“Tony, you were supposed to be upstairs an hour ago.”
Tony rolls his eyes and rolls his stool back from the work bench. He turns to look at Pepper with what he hopes is a guileless, innocent grin. She's not fooled, of course, and simply glares at him, arms crossed delicately.
“I only need, like, 10 more minutes, Pep, seriously.”
“You are already 45 minutes late.”
“But this is so, so, so important.”
Pepper narrows her eyes and takes a step forward, and Tony realizes he's made a mistake. He tries to move his stool a little to the right, just enough to block the screen of his tablet, but she's already seen it.
“Are those the specs for the new version of the StarkPad?”
“They are specs for a version of the StarkPad,” he hedges, scratching at his neck. Stubbly – unacceptable, he needs to clean that up and get his beard in better shape.
“Tony,” she starts, her voice coming up an octave. “Tony, those look like design specs, Tony.”
He knows, after many years of working together, that he is three Tonys away from Pepper's angriest tone. He prays, and puts on his most hapless smile, already calculating how many pairs of shoes he's going to have to shell out for.
“Tony – you're supposed to be presenting a prototype today. Half an hour ago, Tony. This is not a prototype, this is... I don't even know what this is. What is this?”
“This is not my fault.”
Oh, shit. Wrong.
“I mean, it's not not my fault,” he backpedals, hands up either in placation or to ward off any coming blows. “Obviously. I just mean... it was fucked up, Pepper. The interface was fine, but the design – clunky. Unacceptable. I had to take it back.”
“To the literal drawing board?”
“Yes. Pepper. You know I can't abide a subpar product.” He tries on a disapproving look, but really, he can't match his PA's.
“Tony, Jesus. It's the board of directors.”
“They wouldn't know a StarkPad from a DVR remote.”
“And true, Tony. You could have shown them the prototype, then spent the next eight weeks fixing it before we took it to manufacturing.”
“But it would have –”
“It would have been on time.”
“But it would have been shit,” he says, willing her to understand. She pinches the bridge of her nose, and it takes all of his strength, all of his willpower, not to pump a fist into the air victoriously.
She sighs, and meets his eye again. “You are insane.”
“I will go upstairs. I will explain to the board of directors that there is a delay, and they will snarl and growl like wolves, and we will reschedule this presentation.”
“That would be super.”
“And you will owe me. You will owe me so much.”
“So many pairs.”
“I am prepared to live with that.”
Pepper sighs, and he can see the corners of her mouth twitching. He grins. Pepper can never stay mad at him for long.
“Will that be all, Mr. Stark?” she asks him, beginning to tap a few things out on her current StarkPad.
“That will be all, Ms. Potts,” he says, his grin turning into a soft smile. She turns to head for the elevator, and he has a thought as she's almost to the doors. “Oh, Pep?”
“Yes, Tony?” She doesn't turn. Barely slows down.
“Can you book me one of those mobile massage things? I've got an awful crick in my neck from poring over these design specs.” He can't quite keep the tremble of laughter out of his voice.
“So, so many pairs,” she says as she steps onto the elevator. The doors close just before she starts to smile, and Tony just waves from his stool.
* * *
He spends another five hours in the workshop before Jarvis interrupts him.
“Excuse me, Sir. Ms. Potts has asked me to remind you that your massage appointment is in thirty minutes.”
Tony doesn't look up from his work – so many people can't help but look up at the ceiling when they're talking to Jarvis, but Tony, of course, knows the AI doesn't need the gesture. “My what, J?”
“Your massage therapy appointment. You requested an appointment with a mobile therapist from Ms. Potts.”
Tony blinks, looking away from his work. Right. He remembers now. “That was fast.”
“Do I need to... do anything?”
“Ms. Potts thought perhaps you might like to shower before the therapist arrives.”
Tony sniffs at his underarm, and can't help but recoil a little. Right. Hours of workshopping.
“Thanks, J. Save and shut everything down?”
