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Here, Beside You

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The first time they fuck, it's hot and wild and Tony still feels it days later like a heavy ache in his bones.

It's not like Tony had expected anything different. They'd been at each other's throat for as long as they'd known each other, snapping at each other like feral dogs, darting in for weak spots. Every time they speak, it's fire and heat and anger, their words strung with tension as they take turns making jabs at each other.

It happens on a night when they’re hosting a fundraiser gala at the Stark tower. The Maria Stark foundation holds these events often, so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it was very rare that they would be held at Tony’s home. Fury had suggested it; so soon after establishing the Stark tower as the Avengers tower, it would be good PR for the Avengers to welcome people into their home. Pepper agreed, and subsequently Tony agreed.

That didn’t mean he liked it.

Despite the training he’d received in his youth, Tony doesn’t enjoy these events. The thought of making mindless, tedious conversation all night, people draping themselves over him even as he cringes internally. Normally, he can make an appearance at the gala, donate a lot of money, say a speech and slip out, only having to endure it for a short amount of time before he made his escape.

But now he’s an Avenger, and the event is being held at his own home. He isn’t exactly happy about this fact.

So, a couple hours before the gala starts, Tony finds himself sitting in the empty room that will soon be filled with New York socialites, superheroes, and journalists all vying for his attention. He’s leaning with his back against the bar, his second drink in hand, feeling the familiar faint buzz rush through him with every sip.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Stark?”

Tony flinches inwardly, but manages to mask it well. He takes another sip before turning towards the voice.

It’s Steve, of course it’s Steve. He knew that before he turned, and yet upon seeing him his stomach clenches tightly.

Steve’s wearing the Captain America suit, at Fury’s request, even though Steve was adamantly opposed to it. He looks about as uncomfortable in it as Tony currently feels about the impending evening. His eyes, though, are hard and focused on the drink in Tony’s hand, his mouth set in a thin line.

Tony ignores the thud of his heart against his ribcage that reminds him how painful it is that Steve, of all people, to look at him with that kind of blatant disapproval in his eyes.

“Exactly what it looks like, Cap,” Tony says as easily as he can, flashing him a well rehearsed grin. “Why don’t you join me? I think Thor left a bit of that Asgardian mead if you wanted to loosen up a bit before traipsing around in your flag suit all night.”

Steve is frowning as he steps closer. “You shouldn’t be drinking,” he says, the words laced with unveiled judgment. “We have to act like we’re put together.”

Tony rolls his eyes and tosses back the remainder of the drink, setting it down heavily on the bar.

“Thanks for the advice,” he says. His smile is brittle and unnatural on his lips, but he knows how to keep it in place; it doesn’t waver. “But I’ve been doing these shindigs since I learned how to talk. I know what I’m doing. So again, thanks for the advice, but kindly mind your own business. Sound good?”

“This is different,” Steve argues. The frown lines in his forehead deepen, his voice becoming even more disapproving. “We have to look like a team, we have to be an example. This is important Tony…”

“You know, there’s this funny thing I keep remembering,” Tony snaps, feeling his irritation bubble over. “You’re not the boss of me. So back the hell off, Captain.”

“I’m the leader of this team, I think I have some say in–“

“Save it for when we’re on the field, then,” Tony snarls. He can hear his voice rising, but he can’t stop it. Steve does this to him; makes him crazy, gets under his defenses and makes him feel raw and exposed. “Because right now, you’re overstepping and I’d appreciate it if you took yourself and your judgmental tone away from me right about now.”

Steve is just opening his mouth to say something when Tony hears voices nearby. Someone’s coming and he’s arguing with Captain America on the night of a charity gala for sick children.

They were supposed to only get good PR tonight. This was decidedly not good PR.

“Fuck,” Tony hisses under his breath, darting to his feet and reaching out and grabbing Steve’s wrist. Steve’s much, much stronger than him, but Tony feels him stiffen under his touch, and he manages to take him by surprise when he yanks him.

Steve emits a disgruntled noise at the contact, but follows Tony when he pulls him away from the bar.

Quickly, Tony finds a small room in the hallway, just as the voices seem to arrive in the room where they had just been standing. A small room is a charitable way to put it – it’s a storage closet. There are linens everywhere. It doesn’t matter though, he thinks, as he shoves Steve inside, flips on the light and slams the door shut.

