There was so little left in this world that could actually make him feel like he was alive .
Each ragged pant, each wheezing gasp, each hoarse moaning breath blowing short brown curls against his ear drew him further from reality and onto another plane of existence where there was nothing but the pain and the pleasure . The thick, heavy body behind his own was slick with sweat, firm muscles and taut tendons flexing with every movement. A strong arm wrapped around his tense stomach kept him hanging above the high thread-count bedsheets; his smaller frame was trapped against the other man’s, pinned in place, the solid rhythm of each thrust jerking him forward against the bicep and forearm he was clinging to as if his life depended on it.
Tony was drunk. Of course he was drunk; he hadn’t had a drop of alcohol in a year and a half, even with everything that had happened. But Pepper’s words had taken him and crushed him beneath the weight of his guilt, his sorrow, and his own self-hate.
The powerful arm around his chest lifted him higher, clenched him tighter, and Tony felt the pace of his friend’s hips pick up just slightly.
He’s close, he thought, licking his dry lips as his own breath came in shallow, shaky gasps. He squeezed his blurry eyes shut and mentally braced himself for what he knew came next.
“I’m gonna keep telling you this until you believe me,” were the hushed words against his ear, as sharp but gentle teeth took ahold of the lobe, tantalizing the sensitive nerve endings beneath the soft skin of Tony’s throat with his tongue. Deft, long, calloused fingers wrapped themselves around Tony’s aching length, and the billionaire made a groaning, choking noise of relief. “And eventually you’re gonna have to believe me…”
The bigger, stronger man’s erection was huge inside of him, so much so that Tony was almost regretting it. Almost. Until today, in his own words, ‘his exit hole had always remained his exit hole’. But tonight, when his friend and confidant had come to his condo, things had changed between them in the way they usually handled these urges and emotions together, and Tony had needed something… more.
Against the side of his face, the blond man gave a strangled moan, his lips parting and his mouth opening wide. His hand quickened around Tony’s cock, pumping and squeezing it at the base, flicking his thumb across the head whenever his journey to the tip was complete. Tony had to wonder why a man like him was so well-versed in that general area… but Tony typically avoided bringing up anything during these sessions that might remind him of exactly what he was doing, and so he had never asked, never even cracked a joke about it. And his friend seemed to sense his discomfort, because he never brought it up.
“Fuck…” spat Tony, grinding his hips back as hard as he could against the narrow yet robust hips that were now more mercilessly slamming against him from behind. To begin with, they had been impossibly gentle. I don’t want to hurt you , his former team-mate had muttered against his lips, when he had first lined up his fully-lubed self and begun nudging the slick, slippery head of his dick again Tony’s tight-with-nerves virgin entrance. He probably wouldn’t have wanted it if he hadn’t been so drunk, but not because he didn’t want it -- because the alcohol allowed him to realize it was okay to want it .
Now, his friend was being far less gentle. The dark-haired former-Avenger’s constant pleas of harder and fuckin’ HURT me, Rogers! had gone heeded, the sex slowly evolving from something beautiful and sweet to something brutal and violent . And it hurt, yes, to feel the Captain’s generous girth stretching him open again and again, but the pain was part of why he was enjoying himself so much. It was part of what made him actually feel alive.
And after everything that had happened this week… Tony needed to feel alive.
“Tony… you… are allowed to be loved … you are not… alone …”
White-hot heat blossomed somewhere inside, and Tony threw his head back against the pillar of strength that was Steve’s shoulder, his mouth tearing itself open as an uncertain moan of surprise and some pleasure ripped itself from the hollow of his chest cavity. The arm around him squeezed him tighter, yanked his hips back against the Captain’s as far as physics would allow, burying Steve deep inside of him as the other man came hard. It was a sensation he couldn’t describe, a feeling he hadn’t quite anticipated, and he didn’t entirely hate it. And even if he had, his own impending orgasm would soon give him something entirely different to think about, as Steve’s practiced fingers finally brought him to climax.
He felt empty when his friend withdrew, and the part of his mind that constantly liked to churn out dark, inappropriate humour told him that now he finally knew why women cried after sex, considering he’d just been ploughed by one.
He told it to shut the fuck up.
“Mmf. You know the agreement, Captain Spandex. No talking.”