“Of course, Sir.”
Tony absently gives DUM-E a little pat on the claw on his way by, stepping into the elevator. He doesn't have to tell Jarvis to take him to the penthouse, and takes another moment to appreciate the awesomeness of his AI coding.
He's tired. Now that he's not hunched over the workbench, fiddling with small parts and soldering tiny circuits, he realizes how tense he is. The muscles in his back are bunched into stiff knots, and he realizes he's looking forward to this appointment.
He steps under the hot spray of his shower, and lets the water sluice the first layer of dirt from his skin for a moment. He scrubs methodically, but quickly, and then steps out to trim out the shape of his goatee.
Tony doesn't worry about his hair, just leaves it damp and moves toward the kitchen in loose MIT sweat pants to raid the fridge for a snack. He munches on an apple while he checks his emails. He loses himself in the text, and is startled from his reading by Jarvis.
“Sir, your therapist is here.”
Tony hitches up his pants – faded and worn – and moves toward the elevator entrance.
When he opens the door to look up at the broad-shouldered, blue-eyed Adonis standing there, he nearly chokes on his bite of apple.
* * *
Steve is impressed. Sure, he's worked with the odd rich client before, but when he comes out of the subway station and makes his way to Stark Tower, he's almost giddy with anticipation. Tony Stark might be the most famous person he's ever massaged.
Truthfully, Steve doesn't have much use for modern technology. He's not a Luddite or anything – he has a smart phone. It's not a StarkPhone, of course, because really, that's a little out of his price range. He doesn't have extra funds to spare on things like that. But Stark Industries does more than phones and tablets – Steve reads enough of the news (yes, on paper, and no, that doesn't make him ninety – young people can read newspapers, too) to know Stark also puts a lot of money into medical equipment. Hell, Bucky's prosthetic arm is Stark Tech, and it's amazing. If he didn't know better himself, he might think it was flesh and blood. And Clint's hearing aids, too – best on the market. Other hearing aids, Clint said, just made sound loud enough to hear it happening, not enough to clean it up and make it legible. Like, you could talk behind him, but he wouldn't understand you if he couldn't read your lips. But Stark aids, he told them, meant he could actually make out what people were saying even when he wasn't looking at them.
So Steve might be having a bit of a moment as he checks in at the desk, and the security guard gestures him toward a smaller elevator, away from the main elevator bank where a steady stream of people are going in and out.
It's the end of the business day, he knows, but that doesn't seem to be stopping employees from entering the building. Stark must be a bit of a ballbuster. Steve can't say he's surprised – you probably don't get to be the world's biggest tech mogul by running banker's hours.
He steps into the elevator and moves to press the button, when he realizes this elevator doesn't have buttons. The doors close before he can step out to ask the guard.
“Welcome to the private elevator of Tony Stark. Is Mr. Stark expecting you?” The British voice, slightly tinny, comes out of a speaker somewhere in the elevator. Steve looks around for a moment, then settles for looking up at the ceiling.
“I... we have an appointment? I'm the – I'm a massage therapist?”
“Yes, of course, Sir. I will inform Mr. Stark that you have arrived.”
The elevator starts to move up.
“Uh... thank you?”
“You're quite welcome.”
Steve can't help but wonder at the technology here. He'd more or less thought Bucky's arm was the pinnacle of modern science, and he knows that a talking elevator shouldn't dwarf that particular achievement, but there had been something in the elevator's voice that just – seemed intelligent. Bucky's arm is made of sensors and wires, but it can't think for itself.
The elevator doesn't make a sound when it finally stops at what Steve assumes is Stark's penthouse. The doors open with a whoosh, and there in front of him is Tony Stark.
In particular, Tony Stark wearing a pair of faded, old sweat pants, and no shirt.
Stark lets out a little cough, the hand holding a half-eaten apple moving up toward his face. He swallows, blinks, and then grins.
“Well, hi there.”
