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It took two months and fourteen days.

Well, two months and sixteen days if you wanted to be nitpicky and count the two days it had taken Tony to actually accept that yes, the phone was still lying on his desk, and no, it wouldn’t magically disappear just because he wished it so.

The phone, and beneath it, that goddamn letter.

If you need me, I’ll be there.

Fuck. He’d only read it once but Steve’s words had burned themselves into his memory and that last line especially was on constant replay. Need him? Why should he possibly need Steve, after everything that had happened? Why should he suddenly want to call the guy?

Steve hadn’t only beaten the shit out of him, he’d lied to him—kept secrets from him, and thus destroyed whatever friendship there had ever been between them.

Twirling the phone in his hand, Tony put it down on his work desk with a sigh. It wasn’t that he blamed Steve. Not for all of it, at least. He’d gone too far, yes, but some part of Tony had known, from the beginning that Steve wouldn’t budge. And putting that theory to test repeatedly—it had only hurt them more. Tony guessed he had simply, naïvely, hoped that he’d be wrong about this. That Steve would see reason; would see that things couldn’t go on like this. But he hadn’t. And Tony had been too focused on getting his point across, that he hadn’t seen what had lay right before him.

They were living in a skewed world and they all knew it. And Tony, like the rest, did nothing to break free.

Only Steve did, damn the consequences.

And ever since Steve and Barnes had walked away to god-knows where, Tony’s mornings bore the desire to not get up, to not get in the shower and not go kill himself a bit more today. It never worked. The hold was too great. He had to attend Supreme Court hearings, and CIA hearings, and Senate hearings every day. He did work for institutions with hands that were no longer his, and left the office not really knowing if the world was better or worse for it.

He knew this was slowly destroying him, but there was fuck all he could do about it.

The irony of it all was that he had known this. Signing the Sokovia Accords, he’d known that at the end of it all, there might be still Rhodey at his side, there might still be Vision, but most of the team would leave.

Steve would for sure.

With a sigh, Tony picked the phone up again, and stared down at it.

That. Goddamn. Phone.

It was almost arrogant of Steve to think he could bait Tony like this. Send him a phone, and expect him to break the silence.

Fucking coward.

It was an outdated model, but clearly pimped somehow. He hadn’t taken a closer look at it so far, but it seemed sturdy, impact resistant, and if he had to take a wild guess, he’d say there was probably a GPS jammer in there.

“What were you thinking, Rogers,” he murmured, running a finger over the tiny display.

If you need me, I’ll be there.

What good would it do to call Steve anyway? They had both made their standpoints very clear, and Steve had made his decision. The guy had lied to him, kept the one thing from him that Tony could not forgive, so what good would it do to talk now?

His finger was scrolling through the phone’s menu and before he knew what was happening, Tony had already opened its contacts. There was only one number in there, and Tony rolled his eyes when he saw the name. Nomad.

“Drama queen,” he said and shook his head. He put the phone down again, twirled it once, then picked it back up. Biting his lower lip, he pushed down on the call button. Whatever. There was no harm in checking if Steve had at least given him the right number.

After a few endless rings, there was a click, and then silence.

Right. Of course Steve wouldn’t greet him with a ‘Hello, who’s there’, or even just say his name. He’d given Tony the phone, so he knew who the caller was. Kinda made Tony curious what name he’d tagged Tony with in his phone. Stark? Traitor? Judas?

“Tony,” Steve said after another beat, and heaved a low breath. His voice was crackling, electronic clicks breaking through the receiver. “I know it’s you.”

It shouldn’t feel good to hear the man’s voice again, the rational part of Tony’s brain knew that. And yet, Tony had to close his eyes for a moment, forcing his heartbeat to go the fuck down.

“Tony?” Steve prompted cautiously, then sighed, when Tony didn’t answer. “I’m glad you called... Wasn’t sure you would.”

Tony tossed a careful glance to the workshop’s glass front. In the other room, Rhodey was still on the treadmill, although FRIDAY had only allowed him half an hour training per day. The thing was barely moving, and Rhodey stared ahead with determination while taking one step after the other. When he stumbled, barely able to catch himself, Tony pushed another button, effectively ending the call.

He slammed the phone back down on the table and drummed his fingers on the surface in frustration. Opening one of the desk’s drawers, he threw it in, and stood up.

