Actions

Work Header

In Your Company

Work Text:

They meet at a party. It’s a thing the football team does every year, and Steve goes because he’s on a football scholarship so he’s on the team, and it seems like a good idea to get to know the team. Even if they’re, well, drunk out of their minds.

It’s in a house, not a frat house just a large house that the university owns and some of the older players pay to live in. The lights are on, but are dim. It gives the party a strange feel, almost like they’re all in an old-fashioned bar. There’s no smoke in the air, but there is the strong smell of alcohol and people. To the drunkest, the room has a certain haze. Steve isn’t drunk at all, he has a beer in his hand so no one will offer him any, but he’s only sipped. He came to mingle, but he’s never been really good at that, so he’s hanging out on the fringes of the activity, not far enough away to look like he’s actually avoiding it, but not close enough that he’ll have to deal with people he’d rather not deal with. He’s close enough to approach, which someone eventually does.

“Hi,” someone says, coming out of the dimness and up to Steve. Steve turns his attention to the other, a boy, shorter than him by more than a head, with dark hair and dark eyes that somehow manage to gleam despite the low light and the glasses in front of them. He has a wide, bright smile, framed by the hint of a goatee, which Steve doesn’t normally like but on this guy it works. Best of all, he doesn’t seem horribly drunk.

“Hi,” Steve says, smiling back and offering his hand. “I’m Steve.”

“Tony,” the other says, taking the proffered hand and shaking it.

“You play football?” Steve asks, wondering who this boy is.

Tony laughs. “Do I look like a football player to you?”

Steve shrugs. “I try not to judge people by first glance. I was small and asthmatic until I turned sixteen.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s true!” Steve protests. “No one ever does believe me, but it is.”

Tony gives Steve a look he can’t quite decipher. “I’m sixteen,” he says. “Wish I’d gotten a growth spurt like yours.”

“It was incredibly awkward,” Steve says. His brain whirs, readjusting the conversation to fit this new information. Sixteen years old. And drinking at a college party. Steve thought the boy had been coming up to hit on him, but maybe not. “I spent a lot of time bumping into things and tripping over my own feet.”

“Yeah, well, it sucks being younger than everyone else without being smaller than everyone too. Makes one pretty easy pickings.”

“But I bet you’re smarter than them all too.” An easy assumption for Steve to make; sixteen year-olds don’t get into college parties without being smart enough to regularly hang around some college kids.

“That’s a lot of comfort when there’s a fist in your face.”

Steve frowns. “Do you hit them back?” he asks.

“Used to. Only injured my hand.”

Steve laughs. “Same here. I don’t like bullies,” he says.

Tony meets his eyes then and Steve feels like he’s being scrutinized. “I learned that it’s a lot easier to fight back with words. Then I can win. Even if they don’t know what the insults mean, they know they’re insults.”

“Did that really save you lots of pain?”

“No but it made me feel a lot better. A bruised face is better than a bruised face and a broken hand. At least I got the last laugh.”

Tony’s still giving Steve a strange look, like he’s trying to figure him out.

“My mom is a nurse,” Steve says, wondering what Tony’s looking at him like that for. “If you ever get beat up again you can come to me and I’ll fix you up.”

Tony’s face brightens. “But how will I find you, Steve?” he asks, smiling flirtatiously. His whole demeanor changes from serious to flirty; suddenly his body language is extremely welcoming and every move is graceful and flowing. Even Tony’s expression is more…Steve would say open but that implies a certain amount of honesty and it looks more like Tony’s just slipped into a different, familiar role. He’d been right initially; Tony had been hitting on him. Steve’s not quite sure how being approached by a sixteen year-old sits with him.

“Here,” he says, holding his hand out. “I’ll put my number in your phone.” He’s less sure how returning the flirting of a sixteen year-old sits with him.

Tony hands over his phone, and Steve manages to figure out how to program his name and number into the contacts without too much difficulty. He’s never been great with technology, and Tony’s phone is clearly top of the line stuff.

He’s rich, some part of Steve’s brain realizes. Things he knows about Tony: Rich and sixteen and smart.

“Steve Rogers,” Tony reads aloud. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Do you live in the dorms?” Steve asks.

“No, I have an apartment,” Tony says, giving Steve that funny look again. “I don’t actually go to this school.”

“Oh. Why’re you here then?”

“I have a friend who just got on the team,” Tony explains.

“Are you here with him?” Steve asks. Maybe he’d been wrong earlier, and Tony just talks to people this way.

Tony bursts out laughing. “No, no. Rhodey’s just my friend.

“Oh,” Steve says, feeling himself blush. Hopefully Tony won’t notice in the low light. “Where do you go to school then?” he asks, trying to talk about anything but dating.

“MIT.”

“Wow,” Steve says. “Impressive. You must be really, really smart.”

“Well, yeah, I am. I’m a genius.”

Steve quirks one side of his mouth. “And so modest.”

Tony laughs. “You have no idea who I am, do you?”

“You’re Tony, you just told me.”

“Yeah, Tony Stark.”

Oh.” The part of Steve’s brain that was storing information about Tony starts cross-referencing what he knows about Tony to what he’s read about Tony Stark. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you.”

“No that’s okay.” Tony looks at him strangely again. “Normally what happens is I got up to people, say my name is Tony, they guess that I’m that Tony, and then they know that I’m interested, have probably had a couple beers and we…” Tony trails off but he waves his hands significantly, looking at Steve over the tops of his glasses.

“Oh,” Steve says, instantly feeling awkward as heat floods his face again. “Um, I-I don’t really, do that with people at, um, at parties. Especially not if they’re drunk.”

“That’s okay,” Tony says shrugging. “Now that we’re talking I’d kind of like to keep talking.”

“Yeah?” Steve relaxes.

“Yeah. But, I mean if you want to stick your tongue down my throat there aren’t gonna be any objections.”

Tony had been hitting on him then. “Maybe when you’re sober,” Steve says before he really thinks it through.

“You mean that?” Tony says, looking startled and happy all at once.

Steve hesitates. Tony is sixteen and this could turn out to be dangerous, but Steve likes him. “Yeah,” he decides, trying to ignore the lurching feeling in his middle at Tony’s smile. He’s not sure if it’s guilt or shame or arousal. Or all three. “And not just because of your name,” he adds hastily, hoping the guarded, bracing look in Tony’s eyes will disappear.

The effect is immediate and great, Tony relaxes completely, his smile open and easy. “You’re really nice,” he says.

Steve can’t help laughing. “I’m glad you think so.”

“Are you this nice to everybody? Or am I special?” Tony takes a step closer to Steve. They’re close enough now that Steve can smell him a little (underneath the alcohol), can feel a bit of his body heat. It’s nice.

“I don’t offer dates to everybody,” Steve says, “but I do try to be nice to people. It’s a good general rule.”

“Not a very easy one to follow,” Tony says.

Steve shrugs. “I don’t know. Being polite isn’t hard.”

Tony gives him a stare of complete and utter disbelief. “Yes it is,” he disagrees.

“You’ve been polite to me,” Steve points out.

“Because I’ve been hitting on you.”

“And what things do you say to people you aren’t hitting on?”

Tony gives him a shit-eating grin. “Insults, mostly.”

Steve’s about to make a joke about how he’d like to hear to Tony’s best insult, when someone grabs his arm. It’s another student, dressed in a Howling Commandos letterman’s jacket. He’s smiling, but something about it seems mischievous.

“You’re a newbie, right?” he asks Steve.

“Yes,” Steve answers, knowing that it’s both the right and wrong answer.

“Another one for the rounds, boys!” the player yells, to a round of cheers from the other side of the room.

Steve can’t help laughing as he’s dragged away. “A date when you’re sober, remember?” he calls back at Tony.

Tony laughs and gives him a messy salute. “Yes, sir, Captain, sir.”

Steve’s protestation that he’s not the captain is lost in the deluge of water dumped suddenly over his head.

 


The very next day Steve gets a text as early as ten in the morning. He’d been sleeping in; hazing had lasted well past the point where night becomes morning, so he groggily turns over to grab his phone. He doesn’t recognize the number the text is from, but he takes a chance and opens it anyways.

This is Tony, it reads. I am now sober and not hungover.

Steve smiles to himself, even if doing so makes him feel a bit silly. I’m glad to hear it, he sends back.

Still up for a date?

Yes.

Tomorrow? Or is that too soon?

Steve hesitates. It’s sooner than he imagined, but, at the same time he’s not sure he could manage to wait much longer, he’s already sort of excited about it. Distantly he realizes that he’s probably, as Bucky would say, got it bad. Tomorrow is good.

Tony sends him a text with an address and then a second text asking, Pick me up?

It’s absurdly charming.

I’ll be there.

When Steve actually does pull up in front of Tony’s building he has to stop and check the address for the fourth time. He expected that Tony would live in a nice place, but, well. He’s lived in New York his whole life, the city full of skyscrapers, and still he finds this building tall. It looks more like a work of art than a regular building made of mortar and stones like all the ones Steve has ever been in. It gleams, even in the low night of the evening.  But the address is right, he’s sure of it, so he puts his car in park and gets out.

“Good evening, sir,” the doorman says, opening the door for Steve.

“Thank you, you too,” Steve says, smiling at the doorman even as the whole procedure makes him feel helplessly undressed. Is he supposed to tip the doorman? The doorman doesn’t seem to expect it, shutting the door behind Steve, so he decides probably not and walks into the lobby. Tony’s building has a lobby. A lobby with polished marble floors below and a sparkling crystal chandelier above. Every surface gleams as though it’s just been cleaned, but no smell of cleaning supplies remains. Steve can’t help wondering, slightly hysterically, if the smell of money is masking it.

“Good evening,” say a man behind the counter. Steve barely restrains himself from jumping in shock. He’d been so taken with the décor he hadn’t even noticed he wasn’t the only one in the room. “Which resident would you like me to page for you?”

Steve hesitates. He can’t just go up to Tony’s door and knock? “Um, Tony Stark, please,” he says, knowing how that sounds.

The man raises an eyebrow but dutifully picks up the phone next to him and dials a number. Steve wishes he’d thought to wear something fancier; he feels woefully underdressed in the grandeur of the building, standing by a man in a finely pressed suit. The man says something quietly to whoever’s on the other line (Tony, Steve hopes) and then hangs up. “The elevator is to your right, sir,” he says, gesturing to the elevator.

“Thank you,” Steve says, trying not to look as awkward as he feels. Thankfully, there aren’t any employees waiting in the elevator, and Steve presses the last button and feels a wave of relief. Relief that holds up despite the realization that once he steps out of the elevator that he stepping on plush, thick carpeting that probably cost more than his apartment, but disappears after he knocks and the door to Tony’s suite and is greeted by a pretty girl who is definitely not Tony.

“Hello,” she says, raising one red eyebrow, the same shade as her hair. The action makes her nose wrinkle a little, highlighting the trail of freckles across it. “Who are you and what is your business here?”

“Um,” Steve says, because he thought this was Tony’s home, not his office (God, is this girl another employee?) but then Tony himself appears behind the girl’s shoulder.

“Pep, why are you terrorizing Steve let him in,” Tony says quickly before disappearing again.

“Oh!” The girl says, smiling now. She steps back and waves Steve in. “Pepper Potts,” she says, offering her hand. “I’m Tony’s friend.”

“Steve Rogers,” he says shaking it. “I’m Tony’s…friend too.”

“Friend,” Pepper repeats, raising her eyebrow again.

“Date?” Steve tries, blushing. “I don’t know, we didn’t really-”

“Hi,” Tony says, rushing back into the room. He’s a little flushed and a little breathless, and Steve’s stomach lurches. He’s dressed nicely, a button down shirt and pants, but not too nicely and Steve feels himself relax a little. After the lobby he’d been half afraid that everyone in the building habitually walked around in three piece suits. “Sorry I wasn’t ready. If it helps Pepper was berating me for it.”

“I don’t mind,” Steve says.

“So, where’re we going?” Tony asks. He reaches up as if to fiddle with his glasses, before he realizes he’s not wearing them and drops his hand.

“I realized on my way over here that I have no idea what type of food you like,” Steve admits. He tries very hard not to blush. “So, what type of food do you like?”

Tony shrugs. “You have to have had something in mind.”

“I was thinking pizza? I mean, if you-”

“I like pizza.”

“Oh my god, it’s like watching a terrible romcom. Get out of here and have your first terribly awkward date,” Pepper says, giving both of them a slight push. She shuts the door behind them and Steve and Tony fall immediately into awkward silence.

“So,” Steve says, pushing the button for the elevator, “this is a really nice building.”

Tony rolls his eyes. “It’s alright.”

“Do you normally live somewhere nicer than this?” Steve asks, trying to work his head around it.

“Yeah,” Tony says, stepping easily into the elevator and hitting the button for the lobby. He tilts his head at Steve. “Stark Mansion? Ever heard of it?”

Of course Steve’s heard of it. It’s the biggest private residence in the country, people go to New York just to look at the thing and take touristy pictures in front of it. “Oh, yeah,” Steve admits.

“Grew up there,” Tony says, shrugging.

“Does it have doormen too?” Steve can’t help asking.

Tony laughs. “No, just our butler, Jarvis.”

Steve notes the way Tony says the name, not casual but with a certain amount of fondness.

“He’s old and British, it’s all very cliché,” Tony continues and the elevator doors slide open. Tony nods once at the man behind the counter, once at the doorman and then falls into step behind Steve.

“Sorry my car isn’t very, well, nice,” Steve says, as he abruptly realizes how much his car sticks out compared to the shiny glossy cars around the building.

Tony gives him another look Steve can’t really read. And he’s good at reading people, it’s part of what makes Tony so fascinating to him. “You don’t have to impress me,” Tony says quietly.

Steve can’t help blushing a little. “I’ve never been in a building like that,” he admits, climbing into the driver’s seat.

“Sorry,” Tony says, busying himself with the seatbelt. “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

You don’t make me uncomfortable,” Steve says. “The doorman called me sir and opened the door for me. It was weird.”

Tony smiles. “I don’t like that much either. I might be rich but I’m also a genius. I think I know how to open doors.”

Steve laughs. “The pizza place I had in mind isn’t quite so fancy,” he admits, pulling away from the curb. “No doormen.”

“That’s good,” Tony says. “I’m not exactly a good cook. If it’s not microwaveable or deliverable, then I don’t eat it much.”

“Well, listen to you; you sound like a typical college kid.”

“I bet you can cook,” Tony says.

Steve shrugs. He risks glancing from the road to look at Tony. He’s smiling teasingly, the yellow glow of the street lights making his face glow. The sight nearly takes Steve’s breath away. Quickly, he turns back to the road. “I’m not very good, but I can cook some stuff.”

“Apple pies?”

“What?” Steve asks, risking another glance at Tony, just to give Tony a confused look.

“Can you make apple pies? It matches the whole, perfect, all-American, football playing blonde thing you’ve got going on.”

“I’ve never tried,” Steve says, after a few beats of stunned silence. “And anyways that would be baking not cooking.”

Tony gapes at him and then burst out laughing. “Oh my god,” he says, “I cannot believe you just smartassed me. In such a sassy tone. Oh, I like you.”

Steve blushes, simultaneously embarrassed and flattered. “I guess you don’t get corrected a lot.”

“Try never,” Tony says. “Always a little too smart for my own good.”

“Well, you’re safe with me. I might be a football player but I’m not one for picking on the skinny nerds.”

“Please,” Tony scoffs, “I didn’t get beaten up until I was old enough to know what I was doing. I had private school, private tutors…the whole shebang.”

“That would’ve been nice.” They’re passing through neighborhoods now, away from the glitz and gleam of Tony’s neighborhood to buildings like Steve is used to; tall but un-attention-grabbing brick.

“No,” Tony says, after a period of silence. “It was lonely.”

Steve hesitates. He can sense that Tony’s given away a little piece of himself, part of the real him, the vulnerable part, and he can’t help but feeling like his reaction is some sort of test. “I mean the part about not getting beat up,” he says, glancing over at Tony again.

“Yeah?” Tony says, relaxing into his seat. Steve can’t help feeling like he passed the test. “You never told me what they beat you up for.”

“Being small. And liking art. And standing up to them.”

Tony smiles at him. “You’re an artist too?”

“I draw,” Steve says, pulling into a parking space. “We’re here.”

Tony shifts forward, looking around at the area they’re in. The buildings are small, one story, mostly, and not made of gleaming metal. It’s about as different as you can get from Tony’s neighborhood without heading into actual dangerous territory. “I’ve never been here before,” he says, getting out of the car.

The restaurant is a small, sort of a hole-in-the-wall place. It has neon signs in its windows, above its door. It’s sort of cliché, especially for a first date, but it’s too late for Steve to change his mind now. “They’ve got good food,” he promises Tony.

“All food is good food,” Tony says earnestly.

Steve laughs. “Two please,” he tells the hostess, who nods at them and leads them to a booth on the far wall. The booth matches the rest of the interior, very classic pizza place. Red plastic booths that match the checkered table coverings.

“Enjoy your meal, your waitress will be with you shortly,” she says, handing them each a menu before returning to her post at the front.

“So, you said that you draw,” Tony says once they’re alone. “What do you draw?”

Steve shrugs. “Whatever. I’m taking an art class or two so I draw whatever I have to for assignments and just whatever catches my eye, really. It’s just a hobby, mostly.”

“Are you sure about that?” Tony asks, giving Steve a serious look.

“Yes?”

“And football?” Tony presses. “That just a hobby too?”

Steve can’t help blushing a little. “This is going to sound horrible, but, it’s something I was good at, something I was offered scholarships for. I couldn’t really afford school if I didn’t have them.”

“You don’t love playing,” Tony says.

“No, no, I do! I really do,” Steve protests. “I just…don’t want it to be what I do for the rest of my life, you know?”

Tony hesitates before shaking his head. “I never really had hobbies,” he begins. “Just, you know, kid stuff: coloring, toys, that sort of thing. Most people consider tinkering with things in a workshop a hobby, but for me, that’s all I’ve ever done, really. So I don’t really know, but, I think I understand.” He pauses again, scratching his nail silently on the worn tabletop.

The motion causes him to break eye contact with Steve and Steve takes the opportunity to fidget nervously. He’s never told someone so much about himself so quickly. He’s not sure if the unintentional change is going well for him or not.

“Do you know what you do want to do for the rest of your life?” Tony asks.

Steve shakes his head. “I know how that seems, but-”

“That’s good,” Tony protests. “Maybe you’ll get good at a lot of different things.”

Steve breaks eye contact this time, fiddling around by placing his napkin in his lap. “I’d rather have a certainty,” he admits.

“Not as much fun,” Tony says.

The arrival of the waitress stops Steve from replying.

“Welcome,” she says. She’s young, and bored looking, tapping her pen against her notepad. “Can I take your order?” she asks.

“Um, yeah,” Steve says, fumbling for his menu. “One large pizza please?”

“With what on it?” the waitress asks, still not looking up.

Steve looks over the top of his menu at Tony. “I’ll eat anything, get whatever you want,” he says.

“Pepperoni and onions and olives and tomatoes please,” Tony says, smiling at the waitress. “And a pitcher of Coke, please.”

“Got it,” the waitress says, pocketing both notebook and pen. She finally looks at them, hand outstretched to take their menus, then she starts and stares at Tony.

“Yes?” Tony says, raising an eyebrow.

“Nothing,” the girl says, shaking her head. She grabs their menus and walks quickly away.

“Do you know her?” Steve asks.

Tony shakes his head. “Never seen her before.”

Steve shrugs it off.

They go back to talking and Steve can’t help noticing that talking to Tony is extremely pleasant. He’s obviously used to talking; sometimes the things he says have a rote-ness to them, like he’s memorized them and repeated the phrase countless times, but other times he looks surprised, like he’s never said that before. The way his face is so expressive is fascinating to Steve, it’s almost like Tony wants to wear his heart on his sleeve but has been trained out of it and ended up being blatantly expressive, but with expressions it was hard to place. Eventually, Steve thinks, he’ll get a handle on what Tony’s expressions really mean. He’s already figured out that when the corners of Tony’s eyes crinkle it means he’s genuinely amused.

The waitress returns with their food and soda and gives Tony another strange look before she leaves them alone.

“Are you sure you don’t know her?” Steve asks, carefully pouring himself a glass of Coke. It wouldn’t do to spill it.

“Pretty damn,” Tony says, shrugging.

After that they both fall ravenously on the pizza and there isn’t much talking. Steve spends the entire time he’s eating his first slice worrying about if he looks stupid while eating, hoping that he isn’t getting sauce on his face or food on his shirt. When he’s done with it he looks across the table at Tony. Who’s doing the same thing as Steve. They meet eyes and Steve laughs. Tony smiles back at him.

Feeling braver all of a sudden, Steve stretches his foot out under the table and tentatively wraps it around Tony’s ankle.

Tony, in the midst of grabbing another piece of pizza, doesn’t look up from the table, but he smiles, so Steve counts it as a success.

They return their attention to the food again, and Steve’s happy to find out that the silence is comfortable. In fact, it’s the waitress who breaks it, returning with their check.

“Anything else?” she asks before she sets it on the table.

Steve shakes his head. “No, thank you.”

“Then here,” she says, finally setting the check on the table.

“I’ll get it,” Tony says, grabbing it before Steve has a chance too. “Don’t,” Tony warns, flapping the booklet at Steve. “I’ll pay.”

“Okay, okay,” Steve says, chuckling, putting his hands up in mock surrender.

Tony slips his credit card into the booklet and hands it back to the waitress.

“I knew it!” she says, once she opens the check booklet and looks at it. She gives a little jump. “You are Tony Stark,” she says, pointing at Tony, who flinches. Steve notices, but the waitress doesn’t. “I thought you looked like him!”

Tony frowns. “I am him,” he says, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I’m sorry, of course you are,” the waitress says, flustered. “So who are you?” she asks, turning to Steve.

“Um,” Steve starts, but Tony cuts in.

“He’s my friend,” Tony says. “You don’t know him, so you can leave him alone now.”

The waitress turns to Tony, looking a bit startled.

“Give me your pen,” Tony demands.

Wordlessly the girl hands over the pen, which Tony takes, scribbles on a clean napkin with then hands back, along with the napkin.

“There,” he says, “an autograph. And I don’t do pictures. And I’m not going to answer any questions you have about anything, so you can go on your way now and run our bill.”

“Yes, sir,” the waitress says, shooting glances back at them as she walks away.

“Fuck,” Tony says vehemently, hiding his face in his palm. “I really didn’t think that would happen. At least she’s not a reporter.”

“Tony-” Steve starts.

“I’m really sorry,” Tony says, looking up at Steve again.

“Tony, it’s okay,” Steve says, grabbing Tony’s hand on the table.

“It’s none of her business,” Tony growls. “This is my life, and these people who don’t know me, people like her, they think they can just walk up, and-” He trails off, flapping his hand angrily.

“You’re right,” Steve starts, “you have a much right to a private life as she does. You can be upset for yourself, but not on my account, okay? I don’t mind.”

Tony blushes and looks away quickly before his eyes meet Steve’s again. “This was supposed to be for us, y’know?” he mutters.

“I know,” Steve says. “It still is. Night’s not over,” he points out.

Tony laughs, short and quiet, but the skin at the corner of his eyes crinkles. Then all traces of amusement disappears and he jerks his hand out of Steve’s.

Steve turns his head and sees the waitress approaching.

“Thank you for dining with us tonight,” she says, with a fake smile on her face as she lays the booklet on their table.

“Thank you,” Steve calls after her.

Tony raises his eyebrow at him.

“What? No harm in being polite,” Steve says.

Tony rolls his eyes and signs his name on the receipt. “Time for the rest of the night?” he asks.

“Yes,” Steve agrees, sliding out of the booth. He offers his hand to Tony to help him out.

Tony looks at it, then at Steve, then smiles. “I’m not a girl you know,” he says, but he takes Steve’s hand and doesn’t let go, even once standing.

“I know,” Steve says, squeezing Tony’s hand. “I like being polite, remember?”

“Careful,” Tony says as they head out the door, “keep being too nice and I’ll start to think I’m not special.”

“You’re very special,” Steve disagrees. He pulls Tony to the side, beside his car, cups his face, and kisses him.

Tony inhales in shock but opens his mouth easily and grips onto Steve’s upper arms.

Steve presses closer and their teeth click together but Tony tilts his head and then the angle is perfect. The kiss turns deep and messy and spit smears between their chins and it’s perfect.

“I don’t kiss everyone like that,” Steve says when they break for air.

“Huh?” Tony says.

Steve laughs. “You’re special; I don’t kiss everyone like that,” he explains.

“Ah,” Tony says. “Well thank you, I feel pretty damn special.”

Steve laughs, and can’t help pressing closer. Tony has to tilt his head up to maintain eye contact and that thrills Steve a little.

“I’d feel more special if we were someplace private,” Tony says, flashing his flirty smile.

“Okay then,” Steve says, stepping away.

Tony frowns.

“Well, come on, get in,” Steve says, gesturing as he opens the car door.

Tony smiles again. “Thank you, kind sir,” he says, tipping a fake hat at Steve.

Steve shuts the door behind Tony and then crosses around the car to his own side.

“I’m really sorry about that,” Tony says, once Steve slides in the car and shuts his door. “About what happened in the restaurant. It happens sometimes, but it’s always uncomfortable.”

“I don’t mind,” Steve says honestly, a little baffled at the sudden change in atmosphere and conversation.

Tony snorts, looking away, like he doesn’t believe Steve.

“Hey,” Steve says, taking Tony’s chin in his hand and gently tugging his face towards him again. “If anything I think less of her than you. I hope you skimped on her tip.”

Tony laughs. It’s not loud, or long, but the corners of his eyes crinkle a little.

Steve passes his thumb over the lines. “Why the sudden change in conversation?” he asks, voice low.

“I don’t know,” Tony says. “Just felt weird about it again. You know, it will only get worse, probably, if we keep dating. Real press attention and all of that.”

“Don’t care,” Steve says, leaning forward then and taking Tony’s mouth in a kiss.

Tony responds eagerly and instantly gripping hard onto Steve’s wrist.

Steve finds he doesn’t mind.

And next thing he knows they’re making out in the backseat of his car, Tony’s shirt is halfway unbuttoned and Steve’s bunched up underneath his armpits, something Tony is taking full advantage of as his hands travel up and down Steve’s chest.  Steve’s pressed up uncomfortably against the handle edge on the door, neck bent awkwardly against the curve where door meets window. Tony’s straddling half of Steve’s lap, one knee pressed between Steve’s thigh and the back of the seat, the other balanced on the very edge of the seat. Steve’s right leg is bent, pressed forward against Tony’s backside while his left hangs off the seat, Tony’s right knee pushing against the place where leg joins torso. The position leaves Steve’s legs spread open, stretching his pants even tighter over his groin. He’d feel rather shy about that, and the fact that he can feel that Tony’s leg is touching his cock, but Tony sucking on his tongue and it’s hard to care about anything else. Steve’s own hands are palming Tony’s ass, and he can’t help kneading a little as he groans into Tony’s mouth. Tony grinds forward in response.

“Ohmygod,” Steve gasps, bucking forward.

Tony half gasps and half moans, pulling his mouth away from Steve’s to gasp, pulling in lungfuls of hot air.

Steve uses the moment to try and catch his breath too, he notices that the air is starting to smell like sex and that the windows of the car have all steamed up. When had that happened? He can hardly think; his entire body feels far too tight and much too hot. At least a few warning bells are going off in his head. “We should stop,” Steve manages to say, pulling his hands off Tony’s ass.

Tony looks at him, lips swollen and pupils blown, chest heaving and stopping sounds like a horrible idea, but-

“Yeah,” Tony says, but he doesn’t move, hands still splayed across Steve’s abs. “We’re in a car.”

“In public,” Steve agrees. And Tony is sixteen and Steve is eighteen and should know better than this and they’ve only been on one date, they’ve known each other for less than three days. “We shouldn’t.”

Tony takes several deeps breaths and then climbs off Steve’s lap. It’s awkward, he doesn’t really have anywhere to go, but he places himself against the other door and Steve brings his own left leg up and sits up straighter, and pulls his knees to his chest. The position is wildly uncomfortable with a boner, which gives him a lot more incentive to lose it.

“Gimme a sec,” Tony says, eyes shut, “I gotta think of some really gross stuff for a minute.”

Steve can’t help that his eyes flicker to Tony’s tented pants. “Your mother giving birth,” he offers.

Tony laughs and opens his eyes.

“That’s what I always use,” Steve explains. He’d look away, embarrassed, but Tony is smiling and his eyes are still crinkled at the corners, and Steve finds himself enjoy the sight so much that he doesn’t look away. It doesn’t help the situation in his pants.

Tony grins at him and clambers over the divide into the front passenger seat. “Effective.”

Steve can’t help staring at Tony’s ass as he does so and has to take a few seconds to just breathe before climbing over after Tony. “I should take you home,” Steve says, starting the car. He realizes then that he can’t drive until the steam leaves the window, so he idles in the parking spot, rolling down the windows to help cool the car down.

“What? Dinner and no show?” Tony says, head cocked to the side and smiling.

“I think we just had our own show,” Steve says.

Tony laughs. “I’d like to see it again.”

“So would I.”

They spend the rest of the drive in semi-comfortable silence. “I’d kiss you goodbye,” Steve says, as they pull up in front of Tony’s building, “but last time we got a bit carried away. I’m not sure I’d be able to stop.”

Tony nods. “Yeah,” he breathes.

Steve notices that his eyes flick quickly to Steve’s mouth before focusing again. The thought gives him a little thrill. “But, um,” Steve says, trying desperately to think of something to say that isn’t about kissing Tony, “I had a nice time tonight.”

“Me too.”

“I’m glad.”

“Does that mean we’re on for a second date?”

“Yes,” Steve says firmly.

Tony grins at him. “Call me,” he says, winking as he slides out of Steve’s car.

Steve laughs and watches as Tony enters the building, nodding at the doorman. Smiling, he drives away.

His good mood lasts until the next morning, all the way through his morning run and shower until he’s halfway through his bowl of Lucky Charms and he has a panic attack. He drops his spoon into his bowl with a clatter, milk splashing out and onto the countertop. He stares at the mess for a little while as his realization of what happened last night sets in. He almost had sex with a sixteen year-old. “Oh my god,” Steve says aloud, putting his head in his hands. He knows that it’s wrong, that there are laws against this sort of thing, that things with Tony progressed far too quickly in his backseat last night. That he and Tony are on a track that’s taking them too deep too fast. But he likes Tony, he really does want that second date. He likes the way Tony smells and smiles and feels and tastes and kisses and…oh god.

He reaches for his phone beside him and makes a call.

“Hey, Steve!” Bucky, on the other end sounds delighted to hear from him. Now that he’s really thinking about it, this has been the longest he and Bucky have gone without talking to each other since they were five and Bucky punched another boy in Kindergarten for pushing Steve. Going to separate schools will do that to you, Steve supposes.

“Bucky,” Steve says. It’s a bit of relief to hear his best friend’s voice. “I…I need some advice.”

He can actually hear Bucky’s grin through the phone. “Lady advice?” Bucky teases. He’d always been better with them than Steve, and he loved teasing Steve about his inability to speak to women for years.

“Something like that,” Steve says. Then, because he’s not so good at beating around the bush, he blurts, “I made out with a sixteen year-old last night.”

There’s a pause. Then Bucky says, “Damn. Were you drunk? Were you both drunk?”

“No, we were both sober,” Steve says.

“She must have been fine,” Bucky says, still laughing.

“He,” Steve sighs. “It was a boy.”

Bucky knows this about Steve. Steve got caught kissing another boy at high school once and was shoved into a locker. Bucky had tackled the offender and then, after a stern lecture from the principal about violence and a week’s worth of detention, had hit Steve for not telling him. So what he says is: “Was he cute?” Drawing out the last word.

“Bucky,” Steve says sternly.

“Alright, alright,” Bucky says, dropping his joking tone.

“It gets worse,” Steve tells him.

“Steve, did you-”

“No!” Steve interrupts. “It got…it got heavy but, we didn’t.”

Bucky gives a low whistle. “You don’t normally work this fast.”

“I know,” Steve says, feeling a bit desperate. “We were on a date, and he was upset, and things got…away.”

“Okay one: you upset him on a date and tried to make it better with almost-sex? And two: you’re dating a sixteen year-old?”

“Maybe?” Steve murmurs. “I think I want to be. I just…is that okay?”

“It’s okay,” Bucky says, sounding sure of it. “You really like ‘im, huh?”

“I do,” Steve admits. It’s even scarier out loud than it was in his head.

“Tell me all about him,” Bucky insists.

Steve laughs and lets the world and worries fall away as he describes Tony, leaving out his last name, to Bucky. It’s like he’s back home for a while, gossiping. They talk until Bucky declares that he will die if he doesn’t get a sandwich, Steve laughs and lets him go, getting up to get lunch for himself.

Emotionally, lunch goes considerably better than breakfast.

 


Steve feels like the ball’s in his court now, so to speak, in regards to Tony, since Tony was the one who called him last. But he can’t help but hesitate. Yes, he likes Tony and he’s rather sure that Tony likes him, but every time he looks at his phone and considers calling Tony, he chickens out. He can’t explain it to himself, Bucky had laughed when he’d tried. “Dude, you’re like a twelve year-old, twirling her hair around her finger as she worries about just how much her boyfriend really likes her,” he’d said. “He told you to call him, he’s into you, so just do it!”

But Steve had panicked and he hadn’t, and now it’s been about a week since he and Tony had gone out, and now he has feelings of guilt on top of everything else.

So when he phone rings and Tony’s name shows up on the caller ID he panics, shouts, and throws his phone across the room.

“Shit,” he says, getting up and crossing the room quickly, grabbing the phone on a slide. “Hello?” he says, hoping Tony hasn’t hung up yet.

“Hey!” Tony says, sounding pleased that Steve had answered.

Steve instantly feels worse for not calling sooner. “How are you?” he asks, please that his nervousness doesn’t make him stammer.

“Good,” Tony says, drawing the word out. It sounds like he knows exactly how nervous he makes Steve and delights in teasing him. “So, um,” he hesitates, “do you want to, it’s just, that, I have tickets to the opening of the new gallery at the Met, opening night, all rich people only.” He sounds nervous too now. “Do you wanna come?”

“Yes,” Steve says, almost before Tony gets the whole question out.

Tony laughs.

“I’d love to come,” Steve says, trying to calm himself again. This is ridiculous, how Tony does this to him.

“Cool, I’ll come pick you up?” Tony says.

“Sure,” Steve agrees.

“I’m going to need your address,” Tony points out.

Steve gives to him.

“Alright, see you in a few!” Tony says brightly.

“Wait, are you coming now?”

“Yes? Aren’t you free?”

“I…I am.”

“Then we’re okay! See you soon, Steve!” Tony hangs up.

Steve spends several moments just staring, open mouthed at his phone, before the shock fades and panic takes his place. What is he going to wear? He feels like the occasion calls for a suit, but he doesn’t have one. He does have a pair of black dress slacks, which he puts on, and then he spends fifteen minutes in his undershirt, staring at his selection of button downs and wondering why all of them seem so ugly all of a sudden. He puts on and then takes off three shirts until he settles on a dark blue one, and is just about to take that one off and change it again, when his phone buzzes. Tony is here.

Steve grabs his keys and his wallet and heads out, half walking, half running, excitement and worry mixing into a sort of energized anxiety. When he leaves his building he sees Tony in a three piece suit and sunglasses, looking fantastic, leaning against a shiny black limo, parked in what is definitely not a parking spot.

“Hi,” he says.

“Hi, yourself,” Tony says, grinning.

“I feel underdressed now,” Steve says, eyeing Tony’s suit.

“There’s a suit for you in the back of the car, if you want it,” Tony says. “You only really need a jacket though. And maybe a tie.” Tony reaches out, lightly brushing his fingers against the line a tie would make on Steve’s torso.

Steve shivers.

Tony hesitates and then opens the door for Steve.

“Thank you,” Steve says, sliding into the limo. Once in he has to pause and look around. The back of the limo is extraordinarily spacious. There’s an extending bench of seats, starting off at the doors and continuing across the back of the vehicle across to the door on the opposite side. There’s a small pop-out bar coming out of one side of the limo, the middle area is left wide and spacious, Steve wonders if that’s because of the leg space require if there was a person in each seat.

Tony comes in through the other door and settles a few seats down from Steve. He takes off his sunglasses and smiles at Steve. “There’s a spare suit in your size over there,” he says, gesturing to a bag laid out on the expansive row of seats. “You don’t have to wear it,” he adds hastily.

“You just want to watch me change,” Steve teases.

Tony leers at him. “Maybe,” he agrees.

Steve smiles back, but in the end he’s too shy and bit too overwhelmed to take the whole suit, even if just for the night. He starts thinking about how much it would have cost to get a suit in exactly his size at late notice, but it gives him a headache so he stops. He’s kind of terrified of ruining the suit, but he takes a breath and goes for it, deciding just to switch shirts and take the jacket and tie.

Tony politely looks the other way, out of the tinted window when he notices Steve’s blush as he changes. He glances back over just as Steve is pulling the tie around his neck. “May I?” he asks, reaching a hand out towards Steve.

Steve hesitates, not really sure what Tony is asking, but eventually nods anyways.

Tony smiles and scoots across the seats to get closer to Steve. Steve breath catches in his throat when Tony’s fingers brush against his chest, taking the tie in his hands and tying it for Steve. Steve doesn’t breathe the whole time.

“There,” Tony says, dropping his hands into his lap.

The limo suddenly feels several degrees warmer. Tony and Steve are locked into looking at each other, the tension a palpable thing, when the limo stops suddenly and they’re both jostled.

“We’re here.”

“Thanks, Happy,” Tony says brightly, slipping gracefully out of the limo.

And just like that the spell is broken. Steve also steps out and instantly feels completely out of place among the New York’s rich and famous. Tony, however is smiling at him.

“Come on, gorgeous,” he says, tugging on Steve’s cuff. Steve follows him and Tony hands their tickets to a security guard at the door, who takes them with a grunt and waves them both in.

Once they’re inside Steve starts feeling a little bit more at ease. There are a lot of people here, but not as many as there usually are, and the building is big enough that he doesn’t feel crowded.

Tony’s still smiling at him…which is also nice. “The new art is that way,” he says, pointing.

There’s a good crowd of people in the direction he’s pointing, and mingling and gesturing.

“But we’re allowed to go anywhere we want,” Tony continues.

Steve hesitates, deciding. “Do you want to wander? Come back to the new stuff when there’s less people there?”

“Sure. Lead the way,” Tony says, spinning around so he’s behind Steve.

Steve laughs. “You know, you’re a bit ridiculous,” he tells Tony, heading off down a hallway.

Tony scoffs. “A bit? And I’m rich and smart; I’m not ‘ridiculous’ I’m ‘eccentric’.”

“Ooooh, my mistake.”

“Well what to you know, you’re just a commoner.”

Steve’s not sure if he should be insulted or not, but when he looks over his shoulder Tony is smiling, so he settles on not.

“Stark!”

Tony startles at the address and spins around. Now behind him, Steve sees his posture go tight and he decides to pretending to be studying one of the nearby paintings to eavesdrop.

“Tiberius,” Tony says.

Out of the corner of his eye Steve sees the two shake hands. Tiberius is grinning, but something is slightly off about it. Tony just looks displeased.

“Long time no see,” Tiberius says. “What you been up to?”

“MIT.”

“Still?”

“I’m set to graduate in May. At the top of my class.”

“Ooh, good for you.” Something about the way Tiberius says it makes Steve feel uncomfortable. “Got anyone to, uh, celebrate with?”

“That’s none of your business,” Tony says, his voice an odd mixture of anger and distress.

Tiberius laughs, but it’s cold. “What are you using my teachings for, little Tony?”

Tony’s silent for a long time before he says, “Fuck you.”

“That all you got?”

“No. I also have the knowledge that I’m not a sick freak like you,” Tony spits.

Steve’s kept his eyes focused on the painting but he hears Tony walk away. He follows him slowly, giving Tony space while maintaining the pretense of examining art. Eventually Tony turns into a darker, more abandoned room, and Steve follows, grateful that they’re alone.

Tony’s sitting on a bench, head down and hands clasped on his knees.

“Hey,” Steve says gently.

