em, old man! Time for breakfast!"

Tony got him a tiny tablet computer, sleeker than the bulky but shatter-proof tablets that they use at SHIELD, and showed him how to buy new books or download public domain ones, so Steve has an entire library's worth of books at his disposal. He can listen to music if he wants, through the little tablet or through JARVIS -- he can say, "JARVIS, please play some big band for me," and JARVIS will, like a radio station programmed just for him.

He can do anything he wants. It's New York City, one of the most exciting cities in the country, and he lives in Stark Tower, one of the most technologically advanced buildings in the world. The possibilities are endless. He can do anything he wants, anything.

But he doesn't sleep.

***

Tonight, Steve doesn't have much choice in his distractions. There's a downpour outside, so walking around would just be foolish. Everyone seems to be asleep in Stark Tower; every door has a little light in the panel beside it that glows blue when it's okay to come in, and none of them are lit as Steve runs up the stairs two at a time, from the bottom of the tower to the top.

None but Tony's.

True, he has spent sleepless nights with Tony before; true, he and Tony have been getting along much better since they faced Loki and the Chitauri; true, sometimes Steve has told Tony stories about Howard and that has eased the tension between them -- but he's not sure Tony is what he needs tonight. He doesn't want the blaring music (Tony makes faces when Steve says things like this; he tells Steve it's classic rock and the natural progression from the blues and as a red-blooded American Steve needs to learn to appreciate it) or even the companionable silence between them. He doesn't want to do nothing but watch Tony work.

He's not sure what he wants.

There's no sound from behind the door, but that doesn't mean anything. The walls of Stark Tower are soundproofed to the point that you'd never think another person is in the building if you didn't know the Avengers lived there and over five hundred people worked there at all hours of every day.

The blue light glows like an invitation. Tony may have just forgotten to turn it off.

Or he may have purposefully turned it on.

Steve opens the door and says, "Tony?" and Tony, on the sofa in the little sunken living room, his feet on the round hearth, looks up from his computer. It's even smaller and sleeker than Steve's, and fits into the palm of Tony's hand. He controls it with the flick of his finger.

"Hey, old man. C'mon in."

"Thanks," Steve says and joins Tony on the circular couch. There's even a fire going, crackling comfortably in harmony to the rain. The music is quieter than Tony's usual selection, though it's still nothing Steve recognizes. He wonders if it's music that Pepper programed, and if listening to it makes Tony miss her.

Love is funny, he reflects. Tony and Pepper love each other, even like each other more than most people manage to like Tony -- Pepper is easy to like, but Tony's actual friends are her, Col. Rhodes and the Avengers, as far as Steve can tell -- but their period of living together was a complete disaster, and Pepper lives in California now. Tony has yet to resume his former bachelor ways, but being a superhero takes a lot out of a fella.

"What's on your mind?" Tony says as Steve puts his bare feet on the brick hearth to warm them.

"Nothing," Steve says. "Restless."

"Mm," says Tony, concentrating on his computer again, which is fine with Steve, and he resumes his contemplation.

None of them have time for dating, as far as Steve has noticed. Thor visits Dr. Foster frequently and she stays in Stark Tower whenever she's in New York. Bruce has a picture of a pretty, dark-haired woman in his work space, but Steve doesn't think they even talk on the phone. Natasha gets asked out by very brave, or very foolhardy, men on a regular basis but Steve has never seen her react with anything like interest; Clint visited Agent Coulson in the hospital every day until Agent Coulson was released, and when Tony said, "That cellist in Portland?" Agent Coulson said serenely, "I decided to keep a different love alive."

And Steve, specimen of physical perfection and all-American poster boy, doesn't know how to talk to women in a social setting. There aren't many women in his life, and fewer that he could consider potential partners.

Once, Pepper tried to get him to practice making conversation with her, but they were interrupted by Tony before they could get very far. When he realized what they were doing Tony then insisted on playing the girl, with fluttering eyelashes and a falsetto voice, which made Steve laugh too hard to make any progress. "Besides," he told Tony, "it's just you."

