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Sexiest Avenger Number Four

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Steve wondered whether the team was taking any of this seriously. It was Friday. The third fight this week. Tony had already labeled Attuma’s warriors the junior varsity squad. Thor and Hulk debated brands of peanut butter. Sam, Natasha and Scott discussed what movies they were going to see this weekend. Even the locals and tourists weren’t taking the fight seriously as they stood, pointed and took pictures.

“Cut the chatter,” Steve said over the comms. “Let's wrap this up before Attuma causes more damage or someone gets killed.”

“Aye, Captain,” Thor cheerfully replied as he dove into a terrified group of Atlantean warriors.

Steve continued to round up strays on his skycycle while the rest of the team worked on pushing back the would-be invasion. He’d have to develop training simulations to address the team’s lack of focus today. He sketched out a few scenarios as he threw the shield to take down Atlanteans. Then felt guilty when it dawned on him that he had lost focus too.

“Hey, did you see that People named Thor Sexiest Man Alive?” Clint said over the comms.

“Truly, I am on that list of honor but, alas, only number three,” Thor replied.

Natasha said, “Hmmm, number three, not bad. Must be stiff competition this year. When does it come out?”

“Not sure. Monday? I saw it on the internet this morning.”

“Anyone else we know in the issue?” Sam asked.

“Nah, they don’t do a Sexiest Jailbait issue,” Clint replied.

“I’m eighteen,” Sam said with a huff. “You were at my birthday party.”

“Anyway, I don’t remember anyone else from the team in the story,” Clint continued.

“What about Tony? Doesn’t he have a guaranteed lifetime spot?” Scott said. “Doesn’t he pay his PR team to get him on the list?”

Steve all but face-palmed. He was on the verge of losing everyone to a conversation about who was or wasn't on a magazine list and Attuma still had not been taken down. “Sorry to interrupt, but could someone locate Attuma --”

“On it, Cap!” Tony said as he buzzed by Steve.

Clint shot down three Atlanteans. He continued, “Maybe I could get Tony to put in a word with his people to get me in next year.” He flexed his bicep. “See, I’m sexy. Just like Thor.”

Natasha and Sam laughed hard and long. “I totally am,” Clint protested.

“Tony -- what’s your status?” Steve commanded.

“Ugh. Give me a moment.”

“Widow, Falcon -- go help Tony.”

“On it, Cap,” Falcon said. Steve could see Sam turn and head off in Tony’s direction.

Steve hoped that Attuma had not noticed the team’s preoccupation. Attuma got huffy when he wasn’t taken seriously. Though, to be honest, Darkhawk and Hyperion were tough acts to follow. But Steve had plans tonight. And he didn’t want to be late because a would-be invader was pissed off at being stuck in a less than prestigious holding cell in SHIELD’s headquarters.

The team finally settled down to the business at hand rounding up the invaders. SHIELD showed up to take the Atlanteans into custody. The invasion was over. And Steve clapped handcuffs on Attuma. The team headed back to Tower, leaving Steve behind to debrief Fury and his team.

Once freed from paperwork, Steve headed back to the Tower for a shower and a large meal. He was surprised to hear the team still in the locker room. He’d assumed everyone had already cleared out and gotten back to their day.

“Thor might be sexy,” Clint said. “And I’ll concede Tony is sexy.”

Steve stopped in the hallway, curious about this turn in the conversation.

“Leave out the Hulk. Also, Sam doesn’t count because he’s barely out of diapers,” Natasha said.

“I’m eighteen!”

“That’s still no,” Scott added. “You’re the team’s baby brother.”

Natasha continued, “And no on Ant-man.” Scott made a strangled noise. “Scott, you know I’m right. You remind people of that coworker who always has car problems or wants to borrow money from you. Definitely not sexy. And the jury is still out on you, Clint.”

“Well, what about Steve?” Sam asked.

There was general laughter from the rest of the team. “C’mon, It’s Cap, Sam. He’s … not exactly sexy. It’d be like finding your grandfather sexy,” Clint stated. “When people think of Cap, they don’t think hot and sexy, they think Grandpa war hero. He’s like the anti-sexy.”

Steve stopped in the hallway. He hadn't given much thought to it. Thinking about it now, he wouldn't consider himself to be sexy. Not like Tony, who …. Well, Steve always blushed when he thought about Tony. Tony was sexy when he was bending over, or wearing that black tank top, or working on the armor, or sitting at the data crux drinking coffee.

Sexy, hot, and downright irresistible. That was Tony from head to toe.

And tonight Steve had a date with Mr. Irresistible.

~~~

Steve found a pensive Tony stationed at the data crux surrounded by the usual five half-filled mugs of coffee. Probably left over from the morning before the fight with Attuma. Tony waved him over.

“Did you miss me already?” Tony teased with a smile.

Steve stood behind him, resting a hand on Tony’s shoulder. Tony leaned into him. “Fury’s team can’t compete.” He brushed his thumb up and down Tony’s neck.

“That’s good to know. I’m not sure I’d be the winner if Fury decided to challenge me for your affection. He fights dirty.”

Steve laughed. “We still on for tonight?” He knew that Tony wouldn’t say no, but he still worried.

“Of course! I was thinking dinner and bowling? Maybe pool? Or stay in, order take-out, and watch Battlebots?”

“I’m fine with anything.”

Steve couldn’t believe his luck that Tony had ever asked him out. On a real date. Not pizza in the workshop. Not just hanging out together. A real date. Which went far better than Steve had ever dreamed it could. They’d had a couple of official dates and lots of spending time together. Steve was still walking on air.

“Let’s go with dinner and figure it out from there.” Tony rubbed his chin and tapped on the keyboard.

Steve looked at the holoscreens. “What are you working on?”

“Internet poll. Who’s the sexiest Avenger, that sort of thing. Clint thinks the democracy of the internet will vote him in as the sexiest Avenger. I’m trying to figure out the charity angle right now.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. You sound like Natasha -- she said she can’t see how this won’t end in tears and murder. But between you and me -- I think she’s already campaigning for Clint.”

Steve looked at the list of Avenger names. “She opted out. But Sam?”

“Baby-Boy Wilson can be on next year’s poll. Or when Seventeen Magazine runs their own contest.”

“Right.”

“How about we leave around 6?” Tony suggested.

Steve kissed the top of his head. “Sounds good to me.”

~~~~~

Steve fervently hoped there was still leftover pizza in the refrigerator. Or any leftovers at all. He was likely the last person to look for lunch after defeating Attuma.

“We ordered pizza,” Natasha said from the common room. “Saved one for you. It’s on the island.”

Clint and Natasha were parked on couches, a couple of empty pizza boxes on the coffee table. Clint was typing up a storm on his laptop while Natasha watched the news.

“Thanks,” Steve said. He loaded pizza on a plate and sat down on the couch near Natasha. “What’s up?”

“Getting ready for the Who’s the Sexiest Avenger contest -- Tony told me voting starts at midnight. I’m just setting up some accounts.” Clint lifted the laptop to show a Facebook site titled ‘Team Gunshow.’ “This is how I’m going to beat Thor.”