Tony sighs. “It’s a little early for the exes talk,” he says.

“Well, I thought he was an asshole,” Steve says. “And not as pretty as me.”

Tony laughs and leans into Steve’s side. “You are very pretty.”

“So are you,” Steve returns.

Tony smiles slyly at him and after that it’s really inevitable that they end up making out on the wooden bench, Steve pressed down across it and Tony straddling his hips. Tony’s suit jacket is…somewhere, Steve’s not sure where, and both their shirts are un-tucked. Tony’s is even hanging open at the bottom, his tie still in place and brushing against his stomach when he moves.

“Why do we always end up like this?” Steve asks.

“Are you complaining?” Tony asks. His voice sounds wrecked, hoarse and deep. Steve’s starting to become fairly familiar with the way Tony’s lips and eyes darken with kisses and lust.

“Not complaining at all,” Steve says honestly, voice coming out breathy.

“Then why are we stopping?” Tony whines, leaning down again. The movement lets gravity tug his shirt and tie farther away from his body to brush against Steve.

Steve groans and can’t really remember why he would ever stop kissing Tony. Then Tony’s tongue is in his mouth again and it’s all heat and perfect and really Steve’s wearing too many clothes, and he’s about to shift around to starting getting his shirt off when there’s a clatter and a giggle from the other side of the room.

It kills the mood completely. Tony and Steve come apart with a small noise, heads turning towards the disruption.

It’s another couple, a guy in a tux and a girl in a shimmery dress. They’ve knocked something over and are laughing softly about it, muffling the sound of their laughter with each other’s mouths as they press back against a wall. They don’t seem to know that Tony and Steve are there, hidden in the darkness and behind some plants, but it’s still enough to get to anyone without an exhibitionism kink.

Steve moves to sit up and Tony follows, settling on the other end of the bench, against the rail to let Steve pull his legs out from under him. He buttons his shirt and tucks it, resettling his tie and grabbing his jacket off the ground.

Steve beckons Tony towards him with a finger. Tony comes and Steve puts the jacket on him, brushing off the dust and detritus from the floor. Tony smiles at him and they leave the dark room as softly as possible.

Once they’re out, back in the thick of the party Steve can’t help laughing.

Tony smiles at him.

“We almost got caught,” Steve says. “Not that it really matters, one look at you and I know for certain what you’ve been doing.”

“That’s almost filthy, Steve,” Tony says. “But yeah, I know what you mean.”

“Maybe we should head out,” Steve says, glancing uneasily at the high profile people around them. “If we don’t want weird questions and looks.”

Tony frowns slightly but nods. “We can leave,” he says, heading for the door.

Steve follows, confused by Tony’s sudden brisk pace and hard lines. Once they’re outside he grabs the hem of Tony’s jacket gently, just enough to stop him. “I didn’t mean to upset you,” Steve whispers.

Tony just shrugs. “I’m emotionally volatile sometimes. I know you didn’t mean anything by it.”

Steve thinks fast. He doesn’t want this date to end on a low note. “We can go someplace else,” he offers. “I don’t really want to go home yet.”

Tony beams at him. “Come back to my place?” he asks. “I have movies, if you’re into that.”

“Who isn’t into movies?” Steve teases.

Tony smiles again and heads down the steps, slower now, staying closer to Steve. He climbs back into his limo and raps on the divider. “Home, please, Happy?”

“Of course, boss,” the driver, Happy, responds.

“Thank you, sir,” Steve adds.

Tony gives him a look of fond puzzlement. “Yeah, thanks, Happy.”

“What I’ve never had a driver,” Steve says, crossing his arms defensively.

“You’re very polite,” Tony tells him. “Except to me, sometimes.”

“That’s because I’ve had your tongue in my mouth.”

Tony snorts. “I like you, I do.” His tone borders on joking, but his smile isn’t.

“I like you too,” Steve says softly.

Tony leans in and kisses him and Steve has to push him away after a few moments. “We’ll get carried away again,” Steve explains to Tony’s pout. “With your driver in the car with us.”

“He’s seen me in worse situations,” Tony tells him. It’s not as reassuring as Steve thinks Tony meant it to be.

“So, movies?” he says, changing the subject.

Tony doesn’t call him on the obvious play. “I have every movie it is possible to own. And then some special pre-releases.”

“Let’s watch your favorite,” Steve suggests.

And they do.

 


Tony wakes up still on his couch, the DVD menu still up on the screen, and Steve’s taking up the part of the couch that Tony isn’t on, his socked feet wedged under Tony’s legs. He blinks stupidly at the clock on the wall, when did it get so late? “Steve,” he says, shoving at Steve’s leg. “Steve.”

Steve comes awake more gracefully than anyone Tony’s ever seen before. “Hmm?” he says, hair mussed and face still relaxed.

“We fell asleep watching the movie,” Tony explains.

“Oh,” Steve says. He looks around, taking in the same scene Tony did earlier. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, I was sleeping too.”

“It’s late.” Steve bites his lower lip. “I should go.”

“You don’t have to,” Tony blurts.

Steve frowns. “What do you mean?”

“It’s…” Tony hesitates, trying to put ideas into words. “It’s Saturday, or no, Sunday now,” he amends looking at the clock, “but all the same you don’t have anything tomorrow, right? No class or anything, and I don’t either, and it’s late so you might as well spend the night here.”

Steve looks at him for a few seconds.

Tony focuses on breathing and makes a mental note to work on his nervous babbling.

Then Steve smiles. “Alright,” he says.

Tony can’t help smiling back.

Steve stretches, lying back on the couch. Tony can’t help appreciating the view. “Your couch is more comfortable than any furniture I own anyways.” He yawns as he settles back down.

“You don’t have to sleep on the couch,” Tony protests.

Steve sits back up. “Don’t tell me that you have multiple beds in this place.” He grins cheekily, although it falls just a bit flat.

“No, I don’t,” Tony says. “But you can have my bed.”

Steve shakes his head. “No way am I taking your bed from you.”

Tony rolls his eyes. “You are too polite for your own good,” he says.

“Really, Tony, I’m fine on the couch.”

Tony hesitates before saying, “We can share the bed, you know, if you’re going to be that stubborn.” He bites his lip and holds perfectly still to keep from fidgeting.

Steve looks at him, long and hard. “What are you suggesting?” he asks.

“Just…just sleeping,” Tony says honestly.

“Not sex?”

“Not sex. Unless…do you want sex?”

Steve hesitates. “Do you want sex?”

“I asked you first,” Tony says, looking down at his lap.

“Tony.”

“I did,” Tony insists.

Steve sighs and doesn’t say anything for a long while. Then he says, softly. “In high school I had one steady girlfriend: Peggy. She was the first person I fell in love with, the first person I…the only person I’ve ever slept with. But we were going to different schools and we knew it wouldn’t work.”

Tony frowns. He doesn’t understand why Steve is telling him this. “Do you still love her?” he asks, hesitantly.

“I’ll always love her,” Steve says.

Tony knows that Steve is looking at him, but he doesn’t look up to meet his gaze.

“But…I like you too. I really, really do.”

Tony sighs. “I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not saying it well,” Steve says. He’s silent for a long while, thinking it over. “I loved Peggy,” he says again. “And I enjoyed having sex with her. But I loved her first.”

“And you don’t love me,” Tony says. Part of him knows that’s unfair to say, he does, they’ve only been on two dates.

“I don’t know yet,” Steve says honestly. “I know that I enjoy spending time with you and that I want to spend more time with you. And I know that I find you really attractive and, um, I think I’d really enjoy having sex with you.”

Tony chances a glance up and sees that Steve is now staring at his lap, blushing.

“I mean, I really like it when we, you know, make out and I can’t seem to stop doing it. But I don’t think it’s the right time,” Steve continues. “For sex. I think we should wait.”

“Okay,” Tony agrees. “Just so you know, I really do want to have sex with you. And I haven’t…all the others…” he sighs. “I’ve had one real relationship and it ended badly. Since then it’s been one-night stands.”

Tony forces himself to keeps his eyes up. Steve lifts his eyes from his lap and meets them. “Please say that doesn’t bother you,” Tony says quietly, half hoping Steve won’t hear.

Of course he does.

“It doesn’t,” Steve assures him, scooting closer to Tony so their knees are touching. “And I meant what I’d said. I’d like to have sex with you. I just…I feel like you’re offering because it’s something you think I need.”

Tony shrugs, out of words.

“I’m sorry if I upset you,” Steve says, taking Tony’s face in his hands and kissing his forehead.

Tony shakes his head. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s feeling.

“I’d still like to stay the night, if you’d like me to.”

Tony can’t help smiling. He tilts his face up and kisses Steve. “Just some real sleep together?” he asks, a hopeful feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Sounds good,” Steve says.

They get ready for bed separately; Tony disappears into the bathroom so Steve can get acquainted more with the space of his bedroom.

Steve stands there, feeling horribly awkward. Even though Tony had offered Steve a spare pair of pajamas, he’d declined. His underwear is good enough to sleep in. Now, standing in the middle of Tony’s expansive bedroom, it feels horribly inadequate. Not to mention that Steve is suddenly very self-conscious about his bare chest and very aware of every inch of exposed skin. He’s aware of the plush carpet under his feet, aware of the cold air against his nipples, making them stand up and for some reason that seems horribly mortifying. He resists the urge to cross his arms and hunch over, knowing logically that it would only make him seem sillier.

He’s almost thankful when the door opens and Tony enters, dressed in long pants and a ratty MIT t-shirt. He’s a lot less thankful when Tony starts staring at him, eyes wide and mouth open a little. Steve can’t help blushing. It appears to be the wrong response; if anything Tony seems more focused on him.

Then he seems to realize what he’s doing, and he blinks a few times. “Oh, wow, sorry, but has anyone ever told you that you’re unbelievably hot?” he babbles.

“Thanks,” Steve manages, trying to will his blush away. It doesn’t work. “Can we just…” he trails off, gesturing at the bed. The bed with blankets he can use to cover himself. In retrospect, it probably would have been smarter to be under the covers before Tony came in.

“Sure,” Tony says, smiling gently at Steve as he climbs into the bed. He pats the open area next to him, like Steve wasn’t already half under the covers already. “Light?” he asks, gesturing to the lamp on the bedside table next to Steve’s side of the bed.

“Yeah,” Steve says, reaching over to flick it off. They’re in semi-darkness then, only the light of the city shining through the window. It’s just enough light for Steve to make out Tony’s outline on the bed next to him already settled comfortably into a spot, head nestled into a pillow. “Goodnight,” Steve says, lying down as well.

Tony smiles at him, happy and sleepy. “’Night,” he says.

Steve shuts his eyes and he actually feels really comfortable, Tony’s ridiculously perfect bed notwithstanding. He can sense Tony’s presence beside him, the easy rhythm of his breathing. Steve matches it, and soon his body remembers how tired it was earlier in the evening and he drifts off.

He wakes up warm with a comfortable weight on his chest. The first thought he processes is that the sensation is pleasant. The second thought is much more logical and along the lines of wondering why he isn’t in his bed. Cautiously, he opens his eyes and finds a dark head of hair. After that he slowly remembers that he’d fallen asleep in bed with Tony. It seems that, sometime during the night, Tony had rolled on top of Steve, using him like a body pillow. Steve’s helpless against how sweet he finds it. So he kisses the top of Tony’s head.

Tony stirs against him but doesn’t wake up.

It’s nice and Steve feels himself drifting back towards sleep.

He wakes up again sometime later to Tony grumbling against his neck.

“Wha’?” he says, pushing gently at Tony’s side.

Tony doesn’t move. “Coffee.”

“Go make some,” Steve murmurs, as much as he doesn’t want Tony’s warmth to leave him.

Tony whines, an honest to god spoilt child whine. “I don’t wanna make it I wanna drink it. You go make it,” he says, poking Steve in the ribs.

Steve squirms.  “Stop that,” he says, batting at Tony’s hand. “And no, go make it yourself.”

Steve,” Tony whines again, elongating the vowel sounds.

Tony,” Steve mimics.

Tony whines again, frustrated. Now that he’s waking up more fully Steve actually finds Tony insistence on coffee sort of hilarious.

“Please?” he tries.

“No,” Steve says.

Tony picks his head up from Steve’s neck and sits up partially, pouting.

He looks remarkably like a five year-old not getting his way.

“Do you know how to make coffee?”

“Yes,” Tony humphs.

“Just checking,” Steve says. “Then why are you insistent that I do it?”

“I want you to,” Tony says simply, like that explains everything.

“So?”

Tony actually frowns at Steve, like he’s confused.

Suddenly Steve understands and he can’t help laughing.

“Why are you laughing?” Tony demands, still pouting.

“You really expect someone else to make your morning coffee for you,” Steve says.

“Yes!” Tony insists, sounding frustrated and annoyed.

Steve laughs again and kisses Tony’s pout. “No,” he says again.

“Why not?” Tony insists, hurt and bewildered and frustrated all at once.

“I don’t want to.”

“But…but…” Words fail Tony who just flops to the side dramatically and buries his head in a pillow. “I don’t like words before coffee,” he complains.

“Then go make yourself some,” Steve says, grinning even though no one else can see it. Tony has been thoroughly spoiled and pampered his whole life, and is still half-asleep and pouting and Steve thinks it’s adorable.

“No,” Tony insists, kicking out blindly at Steve. “You do it.”

“Nu-uh,” Steve says, sliding out of bed and walking around to the foot, where he sneaks a hand under the blanket and grabs Tony’s ankle.

Tony actually squeals and wriggles to get away.

“You,” Steve says, tugging at Tony’s ankle and sliding him off the bed, “are a spoiled, selfish ass.”

On the last word he tugs harder and Tony comes off bed. Steve catches him easily and dumps him on the floor.

Tony looks up at him and crosses his arms. “You’re mean.”

“You have the mentality of a toddler,” Steve tells him. “Up.”

Tony frowns at him. “I’m not a toddler,” he says, as if he’s confused. “I’m a genius.”

Steve laughs and Tony frowns harder. “Up,” he says again, offering his hand to help Tony up. “And then make yourself some coffee.”

Tony takes his hand and lets Steve pull him into a standing position. “I hate you,” he grumbles, still pouting.

“Do you really?” Steve asks, feigning deep hurt.

Tony’s not awake enough to see through it. “No!” he says, shaking his head. “No, no, I don’t, I like you.” He puts his hands on Steve’s hips to emphasize his point.

“Insatiable,” Steve says, kissing Tony light and quick.

At least that gets Tony to smile again. “I’m going to get dressed again and gargle some mouth wash and you are going to make us a pot of coffee.”

Tony’s shoulders slump in defeat. “Fine.”

That earns him another kiss. “Good boy,” Steve says.

Tony doesn’t look like he’s quite sure what to make of that, but he smiles and lets Steve go to the bathroom without a complaint. And when Steve comes out again he’s settled at the table, a mug in his hands and a second one at the place next to him.

Steve takes it and holds it in his hands, warming them. Tony’s sitting sideways on the chair, feet tucked under him and facing Steve.

“You’ve never had someone who stayed the night make you get your own coffee,” Steve says, still smiling.

Tony rolls his eyes and shrugs. “Wipe that look of your face. But, no.” He shakes his head. “I am spoiled you’re right about that.”

“Don’t forget selfish. And an ass,” Steve reminds him.

Tony gives him a half-smile. “Now that you’ve seen me in the mornings you really know what you’re getting into. Sure you want more dates?”

“I’m sure.”

And he is.

And they do.

They date for months. Steve makes a friend of James Rhodes through Tony and football, and gets used to practicing late with another boy named Sam Wilson, who runs like the wind and Luke Cage who is built like a tank. Steve likes them both, and he eventually ends up telling them about Tony. Sam doesn’t have a grand reaction and Steve likes him even more. Luke makes some vague comments that make Steve think that he might actually be having a three-way relationship with another boy and a girl, which is okay. Tony succeeds at absolutely everything and proclaims that he’s made MIT his bitch. Steve assures Tony that he is very proud.

Soon they start learning each other. They both take the other one some corny, romantic dates, Steve because he’s genuinely romantic and Tony because he’s overcompensating and do what others do. Eventually they both realize that they both like staying-in together and not doing much of anything. After the third time Steve sleeps over only because he wants an excuse to hold a warm, sleepy Tony in his arms, he realizes that this is a Serious Relationship. Close on the heels of that is the realization that he’s fallen in love with Tony. Tony who’s silly and demanding in the mornings and a complete spoiled brat sometimes. Tony who takes him on romantic dates with a little smile on his face and enjoys kissing Steve as much as Steve likes kissing him. Tony who likes to talk about robots and math and things Steve doesn’t understand, but studied up on football and art and things Steve likes so he can talk to him about them. Tony who’s brilliant and sweet and charming. Even when he’s being an ass.

Steve buries his face in Tony’s hair almost embarrassed by his own thoughts. He slides out of bed, feeling strangely giddy, and decides that just this once he’ll make Tony’s coffee for him.

As if called by the smell of coffee grinds, Tony comes stumbling into the kitchen just as Steve’s finished pouring him a mug.

“Good morning,” Steve says, holding out the mug.

Tony blinks at it, rubs his eyes, and doesn’t take it. “Why did you leave?” he asks.

“I made you coffee,” Steve says, presenting the mug again.

Tony’s face transforms into a wide smile and he takes the mug with obvious glee. He inhales the coffee and smiles again, small and sweet and happy. “I love you,” he says.

Steve would think it’s a throw away comment, a thank you for the coffee or maybe even to the coffee except that Tony stiffens like he’s just realized what he said and drops the coffee mug. “Shit,” he says, dropping to his knees and carefully picking up a piece of ceramic.

“Here, I’ll help,” Steve says gently, kneeling across from Tony.

“I’m sorry,” Tony murmurs.

“It’s just a cup,” Steve assures him. “It’s your cup.”

Tony goes silent and continues picking up pieces of the broken cup.

“Hey, hey, look at me,” Steve says, reaching out to cup his hand around Tony’s chin. Right after his own revelation Steve’s actually a bit stunned, and he wonders if Tony had even realized before now that he was in love with Steve.

Tony looks up at him and Steve sees him visibly swallow.

He leans forward and kisses Tony gently. “Hey, I love you too, okay?” When he pulls back he sees Tony smiling again.

“Yeah?” he says.

“Yeah.” Steve leans forward to kiss Tony again.

Tony giggles against his mouth afterwards. “I’m sorry about the cup,” he says.

Steve shrugs. “It’s just a cup,” he says again.

“I’m sorry I freaked out.”

“Stop apologizing and kiss me back.”

“The last person I said that to, romantically, was Tiberius,” Tony admits in the quiet after they break apart. “He laughed. Guess I should have figured out it wasn’t a good relationship when he never said it to me, huh?”

“Tiberius?” Steve repeats, frowning. “The jerk from that art show?”

Tony laughs hollowly, rubbing the back of his neck. “Yeah. My evil ex.”

Steve can’t help a low growl. “He was mean to you.”

Tony nods. “I thought he liked me though. I don’t know. I guess I sort of expected people to be mean to me? I grew out of that stage.”

“Don’t ever let me be mean to you,” Steve says.

“I don’t think you could be,” Tony murmurs, already leaning in for another kiss.

They end up making out on the kitchen floor. Steve pulls away eventually, once Tony’s hand gets in his pants and gasps, “No, not yet.”

“But,” Tony looks genuinely upset, “sex is supposed to follow declarations like that, come on.” He grinds forward, rocking his cock against Steve’s and yes, that’s good.

“No, no, Tony, no ‘supposed to’s.” Steve stops Tony with a hand on his chest. “We’re not supposed to do anything.”

Tony rolls off of Steve and flops onto his back. He makes a thud on the hard floor, but doesn’t show any pain. “You are such a cock block,” he complains, glaring at Steve.

“Sorry,” Steve says. “Maybe I want to marry you first.”

Tony flings an arm over his eyes. “Oh god it’s going to be years,” he whines.

Steve laughs and flicks at a lock of hair.

Tony sits up again and flicks back, laughing.

But the problem isn’t resolved right then and there. Tony keeps pushing, Steve keeps resisting. Tony gives each time, but Steve knows that soon he won’t, that he’ll push Steve until he understands or gets what he wants.

What he wants, but not what he needs, Steve thinks.

So he pulls back the next time he feels the heat start to almost suffocate him.

Tony huffs when Steve pulls back. “What?” he demands. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry,” Steve says, stroking gently up and down Tony’s arm.

“Why?” Tony asks, crossing his arms. He’d deny that he’s pouting.

“You know why,” Steve says softly, reaching out for Tony again.

Tony bats his hand away, but doesn’t move, still straddled across Steve’s thighs. “No, I really fucking don’t.”

Steve sighs, grasping the back of his worn, ugly couch in one hand to pull himself into a sitting position. The position puts Tony in his lap, which, combined with his pout and crossed arms makes him look almost like a child. Which is exactly the problem. “You’re sixteen, Tony.” They’ve had this argument before. It’s always ended with Tony dropping it and storming out. Steve really doesn’t want it to go that way again.

“So? I’m about to graduate from fucking MIT. I’ve done this before, Steve, come on,” Tony insists grinding his hips forward.

Steve’s breath catches in his throat and Tony smiles, rocking forward again. “Come on.”

“No,” Steve says, grabbing Tony’s hips. “Stop.”

Tony does and now he looks genuinely upset, rather than angry. At least that makes it look like the argument is going different places.

“You’re sixteen, Tony. And I don’t care that you’re a super genius or that you’re in college, it doesn’t negate the fact that you are only sixteen years old. You don’t,” Steve sighs, frustrated in his lack of ability to say what he means. “There are laws for a reason, Tony.”

“It’s just sex,” Tony protests. “Besides, sixteen is the age of consent in New York, so technically you’re not doing anything illegal. And I have the experience, I’m not a virgin, you know.”

“I don’t want it to be just sex, not between us,” Steve says. “Besides, you’re misunderstanding me. I don’t care that you’ve already had sex, that actually makes me feel worse, Tony. I’d be taking advantage of you.”

Tony frowns. “It’s not taking advantage of me if I want it,” he insists.

“It is,” Steve argues, cupping his hand around Tony’s cheek.

“It wasn’t before, I wanted it. We both enjoyed ourselves.”

Steve suppresses his growl. He’s both frustrated with Tony’s lack of understanding and annoyed that he’d bring up past lovers. “Tony, tell me,” he says instead, purposefully making his voice gentle, “how old were you?”

“Fourteen.”

Steve fights down irrational feelings of anger and the desire to rip this person, he’s sure it’s Tiberius, the evil ex, limb from limb. “And how old were they?”

“Twenty-three.”

Jesus, Tony,” Steve hisses, unable to stop himself. That’s statutory rape, no matter how he looks at it. It makes his stomach churn.

Tony flinches away from Steve, hard to do since he’s still, for all intents and purposes, sitting in Steve’s lap. But he doesn’t get off and move, he’s standing his ground in a way. “I’m not a slut,” he says, chin up and eyes flashing. Tony’s gearing up for a real fight, but Steve doesn’t want to give him that.

“I wasn’t implying that,” he says, voice low and calm. “But what happened afterwards, why isn’t he in the picture anymore?”

Tony’s eyes go dim before he breaks Steve’s gaze and his whole body slouches a bit. “Sold me out to the tabloids,” he mumbles. “PR reps got it to seem like it was all bogus and it blew over, but.” Tony shrugs. “I told you before that my only relationship ended badly.”

“Oh, Tony,” Steve says, grabbing his hand. “How can you think Tiberius didn’t take advantage of you?”

Tony shrugs. “I wanted to.”

Steve frowns, part of him totally blindsided by how sad that was to hear. Tony’d been betrayed and hurt by someone he’d trusted most and he acts like it was nothing. “Why?”

“It felt good. He wanted it, and so did I. It made us so both feel good and happy, so…why the fuck does it matter?” Tony squirms, like he wants to get up and get away but is too stubborn to.

“Tony,” Steve says, tugging on his hand. “Tony, look at me.” He doesn’t continue until Tony makes eye contact with him. “You make me happy. Just being with you. I like it when you smile at me and when you go on and on about things I don’t understand, because you’re so passionate about everything you do, Tony, it’s fascinating to watch you work.”

“What are you trying to say?” Tony asks, looking bewildered and hurt all at once.

“That I love you, and you make me happy and make me feel good just by being with me. That’s all I want. We never have to have sex, we never have to do more than kiss. I can wait, Tony.”

Tony frowns at Steve. “Am I not…I mean, do you not want to have sex with me? Is that what this is really about?”

“Tony, you know that’s not true.” Steve can feel Tony’s leg pressed against his crotch, and even if he’s starting to calm down it’s pretty obvious that having Tony in his lap is exciting.

“I don’t get it.”

“There. Exactly.”

“What?”

“That’s why we can’t do this yet.”

“Because…I don’t get it?”

“Yes.”

Tony’s brows furrows and he bites his lip, and Steve smiles because it’s the exact face he makes when he’s working on a complex math or engineering problem.

“You’re smart. You’ll get it, let’s work through it, step by step,” Steve says.

Tony frowns at the familiar line and then rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine.”

Steve can’t help his little smile. Contrary Tony is endearing. “Why do you want to have sex with me, Tony?”

Tony gives him a spectacular bitch face. “Have you looked in the mirror ever?”

“You want to have sex with me because of the way I look,” Steve says, purposely misunderstanding and feigning hurt.

“No,” Tony says, rolling his eyes because he knows Steve is faking. “Not just that.”

“Why else?” Steve prompts.

“Sex feels good. It’s fun. And I’m tired of jerking off.”

“You could find a different attractive person to go have sex with,” Steve points out, even though he hates the idea.

But the lines of Tony’s body relax and Steve knows he gets it.

“I want to have sex with you because you’re you. And you don’t want to have sex with me because you don’t think that I mean that.”

“I know you mean it. I just think we should wait. I can’t help but feeling like you’re pushing for sex because you think it’s something we’re supposed to be doing, or need to do. I want to wait until you want to for no reason other than being closer to each other, alright?”

Tony nods. “Okay,” he agrees quietly.

Gently, Steve threads his fingers through Tony’s hair and kisses him. It’s slow and sweet and lasts until Tony has to pull back to gasp for air.

“So beautiful,” Steve murmurs, leaning forward to kiss Tony’s throat. “I love you so much.”

Tony blinks at him. “What?”

“It’s not the first time I’ve said it,” Steve says, even though he can’t help blushing a little, hiding his face in Tony’s neck.

“No, but, why did you say it?” Tony presses, tugging on Steve’s hair to get him to look at him.

Steve obeys the tug, looking Tony in the eyes again. Tony looks like he’s searching his face, Steve doesn’t know what for. “Is this a big deal?”

“I don’t know. Is it? Why did you say it, right then?”

“I wanted to? I just, I do, you know, love you, and I just wanted to tell you, does it bother you?”

“You just…wanted to let me know?” Tony repeats, looking baffled.

“Yes.”

“Oh.” Tony averts his eyes and doesn’t say anything more.

Steve falls silent too, stroking gently down Tony’s arms. Tony is making little hitching noises as he breathes.

“Are you okay?” Steve can’t help himself.

Tony nods. “Um,” he says, looking totally lost.

“Shh, it’s okay, Tony. I’m sorry.”

Tony shakes his head. “Don’t be sorry,” he croaks.

“Tony, what’s wrong?”

Tony’s breath hitches and then he takes his arms out of Steve’s grip and buries his face in his hands.

“Tony? Sweetheart? What did I say? Was…was that too heavy? Too real? Too something?”

Tony’s breath hitches oddly again and Steve realizes what’s wrong. Tony’s crying. Steve’s never seen Tony cry before.

“Oh, Tony,” Steve says, pulling Tony down to his chest. “Shh, shh.”

They stay that way; Tony curled up against Steve’s chest, Steve petting down his trembling shoulders, until Tony starts squirming.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “You can let me go now.”

“I don’t want to.”

“This is embarrassing.”

“Talk to me.”

“No.”

“Tony,” Steve sing-songs.

Tony grumbles. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

“Tony, don’t be sorry. Just talk to me.”

Tony sighs. “You surprised me.”

“How?”

“I just never…I don’t know it just hit me what you were saying and then I realized that I’d never heard it before, and,” Tony takes a deep breath. “Sorry, I just got overwhelmed.”

Steve kisses the top of Tony’s messy head.

“This turned really mushy.”

Steve laughs. “Is that alright?”

“Yeah,” Tony says quietly.

“Sit up?”

Tony does, wiping his face as he does so. Steve leans up and forwards, kissing Tony on the mouth, on the cheeks, on the forehead, and on the tip of his nose.

Tony wrinkles his nose and laughs.

Steve smiles and wraps his arms around Tony. “Was that too much?”

“No,” Tony says. “It was sweet.” Then he frowns, and shifts around on Steve’s lap. “Does my age really bother you that much?”

“Tony, I wouldn’t be dating you if I didn’t think that you were my equal.”

“Okay then.” Tony smiles. “Once I turn eighteen though, will you take me at my word?”

“Yes.”

Tony beams. “Well that was all very exhausting and meaningful, want to go get food?”

Steve laughs. “Sure.”

“My treat,” Tony says, climbing off of Steve’s lap.

They stumble through Tony’s door afterwards, kissing and run straight into Pepper.

She puts her hands on her hips but she’s smiling.

“What are you doing here, Pepper?” Tony asks, straightening out of Steve’s grip.

“Looking for you,” Pepper replies evenly. “You’re late for a SI meeting.”

“I’m not part of the company,” Tony protests.

“You are and you have a pitch today, remember?”

“Oh, yeah,” Tony says. “Sorry, babe,” he goes up on his toes and kisses Steve. “Stay here? We can have dinner.”

“Alright, Tony,” Steve agrees.

“Now, march,” Pepper orders, actually pushing Tony out of the door.

Steve can’t help laughing a little bit. Pepper is a force to be reckoned with, but he’s pretty sure Tony’s life would be a mess without her.

It doesn’t take too long before Steve gets used to Pepper opening the door when he goes over to Tony’s apartment. “Do you live here too?” he asks her once.

She laughs. “No. But I do live in the building. I just like getting Tony dressed up for his dates.”

Steve smiles at her. “I suppose I owe you a thank you then.”

They’re friends too, in their own way, besides the connection with Tony. Pepper is clearly a genius in her own way; Steve learns that she’s top of her business classes. When Steve tells her that he’s hesitating over declaring an art major Pepper demands to see his sketches. He shows her some, some he hasn’t even shown Tony yet. Of course, those are mostly of Tony.

Pepper tells him that they’re amazing. “You can tell the way you feel about him just by looking at these, Steve. They’re incredible.”

Steve can’t help blushing. “There’s a reason I haven’t shown him the drawings of him,” he says.

“You haven’t?” Pepper says. “You should.”

“I don’t know,” Steve says, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Show him,” Pepper says firmly, handing Steve his portfolio back.

Steve looks at the portfolio for a long moment, thinking, until Tony comes into the room.

“Are you guys plotting something?” he asks.

Steve puts the portfolio back in his jacket and stands up, turning to face Tony.

“Because that would be scary,” Tony continues. “The two of you could really do some damage if you tried to take over the world or something.”

“No hostile takeovers, promise,” Steve says.

“If you were to become an evil overlord, would that make me your sex slave?”

Steve huffs and flicks Tony lightly on the forehead.

“I have to go, bye, Tony,” Pepper says, placing a hand on his arm.

“You don’t have to, we’re leaving.”

“I have plans, Tony. I do have a social circle that includes people who aren’t you.”

“Pepper, do you have a date?”

“Goodnight, Tony. Bye, Steve,” Pepper says, shutting the door behind her.

“Is it bad that I want to go spy on her date?” Tony asks.

“Careful,” Steve says, taking Tony’s hips in his hands. “Keep giving attention to Pepper like that and someone might get the wrong idea. Think you’re interested in her. And then someone might get jealous.”

“Mmm,” Tony says, stepping closer, “and would that someone then make it very obvious who I should be giving my attention to?”

“I’ll make it difficult for you to forget,” Steve says, pulling Tony flush against him and bending his head to bite at his collarbone.

Tony gasps and Steve holds him still as he nibbles and sucks until there’s a hickey blooming under the collar of Tony’s shirt. When he pulls back and looks at Tony’s face, his eyes are hazy and his pupils are blown.

“Pepper who?” Tony rasps.

Steve smiles at him. “You? Me? Dinner?”

“Gimme a sec,” Tony says, still slightly breathless. He takes several deep breaths and then sighs, giving his head a little shake. “Okay.”

Steve laughs and pushes Tony out the door, smacking his ass for good measure.

Tony looks over his shoulder at him and smirks and they end up pawing each other the whole way to the car.

“I wanted to talk about something,” Tony says, at dinner, spinning spaghetti with his fork.

“Okay,” Steve says, putting his food down to listen.

Tony fidgets some more before saying, “I turn seventeen this month.”

“I know.”

“Did you mean what you said?” Tony asks, looking up from his plate intensely. “That you’d take me seriously if I asked for sex on my birthday?”

Steve opens his mouth and then closes it. It’s suddenly gone dry. “Yes, yes I meant it.”

Tony grins. “Okay good.” He goes back to his food, happy.

Steve shakes his head and does the same. Honestly he’d probably give into Tony as soon as tonight. But having a date for it is kind of exciting. And he starts getting impatient, the more he thinks about it. He’s excited when he shows up at Tony’s that day, he feels like he’s humming already with energy and lust.

Tony answers the door almost before the doorbell is done ringing.

Steve grins at him. “Happy Birthday,” he says, handing Tony a present.

“Thanks,” Tony says, smiling back.

Steve dips his head and kisses Tony, deep and filthy. He means for it to be a teaser, he really didn’t intend to jump Tony as soon as he was through the door, but then Tony wraps his arms around Steve’s neck and bounces up; Steve catches him by the ass and holds him up, stumbling back with the sudden weight. They slam back against the door. It’s cool and firm against Steve’s back, a contrast to the warmth and pliancy of Tony’s body pressed against his front. Tony grinds forward against Steve’s abs and Steve groans and bites Tony’s lips.

“I…was going to…romance you…tonight,” Steve pants against Tony’s neck as he sucks kisses down it.

“You promised,” Tony manages to gasp.

“I did, I did.” Steve jostles Tony a bit, stretching out his left arm for Tony to use almost like a bench as he sticks his right hand between them and manages to get Tony’s jeans open.

Tony whines, high and breathy, shifting around in the new hold. “Don’t…don’t drop me.”

“Promise.” Steve slides down the door to the floor so Tony can rest back against his thighs and he can get a better grip on Tony’s cock. Then he kisses Tony, jerking him fast and rough.

Tony pants against Steve’s mouth, making choked little noises and whines. “Oh, oh, fuck, Steve…”

“C’mon,” Steve says, swiping his thumb over the head of Tony’s cock. “You like it? Talk to me, Tony.”

“Yes,” Tony says, rocking up into Steve’s hand. He throws his head back, and then it falls forward again against Steve’s collarbone, like he can’t decide what his body wants to do. “So…so good. I’m gonna…ah, close, I’m close.”

“So soon?” Steve teases. The air is already too hot, too thick and heavy with the smell and feel of sex for him to get a proper breath in. It’s not too soon, not really.

Tony makes a noise almost like an angry cat. “So mean,” he whines.

“Am not,” Steve protests, tightening his grip on Tony’s cock and twisting his fist back and forth as he strokes up and down.

Tony makes a garbled noise. “Not mean,” he amends. “You’re good, very good.”

“Yeah? Come for me, Tony.”

Tony does, with a breathy whine, across their shirts. He goes boneless afterwards, and Steve lets him just breathe as he rests his head on Steve’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” Tony mumbles, mouthing at Steve’s neck.

Steve hums, turning his head to kiss Tony’s. Gently he lifts Tony’s head off his shoulder and strips them both of their shirts.

“You didn’t come,” Tony notes, frowning at Steve’s crotch.

Steve laughs. “That’s alright, I will later, that was about making you feel good.”

“Do you want me to get you off?” Tony asks, squirming in Steve’s lap.

“You don’t have to,” Steve says.

“I want to.” Tony flicks his eyes down and then he has Steve’s pants and underwear out of the way, and his cock in his hand in one smooth motion.

Steve’s head falls back against the door with a thump. “Well, in that case.”

Tony smirks at him and leans forward, flicking his tongue across one of Steve’s nipples.

“Nngh.”

Tony smiles and then shifts, moves his thigh in between Steve’s for him to rub against, and leans up to suck at the underside of Steve’s jaw, all while his other hand skirts up Steve’s torso to play with his nipples.

Steve grinds his hips forwards.

Tony grinds back and Steve can feel him already half-hard again against his hip.

Steve worms his hand between them and grabs hold of Tony’s cock. “Already?” he teases.

“I’m young and healthy,” Tony gasps into his mouth.

“Together,” Steve says, working Tony’s cock hard and fast until it’s properly hard in his fist. Then he takes Tony’s hand in his, pulls them both away, and switches to grinding.

“Oh,” Tony gasps. “Oh, that’s, yes.”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees. The air is even thicker and hotter than before, the smell of sweat and sex stronger, and Steve can feel himself getting close.

Tony shudders and Steve knows he’s far gone too; he starts babbling, words and numbers and…equations?

“Are you doing math?” Steve demands.

“Huh? I don’t…what?” Tony pulls his head forwards again and blinks his eyes into focus on Steve with what looks like an effort.

“Nothing,” Steve says, disregarding it as a quirk. He finds he rather likes it. “I love how noisy you are.”

Tony makes a strangled sounding noise in his throat, which Steve kisses, just to feel the vibrations against his lips.

“Come for me, Tony, come for me, come all over me, come with me, come on,” Steve murmurs.

Tony chokes on his own breath as he orgasms, body going tight before his head falls forward and he bites into Steve’s shoulder.

Steve follows after him, tightening his grip on Tony’s hips. Once he’s back in his head, he reaches out and grabs his shirt, wiping down their bellies.

Tony grunts.

“Still sensitive?”

Tony doesn’t respond.

Steve just holds him as he comes back into himself. “Worth the wait?” he asks when Tony sits up straighter.

“Yes. But there will be more, right?”

Steve laughs. “We can see how close you can get to seventeen orgasms.”

“Sounds like a good plan,” Tony says, kissing Steve wetly.

“Mmm, I thought you had something planned,” Steve says, pulling away even as his hands settle on Tony’s hips again.

“Oh, um…” Tony squirms on Steve’s lap. “I may have booked us a hotel suite?”

Steve can’t help himself. “Are you serious?”

“Well, I didn’t know what would happen when or where!” Tony says, folding his arms defensively.

Steve shakes his head. Sometimes Tony’s casual spending of large sums of money still surprises him.

“We don’t have to go,” Tony says, looking sheepish.

Steve curls forward and kisses Tony’s belly.

Tony squirms again. Something about it is absurdly charming.

“Let’s go,” Steve says. “But open your present first.”

“Oh yeah!” Tony says, scrambling off Steve’s lap, shucking his pants but pulling up his boxers and grabbing the present from the ground.

Steve stands, buttoning himself up again and follows Tony to the couch. He can’t help himself; he’s happy and relaxed, and he pulls Tony into his lap.

Tony squawks, but settles back against Steve’s chest.

Steve kisses his neck.

“You really didn’t have to get me anything,” Tony says, blushing up his neck. For all his bluster and confidence, Tony is always awkward when it comes to genuine compliments and kindness.

“I wanted to,” Steve says, nuzzling at his blush.

Tony rips off the wrapping paper and then stares. He goes silent for so long that Steve starts to worry.

“Tony?”

“Shh, I’m having a moment.”

It’s a leather portfolio, a nice one. The first page is mostly blank, Steve had wanted to write a letter, but didn’t know what to say, and ended up with nothing but Tony’s name in the corner. In the bottom right corner he’d scribbled his signature, but that’s all. Tony’s quiet as he turns the page. His eyes widen as he looks at his own face. He continues flipping, silent and serious all the while. It’s the drawings that Steve’s never shown Tony, some he’s only shown Pepper and some he’s never shown anyone. Close-ups of Tony’s eyes, of his face, his hands, wide shots of Tony at work, Tony huddled in Steve’s jacket, looking out at something through his glasses.

When he’s done flipping through the pages, Tony turns around to face Steve and gapes a little.

“Well?” Steve says, unaccountably nervous.

