When it came time for his briefings on the 21st century, it seemed like a lot of folks expected Steve to have a problem with gays. He knew folks weren't always keen on it back in his day (rarely were keen, to be honest) but he'd known a few boys growing up in the orphanage who'd sneak off to-- well Steve didn't really know what exactly at the time, but he later found out it was to do with being gay. Bucky had taught him 'the facts of life' when they were teenagers, even if Bucky was the only one using them, so he'd had a good idea of what a fella and a dame might get up to together; when he started taking art classes, he learned more about what two fellas might do together and they introduced him to a few dames who didn't care if there was one man in Manhattan or one million, because they didn't want a single one.
So Steve didn't care about that the way his SHIELD briefers thought he would. He didn't think it was wrong or dirty. He knew more than enough folks who hadn't thought there was a thing in the world to be ashamed of. If being a skinny asthmatic with a big mouth got you beat, and being a queer got you beat, then there must have been something alright with it. The only thing that the twenty first century told Steve was completely not alright was not wanting to do any of those things with anybody.
Sex was everywhere and completely inescapable. It was on billboards and in the clothes people wore, it was on the television, and it was on the internet - and Steve was never, ever going to look on the internet for anything about Tony Stark again.
He'd known there was something wrong with him for years, since Bucky joined him in art class because there were naked girls and Steve was too busy staring at the girl's hands; every line and curve was a challenge to bring to life on the page. He'd known it when boys were chasing after girls and he didn't care, from how he learned what a certain hitched breathing meant in the barracks, and the way the men passed around a picture of a dame in a one-piece like it was sent from Heaven.
At least he'd had Peggy, in a sense. Having a gal waiting for him back home was the only good reason for not joining the men in their downtime with the girls at a bar. Peggy made him feel good, made him feel normal. Being with her and thinking about holding her gave him this warm, heated feeling in his chest. She was the one, the right partner, and maybe he could... dance with her if he loved her enough. He thought he could, and he'd been going to try, even if it was hard to pretend to be a regular fella when Bucky talked about Peggy's legs and her curves and all Steve could think was how that red dress had set off her lips and her skin and her hair had framed her face just right.
After waking up, it was somehow even worse; Peggy was gone, and the one person he thought he might have connected with was gone, and his one shot at normal was gone. He went to galas and charity events with the other Avengers and they tried gallantly to figure out 'his type'. Tony took him to even more events, and after a dozen 'strike outs' (Tony's words), he offered to take him to events with men instead and Steve just said he wasn't ready to date. Staying home with whatever Avengers were in the Tower was more fun anyway.
The best part of his self-imposed exile from the dating scene was when Tony allowed him to stay with him in the lab between training together in the gym. He spent his time drawing Tony's robots or his hands or the soft curves of his classic cars. Sometimes Tony would even join him on one of the couches and they'd relax, caught in their own worlds, pressed knee to knee.
When he wasn't trying to set Steve up or open up pocketbooks of donors, Tony was strangely staid. He and Steve would stay in and sometimes Tony would give him a rueful smile, explain that he had to take Pepper out for the night, but he would still let Steve stay in the lab, doodling, just because that was one of the two places Steve seemed most comfortable. The lab was so steeped in Tony, holding his robots, the AI that was like a person named JARVIS, his cars, his music, and every piece of him; Steve loved it there and it never failed to make him comfortable. As much as they hadn't gotten along right at the start, Tony had been the one who seemed most able to worm his way passed Steve's defenses.
When Pepper broke up with Tony a few months after the Avengers had first formed, Steve was the only one allowed down into the lab on the very flimsy excuse that Steve 'needed to finish his sketches while it was fresh'. The two of them would sit, completely silent, with Tony tucked under Steve's arm and the two of them spent large swaths of days like that. Steve took Tony to the gym, they went out for lunches and dinners sometimes, and very slowly, Steve found himself falling just a little bit in love with Tony Stark.
He started to see it everyday. When Tony smiled his heart beat faster, when they lazily bumped shoulders together Steve's arm tingled, and when Tony reached out and squeezed Steve's arm he wanted to lean in and kiss Tony. Spending time with Tony left him feeling happy and comfortable, missing Tony left him grouchy, and he was just so obviously over his head that he didn't know what to do.