Steve nodded slowly. “Okay.” He glanced over at Natasha. “You’re helping him?”

“He needs it. Thor has a large fanbase.”

“What about the other Avengers?”

Clint sniggered. “Scott didn’t move fast enough.” He pulled up a page with a splashy banner for Scott Lang proclaiming ‘Team Used Car Salesman.’

“Clint,” Steve said firmly. “Play nice.”

He grumbled. “I hate it when you do that -- the guilt-trip thing. How do you do that anyway? People would just laugh at me if I said that.”

Natasha toed Clint’s thigh. “Clint will take it down,” she agreed. “So where are you and Tony going tonight?”

“Don’t know -- dinner and maybe bowling or pool.”

Natasha said, “Wear the blue shirt, skinny jeans and leather jacket. Don’t dress like you’re 95.”

“Or like Mr. Rogers, Kindergarten Teacher, or Youth Pastor Steve,” Clint added.

Steve frowned. He tried his best when he went out with Tony -- clean, pressed clothes that weren’t his workout outfits or uniform. He still felt a bit naked without a hat. But he was adjusting.

“I don’t know …”

“I can’t believe I’m giving this advice,” Clint muttered. He ran his hand over his face and looked up at the ceiling. After taking a deep breath, he said, “Okay, Cap, you should dress for a date like you’re advertising ‘man looking for action,’ not ‘man buying groceries.’ And aren’t you like on your third date or something? Show Tony some encouragement.”

“Right,” Steve replied. He had dated enough in the 21st century to know about the three-date rule. He bit into a slice of pizza as he thought about his date with Tony. Tony deserved everything good in the world.

“You’re not doing anything wrong, Steve,” Natasha said encouragingly. She patted his arm. “It’s just advice. Take it or leave it.”

~~~~~

Steve knew Clint and Natasha meant well with their advice. But he couldn’t quite shake what Clint had said, and what he had not, as he painted at his easel before his date with Tony. All he wanted was an hour of peace to calm his nerves. Painting usually helped.

He had all these wonderful sketches from Central Park in early spring that he wanted to work up into a series of small pieces. But each time he looked at the canvas, he wanted to change the composition or change the palette.

Simply put, he’d won the lottery when Tony asked him out. Tony was the smartest, most amazing person Steve had ever met. Maybe that’s why he was suddenly all nervous about the date. He always got a touch nervous thinking how new and fragile this dating thing between him and Tony was.

He sighed when paint dripped over the canvas. Rookie mistake, loading up his brush with too much. He tried to fix it. But the conversation about who was the sexiest Avenger played back in his mind as he dabbed at the canvas.

So the team didn’t think he was sexy, he could live with that. Maybe. Steve had some pride. But what if Tony didn’t think he was sexy?

The painting was going nowhere. And he didn’t have any hopes for any success with drawing. Or reading or listening to music. The only way to clear his mind when he got like this was to work out and he didn’t have the time for that.

He cleaned his brushes and put away the painting supplies. He looked through his closet, picking through his clothes, all of which seemed wrong now. He settled on the blue shirt Natasha liked and cut the price tags off the pair of jeans she talked him into buying a couple of months ago. He could do this.

As the toothpaste swirled down the drain, Steve glanced up at the bathroom mirror. He looked okay, maybe needed to get a trim in a day or two. But did he look good naked?

Tony had seen him naked before, but that was a different naked, locker-room naked and supervillain-melted-our-costumes naked. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach as he thought that he could end up sexy-naked with Tony tonight.

He clenched his jaw. What if -- what if Tony was disappointed in him? The memory of his last partner in bed played back in sharp relief. Downside to the serum was the vivid, movie-like memories that never softened with time and reflection. Steve squirmed in pain and embarrassment at the reminder of Nathan the SHIELD scientist who told Steve in so many words that Steve had been a complete disaster in bed.

He didn’t want that to happen again. Not with Tony. God, no, he didn’t want that to happen with Tony.

~~~~~

Steve vibrated as he waited for Tony in the common room.

“Not bad,” Natasha declared as she checked him over.

He nodded his thanks. Other than him, it was the usual Friday night in the Tower. Hulk and Thor were deep into their video game. Sam had left to see a movie with some friends from SHIELD Academy. Clint and Scott were off doing something somewhere.

Natasha was already in her PJs ready for a night of reading. “Hey, have a good time, Steve. It’s been a long week -- you could use some fun.”

“And you?”

Natasha laughed. “I’m not thinking of the team or anything SHIELD-related tonight. It might be my only night of peace until that contest is over. Scott asked me for help in his campaign.”

Tony walked in, a leather jacket hooked over his shoulder, looking handsome and debonair. “Ready?” he asked as he nudged Steve on his back.

A silly smile crept over Steve’s face. Seeing Tony always took his breath away. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

Tony brought Steve to a local bar with pool tables and craft beers. Steve caught the hint that Tony had extensively researched bars to find the perfect one, but he didn’t care. Tony could have suggested a sewage treatment plant and Steve would be fine with it as long as he was with Tony.

He loved watching Tony talk. Tony’s eyes shone brightly and his clever hands wove back and forth as he talked passionately about a dozen or more projects he was working on. Steve was entranced by Tony’s impressive intelligence and his desire to make things better for people. People didn’t know how hard Tony worked as an applied scientist, an entrepreneur and an Avenger.

Sometimes Steve wondered what Tony saw in him. He didn’t have much to offer a man like Tony, besides the whole Avenging thing. His hand brushed against Tony’s, their fingers tangling.

He smiled at the grin on Tony’s face. He could do this.

Tony leaned over the pool table with his cue, showing off his surprising flexibility. And, of course, his world-class ass.

“Enjoying the view?” Tony asked with a smirk. He smoothly tapped the cue ball and stood back to watch if the shot was successful. One ball rolled into the rear pocket.

“The view’s even better now,” Steve said.

Tony snorted. “Let’s see if you can beat that -- this isn’t ultimate frisbee.”

Steve studied the table. Aiming his cue, he sent balls flying into the pockets. “Another game?”

“Huh.” Tony cracked his knuckles. “Can’t win if you don’t try.”

Laughing, Steve racked the balls and positioned his cue for the break. Just before he hit the cue ball, Tony nudged him with his hip.

“Hey!” Steve said in mock protest, a smile on his lips at Tony’s antics.

“Like you never thought of doing that,” Tony said in his ear. Then he stole a kiss from Steve.

“Hey, beautiful, what was it like when you fell from heaven?”

“You would do anything to win this game?” asked Steve.

Tony planted his hand on Steve’s ass. “I’m not above trying anything. Want to blow this popsicle stand and head home?”

Caught by Tony’s dark eyes and the warm hand on his ass, Steve nodded. “Battlebots?”

“Sure.”

Steve never saw the end of the first episode of Battlebots because Tony pulled him into a kiss that made him curl his toes. They didn’t bother with any more episodes once Tony swung his leg over Steve’s to sit in his lap. He kissed Steve breathless, fingers skating over Steve’s chest and sliding under the waistband of his jeans.

