Tony didn't remember anything between sitting in a lab in New York waiting for Extremis to complete its first backup and waking up in a basement in Broxton, Oklahoma with light shining out of his chest, but whatever that missing year had been to him, he could read it all in the anguish in Steve's eyes as Steve studied him from the other side of the room.
Oh, it wasn't like they hadn't told him about the amnesia. He could almost feel the missing memory, like prodding at an empty space in his mouth where a tooth used to be. And he'd had maybe half an hour to scroll through headlines of CAPTAIN AMERICA ASSASSINATED, trying to get used to the weight of whatever the hell he'd told his few remaining friends to implant in his chest, before Maria Hill showed up with a gun, and a Young Avenger showed up with one of Tony's old armors, both of them here to tell him he had to defend Asgard.
Time to process was a luxury that only other people got.
And they'd fought Osborn, and now they were here, in the bedroom of this house Tony apparently owned in Oklahoma, and Tony was still half-high on adrenaline from the fight and maybe also in shock, because they'd saved the world again and Steve was staring at him like they'd burned it all down.
Tony reached for the clasps of the armor, yanked off the gauntlets and let the chestplate fall away from him, ringing and clanking onto the floor.
Steve's eyes tracked the motion, but he said nothing.
Underneath where the chestplate had lain, the RT node's glow was a strange, alien blue, illuminating the darkened room. The scars around it were raw, half-healed. It was healing faster than anything should have healed -- Tony suspected parts of Extremis' gifts were still with him -- but it was definitely going to scar.
He'd thought that he'd lost his scars forever.
He could never have been that lucky.
Tony pried off the rest of the armor until he was standing there in his underwear.
Across the room, Steve was fully-clothed, still in uniform. He watched Steve swallow hard. He watched Steve's gaze trace up and down his body. He could see the growing outline of Steve's arousal even through his uniform.
They did this. This was a thing Tony remembered.
They'd done this after Tony had gotten an artificial heart and lost the chestplate. After Molecule Man. After he'd fought off his own sentient armor. After he'd gotten Extremis. He'd-- well, he'd shown Steve his body. Every time he'd gotten a new one.
He remembered when they were happy.
"Well?" Tony asked, and he smiled. "Pretty sure you didn't come up to look at my etchings."
Once, the line would have made Steve smile back.
"We shouldn't do this," Steve said, very quietly. "Among other reasons, you've just had heart surgery."
Tony looked down at himself. "Brain surgery, mostly, I think. The chest part of it didn't actually touch my heart." He shrugged. "And I just came out of combat. I don't think you're going to rattle me any worse."
"We shouldn't do this," Steve repeated, and Tony could hear the trembling of his breath from all the way over here.
Tony hooked a thumb into the waistband of his briefs and pulled them down over his hipbone. "You want to."
And then, somehow, when he looked up, Steve was close; Steve had one arm around him and his other hand tracing down Tony's collarbone, over the first of the scars. His gaze was distant, a thousand miles away, and Tony caught Steve's hand, brought it to his lips, and kissed it.
Steve shuddered and shut his eyes. "Tony," he whispered, and Tony didn't know if he meant to say anything else, if he was picturing Tony as someone else, if he couldn't handle looking at Tony when he was glowing blue.
Maybe he couldn't handle looking at Tony at all.
The light of the RT node cast odd shadows over Steve's face.
"I'm so angry at you," Steve said, looking away, ashamed, like it was a confession, his face twisted. But as he said it he held Tony like Tony was precious, fragile, his hand splayed across Tony's spine like he needed to hold him up. "I shouldn't-- I'll hurt you--"
"I won't break."
"We already did," Steve said, and when he kissed Tony, Tony could taste the salt of tears on his face.
Steve eased Tony back onto the bed, onto this strange bed, peeled off the rest of Tony's clothes, and kissed him everywhere. His face, his throat, his healing scars, numb to sensation. His nipples. The too-thin lines of his rib cage, thin like he'd spent the past year starving and dying. The jut of his hipbone. The head of his cock, like it was any other part of him, and Tony gasped in need and denial as Steve moved on, kissing his balls, then the insides of his thighs.
He missed this, Tony thought, but that wasn't right, because he didn't remember not having it.
There was the quiet snick of Steve uncapping the lube, and then a slick finger rubbed over Tony's entrance, over and around and teasing him and then in. Steve seemed to be content to fuck him with one finger, then two, watching him intently as Tony moaned, as Tony fell apart under him.
Tony was dimly aware of Steve pausing to get a condom, and -- God, Steve hadn't even undressed beyond unzipping -- sliding into him, easy and slow, stopping just barely inside him and waiting for Tony to adjust. Tony flailed for purchase and ended up with a grip on Steve's shoulder, the mail of his uniform digging into Tony's palm.
"Shh," Steve said, and Tony could see him trembling with the effort to hold still. "Deep breaths." His voice was rough, low with desire. He wasn't smiling. His eyes were shut.
Tony tightened down around him, hard, and Steve groaned.
"I'm good," Tony said. "I'm good, I'm good. Give it to me. I can take it."
Steve didn't fuck him like he hated him. Steve fucked him like he loved him: slowly, gently, sweetly, maybe sweeter than he ever had before. He could brace himself with one hand -- of course he could -- and with his free hand he caressed Tony, everywhere he could reach, softly, holding him close.
Steve's eyes stayed shut, his jaw stayed clenched, and Tony looked up at him and wondered what the hell they'd done to each other in the year he couldn't remember.
Tony reached up and laid his hand against Steve's face, tracing his fingers over Steve's lips. The harsh set of Steve's jaw didn't change, but the rhythm of his thrusts started to stutter and his hand drifted to Tony's cock, getting him off in earnest now, without once opening his eyes. Tony didn't know what he'd been picturing but it hadn't been this, and he gasped and came as Steve pounded into him.
Steve followed seconds afterward, with a quiet moan.
He pulled out. He cleaned up.
They lay next to each other on the bed, and Steve reached out and traced the edge of the RT node with one finger.
"I'm not going back to the Avengers," Steve said, very quietly. "I'm not going to be Captain America. I can't do this. I can't work with you right now. Not like this."
Oh. This was how it was going to be.
They left him. They always left him.
"I love you," Steve said, and Tony couldn't remember if Steve had ever said it to him before, but that didn't necessarily mean he hadn't. "I love you, but I can't do this."
When Tony tried to speak, all the air came out of him in a shaky breath. "I don't remember not loving you," he said, and his throat went tight.
"Yeah," Steve said. "That's the problem."