“Tony, shut the fuck up for a minute, okay?” Steve was moving against him, one muscular thigh sliding against the smaller man’s sharp hipbone, and he dared to let one arm crawl around Tony’s body. It was like venturing into enemy territory, never knowing when you would be shot at, or maimed, or attacked; and Tony knew that being around him like this was like walking on eggshells, but quite frankly, he didn’t fucking care. In fact, he’d locked it up tight with the rest of his conscious thoughts in a box somewhere at the back of his mind, and welded it shut tight with well-aged whiskey.
“You know, that’s just… unkind , Rogers. And such language from a national icon, really.”
“We shouldn’t sign it.” The words had fallen out of Steve’s mouth before he could stop them, and while he regretted just blurting it out, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. His body visibly relaxed into Tony’s as the retired Avenger craned his neck to stare .
“The Sokovia Accords.” Steve’s voice was gravelly and soft, a dark undertone of its usual self. “We shouldn’t sign it, Tony.”
The delicate physical contact between the two men was shifted and jolted about as Tony rolled onto his back, biceps drawing tight so that he could pull himself up onto his elbows. Moonlight filtered in through the open window, black curtains rustling a little every now and then as they were caught by a breeze. The cool glow flooded across his face, deepening the frown he was giving his friend.
“Are you serious? Or is this just another attempt to get around the whole no talking thing?”
Steve was staring right back at him, dark-blond eyebrows knitted together into a deep furrow above the bridge of his nose. He had that arrogant look in his eyes, the one where he wasn’t entirely sure why anyone would disagree with his opinion. “Are you serious? Tony, you… you’re actually considering it?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked with a shrug, sliding his leg away from Steve’s beneath the duvet. The moment had passed, and he wasn’t comfortable being that close with another man if that other man was looking at him like he was insane. “And why wouldn’t you be? You’re aware that we pretty much literally have no say in this matter, right?”
“Of course we have a say, we always have a say.”
“You’re letting that whole national icon thing go to your head, Rogers. At the end of the day, you don’t have any more rights than the rest of us.”
Steve glared at him with frozen blue eyes. He hated it when Tony was right.
“Look, Tony--” The blond man sighed in exasperation and put his hand up between them, in that irritating way he did when he wanted you to be quiet and listen to him. Tony had told him before, if he wanted to be Captain America in the bedroom, then he had to wear the goddamn uniform, but he never seemed to listen.
“We are not talking about this right now,” he said imperiously, closing his eyes and doing his best to reign in his emotions. Because it had been a long day, a long day, for both of them. And while they were both sort of people to go deliberately looking for a fight when they felt they had a point to prove, he knew that three o’clock in the morning when Tony was drunk and they were both exhausted and angry and full of self-loathing wasn’t the time to do it.
Tony rolled his head back to look up at the ceiling. His scarred chest pulsed as he snorted a sardonic laugh, lips curling back in the mildest of sneers.
“Atta boy, FILF, back down when you know you don’t have the balls to win,” muttered Tony, and Steve rolled his eyes, more than used to the other man’s reflexive arrogance by now. He knew Tony well enough by now to know that the man’s relationship with himself was the farthest thing from self-love. Instead of commenting on it and provoking him again, he screwed up his face at the possible attempted insult.
“Fossil I’d Like to Fuck,” he replied coolly as he wriggled his way back down under the duvet, curling up on his side with his back to Steve so that the Captain could reassume his position spooning him from behind. As much as he would never, could never admit it to himself, let alone aloud, it made him feel… safe.
“Thought I’d try something new rather than the same old suspects,” Tony continued, stuffing one arm under the pillow to get comfortable. Steve was scowling but he was behind him again, his ever so slight five o’clock shadow rough against the smaller man’s bare shoulder. Tony let his eyes droop closed and inhaled the familiar scent, and his pounding, racing heart began to slow.
It took a while. It always did. But eventually, the layers of armour began to unlink and the chainmail began to unweave itself, and the walls began to slowly come down.
“I don’t want to fight with you right now,” Tony eventually murmured in a hoarse voice, bile rising in his throat just at the thought of showing weakness, let alone actually doing it. He forced the contents of his stomach down again and focused on his breathing.
“I don’t want to fight with you either,” came the gruff, slightly perturbed response in his ear, and Steve kissed the back of his neck, breathing in the smell of coconut shampoo that cost more than he cared to know and the scent of Tony… which had become something of a drug to him in the last year, since Sokovia. He released the long inhale in one huge rush of air, causing the man in his arms to shudder.
“Truce ‘til the morning…?” Tony muttered sleepily, his fingers creeping out without his conscious knowledge to interlock with the ones that were splayed out against his stomach.