Being a superhero doesn't allow much time for a social life, anyway. Steve never really wanted one badly before, and he isn't sure he wants one now except interviews with the Avengers always seem to include questions about who they're dating. Steve finally decided to just say, "I'm waiting for that special someone."

His fan mail got very ... ah, personal after that.

If asked, and he sometimes was, Steve would have to say he wanted someone brave and independent. Someone willing to come to the defense of others. Someone smart and loyal. Maybe even someone a little bit crazy, who'd gamble everything on a chance for success.

He sighs, and Tony puts down the computer. "Do you want to watch a DVD?"

Steve says, "Can we talk a little?" and Tony looks surprised.

"Sure," he says and tucks the computer away in one of the many pockets in his trousers. "Something is on your mind after all, I take it."

"Yes," Steve says and watches the flames, his toes wiggling. "I can't sleep."

"Normally I'd say take two whiskeys and call me in the morning, but that won't do you any good."

"No," says Steve. "Sleeping pills wouldn't, either."

Tony snorts. "You'd have to take enough for a normal person to OD."

"It's not falling asleep that's the problem," Steve says. "It's the nightmares."

Tony wraps his hands around his knee and looks at Steve, his expression serious. "How long has this been going on?"

"Since the ice."

Tony whistles. "It's been almost a year! Why didn't you tell anybody?"

"I didn't see the point." He folds his hands over his stomach and regards his toes, outlined in firelight. "I thought it would go away, fix itself, something like that, but it hasn't and I'm -- I'm --"

"Tired," murmurs Tony.

"Yeah. I'm at the end of my rope, Tony, and I don't know what to do."

Tony's quiet a while. The fire is the only light in the room except for ambient lights over the bar, and the firelight casts Tony's face half in shadow. "What do you dream about?"

Steve wriggles his toes. "Most of the time, being in the ice again," he says softly. "Only I'm aware of it. I can hear the wind blowing, feel the cold, but I can't move. I'm completely frozen but I'm awake. Sometimes I think I hear the machinery overhead and I try to scream, try to tell them I'm here, but they keep on moving and never find me."

"Jesus, Steve," Tony says softly and Steve closes his eyes.

"I know."

The fire crackles, the storm blows, and the rain hits the window in asynchronous taps. Steve says, "When I was a kid, before the serum, sometimes I couldn't sleep because of the asthma. I had trouble breathing when it was cold or even if it got too humid."

"I've read about asthma treatments in those days. It's a wonder you lived as long as you did." Steve smiles wryly, and Tony says, "So what did you do, when you couldn't sleep?"

"Bucky," Steve says, and Tony chuckles. "I mean, he'd climb into bed with me and put his hands on my chest, and he'd say, 'Breathe with me, Steve.' And I'd breathe with him. Eventually I'd sleep."

"That is surprisingly homoerotic. And a little hot."

Steve rubs his eyes but smiles anyway. Tony is yanking his chain, as he likes to do. It's a bit like teasing a bear at the zoo, but that's Tony. Give him a stick and he'll poke something with it. "It got a little hot sometimes, too," he says, and has a moment of triumph when his words knock Tony speechless.

Tony says after a moment, "You are a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a spangly outfit, Steve," and the words are out of Steve's mouth before he can stop them.

"Do you think you'd want to unwrap me?"

They look at each other, Tony's gaze darting over Steve's face. Steve can't decide where to look either -- Tony's dark eyes, his lovely mouth, the hair that frames his face or even the faint glow of the arc reactor through his T-shirt.

They're inches away from each other when they both start laughing.

"This is gay chicken, isn't it?" Steve says. "Clint said something to me the other day, about you and me playing gay chicken."

"No, if this was gay chicken we'd be in each other's space," says Tony and scoots closer on the couch. Steve manages not to smirk as Tony leans close. "And the chicken part goes to who pulls away first."

Steve would happily confess he's always been partial to dark eyes, and Tony's eyes are very dark. Steve has learned to read Tony through them, too, learned to read when Tony is tired or hurt even when he won't admit it. Tony likes to put up a cavalier front. Steve has learned to see through it.