The door has just closed when Steve decides he can’t be silent any longer.

“What the hell was that for, Tony,” he grits out. He looks beyond irritated now; he’s angry, his eyes flashing as he glares at Tony. “What the hell are we doing in a closet?”

“You were about to start yelling,” Tony explains. “I know how you get when you get on a self righteous tirade, and as you said, we have to put up a good front tonight. Someone was coming, it could’ve been reporters. Pepper would kill me if tonight’s major headline was ‘Captain America and Iron Man’s Pre-Game Routine – Ream Each Other Out?’. The media doesn’t need to know about your dislike for me.”

Steve breathes out harshly through his nose. “This isn’t about me not liking you, Tony,” he snaps. “This is about you being reckless and not taking care of–“

“Actually no, you’re totally right Cap. This is about you not knowing when to keep your mouth shut.”

“Do you ever listen?” Steve all but roars, stepping forward into Tony’s space. “You take nothing seriously. We need you and you are a member of a team. Start acting like it.”

“Back off, Cap,” Tony snarls. He can feel anger boiling under his skin, just near the surface, threatening to explode.

“I’ll back off when you stop caring so little about the image of this team. It’s not all about you, Tony.”

They’re so close; Steve glaring down at him, his cheeks flushed with anger, Tony looking up at him with his heart rattling in his ribcage.

He doesn’t know who leans in first. All he knows is that a moment later, Steve’s lips are on his and his mind goes blank.

It’s exactly as he expects it to be. It’s not gentle or tender in any way; Steve fists his hand in Tony’s hair and drags a groan from Tony’s throat, while Tony’s fingertips dig into Steve’s shoulders. The kisses are biting and feral, the press of their lips filled with the lingering irritation of the argument they had before.

They end up with their pants shoved down around their hips, Steve’s fingers in his hair and Tony panting breathily into his mouth as he brings both of them off at the same time. Steve makes the sweetest sounds; low, grumbly noises that blend into feverish groans that resonate in Tony’s bones. He shivers when Steve dips his head down and grazes his teeth against the sensitive skin on Tony’s neck. He finds himself clutching desperately at Steve’s shoulder with his free hand, clinging to him like he’s a lifeline.

He’s solid and warm and real underneath his fingertips, and it’s more than Tony ever thought he would have. He savors every moment, memorizes the the feeling of Steve’s hands on his bare skin, the feeling of his lips heavy and insistent on his own.

It’s still rough and fiery, but at some point it simmers a little bit, until their movements become more fluid and Tony loses himself in the steady thrusts of Steve’s hips.

Afterwards, still out of breath, Tony turns to Steve with a plastic smile already in place, his body still thrumming with post orgasm ecstasy.

“You sure know how to give a guy a good time,” Tony bites out. As he speaks, the words are bitter on his tongue. “Your attempt to distract me from drinking certainly worked, Cap.”

Steve flinches visibly, eyes narrowing. “That’s not…”

Tony waves a dismissive hand. “Don’t worry about it Cap. I mean, I didn’t exactly expect you to be the kind of guy to fuck a guy he hates, but hey, who am I to judge?”

Steve is looking at him, clearly displeased, his mouth turned down at the corners in an unmistakable frown.

He doesn’t respond to Tony.

Tony leans back against a shelf of linens and watches Steve through hooded eyes as he straightens his uniform, runs a hand through his hair and leaves without even looking at Tony.

It’s a long time before Tony can gather himself enough to straighten up and follow after Steve. Even then, his mind is racing for the entire night.

He also very deliberately avoids Steve for the rest of it. He makes sure that his socializing doesn’t cross Steve’s path, always steering clear of the red, white and blue uniform that he catches a glimpse of out of the corner of his eye. This takes some effort, because many people want to speak to both of them and they’re bound to cross paths at some point – except that Tony makes absolutely sure that they don’t.

Afterwards, he goes to his room and brings himself off to the thought of Steve inside him. It leaves him breathless and feeling a little bit ashamed, but well, he did sleep with Captain America – he figures he’s allowed a moment of weakness.

He’s just started to drift off when there's a knock on his bedroom door.

Well, “knock” is putting it charitably. It’s more like an insistent pounding on his door that startles him awake.

