The way Steve Rogers smiled always made Tony Stark nervous.
There was something so sad about it, practiced over and over for news reels and stage shows and war bond posters, trading cards and lunch boxes. (Tony knew that, because he had a few of those trading cards and lunch boxes back in the day, much to Howard’s pained displeasure, but he would never speak a word of it now.) It was a manufactured geniality, an earnestness meant to make everyone else feel better, feel comfortable, welcomed, especially if they weren’t. Steve’s grip was sure when he shook an offered hand and smiled like he meant it, even when Tony knew he didn’t. Captain America was always on, like a switch Steve didn’t know how to flip off.
For months that kept him on edge. Slouching at doorways and just out of peripheral, hands in pockets and eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, set to the task of watching Steve’s self-consciousness, his hard-drilled attentiveness in lax moments. The way he held himself up square, straightened his spine whenever he thought somebody might be watching. Feet planted at shoulder’s width, hands behind his back or at his belt buckle; his ears were sharp and his body ready, movements deliberate and sure. The world always rested on him, even when it didn’t. There was something sad about that, too.
When they started sleeping together, all of that started to change in ways Tony wasn’t entirely prepared for. There were variables he hadn’t factored in yet, facts he hadn’t taken into account. Sleeping together wasn’t even an appropriate summary of the situation, and even to Tony it sounded cheap. He knew it was tangled up in a lot of other things, to do with the team and SHIELD and the photos of Steve and Howard together that Tony still had in boxes he could never throw out. It had everything to do with masks and shields, armor and codenames, and the people they were together on the field.
In a fight they were so much better than what they could be alone, as sharply honed and well-trained as Steve already was, and as invincible as Tony often felt. It was comforting somehow, to be able to look down through a groundswell of AIM attack drones or HYDRA agents, and know he and Steve were on the same page. While Tony was looking three moves ahead of the other pieces on the board, Steve was already on the ground implementing strategy. Afterwards they still a home to go back to together, wherever home meant at the time. Home could be Stark Tower or the Malibu estate, a hotel room in Madripoor or the walk-up Steve still kept in Brooklyn when he needed to be by himself. These were places where bruises healed and conversations dwindled over take-out boxes and empty glasses, where they sometimes slept and sometimes didn’t. Things were different there; safe, comfortable, easy. There was a distinct lack of that going around these days.
It was in these spaces, the quiet moments between battles and debriefings, which Steve, almost inexplicably, smiled. And most times he even meant it, looking more like the twenty-six-year-old he was and not the legend he had become. When this became ordinary, everything changed. It took some getting used to, like everything else about their relationship. This too felt normal in time, just pieces slowly coming to fit together. Equations that needed calculating, data to be teased out, processed, filed away. The new status quo of Tony Stark running his empire with Pepper, his team with Captain America, and waking up next to Steve every morning that he could manage it.
Home this week was Stark Tower at two in the morning. Two in the morning was usually where Tony was at his best, whether in the workshop, at a craps table in Vegas, or getting completely trashed in Morocco with a set of shapely twins he can barely tell apart. Tonight he had been in his private offices staring at holos of blueprints and designs, and conferencing with department heads in China and Valencia. The conference call had run a little later than he had expected and he was only on his fifth cup of coffee. Black, not even Irish. (Steve usually had something to do with that.) Tony was so busy being a model citizen he hadn’t realized the rest of the tower had gone silent, still but for the comforting hum of JARVIS’s systems running in the background. After hanging up the conference call he rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands, blinked reflexively and remembered he wasn’t even tired yet.
“JARVIS, where is everybody?” he asked, spinning his chair in an about-face to move around his desk to the door.
“Dr. Banner left the lab an hour ago to return his quarters, sir,” the AI answered.
“Not all of us keep such late hours, sir.”
“Agent Romanov is still away on assignment and Agent Barton is in the common kitchen. I believe he’s making a grilled cheese sandwich.”
“Not interesting. What about Thor?” Tony asked, waiting for the elevator in the hallway outside. Thor was always fun, like a Mastiff stomping across your furniture and eating all your food was fun. He was charming like that, in his own very special way. Tony appreciated that about him.
“Thor has not been with us in a few days.”
“Captain Rogers is in the training gym.”
Tony clucked his tongue, stepping inside the elevator and pressing the button for the forty-second floor. “Huh. I thought it would be past his bedtime.”
“I wouldn’t rightly know, sir. I believe if and when Captain Rogers sleeps is more of your domain.”
“Hey, what’s with all the sass? I told you to disable the security feed in my bedroom for a reason.”
“Of course. That was my mistake.”