He murmurs, "I'm not going to pull away first," and Tony pauses, his eyebrow arching in that Oh? Tell me more, way he has. Steve gazes at him steadily, though his eyes are ready to close, his lips are starting to purse of their own accord, his body wants to press forward and take what's being offered.

If he could be certain there was an actual offer rather than a game, he just might.

Tony stays poised in a near-crouch a moment more, then springs off the sofa. "Come on."

"Where are we going?"

"Bed. You want to sleep, I want to help. Come on, old man. Breathe with me." He bounces up the steps and heads for one of the halls off the main room, and then stops where the hall begins to curve. "You coming?"

"Yes," Steve decides and hops up after him.

***

"Your bed is bigger than my first apartment," Steve observes when they're in Tony's bedroom, and Tony laughs as he pulls off his long-sleeved T-shirt. The arc reactor glows icy blue in his chest, and even though Steve knows he should be used to it by now -- Tony doesn't hide it, seems to relish wearing clothes that allow it to show -- his gaze skitters away. "It was this tiny cold-water walk-up, just enough room for two single beds and a hotplate. I drew with an old sawed-off drafting board on my knees."

"By candlelight?" says Tony as he gets out a pair of sleep pants from a sleek black bureau.

"Sometimes."

The bed seems to loom over the room, though it's also sleek and black, and low to the floor, not even room for a shoe box underneath. Modern design, Steve supposes. This whole thing feels like another game of chicken. He flips back the black duvet to find clean white sheets beneath, and long, wide pillows. He gets in -- the mattress is firm, though not as firm as a camp bed. He sighs and relaxes, and stares up at the ceiling as Tony splashes in the bathroom behind a half-wall and JARVIS plays ocean sounds.

"Off," says Tony when he emerges from the bathroom, and the lights go off at once. Tony climbs into bed at Steve's side, and they listen to the competing sound of artificial ocean and actual rain. "Too much, isn't it?" Tony says. "JARVIS, no sounds tonight."

The ocean switches off immediately. The rain continues.

"Hell of a storm," Tony says. "I wonder if it's because Thor misses Jane."

Steve turns onto his side so he can see Tony, his face illuminated in soft blue light. "Do you think he can do that?"

Tony shrugs. "He's a god, more or less. He has powers we don't even begin to comprehend. If he can manifest physically what he's going through emotionally, well, more power to him. I think we've all been there."

Steve pillows his head on his arm. "Are you still there?" Tony looks at him, and Steve clarifies, "About Pepper."

"No." Tony moves into his side too, facing Steve. "I think I'm past the sulking stage. Besides, it's hard to sulk about a relationship ending because you ended it."

"I've wondered about that. You seemed so happy."

Tony is quiet. "Ever love somebody so much that you know not being with them is the best thing you can do for them?"

"Yes," Steve says quietly and Tony raises his eyebrow again.

"Who was the lucky young lady? Some Fraulein you couldn't take home? One of the Captain America dancers? But you also had a thing with Agent Carter, so..."

Steve smiles. "Do you think if it were that simple, I would have left her behind?"

"No," says Tony with wonder in his voice. "You wouldn't have. If you had fallen in love with a German girl you would have made her a war bride. And with Agent Carter -- why didn't you marry your English rose?"

"Have I ever mentioned I'm no good with women?"

"Once or twice."

"That's why." He supposes if things had gone differently he and Agent Carter might have been together in the end, but he wonders at times if it would have been like the fate Tony had tried to avoid for Pepper -- that if, in the end, he would have loved her enough to let her go. He had appreciated Peggy's beauty and intelligence and bravery, and he thought many men would have been happy with that sort of love, would have made a family with it, would have made a life.

But he'd known another kind of love, and it had made him happier than he'd ever dreamed of being.

He says, "If the plane hadn't crashed, if I hadn't spent seventy years under ice, I might have married her. Maybe I'd be her war husband and we'd be in London and I'd be Lieutenant Britain instead." He pronounces it "leftenant," and Tony chortles.

"I doubt whatever version of SHEILD that existed then would have allowed that."