Steve had always known their time together was temporary, all good things eventually came to an end. Just like Bucky, who always abandoned Steve for a dame if the opportunity presented, Tony wasn't going to continue to waste his evenings in the lab forever when he could have been out with some pretty dame. They sat together on the couch, shoulder to shoulder, Tony playing with some design or another, watching out of the corner of his eye as Steve once again tried his hand at using a drawing tablet and slowly finding he had more luck with it.
"I think I'm ready to date again," he announced, apropos to nothing. Tony then looked at Steve expectantly.
Steve supposed... Tony must have wanted him to weigh in on the subject. It hurt. He didn't like the idea of Tony going out on the town with someone else, but there really wasn't anything Steve could say that would be fair to Tony. Somehow he thought saying 'I'd rather you just stay home with me and maybe we could cuddle' would work on a man like Tony Stark. "It's been a few months since Pepper... you two were both... adults about it."
Tony continued to wait, still looking at Steve like he was supposed to say something else.
"Are you looking to settle down?" Tony had seemed like he might have wanted to with Pepper, but Pepper wasn't prepared to have something so permanent with someone who put his life on the line. It was a hard life, and Steve couldn't really blame her. He would have been ready.
"I could." Tony fidgeted, stretched his arms and popped his back. "What did you say it was?"
"Finding the right partner."
"Yeah, that. I could do that. Do you think I could do that?"
"I think you could do that, Tony."
"So..." He trailed off, took a deep breath. "Alright." Tony seemed strangely disappointed for Steve agreeing with everything he'd said.
The next few weeks were overwhelmingly painful for Steve, as he watched Tony get dolled up and head out in one of his cars, pick up who knows who and have... some sort of date with one person or another. His and Tony's nights out dropped to once every week or two and their time in the workshop dwindled. If Steve had truly wanted it to be painful, he could have followed the dates on that tweeting website, but that seemed particularly pathetic. Steve always wondered if they had sex - Tony never told him one way or the other - because surely Tony would want that, it was all over the internet that Tony wanted that.
Seven weeks later, Tony returned to his nights in the lab, all but dragging Steve down with him even though he'd been meaning to go to the gym. "My attempt to get back into dating was a failure."
It made Steve hopeful, but he knew the reason wasn't because of him, it must have just been that Tony wasn't ready to move on. "Do you think you're still in love with Pepper?"
"No." Tony didn't elaborate.
After a brief moment of hesitation, Steve reached out and gave Tony a very loose hug. Tony all but fell into it, their bodies pressed together all the way down from chests to hips to thighs; Tony's arms wrapped tight around Steve, snaking up so his palms were pressed into Steve's back and Steve let his hands drift from Tony's shoulders, down and up his back, trying to comfort, trying to memorize what it felt like to have someone he cared about hugging him like that and holding him like that. It felt so good, it made him feel so damn content, he wanted to keep holding Tony like this and Tony could hug him back and... it would be fine, it would be great.
Steve's hand slid up Tony's back, his fingers pressed against Tony's neck, and Tony leaned in even more; his nose tucked in behind Steve's ear, his lips rested casually against Steve's throat, and hot breath teased there in slightly uneven breaths that Steve could feel from the hitches in the way Tony's back rose and fell. It wasn't a friendly hug; Steve only realized that after seconds had passed. It felt so right.
He decided suddenly that they should kiss. Steve had kissed Peggy before and it had been... well he'd been going off to die but it had been nice. He could kiss Tony. His thumb brushed against Tony's jaw of its own accord and Tony backed away, their bodies still pressed together but he looked up into Steve's eyes and licked his lips, his eyes darted around Steve's face. When Steve leaned in, Tony met him half way in a heartbeat.
Tony's lips were soft and his beard was scratchy and the hint of breath that passed between their lips tasted like coffee. The kiss itself wasn't hard or demanding, Tony leaned in with just a little bit of pressure, his lips moving just slightly, and Steve matched him, mirrored him, tilted his head so their mouths could lock together tighter, and then Tony had his arms slung tight around Steve's neck and didn't stop. It was long and painfully slow, but Steve couldn't help the buzz it gave him. Tony was kissing him, Tony wanted to kiss him. When they finally broke apart, Tony had a dazed, stupid, punch drunk look on his face that Steve recognized more from Avenging than their day to day.