“What’ll it take to get you out of this shirt?” Tony asked,

Steve guessed he wasn’t doing too badly so far. “Don’t know -- what are you offering?”

Tony groaned. “You’re going to kill me, Steve.”

Tony yanked his t-shirt over his head and dove down to kiss Steve’s lips and neck. “Help me out here.”

Steve fumbled with shaking fingers to undo the buttons of his shirt. This was really happening. His breath caught in his throat as he drank in Tony’s lean muscled body. Reaching out, he caressed the olive skin, feeling Tony’s pulse under his hands.

Light-headed and dizzy from Tony’s heady touch, Steve cautiously pressed kisses to Tony’s neck and shoulders.

“Hey, is everything okay?” Tony asked, pulling back a bit. “Moving too fast?”

Steve tamped down his panic. He wanted to be the perfect partner that Tony expected. “It’s fine, Tony.” He stroked a hand down Tony’s arm. “Fine.”

Together they worked on the final stubborn buttons of Steve’s shirt. Tony slid the shirt off and gracefully tossed it over the back of the couch. He ran his hands over Steve’s chest.

“You’re so damn unreal,” he gasped out. “Beautiful, Steve.”

Steve smiled into Tony’s kisses. He pulled Tony closer and moved his hands down to run over the firm curves of Tony’s ass. He could do this -- make Tony happy, not mess up too much.

“Want to take this to the bedroom, Big Guy?”

“Okay.”

He let Tony lead him to his bedroom, to the large, low bed under the mural of plum blossoms and branches. Steve sat on the edge of the bed to toe off his shoes. His mouth ran dry as Tony made a show of slowly stripping his jeans off.

There was no way he wasn’t going to mess this up.

A naked Tony dropped down on the bed. “Come on -- I have no idea how you can stand to stay in those jeans.”

Steve wriggled out of his jeans. Tony smiled at him. “I could watch you all night doing that.”

Steve took a deep breath and reached for Tony. His hand settled on Tony’s hip. It hit him like a freight train that he was touching a naked Tony, that he was being allowed to touch as much as he wanted to.

“I’ve been thinking about you all day. What you’d look like in my bed …” Tony said as he tugged Steve closer. “Damn, you’re gorgeous.” Tony trailed a hand from Steve’s shoulder to his thigh.

Steve prayed he wouldn't disappoint Tony. He followed Tony’s confident lead in kissing and touching, letting Tony guide his hands to where Tony wanted to be touched. He felt Tony’s hard length against his thigh.

But not every part of Steve was joining in on the party. Steve willed his cock to respond, fraught tension twisting his stomach. Nothing. He flipped onto his back wondering what the hell was going on.

Tony rolled over onto Steve’s chest and kissed him, then stopped. “Wait, Steve, are you okay?”

Steve ran his hand down Tony’s back in reassurance, but kept his eyes screwed shut. “No -- it’s fine.” He died a little inside. This was the last thing he wanted.

“What’s going on, Steve?” Tony asked gently. “Little Steve not coming out to play?”

Steve sank deeper and deeper into complete misery with each passing second. He opened his eyes and stared at Tony’s ceiling. “Nope,” he declared.

“Oh.” Tony paused. “I figured with the serum that you’d be able to go whenever.”

“Not so much.” Steve had never had this problem before. He didn’t know which he wanted more at that moment -- the earth to open up and swallow him whole or the Squadron Supreme to attack the Tower.

Tony kept talking. “I mean, it's not quite how I thought that the evening would go. But, you know, it happens to every guy once in awhile. Can’t force it. We’ll work through it -- you don’t have that much experience. You haven’t been with very many guys -- or women, for that matter -- before, right?”

Steve sat up, swung his legs over the side of the bed, and grabbed his clothes.

“Steve, baby, where’re you going?” Tony asked.

“Back to my room. I’ll see you in the morning, Tony.”

He heard Tony calling after him. But he couldn’t handle sympathy or pity from Tony right now.

He’d had his shot with Tony and he blew it.

~~~~~

Steve couldn’t face Tony in the morning either. Or the afternoon. The humiliation of the date played over and over in his mind, even after a marathon run to start the day and an afternoon of intense workouts.

“Hey, Cap, is it open season on the training room or something?” Sam asked.

Steve toed the shield and flipped it into his hand. He assessed the damage he’d done to the training room, noting that he had thoroughly torn up a large wall panel. “Tough training routine,” he said.

“You’re going to have to ask Tony for upgrades.”

His heart fell at Tony’s name. “Yeah, I guess I am.”

“Want to grab something to eat?” Sam asked. “We got the grocery delivery today.”

Steve wasn’t sure if he was fit for company but right then his stomach rumbled loudly. He’d be sorry if he didn’t have lunch soon. “I could do that.”

They bumped into Natasha in the hallway. “Hey, Sam, what’s the update on that robot?”

Sam brightened, and turned to Steve. “I’m building a new combat robot for Natasha. Want to see?”

Steve nodded and followed Natasha and Sam to Sam’s lab.

“Anything interesting happen today?” Natasha asked.

Sam shrugged. “Clint and Hulk got testy over the Sexiest Avenger contest this morning.”

“Oh,” Steve said with a sigh. He had hoped this wouldn’t get out of hand. Clint could be determined when he wanted something. And Hulk, well. This could be a disaster.

He cast a critical eye over Sam’s robot. It looked sturdy enough. “This robot –“

“Something I’ve been working on for the past month,” Sam said proudly.

“-- isn't going to be much of a challenge for Natasha,” Steve finished.

“She hasn’t even tried it yet!”

“Hmm,” Natasha said as she circled the robot. “I’ll kick the tires to see how it really performs. By the way, you might want to avoid Thor. He’s rather taken with the whole Sexiest Avenger thing and is nearly as competitive as Clint.”

“Great.” Steve grimaced.

~~~~~

Steve fixed himself some sandwiches and grabbed a bag of potato chips and headed to the common room to find a baseball game on the television.

Instead he got Clint, Scott and Hulk arguing over the Sexiest Avenger Contest.

“Hulk?” Steve asked.

Sam rolled his eyes. “Turns out Hulk thinks he has a chance at this.”

Steve shook his head and sat down on a couch. He reached for the television controller.

“Don’t touch that,” Clint snapped. He grabbed the controller. “This is what I’m talking about, Scott.”

“Don’t show me that Team Gunshow stuff again,” Scott said.

“You’re just annoyed you didn’t come up with an equally awesome name.”

“I think Team Electrical Engineers Are Sexy is awesome.”

“You know it doesn’t work that way, Scott,” Sam said. “The team name has to be catchy.”

“Like Team Big and Green,” Hulk suggested.

Sam threw up his hands. “I don’t even know why I bother.”

“Like I said -- here’s what I’m talking about,” Clint said. He scrolled through a list of recorded programs and clicked on the entry for E! News.

Steve watched in horror as two brash, young news anchors joked about voting for the sexiest Avenger while a series of images streamed by including Clint’s Team Gunshow campaign and a large crayon drawing of Hulk holding a sign saying ‘Vote Green.’