“You have to declare an art major,” Tony says. Then he kisses Steve, somehow soft and hard all at the same time. “Thank you,” he says after he pulls back.

“You like them?”

“Of course. I’ve never…do you really see me like that?”

“Of course I do.”

Tony runs his fingers along the portfolio again. He smiles and settles back against Steve. “Thank you,” he says again.

“You’re welcome.”

Tony stops running his fingers over the portfolio and tangles them with Steve’s.

 “Happy birthday, Tony,” Steve says, running the fingers of his other hand through Tony’s hair.

“Yeah, it is, isn’t it?” Tony tilts his head back and smiles. “Thanks.”

“I’m glad you like them. I wasn’t really sure what to get you.”

“You didn’t have to get me anything.”

“It’s your birthday; I wanted to get you something. But, you know, billionaire and everything, figured I should make you something.”

“I didn’t know you ever drew me.”

Steve can’t help blushing himself. “I didn’t know what you’d think about them.”

“Did you really think I wouldn’t like them?”

“I sort of thought you might think it was weird,” Steve says. “I know it was silly.”

“Will you draw me while I pose?” Tony asks.

“Sure,” Steve says, taken aback. “You really want to model for me?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ll have to stay still. I know that can be difficult for you.”

Tony frowns at him. “I can be still,” he protests, pouting.

Steve chuckles, kissing Tony’s pout. “We’ll do it,” he promises. He’s actually sort of…happy about the fact that Tony wants to model for him. “But first, you mentioned something about a hotel?”

Tony smiles shyly at him. “We have a suite for tonight. If we want it.”

“You mean a large room with a large, soft, comfortable bed?”

Tony laughs. “With sheets you don’t have to clean. And a private bathroom with fluffy towels.”

“Sounds good to me,” Steve says. “Are the walls thick?”

“Very. And the staff is very discreet.”

“Sounds perfect.”

Tony beams at him and Steve kisses him again.

“You’re going to need pants I think,” Steve says, snapping the waistband of Tony’s boxers.

“Not for long, I hope,” Tony says.

“Insatiable.”

“You’ve kept me waiting.”

“Well, get dressed and we can get going.”

Tony smiles and slides off Steve’s lap, heading for his pants on the floor. “I think you’re going to need a new shirt,” Tony says, picking up Steve’s soiled shirt.

Steve grimaces at it. “Yeah,” he agrees.

“I’ll get you one,” Tony says, running off to his room.

Steve can’t help laughing as he scampers off.

“Here, you ungrateful ass,” Tony says, coming back with a clean shirt of his own and throwing a second shirt at Steve.

Steve catches the shirt easily, chuckling as he pulls it on. When his head emerges from the shirt he sees that Tony’s staring openly at him. “Like what you see?”

“Oh yes,” Tony breathes. “Now I understand why you give me your jacket all the time.”

Steve smiles, and hooks his fingers in Tony’s belt loops to pull him closer. “I’m yours,” he says lowly.

Tony grins at him, running a finger over where the edge of the t-shirt is stretched over Steve’s biceps. “It’s too small on you,” he points out, voice rough.

“The faster we get going the faster you can take it off of me,” Steve offers, fighting down a wave of arousal.

“Good plan,” Tony says, stepping away. “Let’s go.”

The drive to the hotel is an agonizing test of patience. Steve finds himself wishing that he’d insisted on driving, at least it’d give him something to do with his hands. Sitting less than a foot away from Tony, in Tony’s car and surrounded by Tony’s scent, with nothing to focus on but Tony is maddening. Talking will just make it worse because that will add Tony’s voice to the mix.

Tony makes a sharp turn into the side alley next to the hotel and hands a couple of bills and his car keys to the uniformed man standing next to the door.

“Thank you,” Steve says.

The man nods.

Tony’s already through the door and halfway down the hallway beyond.

Steve hurries after him, stopping just short of Tony’s personal space bubble and clasping his hands behind his back to stop himself from reaching out to touch. He’s pretty sure that once he starts he won’t be able to stop.

They enter the lobby through a side door instead of the main one. There are a few people milling around, but the actual check-in time has long past so there aren’t many. Soft, generic music is playing through hidden speakers and everything is gleaming, all soft golds accentuated by the warm lighting above them. But what Steve really notices is how good the golden glow looks on Tony’s skin.

“Come on,” Tony says, tugging at Steve’s hand. The warmth from his hand shoots through Steve, from his hand to his face to his groin and he can’t help blushing slightly and he swallows hard and nods. He watches Tony’s eyes focus on his Adam’s apple for a second and he has to take a step to the side before they start going at each other in the middle of the hotel lobby.

Tony’s eyes swivel back to the front desk, and he marches up to it determinedly, pulling Steve along in his wake. “Tony Stark,” he says, voice tight, “checking in.”

The clerk behind the desk nods and starts typing away on her keyboard.

Steve can feel Tony’s fingers beating nervous patterns against his palm.

“ID?” the clerk asks.

“Oh!” Tony says, reaching around to his back pocket and pulling out his wallet. “Here you go.”

The clerk looks at the ID framed in his wallet nods and goes back to typing.

Tony breathes out through his nose. Steve can feel him practically vibrating, all excited energy with nowhere to go.

“How many room keys will you be needing, sir?” the clerk asks, glancing as Steve as he does so.

“Just one will be fine, thanks,” Tony says, stepping slightly to the side as if to block Steve from view.

“Here you are then,” the clerk says, handing a small envelope to Tony. “Enjoy your stay.”

“I will,” Tony assures him, already backing away from the desk and heading to the row elevators.

Steve follows, the same frantic energy that’s going through Tony flowing through him too. He lets go of Tony’s hand as the elevator dings its arrival.

Tony looks at him, confused and maybe a little hurt as they get in the elevator.

“If we’re alone in a small space and I’m touching you we might end up making out in the elevator,” Steve explains.

Tony laughs, short and quick. “That doesn’t sound so bad,” he points out.

“Well I was hoping we’d make it to the bed,” Steve says.

“It does sound more comfortable,” Tony agrees.

Steve has never been so grateful to hear a corny dinging noise in his life.

Tony’s out of the elevator like a shot, and Steve follows him. Distantly he notes that just the hallway of the hotel is grand and doubtlessly expensive, but he’s much more interested in Tony’s ass in front of him. “Come on,” he groans when Tony fumbles the room key.

“I’m sorry,” Tony grumbles, succeeding on opening the door the second time. “Impatient are we?” he says stepping fluidly into the room, smirk on his face.

Steve doesn’t hesitate before taking Tony’s hips in his hand and spinning him around. Tony slams into the door, forcing it shut with a bang. Tony moans as Steve fastens his mouth over Tony’s. Some part of Steve had been worried that, once they were actually in the hotel room, things would become awkward and stunted. He shouldn’t have worried. Tony’s already making breathy little gasps against Steve’s mouth and grinding against him.

“What were you saying about a bed?” Tony pants when Steve moves his mouth from Tony’s to suck at his neck. “It’s…it’s over there.”

Steve figures Tony is pointing but he’s much more interested in the bruise forming where he’d been sucking at Tony’s skin. “Let’s use it,” he says, taking a step back and pulling Tony with him.

Tony follows his pull easily, one hand tangled in the hair at the top of Steve’s neck and the other running up and down his back, dipping lower than the touch normally warrants, brushing down over Steve’s ass through his jeans. Steve really, really wishes he wasn’t wearing jeans. They stumble along, hindered by the fact that their mouths keep finding each other and diverting them.

“I don’t know where the bed is,” Steve admits, breathless after Tony’s lips leave his. He actually hasn’t looked at a thing in the room, except Tony.

Tony laughs, sounding equally breathless. “I’ll guide you,” he says. “Step back.”

Steve does so, letting his feet slide over the soft carpet.

“Now right. No, sorry, my right, your left.”

Steve laughs and takes two steps then, to correct the error.

“Yeah, good,” Tony says, licking his lips.

Steve feels his breath catches in his throat and suddenly the room is far too warm and his clothes are too tight. “Please tell me we’re close to the bed.” He unclenches his hands from Tony’s hips and takes his shirt off. He drops it right where he is, no care at all where his clothes land.

Tony doesn’t answer for a while, his breathing now hard and fast and suddenly, he moves forward, pushing Steve ahead of him.

Steve yelps and then his legs hit the edge of the bed and, gratefully, he falls back onto it. The bed is amazingly soft and it bounces a little.

Tony lets out a little giggle and wastes no time in crawling into Steve’s lap and trying to suck his tongue out of his mouth.

Steve can’t help moaning, running his hands up Tony’s sides once, twice, before slipping them under his shirt and continuing the pattern. His thumb rubs against a nipple on his third slow pass and Tony gasps, choking on his breath. “More,” he whines.

Steve pushes Tony’s shirt farther up in response, it gets caught under Tony’s armpits briefly before he catches on and lifts them, helping Steve push his shirt up and over his head. In gratitude Steve fastens one mouth over Tony’s right nipple, his hand over the left, and trails his free hand down Tony’s stomach.

Tony’s stomach muscles jump under Steve’s hand and he groans, loud and long and low while grinding forward.

The action rubs their erections together and Steve bites back a shout at the friction. “Mmnn,” he manages instead.

Tony grinds forward harder, faster, panting as he does so and Steve’s afraid for a moment that they’re both going to come in their pants.

“Stop, stop,” he manages, dropping his hand from Tony’s nipple to grip his hip.

Tony makes a plaintive whining noise but obeys. Further noises of protest are lost in his throat when Steve undoes his button and zipper and yanks Tony’s pants down. With his legs spread across Steve’s they don’t go far, but the go far enough to free Tony’s cock, and Steve takes that in his hand which earns him a garbled sound of encouragement.

“Yes,” Tony groans, drawing out the sound. He leans back and puts his hands against the bed for leverage and begins rocking forward in time with Steve’s hand.

Steve lets his upper torso fall back again and just watches Tony above him, watches Tony’s eyes shut and then continue to flutter, watches his mouth fall open only to have Tony bite his bottom lip a half second later, watches his chest heave as he flushes, and a strong surge of pride hits Steve when he realizes that it’s because of him Tony’s doing this. When Tony starts to chant a string of “Ah, ah, ah,”s as he thrusts, Steve drops his hand and the pleased sounds quickly become a “No, what, no.”

“You can’t come yet,” Steve explains, wiggling to scoot up on the bed.

Tony frowns at him but he wiggles too, pushing his pants farther down his legs. He reaches a hand into the pocket and pulls out packets of condoms and lube before kicking his pants away.

Steve can’t help staring at the supplies, proof that after all this waiting they’re really doing this. “Lie down,” he tells Tony, who goes willingly, crawling over Steve and settling back against the pillows.

“Come here,” he asks in turn, reaching out a hand.

Steve leans forward and sucks Tony’s fingers briefly into his mouth before straddling him and kissing him.

“Pants off,” Tony murmurs, fingers now slick against Steve’s jaw, where he stroking.

Steve leans back on his knees and undoes his pants, pushing them down quickly and moaning in relief when his cock pops free.

“Yeah,” Tony agrees, watching, staring as Steve leans over him again and tries to kick off his pants.

It doesn’t work and Tony’s foot comes up to help, and together they manages to get Steve’s pants to his ankles, after which one good kick sends them off, somewhere else in the room.

Tony reaches out and runs a hand slowly down from Steve’s collarbone to his cock, where he starts pumping.

“Oh,” Steve gasps, hips pushing forward.

“You’re so hot,” Tony says, eyes wide. “Look at you.”

“I’m happy looking at you,” Steve says, and means it. The flush has worked its way down most of Tony’s chest, his nipples are standing up and red from their earlier attention and his stomach muscles are jumping spasmodically in time with his jerking cock. It’s the most arousing thing Steve has ever seen.

Tony’s free hand scrabbles around on the bed for a while until he finds what he’s looking for and presses and packet of lube into Steve’s hand.

“Oh,” Steve says again, staring at the package.

“Please,” Tony says, canting his hips up.

“Okay,” Steve says. “But you need to stop, or I’m-”

“Yeah, sorry,” Tony says, dropping his hand from Steve’s cock to grasp at the blanket beneath them.

Steve opens the packet carefully, trying not to spill it, something that proves useless about two seconds later when Steve fails to find a way to smear it across his fingers without the lube getting just about everywhere else. “Can you-” he asks, gesturing with his hands, “-um, scoot closer? And, higher?”

“Yeah,” Tony says wriggling around until his legs are spread wide, a knee on either side of Steve’s thighs, his butt resting against Steve’s knees. “Good?”

“Yeah,” Steve says breathlessly, running his index finger in a line from the underside of Tony’s cock to his hole.

Tony moans.

“Are you comfortable?” Steve asks, his finger just circling.

“I’m good, I promise, please, Steve, get on with it.”

Steve chuckles. “Okay, okay,” he says, pushing his finger in.

Tony throws his head back with a groan and then starts gasping. “I’m fine,” he says before Steve can ask, grinding down on Steve’s finger to prove it. “More.”

Steve swallows hard and slides his middle finger in.

Tony groans. “Fuck yes.”

He’s so tight. There’s pressure around Steve’s fingers, hot pressure and he has to push against it to spread his fingers apart.

Tony keens and spreads his legs even farther. “More, more, more,” he chants.

“Shh,” Steve says, stroking Tony’s lower leg. “You’re too tight.”

Tony lifts himself up on his arms and glares at Steve. “That’s what makes it good, Steve,” he says.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Steve insists.

“You won’t,” Tony says, and he sounds so confident, so sure that Steve can’t bear to prove him wrong.

Steve frowns and then leans forward to kiss Tony messily.

Tony makes more pleased noises and starts rocking, up to rub his cock against Steve’s and then back down onto Steve’s fingers.

“Oh shit, Tony,” Steve gasps, because his cock has been ignored for too long now and the slide against Tony’s feels great.

Tony chuckles. “See? Good right? Imagine how good it’ll be with your cock in my ass.”

Steve rests his forehead against Tony’s. “Oh my god, Tony,” he says.

Tony grins. “More,” he demands again.

“Alright, alright,” Steve relents, moving back on his heels and adding a third finger.

Tony’s moan is downright lewd and it goes straight to Steve’s cock. Tony’s hand comes up then, and starts jerking his cock lazily and he watches Steve’s fingers disappear into his body.

The sight makes Steve groan. “Oh shit,” he says.

Tony smirks at him. “Fuck me now?” he asks.

“Are you-” Steve’s question is drowned out by Tony’s moan when he spreads his fingers.

“Yes,” Tony says definitively, using one hand to reach to the side again and slap a condom into Steve’s free hand.

Steve looks at it and pulls his fingers out.

Tony humps his hand and says, “Hurry up.”

“Don’t rush me,” Steve says, even as he opens the condom wrapper and rolls it on. He grunts at the stimulation and can’t help giving himself a couple good tugs.

“That’s my job,” Tony protests, even as he continues stroking himself.

Steve rolls his eyes but let’s it go and grabs Tony’s hips scooting him farther forward in his lap. He holds him there as he stretches forward again, kissing Tony’s mouth gentle and not deep at all, keeping it light and sweet on purpose.

Tony doesn’t push him, just returns the kiss and licks slightly at Steve lips when he pulls away.

“I love you,” Steve says, running a hand through Tony’s hair.

Tony leans into the touch. “Love you too,” he says, turning his head to kiss Steve’s wrist. “But I’m also really hard.”

Steve laughs and pulls back. He bites his lip, grips the base of his cock, lines it up and pushes in.

It feels amazing. “Oh,” Steve moans, bowing his head forward. He’s not even all the way in yet and it’s still the best feeling he’s ever experienced. “Oh my god.”

Tony grunts at him, threading his fingers through Steve’s hair. “I’m okay,” he says. Then: “You’re big.”

Steve huffs. “You knew that going in.”

“Different when you can feel it in your ass,” Tony says, squirming.

Steve groans, and barely restrains himself from babbling nonsense. “Stop, stop,” he pants.

“Sorry,” Tony says, voice soft. His fingers start carding through Steve’s hair again. “That’s good though you can go in farther.”

Steve shudders and pushes in. “Oh my god, oh shit, Tony,” he gasps, pushing in steady and slow until he can’t go any farther.

Tony exhales. “Yeah, right there, that’s it. Fuck, fuck, Steve, that’s good, that’s so good,” he says.

Steve’s not sure he can form words, any blood that might be supplying that part of his brain seems to have taken a vacation to his cock. He pulls out a little and then pushes back in, and this time he and Tony moan in tandem.

Tony’s hand drops from Steve’s head to his cock, stroking it slowly again.

“Nngh,” Steve says, batting at Tony’s hand. “My job.”

Tony’s breath hitches and Steve wraps his hand around Tony’s cock. This is easy, he knows how to do this. Soon he has Tony moaning and panting beneath him.

“Ah, ah, move, ohmygod, I need to move,” Tony babbles, and then he does, rocking down on Steve’s cock.

Steve picks his head up to look at Tony, eyes half closed, lips swollen, cheeks red and body flushed. Steve feels an echoing flush on his own skin, and is intensely aware of his pulse, from his heart to his lips to the pulse in his cock inside Tony. He’s also aware of the rhythm of Tony’s pulse and breath, both going fast beneath Steve’s body. The air around them is hot with their combined heat, thick with it and their sex and sweat. Everything is hot and tight, and Steve feels a little lightheaded he likes it so much. With a grunt he thrust forward to meet Tony’s next downward movement.

“Oh yes,” Tony says, eyes fluttering.

“You’re beautiful,” Steve manages to say, thumbing the head of Tony’s cock on his next thrust in.

Tony whines and thrusts down sooner than Steve expected. Their rhythm falters, off for a few thrusts until they adjust and are meeting each other again, faster and faster and harder and harder.

All Steve can hear is the slap of their skin and the harsh gasps of their breath, all he can feel is heat and Tony, all-consuming, all around him. Tony is all he can see, he can even taste the salt of their skin and sweat, smell it in the air. He thinks it’s all he really ever needs to sense.

“Close,” Tony grunts minutes, seconds, eternities later. “I’m, ah...” Tony shuts his eyes hard and tosses his head back and forth, whining.

“I’ve got you,” Steve tells him.

Tony comes with a high cry on the next thrust, body going tight and still and then his cock is jerking hard in Steve’s hand, trapped between their bellies.

Steve slows down his thrusts in response, he’s too close to really stop but he can do this. Eventually Tony opens his eyes again, smiling, and he reaches between them to run a finger through the mess on Steve’s abs. Steve groans and his next thrust is hard. “Sorry,” he pants.

Tony frowns. “For what? That was great, spectacular, thank you.”

Steve smiles at him and shakes his head. “Can I still…?”

“Mmm, please,” Tony says, lifting his legs and wrapping them around Steve’s waist. “Feels good.”

Something about Tony all warm and sated makes Steve content as well. He moves his messy hand from Tony’s crotch to grab at the underside of his thigh as he thrust back in.

Tony’s back bows at the motion. “Yes,” he hisses.

Steve shakes his head. “You’re insatiable. Amazing. You’re both of those.”

Tony smiles at him. “You’re so gorgeous, oh my god. You know that right? You close?”

All Steve can do is nod, hips going faster and faster.

“Come for me?” Tony asks, rolling forward to stroke the side of Steve’s face.

The motion pushes Steve somehow deeper and that’s it, he’s gone, lost in a haze of pleasure and heat and Tony. When he starts to come back into himself he makes a motion to move out and Tony tightens around him and Steve is momentarily lost again.

“Oh my god,” he says. “Holy shit.”

“Did you just come twice?” Tony asks, looking ridiculously pleased with himself.

“I don’t know,” Steve murmurs.

Gently, slowly, Tony leans back to lie on the bed again and Steve shifts with him, groaning at the feeling.

Tony grins at him. “So that was great,” he says.

“Yeah?” Steve asks, smiling and feeling happy and goofy. He shifts all the way out of Tony and pulls off the condom, tying the end and placing it in the wastebasket next to the bed. Tony reaches out for him and Steve goes willingly, settling on his side next to Tony. “We should clean up,” he murmurs.

“Don’t want to move,” Tony protests, pressing his face into Steve’s shoulder. “You smell good.”

“I smell like sex,” Steve points out.

“Smells good,” Tony insists.

“Okay,” Steve agrees easily, still feeling lazy and happy, running his left hand, the clean one, through Tony’s hair, pausing occasionally to work out knots and tangles where the hair is stuck together by sweat. Tony smells like sex too, and he’s warm pressed against him, not the consuming heat of before but a pleasant, soothing warmth.

“We’re going to have to do that again,” Tony says. “Probably a lot. Hopefully soon.”

“I can do soon,” Steve says.

Tony hums happily and they stay like that for a long time. Eventually though Steve’s limbs feel less like jelly and more like limbs and the mess around his groin starts to get uncomfortable. Gently he slides out of Tony’s hold, unsure if he’s asleep, intending on going to the bathroom to clean up.

Tony grumbles at him as he flops onto the bed, eyes open and glaring.

“Gonna clean up,” Steve says, smiling at him.

“’Kay,” Tony agrees, flopping around until he’s lying stomach down on the bed, head turned to the side, watching Steve.

It’s cute, and Steve enters the en suite bathroom feeling a little bit giddy. He hesitates once he’s in the bathroom because damn. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to the luxury and extravagance of the places Tony takes him. It looks like just about everything in the bathroom is made of marble, the tub, the floor, the sink, and probably real marble and not the fake kind that people get for cheaper. The tub doubles as a shower; a marble shower head comes out of the wall several feet about the tub. Steve wonders how long it would take to fill it; the tub looks more like a small swimming pool for a child. The knobs on the side look like they’re made of gold and Steve is really overwhelmed by the luxury of that. He shakes his head and grabs one of the soft, fluffy hand towels from the rack and crosses over to the sink (whose knobs match the tub’s),  and washes his hands before running warm water over the cloth for a few seconds. As the water is running he glances up at his reflection in the mirror above the sink.

His first reaction is shock. He looks positively debauched, his hair is messy, strands sticking out from his head in every direction possible, held there by sweat and his bangs form clumps across his forehead. His skin is still lightly flushed and his eyes are still a darker blue than normal and his lips are bright red and swollen. There are also hickeys that he doesn’t really remember being made on the underside of his jaw and dotting his neck. He prods at one high on his jawline and shivers a little at the feeling. That one is going to be impossible to hide.

Taking his eyes from his reflection he turns off the water and wrings the cloth out a bit before rubbing it across his lower stomach and groin to clean them. There are more marks here and there on his torso and he wonders if he was oblivious to Tony’s mouth or fingers. He runs the cloth under the water again, briefly, before wringing out the excess and exiting back into the bedroom.

This time he takes a moment to look around. The carpet is a subtle red and thick, it feels great against his bare feet. There are shades and curtains (which match the carpet) drawn against the windows on the far wall. Across from the bed is a flat screen TV with all manner of devices attached to it. The bed is king sized and the blanket matches the other décor in the room whereas the pillows are white. There’s a table to the side, with a phone and a phonebook and a bible and another table across the room that probably supposed to be for eating or working on. But the bed has Tony and that’s all Steve really wants, so he settles on it beside Tony’s legs.

Tony bounces a little with the motion of the bed. “Hi,” he says, not turning his head.

“Hi,” Steve returns. He lets the washcloth brush against Tony’s ass and Tony squirms.

“’S wet,” he complains.

“It’s a washcloth,” Steve says, rolling his eyes even though he knows Tony can’t see him. “I’m gonna clean you up, okay?”

“We’re just going to get dirty later,” Tony points out, but he relaxes and spreads his legs, and presses back into Steve’s touch when Steve starts cleaning him.

“Roll over,” Steve murmurs when Tony’s backside is clean.

Tony more flops than rolls, but he ends up on his back, smiling lazily at Steve.

“Hey you,” Steve says, wiping gently at Tony’s stomach.

Tony sighs and arches into the motion. When Steve looks down at what he’s doing he realizes that Tony is already half hard again.

Steve hums softly and drapes the cloth over Tony’s cock.

Tony gasps and twitches. “Again?” he asks hopefully, smiling up at Steve.

Steve doesn’t answer with words, just smiles and leans down to kiss Tony, rubbing him through the cloth.

Tony makes a pleased noise and bucks his hips lazily in time with Steve’s hand. Eventually Tony squirms, moving to sit up and pushing Steve up with him. “On your back,” he says, voice low and a bit raspy and Steve obeys the light push on his shoulder and falls back onto the bed. Tony crawls over him, straddling Steve’s thighs, casts the washcloth to the side and leans down again, kissing Steve as he rubs his cock against Steve’s abs.

Steve can’t help bucking upwards, rocking against Tony, friction slightly eased by the beginnings of their sweat.

Then Tony pulls back and sits on Steve’s legs, looking at his crotch and licking his lips.

Steve makes a confused sound and reaches out for him.

Tony looks up at Steve’s face. “Can I?” he asks, trailing his fingers from the inside of Steve’s left knee, up his leg and then gently across his balls and then farther back.

“Oh,” Steve says because that touch is new and good, and then: “Oh,” again because he realizes what Tony is asking for. “Yes, please,” he says.

Tony beams and Steve nudges at him with his knees, getting Tony to lift himself off of Steve’s lap so Steve can spread his legs. Tony settles between them, pulling Steve’s knees up so they’re bent against his chest and pushing them farther apart. Steve hooks his arms around his thighs to hold them there. He feels rather like he’s presenting himself, which seems silly and embarrassing and he blushes, intensely glad that he’s here with Tony.

Tony whose eyes are dark, pupils blown wide enough to nearly obscure the brown, now a few shades darker, closer to black. Tony who’s looking at Steve like he’s the best thing he’s ever seen, his expression almost amazed.

“You’re so hot,” he says, eyes flicking up from Steve’s crotch to his face.

“Thanks,” Steve mutters, blushing harder.

“Do I really get to fuck you?” Tony blurts, looking surprised at his own words.

“Yes,” Steve says. “If you could get on that?”

“Oh, um, yeah, okay,” Tony says, leaning down to kiss Steve’s cock quickly. Then he sits back on his heels, reaching out to the side to grab another packet of lube. He opens it quickly, if clumsily, smearing the liquid on his fingers but also on his leg and the sheets. He pauses briefly, looking intensely at Steve’s privates before sliding his pointer finger in, quick as you please.

Steve grunts and shifts, trying to get used to the intrusion. It feels…weird. Not bad, just different. It’s uncomfortably almost as if he’s pooping which really doesn’t do much for his arousal.

“Okay?” Tony asks, biting his lip. He looks worried, like he’s done something wrong, and Steve can’t bear to see that look on his face.

“I’m fine,” Steve says. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Tony nods at him and rotates his finger around, before pulling it out a bit before sliding back in.

There, that feels better.

“More?” Steve prompts.

Tony’s serious look fades into a smile. “I can do more,” he says, and then his finger is gone from Steve’s ass and just as quickly two are in.

This time there’s a stretch to feel in addition to feeling…full and Steve finds that it actually makes it better. “’S good,” he tells Tony.

“Yeah?” Tony grins at him as he spreads his fingers apart.

Steve grunts and gasps.

Tony pulls his fingers part way out, and then pushes them back in again, spreading them farther apart as he does so.

Steve gasps, and throws his head back, body arching.

“Hold on, I haven’t even done the best part yet,” Tony says.

“Tony,” Steve demands as Tony continues pushing his fingers in and out, changing the angle and the depth each time.

“Now who’s impatient?” Tony teases, and then his fingers brush by a spot and Steve sees stars.

“Ohmygod,” he almost shouts.

Tony grins widely at him and presses against the spot deliberately. “That would be your prostate,” he tells Steve, whose back is bowed off the bed.

“I know what it is!” Steve says, more grumpily than he means to. “Will you just…nngh…just fuck me?”

“Sure,” Tony says, voice deeper and rougher than normal.

He shifts and his fingers leave Steve’s body and grab a condom. He tugs Steve’s left leg over his shoulder and Steve shifts, spreading his right leg out farther too.

“Okay?” Tony asks, slipping on the condom and slicking himself up with lube.

“Yeah,” Steve whispers, “come on.”

Tony nods, bites his lip, looks down at their crotches and pushes in.

“Agh,” Steve gasps, back arching again.

Tony pants, frozen in place. “Did I hurt you?” he asks, and he actually does sound worried.

“No, no, you’re fine, please move?”

Tony pushes in farther and Steve can’t help gasping, short little pants of breath, in a constant stream.

“Fuck, fuck, Steve,” Tony says. “Oh my god.”

Steve tries to laugh, but can’t. He feels like he’s on fire, far too hot again, a burn starting where Tony’s inside of him and radiating outward, trapped by Tony’s body above him. Steve reaches out a hand and runs it down whatever part of Tony he can reach. Tony’s trembling. “Hey, you okay?” Steve whispers.

“I’m okay,” Tony says, head bowed.

“Me too,” Steve says, cupping Tony’s cheek in his palm. Slowly he grinds his hips down, forcing Tony farther inside of him.

“Ngh, ah, ah, ah,” Tony chants, screwing his eyes shut.

“Hey, look at me,” Steve says, gently, softly, hooking his pinky under Tony’s chin to mimic pulling his face up.

Tony does so, eyes burning into Steve, adding to the fire.

“I love you,” Steve tells him. “This is good. You’re good.”

“Thank you,” Tony says, and then he pushes in just as Steve grinds down again, bunching up the bedding beneath him, and Tony’s as deep as he can go. He moans, low and loud.

“Come on,” Steve says, lifting his right leg and wrapping it around Tony’s waist. “Fuck me.”

Tony doesn’t need to be told again; he pulls out only to slam back in immediately.

Steve rocks, matching Tony’s rhythm as best he can, the heat increasing, building quickly between them with the movement of their bodies.

“Close,” Tony pants, burning Steve’s body everywhere he touches it.

“Okay,” Steve murmurs. “Come on, sweetheart, come on.”

Tony thrusts three more times, hard and wild before he cries out, shaking with his orgasm until he stops, slumping against Steve’s torso. “Nngh.”

“Nngh,” Steve agrees, moving his hand to pet at Tony’s hair, damp with sweat again. He rocks again, experimentally, rubbing his cock against their stomachs.

Tony whines at the movement. “Hold on,” he says, wiggling, shifting, until he slips out of Steve.

Steve watches him take care of the condom, stroking himself. “Tony,” he says, not far from begging.

“I’m sorry,” Tony says, bending to kiss Steve’s hip.

“Use your hand?” Steve asks.

“Okay,” Tony says, gently pushing at Steve’s hand until he lets go and takes over.

“Nmph,” Steve says, head falling back against the mattress. Tony is really good at this and he can feel the heat consuming him again, it doesn’t take long until it engulfs him and he’s comes all over Tony’s hand.

When his brain starts working again he registers that Tony is kissing him, and he responds in kind, a slow, lazy, open mouthed kiss, licking at Tony’s teeth, the roof of his mouth. Tony shivers, pulls back.

“Was that okay?” he asks, looking genuinely worried.

“Are you stupid, that was fantastic,” Steve says, tugging at Tony.

Tony sags against the bed, curling into Steve’s side. “Good,” he says, kissing Steve’s shoulder. “You’re shaking a little.”

“Am I?” Steve says. He hadn’t noticed.

Tony nods. “You do sometimes, after you come.”

“I didn’t know,” Steve says, trying to focus on all his muscles, get them back under control.

“I like it,” Tony says. “Makes me feel like I’ve wrecked you.”

“That’s okay then,” Steve says, relaxing and letting his muscle control slip from his mind.

Tony smiles at him, happy and a little bit soppy.

“Once I can move again we can take this to the shower,” Steve promises.

Tony grins.

 


They spend their weekend in that hotel suite. They go down to breakfast in the morning to allow the maid time to clean, but otherwise they order room service. They’re far too busy having sex to worry about much else. And after that weekend they have sex a lot. Tony jokes that they’re trying to make up for lost time, really they should have done this much sooner. Part of Steve agrees, but another part is glad that they waited. The sex is always good but it takes time for them to learn each other. The little things; that Steve likes it when Tony interacts with the plane of his abs and stomach, and that Tony likes it when Steve sucks on his collarbone and plays with his ears. And the big things; that Tony likes it when Steve uses his bigger body and strength to move Tony around and that Steve likes it when Tony goes down on him while fucking him with his fingers and that they both like riding the other.

So they spend a blissful week or so fucking in their spare time together.

But then Tony has to work to make sure that everything is in order for him to graduate, and he has to do well on his finals in order to keep all of his honors. Even though he protests that he doesn’t have to study because, hello, genius, Steve knows that he does. Besides, Steve wants to have good grades too, and he has to work harder for them than Tony.

But of course, Tony graduates at the top of his class, a good ten years younger than a lot of his classmates. Graduation is a bit after Tony’s done with everything, so he spends all of his spare time either bothering or helping Steve. He also starts showing up on Steve’s campus sometimes for lunch or little dates. Steve’s not sure if he’s just bored or worried about the approaching summer.

Nevertheless he smiles when Tony tugs on his sleeve to get him to follow him down a side alley.

“Hey,” Tony says, grabbing Steve’s hands in his, pressing him against the wall.

“Hey,” Steve says. “You’re in a good mood.”

Tony grins. “Come over tonight?”

“I can’t, I’m having dinner with my mom tonight.”

Tony’s face falls. “Okay,” he says, shrugging. “No biggie.” He drops Steve’s hands. “I’ll see you some other time?”

Steve grabs Tony’s arm as he tries to walk away. “Come with me?”

Tony beams. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Steve says, pulling Tony in for a kiss. “I’ll pick you up.”

Tony grins at him, leaning against Steve. “Okay, go kick your final’s ass.”

Steve smiles. “Did you memorize my schedule?”

“Maybe,” Tony says flirtatiously, going up on his toes to kiss Steve. “Go.”

Steve moves to go and Tony smacks him on the ass, hard, as he goes.

Steve winks over his shoulder at him.

Tony’s not there when Steve gets out of his final, and he’s not at his apartment either. Steve’s not sure exactly what that means, but he should have figured that Tony was up to something. As it is, he’s completely gob smacked when he goes to pick Tony up.

“Wow,” Steve says when Tony opens the door.

“Too much?” Tony asks. “I wasn’t really sure what to wear, I mean, for me these things are normally big functions, but I figured this just dinner, and I really want your mom to like me-mmph.”

Tony’s babble turns into the little noises he makes when Steve kisses him deeply.

“Oh,” Tony says, once they break apart.

“You look fantastic,” Steve breathes. He can’t stop staring. Tony’s wearing a dark blue shirt under a tailored black blazer and fitted pants, and all of Tony’s fancy wear is designed to make him look good, but he always takes Steve’s breath away.

“Wear this again sometime and I’ll take it off of you,” Steve promises.

Tony’s eyes go dark. “Okay.”

“We should go,” Steve says, shaking his head to break his sudden lust stupor. “C’mon.”

Tony doesn’t get fidgety until ten minutes into the drive. “Are you sure your mom is okay with me coming?”

“Positive.”

“Does she know that we’re dating?”

“She knows that I have a boyfriend and that you are my friend, I don’t know if she’s put the two together. She probably will tonight.”

“Will she be freaked out?”

“No. She’s the first person I ever came out to.”

“My age though. I mean,” Tony squirms, “there’s a reason we don’t really tell people.”

“It’s not illegal for me to date you, it’s just illegal for me to have sex with you,” Steve points out.

“But we do. Have sex.” There’s a proud note in Tony’s voice, that makes it seem like, even though he’s been argumentative, he’s happy about it.

“Please don’t tell my mother that, Tony, I beg you.” Even if Steve’s pretty sure that his mom knows everything about his personal life, even if there’s no logical way she could.

Tony laughs. Then: “Does she know that it’s Tony Stark coming to her house?”

“Nope.”

“Will that freak her out?”

“Probably not.”

Tony looks out the window and starts bouncing his leg. Steve takes one hand off the wheel and cups a palm over his knee, stroking lightly with his thumb.

“You’re supposed to keep both hands on the wheel.”

“You’re a smartass.”

“Well you would know all about my ass.”

Tony.”

Tony laughs and Steve can feel him relaxing.

The rest of the drive is peaceful, but Steve can feel Tony’s nervousness returning when they’re in front of the door. Deliberately, he takes Tony’s hand and squeezes it before knocking.

Tony looks up at him and smiles, squeezing back.

“Steve.”

“Hi, Mom,” Steve says, letting go of Tony’s hand to hug her as they cross the threshold. “Mom, this is Tony,” he says, gesturing.

“Hello, ma’am,” Tony says, offering his hand. Steve notices that part of his public persona mask has started to fall into place. He’s nervous.

Steve’s mom smiles, relaxed and the exact counterpoint to Tony’s current physical presence, and shakes Tony’s hand. “I’m Sarah,” she says. “It’s good to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Tony says.

“Well let’s not just stand out here boys,” Sarah says, stepping back to let them in.

Steve follows instantly, easily, whereas Tony hesitates just a fraction of a second longer than he should before following.

Steve’s missed his mom, and his mom’s house. The beaten couch, in the middle of the living room and the old television set they’ve had since before Steve was in high school. The carpet, not pristine but worn and stained in patches. The smell of her cooking food and the light smell of her perfume in the air…it all smells like home and he’s happy to be back.

Tony hasn’t relaxed at all though, still standing with perfect posture, the picture of politeness with his hands behind his back and an inoffensive smile on his face.

Steve’s mom is already heading into the kitchen and Steve makes to follow, stopping when he notices Tony following slowly. “Come on,” he says, turning back around and smiling. He holds out his hand.

Tony hesitates and then he relaxes marginally and smiles, taking Steve’s offered hand. He lets Steve pull him close. “Will you still love me even if your mother doesn’t?” he asks, looking worried.

Steve swings their hands gently. “I don’t know, let me think about it,” he lies.

Tony frowns. “I wasn’t kidding.”

“I was,” Steve promises him, squeezing Tony’s hand again.

“Mean,” Tony says.

Steve leans down and pecks him lightly on the lips. “Still think I’m mean?”

“Yes,” Tony insists, pouting. “That wasn’t a real kiss.”

“Well then,” Steve says, pulling Tony close and keeping him close and kissing him, slightly deeper this time. “Better?”

“I might be convinced,” Toy says.

“How about dinner?” Steve offers.

“Are you paying?”

“Free of charge.”

“Alright then,” Tony agrees. He drops Steve’s hand once they’re in the kitchen, but Steve just smiles at him over his shoulder as he moves to help his mom place everything on the table.

Tony moves to help but Sarah raises the spoon in her hand and waves it at him to get him to stop. “You are a guest, Tony. Sit down.”

Tony does as told, sitting immediately down into the nearest chair.

“It’s not much,” Sarah says, once the last dish is on the table, “but it’s food.”

“It smells good,” Tony says honestly.

“Thank you, Tony,” Sarah says sitting.

It’s a small table for the small kitchen. Steve barely has to stretch his leg to rest it against Tony’s across the table. The room is still warm from the cooling oven and filled with the smell of food. It’s cozy and comforting.

Tony looks from the food to Steve as if to say What am I supposed to do right now?

Steve gives him a small smile and tilts his head at his mother who is bowing her head in prayer. Tony mouths an Oh before shooting Steve a completely panicked look.

Steve shakes his head softly and mouths: You don’t have to pray. Steve bows his head too for a few seconds before looking up again.

Tony’s head is tilted to the side as he looks at Steve, and Steve knows he’s thinking hard about Steve praying which isn’t something he normally does. He’s not a devout as his mother but he does believe and they’d done this at most meals when he was growing up and it seems wrong somehow to be in this kitchen with his mother and not follow her rituals.

When his mom looks up she gives no sign of having noticed anything going on between the two boys in the room. “Well, let’s eat then,” she says, spreading her hands to indicate all of the food.

Conversation trails off as they eat, but when they’re on their second helpings the questions start. Steve’s mom asks Tony about his schooling, his family, his interests…Steve’s just glad she doesn’t ask what his intentions towards him are. To his credit, Tony answers everything evenly and honestly, although Steve notices a slight hesitation after every answer, as if he’s evaluating Steve’s mom’s emotions. Steve can’t help but be a little on edge during it. He really wants his mom to like Tony. He hadn’t exactly mentally planned for this meeting the parent ordeal but it seems to be going well.

Eventually Tony excuses himself to go to the bathroom and Steve’s mom promptly says to him, “The two of you are dating.”

“Yeah,” Steve says. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.  It’s been a while now. We have to be…careful.”