"Did you like that?" Tony asked.
"I will be so good to you," Tony said, his hands pressed against Steve's chest and clung to the fabric of his shirt there. "We'll take it slow. I'll do it right. I promise. Anything you want is yours. Let me make you happy."
Tony's babbling promises didn't stop until Steve pressed his thumb to Tony's mouth. Tony responded by cocking his head so the side of his face could rub against Steve's palm, like a cat warming to the touch. Steve answered him with little pecks of his lips, one at the corner of his mouth, one against his temple where - whether Tony admitted it or not - crow's feet had long since formed, and one against the shell of Tony's ear. Kissing was fantastic. "I want to kiss you more."
Without realizing how, Steve ended up on the couch, Tony straddling him, and they were kissing again, just kissing, Tony stealing his breath away and Steve clinging to Tony like a lifeline. They might have kissed for hours for all Steve knew, he just stayed like that, mouth against Tony's, tongues sliding together and then breaking apart. Tony kissed the corners of his mouth and his eyelids and then Steve returned the favor.
Finally he could breathe again, but he looked up into Tony's brown eyes and his breath fled again. "Wow?"
"Ok, good." Tony leaned in, forehead against Steve's shoulder, and he just breathed. "Dating might not be a complete failure."
"Are we dating?" Steve asked. Back in his day he knew this sort of thing passed for dating, but the future was so strange on so many fronts.
Tony leaned back, looking Steve right in the eyes, confused. "I hope so? I mean maybe that's me being presumptuous because we sort of fell on each other's mouths but when we've spent weeks semi-dating and you don't make a move and you don't make a move and then you finally go for the kiss I figured we'd be... dating."
"Ok." Steve thought about it for a second. He could see how what they'd been doing might have been like dating... they'd gone out together, spent time in, and relaxed next to each other. That did seem like dating to Steve. "I like what we've been doing. I didn't like knowing you were out with those girls."
"Unintentional jealousy play: success." Tony leaned in, planted a kiss on Steve's cheek and then leaned back, grinning. "Seriously, Steve, I'm easy. All you needed to do was ask and I'd be so game. The only reason I didn't ask was because you'd never said you swung my way, everyone knows I do."
The reminder was a bucket of ice water over Steve's happiness. Tony was easy. Steve had seen plenty of gossip in a few magazines that Tony would sleep with anyone. He would do it in public sometimes, with people he barely knew, and even though Tony seemed to have a difference between 'dating' and 'sleeping around', Steve doubted Tony lived like a monk when he was dating. Surely it was just that Tony liked sex with one person many times just as much as many people one time. Sex would, eventually, enter into whatever was forming between them.
He would have to. If he wanted to be with Tony they would have sex, probably a lot of it. Steve wasn't a coward, Steve wasn't afraid, and if he was going to get all the warmth and the comfort and the kissing - because that had been great - then maybe he should figure out if he'd be able to put up with the sex.
"We should have sex."
Tony gaped at him. "Ok... yeah. I'm exactly that easy, but... are you sure? We can date more? I'll take you out for proper dates. I want to do it right with you, Steve."
Steve tried to imagine weeks, maybe even months spent in suspense, enjoying the kissing and the soft touches, the warm looks, and the way he felt just from being in Tony's presence, but knowing, eventually, he would have to find out couldn't be denied. Steve wasn't one for waiting, he charged right in with a plan, he always had. His plan was to find out if he was going to be able to have sex, for Tony, because otherwise it just wasn't going to work. "You want to," Steve answered. He could see that Tony wanted to by the beginnings of a bulge in his pants. "I want to... I want to know what it's like."
The whimper that pulled out of Tony's throat was inhuman. "Alright, if you want. I'm not deflowering you on the damn workshop couch, though. Come on."
The elevator ride up to the penthouse was slow - Steve thought the elevator was extra slow thanks to JARVIS - and they spent it with Tony pressing Steve up against the wall and kissing him, arms around his waist, and Steve kissed him back, loving every moment, doing his best to love every kiss and even the way Tony moaned that let him know he was doing something right. They stumbled, still kissing, down the shared bedroom hallways and into Tony's rooms, back towards the bedroom, and Tony kicked the door half closed and then... attacked, grabbing at Steve's buttons, undoing one after the other.