Then a picture of Steve in polka dotted shorts with black knee socks and sandals popped up to general laughter. Steve knew it wasn’t a sexy look, even if he was working undercover for SHIELD at the time. And now that awful picture was going to be all over the news and the internet.

Of course, that was when Tony sauntered into the common room. He had come from a business meeting or lunch, and was wearing a natty grey suit and purple shirt unbuttoned at the top. It was a hot look on him, and Steve couldn’t tear his eyes away.

“I see our contest made the news. Did they mention the charities?”

Sam pointed out the scroll at the bottom of the screen listing all the major charities supported by the Avengers. “Is that good enough?”

Tony squinted at the screen. “I’m going to have to sic the PR people on this.”

“Yeah, speaking of PR people,” Sam said. “What’s the deal with the People’s Sexiest Man Alive issue?”

Tony shrugged. “People only wanted to talk to me or Thor. The editors asked three things about you -- is he a celebrity? Is he related to a celebrity? Is he dating a celebrity? No dice for you, Sam, until you’re over 20 or starring in the next Hollywood blockbuster.”

“Great. Just great. I beat Nighthawk and I get this,” Sam muttered.

“Hey -- at least no one published embarrassing photos of you in the worst undercover outfit ever,” Clint pointed out. “How’d they get those photos of Cap anyway? Scott?”

Steve tried to ignore the conversation swirling around him. He hadn’t imagined that he could feel worse about what happened the night before, but the unflattering photo and the talk about the contest made him feel terrible all over again. All he had to do was eat his sandwich, and then he could flee to the training room.

“Not from my Instagram, if that’s what you’re thinking. Or my Facebook page.”

“Not nice,” said Hulk.

Tony said, “The contest is only running through next Sunday. Try to not kill each other.”

Thor walked in wearing a Team Thor t-shirt. “Good afternoon, friends.”

“Aren’t you Team Hair?” Clint asked.

“I’m unsure of this team you mention, but Tony gave me this shirt in honor of our contest.”

Clint snapped, “So you’re Team Thor now, Tony?”

Tony laughed. “Or Team Hulk -- whoever needs the help. As long as they’re not Team Hawkeye.”

“It’s on, Stark, you just bought yourself a ton of trouble.”

“Put your arrows away, Robin Hood, I’ve had t-shirts printed up for everyone in the contest if they want to wear them.”

Steve saw the opportunity to make his escape. Maybe Tony hadn’t noticed him. He quietly piled up his dishes and made a beeline to the kitchen.

“Steve, wait up,” Tony called out.

But Steve doubled his the pace and was quickly out of earshot, even for him. Not that he wanted to stick around to hear Tony tell him it was over.

~~~~~

Steve sleep-walked through his daily routine the following day. With the added bonus of dodging calls and texts from Tony that struck fear in his heart.

Nothing had lessened the sting of letting Tony down. Tony, who could date anyone he wanted to, and had still picked Steve. Steve’s partner in running the Avengers and one of his closest friends. The brilliant, amazing, and spectacular Tony. Who was at any moment going to tell Steve that it was over.

Tony would be kind and let him down easy, saying they’d had a lot of fun, but maybe it would be better to be friends after all.

It had happened before. Steve was getting used to being dumped after he didn’t perform up to expectations.

Contrary to what Tony thought, Steve had had plenty of sex in his life. With women and men. Yet, somehow, every time, it never quite worked out -- he’d have sex, then inevitably a week or two later any hopes he’d have for the relationship would be dashed to the ground when the other person broke it off. He had no confidence that it wouldn’t happen again. Especially after his misfire in the bedroom with Tony.

Steve would weather the blow and tough it out. That’s what he did. But he was going to miss the hell out of Tony.

A rain shower put an end to his afternoon run. Steve studied his long to-do list. Always something to do. He should review training videos for one thing. He grabbed more coffee and headed to the data crux.

“It’s not what you think,” Natasha said. She switched off whatever word game she was playing and turned to face Steve.

The rule was no game playing in the data crux, but it was Natasha, and no could ever prove what exactly she was doing. Tony suspected JARVIS hid the evidence because he liked her.

“What do you mean?”

“The whole sexiest Avenger thing. It’s just a silly Internet contest, that’s all.”

Steve shrugged and drank more of his coffee. “I haven’t been paying attention.”

“Oh?” Natasha arched an eyebrow. “I haven’t seen you turn down a bet or contest yet. I thought you’d be all over it like the rest of the team.”

“Clint gave me a bran muffin and a bowl of prunes and said ‘good morning, Team Grandpa’ today. That's all I need to know about the contest.”

Natasha threw up her hands. “Clint’s just enthusiastic. And he’s not doing badly in the voting so far, according to Tony.”

Steve sat down next to her and called up the training videos. “As long as it doesn’t interfere with the team on the field, I’m okay.”

She put on hand on his arm. “Is that all?”

Steve frowned. “It’s a good contest -- it’s raising money for charity ….” He downloaded the videos he needed to his tablet. “You can have the data crux back.”

“Can I talk you into ice cream? To make up for the prunes?”

“Hmm, I don’t know. Those prunes were really good.”

Natasha laughed. “Milkshake or sundae?”

Steve should have said no. He immediately regretted taking Natasha up on her offer when he saw Tony in the common room talking to the rest of the team.

He didn’t know what was worse -- being torn between wanting to talk to Tony and avoiding Tony at all costs. He froze. Natasha pushed him towards the kitchen.

Thor sat at the island, finishing up his lunch. “You have come in time to hear Tony’s daily update about the contest,” he announced. “Clint is most anxious about the news.”

Natasha raided the freezer for ice cream. “We’re here for the ice cream.”

“Ice cream?” Sam asked. “Count me in.”

The next thing Steve knew the whole team piled into the kitchen to make ice cream sundaes and milkshakes. Tony finagled his way next to Steve. “Hey, soldier. Nice to see you.”

Steve wondered what that meant -- Tony smiled at Steve, but Tony wasn’t likely to be cold to Steve in front of everyone else.

“So what’s the news today?” Clint asked.

Tony flashed a worried look at Steve. “You know, people are voting. Donations are being made.” Steve dug into his ice cream, feeling the weight of Tony’s eyes on him.

Clint snorted. “Come on, Stark, is that all?”

Sighing, Tony found a tablet and pulled up a couple of holoscreens. “Here we go -- Thor is in the lead, Clint second, me third, Hulk fourth, Scott fifth and then Cap.”

Days like this brought up all sorts of bad memories from the years when Steve was skinny and shy and coughing from asthma and no one gave him a second look. He was at the bottom of the list with barely enough votes to be considered a respectable showing. With this and the other night with Tony -- he wasn’t exactly batting a thousand.

“Aw, come on, what am I going to have to do to win this?” Clint complained.

“Better hair,” Hulk offered. He frowned at his now empty five-gallon container of strawberry ice cream. Thor strategically moved his container out of Hulk’s arm range.

Clint ran his hand through his hair. “Seriously, Nat, should I do something about my hair?”

Natasha rolled her eyes. “It’s not the hair. Stick with funny and fun to be around.”

“That’s encouraging,” Clint said. “I can work with funny.”

“Could be worse -- If Steve would just let Tony create a ‘Captain America in his underwear’ Instagram, I think the voting would be different,” Natasha answered.

When Thor, Clint and Hulk moved on to discuss posting a video of a three-way flex-off on YouTube, Steve officially had enough. He had videos to review, punching bags to punch, any of a number of big important things. He went over to the sink to rinse his dish.

Tony put a hand on his shoulder. “Steve? Is this about the other night? You didn't answer my texts and I couldn't find you in the Tower. What’s going on with you?”

“I’m okay,” Steve replied stiffly. He reached for the dish soap.

“Scott -- what are you doing?” Clint said in the background. “Are you seriously promising rides on ants if people vote for you? Are people actually voting for that?”

“Um, maybe.”

Ignoring the imminent chaos at the island behind them, Tony lowered his hand and stepped back. “Steve, you’re spectacularly bad at lying.”

Leaving Tony standing at the sink, Steve bustled out of the kitchen to bury himself in work for the rest of the day and night. Tony kept trying to reach him through texts, calls, knocking on the door of his suite.

Steve ignored the messages, in an attempt to delay the inevitable conversation that would break his heart.

He knew he had to talk to Tony eventually. Just not right now.