Out of the elevator, Tony made his way through the training gym where Steve worked out every day before his morning run. Steve didn’t often hide but when he did he did it here, disappearing for a few hours a week to pound the punching bag. It cleared his head and kept his eyes sharp, free from distraction. Tony knew to look for Steve here before he even asked JARVIS, leaning in the doorway to the boxing ring. He didn’t make his presence known at first, just watching the long slice of Steve’s silhouette under the blazing light of the overhead fixtures. The violence in Steve’s body was controlled, loaded in the muscles of his arms and the nimbleness of his stance, making his t-shirt sweat-damp where it stuck to his chest and stomach. There was something graceful about that kind of restraint, a beauty in its ferocity. Tony, above all else, appreciated beauty when he saw it.
Five, maybe ten minutes thinned out in the steady thump-thump-whump of Steve’s fists in the punching bag, his breath short but measured. Tony knew better, because Steve didn’t have to pause or look over his shoulder to know that he was there. Steve got used to being watched months ago, taking it on face value as some strange compliment Tony liked to pay him from time to time. Now, as with most other things, it was the new normal.
After a little while Steve stilled the punching bag’s sway with his hand, shaking his head with the beginnings of a smile. “You gonna stand there all night?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” Tony straightened up, strolled over to Steve’s side of the room. “I thought you were in bed by now.”
“I was in Afghanistan for three days on a SHIELD detail. Messed with my internal clock.” Tony already knew that. Steve didn’t bother looking up as Tony came around behind the bag, shrugging and giving it another punch. “I thought you were working?”
“I was. I finished. Now I’m bored.”
“What do you want to do?”
Tony held out his hands to prop up the bag, holding it steady under Steve’s fists. “Oh, you know. I had a couple of ideas, none of which involve a punching bag.”
“Why? You want to pick up some gloves and go a few rounds?”
At that Tony made a face. “Yeah, no. Why do you always want to beat me up? I’m beginning to think this is going to be a thing.”
“I never wanted to beat you up.”
“Yes you did.”
“Well. Not anymore.”
“Cute. And I was thinking more like a late dinner. Or, you know, we could just skip right to the sex. That’d be cool, too.”
Steve let out a soft laugh and stepped away from the bag to unwind the tape from his fists. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in here, come to think of it. When you weren’t just here to watch me.”
“Hey, I work out.”
“Last…week. Sometime.” Tony shrugged. “And I happen to like watching you work out. I thought you’d appreciate that. It’s not like I come in here to watch Clint do those weird shirtless lunges or whatever.”
“I do appreciate it.” Steve leaned in to kiss Tony softly, a hand at his shirt collar to draw Tony closer, the bag still swaying between them. “How was your day?”
“Like I’m seriously going to talk about that when I can see your nipples through your shirt.”
“It’s called being polite, Tony.”
Another laugh and Steve nipped at Tony’s bottom lip before pressing their mouths together again, all softness and patient tongue. Tony’s hands busied themselves with Steve’s shirt, lifting it up to glide over the flat of his toned stomach, along his diaphragm to his chest to thumb over the dusky outlines of offending nipple just to make his point. Steve’s back arched to the touch, his chest swelling on a deep breath as his hands came up to frame Tony’s face and thumb over the edges of his jaw. Sweetly, because that was always Steve’s default, just kisses and little nips of teeth, fingers winding into Tony’s hair. Tony was the one that nudged Steve back step by step toward the nearest wall, pinning him there with a hand at Steve’s shoulder and his teeth in Steve’s neck until he made that husky little noise Tony loved so much.
After a moment Steve drew away, taking another breath. Color had already crept into his face, his mouth wet from kissing. “Tony.”
“It’s fine,” Tony said from the juncture of Steve’s neck, still determined to purple the skin there.
“I don’t know.” Steve’s hands on Tony’s chest pushed him back enough to put some space between them. Tony just sighed.
“Nobody’s going to walk in on us, alright? I already checked. Okay, so Clint’s making a grilled cheese – who cares.”
Steve gave Tony what he had come to call the face. Tony sighed again.
“JARVIS, lock the doors, please. In fact, lockdown the whole damn floor.” Every doorway pinged softly, the wall consoles blinking blue to red. “See? All good.”
“Yeah.” It was Tony’s turn to lean in, taking Steve by the jaw to kiss him. “Why would I lie?”
“I know why you would lie –” Whatever good intentions Steve had melted on the edges of his smirk, his hand finding its way to Tony’s dick to cup him gently through his jeans.
“See, this? This is why you’re full of shit.” Tony was only half-chastising, lifting Steve’s shirt up over his head and leaving it to the floor. “You pull this whole Bambi-eyed, Church-on-Sunday-and-apple-pie routine and then you go right for my dick. This is, like, slutty nun territory. What am I supposed to do with that?”
Steve got down to his knees in lieu of a response, running his hands down Tony’s ribs to his waist, hips and the front of his jeans. He mouthed over the erection swelling beneath Tony’s fly, tracing its outline before opening Tony’s belt and pants. The sight of it went all over Tony in a warm wave. He took in a breath and licked his lips.