Steve braced himself for the onslaught, but Tony slowed and took a deep breath, and then began to carefully undo the buttons, planting kisses on Steve's throat. A soft kiss followed on his collar bone as Tony nuzzled there before pulling back. "Sex is... a two player sport, Steve."
Right, Tony'd want him to like it. So he leaned in and kissed Tony, hard, and he grabbed the hem of Tony's t-shirt and started to tug it up. He could do this, most of it even felt nice. Holding Tony, touching him, kissing him, being next to him, maybe even curling up beside him and sleeping were all things that Steve wanted with Tony desperately. It would be worth it, it really would. Finally, they were back on the same page, Tony enthusiastically touching along Steve's stomach and Steve running his hands along Tony's back. Tony walked them the rest of the way to the bed, his breath coming hard and fast; Steve struggled to sound half as desperate.
It was a welcome relief to return to the kissing, Tony straddled Steve and kissed him, their hands ran down each other's sides.
"You're beautiful," he told Tony, because he was. Tony was fit and compact and just the right mix of soft and angled. Everyone knew Tony was handsome, and Steve could see it in every line of his body. "I want to draw you."
Tony laughed. "Whatever you want. I mean it." But he was soon distracted by running his hands along the planes of Steve's chest and abs, eyes hungry for things that made Steve's insides squirm and twist unpleasantly. "You called this meeting, Captain. What's on the agenda?"
Weirdly, something about the use of his rank made his stomach jump, but it wasn't enough to overshadow the real question. Tony was going to want to do something to him, but at least he might have a choice of how Tony touched him. "What... what are my options?"
Tony's eyes fluttered closed and he bit his lip, lost in some sensation Steve could only imagine. "I could suck you, you inside me, me inside you, hand jobs, intercrural, frottage..." Tony trailed off again.
"Can I suck you?" Steve asked, almost plaintively, because he was sure it couldn't be that bad, but the idea of Tony on him or in him left him cold.
"After," Tony gasped. "Here, let me..." Tony leaned in again, kissing Steve's chest, licking down across his nipples, and he felt them stiffen but... mostly it tickled. It wasn't bad, it was alright. He threaded his fingers through Tony's hair as he continued, tried to enjoy it and encourage it for what it was - Tony wanted to do this, so Steve wanted him to. Tony kissed and licked and nipped, teeth sliding down, and Steve tried to... he wasn't sure, moaning seemed too far beyond him, but his breath quickened. Tony finally reached his belt, fumbled, moved his hand to cup Steve and found him... not particularly hard at all.
Steve couldn't quite keep down the panic. He should have been hard for Tony, should have been aching for the person he cared for so much. After a few breaths, the sounds he was making must have passed what might have been mistaken for arousal. Tony leaned back onto his haunches. "You look like you're gonna have an asthma attack, not an orgasm."
"I've had an asthma attack." This wasn't an asthma attack. This was the panic of Tony doing things to him, the panic of how much his body seemed to not want to be with the man he cared for.
"Have you had an orgasm?" Tony asked. His voice held an edge, and a touch of that sarcasm that Steve loved to hate.
Steve looked away. He had, a few times, it had been messy and perfunctory and sloppy. "A couple."
"Steve?" Tony asked. Steve didn't turn to look at him so Tony reached down and dragged his face back towards him. Tony's eyes were downcast, sad and hurt. "Are you into this?"
"I want to. I can do this." He could, Tony just needed to let him.
If anything the answer made Tony's face go even more hard and concerned, not relaxed as Steve had hoped. "I asked if you were into it or if it's making you feel good. Do you like it?"
The moment of truth had come far too soon. Steve was apparently so damn broken that he couldn't even have bad sex right. He wasn't a liar, though, and Tony had asked him directly, and not something circumspect that he could dodge around. "Not really."
Tony's face fell immediately, and he knew his answer had hurt Tony badly. He wanted to kiss it better, but when he reached up Tony pushed his hand away and climbed off of Steve. He settled in with one leg tucked close, the other one sprawled out, his breathing labored and straining to be even. "Is it me? I knew I shouldn't have..."