~~~~~

By the next morning, Steve had caught up on all his Avengers work and he found he couldn't even clear his mind by working out. He decided to try painting, which, given his mood, was courting disaster.

His morning played out as well as he could have expected when his palette, loaded with reds, purples and blues, landed on his jeans and splattered everywhere. He was cleaning up the mess with solvent when Tony came on the tower intercom.

“Steve, I could use your help.”

Tony had used the emergency override. Steve did a quick check of the call system, but there were no calls for the Avengers. Which meant that Tony was taking drastic measures to reach him.

“Um, I’m in the middle of something here..” Which was true, since Steve was elbow deep in paint and paint cleaner.

“Look -- I’m not going to force you to talk to me. But Sam’s training robot is on the loose and you’re the only one here. If we corner it in the Avenjet, I can lock it down.”

Steve sighed, and looked at the mess in his suite. He’d only been able to clean up only part of the spill. It would be impossible to clean if he let it dry.

“Steve, you have no idea how annoying that robot is. Save me.”

It was useless to resist -- nearly every part of him wanted to help Tony immediately. He’d deal with the consequences later. Tossing his wadded-up paper towel in the trashcan, he said, “I’m on my way.”

Tony was already in the Avenjet so Steve picked up a tracker from Sam’s lab. The robot was heading towards the hangar in pursuit of something. This should be easy.

He shut doors and pulled down laser gates behind him in case the erratic robot changed its path. He reached the hangar around the same time as the robot. He chased it around the hanger herding it towards the Avenjet ramp.

“I’m in the cockpit,” Tony said over the comms. “Get into the main cabin.”

A few minutes of robot wrangling and Steve pushed and locked the robot into the small onboard bathroom. He heard the telltale signs of the Avenjet taking off. He ran to the cockpit.

“Tony -- what’s going on here?”

“Nothing …”

“Tony!”

“Uh -- we’re on our way to a tropical island.” Tony flashed him a smile. “Just you and me.”

Steve sank into the seat next to Tony. He took a deep breath. “Tony. Turn the Avenjet around.”

“No can do, Steve. Flight path’s locked, approved by the FAA, and I can't turn off the autopilot,” Tony said cheerfully.

“Tell me we're not on our way to the Savage Land, please?”

“Nope -- a private island retreat near St. Thomas. Well, that's what the rental agent told me when I booked it in the middle of the night. We’ll have electricity but no internet.”

“Wait -- we’re leaving the team short-handed by leaving now. What if they get attacked?”

Tony grumbled. “We should be so lucky -- an alien invasion would be the perfect thing to get them to stop obsessing over that contest.” He reached over to squeeze Steve’s knee. “Don’t worry, Steve. We’ll only be gone a couple of days. They can handle anything without us.”

“But --”

“If you answered any of my messages or talked to me, I wouldn’t have had to do something this drastically awesome. Really should’ve done this sooner--”

“Tony, I don't have anything with me. Only the clothes on my back, no toothpaste, razor …”

“Eh, you won't need clothes where we’re going. The Caribbean is hot this time of year. Besides, private island.”

Steve stared straight ahead, watching the clouds fly by. He had no words. He should be angry at being tricked. But it was Tony. He couldn’t stay angry at him for long, even when Tony was frustratingly secretive. And, before the disaster date, he would have jumped at the chance to spend any amount of time alone with Tony.

He side-eyed Tony, who chatted away merrily. “You seemed down about the contest -- so I thought a little time away from the Tower would be good.”

Finally cracking a smile, Steve admitted, “That’s not actually a bad idea.”

“I had no idea what kind of monster I was unleashing when I put together that contest. Let’s hope Clint and Thor don’t tear the Tower apart while we’re gone.”

“That’s usually Hulk and Thor.”