That had been a mistake, but at least now, he got it out of his system.

 

* * *

 

It took two more weeks before he called Steve again. This time, however, Steve didn’t say a word either. Tony managed a whole minute of listening to his shallow breathing before he ended the call once more.

There were two more calls of heavy silence before it was Tony’s phone that started ringing. It was in the middle of the night, and Tony was in his empty, giant bed, doing what he liked to call ‘trying not to lose your shit over the fucking what-ifs of life’. And yes, he’d taken the damn phone into his bedroom, so what. He obviously couldn’t risk anyone to find it, and there was still one super-spy living under his roof so… better safe than sorry.

And now, the damn phone was ringing. At two fucking a.m.

At first, Tony didn’t even make the connection between the noise and the phone, and when he did, he was too paralyzed to move. Steve was calling him.

When Tony closed his eyes to get his bearings, he momentarily recalled the look in Steve’s eyes when he’d raised his shield and smashed it down on Tony’s arc reactor. That look had haunted him all through the nights to follow. He had wracked his brain if Steve might have, for just a second, thought of ramming it into Tony’s throat rather than the suit and came up empty. Possibly. Maybe.

Would he have killed Steve, given the chance?

He liked to think not, but that rage… it had been everywhere inside of him. Knowing that Barnes had strangled his mother—his innocent mother—with his bare hand, it was—

“Fuck!” Tony ground out, reached for the phone, and pushed down on the answer-button. “Don’t call me again,” he spat into the speaker. His voice was raspy with disuse, and there was an odd, unpleasant flavor haunting his mouth. But in all honesty, that was an afterthought when he threw the phone against the wall without waiting for an answer.

He heard it shatter, and for minutes, he attempted to simply put Steve out of his mind. Forget how he’d once looked at Tony with such patience. How he’d often sat down with him for hours, bickering about music and movies, and television series and trash magazines. How he’d respected him, depended on his opinion, and—

“Shit,” Tony cursed and stood up. He scrambled over to where the broken phone was lying on the floor and squatted down in front of it. Raising it up into his field of vision, he sighed with relief. Just a few scratches, and the casing had fallen off, taking the battery with it.

An easy fix.

A few minutes later, he was down in the workshop, putting the phone’s parts back together.

“What am I even doing here,” Tony wondered when he closed the casing. He leaned forward, burying his face into the crook of his arm and pressed the phone to his ear. For minutes he kept it there, grimacing at nothing, before he blindly dialed Steve’s number. It took a whole lot longer for him to pick up than it did before, and Tony only realized how relieved he was to hear the free-line signal when it resounded.

“Giving me a phone was a dick-move, Rogers. You knew I couldn’t resist.”

A small breathy sound. “Guilty as charged,” Steve said. There was a long pause, as if Steve had only planned for a ‘hello’ and not much more. He awkwardly cleared his throat. “Did I wake you?”

“No. Can’t sleep.”

“Me neither.”

That, Tony realized, might just be the most peaceful conversation they’d had since… well, quite frankly, since they’d met.

“And where exactly is it that you can’t sleep?” Tony asked and cringed a little. He hadn’t meant to outright ask, but this was unknown territory, something he wasn’t used to, and all witty tactics had flown out of the window the second he’d heard Steve speak again.

Steve sighed. “You know I can’t tell you that.”

“Uh-uh,” Tony started, and let himself fall back into the chair, “And you know that I could just track your location, right?”

“I… I was told you couldn’t.”

Tony raised a brow in mock-question. So there was a jammer inside the phone. As if that’d keep him. Before he could say something, however, Steve had seemed to come to the same conclusion.

“Alright, maybe you could. Question is: Will you?”

It was tempting. Not so much because he wanted to bring all of them in front of a Jury—he’d never wanted that—more because he hated knowing that they were all somewhere at the end of the world, hiding from him.

“No,” Tony said.

He could hear Steve swallow. “Good. Thank you.”

There was a pregnant pause. “I meant what I wrote, you know,” Steve added, his voice suddenly very quiet. “I’m sorry for not telling you. I didn’t think it would’ve changed anything. Only would’ve hurt you.”

“I’m hurt now.”

“I know.”

Tony rubbed a hand over his eyes, feeling a headache rise. “Gotta go. Good night, Steve.”