"I think you're right."

"Let me present another scenario," Tony says. "Maybe, if the plane hadn't crashed, you would have tried a little cottage with a white picket fence with Agent Carter. In the end you wouldn't have been happy with her, because while you've been told you're supposed to dance with women, you'd rather dance with men."

Steve gazes at him steadily.

"In your heart of hearts you wanted someone else. Someone you had all your life until you lost him. Someone who helped you breathe."

"You can say his name."

"Bucky," Tony says and Steve closes his eyes. "Your best friend -- and, I'm willing to bet, the love of your life."

"My life's not over yet," Steve says and moves onto his back. "How did you know?"

"For one thing, we're lying in bed together, platonic as it is, and you didn't freak out at the offer."

"What about you, then? You made the offer in the first place."

Tony smiles -- a little sadly, Steve thinks. "I'll dance with anybody."

"Is that why you ended it with Pepper?"

Tony shrugs. "Turn over, old man. We can stay up all night gossiping or we can work on this nightmare problem of yours."

Steve actually likes the talking and wants it to continue, but he rolls over anyway. Tony fits their bodies together and wraps his arms around Steve's chest. Just like Bucky used to do, Steve thinks, and the old ache that will never really go away flares once more in his chest. This time, at least, it's not sharp and cold. It's more like pressing on a bruise than breaking a bone.

"So here we are," Tony murmurs. His lips are against Steve's neck. They're soft. Steve closes his eyes and breathes slowly, and he can feel Tony breathing in concert with him, deep and even. "No bad dreams tonight," Tony goes on, his voice so low Steve can feel it rumble through him like a train going down the track. "You're here in Stark Tower. You're safe. You're Captain America. You've got friends who'd face death for you and a room full of fan mail you need to answer." Steve chuckles at that, and he feels Tony smile. "So go to sleep, little superhero. Iron Man's here."

"If that's all it took," Steve says, words already slurring together, "I'd get one of your toys to sleep with."

"There's a stuffed one that talks," says Tony. "It says 'I am Iron Man' when you pull the string. The arc reactor lights up when you hug it."

"I'll get one tomorrow." He breathes in and out, feeling Tony's chest rise and fall with his, and the rain continues to tap against the windowpane.

***

Steve doesn't dream about the ice. He does dream about being on the train, reaching for Bucky, reaching -- he keeps reaching and reaching, but he can never quite touch Bucky's hand, and Bucky falls and falls and falls, and he never stops screaming.

He wakes on the floor, still crouched as if he were about to leap into the abyss. He must have scrambled out of bed in his sleep, if the tussled bedding and Tony's confused expression is anything to go by.

"Steve?" Tony says and climbs out of bed too, to sit on the floor beside him. He hauls Steve to him, arms around Steve's chest. "What was it? What did you dream?"

"Bucky," he whispers and pushes his head against Tony's chest, solid and warm and real. "When Bucky fell. I see him fall over and over again. He never stops falling."

"Steve," says Tony and rubs Steve's chest in wide circles with the palm of his hand. "Just a dream, Steve. Just a bad dream. It's over now."

"I know," Steve says, "I know it's just a dream, but that doesn't help. I could have saved him. I could have done more, tried harder, reacted faster, instead of freezing --"

"Shut up, old man," Tony says gently, his fingers in Steve's hair. "I don't know all the details but I know you did all you could. I also know Bucky knew every fight could be his last and went into it anyway. We all do. Except maybe Thor."

"Lucky Thor," rasps Steve.

Tony goes on stroking Steve's hair as he says, "They have another name for it now, you know. It's not shell shock anymore. It's post-traumatic stress disorder. And current thinking is that anybody who's gone through a traumatic event might suffer from it. Kids who were abused or bullied, rape victims, soldiers back from the front, abduction victims ... supersoldiers who were frozen for seventy years ..."

Steve's chuckle sounds like a rusty hinge. "And how did you deal with your post-traumatic stress disorder?"

"Me?" Tony exhales and shifts a little, as if he doesn't want to dislodge Steve's head from its resting place against his shoulder. "I became Iron Man."