“Hmm, let's just say you missed a lot while you were holed up in your room the last few days.”

~~~~~

Standing in the small house on his rented island, Tony slapped Steve on the back. “Told you it was worth it.”

They were surrounded by a breathtaking view from nearly every window and sliding glass door of the house that would be their home for the next few days. The sound of crashing surf and the sharp, salty smell of the ocean floated in from the open decks surrounding the house.

Tony had promised relaxation and quiet. And Steve had to admit it was nice to be away from the team.

“You got lucky,” Steve said. “You chose this place based on blurry pictures on the internet. At 3 am in the morning after six cups of coffee and a long day in the workshop.”

“It worked, didn’t it? Let’s grab the food and supplies I packed from the Avenjet.”

“I hope you didn’t pack just frozen pizza.”

“O ye of little faith. There’s a lot more than frozen pizza. Coffee, for one thing.”

Once they unloaded Tony’s boxes and luggage from the Avenjet, Tony offered to put away the groceries. “Go ahead and take that swim I know you’re dying for. I’ll get us settled and check out the grill.”

Steve hesitated when he remembered he didn’t have a swimsuit.

“I have no objections to you walking around naked,” Tony said. “No one will see us.”

Steve tensed. He wasn’t ready for a rinse-repeat of their date.

Cocking his head to the side, Tony studied Steve, and waved him off. “Go swim. I’ll be here when you’re back.”

Steve kept his underwear on and grabbed a towel from a pile of colorful beach towels in the master bathroom. The bedroom opened onto a small private deck, separate from the rest. The air was scented with salt, water, and the hibiscus.

He walked down to the beach, welcoming the sun’s warmth on his skin. A long swim would take some of the edges off.

When he returned later with a towel slung low around his hips, he found Tony puttering around the grill.

“Something wrong?”

“No, not really,” Tony said. He stood up and dusted off his hands. “I was just checking the hoses and the propane tank hook-up. I promise that’s the last bit of work I’ll do until we’re gone.”

Tony continued to poke at the grill. “I brought some of your clothes and that stack of books you left around the living room.” Tony pointed to a pile on the end of the counter in the kitchen.

“I think I got the right clothes -- I raided the laundry room.” He turned to pick up the propane tank and stopped. “I’m going to regret bringing you clothes.”

Steve blushed under Tony’s gaze. He hitched the towel up. “If they’re not mine, you might.”

“Sweetheart, I’m going to wonder what went wrong if your clothes fit,” Tony said, trying to look as innocent as a newborn lamb.

Something unknotted in Steve’s stomach. He grinned at Tony and promised, “I’ll be back.”

He showered in the master bedroom. Tossing his towel into a hamper, he wondered where he’d sleep that night. Tony had set out his toiletries and a toothbrush for Steve. Tony seemed okay and not angry with him, but Tony was generous and kind. He shook his head. Getting anxious about something he didn’t need to worry about for a few hours was not in the spirit of enjoying the beach.

He checked the clothes Tony got him. No underwear, but he could make do until his only pair dried. Tony had brought three pairs of his shorts but snagged only one t-shirt which turned out to be Clint’s. He’d have to go shirtless unless he cleaned the paint-splattered t-shirt he wore earlier. Well, they were on an private island retreat. And despite all his worries and fears, he was alone with a man he deeply cared for. Maybe a little advertising would help right about now. Besides, in this heat, he’d be far more comfortable without a shirt.

Tony shot Steve a look when he returned to the combined living room/kitchen. “Here, take this.” He pressed a beer into Steve’s hand. “You’re all tense again.”

“I’m fine,” Steve said.

“Yeah, and I’m Thanos.”

Tony pushed him towards the main deck, where he had set out large bowls of chips, salsa and guacamole. Steve sat in a wicker armchair while Tony claimed a large chaise lounge. He sipped his beer and watched the rise and fall of the waves as he ate the snacks. The tension slowly eased in his back.

“Natasha isn’t totally right, you know. About why Thor and Clint are winning in the contest, and you’re not doing so well.”

“What?” Steve looked at Tony stretched on the lounge like a cat. Tony wore shorts, tank top and unbuttoned shirt. Steve wondered if he’d brought his swim trunks or would just wear his shorts -- it would be nice to see more of him.

“It’s all social media. Clint’s been campaigning through twitter and instagram. People love Thor -- there’s a ton of sites dedicated to him. Even Scott’s got a Facebook page. But you, nada, zippo, zilch.”

“It's okay, Tony. It’ll make Clint happy if he wins.”

“Just say the word and I can set up that Steve-in-his-underwear Instagram account. Or maybe just post pictures of you in that towel on Twitter or Snapchat. It’ll crash the internet.”

Steve blushed. He drank the beer, closed his eyes, and tipped his head back letting the ocean breeze cool his skin. New York, the Avengers, that stupid contest and everything else seemed a million miles away.

“That’s a nice thought, Tony, but no.”

“So you haven’t been in the dumps because of the contest? Because I thought that’s why you were destroying one of the training rooms and hiding out in your room.”

Steve finished off the beer. “I haven’t been paying attention to the contest.”

“Then what was it?” Tony asked.

“Does this place have paddleboards? I’d like to try that.” Steve got up from his chair in one fluid movement.

“Yeah, I guess,” Tony grouched.

Steve grabbed Tony’s hand to help him to his feet. “Come on -- let’s try it.”

“The things I do for you -- kidnap you to an island paradise, fall on my ass paddleboarding.”

Once on their boards, Steve suspected that Tony had a perfectly good sense of balance, even though Tony asked Steve to help him on the board until he was confident he could stand up. He patiently steadied a laughing, wet Tony every time Tony fell or slipped. He didn’t mind it at all. Tony was warm and alive under his hands. He snuck a kiss from Steve now and then.

Steve couldn’t stop smiling, as Tony reminded him of everything he loved about him.

Finally, they stood on their boards, Tony’s arm around Steve’s shoulders. “I’m ready for dinner. And a long sit on the beach at sunset,” Tony said.

“Can’t see the sunset here,” Steve replied. He took in a deep breath, free from the ever-present tension in his shoulders and gut. He suspected he was maybe on probation for now, and Tony wasn’t quite ready to give up on him. He put a hand on Tony’s hip, one finger making circles on the damp skin.

“Small detail. Pfftt.”

After Tony grilled a steak dinner with vegetables and a dessert, they ended up walking along the beach as the sky turned to night and stars above them. Tony bumped his hand until Steve let him hold it. And Tony leaned his head on Steve’s shoulder. Which was ridiculous because they were nearly the same height.

“Let’s head back,” Tony said. “You can walk the whole beach in the morning while I sleep in.” He yawned.

“You promised we’d sit on the beach,” Steve teased.

Tony rolled his eyes. “Sure, Steve.”

Steve squeezed his hand. He tugged Tony close to kiss him.

“Hmm, that’s a better suggestion.”

~~~~

They did not sit on the beach. They didn’t even consider sitting on the deck.

They went straight to the master bedroom where Steve let a handsy Tony push him down on the bed. As Tony kissed his way down his neck and across his collarbone, Steve was torn between the thrill of Tony’s lips on his skin and worry and fear seeping into his thoughts.

“You with me?” Tony said, as he came up for air.

“Yeah,” Steve replied, with a squeeze of Tony’s ass.

Tony gasped. “That's what I’m talking about. More of that, please.”

Feeling somewhat more confident, Steve palmed Tony’s ass as Tony sucked little marks into Steve’s neck. As Tony reached for his shorts, Steve pushed his thumb hard into Tony’s hip when he meant only to squeeze.

Tony batted at his hand. “Not so hard,” he said.

He’d messed up already. Steve gulped and stiffened. Tony dropped his hand like he’d touched a hot stove. “Steve, is this okay?”

“Yes, fine,” Steve replied.

Tony sat back on his heels. “No, it’s not fine. Not at all. I like my partners enthusiastic and willing. And you’re all stiff and jumpy. And not in the good way.”

“Please, Tony. I’m okay.” Steve reached out for Tony.

“You are an awful liar.”

Steve closed his eyes and let out a breath. He bit his lip and slumped against the headboard. Tonight was rapidly turning into a rerun of last Friday.

Tony ran his hand down Steve’s arm. “It’s okay, Steve. Being your first time and all. We can go slow.”

Steve let his head hit the headboard and groaned. “Not my first time. Not by a long shot.”

“With a man --?”

“Yeah, still not my first time. I lived through a war for one thing.” Steve pushed himself into a sitting position, locking his arms around his bent knees.

The one drawback to the island was the statistical improbability of being attacked by supervillains at any time. Certainly not in the next minute or two. And no nearby ledge to jump off of.

“Oh,” Tony said, his eyes wide in surprise. “Okay. Not the answer I expected. Hmm. Still, we don’t have to do this tonight, if you don’t want to.”

Steve wanted to, with every fiber of his being he wanted to do anything and everything Tony wanted also. He might not be that bad. Tony had never struck him as a judgmental person, unless it was about sub-par technology.