Steve’s mom nods. “Yes, you do.”

“I wanted to tell you,” Steve says quietly, picking at his napkin. “I wasn’t sure how. ‘Hey mom, I’m dating a teenage billionaire genius, also I’m gay,’ didn’t seem quite right.”

Steve’s mom laughs. “I knew you were gay, sweetie.” She pauses, looking at Steve for a long time. “The two of you are very serious. I’m not sure if you guys know just how serious you are about each other.”

Steve looks up at her. “It’s been a serious for a while now. I mean, I’ve been in love with him for a while.”

Sarah smiles at him. “Does he know?”

“Yes,” Steve says. He can’t help but feel that his mom’s gentle questions are nothing but a guise for a brutal interrogation.

“The way you two act…be very careful, go slow.”

“We are, Mom,” Steve says, and he can feel himself blushing.

She grins at his blush.  “I didn’t mean sexually.”

Mom,” Steve hisses, hiding his face in his hands.

His mom laughs at him again, and he can hear Tony re-entering the room. He stays hidden in his hands.

“Uh-oh, Mrs. Rogers,” he hears Tony say, “I think Steve’s broken.”

“I hope not,” his mom says. “I still need him to help me wash the dishes.”

Steve sighs and gives up his dignity as a loss. “You have a dishwasher, Mom,” he says, even as he stands up to help her, chair scraping across the tiles.

Tony’s watching intently as he picks up dishes from the table, expression far too serious for the simple act of cleaning dishes.

“What’s going on in there?” Steve asks, tapping Tony’s forehead with a spare finger.

“I’ve never done dishes by hand,” Tony admits. “When I was little sometimes I’d help Jarvis load the washer, but...” he shrugs. “Spoiled little rich boy, huh?”

“Here,” Steve says, dumping his pile of dishes into Tony’s hands. “No time like the present.”

Tony just stares up at him.

Steve laughs. “Go on. To the sink!” he says, giving Tony’s ass a smack for good measure.

Tony’s expression is a mix of shock and pleasure and utter confusion and Steve laughs again.

Tony glares. “Stop laughing at me,” he protests.

“I’m sorry, you’re just so cute,” Steve says, pecking Tony on the lips.

Tony half scowls, half smiles at Steve.

“Boys,” Mrs. Rogers interrupts. “Stop flirting and help me with these dishes.”

Steve and Tony both blush.

“Yes, Mom,” Steve says at the same time Tony says, “Yes, ma’am,” Steve turning to get the rest of the dishes from the table and Tony walking towards the sink.

Steve’s sense of home is even stronger than it was before.

Not long after that Tony comes up to Steve and very properly asks him to attend his graduation. He has a ticket ready and everything. “You’re not doing anything that day are you?” he asks.

“Just you,” Steve says and Tony smiles.

Tony actions make a lot more sense to Steve about halfway through the ceremony, when Howard and Maria Stark come into the room and take two saved seats in the front row. They sit there long enough to clap for their son when he walks, and clap again when he receives all his awards. Once the graduates are dismissed, Steve notices that the Starks disappear amazingly quickly.

Steve can’t help ill feelings towards the pair, even if he’s never met them. He works his way through the crowd to Tony, standing alone in the midst of celebrating families and friends. “Hey, genius.”

Tony beams at him. “You came.”

“I said I would. I’m very proud of you, good job.”

Tony’s face falls again when Jarvis comes up by himself. “Congratulations,” Jarvis says. “I am very proud of you, Master Tony.”

“Thanks, Jarvis,” Tony says a small smile on his face. He doesn’t say anymore, the question in his eyes.

“Your parents also wished that I extend their congratulations to you, as long with their apologies for having to hurry to a shareholders meeting.”

Tony nods. “I understand,” he says lowly.

Steve can’t help frowning at the situation. He squeezes Tony’s hand, wishing he could kiss him. “Let me take you home,” he offers instead.

“Alright,” Tony says, smiling.

Grinning, Steve uses his grip on Tony’s hand to pull him closer to his body so he can whisper in his ear, “Anything you want tonight. I’ll do whatever, anything you want. You could do anything you want with me.”

Tony grins widely at him when they pull apart.

“Congratulations,” Steve says, dropping his voice to say it.

“Can we get started now?” Tony asks.

“We’re in public,” Steve reminds him.

The crowd is still pressing around them, the low noise of the babble of lots of people talking constant. But no one is paying attention to the two of them; Jarvis has discreetly disappeared.

“So let’s get out of public,” Tony says, rolling his eyes.

Steve laughs. “Okay,” he agrees, and together they work their way through the crowd, towards Steve’s car.

Tony looks significantly happier, smiling happily at Steve as they settle into Steve’s car. Steve leans over and kisses him before he starts the car. Tony tilts his head and smiles. Tony even looks great in his ridiculously large robes and decorative ropes. His hat’s on crooked, the tassel swinging with the motion of the car. Tony has more ropes than anyone else, in all sorts of colors, they’re so stacked over his shoulders it’s given him a bulky appearance out of the corner of Steve’s eye.

Steve can’t help smiling at him.

“Why do you look so happy?” Tony asks.

“You look cute,” Steve says.

“What, I don’t look like an irresistible sex god in this getup?”

Steve laughs, bright and happy. He’s glad he’s reversed Tony’s mood. “I actually like this look on you,” Steve says. “All your ropes and your crooked hat.”

Tony reaches up to touch his hat. “We could play with these ropes, you know,” he says, smirking again.

“I would probably break them,” Steve says, laughing.

Tony scoffs. “Please. These are from the engineering department at MIT. Top of the line stuff, over here,” he says, flapping the ropes at Steve’s shoulder. “Nothing that comes out of MIT engineering can be broken by mere human strength!”

“Well,” Steve says, pulling up in front of his apartment, “you are welcome to try.”

Tony takes one of his ropes from around his neck and loops it around Steve’s wrist.

“Come on, then,” he says, walking backwards out of the car.

Steve smiles and follows.

Then it’s summer. Coach Fury corners Steve before he can officially leave school and tells him that he’s going to be starting quarterback next year and co-captain, so don’t slack off this summer. Steve is gobsmacked. His mom is proud. Tony doesn’t have much a measurable reaction because he’s too busy trying not to laugh at Steve’s expression as Fury walks away. Rhodey and Sam congratulate him. Steve is still confused, but vows to practice, even as he moves out of the school area, back with his mom, not that he really minds the situation. Tony pouts at him and Steve promises to continue to see him during the summer. Which works for about a month and a half before it ends in the wee hours of the morning.

Steve groans and rolls over to look at the clock. It’s three in the morning and he can hear the doorbell ringing. Sighing, he rolls out of bed and pulls a shirt on, rubbing his eyes as he heads down the hallway.

His mother in her dressing robe comes out behind him. “I got it, Mom,” he says, flapping a hand at her.

Yawning, he looks through the peep hole.

“Tony?” he asks, opening the door. “Sweetheart, what?”

Tony is soaked through, trembling, huddled into his overlarge sweatshirt. He picks his head up and wipes at his face.

“Come in, Tony,” Steve says, pulling him inside and out of the rain. “Tony, what’s wrong? Are you in trouble, are you okay? Talk to me, please.”

“My parents are dead,” Tony says, tonelessly. “Car crash.”

“Oh,” Steve says, stunned and completely thrown. What can he say? What could he do? He grips Tony’s arms harder and he can’t help but glance back at his mom. She nods and points to the kitchen. She’s going to make Tony some tea. The idea makes Steve feel a little less lost.

“Come here,” Steve says, pulling Tony into his chest.

Tony goes willingly; he buries his head in Steve’s chest, clinging to the back of Steve shirt.

Steve can hear him making the hitching little noises he makes when he cries. He doesn’t say anything. Just rests his chin on Tony’s head and strokes down his back. Once the noises stop and Tony’s breath starts evening out, Steve steers him gently onto the couch. Tony sags bonelessly again Steve’s side.

“Here,” Steve’s mom says gently, holding a cup of tea out towards Tony.

Tony looks at the tea, surprised, but takes it in his hands. “Thank you,” he says softly.

There’s silence for a long time, Tony sipping his tea as Steve pets whichever part of Tony he can reach. “They weren’t even particularly good parents,” Tony blurts several minutes later. “They didn’t pay attention to me, and I was always a disappointment to my dad. He even hit me once when he was drunk! I..I should be relieved or something, shouldn’t I? That I don’t have to worry anymore?”

“No, Tony, no,” Steve says, pulling Tony as close as possible. “They were still your parents. And they took care of you, it’s normal to be sad.”

“I didn’t say goodbye,” Tony says. “Didn’t get a chance.”

“I know it probably doesn’t mean anything, but I’m so sorry, Tony.”

Tony runs his hands over his face again. “I’m sorry I just showed up,” he says to Steve’s mom. “I didn’t know where I was going until I got here.”

“You are always welcome here, Tony.”

Tony manages a small, sincere smile, before putting his mug on the table and settling further into Steve’s side. “I think I’m gonna fall asleep on you,” he mumbles.

“How about we get you some dry clothes to sleep in?”

Tony nods.

Steve stands and pulls Tony up to his feet.

“I’m going to head back to bed then too,” Steve’s mom says, standing as well. She kisses Steve’s temple and gives Tony a hug.

Tony looks absolutely startled.

“’Night, Mom,” Steve says.

Tony is still just blinking in surprise and Steve notices that he’s started to sway a little.

“Please tell me you didn’t drive here drunk,” Steve says, guiding Tony to his room and then sitting him on the edge of his bed.

“’M not drunk.”

“Okay. Arms up,” Steve says, tugging on Tony’s sweatshirt.

Tony raises his arms obediently, and Steve tugs off both his sweatshirt and t-shirt at once. He hands Tony an old cotton tee of his, which Tony shrugs on.

Steve goes to work on Tony’s pants, shimmying the wet denim down his legs. Tony makes a sound when Steve reaches for his underwear.

“I don’t really…”

“Oh, Tony, no, I was just going to give you some clean, dry boxers if you wanted them.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Steve kisses him once before letting Tony dress himself. Then he flicks off the light and pulls Tony under the covers with him, tucking him against his chest.

Tony wraps his arms around Steve and sighs, shifting easily into Steve’s hold.

They don’t say anything more, just hold each other until they both drift off.

 


Steve wakes up when Tony pokes him. Repeatedly. “Stop it,” he whines, batting blindly at Tony’s hand.

“Oh good, you’re alive,” Tony says, before he settles back down against Steve’s side.

Which makes Steve’s brain kick into gear. He opens his eyes and finds Tony’s head on his shoulder, finger now drawing absent patterns on Steve’s abs. Knowing Tony, it’s probably complicated math equations or imaginary blueprints for something brilliant. “Did you think I was dead?” he asks softly.

Tony shrugs. “I woke up upset and I knew someone was dead and I mean, logically I knew that it’s my parents but I was afraid that it might be you and that I was hallucinating.”

Steve doesn’t really know what to say to that so he takes Tony’s wrist in a gentle grip and moves it so Tony’s hand is covering his heart. “I’m fine.”

“I know,” Tony says, but he doesn’t move his hand. “My mind won’t quiet, can I talk at you?”

“Of course,” Steve says.

So Tony talks. He talks about science and robots and anything but what really matters, but that’s okay, because he’s warm and safe in bed with Steve and they don’t have to break their bubble. Pressed together as they are, Tony can feel the instant Steve’s breathing evens out into sleep again, but he keeps talking, pitching his voice low, anything to keep his mind off of life. Eventually he runs out of things to say and he gently, slowly, works his way out of Steve’s hold.

Steve stirs and grabs out for him sleepily.

“Just going to the bathroom,” Tony lies. “Go back to sleep.”

Steve drops his arm. “Come back,” he says.

“Yes, sir,” Tony says.

Steve smiles and Tony stands still until his breathing evens out into sleep again.

He leaves Steve’s bedroom and wanders into the kitchen, thinking that he might as well make some coffee. “Oh,” he says, when he walks in and finds Steve’s mom already standing at the coffee machine.

She turns around and smiles at him. “Coffee, Tony?”

“Yes, please,” Tony mutters, shifting his weight awkwardly. He should have put on pants he realizes, feeling awkward standing in front of Steve’s mom in borrowed boxers. That probably looks bad.

“Here,” Sarah says gently, pressing the coffee into Tony’s hand. “I normally sit on the couch and watch bad early morning TV now, would you like to join me?”

Tony nods. They settle on the couch and Sarah turns on the TV, keeping the volume low. “Thank you,” he says, quietly.

“You’re no trouble, Tony.”

Tony shrugs. “Still, I showed up unannounced; you didn’t have to invite me to stay.” He shifts again.

Sarah looks at him. “You don’t think I approve,” she says.

Tony shrugs again.  “Lots of people wouldn’t. There’s the age gap, and the gay thing, and…my parents didn’t even know,” Tony realizes on the spot. “I never told them.”

“Why not?”

“The last person I dated tried to sell me out to the tabloids. I got treated to a lecture; ‘Do you know how much money it cost to spin that story, Tony? Do you know how much the stock prices dropped, Tony? You have to be more careful, Tony. You could hurt the company, Tony.’ I didn’t want another one. I was afraid they would tell me to break up with him, and I knew I couldn’t. I’m not ashamed of him, I wish I could tell people, kiss him on the field after he wins, but the backlash wouldn’t be pretty. And that’s not fair to him.” Tony goes to pick absently at his jeans before he realizes again that he wearing only Steve’s boxers and he blushes. “I’ve made a lot of stupid mistakes in my life, but Steve isn’t one of them.”

“Most people aren’t this serious about their boyfriends at your age,” Steve’s mom says.

“I’m not most people,” Tony counters. “He means a lot to me, I’m very serious about this, I promise.”

Steve’s mom laughs. “That’s not what I meant. Most people aren’t this serious about their boyfriends at Steve’s age either. The two of you are…very intense.”

“Is that bad?”

“No, it’s just different. The two of you sort of gravitate towards each other…I think it’s sweet.”

Tony can’t help blushing again.

“When I was your age, if my parents had died, I wouldn’t have gone to my boyfriend, I’d’ve gone to my best friend,” she says.

“I don’t have a lot of friends. There weren’t a lot of people my age at MIT. Not a lot of people at MIT that want to hang out with a kid either. I did a lot of dumb things trying to prove myself. That never worked on Steve.”

“No, I don’t imagine it did.” She smiles.

“I still had to prove myself to him, but, God, he made me work for it. But, he told me once, that he wouldn’t be dating me if he didn’t consider me his equal, and I felt, I don’t know, like I’d achieved something.”

Steve’s mom gives him a hard look. “Don’t get trapped into thinking he’s perfect,” she says. “He’s my son and I love him, but-”

Tony snorts. “I know.”

Sarah smiles at him. “I want my son to be happy. If you make him happy, how could I disapprove?”

“I’m glad you do.”

Steve comes stumbling out of his room then, yawning and rubbing at his eyes. “You didn’t come back to bed,” he says to Tony, an accusation and a whine in his tone. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Tony says.

Steve looks at him for a long moment before crossing to the couch and lifting Tony up.

“What-” Tony squawks, before Steve settles down where Tony was sitting and puts Tony on his lap.

Tony laughs at him. “You’re not really awake, are you?”

Steve shrugs, mumbles something, and nuzzles at the top of Tony’s head.

Sarah laughs too then. “Coffee, sweetheart?” she asks, but Steve is already relaxing into a doze again. She giggles.

Tony smiles and lets himself sag against Steve’s warm body as he turns his gaze to the TV. He lets his mind spin; there will have to be a press release soon, and Jarvis and Pepper and Rhodey are probably all worried about him, especially since he’s not answering his calls, and where is his phone? Despite the coffee and the worries Tony can feel sleep catching up to him again. He’s warm and comfortable and safe. Here at Steve’s mom’s house he doesn’t have to have his worries, so he lets them go and gives in to sleep.

Steve wakes up a few hours later, stretched out along the couch with Tony asleep on top of him and covered in the blanket that normally drapes over the back of the couch. A note on the table tells him that his mom left to go shopping and that she’ll be back and not to worry.

Being careful not to wake Tony, Steve reaches out for the remote and turns the TV on, muting it. He flips idly through the channels, not looking for anything in particular, but when he reaches the news channel he stops.

On the screen is the picture of a truly horrible car wreck. The wreckage is strewn across three lanes of traffic and bits of it are still on fire. From the darkness of the sky in the picture Steve figures that it’s actually from several hours ago. The headline on the bottom reads: Horrendous Crash Kills Howard and Maria Stark.

Instinctively Steve wraps his arm around Tony and tightens his grip.

Tony murmurs in his sleep but doesn’t wake.

Steve hits the button on the remote for subtitles and reads as the announcers explain that both vehicles had been destroyed in the crash, and that the other driver is dead as well. Thankfully, he’d had no passengers. They don’t know whose fault the crash was and if alcohol or drugs were involved. It is also unknown if it was a deliberate hit on Stark Industries.

Steve stomach churns at that and he’s suddenly very grateful that Tony is warm and alive in his arms at that second.

Relatedly, the whereabouts of Obadiah Stane and Tony Stark are currently unknown. And representatives of Stark Industries-which Steve knows means Pepper-have refused to comment.

Which means that Pepper, at least, is going to let Tony dictate how they deal with this. Steve’s less sure about Obadiah, but he hopes his patience holds out.

The news switches to a current, live picture of the crash site. The wreckage has been cleared away and a small memorial, complete with pictures and flowers and cards has been set up on the side of the road. Steve wonders who did that. He wonders if any of it is for the nameless driver in the other car. He wonders what’s happened to the Starks’ bodies, what will happen to them. He supposes that technically all of that has to be dealt with by Tony, but forcing him to deal with what to do with his own parents bodies seems cruel. Steve rather hopes that Obadiah-or preferably Pepper-will take it all out of his hands. Right now Steve just wants to focus on Tony, and what Tony needs. Wants to protect him.

Tony starts to stir and Steve hastily shuts off the TV.

Tony announces his waking with a groan, shifting off of Steve’s body and stretching.

“Good morning,” Steve says, admiring the line of Tony’s body when he stretches. He always does.

“Mornin’,” Tony mumbles, blinking sleep out of his eyes.

“Want anything? Coffee? Food?”

“Both,” Tony says.

“Alright then,” Steve says, sliding off the couch and holding his hand forward. “Come with me.”

Tony grumbles but takes Steve’s hand, and lets himself be lead to the kitchen. There he lets go of Steve’s hand and slumps onto the counter, but that’s okay.

Steve ruffles his hair. “What do you want to eat, baby boy?”

Tony gives him a death glare. “Don’t call me that,” he whines. “And whatever you want to make is fine.”

“What if I make you make it yourself, hmm, lazy bum?”

Tony sticks his tongue out.

Steve chuckles at him and sets the coffee maker to do its work as he makes waffles.

“Thank you,” Tony says quietly.

“You’re welcome,” Steve says, smiling when he feels Tony’s arm wrap around his waist.

Tony rises up on his toes to rest his head against Steve’s shoulder, wrapping his body to Steve’s.

They stay like that, silent but still moving around one another, until Steve is done with breakfast and settles down with plates for both of them and a cup of coffee for Tony. Steve angles his chair towards Tony and tangles their legs together.

“I should call Pepper,” Tony says quietly once he’s done. “She’s probably worried about me.”

“If she’s worried she’ll call.”

“She probably has, I turned my phone off after the police called me,” Tony explains.

“She’s going to be mad,” Steve warns him.

Tony smiles a little smile. “Probably,” he admits. “She’s going to yell at me but I’ll answer all her questions so she’ll calm down.”

“Go do that,” Steve says, wrapping a hand around the back of Tony’s neck and kissing his forehead. “I’ll take care of the dishes.”

Tony nods and snatches Steve’s mom’s phone off the cradle before heading out of the kitchen, obviously not taking the risk of turning on his own phone.

Steve rolls his eyes. He stands up, grabbing the dishes and pans he’d used to cook and eat, and starts rinsing them in the sick before he moves them to the dishwasher. It’s only a matter of minutes before he hears Tony yelling through the wall. He can’t help smiling. Pepper’s obviously yelling at him and Tony’s yelling back. Steve hears the front door open and close as well, and he figures that his mom has come home. Sure enough, he’s right; she comes into the kitchen behind him, one half of her mouth quirked up.

“Everything alright?” she asks.

“He’s been ignoring his assistant since last night,” Steve explains. “She’s telling him off and Tony gives as good as he gets.”

Steve’s mom laughs, kissing his cheek. “Don’t fret, he’ll be alright,” she says.

Steve huffs. “I learned fretting from the best.”

His mom gives him a very unimpressed look.

Tony comes back into the kitchen much later, throwing Steve phone at him before collapsing over the counter. “Pepper is exhausting,” he complains.

“I think she’d say the same thing about you,” Steve says, pushing a mug of coffee into Tony’s hands. Tony looks up at him gratefully.

“But she is truly a god among men,” Tony says. “She’s going to talk with Obie and take care of everything for me.” He hides his face in his hands.

“Tell me what to do and I’ll do it, okay?” Steve says. “I want to help.”

Tony nods.

When Steve gets a chance to talk to Pepper she shoos him out of planning and charges him with getting Tony through everything without a mental breakdown. Then one day in the mail he gets a very fancy envelop with a fancy invitation to the funeral of Howard and Maria Stark and the wake afterwards.

Tony’s there when he gets it and goes all weird for several moments. “I have to be there early,” he says. “So, um, Pepper wants me that whole day and the day before and will you please come?”

“Of course,” Steve promises. He actually doesn’t feel as freaked out about it as he could be; a funeral is a funeral, right?

Wrong.

The Starks’ funeral is a show.

It’s weird to Steve that a funeral is such a production. There are cameras everywhere, newspaper reporters and news casters alike. He shows the security man at the door his invitation and his ID. He gets cross-referenced against a long list and then waved inside. He goes in and finds a large, open hallway. There are tables lining the sides, one side of tables has food and drinks the other has pictures and written papers and boards about Howard and Maria. Something about it makes Steve deeply uncomfortable. To his left is an open door, he sticks his head inside and can tell instantly that that’s where the actual funeral will be held.  It’s big, with numerous chairs filling it, and a podium at the front. There’s supposed to be a wake afterwards, Steve’s invited to that too, but the entrance hallway already feels like one.

He takes out his phone and texts Tony. I’m here, where are you?

Tony replies with a set of directions, which Steve follows until he’s in front of a brown, closed door. He knocks.

“If you’re Steve, come in!” Tony calls. “If not you can go fuck yourself!”

“Tony!” Pepper says, slapping him on the arm as Steve opens the door.

“Oh good, it is you,” Tony says. He has a glass of champagne from downstairs in his hand, but Steve has faith that Pepper is not going to let him get drunk before he gives his speech.

“You doing alright?” Steve asks, placing a hand on Tony’s shoulder.

“Sure,” he says, shrugging.

“He’s not allowed to break down until the press leaves,” Pepper says sternly.

Tony smiles, but it’s more like a grimace.

“I am sorry,” Pepper says, and it’s obvious that she does mean it. “I know this is hard.”

“Funerals are supposed to be a balm for those left behind,” Steve says, frowning.

Tony snorts and Pepper makes a sad face at him. “Not if you’re rich and famous. Then it’s for the press and investors left behind,” Tony says, taking a sip of champagne.

“What about you?” Steve says.

Tony rolls his eyes. “I’ll go up, look appropriately sad, and talk about how much they shaped me, and how much I’ll miss them, and talk about how I’ll try to uphold their legacy.” He takes another sip of champagne.

“What are you doing after the show is all over?”

“Getting drunk back at the mansion. Probably.”

“Am I invited to that too?”

Tony brightens. “You don’t like it when I drink, but yes, please come.”

“Rhodey and I will be there too,” Pepper says. She glances at her watch. “People are supposed to start taking their seats now. You,” she says, pointing at Tony, “should go down first. Remember you and Jarvis and Obidiah and the other front row people will come in from the side room a little later.”

Tony nods. “Got it, Pep.” He down the rest of his champagne.

“Good luck,” Pepper says, kissing his cheek.

Tony’s expression wavers for a second. “Aw, Pep, you know I’m taken,” he says, joking to change the mood.

“Yeah,” Steve says, kissing Tony’s mouth.

Tony clutches at his sleeve for a few seconds. “I like this new kissing thing,” he says when he lets go.

Steve smirks and pecks Pepper quickly on the mouth.

She giggles.

“It seemed only fair,” he says to Tony’s baffled expression.

Tony grins. “That was hot,” he says. “We’ll do a three-way sometime.”

“Get out, Tony,” Pepper says, giving him a push. But she’s smiling.

“Denial, denial,” Tony says over his shoulder as he leaves.

Pepper deflates after he’s gone. She rubs a hand over her face. “Organizing this stuff and taking care of Tony is stressful,” she admits.

“I can help with the taking care of Tony thing,” Steve points out.

“Oh, I’m counting on that when he’s drunk.” Pepper smiles up at him.

“Oh, thanks. Do I get the hangover too?”

Pepper gives him an evil grin. “That’s what you get for being the boyfriend.”

“Ah, the price of great sex.”

Pepper laughs. “I do not want to hear about your sex life.”

“Well, apparently Tony wants you to be a part of it.”

Pepper laughs. In the silence afterwards her smile fades and her postures slumps again. “This is all so awful,” she says quietly.

“Yeah,” Steve agrees, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s got to be worse for Tony.”

“Yeah,” Steve says again. “So let’s go down there and support him.”

“There’s the football captain inside of you,” Pepper says, voice lightening a few notches. “Let’s go.” She stops at the doorway and turns to face Steve, who’s following her. “Do you know where your seat is?”

Steve swallows. “There are assigned seats?”

Pepper laughs, ignores Steve’s protestations that he’s not joking and oh my god what type of funeral is this, and tugs him down the hallway.

She becomes somber once they enter the big ballroom. There are people scattered here and there throughout the arranged chairs. “Second row and second chair from the left,” Pepper says, pointing to the corresponding chair. “That’s your chair. You’re right behind Tony.”

“Where are you sitting?” Steve asks. All of a sudden he desperately wants Pepper to stay by his side. He doesn’t know anyone in the room but her and he doesn’t know what to say to any socialites who could sit next to him.

Pepper points to the first chair on the other side of the aisle. “Technically I’m here as the public representative from Stark Industries,” she explains. “So I get the prime seat in the press section, so to speak.” She frowns slightly. “The first row on your side is ‘close and personal family friends’.” Steve can hear the air quotes in her voice. “The rest of the seating is random, at least, it’s supposed to be. I put you behind Tony because I thought he might need the support.”

Steve nods in agreement.

Pepper pats him on his arm and heads off to her seat. Steve grits his teeth and settles into his own seat. He can’t help breathing a sigh of relief when Rhodey sits on his right. Rhodey grins at him. “Heya, Cap,” he says.

“Hey,” Steve returns.

“Some party, huh?” Rhodey says sarcastically.

“Yeah, some party,” Steve mutters.

Then people start filing into their seats with more regularity. Steve can’t help breathing a sigh of relief when Tony’s favorite chauffer, Happy sits on his other side. Happy nods at him and Steve nods back, glad to sitting by another familiar face. Soon the seats look to be filled and a line of people enters from a side door, led by Obadiah. Tony follows him, face tight and anxious, although Steve doubts anyone else could tell. Steve smiles at him, and Tony relaxes marginally when he catches his eye. Flanking him, both Obadiah and Jarvis seem to note Tony’s more relaxed posture. Obadiah looks displeased, while Jarvis looks much more content. They sit and Steve scoots forward in his seat to tangle his fingers with Tony’s, hanging down by his side. Tony squeezes Steve’s hand and doesn’t let go.

A man Steve doesn’t recognize stands up at the podium at the front of the room. The rest of the room falls silent. No one collected in the seats makes a sound. No one even shifts their weight. Added to the pristine set up of the room the effect is to give everything an eerily sterile feel. The man begins to speak and Tony’s hand jerks in Steve’s. Not as if he trying to pull it away, but as if he wants to flinch his whole body but is confining to motion to somewhere it won’t matter if it’s noticed.

Steve doesn’t listen to the speeches. He feels strange just being here; he’d never met Howard or Maria Stark, didn’t know them. He has no idea who they really were, and now he never will. So it doesn’t matter what these people in suits are saying about them. Instead he focuses his attention on Tony. Tony who’s just been orphaned and is stressed and upset and has all the eyes in the room flicker to him periodically. Tony who’s sitting perfectly still and straight in his chair, eyes forward, chin angled towards the speaking platform. Every inch the picture of perfect attention. Which, of course, means that he’s not paying attention at all. It means that he’s focusing on staying still and proper and betraying nothing of what he really feels. He’s almost statuesque, if it weren’t for the death grip on Steve’s hand shifting every few moments.

When the last person is done speaking, all the people gathered stand up and Tony drops Steve’s hand. Steve wants to reach out and take it back, but that won’t work if they’re about to be moved. Obadiah goes up to the podium, thanks everyone for coming, invites them all to refreshments out in the entrance hall, and reminds them that, if they’re invited, that the wake will held in half an hour, at Stark Mansion.

The crowd starts moving and Steve locks his eyes on Tony, letting the crowd seem to pull and push him while really he fights to stay near to Tony. Once they’re sufficiently mingled in the entrance hall, and at least five people have come up to Tony with their condolences, he touches Tony’s arm gently below his elbow. “Hey, it’s me,” he says.

Tony turns around. “Thank you for coming,” he says. It sounds more genuine than when he’d said it to the others.

“Of course,” Steve says simply. “How are you getting to the wake, do you want me to come with you?”

Tony brightens at that, if just a little. “Please,” he says. “Happy can drive you and me and Rhodey and Pepper, if we can find them.”

“Okay,” Steve agrees. Over Tony’s shoulder, he sees a reporter approaching. “There’s a reporter coming at you,” he warns, preparing to slip back into the milling crowd.

“Stay close?” Tony asks, whispering.

“Always,” Steve promises, sliding just a step or two away.

Tony smiles at him and then turns around, the smile morphing instantly to a mask for the public. It breaks Steve’s heart a little, that even now, in a time of grief Tony is still expected to act the way others want him to. Steve’s too far away to easily make out the conversation, but it seems to go well; the report leaves looking satisfied, not angry or like he’d been brushed off, and Tony’s face falls once he’s gone but it isn’t into an expression of misery or frustration, so Steve figures that the little piece had gone relatively well.

He waits until the gap between well-wishers grows long enough that it’s like people aren’t deliberately seeking out Tony anymore before he slides back into Tony’s personal space.

Tony looks over his shoulder and smiles at him.

“Alright?” Steve murmurs, resisting the urge to run his fingers through Tony’s hair.

Tony nods. “I should get going to the reception soon,” he says.

“Do you want me to find Happy for you?” Steve asks.

Tony shakes his head. “I’ll text him,” he says, pulling out his phone and typing away.

Steve rolls his eyes. “Yes, because going across the room to talk to him in person would have so much more difficult.”

Tony wrinkles his nose and makes a face at Steve, which is his more mature version of sticking his tongue out. Subtly, he reaches out and wraps his hand around Steve’s fingers before starting to navigate the fringes of the crowd until they reach the double doors. Tony slips out and Steve follows. Then they’re on the outside steps, Tony’s limo already sitting by the curb directly in front of them. Tony shifts his hand so he’s properly holding Steve’s hand and goes to the limo, sagging against the vehicle and Steve’s side. Steve kisses the top of his head. They stay like that until Happy and Jarvis slip out of the double doors, followed quickly by Pepper and rho.

Happy puts his hat on his head as he walks towards them, crossing the car and unlocking it. He slides into the driver’s seat and the rest of them climb into the back. Tony steers Steve across the limo, to the seats by the far door and promptly leans against the door.

Steve reaches across him and does his seatbelt for him.

Tony doesn’t appear to notice. He doesn’t appear to notice anything, not even once they reach the reception. He talks then, somberly accepting the condolences of the guests. Steve hovers again, and he notices Pepper and Jarvis doing the same. Rhodey isn’t so much hovering as he is glaring grumpily at the backs of the heads of the people who stop to bother Tony. Once all the extra guests are gone, it feels like it’s been hours, Tony slumps and disappears off to his lab.

Steve gives him five minutes before he follows. He’s not extraordinarily surprised when his access code doesn’t work. “I’ll be here all night,” he says through the door. Tony doesn’t come out for the rest of the night, and the mansion falls into a subdued mood.

Tony hasn’t made an appearance by the next afternoon, so he tries to get a rise. He knocks softly at the workshop again, tells Tony that he has to leave, unless he wants Steve to stay, but he gets no response after five minutes so he heads out. He goes back to his mom’s place, thinking about hopping between there and the mansion.

After that Tony starts disappearing. He goes missing for two days and Pepper turns frantic after the first, when she calls Steve and finds out that he hasn’t seen him. The police still haven’t entirely ruled out the car accident being an act of violence against Stark Industries or the Stark family so there’s a mild, but good panic working up by the time Tony shows up, in the dead of night, refusing to speak to anyone before he locks himself in his workshop. Jarvis, who notes that Tony isn’t even coming out to eat, tries to get in and talk to him. When that fails he calls Pepper, who tries the same thing except with more pleading and later shouting. Pepper calls Rhodey who tries and fails and who later calls Steve who knocks on the door to Tony’s workshop and is completely ignored, just as the others had been. He starts sitting outside the workshop door, sketching or doing his homework whenever he can. Sometimes he talks aloud to Tony, never questions just stories, things that are going through his head. Once he says, “I miss you, you know” and he thinks he hears a sob on the other side of the door so he doesn’t say it again. He says “I love you” every time before he leaves, but he doesn’t know if Tony hears. He asks Jarvis if they’re sure Tony is actually still in the workshop and hasn’t snuck out and Jarvis said that he checked the miles on all the cars in the garage, and found that they were indeed different every morning. But they’re all always there during the day, so if Tony’s leaving while Steve’s outside of his door he’s not going far.

All things considered, Steve should have expected the call in the middle of the night.

“’Lo?” he mumbles, pressing his phone against his ear. He doesn’t even bother rolling over to check the time; his room is still dark and cool and he’ll only be grumpy if he looks.

“Steve, please don’t be mad at me, but I need help.” It’s Tony, voice high and rushed.

“Okay, Tony, don’t worry, just tell me what’s wrong,” Steve says, sitting up. He rubs at his eyes but still refuses to check his clock.

“Please don’t be mad,” Tony says again.

“I’m not,” Steve says. It’s partially a lie, he’s mostly worried but also a little annoyed.

“You’re going to be.”

“Tony, it doesn’t matter what you say, I’m still going to help you.” Steve suppresses a sigh; it won’t do anything for his case that he isn’t mad.

“That’s not what I’m worried about.”

Which means that Tony’s in serious enough trouble that he knows Steve won’t leave him to fend for himself. This isn’t just some late night drunk dialing. “Tony, you’re scaring me,” he says, which isn’t a lie. He’s already sliding out of bed, rummaging around on his floor for pants and a shirt.

“Remember the offer you made me when we first met? To patch me up?”

“Yeah,” Steve feels his blood run cold for a couple of seconds. “Tony, are you hurt?”

“Yeah. And I’m a little dizzy, I don’t think I should drive.”

“Where are you, Tony?” Steve asks, he knows he sounds short but he’s worried and anxious now, as he succeeds in putting his pants on and grabs his wallet and keys from his bedside table. He throws a hoodie over his head and heads out of his room. “What happened?”

“I’m stupid,” Tony mumbles and then mutters an address.

“I’m coming to get you,” Steve says. “Stay where you are. Or, if you move, call me.”

“Okay,” Tony agrees. “I’m really, really sorry.” Then he hangs up.

Steve’s still moving, fast but refusing to let his actions get frantic. It will only hinder him. He scrawls a quick note for his mom in case she wakes up to find him gone, and runs back to his room to place it on his bed, where she’s sure to see it if she looks. He doesn’t take a second to check his clock. Then he heads out, pulling over occasionally to check the GPS on his phone. He doesn’t know the address Tony’d given him, and he’s not really surprised to find himself driving down dingy streets in the seedy part of town. It only makes him more anxious to find Tony.

The relief he’d expected to feel once he found Tony is completely absent when he finally does. Tony’s slumped against the side of a dark building, battered and bloodied.

Tony looks up when he hears the car approach and Steve winces when he sees the black eye Tony’s sporting. Tony avoids his eyes and he climbs into the car, and faces out the window once he’s in.

“Tony,” Steve says gently, reaching out and laying his fingers on Tony’s arm.

“Look, I’m really sorry,” Tony says, still not turning towards Steve, “but I’m really not up for a fight right now. Can you be all disappointed in me tomorrow? I know I fucked up, okay?”

“I’m worried,” Steve protests.

Tony’s head thunks gently against the window. “I’m sorry.”

“But I’m really glad you called me,” Steve says, hoping praise will make Tony relax, prove that he isn’t mad, only scared and worried. “Thank you.”

Tony doesn’t respond. Steve waits a while, and when Tony still doesn’t say anything he starts driving again, retracing the route he took earlier. The streets are deserted enough that he risks glancing at Tony every so often, when the golden light of the street lamps illuminates his car. Tony doesn’t move or say anything until several minutes into the drive when he asks, “Where are we going?”

“My mom’s house, that’s where I was,” Steve answers, looking sideways at Tony again. He’s still staring out of the window, head bouncing slightly with the motion of the car.

Tony winces. “I thought you were at your apartment. I wouldn’t have called you if I’d known you were that far away.”

“No,” Steve says sternly. “Don’t worry about it, you call me whenever, wherever if you need me, okay?”

“Alright,” Tony says softly. He remains silent the rest of the drive, not talking even as he follows Steve into the house.

“Sit on the couch,” Steve says gently. “I’m going to get some stuff.”

Tony nods and obeys. Steve has the uncomfortable feeling that Tony would do whatever he asked at this point, trying to make up for inconveniencing Steve.

Steve heads into the bathroom, grabbing bandages, antiseptic, swabs, and towels. He fills a small bowl up with warm water and then heads back to Tony, kneeling in front of him. “Shut your eyes,” he says.

Tony does so and Steve dips the towel in the water and starts cleaning dried blood off of Tony’s face. “Okay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Tony breathes.

Once Tony’s face is relatively clean Steve puts the towel down and switches to a swab, using it to quickly swipe antiseptic over a cut on Tony’s cheek.

Tony hisses and then gasps, pressing a hand to his side.

“Tony,” Steve says, slowly and carefully, as he puts a bandage on Tony’s cheek, “did you hurt your ribs?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?”

“Shirt off,” Steve says, sitting back on his heels.

Tony bites his lip as he stretches, slowly, gingerly, to get his shirt off. His bruises are more obvious now in the bright light.

Steve swallows down his gasp. Tony’s torso is a mess of different colored bruises. “Tony, you have to go to the hospital,” he says.

“No,” Tony says sharply.

“Tony, your ribs could be cracked, or broken, and that’s serious.”

“No, please,” Tony says. He looks like he’s on the verge of panicking, which wouldn’t be good, and worse, he looks like he’s ready to beg for what he wants, to cry, and Steve thinks that might just break his heart. So he sighs, ready to compromise.

“Will you at least let my mom take a look at your ribs?”

“Don’t wake her up; we don’t need to bother her,” Tony protests.

Steve fixes Tony with a glare. “Either I ask my mom to look at your ribs or we are going to the hospital. Pick.”

“Fine,” Tony mumbles.

Steve stands up and heads down the hall to talk to his mom. She meets him halfway.

“I got your note,” she says, holding it up as evidence. “And I heard you come back in. Is he alright?”

“I can’t tell,” Steve says honestly. “I need you to look at his ribs though, his whole torso’s bruised.”

Steve’s mom nods and follows Steve into the living room.

“I’m sorry,” Tony says as soon as she steps into his sight.

“Shh,” Sarah says, kneeling in front of Tony. “Does it hurt when you breathe?”

“No.”

“Inhale. Deeply.”

Tony does.

“Now exhale. Does that hurt?”

“No.”

“Are you being honest, Tony? Does it hurt at all?”

“No. Only hurts when I move.”

“Your ribs are probably fine then,” Sarah says, standing up. “But I think you have a concussion, so no sleeping for a while, alright? And take some painkillers.”

Tony nods. “I’m sorry for the bother,” he says.