Steve nodded, kissed his ear, and -- as promised -- the two of them didn’t mention another word of it. Because promises weren’t all that difficult to keep… were they?
Clint Barton awoke in a cold sweat, a pair of wide, staring, ice-blue eyes burned into his retinas like a brand. He’d learned to control his sudden awakenings in the middle of the night so that he didn’t cry out or scream or yell or do anything else that might wake Laura (who was a terribly light sleeper these days) or the baby. It had come after Cooper had asked his mom why Uncle Clint had been so angry in the middle of the night, shouting and hollering; the idea that his nephew had been subjected to listening to that was… no. He wasn’t going to go down that path again. He wasn’t going to drag everybody around him down with him.
To the retired Avenger’s surprise, there was a glow of light filtering in from behind the curtains. It was already dawn, and he’d made it through another night. Now he just had to make it through another day.
He was almost always the first up, which meant he was almost always the one to make the coffee. Laura complained if he threw the filters out too soon; she was on one of her green kicks right now, all about saving the environment, which wasn’t something Clint could really argue with. He checked the filter, decided it could survive another pot’s worth at least, and set it to percolate.
“I’m actually amazed that you slept in this long.”
On a normal day, when he was his normal self, Natasha was one of the only people who could sneak up on him like that. So the fact that Laura had been nursing Nathaniel in the armchair by the porch door made him internally kick himself. Maybe it was a better thing than he’d realized that he wasn’t Avenging right now…
“Yeah, me too,” Clint said, a little too honestly. It was always harder to hide his emotions before he’d had his morning brew.
“How’d you sleep?”
“Eh.” Shoulders that remained built and athletic thanks to the manual labour around the farm lifted and fell in a careless shrug. “Same as usual. You?”
“He kept me up most of the night.”
“Which one?” asked Clint, and Laura was relieved to see one of those tiny little ghosts of a smile cross his lips for a brief moment. Genuine smiles were a rarity for her brother-in-law these days.
“The baby,” she said with a chuckle, shaking her head. She tore her eyes from him for long enough to check that Nathaniel was still drinking happily from the bottle of warm milk in her hand; not to put down what Clint was going through on an almost daily basis, but weening him for the past few months had been a nightmare .
“Thought I’m surprised either of us slept at all. Do all the Bartons snore that loudly?”
“Only those of us with personalities,” said Clint, moving to the fridge to pull out the creamer. He didn’t take any, but Laura would. “Which is few and far between.”
The two made idle chit-chat as Clint prepared three coffees and Laura finished feeding the youngest of her three children. By the time he was spooning vast amounts of sugar into two of them, Barney was descending the staircase with a deliberately over-exaggerated yawn. He kissed his wife good morning before collapsing into a chair at the dining table. As per usual for first thing in the morning, he looked like hell.
“My kid can scream,” was all he said, looking up at his younger brother with red-rimmed, bleary blue eyes. Clint snorted a laugh and passed him his coffee.
“I know. I fuckin’ heard.”
“So did I.” Barney gratefully accepted the hot beverage and sipped it without any regard for possible temperature hazard. Laura was gently rubbing her hand against Nathaniel’s chest; he was having a little trouble burping himself, so she tended to be quieter post-feeding.
A moment of quiet passed over the dining table as the three Bartons allowed themselves a few seconds to just take in the morning. It was Laura who was going to break it, parting her lips to speak, but as she did, Clint’s phone began buzzing on the tabletop. Barney was able to snoop a look at the caller I.D. before the blond could whisk the phone away into his hand. It wasn’t every day Captain America called your baby brother.
“Visit?” he asked gruffly, one bushy eyebrow lifting itself up. When the team dropped by, unless it was Natasha or Wanda, Barney tended to make himself scarce. The only knowledge the majority of them had of Clint’s big brother involved multiple rumours from around S.H.I.E.L.D. back in the day focused mostly around the fact that Barney had attempted to murder the Avenger several times. Things between the Barton brothers were… complicated to say the least, and Clint wasn’t really in any mood to explain it to anyone who didn’t already understand how their chemistry worked.
“Nothing scheduled,” said Clint with a frown. He stared at the screen with his brow furrowed for a few moments before depressing the button on the side of it, sending it to voicemail.
Surprised and mildly concerned, Barney and Laura exchanged glances.
“Okayyyyy,” the older Barton said, pausing to take another mouthful of black, unsweetened coffee. “So, I’m just gonna sit here awkwardly and pretend I didn’t see that.”