“It’s okay, Tony,” Steve said. “Seriously.” He reached for Tony.

Tony scooted out of arm range. “No, Steve. Something’s not right here. Until we figure it out, I’m shutting this down.”

“Tony -- I want to do this.”

“And that’s why you freaked out when I touched your shorts?”

Steve said nothing as the weight of disappointing Tony again sunk in. He couldn’t look him in the eyes. Waves of misery and inadequacy and memories of all his failures washed over him.

Tony sighed and laid down on the bed. Tapping Steve’s leg, he said. “Come here, lay down.”

Steve slid down until he was horizontal on the bed, next to Tony.

“It is okay to put my arms around you?”

“Yes,” Steve replied. He rolled onto his side and Tony wrapped his arms around Steve from behind.

“Good. We’ll just stay like this until we fall asleep.”

Steve could feel the press of the arc reactor in his back and Tony’s warm breath on his neck. Something uncurled inside him, and his breathing evened out as his body relaxed.

“It’s okay, Steve, everything is going to turn up roses,” Tony whispered in his ear. His thumb brushed up and down Steve’s skin, lulling Steve to sleep.

***

Steve woke up, tangled up in Tony’s arms and legs. He maneuvered carefully so that he wouldn’t wake the gently snoring Tony, whose face was pressed into his pillow. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed. He could hear dozens of birds chirping and singing in the pre-dawn light.

Strangely he didn’t have any motivation to go for a run or anything else except make coffee and watch the sun rise.

He liked the simple coffee maker in the kitchen. He was sure Tony had already taken a dislike to the machine, which had only a couple of coffee settings. He made a pot but decided to wait on breakfast. He went down to the beach with his coffee. He sat on the warm sand, the small waves splashing over his toes.

Sometime after the sun rose, Tony sat down next to him. “I wish I had a robot to bring us coffee,” he complained.

“It isn’t going to kill you to walk the couple of yards back to the kitchen.”

“It’s the principle of the thing, Steve. I have robots for a reason.”

Steve chuckled. Without thinking, he put his hand over Tony’s.

“Hey, I’m sorry I made assumptions about, uh, your experience.”

Steve nodded his head. “Might as well be inexperienced, considering I’m not that good at sex,” he blurted.

He immediately clapped his mouth shut. Clearly the sun and the beach had removed his inhibitions.

Tony narrowed his eyes. “Hold on. Stop, rewind. I don’t think I heard what you said there. Can you repeat that?”

In for a penny, in for a pound. “I guess I’m just adequate at sex. Not as good as you are.”

“Don’t bring me up.” Tony ran his hand through his already messy hair. “Steve, why you would ever think you’re not good at sex?”

Steve watched the waves, listening to the gentle lapping of the low tide. They might have to move when the waves started coming in. Tony nudged him. “All I know is what other people told me.”

“Wait, what did they tell you?”

Steve grimaced. He’d already said too much but his resolve melted under Tony’s kind gaze.

“That I wasn’t good in bed.” He swallowed. “I want to with you, but I don’t know …. I don’t want to let you down. I’m not sexy or anything like that. If you were expecting --”

“Whoa, Steve. Stop.” Tony closed his eyes and pinched his nose, like he was counting to a hundred before he said anything. He sighed and said, “Let me get this straight. Your previous partners told you that you are awful in bed. And you don't think that you’re sexy or hot. And that's why you can’t, uh, perform for me.”

Steve nodded slowly.

“Wow.” Tony for once was speechless. “I have no idea where to even start with that. Wow.”

“Not helping, Tony,” Steve said. He drew his knees up to hug them to his chest.

“Okay. Let me recalibrate a second -- I’m not used to being the less-messed-up person in a relationship,” Tony said teasingly, softening the words with a smile.

He put a hand on Steve’s shoulder. “I’ve got to ask you something -- and I know I’m going to hate the answer. Did you-- did you think I wanted to break up with you because of what happened on our date? Is that why you avoided me like the plague?”

“Well, uh, I’m used to being dumped after having sex --”

“Right. Hating that answer. Should not have asked.” Tony fell silent for several minutes, his shoulder pressed against Steve’s comfortingly.

Steve reached out for Tony. “Is it okay, now?”

Tony took Steve's hand and interlaced their fingers. “Yep. I’m just plotting how to build a time machine so I can go back and punch everyone who ever shamed you about sex.”

“Um, that’s a really nice thing to say, Tony.”

Tony slid his arm around Steve’s waist and snuggled closer to Steve. Steve finally gave into the urge to wrap his arm around Tony. He hadn’t felt this safe around someone since he woke up from the ice. Or felt this strongly about someone.

“Steve, I’m not going to judge you. For anything in bed. And I’m not ever going to break up with you because you can’t rise to the occasion. I might have the same issue sometime -- it’s not a 100% guarantee every time, you know. We’ll work through it when it happens. I want to be with you, Steve. But you have to talk to me when there’s a problem -- if you don’t, then it’s pretty much a given that we’ll end up breaking up.”

Steve paused. “Neither one of us are good at talking about problems, Tony.”

“True.” He kissed Steve’s temple. “And this time -- you have some ground to to make up, mister. Considering the whole destroy-the-training-room routine and vanishing act out whenever I showed up. Oh, and not talking to me for a couple of days.”