"No!" Steve clamored up, put his hands on Tony's shoulders and held him tight. "No. I... I like you so much, Tony. I love spending time with you, I want to see you every day, I want to kiss you and hug you. I've wanted to for weeks."
"Alright." Tony scrubbed a hand down his face and nodded. "Alright, this is workable, we're just moving too fast. Steve, I like you a lot too, and you don't have to put out to keep me interested. Hell, I've been waiting for you to make a move for weeks. I'd thought you might have been interested, but that maybe it was this sort of weird forties bromance. You're just not as slutty as me. That's not a character defect."
He could fix this. He could let Tony go on thinking that something was going to change and Steve was going to suddenly find he was into sex. There was just one problem, if Steve couldn't fool Tony once, he was certainly not going to be able to with Tony on the lookout whenever they went back to bed. That would be the end of it. His only hope now was that maybe, maybe if he told Tony what was wrong he could fix it. He was an engineer, he could fix anything. "I've never really wanted... todancewithanyone."
Tony blinked, seemed to process it for a moment. "Dance? Like sex?" Steve nodded and blushed. "Ever? Not even some hotty high school teacher or some girl in a soda shop or whatever you kids did in the forties and thirties?"
And again Steve couldn't help but think he was broken. Everyone else in his life, but especially Bucky, had felt that way about teachers or just gals on the street, but never Steve. He had decided to go with honesty, though, and he might as well go for broke. "I'd thought maybe I could with Peggy, and then I thought maybe I could with you. I though if I just worked at it I could... I don't know."
"Close your eyes and think of America?" Tony asked, but even thought it was silly and sarcastic Steve could hear the earnestness. "That's not sexy, Steve."
And Tony liked sexy. He liked his cars sexy and his partners sexy and his armor sexy; he wouldn't be staying around for unsexy sex. Steve deflated. "I would for you. If it would make you feel good I'd figure out how to, Tony. No one ever accused me of not working for what I want."
Tony looked horrified. "Look, um..." Tony took a deep breath, hands brushing down Steve's shoulders. "Don't ever do something in bed you don't want just because you think I do. I mean, sure, go out for Japanese food with me because I love those little dumpling things sometimes even if you don't like them, but not in bed." Tony cocked his head to the side. "Ok? Promise? Cap's honor?"
Steve nodded, miserable, because Tony had just made him give up the only chance he'd had of making this work.
Tony didn't seem to realize, though, he had moved on to the problem at hand: trying to figure out what was wrong with Steve's body. "Serum side effect?"
"It's always been like this." It was the one thing the Serum couldn't fix.
Tony took that in for a moment. "Look, I'm gonna go... shower. We are not having sex tonight, but I want you here with me. Alright? No running away. I know for a fact that Steve Rogers has never run away from a challenge. Make yourself comfortable."
"I'll be here when you get back," Steve promised. He could face this. The sooner they cleared the air or figured out how to fix Steve the sooner Steve could move on and be happy.
Tony wasn't gone long, but it was long enough for Steve to make himself a Shirley Temple and Tony some of that scotch that he liked with ice. He even got a little tray and he - probably subconsciously - put the tray in the middle of the bed. When Tony came back out he was wearing a t-shirt again, as well as his pants, and he climbed into bed. "Alright. You seemed to be a fan of cuddling?"
Steve nodded. Tony picked up his drink, ditched the tray, and held his arm up so the two of them could hug each other, sides pressed together.
"Maybe it's something medical," Tony said. "I don't suppose you tried google or webMD."
"There's so much sex on the internet I just figured... I always knew I was broken."
"Hey. No. Maybe you're not average, but if you ask me that's a blessing. I mean if hypersexual's a thing, maybe hyposexual is. I'll look it up." Tony leaned in, and Steve kissed the top of his head, getting a lipful of cold water, so he rubbed his hands down Tony's arms to warm him up a bit. "I know you weren't really fired up for it, but... can you get it up? Not being able to isn't actually that unusual, especially if you're stressed."
Steve blushed wildly, which Tony couldn't see, but he also started to cough around his drink.
"We're in a relationship. I'm going to show you my STD panel, you can answer a question or two about your junk." Tony wriggled so he was looking at Steve, probably could see him blushing now. "The hottest thing in the world is two people who know what they want and want to get it from each other. That means you've gotta know what you want and how to get it, though."