Sarah smiles at him. “You’re not a bother, Tony,” she says.

Tony wipes at his face, hiding it in his arm.

“I’ll go get you a cup of water and the pills then,” she says. She pats Steve on the shoulder as she passes.

Steve pulls himself up on the couch beside Tony and rests his head against Tony’s. “I’m not mad at you,” he says, turning his head slightly to press a kiss to Tony’s temple before resting against him again.

“You should be,” Tony says.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“No.”

Will you tell me?”

“Can’t.”

“And why not?” Steve asks, a little hurt. “Do you think I’m going to get mad, judge you, what?”

“First rule,” Tony says.

Steve doesn’t know what that means, and he says so.

“First rule is that you don’t talk about it,” Tony explains.

It only takes a moment to figure it out. The first rule of fight club is: you don’t talk about fight club. “You went to a fight club?” he asks, voice low but still harsh in his surprise.

Tony flinches then winces.

“Oh, Tony, why?” Steve asks, pressing his face into Tony’s hair again, continuing to hold him close. Burying his face in Tony’s hair is not nearly as comforting as it normally is, Tony smells like himself and sweat, but also like blood and smoke.

“I’m mad,” Tony explains. “Wanted to hit something.”

“And you didn’t just go to a gym because?”

“I wanted something to hit me back,” Tony admits. “Wanted to hurt. I deserve it.”

“No, Tony, no,” Steve murmurs, kissing his head again. “You don’t. I know that right now is hard and awful for you, and I wish I could do more to help you. But hurting yourself isn’t the answer. You know you don’t deserve it.”

Tony’s breath hitches once and then his breathing stutters, like he’s fighting back tears.

“I’ve got you,” Steve whispers. “Maybe we can’t fix anything, but there’s a whole bunch of people who love you and want to help.”

“I don’t want your help,” Tony says, then winces. “I mean, I don’t want to need your help.”

“I know,” Steve says. “Can we work something out instead?”

“Like what?”

“A deal,” Steve says. “You stop sneaking out and going to fight clubs and start coming to me or Pepper or Jarvis or Rhodey or someone instead and I’ll…do something you want me to.”

Tony laughs at that, even if it’s short and doesn’t quite sound like his usual laughter. “I’ll get back to you on that,” he says, sagging against Steve’s side. “I owe you one for tonight anyway.”

“If you did owe me you’d owe me more than one,” Steve says. “But you don’t owe me anything. If it’ll get you to behave though we can pretend.”

Tony’s mouth quirks, like it does when he’s trying not to show that he’s smiling. “Deal,” he murmurs.

Steve’s mom comes back in then, pills and a glass of water in hand, and Steve wonders how she always seems to have such perfect timing.

Tony sits up again, grimacing as he does but not making a noise, and downs both pills with one fast sip of water. “Thank you,” he says.

Steve’s mom smiles at him. “It’s no trouble at all.”

“I’ve got him, Mom,” Steve says. “You can go back to sleep.” He feels bad for waking her, but he doesn’t regret it; he feels a lot better now that he knows Tony isn’t in danger of puncturing a lung every time he shifts.

Steve’s mom hesitates, frowning, before she nods. “Don’t let him sleep until you’re sure there’s no concussion,” she says as she stands.

Steve nods. “Yes, Mom.”

She smiles. “Goodnight, boys. Love you.”

“Love you too,” Steve says.

Tony doesn’t say anything, and Steve wonders if he even knows that his mom was referring to him as well as Steve.

“I’ll stay up with you,” Steve promises him.

Tony blinks at him, and then shrugs. “Okay,” he says, settling against Steve’s side again.

Steve turns on the TV, for something to look at and listen to, to keep him awake so he doesn’t fall asleep. After about an hour with no movement or response from Tony Steve nudges him and Tony jerks, grunting at him.

“I’m awake,” he whines.

“Just making sure,” Steve says. After that he nudges Tony whenever the program changes, and he watches him far more frequently than that. Tony spends the rest of the night pressed against Steve, staring at the television with a far-away expression, like he was seeing something else. Steve doesn’t try to pry just makes sure that Tony is awake and breathing.

Eventually the sun comes up and Steve can hear his mother’s alarm beeping in the back of the house. “Hey,” he says, purposefully jostling the arm Tony’s leaning against.

Tony groans and sits up straight, blinking at Steve.

“I’m sure you’re alright now, do you want to sleep?”

Tony hesitates, then nods and settles back against Steve’s side.

Steve laughs. “I was thinking about sleeping in a bed,” he says.

Tony sighs dramatically but stands, stretching.

Steve copies him and smiles as he takes Tony’s hand in his. He kisses his forehead before tugging him down the hallway.

Tony makes a face as if he’s displeased by such attention, but he squeezes Steve’s hand harder anyways and let’s himself be led to Steve’s bed and held close.

Tony starts coming to practice and hanging around Steve’s campus more after that. He comes to practices, waits for him after class; it’s all very sweet really, except for how it isn’t, except for how it’s because Tony doesn’t do so well when he’s alone anymore.

There are rumors now, in actual magazines and newspapers, which Tony goes weird and intense about until Steve says that he thinks it’s all rather funny, actually, and then he relaxes.

“You don’t mind?”

“It’s weird. To me you’re just…Tony. It’s weird that they’re interested in us.”

“It isn’t though. I’m rich and famous.”

“You know I don’t actually think about that on a regular basis. It’s like: your name is Tony, you’re my boyfriend, you’re very handsome, you’re a fantastic kisser, you’re a genius, you have a lot of money, and you have a company.”

Tony gets weird and intense after that too, but he deals with it by dragging Steve in for a bruising kiss, which Steve is willing to go with.

It all gets a lot less funny when Steve ends up in the hospital.

He’s a football player, he gets tackled, he gets hurt, it happens.

Steve always feel winded after having a pile of large, muscled men slam into him, plus he’s always at the bottom of the pile so he’s the last to get up. He exhales once the mass of bodies is off of his abdomen, and notices that one of the opposing players has his hand out to help him. Steve smiles and takes the hand. He’s pulled to his feet, and then his wrist is bent partially backwards.

“Ah,” Steve gasps

“You’re a faggot, and I’m gonna kick your gay ass,” the guy hisses before letting go and returning to his own side.

“Rogers!” It’s his coach. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Steve says, rotating his wrist a few times, it’s sore, but nothing he can’t manage.

“He hurt you?”

Steve shrugs. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not fucking fine if he deliberately injured my quarterback,” Nick says, glaring. Somewhere beneath the gruffness is genuine concern for Steve’s wellbeing, he knows.

“He wants to make it a big deal. I won’t let him.”

Nick shrugs. “Fair enough.”

He returns to the sidelines and Steve returns to the field.

On the next play Steve’s wrist is grabbed and yanked as he prepares to throw the ball. It’s a deliberate foul, he hears the ref blow the whistle, but he also hears his wrist snap.

In the stall of the yellow flag he goes up to Coach Fury and says, “I need a splint.”

“You need a-dammit, Rogers, that wrist is broken, get your ass over to medical.”

“But-”

“Medical.”

Steve stays on the field long enough to watch Nick shout furiously at the opposing team, until he turns his one-eyed glare on Steve briefly and Steve decides he should head to medical.

The nurse holds his wrist gently in her hand and he can’t help the gasp of pain. “It’s broken. You need to go to the hospital. You got a ride?”

“I can drive,” Steve protests.

The nurse glares at him. “Get someone to take you to the hospital. Call someone or whatever but you’re not leaving here unless it’s with someone else.”

Steve’s about to protest when-

“I’ll take him.”

Tony steps awkwardly into the room. He manages a strained smile for Steve. The nurse nods and waves Steve off. Tony keeps his fingers on the inside of Steve’s good wrist until they get to his car, where he lets go to slide in the driver’s seat. He doesn’t say anything, just taps nervously against the steering wheel as he drives.

Steve bites back the urge to complain and grumble because it’s not Tony who deserves to be grouched at.

The doctor lets Tony stay in the room as he x-rays and sets Steve’s wrist. “Six weeks,” she says, tapping the cast lightly.

Steve can’t help frowning.

“I will see you in four weeks, to see how well it’s doing. If it’s healed then I switch it to a splint. No football, hear me?”

“Yes,” Steve sighs.

“You want a prescription for painkillers?”

“No, thank you, ma’am.”

“Alright then, you can head on home.” She hands him a later date for an appointment and leaves the room.

Steve slides off the examination table and Tony moves to his side again. “I’m sorry,” he says. And dammit, he really looks upset about it.

Steve cups Tony’s face in his good hand. “Not your fault,” he says. “But thank you.”

“But it is my fault!” Tony protests.

“How on earth-”

“I’ve been around more, since, since I went away, and, I’m sorry I guess I’ve been clingy and I’ll stop, but, um, it was because you’re gay, wasn’t it?”

“He called me a faggot,” Steve admits. “But-” he says quickly, grabbing Tony’s face so he can’t look away, “he is an asshole and he is going to get suspended and be in all sorts of deep shit, and you can get your lawyers to sue him for hate crimes if you want.”

Tony relaxes. “Okay.”

“I would really appreciate the chance to kick him in the balls, if they could work that into the settlement.”

Tony laughs, bright and honest.

“I’m not ready for you to stop being clingy yet, I still want to be clingy,” Steve says.

“Okay then,” Tony says on an exhale. “We can cling.”

“Home?” Steve says. “And then clinging?”

Tony leers at him and tugs him out of the hospital and to the car, kissing him dirty and deep against the passenger door. “Let me fuck you tonight?”

“Please.”

 


“Not that I’m complaining or anything,” Tony says as Steve slips into the shower with him the next morning, “but don’t you have class?”

Steve makes a noncommittal sound in the back of his throat. “There’s no point in going.”

Tony smirks at him. “I’d ask what’s gotten into you, but you seem grumpy so you might leave, and I want you here, wet and naked with me, so I’m not going to.”

“Ha ha, nice try, Tony. I can’t take notes; there’s no point in really going.”

“You take notes by hand?” Tony says, sounding scandalized.

“Shut up,” Steve says, tugging on Tony’s hair.

“Make me.”

Steve slams Tony up against the shower wall and kisses him.

Tony groans as loud as he can, and Steve responds by tugging at his hair again.

Tony nips at Steve’s mouth in retaliation. “Ow,” he whines when Steve pulls back. “You’re mean. And to think I was going to offer to go to class and take notes for you.”

“That’s…that’s actually a really good idea,” Steve says. “And I’m sorry I hurt you.” He starts petting and massaging Tony’s scalp in apology.

“Mmm,” Tony hums, leaning into the touch, “Forgiven.”

“Shut your eyes,” Steve says, reaching out for the shampoo.

Tony does, tipping his head back into the stream of water and Steve goes to work washing his hair. It’s a bit clumsy with Steve’s one arm, but Tony is making all sorts of pleased noises so Steve figures that he doesn’t mind.

He even makes good on his promise and comes to Steve’s classes with him. Steve ends up hissing at Tony to take notes, dammit, it doesn’t matter if he’ll know every word later, Steve won’t. Steve still shows up to every football practice, because he’s a captain, dammit. He says that once and knows that he is forever doomed. “Cap” becomes his new nickname almost instantly.

The weeks in his cast may go excruciatingly slow, but they’re not absolute hell.

“So,” Tony says one day, doodling sketches for something on Steve’s cast, “it’s been suggested that we hold a press conference.”

“About?”

“The fact that we’re fucking.”

“What?” Steve says, louder than he meant to.

Tony looks up at him, guilty and shy. “I knew you wouldn’t want to,” he says. “But it’s probably best to come out on our own terms, since people are speculating already. I mean, you’ve already been hurt…” Tony looks away from him.

“I thought I told you to stop feeling guilty about that,” Steve says gently, running the fingers of his good hand through Tony’s hair.

Tony tilts his head back into the touch. “Please. You’re the master of feeling guilty over things that aren’t at all your fault.”

“Am not.”

Tony tilts his head back to give Steve a look.

Steve tugs at his hair.    

“So?” Tony says. “Press conference?”

Steve frowns. “Can’t I just kiss you in public or something?”

“And give whoever manages to snap the picture the glory and the moolah?”

Steve pauses. “Maybe not,” he agrees.

“I’m sorry we have to do this,” Tony says. “I mean we don’t have to. It just would probably be better in the long run if we did.”

Steve thinks for a little, still running his fingers through Tony’s hair. Eventually, an idea forms. “Accept an interview from a reporter you like. You can talk about us then.”

“Okay,” Tony says, tilting his head farther for a kiss.

“You know,” Steve says, when they separate, “whatever you’re drawing there is just going to get ruined when they finally take this damned thing off.”

Tony laughs. “I know. But you could always keep the cast after they cut it off. You could even sell it on eBay. A Tony Stark original would probably get you some serious money.”

“Tony, that’s disgusting.”

“I didn’t say I would buy it.”

“Besides,” Steve continues, “I thought I didn’t need any money, I thought you wanted me to be your kept man.”

“Think about it,” Tony says, shifting around so he’s straddled across Steve’s lap and facing him. He places Steve’s broken arm – his mostly healed arm thank you very much – gently back on the bedspread. “I’m my own boss, I work whichever hours I want. We could spend all day in bed, doing things like this.” To emphasize his point Tony kisses Steve and starts rolling their hips together.

“I thought Pepper was your boss,” Steve says when they part for air.

Tony pouts at him. “I’m CEO,” he says.

“Only on paper,” Steve teases.

Tony growls and bends his head to nip at Steve’s jaw, harder than he would normally.

“Stop that, I’m already injured,” Steve says, pushing gently at Tony’s chest with his left hand.

“You are such a bad patient; you don’t get to play that card,” Tony complains. But he falls back easily and lets Steve stretch out over his body.

“I only have one good arm right now,” Steve continues. “You’re going to have to help hold me up.”

Tony leers and grabs onto Steve’s hips.

Steve leans down farther to kiss Tony’s smirking mouth and then there isn’t much talking for a good long while.

 


“Steve?”

Steve startles at the sound of Tony’s voice. “Hey,” he says, unfreezing his body.

“You were looking at my closet like it’d started talking to you,” Tony says. “Everything alright?”

Steve frowns. “My shirt’s hanging in your closet,” he says, pointing to the offending shirt.

Tony comes closer and leans over Steve’s shoulder – closer than he needs to, of course – to look. “Huh. That is your shirt.”

Steve doesn’t say anything.

“I didn’t mean to steal it,” Tony continues. He feels himself on the verge on a full-blown babble; he can’t tell what Steve is thinking. “You probably just left it here or I borrowed it and forgot to give it back and it ended up in my laundry and one of the maids dealt with it, it’s no big deal, you can take it back.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Steve says, pulling his eyes from the shirt to Tony’s face, stepping a bit back to do so. “I just meant…” he trails off, gaze flickering back to the shirt for a brief moment before returning to Tony. “It looks right,” he finishes, blushing lightly.

Tony grins at him and runs his fingers around the edge of Steve’s blush.

“I was going to borrow a shirt of yours because I ran out of the ones I brought with me and I saw that and it caught me off guard,” Steve explains. “And I was already…feeling weird after I realized I’d been here long enough to run through all the clothes I brought with me.”

“Maybe,” Tony says slowly, because he thinks he knows where this conversation is headed but he’s afraid that he’s overstepping anyways, “you should just bring all your clothes here.”

Steve grins and Tony grins back at him, glad that he’d judged the situation correctly.

It’s the very next day that Tony gets a phone call from Steve.

“Heya,” Tony says, tapping the holographic display for his phone. Steve picture floats in the air above it.

“Tony, I can’t make it today,” Steve says. He sounds…harassed, anxious.

“What’s wrong?” Tony asks, instantly going on alert.

“My mom’s in the hospital,” Steve says. He sounds matter-of-fact, calm, when he says it, but Tony knows him better than that.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“I don’t know,” Steve says. “They don’t know. She just collapsed at work today.”

“Which hospital?” Tony asks, already shutting down all his systems and turning off the machines. “I’ll be right there.”

“Tony, you have to do that interview today.”

“That can wait,” Tony protests, talking louder as he moves around his lab, away from the mic.

“Tony, do the interview,” Steve says, using his bossy tone.

“But-”

“I’ll be okay,” Steve says.

Tony knows he’s lying. “I’ll come after the interview,” he compromises.

“Okay,” Steve agrees easily. “I have to go now; I’m driving.”

Really, only Steve takes the talking on a cell phone while driving laws so seriously. But Tony will let him go if he wants too. “Alright. I’ll call you when I’m on my way.”

“Thank you, Tony,” Steve says. He sounds completely sincere, like only Steve can.

“No problem. Love you,” Tony says, and then the call ends. He leaves his lab shutdown and heads upstairs. “Pepper!” he calls.

“I was just coming to get you,” Pepper says, appearing out of thin air (from around the corner.) “You need to get ready for the interview, you’ve-”

“Steve’s mom is in the hospital,” Tony interrupts.

“Oh,” Pepper says, instantly going softer. “Do we need to cancel?”

“Steve was adamant that I not. I’m heading over there after; cancel everything for the next two days.”

Pepper nods.

“Also, we’re going to fly in the best specialist for whatever it is that’s wrong, so be prepared for that,” Tony says.

Pepper nods. “Of course.”

“So,” Tony says, running a nervous hand through his hair. “You were saying something about the interview?”

“Ben Ulrich will be here in half an hour,” Pepper says gently.

Tony glances down at himself, jeans and tank top covered in grease and other assorted things from his workshop. “I should take a shower,” he says.

“Yes,” Pepper agrees.  “Then please get dressed in something nice.”

“Don’t worry, Pepper,” Tony says. “I’m doing this for Steve.”

Ben Urich is a good reporter, and, Tony thinks, a good man. He’d been the only reporter Tony liked for a good while. Sure, he'd talk to others when they approached him, when he had to, but he’d always felt that Ben Urich’s were the best articles simply because they reported facts about story on hand, and didn’t delve unnecessarily into rumors connected to Tony. Which is why he’s agreed to meet Ben in the sitting room of the mansion, and officially come out about Steve. He rather hopes that it will be an aside in an article more about him in the wake of his parents’ deaths and the future of the company. But, even if that comes true, part of this article is still going to be about Steve, which means that Tony needs to be on his best behavior.

“Mr. Ulrich,” he says, rising from his seat when Jarvis shows the reporter in. “I hope you’re having a good day.”

“I am indeed, Mr. Stark,” Ben says, shaking Tony’s hand.

“Please, sit,” Tony says, gesturing to one of the armchairs in the room. He takes the one across from Ben, a table with tea and water and crackers and cookies between them. “There are refreshments here,” he says, gesturing, “if you’re ever interested.”

“Thank you,” Ben says politely. Then he leans forward, places a tape recorder on the table and takes a pad of paper and a pen out of his coat pocket. “Shall we begin?”

Tony gestures, giving the first move to Ben. Showtime.

 


It’s late when Tony walks through the door. Steve doesn’t know how he got in here, visiting hours are over, but one person per patient is allowed to stay overnight, and Steve had gladly taken the chance.

“How is she?” Tony asks, voice low. He sits next to Steve on the small cot the hospital had provided, sides pressing together.

It’s nice, soothing.

“Sleeping,” Steve says. “It’s her brain. There was a clot, or something. But she’s probably not going to get any better.”

“Is there anything to do?” Tony asks. “Specialists from Sweden or anything?”

“No,” Steve says. He blinks hard, trying not to cry. Tony’s thumb brushes across his knuckles, and somehow that makes the whole situation worse.

“Here,” Tony says, reaching a hand up and pulling Steve into his side.

Steve buries his face in Tony’s shoulder and gives in to a few of his tears.

“S’okay,” Tony murmurs. “It’s just me.”

Steve gives in completely then and cries; anything to ease the hole that’s formed his chest. He works to keep his tears silent, gasping for breath only when he really needs to.

Tony takes the lead from him and simply holds Steve in place against him, swaying them both gently while saying nothing.

They stay like that all night. The night nurse raises her eyebrow at them the first time she comes in, but she doesn’t say anything, and she doesn’t kick Tony out, for which Steve is grateful. Eventually there’s a shift change and the morning nurse that Steve had met the night before comes in and actually sighs when she sees Tony. “You’re not supposed to be here,” she says, and Tony just raises his chin in challenge.

They’re still pressed together on the rickety little bed when Bucky comes in a little bit after visiting hours actually start. “How’d you get in here, Stark?”

“I have my ways,” Tony says.

Steve decides that it’s time to get off this awful bed and he moves to the chair by his mom, taking her hand in his. Tony and Bucky are still bickering.

“You threw money around didn’t you?” Bucky says.

Tony clicks his tongue. “There’s more to it than money, Barnes.”

“Like you would know.”

“Stop it,” Steve says. Even though his voice is several notches softer than the others’ had been, they both fall silent instantly. “She hasn’t woken up.”

“You don’t have to believe the doctors,” Bucky says gently, nothing in his tone belaying his own opinion.

“What did they say?” Tony asks, and it really does sound like a request, and not a demand like normal.

“That if she didn’t wake up within twenty-four hours then she probably wasn’t going to,” Bucky whispers, taking Steve’s vacated spot on the bed next to Tony.

Tony’s silent. They all know that it’s Steve’s decision to end it or drag it out.

They stay like that, silent and grim, until the doctor comes in. His steps are gentle, measured, perfectly calculated not to offend. Steve knows that means bad news. “Mr. Rogers,” he begins.

“I know,” Steve says softly, ignoring how weird that title is. It makes him sound like a grownup, which he’s not. He still needs his mom to take care of him. He can’t be alone.

“Steve,” Tony says gently, taking Steve’s hand in his own. Steve realizes that he’s trembling.

“Can you give us a minute?” Bucky asks the doctor.

“No!” Steve interrupts. “I think…I need…out. Of this room.”

“A minute,” Bucky repeats, following as Tony tugs Steve out of the room.

Steve’s still shaking. “I can’t do it,” he says.

“Shh, sweetheart,” Tony murmurs, running a hand through Steve’s hair.

“But people wake up. From comas,” Steve says.

“Did she have a will, Steve?” Bucky asks gently. “If she said what she wanted in the will do you have to do it.”

They both look at Tony, who shrugs. “Pepper would know,” he offers softly.

“No. No I…” Steve hesitates. Then turns abruptly on his heel and reenters the room. He nods once at the doctor, determinedly staring at the ceiling. He nods once and says, “Do it” before he whips around and says the other two, “We’re going home now.”

Once they’re through the door to Tony’s room Steve practically collapses. Tony can see all of his composure leave; his shoulders slump, his head drops so he’s looking at the ground, and he’s trembling, his whole body shaking with emotion.

“Steve, sweetheart.” Tony says softly, closing the distance between them and cupping Steve’s face.

Steve makes a sound that Tony can’t identify.

“Come on,” Tony says, tugging Steve gently to the bed and then on top of it, crawling so Tony’s leaning against the headboard and Steve’s leaning against him. Steve just lets himself be pulled where Tony wants, almost completely limp. He ends up with his head buried against Tony’s neck. Steve clenches hard at Tony’s shirt, as if Tony will disappear if he doesn’t. “I’m here,” Tony says. “I’ve got you.”

Steve makes that sound again. “I killed my mom,” he says, voice unexpectedly harsh. “I killed her!”

Tony can hear Steve climbing to hysterics. “You heard the doctors, she wouldn’t have woken up.”

“But she might have!” Steve screams.

It’s gutting to listen to Steve this hurt. Tony hugs him closer, tighter. “She wouldn’t have wanted that life, you know that.”

Steve screams again and then starts sobbing - harsh, uncontrollable sobs that wrack his whole body. It’s pain like Tony’s never seen, never felt, and he wants desperately to take it from Steve. “Shhh, baby, I’m here,” Tony murmurs, keeping a low steady stream of endearments. He doesn’t even know if Steve can hear him. Steve cries until he can’t anymore, until he’s too damn exhausted.

“I can’t do this,” he says, voice hoarse and stuffy from crying. His breathing is still uneven, like he’s trying to cry without any tears.

“I know it’s hard,” Tony murmurs, holding Steve tight.

“How am I supposed to arrange this stuff? The funeral and the casket and everything? It makes it seem like she’s really…”

Tony doesn’t say dead, although it’s a near thing. He’s trying to go off his own experience, but it’s hard. He’d never doubted the fact that his parents were dead, he knew it was true the second he was told. And everything had been so clear, so neatly arranged in the wills it hadn’t needed any extra thought. Specific things needed to be purchased and scheduled and then that was that. But this is different. Sarah Rogers doesn’t need the press and the nation to grieve for her, to understand her loss. She had only her son; the one who’s clinging to Tony’s shirt is pure desperation and loss. “Do you want me to take care of it?” he offers, threading the fingers of the hand on the back of Steve’s skull through his hair and stroking gently.

“I should do it,” Steve says after a long silence. “I owe it to her.”

“Okay,” Tony says, starting a low, gentle hum since Steve’s voice is starting to get high and fast and anxious again.

Steve sighs and relaxes minutely. He relaxes his death grip on Tony’s shirt, making it more like he’s just lying on top of Tony than clutching at him.

They stay quiet like that for a long time, eventually falling asleep. In the morning things can be scheduled and arranged and taken care of, but right now Steve needs it, and Tony gives it, the only thing he can to make it marginally better.

 


After the burial, the small group of people start drifting away from the grave in groups of three or more.

Steve doesn’t move.

Tony backs off just enough to give him his space if he wants it, close enough to be in hearing and sight distance in case he doesn’t.

But Steve doesn’t show any sign that he knows other people are there, just stands still, hands buried in the pockets of his winter coat, head bowed.

Tony feels helpless. He’s a genius, he’s a billionaire, and he has all these people and resources at his command, but not one of the many things he has at his disposal will help Steve. He can’t bring Steve’s mom back, just like he can’t bring his own back. He hopes he can be enough.

“Steve!”

His head turns to the side at the call, and small blonde girl running her way from a little farther back in the cemetery to Steve. She’s lighter blonde than even Steve, her long hair a sharp contrast to the black of her coat, even as it trails behind her in the wind. A taller, older brunette with shoulder length hair follows slowly in her wake. Her assuredness and aura of control reminds Tony of Pepper.

“Sharon,” she calls, sounding stern.

But the little girl has reached Steve and he’s greeted her with something close to a real smile. He scoops her up in his arms and rests her on his hip. “Hey there, pretty girl,” he says.

She giggles. Then she throws her arms around Steve’s neck in a hug. “I’ve missed you,” she says.

Steve shuts his eyes and takes a few hard breathes, puffs forming in the air in front of his mouth, clutching back at the girl.

Tony and the brunette have both inched closer; now that Steve’s personal space barrier seems a little less strict.

Steve notices and smiles at them, beckoning them with his spare arm.

Both of them relax and walk toward the other pair at a normal rate.

“Hey, you guys,” Steve says. “Tony, this is Peggy,” he points to the brunette standing next to Tony, “and Sharon,” he bounces the girl in his arms, “Carter.”

“Tony Stark,” Tony says, extending his hand out to the oldest one, Peggy. “Nice to meet you.”

She smiles at him and shakes his hand. “Like I said, I’m Peggy.”

Tony’s a genius. It didn’t take him long to connect this Peggy Carter to the Peggy Steve’d admitted to losing his virginity to in high school. He can see why, she’s gorgeous.

“Nice to meet you to, Sharon,” Tony says, extending his hand to the girl. She beams at him and shakes his hand with her little one.

“I’ve seen you on TV,” she says.

“Sharon,” Peggy says, stern again, but Tony waves his hand.

“It’s alright,” he says. “I have been on TV after all.”

“I’ve seen you in Peggy’s magazines too,” Sharon says.

“Sharon,” Peggy says again, but Tony’s pretty sure that this time her sternness is covering embarrassment.

Sharon seems to know that too; she giggles.

“Do I look as good in person as in the pictures?” Tony asks, feigning real seriousness.

“Tony.” It’s Steve’s turn to be stern, but when Tony looks at him he’s smiling.

“Don’t worry, Steve, I won’t steal your pretty lady from you,” Tony promises.

“No, Peggy’s Steve’s lady,” Sharon protests.

Both Steve and Peggy blush and look away from Tony. Peggy says, “Sharon,” yet again. “We’ve talked about this.”

“No, no, that’s okay, I’ve figured that out already,” Tony says. He bites back any lewd comments, given that both Peggy and Steve look like they would like the world to suddenly open up and swallow them whole. “It’s fine,” he insists, taking Steve spare hand in his.

Steve takes it and smiles softly at him.

Peggy watches the exchange with a soft look on her face. Tony hopes she’s not upset. “So,” he says, turning to Peggy, “what do your magazines say about me?”

She doesn’t bother to dignify his question with anything more than an eye roll.

“Don’t answer,” Steve says anyways. “He reads everything that mentions him.”

“Hey,” Tony whines. But Steve’s smiling, a real smile, the first that Tony’s seen in a long time, and he can’t bring himself to even really pretend to be upset.

Peggy glances at her watches. “We have to go, Sharon,” she says gently, holding out her arms. “It’s getting late. Almost your bedtime.”

Steve hands the girl to her, and Sharon wiggles to be let down.

“Will you visit?” she asks, turning big pleading eyes on Steve.

“I promise,” Steve says solemnly, even crouching down to her level to say it.

“Okay. Bye,” Sharon says, giving Steve a big hug.

He hangs onto her for a few moments before releasing her. “Bye,” he says, waving as the girls step away.

“We’re always available, if you need anything,” Peggy says to Steve.

“I know.”

She nods at him, takes Sharon’s hand, and the Carter girls walk away.

Tony’s still standing, looking at Steve crouched in the snow, waiting for some sign of what Steve wants to do.

Steve lets out a big sigh and slumps down on the ground, snow crunching beneath his weight.

Tony lowers himself down next to him. “Steve?” he says gently.

“I’m alright,” Steve says.

It’s not very convincing.

Tony reaches out a hand, wrapping it gently around Steve’s arm.

Steve muscles jump under his touch but then he sighs, leaning into Tony’s side.

They stay in the graveyard well past dark. Eventually Tony moves them, just a bit, to lean against a tree, Sarah Rogers’ grave still within easy sight. Steve doesn’t take his eyes off of it. “I can’t leave. I can’t leave her all alone,” he whispers once. Tony just holds him closer. Steve never asks him to stay, but he never asks him to leave either, which Tony thinks is more telling.

When the sun starts to rise though, Tony thinks it’s time. He moves to stand, pulling Steve up with him. Both their joints crack into place after a night of sitting on hard ground. “The sun’s with her now,” he says.

Steve smiles at him, another real smile. “Thank you,” he says.

“Do you want breakfast?” Tony asks. “Or a bed.”

“Bed,” Steve says.

Tony smiles at him and agrees, and tugs him off to his car. Steve falls asleep on the way back to Tony’s mansion and Tony wakes him up gently to get him up the stairs and then crawls into bed with him. Steve is asleep again almost instantly. Tony wonders just when the last time Steve truly slept was before he curls around Steve’s body and falls asleep himself.

 


Steve wakes up to the feeling of Tony spooned up behind him. Tony’s smaller than Steve, so he’s not the big spoon often, but Steve finds that it’s rather comforting and he finds himself relaxing again into Tony’s body. Tony’s head is pressed into the back of his shoulders, his breath warm where it bleeds through the fabric of Steve’s shirt and they’re pressed together from that point to the point where Tony’s feet are wedged in between Steve’s calves. For the first time since his mom died Steve feels safe and like everything might be okay again. He lets himself take a few deep breaths and enjoy the contact until he can feel Tony start to stir behind him.

“Hey, you awake?” Tony mumbles, pulling away from Steve to lean over his side and look at him.

Steve smiles and turns over. “Yeah,” he says leaning in for a kiss.

Tony gives it to him, smiling. “You have morning breath,” he says softly.

“Do you mind?” Steve asks.

“Not really.” Tony gives Steve another kiss and Steve lets himself relax into it and smile.

Things don’t get better right away, but the funeral acts as a turning point of sorts. Classes and practice aren’t torture anymore, no longer a reminder that his mom will never know who he does in college. She’ll know, in a way. Steve truly believes that. He doesn’t talk to Tony about it, afraid to cross that bridge, but Tony is nothing but supportive. It takes a little while before Steve remembers that Tony’s lost his parents too, that he understands. Their relationship gets easy again after Steve remembers that. Feeling happy with Tony doesn’t feel like such a betrayal anymore. Everything is slow and gradual and some days it’s one step forward and two steps back, but it’s better.

Once Steve’s feeling a little bit more stable he gives Tony and Ben Urich the go ahead to publish the article about him and Tony. The world doesn’t explode and there’s may be a lot of speculation about him on some of the less classy TV programs and in the gossip rags, but he’s pleased with the article itself. It’s actually sort of fun to laugh about their theories on him. He gets some more stares on campus, but his friends know and the team knows and it’s not a big deal. Tony had done a good job. The holiday season feels Steve with a kind of sickening dread, but he’s actually excited for the next game, the last piece of school before the holidays.

And he’s officially moved into Tony’s place, piece by piece so it’s easy for him to lean across the back of the couch, settling his arms across it and kissing Tony’s head. Tony tips his head back and smiles, sweet and happy, and Steve’s stomach does that flip-floppy thing it does when he’s around Tony sometimes. “It’s time to go,” he says, “are you coming?”

Tony’s face falls. Steve can tell he’s thinking frantically about what he’s forgotten, and Steve tries his best not to be hurt, he knows it isn’t personal, but he feels his own face fall in response.

“The game, Tony. Are you coming?”

“Do you want me to?”

Yes. “I don’t want to force you into doing something you don’t want to, just for my sake.”

Tony frowns like he noticed the lie and Steve kisses him. “I have to be there early, but the game starts at 7, if you wanna show.”

“Okay,” Tony says, pulling Steve back in for another kiss. “Good luck.”

Steve smiles as Tony slaps him on the ass.

Lately Steve’s been really grateful for football. It makes things easier sometimes, to have something to focus on, and a good excuse to throw balls and push people. It’s a good outlet and once he’s in uniform it’s easy to let a little bit of unsure Steve Rogers melt away, and let the confident captain in.

And it isn’t until they’re all recuperating in the locker room between halves when Steve actually looks at his phone. He has a new picture message which, when he opens it, is a picture of his backside in his uniform, captioned: Very nice, I approve ;). It’s from Tony. Seconds later, another text. Fuck it’s cold.

Steve smiles and types back: I could always come give you my jacket.

I’d rather have your body.

After the game.

If you win I’ll blow you

Steve shakes his head and smiles.

“Oi!”

A towel hits him in the back of the neck and Steve turns around, dropping his phone back in his bag.

“You are such a sap about your boy, Rogers,” Luke says.

“How do you know I was talking to Tony?” Steve asks, giving him a slight push in retaliation.

“You get this look on your face, dude.”

Steve just shrugs. “He rarely comes to games. It’s nice to know that he’s here.”

Luke just rolls his eyes.

“Oh, like you aren’t pleased when Jess and Danny show up.”

“Jess and Danny show up every time.”

“And you smile every time you see them in the stands,” Steve counters. “And I’m the sap.”

Luke shoves him and Steve laughs and calls for the huddle. It’s rare for him to feel at peace these days, but he’s found it for a while.

They win the game and the feeling of peace and enjoyment gets even stronger. Tony drags him home, straight out of the locker room, barging right in and taking Steve’s bag in one hand, Steve’s hand in his other and pulling him out.

The guys can’t help laughing and catcalling but Steve doesn’t really mind. He knows that glint in Tony’s eye and even though it’s sort of embarrassed to know that his team knows he’s about to get laid, it makes him a little proud and happy too.

True to his word, as soon as they’re through Tony’s front door Tony drops to his knees and undoes Steve’s football pants.

“Mmm, how long have you been hard, Steve?”

“I’m always little – ah - after games,” Steve gasps.

Tony pulls his mouth off Steve’s cock to smirk. Steve makes a displeased whine and bucks his hips forward. “Being tackled by all those men get you hot and bothered?”

Steve shakes his head. “Only you, Tony, I promise.”

“It’s okay if it does,” Tony says, before licking a strip up the inside of Steve’s thigh.

“Nngh.”

Tony chuckles.

“I’m glad you came today. I like thinking about you watching me.”

“I enjoyed myself. You’re going to have to wear these pants more often.”

“I will if you stop talking now.”

“Deal,” Tony agrees, and then he stops talking.

The football season marks the end of the school for winter break, and with that Steve starts feeling rather depressed again. His distractions are gone, his violent outlet is gone, and Christmas, his mom’s favorite holiday is right around the corner. It hurts him whenever he thinks about it, that never again will they spend hours hunting through lots for the perfect tree, or hang lights all over the house, or drink cocoa together as they exchange gifts. It’s strange to spend Christmas in Tony’s mansion, as at home as Steve feels there, and it hurts a little. So when Tony brings up holiday plans Steve isn’t in the best of moods to listen.

“So,” Tony says, dropping onto the couch next to Steve. “I was thinking that we get out of here for Christmas. Where do you want to go?”

Steve hesitates, emotions hitting him out of nowhere. He’d been very carefully not thinking about the holiday season and his first Christmas without his mother. And the thought of spending it completely away from everything he’s ever associated with the holiday is horrible. While Steve’s busy choking on his feelings, Tony’s still talking.

“We could go south you know, as far as Australia, it’s sunny down there. Or Europe, if you still want snow. We could go to the Alps! Go skiing, or something. We can go to a bunch of places, what do you want?”

“Nothing,” Steve says.

Tony stops his rambling with an audible breath, blinking. “Okay, we can-”

“Stop it!” Steve says, surprising himself by shouting.

Tony goes very still.

“You don’t have to,” Steve waves a hand in frustration, “do this.”

“Do what?” Tony asks. All his early animation and excitement gone.

“These extravagant things!” Steve yells, standing up.

Tony remains sitting on the couch, perfectly still.

But now that Steve’s started he can’t stop. “I’m a person, Tony; you can’t just fix what’s wrong with me. Especially not by spending money on me. I don’t need things or trips or any of that! If you could just stop and think for once in your life maybe you’d actually understand.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t understand,” Tony spits. He stands too, not suddenly and explosively like Steve, but smoothly, calculated. “I can’t possibly understand what it’s like to lose a parent. I can’t possibly understand that you’re a human being with feelings, you’re just another one of projects, sure took you long enough to figure it out. Guess you do have something resembling a brain in that blonde football player head of yours after all.”

Steve growls. “Stop it, Tony. That’s not what I was saying. I’m not going to stop being upset because you buy me things.”

“I don’t understand,” Tony says again, using Steve’s words as his weapons. “I mean, I was born with a silver spoon up my ass, wasn’t I? That’s all I understand, money and robots and material things. That’s the only reason anyone likes me, right? Guess you’ve seen right through me.”

Steve stomps in anger. But Tony continues, cutting through Steve’s sudden anger with vicious precision.

“Robots and money, that’s all there is to me. You should know that better than anyone else. It’s not like I’ve ever cried in your arms, ever shown that maybe I have feelings too. I’ve never held you as you cried either. Never shown you love. There’s no reason for you to suspect that maybe I was trying to cheer you up.”

“That’s what I’m saying!” Steve interrupts. “I’m not just going to cheer up magically because you’ve spent a shit ton of money on me!”

“No, you’re right,” Tony sneers. “There’s nothing that can possibly cheer you up. You don’t want to be distracted, you don’t want to be coddled, you don’t want to be spoiled, you’re just going to wallow in misery for the rest of your life then that’s fine.” Tony’s still not yelling, but somehow that’s even scarier, even meaner. “Poor little Steve. All alone without his mommy. No friends, no boyfriend, no happiness to speak of. All of him depended on his mommy, just like a little baby. Well I’m no pedophile, so get the fuck out of my house.”

When Tony’s finished they’re both silent, breathing heavily and angrily. Steve’s feeling a strange mixture of anger and hurt.

“Out,” Tony repeats.

“Where am I supposed to go?” Steve asks, voice small. As he says it he realizes that he doesn’t really have anywhere to go.

“I don’t know, why don’t you go crawling home to mommy? Oh wait.”

“That was mean,” Steve says, still feeling awfully small and weak. Tony’s words have cut him to the quick.

Tony flips him off. “I’m going to my lab,” he says, voice a false measured calm. “If you’re still here when I come out I’ll call the police and have you forcibly removed.”