Steve squeezed Tony’s hand and tugged him up from the sand. “Let me start by making you breakfast.”

~~~~~

Steve had planned to walk around the whole island after breakfast. Somehow, the ocean breezes, hot air, and being around Tony sapped his interest in working out.

Or maybe he had an appetite for a different type of workout.

He admitted that he liked Tony’s appreciative stares while just wearing his shorts. He enjoyed being wanted. So, he might have had ulterior motives when he showed up on the deck with a book, in his low-riding shorts.

Tony had claimed his chaise lounge again. Steve’s mouth ran dry when he saw that Tony had gone one better than him, and was not wearing a single scrap of clothing.

His eyes lingered over the strong lines of Tony’s tan shoulders and back and the roundness of his paler ass. Desire pooled in his stomach. He had no idea what to do with his hands and had completely forgotten how to read.

Chuckling at Steve’s reaction, Tony rolled onto his side to look directly at Steve. And give Steve a look at everything on offer. “Hey there, soldier boy. Looking for a good time?”

“I just might be.”

“I’m in the market for a hot, sexy man. You look like you fit the bill. Want to blow this popsicle stand?”

Flustered and bothered, Steve managed to grin back. “I’m all yours.”

Steve wasn’t exactly sure how they got to the master bedroom after that. All he knew was drowned out by the overwhelming sensation of Tony’s kisses, his hands hot and searching on Steve’s skin, the welcome weight of Tony on him as they tumbled into bed.

Steve was pretty certain that the bed wasn’t designed for two superheroes falling on it, but any concern he might have was lost as Tony pressed lips and tongue all the way down from his neck to the crease of his hips. He slid his hand into Tony’s hair, tugging at the locks, while the other hand ran up and down Tony’s shoulders.

“These have to come off,” Tony muttered as he pulled hard on Steve’s offending shorts.

Steve laughed and angled his hips to help Tony with his mission. “Don’t rip them -- I don’t have that many pairs.”

Tony growled. “Don’t care. It’s an offense against the universe for you to ever wear clothes anytime, anywhere.” He worked the shorts open and off Steve’s hips.

All the blood in Steve’s body raced to his groin. Tony slid up Steve’s body, running his hands all over Steve. Steve moaned as Tony reached down between his legs and greedily tugged at his cock.

“I see you’re ready to go,” he murmured. “Don’t freeze up -- you’re doing great, Steve.” He nuzzled Steve’s neck and whispered, “I want you so much, baby, you don't even know what you do to me.”

Lightning desire pulsed through Steve at the words and the heated touches and kisses.

After a moment, Tony broke free to retrieve lube from the nightstand. “Let’s try something simple.”

Tony slicked his palm and took them both in hand, smoothly moving over the hot, velvety skin and squeezing gently. Steve went boneless at Tony’s touch, he gasped and bucked into Tony’s hand, sweat dripping on their skin, the bed shaking with each move.

Pleasure drunk and lost in the rhythmic pull of desire, murmured encouragements echoing in his ears, his world narrowed to the feel of Tony’s hand on his cock. The waves carried him right over the edge with Tony following soon after, hot splashes painting both their bellies.

“God, Steve, you’re perfect, so damn perfect,” Tony panted in his ear.

Steve stared at the ceiling, dazed from sex and Tony’s love. He rubbed Tony’s hip, as their sweat-drenched skin dried in the warm ocean breeze. He never wanted to move again.

“Well, you know, practice makes perfect,” he said teasingly.

“Rest for now, lover, maybe dinner later, then we’ll work on the finer points.”

Steve turned to kiss Tony’s shoulder and nuzzle his neck. Practice? He could do that all night long.

****

He woke to sunlight splashed across the bed. He yawned and stretched and turned over to find Tony wasn’t there. He smelled coffee brewing, so that told him where Tony went.

“Finally awake, sleepyhead?” Tony asked from the doorway. He leaned against the frame, a mug of coffee in his hand.

Steve gave him a smile and an appreciative once-over, since Tony had once again not bothered with clothes. Rolling on his side, Steve propped his head on his hand to look at Tony. He felt his cock perking with interest as he took in Tony’s long, lean form.

“Wow,” Tony said in a low voice. “God, Steve, wish I had my phone right now so I could take a picture of you like that.” He waved his hand. “My very own super hot and super sexy super-soldier in bed. And I see you’re very happy to see me.” Tony waggled his eyebrows.

Steve gave a mock pout. “Hey, no coffee for me? I expected breakfast in bed at least ….”

“Oh, I’ll give you breakfast, you sexy beast.” Tony smirked and set his coffee down before leaning over to give his boyfriend a deep, heated kiss.

“Can we stay here a couple of days longer?” Steve asked when he came up for air.

“Anything you want, babe. Anything at all.”

“Just you. And maybe the chance to avoid that damned contest.”

“That too.” Tony laughed. He ran his fingers up Steve’s chest. “In all honesty, I don’t want to see you wearing clothes any time soon.”

“Mmm, I could live with that.”

~~~~~

“No one will believe that I convinced you to go on vacation,” Tony said as he prepared for landing.

“Kidnapping me isn’t exactly convincing me.” Steve finished off his gatorade. “Sam will want to know what you did to his robot first.”

“He’ll learn from it. Good design, but easy to manipulate programming. He needs to make serious upgrades or Natasha will chop it to bits the first time she uses it.”

They found that the Tower was still standing and not the smoking ruin Tony had predicted. Although they didn’t have time to catch up on Avengers news when they landed. Natasha greeted them with “Glad to see you’re back. Get in uniform -- we have an alarm.”

Steve snapped right into Captain America mode. “What’s the problem?” he asked, heading to the locker room.

“Sam thinks it’s a time-traveling robot army. Clint and Scott think it’s just doombots. Thor and Hulk don’t care as long as there’s enough to smash.”

It turned out Sam was right, and the team spent all day fighting an army of time-traveling robots. No time for banter or distractions as Steve barked out a steady stream of orders. To Steve, the whole thing felt a lot like the last fire fight, except for being even more exhausting and miserable. He glanced up to see Iron Man zoom by chasing down some stray robots.

In many ways, today was a lot better than last week. He had Tony and Tony loved him.

After the robots were dispatched and everyone had a good long rest, the team gathered for a debrief and a celebratory pizza lunch. Steve sorted through the pile of boxes looking for any remaining slices with pepperoni, listening idly to the talk around the table. He brightened when he realized no one was talking about the contest.

And then Tony decided to bring it up. “Anyone want to see the contest results so far?”

Clint groaned. “I’d rather hear about your spontaneous vacation to a real tropical island that didn’t involve dinosaurs or HYDRA and surprisingly wasn't the Savage Land.”

“Oh, I see why. Unless there are any major changes in the voting overnight, Hulk is cruising to an easy win, followed by Thor,” Tony said cheerfully.

Hulk laughed and slapped Thor’s back. “Team Green,” he repeated.

“So Clint’s Number Three?” Natasha asked.

“No,” Tony said. “I’m third. Steve has made an impressive showing over the past couple of days and is sitting at fourth. Clint is number 5 and Scott has the lowest vote count.”

Sam looked bewildered. “Steve? Number 4? How did that happen?”

“I know,” Natasha said. “Someone started an Instagram for Sexy Grandpa and posted lots of pictures of someone who looks a lot like Steve in various stages of undress. Whoever is running the account implies that the pictures are all of Steve.”

“Which is completely not true unless Steve has a tattoo on his ass that no one knows about.” Clint glared at Tony, who shook his head ‘no.’

“I don’t think anyone is looking closely at the guy’s face to determine if it really is Steve or not,” Natasha observed.

“It was fun while it lasted,” Clint said philosophically. But the glint in his eye implied he hadn't quite given up yet.

The team dispersed throughout the Tower. Tony helped Steve clean up the lunch.

“So, Sexy Grandpa?” Steve asked.

Tony shrugged. “Stark Industries intern. I asked her to research and set up the account. Didn’t expect it to be so successful, but she’s very resourceful. I’ve already offered her a job with the PR team.”

Steve smiled. Tony’s methods were strange, but it was nice that Tony thought of him. “Thanks, Tony.”

Tony hip-bumped him as he passed. “Since I know you didn’t want pictures on the internet, I decided on the next best thing. I told you, it was all about promoting on social media. Doesn’t even have to be you for people to decide that you’re sexy. I’m sure someone could write a paper on that ….”

He caught Tony around the waist to kiss him. “You’re terrific, Tony.”

“Honestly, Steve, you’re the hottest and sexisest man I’ve ever dated. I think that the world should know that. But you have this unreasonable thing about privacy --”

Steve kissed the tip of Tony’s nose. “Once we’ve finished here, let’s talk it over some more, in your room.”

“Ooh, I can't argue with that, Mr. Sexiest Avenger Number 4.”