Steve closes his eyes. "I'm already Captain America. I'm not supposed to feel fear." He swallows hard. "But I still do. What if I -- what if I fuck up? And one of you dies on my watch? What do I do if --"

"Steve," Tony says calmly. "Listen to me. We all know the dangers. We all know the risks. We follow you anyway. Now, get back into bed. This floor's cold."

Steve gets up without a word and climbs into bed, and Tony follows him. They lie spooned, Tony's arm draped over Steve's side, and Steve can feel the arc reactor against his back.

Tony breathes slowly and evenly again, his hand spread over Steve's chest. "Breathe with me, Steve," murmurs Tony. "Breathe with me."

Steve breathes. He can feel his heartbeat slow at last -- beating to the rhythm of Tony's, and he has to smile at the irony in that.

His voice is still hoarse when he says, "If I could see him again, just for a moment, I'd tell him I love him, and I miss him, and I'm sorry. I'd tell him everything I couldn't tell him before. Everything."

Tony's thumb brushes Steve's abdomen. "You weren't together, back in the day?"

"No." Steve wipes his face with the back of his hand. "Not the way people mean it nowadays. We grew up together, we lived together, we looked after each other, we fooled around sometimes ... but he liked girls more, no matter what else he got up to with me."

"And this didn't bother you?"

"Why would it? You want the people you love to be happy, even if it's without you."

"Yeah," murmurs Tony. His hand is on Steve's stomach, soothingly and absently stroking. That's how it started with Bucky, one of those nights when Steve couldn't breathe and Bucky helped him through it, and when they both had slept a little there was Bucky's hand, familiar and gentle, touching him slowly and more intimately than he ever had before.

Steve hadn't stopped him. Had done a little touching of his own, in fact, and Bucky had buried his face in Steve's neck to muffle his groan so the other boys wouldn't hear them.

When they got that first tiny apartment, they celebrated by not keeping their noise down, even though the walls were thin.

Tony says he'll dance with anyone, but Steve still wonders what Tony would do if he pushed that hand lower.

Instead he says softly, "Once, when we were doing the war bonds tour, we stopped in this little town in Oklahoma one night. I couldn't sleep so I went out to the porch of the boarding house, and I saw a train in the distance. It must have been twenty miles away, maybe more. All I could see was its headlight, this tiny little pinpoint in the dark. But I could hear it, the train whistle, a high and lonesome sound cutting through the night. I felt like I was the only person in the world, hearing that." Tony says nothing, still stroking Steve's stomach, and Steve says, "I felt the same when Bucky died."

Tony's voice is soft. "You're not alone anymore, Steve."

Steve smiles at that. He has the team, more of a family than he ever hoped to have -- a quarrelsome, half-mad family, but a family nonetheless. But he never assumed it meant he also now had Tony.

He says, "I know," and lays his hand over Tony's, intertwines their fingers.

***

The first time they were alone together after the serum, after Steve rescued Bucky from Zola, after Bucky had been examined and declared healthy, Bucky had all but torn off Steve's clothes, saying, "I have to see this, I can't believe it, what happened to you?"

Steve had laughed and let him -- let him tear off the uniform, let him do whatever he wanted to him, which that night was rough and passionate and harder than they'd ever been with each other before. Steve had loved it. Felt absolutely alive with from it. It was more for Bucky than for himself, and from the bliss on Bucky's face it was exactly what he needed.

"Do you want me more now?" he'd asked afterward while Bucky mapped his back with gentle fingertips. "Now that I'm ... like this?"

"Don't be a dolt," Bucky answered. "I want you as much as I ever did. I'm just not afraid I'm going to break you anymore."

During the war, out on missions, the Howling Commandos didn't have much time for courtship. Girls liked them because they were reckless and handsome and brave, and Steve had tried to talk to a few Mademoiselles and Frauleins over the years. Still, even when he understood that they were asking him to come home with them he never went. If they wanted an explanation he'd point to the picture of Agent Carter in his compass and say, "My girl."