He heard Steve trying to get something in, but before he could say it, Tony ended the call. With shaking limbs, he stood up from the chair. His eyes fell on Steve’s shield that was leaning against his desk. He let his hand trace over its edge, and closed his eyes.

He could still feel it. The pressure of the shield jammed down right above his heart.

 

* * *

 

The calls came more frequently, after that. At first, they didn’t really say anything substantial, only tiptoeing around the giant elephant in the room. It wasn’t quite small talk either, more like fragile inanities that, once taken into a wrong direction, could prove distracious.

Aside from the one time Steve had mentioned Barnes in a side comment, which had resulted in harsh words and a week of Tony not even looking at the phone, they had managed not to set the minefield ablaze too often.

Today, however, Tony’s mood was at a record low. Ross was once more trying to force him to actively hunt for the fugitives, convinced that Tony knew something he didn’t. And there were developments inside Congress, about more restrictions, more surveillance, that was giving Tony pause.

He wasn’t sure when exactly he and Steve had decided to actually talk politics during their phone calls, leaving the semi-peaceful plane of small talk, but apparently, it was a thing now.

Strangely enough, while their conversations were still tense, still agitated, they both seemed to be more willing to actually listen to the other’s standpoint, at least—most of the time.

Not so much today.

Tony clenched his jaw, struggling to calm down. His knuckles whitened as his grip on the phone constricted. If he yelled at Steve, it would only serve to prove his point. He also knew if he hung up, Steve would only call him right back.

A long, winded sigh rolled off Steve’s shoulders. “That’s not the way to go, Tony.”

“That line is getting old,” Tony retorted bitterly. He stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom. “Was it the way to go when you decided to rip everything we had apart? To look at the one chance that could’ve kept the team together, and decide to damn it all to hell? That the way you’re talking about?”

“It wouldn’t have been right.”

Tony huffed, waving a dismissive hand at the empty room. “Of course not. Hell, you haven’t changed your mind at all, did you?”

“I’m regretting certain things. I haven’t changed my mind.”

God, sometimes he really hated the guy and his giant container of principles.

“Look. Let’s just drop it for today. We’re getting nowhere, and I’m really, really tired.”

He heard Steve sigh, long and heavy. “I know you are. I just… If they can just add things to the Accord whenever they please, you basically signed a blank approval—And I know that wasn’t what you had in mind either. I’m worried about you, that’s all.”

The tone in his voice gave Tony pause. Like he knew exactly what Tony had gone through within those last months, and that wasn’t possible. He didn’t give that much information away.

“I’ll figure it out,” was all he could say, the volume of his own voice jarring him out of the long stretch of silence that spread between them.

“Of course you will,” Steve said. “But you need a break. I know your free time’s down to a zero. Gonna kill yourself if you aren’t careful.”

“I can’t stop, Steve. If I stop, then—”

“Then what? You’re running yourself ragged.”

Tony groaned and rubbed his eyes. That wasn’t something Steve could just assume. “You’re talking to Natasha, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question. He knew the two had never really been on the outs.

There was a moment of surprised silence. “Wasn’t very subtle, was I?” Steve huffed—not quite a laugh, but close to it. “Please don’t be mad at her, we barely speak. I just… asked how you were doing. Needed to know how you were faring after…”

He trailed off, but Tony heard his words loud and clear: After what Bucky and I did to you.

“I’m physically fine,” Tony said. “I just… can’t stop. This is my life. I go and I go and I keep on going until I figure it out. I can’t even be the friend Rhodey needs right now because I’m too busy playing solo entertainer for the rest of the world. I can’t stop. Not until it’s over.”

“It will never be over, Tony.”

Tony fell silent, taken aback by the truth that he never wanted to think about; the reality of his life; the never-ending, ceaseless pattern of doing and going until he couldn’t anymore.

“You’re a hero. It’s what you do. You fight and you fight more and then someone mucks up the works and makes you fight even harder. Just how it goes.”

Tony inhaled lowly, burying his head into his pillows and slowly rotating the shield that was now lying next to him on the bed. “Since when did you get so insightful?”

Steve snorted, but Tony knew he was smiling when he said, “I’m a hundred years old, remember?”

“There’s no correlation between age and wisdom. And frozen years don’t count, anyway.”

“Do, too.”

Tony huffed, and grinned into the darkness. “’Do, too’? There you have your proof, you’re basically twelve.”