“JARVIS,” Tony mumbles sleepily, rolling over onto his side with a displeased groan, still mostly asleep. “Who is that and why are they bothering me.”

“Captain Rogers requests your audience, sir,” JARVIS informs him.

That wakes him up rather quickly. His eyes snap open and he’s sitting in an instant, passing a hand over his eyes.

“Tell him to go away,” Tony grumbles. He doesn’t want to deal with this. Whatever Steve has to say to him, it can wait until the morning, because he is about 99% certain it’s something he doesn’t want to hear. He doesn’t need Steve to spell out for him how much he regrets the events that occurred earlier that night.

“The Captain is insistent, sir.” JARVIS pauses. “He claims that he will wait there all night if that’s what it takes. He wishes to speak with you.”

“Yeah, I got that part.”

Tony winces when there’s another knock on the door. Steve Rogers is nothing if not stubborn.

With a sigh, he rolls out of bed and gets to his feet, making his way to his door.

“Keep your panties on, Rogers, I’m coming,” he calls out. Steve doesn’t dignify that with a response.

When Tony opens the door, Steve is standing on the other side of the door, his face set in a determined expression. He’s wearing civvies now and should look a lot more comfortable than he did earlier in the evening, but instead he looks just as ill at ease as he did at the gala. His arms hang awkwardly at his sides and, just below the determined set of his brows, Tony can see the faint discomfort lingering in his eyes.

He has changed out of his uniform and is now wearing a faded white t-shirt with his shield emblazoned across his chest, and a pair of grey sweatpants. His bare feet poke out from underneath the hem and Tony struggles to not find that incredibly endearing.

He also tries – and fails – to not notice the way that the too-tight shirt clings to Steve’s muscles. Someone really ought to tell him what his actual size is.

It’s not going to be Tony, though. He’s enjoying the view too much.

“Steve,” he says. “To what do I owe this pleasure? Why are you at my door at…” he pauses to glance at his watch, “three o’clock in the morning? Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

Steve looks completely unmoved by Tony’s comment. His expression remains resolute.

“I think we need to talk,” he says, very deliberately, enunciating every word like it’s been rehearsed beforehand. Knowing Steve, it might have been.

Tony’s brows creep towards his hairline. “At three o’clock in the morning.”

Steve nods firmly.

“If this is about earlier-“

“It is,” Steve interrupts. Tony keeps talking over him.

“Then I think that it can definitely wait until the morning, this is definitely not a conversation I want to have ever, especially not now, so if you could just-“

“Tony. Can you please let me talk?”

At the sound of his name in Steve’s pleading, exasperated tone, Tony sighs and falls silent.

Tony didn’t think it was possible, but somehow Steve manages to look even more awkward once he’s inside. It’s almost like he’s too big for the room, his eyes darting around as if he’s looking for some sort of threat.

Steve’s voice is surprisingly soft when he speaks again.

“Tony, I don’t hate you. At all.”

Well. That wasn’t what Tony had been expecting him to say.

“What?” Tony asks quietly.

Steve sighs and runs a hand through his hair, his eyes trained somewhere on the floor near Tony’s feet.

“I don’t hate you,” he repeats. His voice is too quiet, too small to be coming out of a man whose presence takes up so much space. He sounds… nervous, almost. “I’ve never hated you, Tony. I’m sorry that I gave you that impression. I mean, yes you drive me crazy sometimes and I may be too hard on you and when I try to talk to you things come out wrong and I get frustrated. I couldn’t sleep because I’ve been… thinking that there may have been some sort of misunderstanding between us.”

There’s a long pause before Tony speaks, his voice just as quiet and tentative as Steve’s.

“What kind of misunderstanding?” Tony asks. “I don’t understand…”

“I like you,” Steve blurts out.

Tony blinks. The words fail to process in his brain. “Excuse me?”

Steve flinches and clears his throat. There’s a flush creeping over his cheekbones and he shifts awkwardly on his feet, looking a bit like he’s wishing the ground would open up and swallow him whole.

Tony, on the other hand, is just very profoundly confused.

“I like you,” Steve repeats, and this time he looks up, stares Tony right in the face as he speaks. His eyes are painfully blue and earnest and Tony feels like his heart is going to burst of his chest. “I've liked you for a long time. I ran out earlier because I was confused, because you said that I hate you and I - I don’t hate you, far from it, I thought you knew that-”

“Steve,” Tony says flatly, because whatever this, it can’t be happening, it can’t be. “What are you talking about?”