"I can get hard," Steve blurted out. "I wake up hard sometimes, and sometimes I used to..." He made an abortive stroking gesture. "It used to help me sleep."
"After the Serum I didn't get sleepy from it so it was sort of pointless."
Tony mouthed 'pointless', but then shook his head. "Alright. Back up an hour. Tony Stark - the man of your dreams, apparently - thinks you're the bee's knees, wants to kiss you, wants to date you, and is honestly willing to do anything to make you happy. What do you want to do with him?"
Steve actually considered it for a moment. He'd had no idea what he would have done with Tony had he been given the choice. He would have hugged him, of course, kissed him, held him, snuggled up with him, but that gave him no guidance on what to do in bed with Tony Stark. Really there was only one single thing he could think of that he might have wanted.
"We could sleep together?" Steve offered. The idea of that sounded really good. It was the one thing he'd been looking forward to from the sex. Afterwards, maybe Tony would be sleepy and want to doze off in his arms, Steve's lips pressed to Tony's forehead, waiting.
"I thought we just tried that," Tony answered, confused.
"Oh." Tony thought about it for a moment and snuggled into Steve's arms. "Well I'm too fired up to sleep. How about you draw, I design things, we have some drinks, and when we're sleepy we sleep?"
It was perfect. Steve told Tony exactly how perfect he thought that was by kissing him roughly on the lips and then shimmying down into the side of the bed he'd claimed for his own.
He took a deep breath. It was going to be alright. Tony seemed ready to tackle the problem and maybe work through it. He'd said Steve didn't need to have sex with him to keep Tony interested, and Steve would like to believe that, he really would, but he still had his doubts that would last long in such an arrangement. Still, if Tony thought there might be a solution - and Tony was a brilliant enough engineer he could pull it off - Tony could probably find it.
It was almost two hours later when Steve found his eyes started to droop, and Tony turned off the lights and they both curled around each other, legs tangled together, chest to chest, eyes closed, and it felt like the most amazing thing in the world.
His body woke him at five and Tony was still there, snoring very softly, nose buried against Steve's collarbone. Steve pecked Tony on the forehead, which made him mumble and roll into Steve's arms further.
"I'm going for a run," Steve said.
Tony nuzzled in closer and squeezed his arms tighter, not letting him go.
"Tony," Steve said, trying to be stern and failing in the sight of a sleep-slowed and cuddly Tony Stark.
"Fiiiine. Kiss?" Tony asked, turning his chin up but eyes staying closed.
Steve kissed him again, square on the lips, and Tony gave Steve's back and shoulders a squeeze before he released him. Steve climbed out of bed and collected his clothes to leave.
His morning he spent in some sort of feeling of happy-dread, happy because Tony seemed to be alright with not having sex, but dread because there was no way it could last like this. Eventually Tony would get tired of the lack of sex and find someone else and it would be even more painful. Really what he needed was something to make him want sex. There had to be a way, and if Tony didn't find the solution, Steve would, because he wasn't going to let something so stupid stand in the way of what he wanted, and he wanted Tony.
For lunch he made a sandwich, the weird one with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes (which came from a jar for some reason) that Tony really liked. Steve made himself a plain turkey sandwich with mayonnaise - which was normal, unlike Tony's weird food - but he liked Tony and he knew his sandwiches, so he took that down and found Tony in some sort of discussion, probably with JARVIS, which stopped the moment Steve entered.
"Hey. Oooh, sandwich, you know my weaknesses." Tony took the offered sandwich and then bit into it with a happy little sigh. "Ok, so. I asked the internet, and I asked JARVIS to ask the internet. There's this thing called asexuality and it just means you can find people - like yours truly - aesthetically appealing, and maybe even have feelings for them, but when it comes to being aroused by them, Houston we have a problem."
"What does Texas have to do with anything?" Steve asked, frowning at one of the screens which just had designs on it, nothing to do with sex.
"It's a... liftoff..." Tony made some sort of hand gesture. "Never mind. The point is it's just a normal variation within human sexuality, like being gay."
"So how do we have sex, then?" This was very important, it was the most important part, because there had to be some solution.