Steve blinks, and drags his eyes away from Stark's low waistband and looks up into his eyes, trying to will the flush away from his cheeks.
“Mr. Stark. Where do you want me?” He feels his ears go red and curses himself silently. “I mean, where do you want me to set up?” He gestures at the portable massage table he has slung over his shoulder, and Stark's smile widens, his eyes dancing.
“Living room's good. This way.”
“All right.” Steve follows him through the suite, and can't help but look around. The floor-to-ceiling windows give a perfect view of the glittering lights of the city below. Stark Tower isn't the tallest building in New York, but it's no slouch. The view from here is perfect – he thinks he can almost see the Statue of Liberty from here.
“Your elevator is amazing,” Steve says. He inwardly rolls his eyes at himself.
“The elevator? Really?”
“Well, the talking part of it.”
“Oh, Jarvis? Actually, he runs the tower.”
“The... whole thing?”
“And then some. He has some remote capabilities as well.”
“Wow. Where do you get artificial intelligence like that?” Steve asks, impressed.
Stark looks at him sideways for a moment. “I build it.”
Steve feels like an idiot. Of course Stark would have built the AI himself. He's Tony Stark.
“Nice place you've got here,” he says, stupidly, changing the subject. He feels the back of his neck heat up again and wills himself to be more suave. It doesn't work, of course.
“Thanks,” Stark says, without a hint of sarcasm. “You got a name?”
“What can I call you?”
Steve shakes his head a little. He needs to stop with the idiot act. He's a professional. And Stark might be gorgeous in person, but he's massaged attractive people before. Rich people, too. He's here to do a job, and he needs to stop acting like a teenager and get it done.
“Steve Rogers,” he finally says, feeling awkward and too big for his bones. He takes the shoulder strap from his table up over his head and starts unzipping it, unfolding it and standing it up. He pulls a set of soft, white sheets from his duffel bag and quickly spreads it over the padded leather, followed by a soft, woven blanket. He finally turns to face his client.
“Is there anything particular you were hoping we could work on?” he asks as he turns.
Stark's eyes snap up to his, and he watches the older man swallow. “I – uh, yeah, I've got some tension. In my back. And my neck. And – well, everywhere, really.”
Steve smiles warmly. Professionally. “Of course. Why don't I leave the room – you can undress to whatever feels comfortable, and then get under the sheet, on your front to start. I'll be back in a moment.”
Steve collects his duffel bag, and heads out of the room into the kitchen, where they'd just come from. After a moment, he hears rustling in the living room and pulls out his oil belt and puts it on. He unscrews the cap on a bottle of massage oil, scented a little with lemongrass, and puts in the pump top before slipping it into the proper compartment of his belt. He takes a small hand towel and folds it over the strap on the other side, and then runs a hand through his hair.
He clears his throat and leans back toward the doorway. “Are you ready, Mr. Stark?”
“Uh, yeah. Come on in.”
Steve enters the room, and sees Stark's sweats draped across a chair. He's got the sheet pulled up over his waist, and Steve takes a moment to admire the smooth planes of his back, the muscles in his shoulders, along his spine, toward the top of the sheet. The gentle swell of what is clearly a well-shaped back end. Steve swallows and takes a deep breath.
When he speaks, he's lowered his voice a little. Down just a register, to promote relaxation. “Are you comfortable?”
“Sure,” Stark says, as Steve takes a pillow and places it under his feet. He gently drags the sheet up, baring one of Stark's legs. The calf muscle is defined, the skin peppered with dark hair. Steve pumps some oil into his hand and rubs his palms together, and then lays his hands on the skin in front of him.
This is his job.
* * *
The thing Tony really notices is that Steve's hands are warm. He'd sort of expected the touch to be cool, but it's actually warmer than his own flesh. And strong. Steve's fingers are really strong. He's barely even started, and his thumbs are digging deliciously into the muscle on the back of his thigh, targeting knots Tony hadn't even been aware of.