“I thought you knew how much I like you,” Steve says miserably. “I was laying awake, thinking about what you said and I know - it’s hard for me to say this but you think that I hate you and I don’t ever want you to think that.”

“I don’t understand,” Tony says weakly.

“What… happened earlier.” Steve’s flush deepens. “I kissed you because I like you. In that way. Romantically. I thought you knew that and were tolerating it and then we kissed and you were kissing back and I thought that maybe I had a chance but now I just… I don’t know what happened… you don’t like me and you think I hate you...”

Tony raises both hands, shaking his head. Steve, thankfully, falls silent.

“Let me get this straight,” Tony says slowly, drawing in a deep breath. “Or, try to at least. You like me.”

“Yes,” Steve says instantly.

“And you think I don’t like you?”

Steve frowns. “Yes,” he says, like it’s a given fact.

“You’re an idiot,” Tony says simply.

“Pardon?”

Tony shakes his head. God, he feels like a eighth grader with clammy hands and an embarrassing crush.

No, actually, a third grader would probably manage to have this conversation in a much more coherent manner. “Steve I’ve liked you since I met you. Everyone knows that, I haven’t exactly been hiding it all that well. I thought you knew and tolerated it.”

There’s a long pause before Steve speaks again, and when he does, it’s quietly, his voice low and hesitant.

“I wouldn’t do that to you, Tony,” he says into the tense silence of the room.

“It’s not like I would’ve resented you for it or anything,” Tony says tiredly. “I would’ve understood.”

“Even so,” Steve continues, “that’s not what happened.”

Tony sighs heavily and presses one hand over his eyes. “I think we are incredibly horrible at this. Whatever... this is, we suck at it.”

“I think that’s a fair assessment,” Steve agrees wearily.

Tony drops his hand from his eyes. “We shouldn’t have this conversation right now,” he decides. “This is the kind of thing responsible people talk about when the sun is up and it’s an appropriate time to have massive amounts of caffeine in your system.”

Steve clears his throat and nods. Again, he looks uncertain. “You’re right, I’m sorry for barging in on you like this. I’ll leave you alone now.”

He gives Tony an awkward nod and starts walking towards the door.

Tony quickly steps forward and wraps his fingers around Steve’s wrist, halting him before he can leave.

“You want to stay with me tonight?” Tony asks.

Steve turns back to him with a confused expression. “You want me to stay?”

“Just to sleep,” Tony says quickly. “We can figure this out in the morning.”

Steve glances over in the direction of the bed, as if he’s unsure, then looks back at Tony.

“Alright,” he says quietly.

Tony leads him over to the bed, releasing him then to crawl under the covers. Steve follows suit and gets in on the other side, pulling the blankets over himself and reclining back against the pillows.

“Lights, JARVIS.”

The lights flicker off at the sound of Tony’s voice, leaving the two of them cloaked in darkness. Tony can hear Steve’s soft breaths just behind him, sense his presence next to him in the bed as clearly as if someone was screaming at him in the darkness.

He doesn’t expect to get much sleep tonight.

It isn’t long after the lights go off that Steve shifts in the darkness, scooting closer to Tony. A hand gently grazes Tony’s hip, sending electric shocks through his veins, spreading out in a phalanx of warmth at the point of contact.

Steve moves closer, curling his arm around Tony’s waist, moving in until he’s pressed against the length of Tony, his body warm and solid against Tony’s back. He holds Tony firmly with that arm around his hips and tangles his legs with Tony’s.

Tony shivers when Steve drops a kiss onto the crest of his shoulder, his lips lingering on the hard ridge of his shoulder blade for a long moment. His lips are soft and gentle, a stark contrast to the angry, biting kisses they’d shared earlier that night.

“Is this alright?” Steve whispers. His voice is so close to Tony’s ear, his breath ghosting across his skin as he speaks.

It’s more than okay, Tony thinks. He doesn’t want this to end.

“Yeah,” he murmurs, letting his eyes drift shut. “More than fine. Go to sleep, Steve.”

It’s a while before Tony falls asleep, but when he does, it’s with Steve Rogers strong holding him close in a careful embrace, and he thinks that that more than makes up for a few missed hours of sleep.