"Goal oriented, I like it." Tony punched up a few buttons and... mostly it just looked like a bunch of words, Steve started to read them, none of it going in, but Tony spun towards him and summarized it. "Maybe when we get a little closer you'd be more into it, but it's not a guarantee. You might always be uninterested in sex. There's nothing wrong with that; there's loads of other people just like you."
Normal. Steve didn't want to be normal, he wanted something he could fix. "You wouldn't date any of them."
"Well... no, because I'm dating you." Tony reached out and brushed his hands along Steve's wrists. "Look, I've really felt close with you for the past months. We fit really well. We have a good, solid friendship the likes of which I haven't had in a really long time."
And that was all they would have, because what was a friendship without sex? Friendship.
"Look there's this whole part of these websites for people like me, people who want to make it work with someone who feels the way you do. I want to make it work. I'm not letting you quit just because it might be hard." Tony stood and wrapped his arms around Steve's waist, and Steve responded without a thought by wrapping his arms around Tony's neck. "You've never quit, not in your whole life, not even when you should have quit."
"I'm glad you want to try, Tony, but... how long could that really last?" Steve was just being realistic. He had plenty of idealism that many people found naive, but he knew that normal people wanted sex, no matter what a few people in the internet might think.
"Is that what you think of me?" Tony asked.
Steve frowned at the non sequitur.
"You think I'm a sex-starved manic who can't go without sticking my dick in someone?"
"Of course not!" Steve might think that Tony liked sex, maybe even needed it, but he'd proven himself more than capable of dating just one person and not even seeing them everyday. He did have self-control.
Tony waited with his head cocked and his eyebrow raised. Finally what Tony had asked, what Steve had answered, and what that meant sunk in.
He sighed. "Fine. I just... you're only the second person in the world I've wanted to kiss. I don't want to lose you." Tony could find someone else, easily. There were loads of people who could fall in love with Tony and would have sex with Tony, Steve wasn't special.
"And you're the only person I've ever wanted to not have sex with." Tony stopped, looked like he was trying to decide if that was right, shrugged, and turned back to Steve. "It's uncharted territory for both of us."
He still couldn't shake the feeling that it would have been a lot easier if he were actually normal, not just what Tony called 'normal variation', but if Tony was willing to try, Steve was going to have to try too. That was only fair.
Somehow, it did seem to work. They went back to their evenings and lunches out. Tony called it 'team building' when the other Avengers asked, but Tony didn't do nearly as much team building with anyone else. If the others noticed they didn't say anything. Tony didn't go out with pretty dames or handsome men, instead he spent his nights in with Steve, making out on the couch or just spending time together.
Tony's body obviously wanted sex - the way he responded to Steve's kisses and touches was blatant - but Steve knew Tony didn't want him to force himself; Tony had even introduced Steve to using traffic light colors to saying how he felt about something in bed, and stressed the point that Steve should not lie to spare Tony's feelings. Steve was more than willing to force himself beyond what he liked for Tony, but the look on Tony's face when he'd said that made it clear that Tony wouldn't have wanted him to. They found ways to work with each other, ways that didn't make Steve's insides squirm.
Steve still wondered if sex must take up the majority of Tony's thoughts, but they talked about going to a museum or jogging in the park with one breath, and about whether or not Tony could masturbate while Steve kissed and touched him with another breath. No matter what they did or didn't do in bed, they slept together every night since the first and Tony never seemed anything but pleased with the arrangement.
It truly was a miracle that no one else in the Tower found out for almost two months.
Clint was the one who caught him coming out of Tony's room one Tuesday morning, and Steve managed to dodge the obvious questions by ducking into his own room and then powering passed a waiting Clint and out for his morning run. It stuck with him throughout the run, wondering what Clint would say.
He worried that Tony might be embarrassed; before they had started dating, Tony always put so much focus on the sexual and would tell anyone who asked exactly how much he enjoyed sex. Even if Tony had managed to find a balance, he wondered if Tony might be ashamed to admit how little of what passed between them was sexual. It bothered Steve and he wasn't even the one who had to go without.
The questions could not be avoided forever, and Clint caught up with him in the gym a few hours later, helpfully holding the heavy bag as Steve worked it.
"You and Stark," Clint said. He didn't say anything else, just Steve and Tony's names like that was all that needed to be said.