There was another long moment of silence then, but somehow, it was a lot less uncomfortable.

And yet, it was strange; the whole thing was just strange. Most of the time, Tony wanted to find a reason to get off the phone but at the same time, he’d almost come to depend on hearing Steve’s voice every day.

It would be different if Steve were here in the flesh. Tony made no mistake in admitting to himself that if Steve had said these things to his face, right now, he wouldn’t have gotten past saying his name without a fist to his nose. But he wasn’t there. He was a voice through a receiver that had no face, no piercing blue eyes to see right through him.

“This is nice,” Steve said softly, almost so low Tony couldn’t hear. He was probably afraid to say it. Braver this time, he added, “Talking with you. Like this.”

It was, Tony realized. “Perhaps we should handle all our business over the phone.”

“Least that way we won’t end up bleeding all over the floor,” Steve said. He quickly grew silent, the words too portentous after all. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Tony replied, and oh goddammit it, he didn’t even know what he was forgiving Steve for, anymore.

 

* * *

 

The thing about being awake in the middle of most nights and talking on the phone with your assumed enemy was that it made you awfully introspective.

It had been almost three months before Tony had called him for the first time. Three months of brooding in the stillness of T’Challas home. Listening to the silence emanating from Bucky’s cryo-chamber. He had just been waiting, he knew that now. Sitting in his chair, waiting for Tony to finally call and give him a good talking to.

Putting a phone inside the letter’s envelope had been a last minute’s decision. He’d only meant to apologize for everything he’d put Tony through, at first—to give the both of them some sort of temporary closure. But as soon as he’d closed the envelope, he couldn’t bear the thought of this being the end.

If he sent the letter away now, that’d be the last thing he’d say to Tony, and hear from him, for a very long time.

So he’d asked T’Challa for two tap-proof phones, and the man had gotten them for him without raising any questions. Steve was almost sure Sam knew what he was doing, but he didn’t say anything.

He sort of already knew how mucked up Steve’s emotions were whenever it came to Tony.

So he had put the phone next to the letter, added a few lines to it, and sent it away. Had it been anyone else, Steve had to assume he wouldn’t ever get a call. How do you move on from what they had done to each other? But it was Tony, and…

To be honest, Steve had counted on the fact that the phone would drive him nuts. It would be lying there, likely always in his field of vision because Tony had a habit of tormenting himself with things he hadn’t yet made his mind up about.

The phone was a reminder, an option, a chance, plain and simple. And three months in, Steve’s phone had vibrated in his back pocket. What followed were tensed words, harsh breaths and pointed silence. But eventually, they found a routine. They talked, lightly at first, and it made Steve stare at the ceiling as he took the time to think about the severity of his current situation and bask a little in easy conversation.

He couldn’t picture them talking like this while in the same room, at least not like they used to. That last time when they’d had a fairly civilized conversation—when Tony had put Roosevelt’s fountain pen in front of him, asking him to sign the Act—they’d both been keenly aware of each other’s body language, of every facial expression, however marginal. And that conversation hadn’t exactly gone well.

Not seeing each other … it made things easier.

“You used to really annoy the crap out of me, sometimes,” Tony said, his voice low. Steve heard some clinking in the background, a short welding sound, and he knew Tony was in the shop again.

“Geez, thanks,” he said in return. He was leaning against the ceiling high windows, staring out into the jungle, his eyes trailing over the giant panther statue. It was midday, which meant it was sometime around three a.m. in New York.

“Now it’s mostly confusion.”

“I confuse you? How so?” He kept the tone of his voice casual, too afraid that goading Tony into an explanation would scare him away.

“Never mind.” Tony yawned, groaning in pleasure when something popped—probably his back. The guy didn’t have a very good posture whenever he sat hunched over his work table “You’re just a lot easier to deal with this way.”

“That goes both ways.”

“Please, I’m always charming. But you… you’re a lot less self-righteous.”

Steve huffed. “I’m not self-righteous. I’m…set in my ways.”

“Stubborn.”

“Resolute.”

Tony chuckled. “Your denial is starting to lose its charm, you know.”

That tone was back in his voice again, the teasing, silken tenor that somehow affected Steve in a way that had always inspired irritation before. He didn’t know exactly when it had become something he just took in stride, but it wasn’t unpleasant.