He leaves then, turns his back on Steve and walks away, leaving Steve standing in the middle of Tony’s living room wondering what the hell just happened.

Pepper sticks her head in after a while. “Steve?” she says softly.

Steve jumps anyways, blushing. “Did you hear all of that?” he asks.

Pepper nods. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the two of you Fight.”

Steve shrugs. “We argue. But that was…well.”

“A Fight,” Pepper says nodding. “You made a tactical error, Cap.”

When had she started using that nickname? “Clearly,” Steve says. Because Tony had ended the argument on his own terms and threatened Steve.

“You underestimated Tony,” Pepper explains. “You forgot how smart he is. Not just with math and machines but with people.”

Steve nods. “He had what he said because he wanted to hurt me. It was all very deliberate.”

Pepper nods again and smiles at him. “He doesn’t really want you to leave, you know. He’ll insist that he does, to save face, but he’ll be crazy if he comes up and you really are gone.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Steve asks. “Shouldn’t you be on Tony’s side?”

Pepper snorts. “If he comes out of his workshop and you’ve gone he will go silent and moody for days, destroy several things, light several minor fires, and fire me at least six times. I’m making it easier on myself.”

Steve smiles wryly. “I should go apologize.”

“Do you know what you’re apologizing for?”

Steve hesitates. “For implying that he’s trying to buy me off. I don’t really think that, it’s just…frustrating sometimes. I’m grieving, and he can’t fix it because it’s not supposed to be fixed, but he’s always trying to.”

Pepper nods and gestures towards Tony’s workshop. “Go on then.”

Steve’s actually a bit surprised that his access codes work and that the doors to Tony’s lab open just as easily as they always do. Tony’s working on something, back to the door, but there isn’t loud rock music attempting to drown Steve out. Everything points to Pepper being right, that Tony is more hurt that angry.

“Tony?” Steve calls. Loud enough to be heard but soft enough to not be offensive.

Tony doesn’t respond. Which, although not very welcoming, is also not a dismissal. So Steve walks up to him, settling on one of the rolling stools and rolling himself across the stone floor with a slight scraping noise, coming to a stop behind Tony and wrapping his arms around his waist. Tony’s warm against the chill of the workshop. “Hi,” he says.

Tony sighs and shuts down his project. “Do go acting cute now,” he says, spinning around on his own stool. But he doesn’t break Steve’s hold.

“Can we talk?” Steve asks.

Tony nods at him.

“I’m sorry for saying those things, for saying that you don’t understand,” Steve starts. “I didn’t mean them. And I’m not even angry with you, just, angry at the world.”

Tony nods. “I don’t want you to go,” he says softly. “I was just mad.”

“Hey, I’m here, aren’t I?” Steve says, smiling. “And you weren’t just mad, I upset you. And I’m sorry, I never want to hurt you.”

“I’m doing the best I can,” Tony says. “I know I can’t make up for your mom, but…” He shrugs. “I’m trying. I hate seeing you so unhappy.”

“Oh, Tony,” Steve says. “It’s not your responsibility to change that. I’m grieving and sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but it’s never about you. It was just…I realized that I wouldn’t be spending Christmas with my mom and celebrating it away from everything that reminds me of her…hurt.”

“I’m shouldn’t have suggested it,” Tony says. “I thought it might help you forget a little, is all.”

“I don’t want to forget,” Steve says. “I want to…I want to accept it. Which isn’t something you can help me do, I have to do it on my own. It’s frustrating sometimes, to watch you keep trying. It’s like you don’t like me like this and you’re trying to change what I can’t help.”

Tony frowns. “That’s not it at all. It hurts to see you so upset. I love you, I don’t know how to not try and make it better.”

Steve smiles at him, a realer one now. “I appreciate it, I do. You’re just conveniently there for me to get mad at sometimes. Which isn’t fair to you.”

Tony sighs and rests his forehead against Steve’s. “Tell me what I can do to fix this.”

“There’s nothing to fix, Tony.”

“Yes there is, you’re angry with me.”

“I am not. Haven’t you been listening?”

“Aren’t I enough to make you happy sometimes?” Tony’s question is almost a whisper, almost as if he doesn’t want Steve to hear it and answer.

Steve kisses him slight and sweet and Tony whimpers. “You are,” he says. “You make me very happy. Imagine how miserable I’d be if I didn’t have you?”

“You’re terrible at telling jokes to lighten the mood,” Tony says.

“How about New Year’s?” Steve asks, sliding his hands into the back of Tony’s waistband.

“What about it?” Tony asks, pressing back slightly into the touch.

“We’ll spend Christmas here and go away for New Year’s. We’ll get a hotel with a fancy view and fuck our way into the new year.”

“Mmm, sounds like a plan,” Tony murmurs, leaning even farther forward to kiss Steve. His chair makes a noise in protest.

Steve laughs and everything is a little bit better again.

Tony treads a little more carefully for a couple days but eventually that even fades, even if sometimes he’s a little too quiet and understanding. Steve wakes up really early on Christmas morning and dresses in his slacks and one of the fancy sweaters Tony took to buying him after Steve complained once that he was cold.

Of course he accidentally wakes Tony up. He’s sorry about it, but not extraordinarily sorry when Tony wakes up, blinking awake and struggling up on one elbow, hair a mess. “Where’re you goin’?” he slurs.

“I’m going to go to mass,” Steve says. “Go back to sleep.”

Tony shakes his head and starts to sit up fully. “Wan’ me t’come?”

Steve can’t help laughing and stroking through Tony’s hair. “You don’t have to. I’m just doing this for me, okay?”

“Okay,” Tony says frowning. He pauses for a little bit, swaying slightly, before he grabs onto Steve’s wrist and says urgently, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Steve says kissing Tony’s dark head.

“You’re going to come back, right?” Tony says anxiously.

“I’m going to church, not Mars.”

“I could build you a rocket to Mars.”

Steve laughs. “I’m sure you could. Go back to sleep, genius.”

Tony looks at Steve for a long time before nodding and dropping his hand from Steve’s wrist back onto the bedspread. His body follows and he’s asleep again almost instantly. Steve watches him for a few moments, letting Tony fall back into a deep sleep before heading out.

He sits in a pew in the back, quiet during the service and prays for his mom. A few of the other church members come up to him and offer their condolences, and he’s grateful for the thought even if their words don’t really help. But he’s glad he went, he actually thinks that the service helped settle him in some way. He’s in a good mood when he gets back to the mansion. Jarvis is already cooking, and it smells great, and Steve can’t help smiling. He ends up crawling back into bed with Tony, who wraps himself around Steve like an octopus.

Steve chuckles and rests his head against Tony’s and falls asleep again.

Tony flies Steve with him to Paris for New Year’s, books them a penthouse room with a view of the Eiffel Tower and the whole thing is ridiculously romantic and lovely, and Steve leaves all his problems in America for a week and instead rolls around in bed with Tony and looks around at all the art and buildings in Paris. Tony’s right, he thinks, that it was good for him to get out and just forget for a little while.

School starts again and Steve takes a few more art classes than normal and works on some more plays as the football season starts wrapping up.

Tony takes him out for Valentine’s Day, to a romantic restaurant, which does not surprise Steve in the least. When they get home Steve lets Tony tie him up and blindfold him and tease him and have slow sex with him.

In March, Obadiah visits and tells Tony that after his eighteenth birthday he’ll inherit the company. Tony gets high-strung after that; getting things in order and fussing over everything. “It has to be perfect,” he tells Steve, “or they’ll take it away again.” Steve’s not exactly sure why that’s so important to Tony but he accepts it. Tony tries to explain it once, that the company is a family thing and he needs to take it on. Steve supports him, helps him with what he can, even if he doesn’t understand much of what the business stuff is.

Tony takes over the day after he turns eighteen. Obadiah announces at the press conference that Stark Industries will be unveiling their latest and greatest, live in Afghanistan, and that of course, the bright, young CEO will be doing the honor personally.

Tony smiles a fake smile that lets Steve know he hadn’t heard a word of this plan before.

“The Jericho?” he hisses at Obadiah as they’re heading out. “We’re going to launch it? We’re not even sure how much destruction it will cause.”

“Tony, my boy, you will sell it, and only fire it once, and those terrorists will be so scared you won’t need to know anything more about it.”

Tony frowns but agrees to go.

Steve wants to put up a fight and keep Tony out of an active war zone, but he doesn’t want to do anything to hurt what Tony wants so dearly.

“Will you promise me that you’ll be careful?” Steve asks, stroking down Tony’s face, down his neck, to his chest and then up again.

“They’re not going to let anything happen to me,” Tony says, rubbing his foot up and down Steve’s leg where they’re entangled.

“It’s a warzone, Tony.”

“I won’t go near any firefights, promise.”

Steve makes a displeased sound and stops stroking, instead looping his arm around Tony’s waist and pulling him closer.

“I’ll come back,” Tony promises. “I won’t leave you.”

Steve exhales and wills himself to relax into sleep. He shouldn’t worry so much, he knows. Tony may be going to Afghanistan, but he’s going to demonstrate Stark Industries newest weapon, not to fight anyone directly. It’s all a PR stunt, to show the brand-new, young CEO of Stark Industries is indeed capable.

He manages a few hours of restless sleep before Tony’s alarm goes off, and Tony starts squirming his way out of Steve’s grip.

Steve lets him go and sits up. He watches Tony dress in the low light, feeling a strange, deep pang at the fact that this is the last time he’ll be seeing Tony (relaxed and naked and beautiful) for a good while.

“Bye,” Tony says, leaning over to kiss Steve.

Steve turns the kiss into something long and slow before letting Tony go. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Tony says, smiling. “And can I borrow a sweatshirt; it’s cold out.”

Steve laughs. “’Course,” he says, sliding out of bed.

Tony’s gaze travels over Steve’s body, and Steve grins at him over his shoulder when he catches him looking. “Like what you see?”

Tony laughs and smacks Steve’s ass before wrapping his arms around his waist.

Steve traces a finger over gently over Tony’s knuckles and the inside of his wrist, and Tony kisses his shoulder blade.

“Here,” Steve says, turning around in Tony’s hold and draping his captain’s jacket over Tony’s shoulders.

Tony grins at him. “Your leather football jacket, eh, quarterback?” He let’s go of Steve to shrug his arms into the sleeves.

“Yep,” Steve says, zipping the jacket up. As always it’s big on Tony, falling past his waist and wrists, but Steve likes the way it looks. Steve places his hand over the Howling Commandos logo on the left breast of the jacket, here in the early morning quiet he can feel Tony’s heartbeat beneath it. “I’m really bad at this, huh?”

 “Nah.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll let you go,” Steve says, giving Tony a quick kiss on the forehead.

“Love you,” Tony says, going up on his toes to kiss Steve before stepping back.

“Stay safe,” Steve says.

“I will.” Tony salutes and Steve laughs.

After Tony’s gone, Steve slides back into bed, and if he curls up on Tony’s side of the bed and buries his head in the pillow Tony was using, well, no one has to know.

He wakes up a few hours later, when his alarm goes off. He instantly misses the feeling of Tony’s warm body next to him. He knows he’s being silly about it, it’s definitely not the first time Tony’s gone on a business trip since they started dating, but Afghanistan seems much farther away than LA. And much more dangerous. Since Tony has his jacket, Steve grabs one of Tony’s too-big hoodies out of their closet for the day. (Too-big for Tony, just the right size for Steve.)

His day actually starts out well. Classes keep his mind off of missing Tony, fills his head with something else. It isn’t until he’s alone on a bench under a tree, waiting for the next round of classes to begin, that he gets a call and his day (and a lot of those thereafter) is ruined.

It’s Jarvis. Reporting on Tony’s situation in Afghanistan.

“Missing?” Steve repeats, mind numb and stomach dropping. “What do you mean Tony’s missing?”

Jarvis’ voice is calm on the other end of the line. “The convoy was attacked, and the bodies of the men Tony was riding with have been found. But Tony has not been.”

“Are…is…” Steve’s brain has shorted out. “Do they think he’s dead?” He doesn’t know if he can bear to hear the answer.

“It is likely that this is a kidnapping. We are expecting a ransom call sometime in the near future.”

“Okay,” Steve says. “Thanks…for calling me.”

“I shall inform you of any further developments before they reach the media,” Jarvis promises.

“Thank you,” Steve says again.

The next thing he knows his cell phone is snapped in half in his fist. He takes in a deep breath and lets the remains of the phone fall to the ground. He rests his elbows on his knees and puts his head in his hands and focuses on just breathing.

The first thing he does as soon as he doesn’t feel like crying or fainting is exploit the warranty on his phone. He gets a new phone with the same number and gets all his contacts imported and then sits in the mall and spends ten minutes staring at it, desperately hoping that Tony’s name will show up on the little screen.

He can just hear Tony complaining about it too. What? What is this piece of shit, Steve? What even, you could have had the new Starkphone for free you know, why didn’t you tell me?

Steve decides that imaging Tony’s voice is a hint to go home, so he stands up and sits in the front seat of his car for a long time, trying to feel composed enough to drive.

Eventually Steve feels calm enough that he thinks he can probably manage to get himself out of the mall parking lot, so he heads on his way, driving aimlessly and nearly crashing twice because of it. Eventually he realizes that he isn’t heading anywhere near his place, but he’s closer to Bucky’s so he makes a sharp turn and heads off, glad to finally have a destination. He doesn’t know how he gets to Bucky’s or how long it took him or anything about the drive, which is probably a bad sign, so he’s really glad when Bucky answers the door.

“Hey,” he says, smiling at Steve. “What’s up?”

Steve opens his mouth, and then shuts it again, unsure of what to say.

Bucky frowns at him. “Hey, you okay? You normally call before coming over, what’s wrong?”

Steve hesitates trying to put everything into words. Belatedly he realizes how hard it must have been for Jarvis to call him. “Tony went to Afghanistan,” he says eventually.

Bucky steps aside to let Steve in fully and then shuts the door behind them, still frowning. “Is all this because you miss him? ‘Cause I got to tell ya, Steve, if it is, this is some really codependent shit going on right here.”

Steve shakes his head. “I almost crashed my car,” he says, noticing that his hands are shaking.

Gently, Bucky takes him by the shoulders and leads him over the couch, sitting down next to him. “I’m sorry, Steve, but I’m not really getting the link.”

“Tony’s gone,” Steve says, and saying it out loud is an awful realization, that Tony isn’t here, is somewhere else and may never be coming back.

Bucky’s still frowning at him. “Gone…away?”

“Gone missing,” Steve says.

Bucky’s I’m-concerned-about-your-sanity frown turns into a I’m-concerned-about-your-feelings one. “Oh, Steve,” he says, rubbing a hand down Steve’s shoulder blade. “He’s with the army, right? They’ll find him.”

“They’re the ones who lost him,” Steve protests, leaning into the touch. “They were attacked and people are dead and Tony is missing.” He sags sideways into Bucky, who grabs onto him. “They suspect a kidnapping. But…” Steve screws his eyes shut and Bucky tightens his grip. “Kidnapped by terrorists is hardly better than…” Dead, he doesn’t say. He starts crying then, grateful that Bucky doesn’t say anything, just holds him.

Steve starts avoiding Tony’s place after that. He goes once to collect some of his stuff; clothes, phone charger, school books. He ends up staying with Bucky, who doesn’t say anything about it, just welcomes Steve. He keeps up with the story on the news, the disappearance of the brand new CEO of one of the top companies is a big deal, hoping desperately that there’s a detail Jarvis or Pepper forgot to tell him. There never is. He answers every call from Jarvis or Pepper immediately, even running out of class a couple of times. Even when there’s nothing new they still call him after every update.

Months pass. Steve can feel himself getting more and more depressed, more hopeless. Bucky starts giving him these looks, looks that are sad and frustrated. Steve feels the same way. He throws himself into school and football, stops talking to people unless it’s on the field. His coach frowns at him more often than usual, but doesn’t say anything.

The last practice of their year Rhodey comes late. It isn’t until Steve notices it that he realizes that he’s been avoiding Rhodey too, except for practice.

“Hey, Cap,” Steve turns around to see Rhodey striding towards him. In uniform, but not his football one.

“Rhodes.” Steve nods at him.

“I’m not gonna be on the team for a while. I’m deploying.”

Steve swallows, hard. “I understand.”

Rhodey looks at him. “Not how you’re thinking, Cap. I’m part of a rescue mission.”

“For Tony,” Steve says. Something tight in his chest loosens a little.

“Yep.” Rhodey stands at attention and salutes.

Steve salutes back. “Bring him home,” he says.

 


 

Across the world, Tony is dragged back into the dark room, coughing and spluttering. His captors dump him on the floor and his fellow captive, Yinsen waits until they’re long gone before helping Tony stand.

“We’re working too slow for them,” Tony gasps, sagging against Yinsen. “Mad that we spent time, making this.” Tony taps the device in his chest, glowing steadily blue despite the recent water torture.

“Did you get anything done?” Tony gasps, sinking onto the lump of soft materials that serves as his bed.

Yinsen nods. “It is likely that we will have completed hand and foot units within the next few days,” he says, showing Tony the mess of wires and metal ports.

Tony takes one of the hand devices and slips it over his palm.

“I would take much longer to complete a head-to-toe casing,” Yinsen continues. “Although I would recommend it, I don’t know what effect exposed wires will have on skin.”

Tony shakes his head. “No, no time. I have to get out of here soon.”

Yinsen frowns. “Then we will not be much longer, if we are only completing these.”

Tony nods and slumps sideways on the “mattress.” “Here, give me something to work on,” Tony says, holding out a hand. Yinsen passes him two separated halves of one of the foot ports and a screwdriver and Tony starts working on them. He’s not sure what he’ll do if he’s tortured again for not working.

Of course, Yinsen is right. Two days later they have enough built that Tony wants to start running the program through it. So Yinsen hooks Tony up in the wires, cold metal wires trailing across Tony’s chest and back, over his shoulders and down his arms, to hand ports, before spiraling their way down his legs to the foot ports. They’ve rigged a small port on the underside of the arc reactor, so Yinsen can attach a cord to it and then to the computer and upload the code Tony’s written into the wiring system.

It’s his only chance of escape and he really hopes it works. “Hit it,” he tells Yinsen, who hits the enter button. The code starts running, lines and lines of binary flashing across the screen. Tony takes a deep breath. He does this is it. Do or die time. “How long has it been?” he wonders aloud.

“For me? Years,” Yinsen says. “For you? Months.”

“Birthdays,” Tony murmurs quietly. “I’ve lost track of the days but I’m sure…I’ve missed my boyfriend’s birthday.” He frowns. “You have kids right? I bet they’re so much older now, but it won’t matter, will it?” he babbles. “They’ll be happy to see us right?”

Yinsen opens his mouth to answer when there’s a loud pounding at the door to their cell followed by loud angry shouting. Instead of answering Yinsen grabs one of the still working guns off the table.

Tony panics. “Yinsen? Yinsen, what’s happening, what are they saying?”

“I will buy you time,” Yinsen says before running over to the door and opening a gap wide enough to fire through.

“Yinsen!” Tony shouts over the pattering of bullets on stone. “You said we were going to do this together!”

“I am sorry, Tony Stark,” Yinsen says. He opens the door more and steps out. The footsteps of approaching guards echo horrifyingly. “Do not waste your life.” Then Yinsen is gone down the tunnel with a war cry.

“Yinsen!” Tony shouts again, straining against the wires and cords. The wires aren’t so cool now, they’re warm through the cotton of his clothes, Tony figures they’ll have burned right through before it’s all over. He struggles until the computer beeps and the cord connected his chest falls.

Tony lets out a war cry of his own and starts running, stumbling across the room until he gets the hang of running with the foot pads on. It really would be much easier with boots, he thinks. He rounds a corner and there are the men, standing facing him with guns ready to fire. Behind them Tony can see Yinsen’s body.

Calculating, Tony raises his palms up in mock surrender.

The terrorist shout amongst themselves for several precious moments, but that’s all Tony needs. Carefully he presses his palms against the pad harder and heatelectrictiypower comes spewing out, blasting the men off their feet.

Tony ignores the smell of burning flesh and focuses on Yinsen, slumped and bloodied against a wall. “Come on,” he says, shaking Yinsen’s shoulder gently. “Come on I’ve got them, let’s get out of here, let’s go see your family.”

Yinsen takes a shuddering breath and shakes his head. “I am going to see them,” he says. “Remember, you are here for a reason, Tony Stark.”

“Yinsen! Come on, Yinsen!”

But Yisnen doesn’t answer and there are more soldiers marching towards them.

Determined, Tony starts running again out of the tunnel and into the light. He pauses, stunned by the brightness of the sun and then there are guns behind him, in front of him, all around him. Tony points his palms at the ground and carefully presses down on the pads attached to his hands and feet. There’s a roar and yelling and then he’s in the air, bullets following him but missing their target. The men and their weapons grow smaller below Tony, and he takes his right hand and re-aims, just enough to hopefully destroy their weapons stockpile. He wobbles then, balance off, and flies jerkily over mountains and desert until the power cuts out and he’s falling plummeting to the earth, and he presses hard against the ports, glad when one foot starts working again, just enough to slow his descent until he’s falling again, power sporadic. He gets close enough to the ground like that that he judges he can just fall and he does, shutting his eyes and hitting the sand hard.

He groans, stunned from the ordeal and lays tangled in the wires for several long minutes. Eventually he’s aware that he’s burning, his skin is burning where the hot sand touches it, and the wires have burned rips all over his shirt and pants. Bracing himself, he starts pulling at the wires, flinging them off whenever he gets them loose. They burn his hands but he doesn’t care; better his hands than his whole body. Eventually he gets all the wires off and flings the dead ports off to the side with them and staggers to his feet.

Wouldn’t you know it, the desert is motherfucking hot. The sand is hot, the air is hot, even the wind is hot. Tony’s pretty sure that his feet are burned too and he stumbles around, hoping desperately that people are still out there searching for him. Eventually he starts feeling the effects of being out in the heat. He can feel his skin blistering and the ground starts waving and spinning and he falls a lot. He’s not sure how long he’s been at it when the wind picks up and Tony stops in his tracks, looking up. There’s a helicopter.

He screams with all the energy he has left in his body, lifting his arms and waving them around. “Over here!” he shouts. When the helicopter starts descending he whoops and drops to his knees. Once the plane is close enough to the ground a figure drops out and Tony smiles when he sees Rhodey.

“Next time you ride with me,” Rhodey says, dropping to his knees in front of Tony and pulling him into a hug.

Tony passes out on Rhodey’s shoulder in the helicopter and is bullied into the base hospital when they land.

“I’m fine,” he protests. “Just wanna sleep.”

“Shut up, Tony,” Rhodey says.

Tony flinches.

Rhodey sighs and rests his head against Tony’s. “Let the doctor look at you. I’m worried, okay? And Pepper will kill me if she doesn’t get medical confirmation.”

“Okay,” Tony says. He turns to the doctor, feeling like he’s in a fog. He really wants to sleep, he doesn’t think his body has any adrenaline left to keep running on. “Don’t touch the thing in my chest. I’ve got shrapnel near my heart, this keeps it from entering it, kay?”

The doctor blinks and then scrawls something on the paper on his clipboard. But then he proceeds as if nothing was different. “Alright then. Which arm do you want an IV in?”

“I don’t want any drugs,” Tony protests on principle. He’s already feeling like he’s in a fog, drugs are only going to make it worse, make him lose control of his mind. He can’t have that, he’s trapped here he needs to be a genius right now.

“Just a drip to get you hydrated,” the doctor explains. “I am sure that you have not been properly fed and watered.”

Tony relaxes slightly. Saline drips are fine. “Okay,” he agrees, offering his left arm. “I think the other arm’s broken.”

“We’ll get a tech to look at that then,” the doctor promises.

Rhodey looks like he’s needs to shoot something. “Here,” he says, handing Tony a cell phone. “Call Jarvis, call Pepper, call Steve. Let them know you’re okay.”

Tony smiles gratefully at him. He dials, and, prompt as always, Jarvis answers on the first ring.

“Stark Industries, personal line, who may I ask is calling?”

“Jarvis, it’s Tony.”

“Master Tony! I trust you are in safe hands?”

“What? Is that Tony?”

Tony can hear Pepper yelling in the background of the call. He smiles slightly. He wishes that the army let Rhodey carry the latest Starkphone, then he could see them both.

“Rhodey found me,” Tony says. “They’re patching me up and then we’re gonna head home.”

“You are on speaker with Miss Potts and myself,” Jarvis says. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Oh, Tony,” Pepper says. “You scared us, never do that again.”

Tony laughs. “Always so bossy, Pep.”

“Always so snarky, Tony. And you pay me to be bossy.”

“I pay Jarvis to be bossy too, but he isn’t mean about it.”

“Thank you, sir,” Jarvis says primly.

“Um, how are you guys?”

“How are we?” Pepper repeats. “Fine, because we’ve been in a mansion in New York for three months! Not god knows where in Afghanistan! How are you?”

“Alive,” Tony says, honestly. “Little beat up.”

“By that he means that he has shrapnel near his heart,” Rhodey says, loud enough that the microphone picks it up.

Jarvis says, “Goodness.”

“What!” Pepper yells. “Tony, oh my God, are you dying?”

“No. There’s an electromagnet that’s stopping them.”

“An electromagnet that’s imbedded in his chest,” Rhodey adds.

“Shut up, Rhodey,” Tony says, pushing at the other’s head.

“Tony!”

“Is it painful, sir?”

“No, not anymore,” Tony says. “I built it, I’m a genius remember?”

Pepper makes a sort of squeaking sound.

“You okay, Pep?”

“I’m fine,” Pepper says, testily. Then, softer, “Come home soon and safely, Tony.”

“I will, promise.”

“Tell Rhodey to take care of you.”

“I will.”

“Would you like me to prepare your room for your return?” Jarvis asks.

“Yes, please. Also, could you stock up on cheeseburgers and coke? I need some American food.”

“I will do so.”

“And, I know it’s hard, but I’ll do a press conference when I get back before I go home so it shouldn’t be too hard, but no reporters or cameras near the mansion?”

“Of course.”

“We’ll build a moat,” Pepper says, which means that she’s feeling better.

“With alligators.”

“And piranhas.”

“I will research where to purchase such creatures,” Jarvis says, deadpan.

Tony and Pepper both laugh.

“Okay, well, we have things to buy, and workmen to hire, apparently,” Pepper says. “I can hear you twitching to hang up.”

“Not true,” Tony protests.

“Call Steve,” Pepper says. “He’s not here right now, he’s not home a lot actually. He’s sort of a mess about you.”

“We all were,” Jarvis says.

And Pepper doesn’t contradict him.

“Thank you,” Tony says.

“Bye, Tony.”

“Goodbye, Master Tony.”

“Call before you land.”

“Bye, guys,” Tony says. He feels better but still sort of lost when the line goes dead on the other side.

He dials Steve’s number.

“Hello?” Steve says. He sounds confused.

Tony’s stomach lurches into his chest. “Steve,” he says.

There’s a beat of silence. Then, quietly, “Tony?”

“Yeah. Hi.”

Steve’s breath hitches. “Tony, oh my God, Tony. You’re alive.”

“Yeah. Rhodey’s got me.”

“Are you okay? I mean…”

“Banged up,” Tony says. “There’s a…there’s a change, but I want to show you in person.”

“Okay,” Steve says. “Oh, Tony.”

“That’s my name.”

“I thought-” Steve cuts himself off. Tony can see him shaking his head. “I love you,” Steve says instead.

“I love you too,” Tony says. “I know how that sounds, but I really, really do.”

“I’ve missed you,” Steve says. “That sounds stupid.”

“No it doesn’t. I missed you. Every day.”

“When are you coming back?”

“We’ll fly back today,” Tony says. He doesn’t actually know if that’s true but Rhodey nods at him.

“Fly fast.”

“Promise. So. Tell me stuff.”

“What stuff?”

“I don’t know. Anything. Just keep talking?”

“Sure,” Steve says. “Um…”

They talk for hours about pointless things. Steve’s classes, what he’s been drawing, how the Commandos are doing, anything. Until Rhodey’s phone gives a sad little beep.

“Oh,” Tony says.

“What?”

“Rhodey’s phone is dying. I’m gonna hang up and go to sleep now.”

“Of course. Sleep well, Tony.”

“I love you,” Tony says. “See you at the airport?”

“Yeah. Come home safe.”

“I will.”

“Love you too.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Tony feels bad when he hangs up on Steve, but he mostly just feels exhausted.

Rhodey takes his phone back.

“Can I pass out now?” Tony asks the doctor.

He nods and Tony puts his head down and does.

 


It doesn’t matter that he’s been waiting for this moment since he’d first heard that Tony had gone missing, it doesn’t matter that Steve’s been anxious for it for hours now, full of nervous energy, he’s totally unprepared for the lurch in his stomach when the loading ramp of the plane lowers and he sees Tony inside. Tony’s right arm is in a sling, his left firmly gripping Rhodey’s bicep. He’s dressed in a full suit and tie, hair brushed and everything perfectly clean. He looks almost exactly the same as he had the morning he’d left Steve in his bed. But Steve notices the differences instantly. There are healing cuts and burns on Tony’s face, one particularly nasty cut above his left eye. He looks thinner than he had before, his clothes are hiding most of his body but his face is gaunter, his cheekbones more prominent. Somehow, it all makes Steve feels a little betrayed. He knows that Tony had to have looked a lot worse, must still feel a lot worse; he’s walking down the ramp towards Steve and Pepper now, slow and hesitant like every step is an effort. There’s still a wheelchair on the plane behind him, he obviously hadn’t been doing much standing lately. He wonders why Tony felt like he had to go through all this effort for Steve and Pepper. Steve’s let Tony see him at his worst; doesn’t Steve deserve the same sort of trust from Tony?

Once Tony’s in front of them he let goes of Rhodey’s arm. “Your eyes are red,” he tells Pepper. “Tears for your long lost boss?”

“Tears of joy,” Pepper returns. Steve wonders if that’s actually partially the truth. “I hate job hunting.”

“Well, vacation’s over,” Tony says. “Back to work.”

“Tony,” Steve says, voice hesitant, suddenly unsure. It seems like Tony is trying his best to ignore him.

Tony turns to him then and Steve can see right through his façade. Tony is not okay, not at all. He reaches out and takes Tony’s good hand in his. “What,” he says, “you haven’t seen me for three months and I don’t even get a kiss?”

Tony smiles and relaxes marginally before stepping into Steve’s space and tilting his head up. Steve wraps his hand around the back of Tony’s head, holding him close as he kisses him. It’s even more perfect and wonderful than Steve remembered. It’s not the first time he’s thought it, but the thought pops up to the forefront of his mind; he would be happy to spend the rest of his life just kissing Tony.

It’s Tony who pulls away, as reluctant as Steve is to let him go. Steve blinks once to return himself to his actual surroundings. Rhodey is looking up at the sky, Pepper is looking off to the side, smiling.

“Shall we go?” Tony says, gesturing to Happy and the car behind them.

“Sure,” Steve agrees.

“I’ve got to debrief,” Rhodey says, looking truly sorry about it. “Take care,” he adds, resting his hand on Tony’s head.

Tony leans into the touch. “You know me,” he says.

Rhodey holds the pose for a few more seconds longer before dropping his hand. “I’ll see you back at your mansion, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Rhodey heads back to the plane. Following him with his eyes Steve notices that there are other military men standing on the deck at parade rest.

“Boss.”

Steve turns to look behind him to see Happy opening the back door to the limo.

Tony stands still, so Steve squeezes his hand and steps into the limo, pulling Tony in after him. Steve settles into the sea against the far window, Tony in the seat next to him. Pepper slides him after them, graceful as ever, settling against the door when Happy closes it behind her.

“Happy, take us to the hospital, please,” Pepper says once Happy is too settled in the car.

“Nope, no hospital,” Tony says.

“Tony, you have to go to a hospital!” Pepper insists, sounding shocked that Tony doesn’t agree.

“Pepper, I have been in captivity for three months and right now there are two things that I want. First, I want an American cheeseburger.” Tony pauses. “And the other-”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Pepper says.

“-I want you to call for a press conference,” Tony finishes.

Pepper raises her eyebrow. “A press conference? What on earth for?”

Tony ignores her question. “Happy, drive,” he orders. “Cheeseburger first.”

Happy doesn’t seem concerned with the motives behind Tony’s requests, as soon as Tony says so the car pulls out onto the road.

“What’s going on in your head?” Steve murmurs, tightening his grip on Tony’s hand briefly.

“You’ll see,” Tony promises. He returns the tight grip briefly before shutting his eyes and leaning back against the seat, effectively cutting off conversation.

Steve looks over him at Pepper, shrugging his shoulders.

Pepper purses her lips and thinks for a few moments before she sighs and fishes her phone out of her pocket. In a matter of seconds she’s on the line with one of the major networks, scheduling the time and place for Tony’s press conference.

Steve lets her talking wash over him and he sags back against the seat of the car too, still holding onto Tony’s hand. Gently, he starts stroking back and forth over Tony’s knuckles and Tony relaxes marginally, turning his head towards Steve. Steve sighs and rests his head against Tony’s. He’s here now, alive and safe and even if he’s behaving rather mysteriously Steve finds that he doesn’t care.

Eventually Pepper hangs up her phone and rests against the window of the car, and they spend the next several minutes in quiet until the car slows and Happy rolls down the divider between the front and back sections of the car.

“What’ll it be, boss?” he asks.

“A cheeseburger and a coke,” Tony says, not moving his position at all. “Wait, three cheeseburgers.”

“Three cheeseburgers?” Steve repeats. “You’re going to make yourself sick.”

Tony huffs at him. “I’m hungry,” he whines.

Steve lets it go but privately decides that while Tony is definitely allowed to order three cheeseburgers that he won’t be eating all of them.

“Anything, Steve? Pepper?” Happy asks.

“No, thank you, Happy,” Steve says, figuring that he’ll just take one of Tony’s cheeseburgers.

Pepper orders a coffee, a large coffee, she adds, rubbing her head with her hand.

Tony perks up as soon as there’s food in the car, reaching over the divider to grab the greasy bag of food in one hand and his soda in the other. He settles back against the seat, drink already in his mouth as he takes one burger out of the bag and starts unwrapping it.

Pepper reaches out to take her coffee much more calmly. Once she has it safe in hand Happy starts driving again. “Where to?” he asks.

Pepper gives him an address before she takes a long sip of coffee.

Silently Steve agrees with her implication that it’s going to be a long day. Tony, meanwhile has already eaten one burger and is starting to unwrap his second.

“Nu-uh,” Steve says, taking the burger out of his hands.

Tony looks up at him, betrayed.

“Go slow, or you’ll get a stomach ache.”

“You’re the worst,” Tony informs him, trying to swipe the cheeseburger back.

Steve holds it farther out of Tony’s reach.

“Three months in captivity and you won’t even let me have a cheeseburger when I finally get out,” Tony whines, pouting.

“You’ve already had a cheeseburger,” Steve points out. “I’m not letting you eat two of them in under five minutes.”

Tony glares at Steve and then goes through the bag again, taking out the third burger. Steve takes that one from him too before he has a chance to open it.

Tony whines, and kicks at Steve’s leg.

“Stop that,” Steve says, kicking back.

“Give me my food back,” Tony says, kicking again.

Steve kicks his ankle in retaliation. “No,” he says, smiling.

Tony frowns at him and lunges. Steve laughs, falling back against the door of the car and reaching up over his head to get the burgers as far away from Tony as he can. Tony ends up bent in two, chin on Steve’s chest as he stretches upwards to try to grab the burgers, huffing. Steve smiles at him. “You can have one of them back in five minutes after your stomach has a chance to settle, okay?”

“What about the other one?”

“I’m going to eat that one.”

Tony makes a grumpy noise. “If you wanted one you should have ordered your own.”

“But your food tastes so much better than my own.”

Tony sticks his tongue out at Steve.

Steve laughs, jostling Tony on top of him.

“Stop flirting,” Pepper says.

Steve jumps, bouncing Tony’s torso again as he does so. He’d been so wrapped up in Tony he’d forgotten that there were other people in the car. Tony huffs and settles against Steve’s body when they come to a stop at a light.

“You can have your other burger now, if you want,” Steve says, caving.

Tony beams at him. “You’re the best,” he says.

Steve relaxes his arms and lets Tony snag one of the burgers from his grip. “I thought I was the worst,” he teases.

They both sit up, settling back into their proper seats.

“No, no,” Tony says firmly. “Not anymore.”

Steve chuckles. “Thanks for that,” he says, hooking his ankle around Tony’s. It’s then that he realizes that he hasn’t stopped touching Tony since he’s gotten off the plane. Tony doesn’t seem to be minding so Steve decides that it’s not something to worry about.

The rest of the ride is normal and quiet. Pepper taps away on her phone and Steve and Tony eat their burgers. Tony finishes his quickly and spends the rest of the ride eyeing Steve’s until Steve caves again, rolling his eyes but handing the burger to Tony anyways. He gets a smile and a kiss in return so he can’t really regret giving in to Tony’s pleading eyes.

Then they pull up to a stop in front of one of the Stark Industries public buildings near the mansion, and Steve can hear the media circus outside of the car. There are already flashbulbs going off, questions being shouted. Steve opens his door and slides out, ignores the questions shouted at him and the people taking his picture and falls into step beside Pepper, both following Tony, who’s walking like he owns the place. Maybe he does.

Once they’re inside the noise and chaos fades, although Steve reckons that as soon as security starts letting the press inside that will change. There’s already a podium set up at the front of one of the halls, and they head there, standing in one of the small hallways off to the side.

“I don’t like this,” Steve says to Pepper. He doesn’t like that Tony’s already putting on a show, swaggering his way around. Nothing about it really screams fake or upset, but Steve knows Tony well, and he knows there’s something there, something that’s triggering his insistence on this.

“He’s up to something,” Pepper agrees.

“Miss Potts?” Pepper turns around. Steve follows her with his head. There’s a man dressed in a smart suit standing politely behind her and off a little off to one side. “Agent Coulson, of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.”

Pepper blinks at him. “You might want to come up with a new name for that.”

The man, Agent Coulson, goes on to try and talk Pepper into a holding a meeting with him, so Steve turns his attention back out towards the crowd. The press has been let into the building now, crowding into the space of the room, filling it with chatter and clicks of cameras taking test shots. Steve can’t help but hate them a little. Tony’s just been rescued, he should have to face this mob yet. It doesn’t matter to him that Tony had called for the press conference, he knows that Tony thinks it’s best to do these types of things immediately, and Steve also knows he’s right. Doesn’t mean he can’t hate the people who make him do it.

While he’s busy scowling at the assembled press someone sneaks up behind him and grabs his hand.

“Hello, Tony,” he says, turning his head to the side.

Tony smiles at him. He looks nervous. This close, Steve can see the slight makeup that’s been added to his face, can see that the lines of his suit are more precise than they had been in the car. All to look better for the camera, of course.

“Are you okay?” Steve asks.

Tony blows out a long breath. “Yeah,” he says, although he doesn’t sound completely sure.

Steve doesn’t know what to say to assure him, so he squeezes Tony’s hand harder. “I’m here,” he says.

Tony hesitates before saying, “I know.”

“Hey,” Steve says, turning his back on the public in the other room. “You don’t have to worry about that. I just got you back, I’m not going anywhere for a very long time.”

Tony smiles at him, a little less forced than his earlier one. “I’m about to drop a bombshell,” he whispers. “A metaphorical one.”

“Okay,” Steve says easily, rubbing his thumb across Tony’s knuckles. “I’ll be here.”

“Thank you,” Tony murmurs. There’s a slight hesitation to his movements when he goes up on his toes and kisses Steve light and sweet for all that it lasts for several moments.

“Ready, Tony?” Obadiah Stane comes up then, clapping Tony on the shoulder.

Tony steps away from Steve, anxiety back on his features. “Yes,” he says, mask on.

“Good luck,” Steve says.

Tony nods at him as Obadiah ushers him out of the side room.

Immediately flashbulbs stop going off and reporters start firing off questions. Steve catches on look at Tony’s face, which is even more of a mask than it was a few moments ago, and instantly begins to worry. His worry increases steadily when Tony sits down on the ground in front of the podium instead of standing behind it, and then gestures to everyone else to do the same. It’s a mark of Tony’s wealth and power that after a few moments of glancing confusedly at each other, the assembled press does. Steve sits down too, automatically. He glances towards Pepper, who’s also sitting, shaking her head slightly with a little smile. Maybe Steve is wrong to worry. But then Tony starts talking about his father and how he never got to say goodbye and Steve knows that worry was the right course. Tony keeps talking, more of a ramble than anything, about accountability and then he stands up, towering over the seated press. And then he announces, “As of right now, Stark Industries will no longer be making weapons.”