Steve didn't answer.
"Is he taking advantage of you?"
Steve almost punched Clint, not for the suggestion, but because the suggestion itself was so outlandish and preposterous that he lost his concentration. He could at least answer Clint's question. "No."
"It's just…" Clint frowned, hugging and leaning up against the bag. "Tony seems a bit like the 'love 'em and leave 'em' type, Pepper not withstanding; you seem like the true love forever type."
"I'm told opposites attract. Besides, Tony's more than capable of falling in love." Tony had said he loved Steve three weeks ago while they dozed together in bed. Steve had no reason to doubt him. "You don't need to worry about him hurting me."
If anything it would be Steve who hurt Tony, unable to fulfill the needs he knew Tony must keep from him. He knew men like Tony, knew that if he'd loved Bucky that way the man never would have given up sex for him.
He didn't have long to dwell on it, though. Tony strode into the gym even though it was hours away from any time the man usually came to work out with Steve. "My ears are burning." Tony glanced between them. "And by 'my ears are burning' I mean JARVIS said you were having a conversation about Steve's Walk of Nothing To Be Ashamed Of from this morning."
Steve didn't know what that meant, but it sounded like Clint did, and the man held up his hands and backed away from the punching bag.
Tony took the surrender for what it was, but he did end up standing next to Steve, a hand on the small of his back, possessive. "We're still sorting it out. I'm not going to pretend you're not going to tell Natasha and Bruce, and really at that rate you should just tell Thor, but you can direct your 'if you hurt him, I'll kill you' inquiries towards me and leave Steve out of it."
Clint did decide to give Tony that speech, right then and there in front of Steve. Steve felt sort of mortified on Tony's behalf, but Tony took it in stride.
The moment Clint left, Steve pinned Tony to the heavy bag and kissed the breath out of him, just the way Tony liked, and the two of them stayed there, Tony leaning against the bag and Steve's arms keeping Tony penned in there. "Clint got me thinking…"
"Don't do that."
"Tony, are you embarrassed?"
Tony's hands grabbed the fabric of Steve's shirt and held on tight. "Of you? Absolutely not."
Steve took a deep breath, went for broke. "That we don't have sex."
"It's none of their business," Tony answered.
Steve arched an eyebrow. Tony had taught him that one, a simple variation on the hard stare that Steve had that was capable of making Tony back peddle and recant with the best of them, but softened just enough.
"Ok… a little bit." Tony let go of Steve's shirt and he let his hands trail up and down his chest. "I've always put a lot of stock in pleasing my partners. When I go to bed with someone, I want to know they're getting off, that it's good for them. With you I can't do that."
Two months ago, Steve would have apologized and might have even been sorry or hurt by what Tony had said. Now he could see it for what it was, Tony's need to please Steve was no less than Steve's own.
"You make me happy, Tony. I…" He blushed. "I 'get off on' what we have." He never could have imagined what it felt like to have one person who he could love and hold and kiss and talk to. It was all of the good stuff of a soul-deep friendship, but Steve knew that this part of Tony was his and his alone. "I worry I don't give you enough."
"You fill all the important needs."
"Oh." Steve blushed. "I mean, if you're sure…"
"I am." Tony grabbed Steve around the shoulders and pulled him in for a kiss, and Steve went, pinning Tony against the heavy bag.
The response was immediate; Tony whined and started to rub himself against Steve's thigh, but it didn't make Steve nervous, didn't make him tense, because Tony never asked for something Steve couldn't give. Knowing he could make Tony come undone with just a few touches was its own sort of thrill. He did this to Tony.
"So you don't want me to stick my hand down your jeans and touch you?" Steve asked, as innocently as he could manage, still blushing at his own boldness. It seemed easier to make the leap here, with Tony already half undone.
"I will seriously come in my pants. Are you…?"
"I'm sure. It's green. I love seeing you like this."
Tony might be so selfless when it came to pleasing someone in bed, or in relationships, but he wasn't too selfless to not let Steve do what he wanted. It didn't do anything for Steve, not the tentative groping or the hot, sticky mess on his hand, but the dopey, fuzzy, post-coital grin on Tony's face was so, so worth it. If something so simple could make Tony so happy, Steve figured he might be able to work this out.