“But I have to admit I’ve always liked you best when you were brutally honest with me, no matter how annoying it was,” Tony added, a bit more quiet, but no less sincere.

“And here I thought you liked me always.” Oh hell, Steve hadn’t meant to sound as seductive as he did right then. Tony must have been just as stunned by it, because he didn’t say a word for a very long time.

“Are you flirting with me?”

This was bad. He hadn’t meant to flirt. He was just really tired and Tony had that voice and they were casually talking, so maybe he’d lost track of how exactly his words came across.

“Sorry, that was out of the blue,” Tony said, sighing.

Not that out of the blue, a small and confused voice resounded in Steve’s head.

“What are we doing here, Tony.” He closed his eyes, and the jungle vanished.

“You gave me the phone. What did you think we were going to do?”

I don’t know, he wanted to say. Just something to fill the silence, but what came out was: “I couldn’t bear the thought of no longer having you in my life.”

A shaky breath. “You were the one who pushed me out of it. You chose him, remember?”

“I didn’t choose anyone. I chose the way that meant that—yes, everything would fall apart, and I accepted that—but it was also a way that might, in the long run, not cost me everything. I saw the ghost of a chance and I took it. I was selfish.”

“Oh bullshit. Selfish? You couldn’t have known that we’d all make it out of there. You risked having every single one of us killed. By our own hands. You accepted the worst case.”

“I did, yes. But if I’d chosen your side, Bucky would’ve died without a doubt.”

Tony heaved a deep breath and Steve could hear him taking the phone from his ear.

“Don’t hang up,” he hurried to say, and dammit, whenever he brought Bucky up, their conversation deteriorated into a fight.

Tony remained silent. And anything Steve could say would only give him more ammo.

“What do you want, Steve?” Tony asked, eventually. “Politics aside, what do you want?”

An answer was forming on his lips, taking Steve by surprise. He swallowed it down, and chose the second one that came to mind.

“I want to come home.”

 

* * *

 

Coming home wasn’t an option, Steve knew that. They both did.

There were other ways, though. And in the end, it took him three more weeks and twenty-seven days to finally man up and suggest for Tony to meet somewhere. After that, another five days for Tony to agree and ask for a location. And eight more hours before a short knock resounded within the hotel room Steve had booked for the next two days.

Eight hours and nine minutes, but it wasn’t like he was counting.

He hadn’t dared to stay anywhere near Wakanda. Tony was too smart not to put two and two together. Well, if he hadn’t done so already, Steve mused. There was every chance that he had only decided to play the cat and mouse thing for the time being.

They’d decided to meet in the middle, in some smaller village near Lisbon. The room itself was nice enough, there were a lot of plants and greenery, and almost everything was made out of a lighter wood.

Bracing himself, Steve moved to open the door, and then he was looking at Tony. And Tony was looking back.

A still air settled between them, daring them to break the solace their phone calls had given them. What they’d had in those last weeks—that had been safe. They’d refrained from the harder issues that would only hurt once deciphered.

Tony looked good, though. With the baseball cap, and glasses on, the loose-fitting jeans and the black sweater, he looked more casual than Steve ever remembered seeing him, but good nevertheless. Not as sharp, somehow, a lot softer.

Tony broke the gaze and took one look at the room. His eyes settled on the beige linen sheets. Then he huffed.

“Should’ve known you’d book one of those greenie hotels,” Tony said, obviously trying to sound bored and nonchalant. “You really couldn’t be more proper than this.”

Steve sighed. Here we go again. Of course Tony would immediately fall back into their usual half-distant kind of communication, the closeness of their latest calls vanishing into thin air. “I booked the one that was most secluded. I didn’t look into their ‘about’ page.”

Tony raised a brow, and finally pulled off his shaded sunglasses. There was no hurt and no tears in his big brown eyes today. The mask of professionalism was back up and very firmly in place. “You’re alone?” he asked.

Steve scratched his neck, nodded. “Yeah, like I promised.” He stepped aside and motioned for Tony to come into the room, pretending not to notice when Tony’s eyes swept over the room, checking the windows and corners twice.

Steve paused, and moved to close the door. When he turned around again, Tony’s shoulder were set in a tensed line, like a cat caught in a cage.

“I promise, no one’s here,” Steve assured him.