On these occasions Bucky usually had a girl on his knee, maybe another hanging over his shoulder, but still his eyes would meet Steve's, smoldering and hungry. Bucky would ask the girl to excuse him and Steve would do the same, and then they would leave together, sometimes with Bucky's hand on Steve's back.

In London, on the rare occasions they had a little R&R, the Commandos stayed in a large flat a short Tube ride from SSR headquarters. It was luxurious especially when compared to an army barracks, complete with separate bedrooms. Still, there were nights when Steve crawled into Bucky's bed or Bucky crawled into Steve's. None of the other Commandos looked at them askance when they came out of the other's room in the morning.

They had, truth be told, fucked each other up, down and sideways in those few short years. Whether it was in the London flat, lolling in a comfortable bed, or out in the war zone, hard and fast against a tree, they'd fed and drunk off each other, doing the same things every other solider did whenever they had the chance. It was wartime. You took comfort where you could find it, accepted joy when it came along.

Steve tells Tony this as Tony holds him, and when he falls silent Tony doesn't speak for a while either, though the way his body shifts suggests he listened to every word.

Finally he says, "So your virgin flower has already been plucked."

"Yeah," says Steve. Leave it to Tony to focus on the least important thing. "Sorry."

Remembering Bucky and their adventures, telling Tony about them -- it's a wonder he's managed to stay calm, Steve thinks. No one has touched him like that since he woke up from the ice.

Before, he'd been torn between his attraction to Peggy Carter and his love for Bucky. Even Bucky had said to him, noticing their connection, "Marry her if you love her, but don't marry her just for the sake of being married. It's not fair to her and it's not right of you." Bucky played the field merrily, and Steve felt little jealousy about it. That was Bucky and always had been. Steve considered himself more of a one-man guy, or maybe one man and one woman. Did people do that? He often wondered if somehow they could, if he could marry Peggy and still be Bucky's, and they could be each other's, and there would be no jealousy, no secrecy -- just the three of them, making each other happy.

It's all in the past, anyway. The present is Tony Stark, helping him sleep in a downpour with his surprisingly gentle hands, the hard disc of the arc reactor against Steve's back, the leg folded against Steve's solid and strong, the silky feel of his beard, the steady rhythm of his breathing.

This feeling, this rightness, is the very thing Steve has been longing for since he opened his eyes and realized everything was wrong. It's been wrong for so long, he fit into it so awkwardly, and every time he has tried to remold himself to it he has only been reminded of how wrong it is -- but he thinks he could learn to let it flow around him and find a place to settle in. It will never be his time, his place -- but it could, he thinks, be theirs.

He feels lips against his neck, the faint scrape of stubble, and Tony murmurs, "Do you want to try sleeping again?"

"Not yet," says Steve and turns over.

When Steve kisses him, Tony laughs. It's the sound a man who's getting exactly what he wants.

***

Kissing is such a sweet way to start, and Tony is so very good at it. They kiss lazily and slowly, blankets drawn up to their shoulders against the chilly night (the temperature in Stark Tower is regulated, of course, but still the rain outside gives an impression of cold and it only adds to the coziness of being in bed with someone warm and friendly), and Steve can feel Tony smiling. He can feel himself smiling. It's joy, pure joy, the joy of knowing that someone you want wants you in return, the warm certainty that you aren't alone anymore. Even superheroes get lonely.

But he has a family in the Avengers, and he has a possible best friend in Tony.

"Steve," Tony whispers as Steve kisses along his jaw, "Steve, hey, whoa, listen." Steve nips Tony's throat in response, but leans on his elbow anyway and tries to pay attention to more than how much he wants to get his tongue back into Tony's mouth. Tony holds him by the biceps. "It's cool, you know, if you want to play the field a while. You've been celibate a long time. There's a whole world out there who'd love to be on Captain America's arm."

Steve smiles wryly at that. "And you?" he asks and traces the arc reactor, his hand bathed in its blue light. "Do you want to be on Captain America's arm?"

"No," Tony says softly and Steve glances up at him. "Wouldn't mind stepping out with Steve Rogers a time or two."