He lets out a breath, and tries to ignore the fact that it may have hitched a little bit into a moan. He stares at the floor through the hole in the table, and can't stop his hands from gripping the cushion a little tighter over his head as Steve slides over another knot, working his way down Tony's leg.
“Is that all right?” Steve asks him.
“Wha?” At the question, Tony is pulled out of a haze of pleasure-pain as Steve works at the arch of his foot.
“The pressure. Is that good? Or too much?”
“No, that's – shit, no, it's good.”
Steve's low chuckle goes straight to his cock. Shit.
Tony huffs out a breath as Steve's thumbs dig into the flesh between the bones at the top of his foot. “How long have you been doing this?”
“A little over a year,” Steve tells him, moving the sheet to cover the leg he's just finished, and moving to the other side, and the other leg.
“You – oh, Jesus – you like it?”
Tony is rewarded with another quiet chuckle, and Steve uses the heel of his hand to press at a stubborn muscle in his calf.
“Sure,” Steve responds, but Tony can hear a note of hesitation. He doesn't press, though – this is small talk. He doesn't really know this guy.
Steve finishes the second leg, and covers Tony's lower body with the sheet again. He moves up the table and slides the sheet down off Tony's back, folding it down and tucking it into the waistband of his boxer briefs with his thumbs. Then Steve moves to the front of the table, and pumps the oil bottle a couple of times before placing his hands on Tony's shoulders and then gliding them down his spine, leaning over Tony's body until his fingertips brush the top of the sheet, then bringing those huge, strong hands back up to the top of his spine along the outside of his ribs. Steve does it again, and again, and all Tony can do is look at Steve's crotch, which is basically right in front of his face. He tries not to look, he really does, but it's right there.
He feels himself harden, and finally wills his eyes closed, trying to will his burgeoning erection away as well.
He doesn't say anything for a few minutes, until he feels Steve move to the side and start working on his back in earnest.
This time, Tony can't hold back a moan. It's not a sexual moan, not really, but the feel of Steve's strong fingers glancing over the series of knots down his back is too intense, and he can't keep the sound in.
It's not so loud that he can't hear Steve's hitch of breath.
“Are you okay?” Steve asks him after a moment.
“Sure. Sure. Just – tenser than I thought.”
“I can ease up on the pressure if you need.”
“No. No, it's good. It feels... good,” he finishes lamely.
“Okay. Take deep breaths, it'll help.”
Tony tries to do as he's instructed, letting Steve work in silence for a while, broken only by Tony's intermittent sighs.
He's almost asleep when he feels Steve's touch lighten, fingers ghosting over his neck.
He brings the sheet up and places a warm, solid palm against the small of Tony's back, the other palm pushing the sheet up along his spine to the back of his neck.
“Would you like to turn over now, Mr. Stark?”
Tony blinks himself back to reality, and shifts experimentally. He does not appear to have an erection, and he thanks God for small favours. Steve lifts the sheet from the side farthest from himself, giving Tony some privacy to turn over onto his front, then drapes the sheet back down.
Steve moves down the table and frees one of Tony's legs again, and starts working at the foot, and up his shin, and when his hands move up to Tony's thigh, he realizes he's made a terrible mistake.
Tony clenches his jaw and does some calculations in his head. Thinks of baseball. Thinks of baseball statistics calculations.
Oh, God, how much longer?
* * *
Steve knows he's pushing the envelope. He can't help it, though. He glances up at Stark's face, and sees his eyes screwed closed, and his jaw muscles trembling. He knows he's not helping Stark relax right now, but technically his hands aren't going anywhere inappropriate. He wouldn't do that. But he can't help but take pleasure in the fact that he knows his touch is... distracting. He flushes with pleasure when he sees Stark's hands clench into the padding on either side of the table.