“You require a surprising lack of persuasion, you know that?” Tony quipped, his hand settling on Steve’s shoulder. “I think I’ll keep you.”
“You say that like you have a choice.”
Looking up from under slanted lashes, Steve paused to press his lips to the base of Tony’s dick still inside his briefs, fondly nosing along the underside of the shaft, never taking his eyes off Tony. Tony let out a sigh, raking a hand through Steve’s sweat-mussed hair and straightening his spine with an angle of his hips. The tenderness of it was almost obscene, watching Steve wet him through his briefs with his lips and tongue, closing his teeth through the fabric around the head until Tony gripped his hair between his fingers. For it, Steve just smiled and pulled down Tony’s briefs.
Steve always smiled during sex. Tony hadn’t seen that coming, almost taken aback by the way Steve seemed to let himself go. They weren’t forced or artificial, meant to put Tony at ease about whatever kind of sex they were or weren’t having. His smile was like a small, private little fissure under the steel that kept his back straight and his jaw squared up, an involuntary response to pleasure and sometimes pain. Tony found he liked those smiles the best, when he caught Steve off-guard with a touch, the pressure of his tongue or the sink of his teeth and Steve didn’t have the time to stop himself.
Everything Steve ever did had to be calculated, thought-out and purposeful. He didn’t have the luxury of breaking down or having a bad day, not when the star on his chest and the shield on his arm meant so much for so many reasons. Tony had the privilege of letting people underestimate him, and of acting reckless and being unpredictable, because in the end he could prove them all wrong. The day he figured out each their burdens were worlds apart was the last time he called Steve into question, and the last time Steve doubted his commitment. After that they became partners where the team was concerned, the sensible meeting of power and tactic. Soon they found a friend in one another, brought together by forces beyond those that beat down doors and collected dust in Howard’s old boxes. It wasn’t long after that admiration and trust gave way to what they had now, where his home was anyplace Steve slept that night.
On his knees Steve licked his lips and craned his neck to take Tony into his mouth. Just at the head to suck it gently, tonguing and nibbling at it before finally swallowing Tony as far as he could take him. Slowly and leisurely; just foreplay to get Tony hard, thickening between his lips in a twitch of his prick. Tony closed his eyes with a bone-dry swallow, twisting his fingers in Steve’s hair with one hand, his other tracing over the cut of Steve’s brow, the hollow of his cheek, the wetness of his lips pulled tight. With a sigh Steve let Tony slip from his mouth to bite at the pads of Tony’s fingers and thumb instead, swirling his tongue around their tips before pressing a kiss into Tony’s palm. This time he gripped Tony tightly by the hip and took his dick again, sucking and swallowing until he found the measure that had Tony flexing into his mouth.
Steve didn’t back off this time, didn’t go sweet and slow, pulling away just to change the pressure or the suction, or to tease the tender skin with the edges of his teeth. For it Tony let his head fall back, biting down on a moan and tugging at Steve’s hair. He was getting close, his hips rocking forward, exploring the softness of Steve’s mouth, the texture of his tongue and the way his lips felt around him. From the floor Steve let out a low noise in the back of his throat, gripping the root of Tony’s dick to twist it, working every breathy sigh of Tony that he could manage. The hum traveled right to the base of Tony’s spine like a current, a jealous little spark that came of knowing Steve enjoyed this as much as he did.
It didn’t take much more than that to bring Tony to orgasm. Anticipating it, Steve let Tony’s dick slip from his mouth again, this time stroking him until Tony spurted hotly against his bottom lip, catching the mess of it on his cheek and chin. The thrill of orgasm had barely passed as Tony cursed under his breath, watching Steve wring the last bit of come from him in a turn of his wrist, a white stripe cutting the pink of his cheek as a big, stupidly loving smile spread across his mouth.
He looked young and happy, and not at all like Captain America. This man, as Tony was now sure, would be the death of him. His head still buzzing, Tony just shook his head and tried to catch his breath.
“What?” Steve asked innocently, like he didn’t look every inch the jerk-off fantasy Tony had developed over the last few months.
“Oh, fuck you. Up,” Tony said. “Now.”
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Steve got to his feet and kissed Tony, sloppy and affectionate. Tony thumbed the evidence off Steve’s cheek and licked it away from his bottom lip, enjoying the way Steve now tasted. His free hand tugged at Steve’s belt buckle to emphasize his intentions as he manhandled Steve toward the door.
“Does this mean you’ll be coming to the gym more often?”
“No. Maybe. Probably.” Tony gave Steve’s belt another tug, like a leash on a dog, ignoring Steve’s attempts to play dumb. “Can this be my prize if I do?”
Shaking his head, Steve just smirked. “We can figure something out.”
After all, there was something to be said about the new normal.