Tony hummed thoughtfully. He had a big duffle bag slung over his shoulder that he now let fall down on the hotel room floor. He turned back around to Steve and raised a brow. “And Barnes?”

“He’s… being monitored.”

“Is he now,” Tony said, one corner of his mouth rising. “Trying to keep him from killing any more people, now? You didn’t seem to care much in Germany.”

“Tony,” Steve breathed, irritated. “I—”

Tony’s eyes flared dangerously. “No, I’m done with your apologies. That’s not why I’m here.”

There was a sudden harsh note in his voice that hadn’t been there during their latest calls. And Steve would be lying if he said the shield that he withdrew from his bag didn’t come as a massive surprise. And now Tony was coming toward him, his body wracked with resentment and determination.

“I just came here to give this back. I don’t want it around anymore.”

Steve met his eyes and shot back the same determination he was giving him. The same irritation. The same resignation.

“That’s not why you’re here and you know it,” Steve replied. Hell, they were really walking on eggshells. One wrong step and their fragile truce would shatter to pieces.

In any case, Steve’s words seemed to trigger something within Tony. He just stared at him for a whole minute, his pulse racing. The scent of his aftershave was flooding Steve’s nostrils. “And what do you think I came here for?”

A tremor ran through Steve’s body. Words left him, and he kept staring at Tony, at the room, then back.

Tony’s hands were now balled to fists. “You know what: Call me when you know what you want,” he spat and moved to walk past Steve. On pure instinct, Steve grabbed his hand to stop him, feeling a jolt go through Tony limbs. He tried to struggle and free himself, and glared at Steve when he didn’t let him go.

“Hands off. I know I don’t look like it, but I could shoot you in the head in about one point five seconds.”

Steve paused, and sure enough, he could feel Tony’s watch beneath his fingertips, the one he knew could easily transform into something very lethal.

“I didn’t come here to fight,” Steve said.

“Then, let go.” With that, Tony lunged, the shield still raised in his free hand. Steve winced out of reflex, but held his ground. The shield only touched his chest with the barest hint of strength, then Tony lowered it back down. And with it gone, Tony was suddenly very close, the determination leaking from his eyes.

And Steve couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t handle Tony being so far from him. Standing just inches from where he was and yet miles away.

And Tony just stared at him. He was practically daring him to do something.

So he did.

Steve’s hands closed around Tony’s upper arms and yanked him forward. The shield clamored to the ground, and the next second, his mouth attacked Tony’s, pouring his confused lust and endless need into him.

It lasted only a moment, then Tony’s lips were gone. He leaned back in his hold, panting and looking at him with pure anger. His eyes were glossed over. He looked so confused. And so irrevocably lost.

They wouldn’t be who they were if they stopped surprising each other.

What was he even doing, Steve asked himself. Why had he done this now of all times. Only four months ago he’d kissed Sharon, convinced it was what he wanted, and then Tony had come clean on his breakup with Pepper and then…

And then everything else.

And now that Tony was standing in front of him again, he’d ruined it on an impulse.

“I’m sorry,” he rasped, and made to let go of Tony’s arms.

But something changed. Something in Tony’s eyes changed and he was back against him, grasping his head. “Stop apologizing for things you aren’t sorry for,” he told him and pulled Steve’s mouth down to his.

Tony’s arms were around him the next second, clutching him tightly. His mouth drew away and ignited into an exploration, brushing his lips against Steve’s cheek and trailing a wet path of kisses down his throat.

“You’re a presumptuous bastard,” Tony gasped and slowly walked them to the king-sized bed. “You didn’t even book a second room, did you?”

“No,” Steve replied, and oh, he really was drowning in Tony’s taste, and Tony was not fighting him. He was kissing him back. They fell down on the bed together, Tony on top of him, and Steve groaned in surprise when he pressed his middle down against Steve’s own.

“This is crazy,” Tony gasped, pulling his mouth away from Steve’s. He didn’t put up a fight when Steve turned them around, hovering over him now. Instead, his legs went around his waist automatically, pulling him back down.

How things had gotten so out of control so quickly, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he needed to touch Tony as much as he could before he’d leave again.

“I know.”

“We were ready to kill each other.” Tony wound his left arm around Steve’s shoulders, his other hand busying itself with his shirt, pulling it up.

“Never wanted that,” Steve gasped. “I only needed to… stop you.”