Steve glances at the clock and realizes they're going to run out of time if he doesn't move on. He feels a moment of regret, even though this is his last appointment of the day, and he can go home after this. He moves to the other side, and tries not to rush his way through the lower leg to get to Stark's other thigh. He can see Stark's abdominals clenching with effort, and see his chest rising and falling shallowly.
“Breathe,” he reminds his client, trying to keep the smile out of his voice. Reluctantly, he covers Stark's legs and moves up the table a little, and takes Stark's hand in his. Stark jolts a little, and then Steve starts working the ropey muscles of his hand, up his wrist, into his forearm.
“Jesus,” Stark breathes, almost shuddering in pleasure.
“You work with your hands a lot?” Steve asks softly, trying not to speak intrusively as his thumbs bump over knots and tension.
Stark lets out a breathy chuckle, and Steve's throat goes dry. That sound is – he suddenly feels a little bad for teasing Stark with the thigh-massage.
“Yeah. All the time.”
Steve works up the arm a little, into the bicep, and then the shoulder. “You should take breaks. To stretch some of this out.”
Stark barks out a laugh.
“Was that funny?” Steve asks.
“Are you in league with my PA? Did Pepper put you up to this?”
“I don't understand.”
“When she called to make the appointment, did she tell you to say that?”
Steve moves to the other arm. “I work for an agency – I don't really take the calls.”
“Right. Heh. Sorry. It's just – Pepper, my PA, would agree with you. About breaks.”
Steve works at Stark's shoulders, his neck, working at the muscles surrounding Stark's clavicles, working the top of his pecs, trying not to pay too much attention to dusky, brown nipples. Trying not to think about what they would feel like rolling between his fingers. Between his teeth.
“You... aren't you the boss, though?”
“Sorry?” Steve feels bad – Stark was relaxing again, and he'd interrupted that.
“You're the boss. So shouldn't you be, you know, not working that hard?”
One corner of Stark's mouth lifts in a smirk. “I'm pretty hands-on.”
The mental image, while not unwelcome, is not timely. Steve tries to push it out of his mind so he can concentrate on his work.
* * *
Tony nearly falls asleep again as Steve's fingers gently trace over his jaw, his earlobes, then his temples. He's proud of himself for managing not to get an embarrassing hard-on while he's been on his back, and all the tension has been worked out of his body. Steve places warm, steady hands on Tony's shoulders, resting them there for a grounding moment.
“Okay, Mr. Stark. We're done here. I'll wait in the next room. Take your time getting up.”
Tony lets out a sigh, and slowly sits up, blinking owlishly. He glances around, and is surprised at how dark it is. Jarvis must have lowered the lights while Steve was working.
Tony wipes oil from his hands on the sheets, and slips his sweat pants on and pads out to the kitchen, where Steve is waiting.
“How do you feel?” Steve asks him.
“You are the best masseuse ever,” Tony tells him, grinning. “I haven't felt this relaxed in – I don't know, months, probably.”
Tony blinks at him. “What?”
“Massage therapist. Not masseuse.”
“Okay. Whatever, your hands are fucking magic.”
“I took classes,” Steve says, zipping up his duffel bag and moving back toward the living room to start packing up his table.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You called me a masseuse. I'm a registered massage therapist. I went to school and everything.”
“Okay,” Tony says, not really sure where he went wrong here.
“And besides, I'm a guy.”
“I... can see that?”
“So you should have said masseur. I still prefer 'massage therapist', but you'd have been slightly less wrong.”
Tony grins suddenly. He likes this guy.
Most people, when faced with Tony Stark, are best described as... weaselly. It's not their fault – he understands that people expect him to be an asshole, and therefore not want to treat him like a normal person. The only people in his life who are happy to argue with him, or correct him, are Pepper and Rhodey.
So Steve's insistence is not only amusing, it's endearing. Tony grins at him, letting the warmth reach his eyes.
“Sorry, Steve. My mistake.”
“Not a problem.”
Steve has his supplies packed up by now, and hitches the table up on his shoulder.