“Yet you’re gonna mention it,” grumbled Clint, in a way that said he was in absolutely no mood to discuss what he had just done. Not that that ever deterred Barney Barton, of course.
“Just saying, not every day Captain America calls your phone,” said Barney, and he shrugged as Laura pulled her lips together and focused on something else, not wanting to get involved. “Not interested in chattin’ to your old buddy, there?”
Clint’s stormy eyes flicked up to him, pinning him to his chair. Laura cleared her throat and readjusted Nathaniel in her arms, standing up.
“I think I’m gonna go change this guy,” she said, and if it was a lie, it was one the two men were grateful for. Clint was much less likely to open up in front of her. It wasn’t until she had closed the downstairs bathroom door that Barney leaned forward on the table, extended a hand, and smacked Clint across one side of his head as if the two of them had gone back to their adolescence.
“The fuck’s goin’ on with you?” he demanded in his gravelly, rural Midwestern drawl. “You’ve usually got your head so far up America’s ass you can actually talk to people when he opens his mouth. So what the hell, Clint? ‘Cuz I’m honestly gettin’ sick of puttin’ up with your shit right now.”
“He never calls me.” The former Avenger cast his eyes downward, not wanting to meet his brother’s, and his words fumbled their way across his tongue in a manner that made it painstakingly obvious he was uncomfortable with saying them. “Cap never calls me, unless it’s for a job.”
“So he’s got a job for you,” Barney deducted with a shrug. “So pick up your damn phone. You never know when something needs an arrow puttin’ through it.”
“What, and just work alongside her like nothing is wrong?” Clint spat, purely out of frustration, and he immediately wished he hadn’t done, because Barney was sitting back in his chair and watching him with narrow, judgemental eyes.
“Yeah. And work alongside her like nothin’ is wrong. ‘Cuz that’s your fuckin’ job .”
“No, it’s not,” said Clint, and his voice hushed several decibels. “Not anymore.”
“Why?” Barney demanded. “Because you wanna hang out here with me and Laura and the kids, and then pretend to all your friends that you’ve retired to spend time with your wife? That’s sad , bro. That’s unbelievably fuckin’ sad.”
“And you’re in a position to judge me,” muttered Clint, and he meant it sarcastically, but Barney was verbally on top of him about it right away. Arguments were difficult to win when your opponent was so goddamn tenacious.
“Yeah, I am. Y’know why? ‘Cuz I sorted my fuckin’ life out. I met a woman, I fell in love -- with her and her kids -- and now look at me. Cleaned myself up, three kids, family, farm, life .”
Clint’s focus wavered on his coffee mug. Barney could tell he had been successful in starting to chip away at the defenses his brother liked to erect, but like everything with Clint, it was going to take time.
“And you never think about it?” the younger Barton brother asked, finally raising his gaze to meet Barney’s. “All the shit you did before…?”
“Course I do,” the redhead replied. He slurped his coffee noisily, displaying zero manners as was to be expected from him. “But I decided not to focus on it anymore. What’s the point? I don’t do that shit anymore, I’ve changed. Everythin’ you’re pissin’ yourself over weren’t even your fault, Clint, none of it was. So I think you gotta cut yourself some slack there, li’l bro.”
A heavy sigh fell out of Clint’s open mouth, and he was about to respond when his phone buzzed again against the palm of his hand. Barney was quick to take note and comment on it.
“Before you hang up again,” he said almost snidely, leaning on one hand and watching his brother with a disparaging look in his foggy grey eyes, “think about whatever job he’s got for ya. Think about how much the team might need ya.”
“The team doesn’t need someone like me.” Clint placed his cellphone on the table, letting it ring, and rubbed the heels of both palms into his eye sockets tiredly. “The team needs heroes, real heroes. People like Cap’ -- who save people, don’t kill ‘em, or let ‘em die. Not people like me.”
“Yeah, right. Okay. So, are you gonna answer that or not?”
Clint fixed his brother with a vicious, icy stare, before snatching his cell phone up off of the table with infuriated anxiety, quickly moving to stand so that he could leave the room and crawl out from beneath Barney’s critical, self-satisfied gaze.
“I really fuckin’ hate you sometimes,” he muttered to his brother, even as he answered the phone, putting it to his ear as he disappeared through the screen door and onto the porch… ready to swallow his emotions, his anxiety, and his crippling depression, in order to put on his work face.