Pepper’s mouth actually opens in surprise. The outcry from the press is immediate and loud. Tony ignores all of them, waving his good hand and sliding away. Obie takes the podium and starts trying to smooth things over.

“Let me?” Steve asks, placing a hand on Pepper’s shoulder as he stands to meet Tony.

Pepper nods at him. “I’ll get started on damage control,” she says softly, visibly moving past her shock.

Tony reaches them, his eyes are wide, pleading that they not give him a hard time about this. He looks rattled now, like he had just before he first got off the plane.

Steve reaches out, wordless, and takes Tony’s hand. He leads them out a back entrance and back out to the car. Happy, bless him, is already waiting, leaning against the side of the car. He straightens up once he sees them and slides into the driver’s seat. “Home, please, Happy,” Steve says, pulling Tony into the car after him.

Tony sags against Steve’s side and Steve continues his grip on his hand, pulling him past everyone and everything in the house, straight to their bedroom where he shuts the door, shuts the rest of the world out, and clings to Tony, holding Tony tight against his body.

Tony makes a soft sound and clutches back with his good arm.

“You are never going away again, you hear me?” Steve says. “I won’t let you.”

“Okay,” Tony agrees easily.

Steve inhales deeply, nose buried in Tony’s hair. “I thought you were dead,” he says, noticing that his voice breaks.

Tony clutches harder. “So did I.”

They stay there for a long time, just holding each other. Eventually Tony says, “I need to show you something,” and gently removes himself from Steve’s hold. “Help me with this?” he asks, tugging at his sling.

“Are you supposed to be taking that off?” Steve asks.

“It’s not broken, just sprained,” Tony says.

Steve helps him out of the sling and Tony starts unbuttoning his shirt from the bottom up. Steve starts to unbutton it from the top.

Tony flinches a little. “Remember how I told you there was a change?” he says.

“Yeah,” Steve says, not really getting the implication until his fingers brush metal instead of skin. He pauses, but continues, meeting Tony’s hands in the middle of the shirt and taking them in his. “What is it?”

“An arc reactor. Like the one downstairs.”

Steve takes a moment to adjust to the idea of a generator in Tony’s chest, glowing blue and throwing his face and his torso into strange relief. “Why is it in your chest?”

“When we were attacked, there was an explosion and I got shrapnel in my chest. This keeps it from entering my heart and killing me.” Tony says it all in a monotone voice, as if it’s a research project, and not a very interesting one.

“Oh my God, Tony.” Steve just stares at Tony before some part of his brain makes a connection. “You came up with this in a desert?”

“Well, in a cave. This professor they had captive, Yinsen, he’s the one who really did it. I was hooked up to a car battery for a while, but this will run itself.”

A car battery. And Tony treats it’s like…Steve knows that’s unfair. That Tony’s trying to deal with it by shoving his feelings about it away. “Fuck, Tony. I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m really reacting well to this, but, Tony, oh, Tony.”

“What?” Tony says, shifting uncomfortably under Steve’s gaze and Steve is careful to move his eyes deliberately off the reactor to his Tony’s face.

“You’re a miracle,” he whispers, pulling Tony close. “I’m so sorry about everything you went through. And I am so, so glad you survived.”

Tony makes a noise. “I kind of want to stop talking about it right now.”

“All right,” Steve agrees easily. He can push Tony about emotions and dealing with them later.

Tony moves to buttons up his shirt again, but Steve can’t help reaching out for him. He spent three months without Tony, spent three months thinking that he’d never see his boyfriend again, and he doesn’t think he will ever touch Tony enough.

Steve rests his forehead against Tony’s and kisses him quickly. “Can we get ready for bed? We don’t have to sleep, but, let’s just…be together?”

“Okay,” Tony agrees easily.

Steve pushes Tony’s shirt down his arms and then keeps stroking gently up and down. “You’re here,” he says, because he needs to be reminded too sometimes. “You’re here, you’re safe.”

Tony trembles a little.

Steve pulls Tony into the bed and under the covers with him, tucking Tony against his body.

Tony sighs and wiggles himself even closer.

Steve doesn’t say anything, just let’s his hand run up and down Tony’s back.

Tony arches his back, pressing into Steve’s touch while at the same time burrowing his head further into the space between Steve’s neck and shoulder.

It’s still the middle of the day, but that doesn’t really matter. Steve figures that Tony’s internal clocked is fucked anyways, and it’s been a long, stressful three months, current day included. Steve listens and feels Tony’s breath even into deep, exhausted sleep; the rise of his back under Steve’s hand slow and gentle, his breath a soft, rhythmic warmth against his neck.

It’s not the most comfortable of positions, and Steve’s still fully dressed, but Tony is warm and soft and alive in his arms and the relief washing through him is letting his body know of its exhaustion and it doesn’t take him a lot to decide to follow Tony under.

When Steve wakes up he finds that his left arm has fallen asleep, pinned beneath Tony’s weight as well as his own. Tony hasn’t moved, except that his legs are a little more tangled with Steve’s than Steve remembers them being when they fell asleep. It breaks his heart a little to see how obviously exhausted Tony is. And Tony had gone out posturing, put on a press conference, spent energy putting on a show and a façade and Steve would give anything to be able to keep Tony here in his arms forever, to protect him from the rest of world. Logically he knows that it isn’t possible, but right here and now he can, and that makes him feel a little bit better. He stays there, drifting in and out of a doze until Tony starts shifting against him. Steve loosens his hold a little and Tony sits up sleepily, rubbing at his eyes.

“Wha’ time is it?” he asks, voice rough and groggy.

“I have no idea,” Steve realizes, laughing a little. He supposes it’s late though, well past dark. The light from the window has gone, leaving them in darkness except for the light in Tony’s chest. Its blue glow is stronger now, illuminating Tony in sharp relief. It has its own sort of beauty, Steve muses. “Does it matter?”

“Dunno,” Tony says, stretching out his back.

Steve can’t help reaching out and running a few fingers along the arch of his side.

Tony shivers at the touch. “Tickles,” he whines, batting at Steve’s fingers.

Steve smiles.

Tony blinks a couple times and then wakes up fully, sitting up straighter and fidgeting.

Steve wants to ask Are you okay? but he figures he knows the answer to that already, so instead he says, “Are you hungry?”

Tony gives him a quizzical look, and then shakes his head. “I had three cheeseburgers, remember?”

“Two and a half,” Steve corrects. He stomach growls and Steve realizes that all he’s eaten that day was half of a burger.

“Are you hungry?” Tony asks, smirking.

“I guess so,” Steve says, sitting up.

“Go get some food,” Tony says, sliding out of bed. “I think I’m going to go down to my lab for a while.”

“Okay,” Steve agrees softly, following. The workshop is where Tony goes when he wants to hide from the world, and Steve’s not so sure that’s a great idea, even if he does understand it. “Don’t stay forever,” he adds, as he and Tony separate in the hallway.

Tony waves over his shoulder to show that he heard.

Steve frowns and bites his lip; he can’t help worrying. When he heads out in the general living area he finds out that it’s not late at night, it’s early in the morning. Pepper’s on the couch, legs tucked under her, and dressed not in pajamas but in her normal work clothes, pressed and proper, the news playing on the flat screen. “Good morning,” Steve says.

Pepper looks over her shoulder at him and smiles. “Good morning,” she returns.

Steve climbs over the back of the couch and settles next to her. He’d forgotten just how comfortable all of Tony’s furniture was. The couch cushions have exactly the right balance between firmness and plushness. He settles onto it, pulling his feet up onto the cushion and wrapping his arms around his legs, resting his chin on the plateau they make. “They talking about Tony?” he asks, gesturing to the screen.

“Yes,” Pepper says, frowning like she doesn’t like what they’re saying.

“Nothing good?”

Pepper purses her lips. “I’ve been waiting the stock market to open,” she says. “I had the accountants run the math; Stark Industries is going to drop several points. All the financial reports are advising people to sell immediately.”

“I thought SI made things other than weapons,” Steve says.

“Yes, but nothing that brings in the type of money the weapons industry does.”

Steve hesitates before saying, “Don’t be too hard on him about it. It’s what he had to do.”

Pepper looks at him again, expression indecipherable. “I’m not mad at Tony,” she tells him. She looks like she’s about to explain further, but then her phone starts ringing. Both she and Steve turn towards it, watching Tony’s name and picture flash on the screen. Pepper taps the surface of it gently and Tony’s voice comes through.

“Hey, Pepper, how big are your hands?”

“What?” Pepper says, furrowing her brow and looking at Steve.

Steve shrugs his shoulders.

“Never mind,” Tony says, “just come down here.” Then he hangs up.

Pepper sighs and stands, heading for the stairs to Tony’s workshop.

Steve follows, figuring he might as well go down too, even if Tony hadn’t asked for him.

The door to Tony’s workshop is unlocked, which is odd. Even when Tony invites people down he rarely remembers to unlock the door for them. Pepper steps over the bump in the floor, heels clicking against the cement.

Tony looks up at the sound. Steve notices that Tony sees him, he pauses for a minute to process the fact that Steve is there too. He leaning on what looks like some sort of metal table, one with a joint that has half of it bent up so Tony is leaning slightly back, as if in a recliner. He’s shirtless; the light of his arc reactor combined with the bright overheard lights throws weird shadows across his torso. He has electrodes attached to his chest, and leading back to a computer that’s supply streams and streams of information that’s unintelligible to Steve, even as he approaches closer to it behind Pepper.

Tony apparently decides to ignore Steve’s presence for a moment. He gestures at Pepper, a second arc reactor in his head. “I need you to help me,” he says.

“I-okay, what do you need me to do?”

“I’ve made a better arc reactor,” Tony says. “I need to replace this one,” he taps his chest, “with that one,” he gestures with his hand again.

“Is that safe?”

Tony nods.

Pepper sighs, then she sets her jaw and says, “Just…tell me what to do.”

Steve settles down on one of Tony’s many stools to watch, pulling it close, up by Tony’s head. Dum-E runs in a circle around his stool beeping, before bumping into Steve’s leg in a sort of greeting.

Steve smiles down at it. “Hello,” he says softly.

Dum-E beeps again and then wheels away, off to do something else.

Steve turns his attention back to Tony and Pepper. Pepper has hold of the arc reactor in Tony’s chest, her hand stretched wide to reach fully around it, her knuckles white in anxiety.

“There,” Tony’s saying, “now just twist it.”

Pepper does so and then there’s a click. She exhales.

“Alright, good,” Tony says. “Now lift it out, slowly, careful.”

Pepper lifts her arm then, the arc reactor following. As it stretches farther out of Tony’s chest more and more wire is revealed. It looks…slimy. Pepper makes a face at it. Eventually the wire stops and Pepper’s left holding the arc reactor in her hand.

The machines hooked up to Tony starting beeping.

“Good,” Tony tells her. “Now you need to reach in there and pull out the wire, okay?”

Pepper’s mild expression of disgust turns into a fully blown expression of disgust. She sets the old reactor aside and takes a deep breath. “Okay,” she agrees, doubtfully. She grits her teeth and reaches into the cavity in Tony’s chest. Her expression shows even more disgust. “Ew, there’s pus,” she says, face turned to the side as her arm fishes for the wire.

“It’s discharge,” Tony corrects. “It’s from the device, not my body.”

This doesn’t seem to assure Pepper much. Her expression doesn’t change although she does say, “I’ve got it.”

“Good, now pull it out. Just don’t touch the sides, like Operation.”

“What?”

“Never mind, just pull it out, Pep.”

Pepper does, making little “ew” sounds as she does so. Then something happens and there’s a loud buzzing noise as Tony seizes and the machines go crazy.

“What? What’s wrong?” Pepper says frantically, freezing in place even as all the commotion settles down.

“Nothing, just gave my heart a shock, I’m alright, just like I was saying about Operation. Don’t touch the sides.”

“Okay, okay.” Pepper takes a deep breath and continues to pull the wire out. She tugs a little harder and a copper disk comes out and immediately the machines hooked up to Tony go even crazier than they had been seconds before; beeping fast and high and Tony seizes again. “Gaaah-ah!”

Steve reaches for Tony and Pepper jumps. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I’m just going into cardiac arrest,” Tony says, gasping.

“What?” Pepper and Steve both scream.

“I thought you said this was safe!” Pepper yells, setting aside the slimy wire.

“It is, I’ll be fine,” Tony says, voice low but fast. “I need you to reach in there and pull out the other end and reattach the new reactor okay?”

“Okay, okay,” Pepper says, sounding frantic. Once she gets the new reactor into place all the beeping stops and Tony takes a deep breath.

“Thank you,” he says.

Pepper looks at him and then laughs, short and humorless. Her hands are shaking. “Never. Never. Ask me to do anything like that again.”

Tony smiles wryly at her and slides off his makeshift medical bed.

Pepper grabs the old arc reactor that she’d set to the side and holds it out for Tony.

He shakes his head. “You can just throw that out.”

“You don’t want to keep it?” Pepper asks.

“Pepper, I’ve been called many things. Sentimental isn’t one of them.” Tony turns from her then, and starts giving orders to his computers and robots.

Pepper recognizes the dismissal and heads out of the lab, still looking at the arc reactor cradled in her hands.

Steve chooses to ignore Tony’s dismissal. “Tony,” he says, quietly.

Tony doesn’t turn around but his motions slow a little.

“Can I stay?” Steve asks.

Tony nods.

“Thank you,” Steve says. He approaches Tony then, steps slow and deliberate. He lets his bare feet make noise against the cold cement; he doesn’t want to spook Tony. He leans in and kisses Tony’s temple gently.

Tony trembles a little.

Steve steps out of his personal space then, settling into his spot, his spare sketchpad and pencils right where he’d left them the last time. Dum-E goes over to him again, beeping, this time with U following in his wake. “Hello,” Steve says to U.

U beeps at him and runs several fast circles around Steve’s seat.

Tony turns to them, hands on his hips. He’s trying to look stern, Steve can tell, but the corner of his mouth is turned up almost in a smile. “Get back to work, you useless bots,” he says.

Dum-E and U both wheel towards him immediately, beeping fast and constantly as they run in circles around Tony’s feet.

Steve can’t help laughing. “They missed you,” he says. He hesitates and then adds, “I did too.”

Tony’s smile becomes soft then. “We’ve said our hellos,” he says, talking to the bots.” Now settle down and get back to whatever I told you to do.”

The bots beep at him before scurrying off.

Steve smiles at Tony, a rough sketch of the scene already taking shape on his sketchpad.

Tony smiles back, finally relaxed.

They both spend the rest of the day down in the workshop, in companionable quiet except for a few conversations. Eventually Steve’s phone beeps with a new text message from Pepper, telling him that Obadiah is here, with pizza for dinner and asking him to please bring Tony upstairs with him.

“Obie’s upstairs with pizza,” Steve says.

Tony doesn’t pause in his work. “Tell him thanks and grab me a slice, would you?”

“Pepper wants you to come up too,” Steve says, crossing over to Tony. He can see Tony’s slight frown. “Please?” he adds.

Tony sighs and sets down his wrench. “You’re giving me puppy dog eyes, aren’t you?”

“Maybe,” Steve sing-songs.

Tony sighs. “I’ll come up,” he agrees.

Steve beams at him. “Thank you.” He starts tugging on Tony’s chair and rolling him towards the door.

“Stop, stop!” Tony whines, kicking his feet.

Steve laughs and stops and Tony climbs out of the chair.

They troop upstairs to the sitting room, where Pepper is on the couch again, TV turned off and plate of pizza balanced perfectly on her lap. Obadiah is at the piano, playing something Steve doesn’t recognize.

“Tony,” he says when they walk in.

“What?” Tony says, sitting next to Pepper and grabbing a slice of pizza, stuffing it into his mouth.

“Where were you today?” Obadiah asks.

Tony shrugs and swallows. “Laying low. Isn’t that what you told me to do?”

Obadiah sighs. “With the press, Tony. This was a Board of Directors meeting!”

Tony just shrugs again, appearing unconcerned.

“The board,” Obadiah continues significantly, “is saying that you have PTSD. They’re thinking of freezing you out.”

“Tell them to prove it,” Tony snarks, standing up, pizza in hand as he heads back to the workshop.

Steve sighs and rubs the bridge of his nose. “Thanks, really,” he grumbles sarcastically. “He was being so good about letting me pull him out of hiding.”

As always Obadiah ignores Steve. He picks up the box of pizza and says, “I’ve got to get going. Good luck, Pepper.”

Pepper nods at him and smiles sadly at Steve.

Steve just says, “I didn’t get any pizza.”

Pepper doesn’t quite laugh, but she does smile. “I’ll order another one,” she says, reaching for her phone.

Tony doesn’t come out of his workshop for another two days. He comes out in the middle of the night and crawls into bed with Steve just to fall asleep instantly. It quickly becomes a pattern. It wakes Steve up every time but he never says anything, just wraps his arms around Tony. Steve figures that Tony is waiting to fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion. Steve doesn’t want to push, but he figures it’s about nightmares. He doesn’t really want to think about what Tony’s nightmares contain, and he can’t blame Tony for ignoring them.

Except the human mind doesn’t work like that, and one day Steve walks in on Tony trembling in the shower, huddled up against the wall farthest from the spray, vomiting.

“Tony?” he says gently, crouching down beside Tony, knees in the water of the shower.

Tony flinches. “I won’t,” he spits. “I won’t, I won’t!”

“Tony, it’s just me,” Steve says, deliberately keeping his voice gentle.

Tony looks up, sideways over his hunched body and blinks rapidly at Steve.

“It’s me,” Steve says again, offering his hand and crouching further to get in Tony’s eyesight.

Tony continues trembling, but his eyes clear and he doesn’t scream when Steve touches his leg. So Steve scoots closer, uncaring of the shower still running and pulls Tony into his chest. Tony’s breath starts hitching with tears and Steve just holds him. The shower never turns cold, not with Tony’s plumbing. Eventually though, Tony starts tugging on Steve’s sodden shirt and Steve stands, pulling Tony with him. He grabs a towel off the rack and wraps it around Tony, before stripping off his own wet clothes and putting on dry ones from the counter.

Tony watches him dress, a glint of lust and mischief in his eyes. “Those are my clothes,” he says.

Steve smiles, he’d figured when he picked them up. The pants are several inches short, the hem brushing well above his ankle. The shirt isn’t too tight, not since it’s Tony’s habit to wear big shirts to bed. Steve pulls Tony close again and kisses the top of his head. “I love you,” he says.

“I don’t know what to say, except sorry, but you don’t want apologies,” Tony says.

“No,” Steve says. “Will you tell me? One day, whenever you feel like you can?”

“I don’t know if I ever can,” Tony says quietly.

Steve sighs and tucks Tony’s head under his chin. “I think you’ll need to, want to, one day.”

Tony shrugs but lets himself be held. “Water torture,” he whispers, like it’s choking him to admit it.

“Thank you,” Steve says, dropping a kiss on Tony’s head. “For telling me.”

“Does it change anything?” Tony asks.

“Nothing,” Steve promises.

The next bit of information Tony offers up is after his system of falling asleep too exhausted to dream doesn’t work one night and Steve wakes up to Tony screaming.

“Tony?” he says, squinting through the dark.

Tony’s still sleeping, eyes shut tight and his whole body taunt as he shouts.

“Sweetheart?” Steve says, scooting closer. “Tony, it’s me, it’s Steve. You’re safe now, I promise. You’re home.”

Tony doesn’t respond, so, tentatively, Steve reaches out and puts his hand on Tony’s shoulder.

Tony jerks and sit straight up, panting harshly.

“It’s just me,” Steve says.

Tony’s head snaps to him, eyes still lost and wild.

“It’s Steve, sweetheart, you’re home, you’re safe.”

Tony reaches out a shaking hand and tentatively touches Steve’s. “Oh,” he says. Then he slides out of bed.

“Tony,” Steve says, reaching after him.

Tony shakes his head. “I’m sorry I woke you up.”

“Tony, please don’t do this.”

“Go back to bed, Steve.”

“Tony, don’t you dare walk away from me, come back to bed right the fuck now.” It’s his Captain Voice, the one he uses when he’s giving orders on the field, he can’t remember if he’s ever used it on Tony before.

Tony stiffens, and stands perfectly still. “What do you want from me?” he asks, voice wrecked.

“Nothing, Tony, I want you to feel better.”

“Well that’s not gonna happen, so you can just give up and leave me alone now, thanks for trying.”

“Sweetheart, you know I can’t leave you alone.  I want you to stop hurting, Tony.”

“Then let me do what I want!”

“Tony, why won’t you let me help you?”

“Because you can’t!” Tony screams. “I’m ruined okay? I have shrapnel in my heart and a giant metal thing in my chest, and I can’t ever be normal again and I fought so hard to come back, and I hate it here, everything’s different, or maybe nothing’s different, but I’m so different that it’s like everything has changed and I don’t like it! I just want everything to be like it was, but it can’t be can it? Everything’s been taken from me, and I want it back! How are you going to fix that, Steve? What the fuck are you going to do to fix me?”

“You don’t need to be fixed,” Steve says gently.

“Yes I do! I’m wrong, I’m broken, everything goes to shit around me and, and…” Tony trails off. “I don’t fucking know okay! Just, fuck, Steve, why are you still here?”

“I live here.”

Tony makes a noise somewhere between a laugh and a scream of pure rage.

Steve slides out of bed and crosses to Tony, squatting so he’s at an even level with Tony. “Look at me, please.”

Tony does, eyes flashing and jaw clenched. “What?” he spits.

“I’m here because I love you, Tony. I’m here because I’m selfish and I can’t bear to have you out of my sight for too long. I’m here because when I thought you were dead I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the rest of my life if you weren’t there. I’m here because it was hard to breathe when you were gone, because I am hopelessly in love with you, so help me God, I am so seriously in love with you, Tony, even though you’re stubborn as fuck and temperamental and spoiled and you can be a real brat sometimes, but goddammit, I love you, you son of a bitch, because you’re kind and you care and you’re smart, and sometimes you look at me, with all of that intense focus, and I feel incredible. You don’t take any bullshit, Tony, and you make me a better person for it. You push me to be honest with myself, and with you, and you care so deeply. You don’t want anyone to know but you do, and it hurts you so much when other people don’t, I want to protect you, with everything I have, with my life. I can’t bear to let you go, Tony, I need you with me to make me whole.”

Tony chokes on a breath. “I can’t make you whole, I’m not whole.”

“You don’t have to be. You just need to be you, okay?”

“I don’t know who I am anymore.”

“You’re Tony, you’re my Tony.”

Tony makes that choking sound again.

“It doesn’t matter to me, what happened,” Steve says. “The fact that you fought to survive makes you so incredible, Tony. You are so strong, most people would have given up or given in, but you didn’t, because you’re strong, because you’re special. I don’t care about this,” he says, placing his hand against the arc reactor in Tony’s chest. “How could I mind it, when it keeps you alive? It’s not ugly, Tony, you’re scars aren’t ugly, they’re beautiful. It’s just easier for everyone to see how strong you are, that’s all. You built this in a cave, Tony, you’re the smartest person on the planet. You’re incredible.”

Tony’s hand clenches tight around Steve’s wrist.

“I know that it’s going to be hard, but I don’t care, because I have you, and that’s all that matters.”

“When it’s dark, and I close my eyes, I feel like I’m back in the cave,” Tony admits.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Tony, we could leave a light on.”

Tony shrugs. “I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Will you let me help you? Will you talk to me about these things?”

Tony nods. “Okay.”

Steve kisses his forehead.

“I don’t like talking about it.”

“I know. You can talk when you’re ready.”

Steve tugs Tony back to bed and turns on the lamp on the side table when they’re settled.

“Thank you,” Tony says, tucking his head into Steve’s neck.

“Of course. Wake me up if you need me.”

“Okay.”

Steve runs his hands through Tony’s hair, massaging and tugging. Tony hums in response.

Tony goes quiet for a long while, but Steve can tell that he doesn’t fall asleep. “I feel so lost,” he says eventually.

“I know,” Steve says, kissing the top of Tony’s head. “But I’m here, and we’ll get through this, alright?”

“Alright,” Tony agrees easily. “Do you want to have sex?”

Steve can’t help laughing. “Do you?”

“I’d like an orgasm, yeah.”

“Okay,” Steve says, rolling over so he’s spread on top of Tony. He shifts down the bed, pulling Tony’s sleep pants off as he goes. He flattens out, kissing Tony’s hip.

Tony’s thighs tremble.

“Shh,” Steve says, running a hand down Tony’s leg. “Relax. I’m going to take care of you.”

“Okay,” Tony says, and lets him.

They don’t have another similar scene, but things don’t really get better. Tony disappears for long stretches of time and only sometimes crawls into bed with Steve during the dead of night. A lot of the time he smells slightly of alcohol and it hurts Steve a little bit.

He knows that it’s getting bad when he gets a call from Tony in the middle of a class. He sneaks out the back of the room and answers.

“Steve, Steve, Steeeeve,” Tony whines. “Can you come over? I’m supposed to be somewhere, but I think I’m drunk.”

Steve swallows down a sigh. It’s only the afternoon, Tony shouldn’t be drunk yet. “I’ll come over.”

“Great! Yay, thank you, love you,” Tony says, sounding happy. Completely different from how he’d sounded when Steve answered.

When Tony answers the door, Steve can actually smell the alcohol. Tony smiles widely at him.

“You,” Steve says, taking Tony’s face in his hands, “are definitely drunk.”

“Are you angry?” Tony’s grin disappears immediately.

Steve sighs. “Why are you drunk?”

“I was sad.”

“Oh, Tony. Next time, call me, call Jarvis, call Rhodey, call Pepper, call someone and talk to them instead, please?”

“I did call you.”

Before you get drunk. Alone.”

“Okay.”

“Thank you,” Steve says.

“I don’t remember where I’m supposed to be,” Tony says, frowning.

“Well, you’re not going,” Steve says, putting his hand on Tony’s back and steering him towards his bedroom.

“Someone’ll get mad at me,” Tony protests, but he follows Steve’s hand easily enough.

Steve sits Tony on his bed and crosses to the dresser to pull him some pajamas. “Do you want me to dress you too?”

“I’m not that smashed,” Tony says, tugging his dress shirt and slacks off easily.

“Wanna tell me what you were so upset about you needed to get drunk?”

Tony frowns. “I haven’t told anyone this.”

“You can tell me.”

“The weapons that blew me up, that killed my guard. They were mine. My weapons. Weapons I designed.”

Steve goes quiet, lets the shock of that statement work its way through his system. “That doesn’t make it your fault,” he says gently.

Tony’s trembling. “Someone’s selling my weapons to terrorists. It’s not me, I swear it’s not me!”

“I know it’s not you,” Steve assures him, pulling Tony into his shoulder.

“I didn’t know how else to stop it, so I canceled the weapons division. But now the board froze me out! Of my own company! They’re saying I’ve been traumatized by everything and have PTSD and aren’t capable. I’m always capable. But I can’t make any company decisions until I’ve been cleared by a shrink and they’re going to reopen the weapons division and terrorists will get them and people will die.”

That at least explains why Tony’s drunk. They much have called earlier and Tony’d lost it. Steve threads his fingers through Tony’s hair, hoping to calm him. “I know you don’t want to, but would it be so awful to do what they want? Go see a therapist?”

“They won’t clear me.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because people don’t get me when I talk, you know? They think I’m crazy, people don’t understand what I’m saying. And I know that it’s messed me up, I know that, but I can still make decisions.”

“You’re not messed up, Tony. If you were exactly the same as you were before then that would be even worse. That would make you a psychopath.”

Tony laughs hollowly.

“This’ll work out, I promise you.”

“Yeah? How?”

“Go see a therapist. I don’t the rest of the plan yet, but I will soon.”

“Okay,” Tony murmurs. “I think I’m going to pass out now.”

“Go ahead. Goodnight, sleepyhead.”

“Will you stay?”

“Of course.”

Tony smiles and then shuts his eyes.

Steve fiddles with the blanket around Tony, tucking him in, before he pads out to the living room to curl up on the couch to watch TV. He watches it mindlessly, thinking and worrying more than anything.

Tony stumbles out of their room a few hours after Steve wakes up. “Are you angry?” he asks, softly. “Don’t be angry. I mean, you can be angry, but please don’t break up with me.”

Steve opens his arms. “C’mere,” he says, “I’m not going to break up with you.”

“Oh, good,” Tony says, plopping down on the couch and curling into Steve’s side. “I’m sorry about last night.”

“I’m glad you called me.”

“I know you don’t like it when I drink.”

“Drinking once in a while, with friends, getting buzzed, that’s different than drinking when you’re alone because you’re upset.”

“I know.”

“Good. Now stop doing it.”

“Okay.”

They fall into silence after that.

“Are we done fighting now?” Tony asks.

“Yep.”

“Good.”

They spend the rest of the evening curled up on the couch, watching Tony’s stored movies and eating popcorn. When it gets late Steve heads off to bed, happy when Tony follows. Tony has another nightmare that night and Steve just talks him down from it, holding him close.

After that Tony starts coming to Steve more. Steve’s grateful for every time. Tony even admits quietly, in the dead of night, that he’s scheduled a meeting with a therapist. Steve offers to go with him and wait in the waiting room, but Tony declines.

Steve finds that he doesn’t even mind so much, not knowing what Tony does or says there, because he’s just glad that Tony’s working on getting his position back. He tells Tony once that he’s proud of him and Tony goes quiet in his embrace and then kisses Steve until he can’t think any longer.

Their sex life has also picked back up again. Steve’s not sure what that means, but he enjoys it. Everything indicates that Tony does too, and he’s always happy and soft afterwards, so he thinks it’s probably a good thing. Tony’s gotten over showing Steve his chest again. He’s not ashamed of the arc reactor, not at all, he’s even cut holes out in his shirts to deal with it. It’s the scars around it that bother him, but Steve’s finally managed to convince him that he doesn’t mind at all. He treats the center of Tony’s chest just like the rest of his body. It’s also a way for Steve to learn a little bit about what’s happened to Tony. The one time Steve had held Tony’s wrists in his hands Tony freaked out and screamed and it had taken Steve ten minutes to convince him that he was safe, and another thirty to calm him down. Steve spends the rest of the night apologizing over and over. He should have known that being held down was something Tony associated with Afghanistan.

Eventually Tony gets the board to clear him and his mood takes a definite upturn. He starts socializing again, stops spending long periods of time alone in the workshop. He starts taking Steve on dates, and interrupting him with tickets in hand.

“So, Mr. Artist,” Tony says, dropping into Steve’s lap and interrupting his reading.

“Yes, Mr. Annoying?” Steve returns, pointedly thwacking Tony on the head with his book before setting it aside.

“Mr. Tony Stark,” Tony says in a voice of grandeur, “has been invited to the grand night opening of the new art exhibition at the Met.” He pulls the invitation out of his pocket and hands it to Steve. “Would Mr. Steve Rogers care to be his plus one?”

Steve grins at Tony. “He would indeed,” he says, taking Tony’s face in his hands and kissing him.

Tony hums into the kiss and loops his arms around Steve’s neck, settling into his lap.

But they can’t have sex in the armchair, comfortable as it is, so Steve gets a good grip on the back of Tony’s thighs and stands, lifting Tony with him.

Tony yelps in surprise and then laughs. “That was very macho,” he tells Steve. “I may swoon.”

Steve grunts. “Don’t,” he says, setting Tony down on his feet.

Tony pouts.

“I am not carrying you to the bedroom,” Steve says, swatting Tony on the ass to get him to move.

Tony leers. “You mean,” he says, walking backwards to keep Steve in his sights, “that you have no intention of literally sweeping me off my feet?”

“None at all,” Steve confirms.

“You, sir, are no fun,” Tony says. Steve is rather impressed that he opens the door to his bedroom and steps back into the room without so much as a hesitation or turning around to look where he’s going. In fact, he makes it all the way to the bed, which he sits on before lying back on his elbows. “And to think, I invited you to a fancy party and everything.”

Steve shuts the door with his foot and takes Tony’s smart mouth as his, nipping at his lips.

Tony moans and lets himself fall backwards.

Steve can’t help following. He loves this, loves being stretched out over Tony, loves watching Tony’s eye trace over his body, loves watching him get aroused. He leans farther down and sucks at Tony’s neck.

Tony makes a choked noise and rakes his nails across Steve’s back as he grabs at his shirt.

Steve gasps.

“Sorry,” Tony says, unclenching his hands and sliding them into the back pockets of Steve’s jeans, squeezing.

Steve shakes his head. “Good gasp,” he says before going to work on Tony’s neck again.

Tony laughs and that’s such a good sound Steve spends the next long while chasing it. They’re late for the art premier and Steve knows that people are talking about them. He remembers the last time Tony had taken him to an art show and they’d hidden away in an abandoned corner to make out. It’s much nicer to kiss Tony in front of everyone because he wants to.

It makes sense that just as things start really going well they take a fast track back to hell.

It even doesn’t seem like the road to hell, not at first. The school offers trips, study abroad options, and he’s applied for some of them, and he’s utterly surprised when he gets accepted into one to spend the month of November travelling.

Bucky has a fall break at the same time as Steve’s trip starts, so he decides to come along. And Steve really looking forward to a vacation with his best friend. They’re given a small plane to start in, complete with a pilot who meets them and a few others on the airfield. Tony kisses Steve goodbye and he boards the plane. Things don’t start to go wrong until a few hours in the flight, when the little plane starts lurching. They’re told to buckle themselves up and as the shaking gets worse and worse, told to assume position and put their heads between their knees. Steve’s memory starts to get blank after that; just a mix of cold and pain and fire and suffocating darkness.

 


The first thing Steve’s aware of when he wakes up is the smell. Hospital, his brain instantly supplies. Bad, because that means something’s wrong, but also good, because if he’s awake enough to smell the hospital then he’s probably going to be alright. Close on the heels of that realization is that there’s something clogging up his nose.  He yanks the oxygen tube out and then takes a deep breath to get rid of the taste of the stale oxygen. He opens his eyes to find the room dimly lit, which is comforting, and also completely empty, save for the blinking monitors around his bed.

“Hello?” he calls, feeling rather silly.

But it works, the door opens and Tony comes in. His expression (tired and sad) brightens considerably when he sees Steve awake. “Hey,” he says, coming to Steve’s side. “You’re awake, that’s good.”

Steve moves to sit up and Tony helps him. “What happened?”

“Your plane crashed,” Tony says gently.

Steve rolls his eyes and ignores how doing so makes him dizzy. “I remember that part.”

“Well then, why did you ask?”

His injuries must not be that bad if Tony’s being snarky. “I want to know what injuries landed me in the hospital,” Steve says. “I thought you were supposed to be a genius.”

“I am,” Tony says, smiling. “That’s why I know what all the mumbo jumbo the doctors have been spewing means.”

“Tell me.”

“You’re such a whiner,” Tony says, but it’s fond. “You’ve got burns on your face, which are healing, by the way, and don’t make you look any less handsome, don’t worry. Your ribs are bruised, a few are cracked and you had to have surgery for one that was separated, and you had a concussion, possibly brain damage, but you’re talking and you know who I am so if there is damage it’s not severe. You’ve been in and out of it, lucid-wise, for the last three days.”

Steve reaches up to his face, feeling the gauze that must cover his burns. “I don’t remember anything,” he murmurs.

“You were lucky,” Tony says, watching him. “Your eyes and mouth are fine; you shouldn’t have any lasting effects from your face catching fire.”

“When do I get to go home?”

“Probably not long now that you’re up and talking.” Tony’s just staring at him, looking all intense, so Steve scoots over and pats the bed next to him.

“C’mere,” he says.

Tony settles on the bed (half in Steve’s lap it’s so small) and sighs. “You scared me,” he admits. “I thought you weren’t mad about the whole disappearing for three months thing.”

Steve sneaks his arm around Tony’s waist and holds him close. “I’m not,” he says. “And I’m sorry.”

“Stop getting hurt,” Tony demands.

“Anything for you, baby boy.”

“Don’t call me that,” Tony protests.

“My, you are demanding. I’m sick in a hospital bed; you should be nice to me.”

Tony huffs. “I love you, you know,” he murmurs, playing with Steve’s fingers.

“I do. I love you too.”

“You died,” Tony says, very quietly. Steve has to strain to hear. “For a while. They had to resuscitate you.”

“Oh,” Steve says. It had been bad then, even if it wasn’t so bad now.

“Your chest was crushed,” Tony continues, voice still quiet and directed at Steve’s fingers. “You were pinned under part of the plane. They thought you might have punctured your lung, you were breathing so poorly. Speaking of which, you’re not supposed to take that tube out, you’re still not getting enough oxygen into your blood.” Tony picks the tube Steve had pulled out of his nose up from the bed.

“It’s uncomfortable,” Steve protests.

“I know,” Tony murmurs, leaning in close to Steve to replace it.

“Are you supposed to be doing that?” Steve asks.

“Probably not, but I know I’m doing it right,” Tony says. He lets his hands linger, stroking lightly against Steve’s cheek. Steve makes a grumpy noise at him and Tony chuckles. “I know it’s weird. When I woke up in Afghanistan I went to pull the tube out of my nose and it just kept coming and coming, it’d gone all the way down to my throat.”

Steve makes a noise in sympathy. “You never told me that.” This is still new, the fact that Tony can think about it and make simple comments about what happened. It’s progress; not every memory triggers a flashback or an attack any more. Bit by bit, Steve’s learning more about what happened which he’s grateful for.

“Haven’t thought about it in a long time,” Tony says. He tightens his hands a bit on Steve’s face and leans forward, kissing Steve’s forehead.

Steve let’s his eyes shut again and breathes, taking a moment to enjoy the soft press of Tony’s hands and lips. This close, he can detect the faint smell of Tony beneath the hospital smell. With his eyes shut things start to feel strange again, sounds and emotions floating just out of his reach.

“You scared me,” Tony whispers, resting his forehead against Steve’s. “I thought you’d left me all alone.”

“Never, baby,” Steve breathes. Tony isn’t floating though, Tony is warm and solid against Steve and it takes a lot more focus than it should, but Steve concentrates purely on him and things settle a bit.

Tony gives an obligatory huff at the pet name, breath ghosting over Steve’s mouth.

So Steve kisses him.

Tony kisses him softly before pulling back, too soon.

Steve opens his eyes and everything swims for a few seconds before he remembers to focus on Tony.

“So, planes,” Tony’s saying. “Neither of us is ever getting on one ever again.”

“No,” Steve agrees. He hesitates. He still feels foggy and logically he knows that he should get some more sleep and that he doesn’t want to know the answer to his next question, but he also know that it will drive him crazy if he doesn’t ask. He’ll try to remember and he doesn’t know how he knows or why, but he knows that if he focuses on the accident that it will be bad. “If I ask you something will you be honest about it?”

“Yes.”

“Did,” Steve hesitates, steeling himself for the answer he doesn’t want. “Did anyone else on the plane die?”

Tony goes stiff in Steve’s embrace and shuts his eyes. Steve knows what the answer is before Tony breathes, “Yes.” Then, louder, “It was a really bad crash, Steve.”

There’s no other assurance from Tony, and Steve knows the answer to his next question too. “Bucky?”

Tony doesn’t say anything for a long moment. Steve knows. Tony wouldn’t string him out like this. “I’m so sorry,” Tony says. “I know it doesn’t mean anything, but I’m sorry.”

Steve feels numb. “Why?” he says, brain and mouth on autopilot. “It’s not your fault, it’s mine.”

“No, don’t you do that,” Tony says sternly, placing his hands on either side of Steve’s neck. “It was an accident. Planes go down. All the time. Especially when they’re not built by me.”

Steve doesn’t laugh, doesn’t say anything.

“Hey,” Tony says, “your breathing rate is way too high, Steve. You’re hyperventilating.”

Steve hadn’t noticed. He’d forgotten that he was supposed to be breathing.

“Breathe slow, in and out. With me, okay?” Tony says, voice low and even. He takes one hand off Steve’s neck and holds Steve’s hand to his chest. “In,” he says, inhaling. And then, “Out.” Exhale.