Steve’s shirt sailed across the room the next second, and Tony’s nails were digging painfully hard into his back, even while his lips covered every part of his face, taking his mouth whenever his journeying kisses brought him close enough. “I wanted to hate you for keeping it from me,” Tony said. “Couldn’t. Still can’t.”

Steve tore Tony’s feet free of his shoes before shoving both pants and boxer briefs down. “I wish I wouldn’t have. Kept it from you, I mean. I’m—”

“Shut up,” Tony said, and kissed him again. His fingers had somehow opened Steve’s zipper in record time, wrapping around his cock, while shoving his jeans down with his bare feet. His hand pumped up and down the length of his shaft as though they had been doing this for ages. In just a few seconds, any hesitation Steve had harbored about this flew out the window. A throaty gasp tore through his lips, and his head collapsed against Tony’s shoulder.

“How long have you wanted this,” he asked, heaving low breaths. “Tell me. How much time did we lose?”

“Don’t know,” Tony replied and he had a look in his eyes as though he had just come awake after decades of darkness.

Perhaps he wasn’t alone, then, in this sudden feeling.

“Maybe when you left. Maybe when we met. Probably somewhere in between.”

Steve nodded. He fisted the material of Tony’s sweater and tore the cloth away, wasting no pleasantries before he reached for Tony’s cock as well.

“I always loved seeing you down in the shop,” Steve admitted, trying for a tiny smile. “All mad scientist, brilliant and beautiful. Don’t know when I started looking, exactly, but I’ve wanted you for… a while now.”

Tony huffed, sounding almost amused. The mist abandoned his eyes for just a second, and Steve found him looking at him with flecks of guarded adoration. “Could’ve had it all, huh?”

“Yeah,” Steve breathed, then groaned when Tony cupped his balls, while rearranging their position somewhat until their cocks aligned.

“It was… was one of the reasons Pepper left,” Tony admitted quietly. He cupped Steve’s ass and molded into him, moving against him in slow strokes. His eyes were glued to his face. And Steve watched back. His eyes were on him, and in that moment, he saw no anger. No hatred. Instead, he was Tony at his best. Tony watching him with curiosity, with a thirst of knowledge and a firm will to learn and understand.

“You over it?” Steve asked.

Tony raised a brow. “You over Pegs? Sharon?”

Steve bit his lower lip. “Fair enough.”

The thought that he could have lost this was made ridiculous in a matter of easy seconds. So many months—years—burying himself in denial. They had lost so much time.

There were mingled pants between them after their lips parted again, Tony’s mouth taking chart down his throat, their thrusts gaining speed. “You feel so good,” Steve murmured into his skin, his other hand slipping over his thigh and skating between his ass cheeks.

“Steve—“

His thumb settled over his hole and began caressing the little opening softly to counteract the growing fierceness of his thrusts. He pressed in, just the tiniest bit, and Tony went perfectly still in his arms.

“Wait.” Tony wiggled out from under him and reached for his duffle bag, pulling something out. Steve’s eyes widened, when he realized it was a bottle of lube and a pack of condoms.

“Who’s the presumptuous bastard now?” he teased.

“Yeah, yeah… I’m a scientist, contingencies are kind of my thing. Now get to work, Steve,” Tony all but ordered, spreading his legs somewhat, and the next couple of minutes were a series of moans and whimpers, and not just from Tony.

He’d never done this before, not with a fella, and Tony probably knew, but he didn’t call him out on it. Steve knew the basics, and everything else, Tony guided him through with little gestures and gentle words.

By the end of it, Steve’s fingers were pumping hard inside Tony; his lips were teasing his ears, his neck, his mouth. And just when he thought he was going to bring him over the edge just with this, Tony quickly removed his fingers and replaced it with his cock.

“Fuck,” Steve said, slowly pushing his way inside.

“That’s right,” Tony groaned. He wrapped his arms around Steve’s neck, pressed his forehead to his and took him all the way in. They shared only a moment to gasp in wonder, before he kissed Tony hard and pulled out slowly.

“So good,” he said and sped up the pace, tugging Tony into every stroke by the grip to his ass.

“Kiss me,” Tony said, tunneling his fingers into his hair, looking almost drunk and beautiful and on the verge of coming.