That's very much the right answer. Top marks. Steve kisses him, feels him smile again, and Steve thinks that if kissing someone makes them smile then he should keep doing it for a little while longer.

"I don't want to play the field," he whispers and kisses those smiling lips again. "I just want you."

That makes Tony laugh again, free and happy, and they wrap their arms around each other and kiss as they tumble about the enormous bed. Tony's body is compact, strong, and his skin is delicious under Steve's tongue. He's hard when Steve presses their hips together, they both are, and when Tony tugs off his sleep pants with an impatient yank Steve shoves down his sweats so he can feel their flesh together.

"Fuck," Tony breathes as Steve takes them both in his hand, "brilliant," and he shoves his hips and grabs Steve's shoulders.

Steve watches his face, smiling, watches Tony smile and moan and shiver. It's been too long since he's touched anyone like this, since he's looked into someone's eyes and known how much pleasure they were giving each other. Tony hides nothing -- eyes open, lips parted, even their tongues touch before the kiss grows deep. His hands slide over Steve's skin like he's memorizing every plane and curve.

When one of Tony's fingers, slick with spit, sinks into Steve, his hand curls into Tony's hair and he gasps, "Tony!" and buries his head in Tony's neck.

"Relax," Tony whispers and kisses his forehead. "Just relax. I know it's been a while." Steve can only hold Tony and shudder, sprawled beside him, until Tony rolls him over and holds his thighs open. He kisses Steve's stomach in a way that Steve can only call reverent, and breathes softly against Steve's skin.

His mouth is hot when he finally takes Steve in. Steve shoves his hand into Tony's hair, feels it curl around his fingers, damp and thick, and their eyes meet when Tony looks up. Tony smiles around Steve's cock, and then closes his eyes and wraps his arm around Steve's hips, strokes him inside and licks him, and holds him as Steve shudders and shouts.

When Steve is finally still, Tony crawls up his body and kisses his cheek. "Ready for more, old man?"

"Yes." He frames Tony's body with his legs, frames Tony's face in his hands. Kisses his mouth and savors the taste that lingers on his lips. "Give me more."

It's like that first time with Bucky, after the serum, after Zola. It's rough and passionate, and just what he needs.

***

When Steve wakes, it's still raining. He lies still for a while, listening to the comforting sound, and then comes to the slow realization that he had slept, actually slept, and hadn't woken again.

He opens his eyes and looks around for a clock, but there's none to be seen. There is, however, Tony, lying beside him on his stomach and doing whatever Tony usually did on his computer. He must have noticed Steve stirred, for he said, "It's six-thirty, Sleeping Beauty. I bet you're ravenous."

"Yes," Steve says but makes no move to get out of bed. Instead he lays his cheek on Tony's back and follows Tony's spine with his fingertips. He feels Tony's warm chortle.

"There's always room service. What's your usual? A double stack of flapjacks, a rack of bacon, six grapefruits and a pot of coffee?"

"And a pot of oatmeal," Steve murmurs and kisses Tony's shoulder. "With a pound each of butter and brown sugar."

"Sounds delicious." He twists to look back at Steve. "I'd ask how you slept but I think I know. You didn't try to escape once."

"I guess I realized there's nothing to escape from," Steve says and rests his chin on Tony's shoulder. "Tony. What happens now?"

"Breakfast and then back to work. And whenever you have trouble sleeping again, come see me."

"Okay," Steve says softly.

Tony taps on his computer. "And I'll come see you whenever I can't sleep. Deal?"

Steve smiles against Tony's skin. "Deal."

"I have a lot of trouble sleeping," Tony says casually. "Nearly every night."

"It's still a deal." Steve runs his fingers slowly through Tony's hair.

"Cool." Tony continues tapping on his computer, then says, "Is there a reason why you're draped over me like you think I need a blanket, old man?"

"No," says Steve, smiling, and lays his cheek on Tony' back. "Only that you're warm and I'm comfortable."

"Far be it for me to deny you comfort," says Tony and tugs up the duvet over them. "Go back to sleep. I'll wake you up in time for brunch."

Steve sighs in response, and between one breath and the next, is asleep.

The End