Steve recognizes the technique. It’s the one he uses on Tony when he has his flashbacks. He tries to focus on his breathing, and when that turns out to be too difficult, on Tony’s breathing. The world is still turning, Tony is alive, breathing with him. Off to the side of his hand, Steve can feel the hum of Tony’s arc reactor. Life, is what is means. “It is my fault,” Steve says, once he’s pretty sure his breathing has evened out. “I convinced him to come with me.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” Tony says. “Hey, open your eyes, look at me.”

Steve opens his eyes, surprised that they’d been closed. Tony rests his forehead against Steve’s again.

“Not your fault,” he says. “Would Bucky appreciate you beating yourself up like this?”

Steve can’t shake his head and he can’t get his throat to work so he doesn’t say anything.

Tony seems to know though. “He wouldn’t. Hey, hey, oh, don’t cry,” Tony says, pulling back slightly.

Steve reaches his hand up to his cheek, surprised when it comes away wet.

“I’m bad at this, I’m sorry,” Tony babbles. “I don’t know what to do when people cry. But you can cry if you want, sorry I told you not to, I’m sorry.”

Now that he knows he’s crying Steve can’t stop. He can hear himself now too, he can even feel the sobs leaving his body.

“I’m sorry,” Tony repeats, putting his arms around Steve.

That makes it worse. Steve lets himself fall forward into Tony’s embrace, giving into his sobs.

“Shh, shh,” Tony says. “It’s going to be okay, I know it hurts, I wish I could make it go away, but I’m here, Steve.” He continues talking, just words, whatever comes into his head, running the fingers of one hand through Steve’s hair.

Steve clutches at Tony’s shirt and cries. Cries until his throat hurts and his eyes sting and he doesn’t have any breath or tears left. He doesn’t move once it’s over, just slumps, exhausted and hurt in Tony’s embrace.

“I love you,” Tony murmurs, running a comforting hand up and down Steve’s back.

Steve loves him too, but when he opens his mouth and eyes and starts to pull back to say so, the world lurches and he’s confused for a few seconds. “I’m dizzy,” he says instead, still slumped against Tony.

Tony chuckles. “You’re still pretty drugged up,” he explains. Gently he helps Steve lean back against the pillows on his bed. “I was going to wait to tell you until you were more lucid, more out of danger.”

“I’m glad you told me,” Steve murmurs. “I…I think I’m going to fall asleep.”

Tony smiles. “That’s okay.”

“Stay?” Steve asks.

“Haven’t left,” Tony says, stroking at Steve’s hair.

It’s incredibly soothing and Steve lets it put him back to sleep.

Tony turns out to be wrong about Steve being let go. The hospital staff wants to keep him there until his oxygen levels are normally without the tube for extended periods of time. Steve doesn’t bother trying to pretend that this doesn’t make him grumpy. He’s still sleeping a lot and he gets dizzy after being up for a while and his chest is still rather sore once the latest dose of pain meds wears off, so rationally he knows that they’re in the right, but it still bothers him. Tony’s always there when Steve’s awake, and he thinks Tony’s there when he’s sleeping too, which helps with the tedium of the hospital. Steve worries about Tony spending all this time with him, worries about what’s going on with his company, but he doesn’t say anything about it because he’s selfish and he wants Tony to stay with him.

Not that Tony is his only visitor. Pepper comes by often, always with documents in hand for Tony to sign but she always stays long after her business with Tony is done. Coach Fury comes by too, to yell at Steve about how much of an inconvenience it is to be missing his quarterback at practice and if they lose their next game because Steve is too busy being unconscious in a hospital bed then it is clearly all Steve’s fault. Rhodey comes by a lot too, gives Steve a rundown on the team and assures him that they’re not really doing as badly as Fury is making it out to be. He also will stay for a long time, giving both Steve and Tony a hard time about something or other. The rest of the team comes by as well; Sam and Luke more than most. They both swear that they will die before they let the team lose their next game, just so Fury doesn’t push back Steve’s recovery by storming into his hospital room and bitching him out before he forces him to do Punishment Pushups. Peggy comes by as well, several times with Sharon, who promptly climbs up Steve’s bed and into his lap and stays firmly there, coloring and chatting, until the staff kicks everyone out for the end of visiting hours. Tony never leaves, even after visiting hours. Whether he’s staying as Steve’s one allotted family member or bullied his way into a permanent spot because he owns the hospital Steve doesn’t know. Steve’s grateful for all of them, he really is, but sometimes he expects to see his mother or Bucky walk through the door to his room and comfort him, and they never do, and even his circle of friends doesn’t really dull the pain of their loss so much.

He cries again, when the pain meds are working at their height and he wakes up saying “Mom” and she doesn’t come. It’s horrible, painful, wracking sobs again, sobs that are more like screams and take his breath away. He’s scared and broken and his mom isn’t there to fix him and everything is wrong.

He finds out later that he really had stopped breathing during that incident, sending Tony and his doctors into a panic. Pepper tells him later, when Tony’s stepped out to go to the bathroom, that Tony had called her, screaming and crying on the phone when the doctors had manhandled him out of Steve’s room. She says it gently, not blaming him, she assures, just letting him know.

He’s glad she told him. He realizes then that he’s not the only one hurting, not the only one who hates this hospital room, and he vows silently to start getting better, to get out of here.

After that determination he starts to get more and more fidgety. He’s tired of his hospital room and being in bed. So next time Rhodey and Sam visit together Steve cajoles them into helping him stand up and walk around the room. He stumbles at first; it’s been a while without really using his legs. But eventually he gets the hang of it again and can walk laps around the room at a perfectly normal speed with barely any pain.

Tony beams at him, walking backwards and chattering on while Rhodey and Sam flank him, ready to catch if he falls.

The doctors want to keep him in the hospital until his ribs have completely healed, but Steve makes the case that they’re all attached now, and unlikely to become separated during daily life. They concede to let him go, with a long list of instructions and pain meds, which Steve actually reads through a couple times before the sheet inevitably gets lost.

The doctors warn him off of football, which makes both Steve and Coach Fury grumpy, but makes a lot of sense. So Steve spends a lot of time practicing his passing game with whoever is around the mansion. (The first time Sam visit he walks around wide-eyed for a few minutes before saying he thought places like that only existed on TV.) Steve thinks that playing with Tony with ridiculously fun, most because Tony is really, really, horrible at both catching and throwing the football. Even Pepper, who’s never done this before in her life, is better than him. Tony pouts for a long time and Steve’s sure that there will be a football throwing machine in the house before long.

That’s all during the day though; nights are a lot harder for Steve. Without the hospital sedatives he starts dreaming again endless nightmares of flames and ice and pain. He wakes up a lot in the middle of the night, shaking or sweating or crying. It’s helps to have Tony there, to sooth him with touch and words. He’s always able to get back asleep…eventually.

 


But the same cannot be said for Tony. Something, he’s not sure what, had triggered Steve, a full blown panic attack followed by rush, breathless words. Tony’s doesn’t begrudge Steve his company, he remembers how much nicer it had been to break down with Steve to catch him, but he doesn’t know how Steve managed it day after day. Steve’s only been back home for a few weeks and Tony’s already exhausted and weary. And a little heartbroken.

“Pepper, I’m a horrible person,” Tony says, flopping face down on his couch.

“No you’re not,” Pepper assures him. “But tell me what you did this time?”

Tony picks his head up. “I didn’t do anything, it’s my thoughts,” he says, tapping the side of his head.

Pepper frowns at him.

“I keep thinking…Steve’s so upset about Bucky and he’s grieving and I’m trying to be sympathetic and understanding, but,” Tony gives Pepper a desperate look, “but there’s a part of my brain that is so damn grateful that Bucky died and not Steve.”

“Oh, Tony,” Pepper says, sitting next to him. “It’s alright to have thoughts like that. Everyone does when stuff like this happens.”

“But Steve,” Tony says. “Steve wishes that he’d died instead.”

“Did he tell you that?”

“Yeah,” Tony admits quietly. “I don’t know what to do. I couldn’t bear losing him.”

“Tell him that,” Pepper says. “He’s so busy grieving and dealing with his survivor’s guilt I don’t think he knows much about what’s going on outside his own head right now. Did you?”

“No,” Tony says, scrubbing at his face. “Oh, Pepper, this is so hard. I just want him to be happy again.”

“He will be,” Pepper assures him, running a hand up and down his back. “It just takes time.”

Tony sighs and sags sideways into Pepper’s support.

 


Falling. Fire. Pain. The fire is reaching for Bucky, Steve grabs out for Bucky’s arm to pull him away from the flames but his hand goes right through. Bucky! he shouts, but it’s lost in the roar of flames and wind. He’s still falling, the wind twists him mid-fall and then he’s falling sideways, watching as his mom plummets, falling twice as fast as he is. Mom! But he can’t hear his own voice. His mom hits the ground and disappears, Steve’s scream is useless. The ground’s coming up fast. He’s going to hit it. He’s going to die. He’s going to disappear. Distantly he realizes that the impact will hurt, but then the pain will end. He’s ready.

He wakes up, gasping for breath.

Just a dream. A nightmare. Steve opens his eyes to the cool darkness of Tony’s bedroom. He reaches out, searching for Tony, but he can’t find him. Panic flares through his system and Steve sits up. “Tony?” he says, looking around. No answer, no Tony.

He slides out of bed and realizes when his feet hit the ground that his legs are shaking. He takes a deep breath and leaves Tony’s room. He’s relieved when he finds the rest of the place devoid of flames. He knows it silly, but the feeling of being trapped in his nightmare is still there. “Tony?” he calls, walking down the hallway.

He can see Tony in the living room, getting up from the couch. Pepper’s next to him. She smiles at Steve and disappears out the other door to the living room, down a different hall.

“Hey, I thought you were sleeping,” Tony says as Steve approaches him.

Steve hesitates right before he gets into Tony’s personal space. If Tony disappears when he touches him he’s not sure he’ll survive the pain.

“Bad dream?” Tony asks, taking the final steps and cupping his hand around Steve’s cheek.

Steve exhales in relief when he feels the touch, feels the warmth from Tony’s palm, feels the rough patches that are Tony’s calluses and scars. He nods and leans into the touch. “I woke up and you were gone,” he explains. “I was worried.”

“I’m sorry,” Tony says, stroking his thumb rhythmically across Steve’s cheek bone. “I couldn’t get my brain to stop whirring and I didn’t want to wake you. I’ll stay next time.”

“Thank you,” Steve says. He can already feel exhaustion creeping back into his body in the absence of adrenaline.

“Let’s go,” Tony says, dropping his hand from Steve’s face to take his hand.

Steve lets Tony lead him back to the bedroom and they climb into bed together.

“Sleep,” Tony says, as Steve settles against his side. He grabs his tablet off the bedside table. “I’m going to work a little more, alright?”

Steve nods and shifts closer, throwing an arm over Tony’s lap to keep him in place.

Tony flicks the fingers of his left hand and blueprints jump from the tablet screen to the air. Tony’s right hand threads through Steve’s hair and starts stroking.

Steve shuts his eyes and focuses and the warmth he can feel from Tony, the life, and eventually finds sleep again.

 


Tony notes when Steve’s breath evens out into sleep, but doesn’t do anything, continues stroking through his hair. He flicks his other hand, spinning the plane diagram around. He frowns. Logically he knows that there’s no way to make a giant piece of metal that’s up in the air impervious to falling, laws of gravity and all that, but damned if he’s not going to design the safest jet ever made. He scribbles in the air with his tablet pen, glad he’s left-handed so he doesn’t disturb Steve.

Reactor power? He writes next to the engines. He draws a line out from that and starts sketching what an arc reactor that could hold a plane up might look like. Of course it doesn’t just have to keep the plane up, it also has to travel, but if it could hover, that would make for safer landings and evacuations in emergencies, what if the reactor power source could rotate, face downwards to hover and take off and land and face in other directions for travel…he adds a circle arrow next to his sketch. He gestures his fingers closer together and the whole thing shrinks. He nods, that seems right, he’ll make his safety aircraft, NEEDS NAME, he scribbles as a side note, small at first, smaller planes are more dangerous than the big jets. He works until his eyes start aching, even behind his glasses, and he saves everything and shuts it down. He doesn’t mind, his jet is fucking brilliant, Boeing and Air Bus better start watching their asses because he’s coming for them. Stark Industries doesn’t need weapons, they have arc reactors and airplanes, they have clean energy airplanes, Tony’s a fucking genius. Pepper is going to be pleased, this is good PR, good to show the company working on something big again, and Steve is going to be pleased to because safe planes. Maybe Tony can’t make important leaps forward in medicine and but he can damn sure build Steve safer planes.

Setting his glasses and his tablet aside on the table, he scoots further under the covers. Steve murmurs in his sleep and shifts around, placing his head on Tony’s chest and pinning him under half of his body weight. Tony doesn’t mind, even though Steve is heavy, Tony doesn’t need to move. Gently he uses his free arm to move Steve’s head so the side of it isn’t mashed into the arc reactor and he starts absentmindedly stroking Steve’s hair again.

Steve murmurs nonsense in his sleep and tilts his head into the touch.

Tony smiles to himself. They’ll be okay, they’ll get through this. He rests his head against Steve’s and shuts his eyes. He focuses on matching his breath to Steve’s and he’s asleep before he knows it.

 


“Pepper,” Tony singsongs as he enters her office, which he has to pass through to get to his, “I have a present for you.”

Pepper looks up from the computer at her desk sharply. She actually looks worried. “What did you mess up?” she asks with a sigh.

“Nothing,” Tony says, faking offence. “This isn’t an ‘I’m sorry for fucking up’ present, it’s just a present. A business present.”

Pepper purses her lips but her face relaxes. “Let’s see it,” she says.

Tony smiles and takes out his tablet. He flicks his fingers so the plans for his yet unnamed safety jet project in the air.

Pepper gets up and weaves in and out of the diagrams, inspecting them, spinning them. “Tony, this is brilliant,” she says, smiling.

Tony beams at her.

“Are you sure it can actually work? Would it actually fly?”

“In theory it can fly,” Tony says, gesturing to the set of equations that proves it. “I haven’t built anything yet, I’d have to build a whole bunch of miniature ones and try different things. Haven’t done any experimenting yet.”

Pepper smiles at him. “This is good, Tony, really good. Are you keeping it secret?”

“No,” Tony says. “Tell whoever you want. But I’m head of this project.”

“You’re CEO, you’re head of every project,” Pepper points out.

“Yes, but sometimes only in name. I want to be head of this in practicality too.”

“Do you want anyone specific on it?” Pepper says, already back in business mode and at her computer, typing away. “Or should we just let the heads of departments decide?”

“Let them decide, it’ll give them something to do for a change.”

“Tony,” Pepper reprimands.

Tony grins at her. “I will be in my office, doing work,” he says, sauntering towards to the door.

Pepper rolls her eyes. “There’s a stack of papers on your desk,” she says. “Please, read them and then sign them.”

“Do I really have to read all of them?” Tony whines.

“Yes,” Pepper says firmly. “It’s much easier on me and the legal team if you do.”

“Well, in that case. You know me; I’ll do anything for the legal team.”

“Get to work, Tony,” Pepper says.

Tony smiles and settles behind his desk, leaving the door open so he can talk to (annoy) Pepper.

Steve comes by around lunchtime and asks Tony out with him to eat. He’s bashful about it, a little bit of a blush on his cheekbones and Tony can’t help grinning and agreeing before he’s out the door.

They walk to a nearby café, but Steve grabs Tony’s sleeve gently before he goes inside.

Tony stops, turning around to face Steve, trying to ignore the wind blowing in his face. He steps closer to Steve and there, that’s better, Steve’s bulk is blocking the wind, keeping Tony warm and breeze-less. He smiles up at Steve, close enough to him that he has to tilt his head slightly for contact.

“I wanted to apologize,” Steve says, settling his hands around Tony’s elbows.

“For what?”

“For being…how I’ve been lately. All moody and maudlin.”

Tony hesitates before saying. “You don’t need to be sorry. You’re grieving, I get it. It’s not rational, I know. But,” he starts, trying instinctively to make himself seem taller, bigger, more imposing, “I will not listen to you saying that you wished you’d died, understand me?”

Steve flinches slightly but doesn’t pull away. “Because I love you and it hurts to think that you would rather leave me behind than deal with this pain. I want you here.” Tony takes a deep breath, consciously softening his tone. “Stay for me?”

Steve tugs him closer and kisses him lightly. “I’m not going anywhere,” he promises. “I’m sorry I said that, I didn’t really mean it.”

Tony hmphs at him. “Do you really want to die?” he asks quietly.

“No,” Steve says, and he sounds so honest, so sure, that Tony believes him.

“Good,” Tony says smiling. “Now buy me coffee.”

Steve laughs. “How about some food too?” he asks, following Tony into the café.

“Coffee is made out of beans,” Tony points out, and Steve laughs again, honest and bright. And it loosens something tight in Tony’s chest.

 


Tony’s designs for a safer airplane are a smashing success. The board loves it, the R&D department loves it, and some of the engineers are a little scared to be working directly with Tony, but that disappears pretty fast because, well, Tony is small and eighteen. Stock prices are rising again and Steve smiles more now so Tony starts worrying about something else on the side; numbers that aren’t adding up. Money coming out of nowhere and then disappearing immediately. His weapons in the hands of terrorists. All traces had been wiped, and well hidden, but Tony’s better. He spends a couple of days hacking from his own server, his company master server, and the general Stark Industries server and finds a few things, a photograph here or there, a plane ticket or two. It’s enough to convince Tony that his gut has been right; it all has something to do with the terror groups in Afghanistan.

He doesn’t really have a plan. He figures his best shot at finding everything will be to hack the head computer in the main office. It has access to all the servers, everyone’s and everything except for private databases for non-SI use. Anything involving the weapons does involve SI, even if under the table. So when Pepper comes down to his lab he hands her a flash drive to hack her into the mainframe and let her pull any hidden files. She frowns at the weird request but nods, heading back upstairs.

Tony loses track of time again, lost in his designs and math. When he comes out of it he heads to the living room, thinking he’ll order some pizza and they can all have a movie night.

But before he gets a chance his phone rings and Pepper’s picture flashes on the screen. He hits the button to answer and tries to open his mouth to ask Pepper if she’d gotten the files, when a buzzing fills his ears, his head, and he can’t move.

“Tony?”

He can hear Pepper’s concerned voice through the phone. Then he realizes that his body has locked up, and he’s falling backwards.

“There, there,” someone says, familiar hands catching him and lowering him onto the couch.

Obadiah.

Tony would gasp if it wasn’t so hard just to breathe. Obadiah crosses into his line of vision then, since Tony can’t even move his head, and takes the phone from Tony’s hand, hanging up on Pepper.

With any luck she’ll take that as a sign that something’s wrong.

“Tony, Tony, Tony,” Obadiah says, settling on the table across from the couch and leaning forward into Tony’s space. “It’s a shame we never looked farther into these,” he says, twirling the small, black device in his fingers.

Tony knows exactly what it is, of course he does. He invented it.

“There are so many applications for paralysis,” Obadiah continues. He looks significantly at Tony, as if to prove his point.

But Tony isn’t arguing. He can’t argue, just like he can’t move or speak or hardly breathe. He feels like he’s choking. The smell and feel of the damp caves and water, water everywhere consume him for several terrifying eternities.

Obadiah leans farther forward then, trailing his fingers over the arc reactor under Tony’s shirt. “You know, when I ordered that hit on you, I was afraid that I was killing the golden goose.”

Tony’s so frozen he can’t even react.

“But I was wrong,” Obadiah says, the trail of fingers becoming a grip. “Turns out you had one more egg to lay.” He twists his grip then, tearing Tony’s shirt and popping the arc reactor out of its socket.

If Tony could seize, he would. It’s still connected, he knows, but he’s equally sure that it won’t be for long.

“It’s a shame you got Pepper involved,” Obadiah continues, as he pulls the arc reactor completely out of Tony’s chest. Tony feels his heart instantly start beating wrong, as icy fear for Pepper works his way through his bones. “I would have preferred she made it out alive,” Obadiah says, leaving Tony alone and frozen on the couch.

 


Tony hangs up on her and Pepper is left with the long beep of a disconnected call. It doesn’t make sense for Tony to hang up on her right after answering. So she calls Rhodey and asks him to check the house for Tony. And then she calls Steve, a vague hope that they were fooling around and had accidentally answered the phone.

But when Steve answers, sounding proper and polite, that hope, fleeting as it was in the first place, disappears completely.

Steve knows something’s wrong just from the tone of her voice. “Pepper what’s wrong?” he asks.

“I’m not sure yet. Meet me at Stark Industries.” Then she hangs up and Steve is left staring at the phone in his hand. He takes a few seconds to process how things have seemed to have gone so wrong so quickly, before heading out of the building to his car. He can miss his next class.

He drives recklessly: speeding, glancing at his phone every few moments, running yellow lights. He focuses not so much on the road as he does on what could have possibly happened to have Pepper sound so panicked. Tony goes missing from time to time, but Pepper seemed sure that the fact that he’s disappeared is a sign of something else. So Steve starts mentally preparing himself for what he’ll find at Stark Industries. Fire, probably. Utter chaos. Chaos and disaster sounds better than the alternative; eerie, Tony-less quiet. Then he drives up and…

All the time and mental preparation in the world wouldn’t have been enough to prepare Steve for this.

Tony and…someone are on the roof of one of Tony’s buildings. They’re both holding weapons that glow, which Steve really can’t make sense of, and then there’s Pepper, standing below them beside the arc reactor, wind whipping her hair all around her face.

As he runs towards them he hears Tony yell, “The button, Pepper! Push the button!”

“You told me not to!” Pepper protests.

“Push the button!” Tony repeats.

“But you’ll die!”

“No!” Steve can’t help screaming.

The other man on the roof fires his weapon and the exact same moment and Tony tumbles off the edge of the building.

“Tony!” Steve’s voice mixes with Pepper’s as Tony manages to get a hold of the edge of the roof.

“Just do it!” he shouts down.

“Tony, no, you can’t-” Steve starts

“Pepper-”

“I can’t lose you!” Steve screams, so loud his voice cracks and his throat hurts, but he needs to say it.

“I’m sorry,” Tony mouths, maybe says, but he’s too far away to hear in the wind and then he shuts his eyes.

“Please!” Steve screams once more.

Pepper bites her lip and just as the man on the roof takes aim at Tony again she presses the button.

The world explodes.

Steve reacts on instinct, getting himself and Pepper as far away from the blast as possible before he covers her with his body.

For a few endless moments the world is a bright blue light and shaking.

When the ground stops shaking, Steve looks up and uncurls himself from around Pepper. “Tony!” he yells.

There’s no response.

He runs toward the center of the disaster, back to the arc reactor, somehow still glowing. “Tony!”

He hears Pepper running along behind him.

“What the fuck?” Steve can hear Rhodey yelling now too.

“Call an ambulance!” he says. Because it seems like the right thing to say, and where is Tony? “Tony!”

When he finds him, Steve stomach rolls. Tony’s lying on a piece of rubble, body awkwardly splayed. His right arm is mangled and broken and the light in his chest is flickering. “Tony!” Steve yells, placing fingers against Tony’s neck and his ear next to his mouth. “Please,” he says quieter, praying for a pulse or a breath. It feels like he’s been crushed under the weight of the realization that he’s all alone in the world, it’s hard to breathe or move under the invisible pressure and all he can feel is terror and pain.

“Is he…?” Pepper sounds like she’s crying, but Steve can’t look away from Tony.

“Tony?” he repeats, quieter.

Then, a soft puff of breath against his cheek.

“Tony!” he says, louder. “He’s alive.”

Some of the horrible feeling leaves Steve’s body and in the rush of relief he thinks he may vomit. “He’s breathing,” he says, placing a hand on Tony’s chest, warm, thank god, his body is still warm. The terror recedes and the crushing pressure eases enough for Steve to breathe. The air around him is full of ash, he realizes, and uncomfortably warm. Out of the corner of his eye he catalogues bright orange flames. Then Tony’s arc reactor flickers off and for half a second, an eternity, and Steve can’t breathe again. The crushing feeling doesn’t quite leave this time, even after the arc reactor flickers back on. He feels utterly lost, he doesn’t know how to fix the arc reactor, doesn’t know how to make sure that Tony’s heart keeps beating and his lungs keep breathing, but he has to know, has to figure it out, because if he loses Tony then he’s truly alone and he doesn’t think he’ll survive the experience. “Don’t die,” he commands, one hand gripping tightly to Tony’s shoulder. “Stay here with me, okay?” He’s not even sure if Tony can hear him, but dammit it’s worth a shot. “Keep breathing, keep your heart beating. Then you can tell me all about the arc reactor works and I can make sure it fucking stops flickering, okay? I’ll understand it this time I promise I will.”

Tony doesn’t respond to Steve’s voice in any way, but his chest rises and falls again and the glow of the arc reactor remains.

Somewhere off to his side Pepper makes a choked noise.

Steve flicks his eyes off of Tony for a few seconds to look at her. Pepper’s bleeding from a gash on her forehead, but it doesn’t look like she’s noticed the blood mixing with her bangs. They’re two completely shades of red, Steve thinks distantly. They don’t go together. Just like the tears falling down her face don’t match the expression. Pepper looks angry and sad and baffled and paralyzed all at the same time. He doesn’t know what his own expression looks like but he can’t imagine it being much different.

“Not dead,” he murmurs, to assure himself, to assure Pepper, to force the fact upon Tony, Tony who’s lying there, too still, completely still except the minute rise and fall of his chest. “Not dead,” he repeats, running his other hand through Tony’s hair.

It isn’t until much later that Steve realizes there are sirens blaring in the background.

Then there are police and paramedics and firefighters and someone is trying to get him away from Tony.

“No,” Steve protests, fighting against the arms holding him. “No, please, I, I need – he-”

Someone else is kneeling by Tony’s body, putting an oxygen mask on his face and lifting him onto a stretcher.

“The light!” Steve yells at them. “The light in his chest. You can’t let it go out. If it goes out he’ll die.”

“Do you know how it works?”

“No. No, I, he tried to explain, but, I’m too stupid, I don’t understand.” Steve watches as Tony’s loaded into an ambulance. He turns helplessly around to the official holding him. The man lets go of Steve’s arms.

“Will you come with us to the hospital?” he asks. “You need to get checked out.”

“I’m injured?” Steve says. “I feel fine.”

“That could be a concussion,” the guy says, steering Steve gently toward an aid car. He’s relieved to see Pepper sitting on the edge as well, an aid worker cleaning the blood from her forehead.

“I want to see Tony,” Steve says, ignoring the paramedic trying to get him to follow a penlight with his eyes.

“You both need to be checked over first,” the paramedic insists.

“No, I need Tony,” Steve says, aware that he’s not making much sense.

“I promise you can go to the hospital once everyone’s been checked out,” the paramedic says, sounding firm now. “The sooner you do what I say the sooner you can see him.”

Steve’s panic has ebbed just enough that the logical side of his brain gets a say in and he takes a deep breath to still himself before looking expectantly at the paramedic.

“Thank you,” he says, relaxing. “Now, follow this light, please.”

Steve dutifully follows the light, tips his head this way and that, recites the alphabet backwards and walks in a straight line. Eventually the paramedics clear him and he’s more than happy to see them go, releasing Pepper too with just a bandage on her forehead.

“My hands are shaking,” she says.

Steve frowns at her but then she’s fishing in her pocket for something and throws it at Steve. Car keys.

“They’ll work on any of Tony’s company cars,” she says. “Pick one and take us to the hospital.”

Steve picks the closest car, which happens to be basically a small limo and waits only long enough for Pepper and Rhodey to get in the back and shut the doors before he’s off. For once he’s insanely grateful for the sheer madness that is traffic in the city; he’s sure he’s not driving his best but there are people driving on sidewalks even though it’s late and there aren’t that many people on the road. He’s grateful he doesn’t crash the car, which is sure to be horrendously expensive, on the way to the hospital. He simply turns the car off, drops the keys back into Pepper’s hand and is all ready to barge into Tony’s room until he realizes that he doesn’t know which room it is.

The lady at the front desk proves to be exceedingly unhelpful. Steve’s out of patience, it’s been a long day, a scary day, and he’s reduced to shouting at her. “I am his medical contact, god damn it, tell me where my boyfriend is, or so help me god, I will sue your ass!”

Pepper beside him nods sharply which means that they probably actually could.

A security guard actually comes over and it takes a bit more shouting before Steve and Pepper and Rhodey are lead to a waiting area.

“I want to see him,” Steve demands as soon as a doctor comes into the room, saying Tony’s name.

She opens her mouth as if she’s going to protest, but they all must look damn scary because she just leads all three of them back into Tony’s room, explaining gently that he’s on a lot of medication and won’t be lucid for a while, but is expected to make a full recovery eventually.

Steve doesn’t listen.

Tony’s asleep in his hospital bed, right arm in a cast and held out away from his body on a sling. The rest of him is curled up. He’s pale, but Steve can see the arc reactor shining through the hospital gown, and his chest is rising and falling regularly, and the heart monitor is beeping at a consistent rate, so he’ll be okay. The doctors said he would be.

Steve sits heavily in the chair next to Tony’s bed. Slowly he reaches out and brushes a lock of hair off Tony’s forehead. Then he can’t stop touching, because Tony is warm and soft and alive, and something in Steve breaks, and he curls his arm carefully around Tony’s IV lines and then rests his head on it, close enough that it’s as if he and Tony are in bed again, laying down for the night. Exhausted, he falls asleep.

 


Steve comes awake to the sound of quiet mumbling and light pressure against his cheek.

Tony’s eyes are open, if a little unfocused and wide, and he’s pushing ineffectually against the IV in his arm.

“Stop that,” Steve says, taking Tony’s fingers in his own.

Tony turns his eyes on him. “I don’t want drugs,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“I know, but the doctors know what they’re doing, alright? And I don’t, so we’ll wait for them to tell us what it is before we take it out, okay?”

Tony frowns. “You’ll stay with me? Make sure it doesn’t do anything bad?”

“Promise.”

Tony relaxes, and grips Steve’s hand. “Okay then,” he says. “Are…are you not mad at me anymore?”

“I’m furious.”

Tony flinches and tries to pull away, but Steve won’t let him.

“You almost died, after I asked you not to.”

“I’m sorry. It was the only way to stop ‘im.”

“Who was that? On the roof with you?”

“Obie.”

“Oh.”

“He ordered the hit on me in Afghanistan. Tried to kill me. Took the reactor from my chest, good thing Pepper kept the original one.”

Steve hesitates for a moment, just breathing, taking all the information in. “They told us that the other body on the roof was dead. Pepper went to take care of it. If he really was trying to kill you, then I’m glad he’s dead.” The words are awful to say, but some part of Steve really does mean them.

Tony smiles at him.

“And I’m glad you’re not,” he adds.

“Mmm,” Tony says, clearly still out of it. But Steve can’t help pushing, he needs the reassurance.

“Can you promise me that you’ll never sacrifice yourself like that again?”

“But-”

“Please.” Steve’s voice breaks, but he can’t even feel embarrassed about it. “Please, don’t leave me. You’re all I have left, Tony. You can’t leave me.”

“Okay,” Tony says. “No more risking my life.”

“Thank you,” Steve says, meaning it as much as he’s ever meant anything.

“Still love me?” Tony asks, turning his head towards Steve’s, eyes closing slowly.

“Never stopped.”

Tony smiles.

Steve kisses him as he falls asleep.

The next time Steve wakes up Tony’s still sleeping and Pepper is shaking his shoulder gently. “Steve,” she says.

Steve sits up, careful of the wires still hooked into Tony and winces as his back cracks back into alignment. “Yeah?” he says, rubbing at his face.

“It’s tomorrow,” Pepper says, smiling. “You should get some real sleep.”

“But-” Steve looks helplessly back at Tony.

“Rhodey and I are sleeping in the limo outside,” she says. “Come join. They’ll let us back in when visitor hours really start.”

Some part of him knows that going with Pepper is the right thing to do, so he lets her lead him out of the hospital and a block away to where one of Tony’s limo is parked. Steve doubts that it’s actually a legal parking space, but he knows that Tony can pay the ticket, hell, the city could use the money from his ticket, so he just climbs in the back. Rhodey is already stretched out across the seats on the side opposite the door. He nods at Steve and smiles tiredly at him.

Pepper slips past to Steve to curl up on the seat bench against the back of the car, leaving the side next to the door for Steve. He stretches out on it, wonders briefly how car seats can be more comfortable then hospital beds, and then falls back asleep.

The next time he wakes up, it’s because his phone is ringing. He groans as he fishes it out of his pocket and holds it up to his ear, not even bothering to open his eyes.

“Steve Rogers?” The voice on the other end is crisp and businesslike.

“This is he,” Steve says, trying to sound more awake then he really is.

“I’m Doctor Nelson calling from Manhattan on behalf of Tony Stark.”

“What-is he- they said he’d be all right!” Adrenaline has already kick-started Steve’s system, he’s fully awake and out the door, heading back to the hospital before he even consciously processes it.

“He’s rather upset you see, and refusing any treatment until he sees you,” Doctor SOMETHINGOROTHER says. Steve can hear the frustration in her voice.

“I’m at the hospital now,” Steve says, speeding past the receptionist who shouts a protest after him.

Steve ignores her as he hangs up the phone and pushes the button for Tony’s floor.

“Steve!” Tony says, reaching out as soon as he spots Steve in his doorway. His pupils are even wider than they were before, though he seems much more alert. “Where did you go?” he demands, gripping hard onto Steve’s hand as soon as it’s in reach. “You promised you wouldn’t.”

Steve fights down a smile. “I’m sorry, I know, Pepper convinced me that I should go get some sleep in something other than a chair.”

Tony frowns and makes a pfft sound. “Pepper.” Then he changes his tone. “Steve, they’re giving me drugs and I don’t like it, you have to watch out for me, ‘kay? In case they’re not what they say they are.”

“I will,” Steve says, settling back into the chair.

Tony smiles at him. He relaxes against his pillows and waves his free hand at the Doctor. “You can do stuff now.”

“Thanks for your permission,” she says dryly, unhooking one IV bag and replacing it with another.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Steve says politely, “what are the medicines you’re giving him supposed to be doing?”

Doctor Nelson tells him, not that Steve actually understands all the medical terminology she uses. He gathers that one medicine is so Tony can’t feel the pain from his arm; he has third degree burns as well as a break under the cast, none of which is pleasant and makes all the rest worst. One of the IVs is simply a drip to keep Tony hydrated, another for nutrients. Tony’s legs are badly damaged, not broken but bruised and both his ankles are sprained from the fall, so he won’t be getting up for a few days. Steve nods when she finishes talking and focuses on breathing. It won’t help Tony if he has a meltdown now.

“He’ll be okay though,” Steve says, running his thumb over Tony’s knuckles, taking comfort in the warmth of Tony’s hand.

“It will take a while and some effort, but yes he will.”

“I’m sitting here,” Tony grumbles, “stop talking like I’m not around. And I understand everything you’re saying.”

 


“Steve, I gotta go to the bathroom,” Tony says. “Help me up?”

“You’ve got a catheter in,” Steve tells him. “You can just-”

“No!” Tony growls, fixing Steve with a look. “Help me get up and to the bathroom.”

“Tony, your legs-”

“No,” Tony insists. “I did not piss myself when I spent three months stuck in a goddamn cave in motherfucking Afghanistan, and I will not piss myself in a Manhattan hospital! Help. Me. Up.”

“Alright,” Steve agrees, standing up.

Tony smiles brilliantly at him. “Thanks,” he says.

Steve can’t help smiling back. “Grab onto my arms,” he tells Tony, sliding his arms underneath Tony’s to settle lightly along his ribs. Tony does, letting his cast settle on Steve’s arm. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly as his shifts so his legs are hanging off the side of the bed.

“Okay?” Steve asks.

Tony nods. “I can do this.”

“I know you can.” Gently, Steve lifts Tony off the bed and sets him on his feet.

Tony gasps in pain and grips onto Steve’s arm with his good hand hard enough to bruise.

Steve steps closer to him. “Here, lean more of your weight on me. Good, now, step,” Steve says, taking a step back and pulling Tony with him.

Tony hisses in pain as he shuffles forward.

It’s slow going, and Tony has sweat on his forehead and his breathing heavily by the time the reach the bathroom.

“Do you want me to clear out?” Steve asks.

Tony shakes his head. “I’m not sure if I can stand on my own,” he admits quietly. Then, louder: “Besides, it’s not like you’ve never seen my dick before.”

Steve laughs at that, because Tony would want him to, and shifts around so Tony is leaning backward against his chest.

“I had no idea my legs could hurt so much,” Tony grumbles.

“I’m so sorry,” Steve says pressing a kiss into his hair.

“Shit, I mean, I’m on painkillers too, aren’t I?”

“Less than you were.”

“Damn.”

“Do you want me to carry you back to bed?”

“My pride says no, but my legs say yes.”

“How much pain, one to ten?”

Tony huffs. “You’re going to carry me aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, fine then, get on with it.”

Steve sweeps Tony gently up in his arms, bridal style. Tony blushes and looks away, not meeting Steve’s eyes even after he’s settled on his bed again.

Steve doesn’t say anything. Apologies and empty assurances won’t help, and Tony’s feelings deserve more than to be brushed to the side by a change of subject. Nothing Steve will say on the matter will make it any better though. He doesn’t do anything either, just takes Tony’s hand and lets Tony grip it hard. Tony turns his head away from Steve and slumps back into the pillows, even as he grips harder onto his hand. It’s a familiar gesture by now; Don’t go but don’t watch me cry. Tony eventually tilts his head back towards Steve, and Steve resists the urge to wipe the tear tracks from his face.

“Why does stuff always happen to me?” he asks quietly.

“Oh, Tony, I don’t know,” Steve says.

“It feels like…punishment.” Tony shrugs.

“If I say something cliché will you know that I mean it?”

“Maybe.”

“You’re going to pull through. All this shit happens to you, but you always come out of it better. Maybe it happens to you because you can take it.”

“That is horribly cliché, Steven.”

Steve laughs. “Sorry.”

“But thank you for saying it,” Tony says, rubbing his thumb over Steve’s knuckles.

“I love you,” Steve says firmly. He leans forward and kisses Tony’s forehead, just a light pressure. He rests his lips there for a while, just to inhale the scent of Tony underneath the hospital smell. “And you promised me you’re going to be okay.”

“I’m not always so good at keeping my promises,” Tony says sadly.

“You’ll keep it for me, won’t you?” Steve asks. He bats his eyelashes to lighten the mood.

Tony smiles. “Anything for you,” he says.

 


It feels like an eternity before doctors agree that Tony’s recovery will be better expedited if he were at home. Steve has a theory that they were just waiting for Tony to be able to walk by himself before discharging him as soon as possible. They give Steve a list of medications and instructions and things to watch out for. Tony clicks his tongue and insists that he is fine. He is ignored. Steve’s rather impressed that the doctors are as good at ignoring Tony’s whines and demands as well as Steve and Pepper are. Despite his protests that he can walk, dammit, Steve still wheels Tony out in a wheelchair, out a back door to a side street where Happy (and most importantly no one from the press) is waiting for them with the limo.

Once Steve has manhandled Tony into a seat Tony gives the wheelchair a good kick out of spite.

Everyone rolls their eyes and elect to not mention the grimace of pain that Tony makes.

Tony’s grumpiness lasts for most of the ride back to the mansion, right up until they’re only a couple miles away, and then he smiles and takes Steve’s hand in his.

“Hi,” Steve says.

Tony leans sideways against him. “When we get home, I’m going to take a shower,” Tony says, sighing at the thought. “So I won’t smell like a hospital anymore.”

“Good idea, you stink,” Steve teases.

“Hey, you smell just as bad,” Tony says, even as he relaxes more against Steve. “You’ve been in that hospital almost as long as I have.”

“The things I do for love,” Steve sighs dramatically. “And you don’t even appreciate it.”

“I do appreciate it. Very much. You don’t think I’m going to take that shower by myself do you?”

Steve laughs and kisses Tony.

Tony smiles into the kiss.

They both might still be a little broken and fucked up and not quite perfect, but with their mouths together, when Happy pulls up in front of Stark Mansion they know they’re both home.

THE END