His tongue flicked over Tony’s lips and he tilted his head and did it again before dipping inside to kiss him properly. They were moaning into one another’s mouths, digging their fingers into each other’s arms, muscles tightening, memorizing every second.

The room was quiet except for the sounds of noisy springs, the mutual pants, and the slap of flesh against flesh. It was somehow more intimate, more real, than anything Steve had ever experienced. Unlike any fantasy he might have made up in the past, unlike anything he would have expected. He touched Tony and his skin sizzled, he breathed and Tony shuddered. His cock slid in and out of him as if it had always needed to be there.

He didn’t want it to end.

But his body had other ideas. He knew the minute he was about to come and suddenly his fingers were plucking at Tony’s cock and he leaned back a bit to change the angle of his thrusts. His head dropped forward to watch and he hissed in pleasure.

“Look at you,” Tony panted. “Fuck, you’re perfect.”

“I’m gonna—”

“I know. Look at me. Please, look at me.”

With whatever strength he had left, he was able to drag his eyes up to Tony’s, though they were half closed, and his chest was heaving with the promise of a volatile orgasm. He smiled at him, his hair wrecked from Steve’s fingers and his eyes dark and glassy. Suddenly, his back arched away from the bed, his muscles clamped around his cock and his mouth opened in a silent cry.

Steve groaned and held him firmly against him as he started to move faster. He was pounding against him, when finally his entire body tensed up so fiercely he couldn’t even move anymore. At that, Tony took over the movements, bouncing against him and squeezing him tightly. Steve’s forehead fell onto his shoulder, almost wheezing as he finally let go.

Moments later, his breath danced over his skin, and Tony’s nails were drawing patterns in his scalp. Steve lifted his head and searched his eyes for something.

Tony inhaled a shaky breath. “This ends tomorrow, doesn’t it?”

He didn’t know how to answer him. He knew that, if nothing else but the two of them existed, he could be happy. But the light of day would change everything. This had happened so fast, without any real ground to stand on, and that made it very breakable. So he decided to be honest with him. “I don’t know.”

Tony nodded, watching the movement of his hand as it skimmed down the side of Steve’s rib cage. “I know you don’t… I know you won’t come back for a while.” His Adam’s apple quivered as he swallowed hard. “But this was… this meant something to you, didn’t it?”

Steve smiled. “It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision to get you in the sack, if that’s what you want to know.”

“If it was, it worked.”

“Yeah. But it wasn’t.” He smiled softly and kissed him. “It means a whole lot, Tony.”

Steve could tell that Tony was trying not to grin, shielding his eyes as he looked away. “So you’re not gonna kick me in the head and run out of here, virtue fluttering.”

“No.” His mouth brushed against Tony’s, two fingers sliding over his hipbone. “I don’t do things like that if I don’t mean it.”

“Of course not,” Tony said, looking vaguely amused. “So you want me.”

“I want you.”

“Okay,” he whispered.

It was a strange sensation, being so happy with someone who had all but ripped him in two, someone he had fought just months before.

If he was perfectly honest, the feelings for Tony had taken years to unlock. He had been so afraid at first that he had kept his attraction for him very close to the heart. Had turned himself away from all those revelations whenever he’d been near him.

Tony wet his lips and trailed his eyes down the length of his body. His face looked boyishly peaceful, then, the hint of a happy smile tugging at his lips.

Oh, he could love him, Steve thought in that moment. So easily.

Maybe what they had was doomed right now, but it wouldn’t be forever.

“I wager you’re gonna piss me off at some point, again,” Tony mused, as Steve eventually pulled out slowly and flopped down on the bed next to him.

He raised a brow and looked over to him. “And you’re always an example of perfect behavior.”

“Glad you agree.”

Steve chuckled at the wicked look that flashed across his face. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just has to be real.”

A long sigh sailed through Tony’s lips. Then he turned around and snuggled into him, dropping a kiss on his chest, right over his heart.

There were things they both needed to face. The world outside waited with a whole bunch of people who would not understand, and the next catastrophe was already somewhere down the road. It didn’t matter, though. Nothing mattered right now. Tony’s arms were around him.

The rest could wait a day.

 

* * *

 

When Tony boarded his private jet the next morning, the phone in his back pocket vibrated. He flipped it open and looked down on the display, a smile tugging at his lips.

Same place, next week? I’ll see when I can get out.

Sure, Tony wrote back. I’m just one phone call away.