“So. Your card is on file with the office, so payment is taken care of. Drink plenty of water, and get some rest.” Steve is heading for the elevator, and suddenly Tony doesn't want him to go.
“You – uh, what's your schedule like?”
“Your schedule. This – uh, next week. This was... good. And I should do this... more. Massages, I mean.”
Steve catches his bottom lip between his teeth, and Tony is left with the sudden urge to run his tongue along it.
“I think it's pretty normal. You'd have to call the agency, but I do have some appointments available.”
“Great. I'll call you. Or, I guess, them. Well, I'll get Pepper to call them, but yeah.”
“Okay,” Steve says as he steps into the open elevator. “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Stark.”
“Call me Tony,” he says, glancing down at the floor, then back up to Steve's clear blue eyes. “You can call me Tony.”
Steve flushes again, and Tony feels a slight thrill at it. “Okay, then,” he says, smiling as the elevator doors close. “Nice to meet you, Tony.”
The doors close, and Tony slumps against them, letting his forehead rest against the stainless steel.
“Jesus,” he mutters to himself, taking a deep breath.
* * *
Steve glances down at his phone. He leans back against the seat and lets his massage table rest on the floor of the subway car.
Have you sent my tuition cheque yet? The text from his sister, Nat, glares back at him.
He hasn't sent it. He knows it's due right away, and of all the places that aren't going to let people study on credit, Yale is near the top of the list. But he's running short this month – he'd been down with the flu a couple weeks ago, and had to give up a week's worth of appointments. It's the whole reason he's even on this train – he'd told Bucky and Clint he'd go to the Rangers game with them, but when the agency had called and said he'd been specifically requested for an appointment, he'd had to agree.
He needs the money. It definitely doesn't have anything to do with the fact that the client in question is Tony Stark.
Not that he particularly minds missing the Rangers game. They've been playing like shit. But Bucky had given him that disappointed look, and Steve does feel guilty for changing his plans.
However, he tells himself, you have to do what you have to do.
Have you sent my tuition cheque yet? The text is still there, mocking him. He lets out a breath and quickly taps out a reply.
I popped it in the mail yesterday. Stop worrying.
He'll put it in the mail tomorrow morning. By the time it actually gets to New Haven, he'll have the money in his account to keep the cheque from bouncing. Nat won't know the difference.
K. Love you bro.
Love you, too, he types back before slipping his phone back into his pocket. The train is almost at his stop.
He stands to allow a young woman and her daughter to take his seat, ducking his head in acknowledgment when she thanks him, and moves near the doors. He hitches the strap of his table up on his shoulder and waits for them to open. The table's heavy, but he's used to it by now.
Maybe a normal spa, or a hotel or something, would be an easier job. He knows he'd have a set schedule, and he wouldn't have to lug his table around the city. He'd also get paid a lot less. Nat's got another year of law school after this, and while the school has allowed him to pay on a quarterly basis, the tuition is still $80,000 a year. Yes, Nat's got a couple of scholarships, and some loans, but it doesn't amount to much. At least, not enough to ease the burden.
He carries his table off the train and heads for the exits, on his way to Stark Tower. He had decided a long time ago that his baby sister would always be able to depend on him. When their parents had died, he'd promised himself she would never want for anything. Of course, that was before he found out about the financial situation.
He's dragged out of his thoughts when he reaches the front entrance to Stark Tower. It's just as busy as it had been the previous week, and the security guard waves him in the direction of the personal elevator.
“Good evening, Mr. Rogers,” the elevator – Jarvis – greets him when he enters. “Welcome back.”
“Thanks, Jarvis,” Steve says, feeling silly, but almost giddy at the same time.
“Mr. Stark has asked that I let you into the penthouse suite to begin setting up. He is, regretfully, running late.”
“Not a problem, thank you,” Steve says, looking up at the ceiling.
The doors slide open and he walks through the apartment to the living room. He feels weird being in Stark's place without him, but he supposes if he were unwelcome, Jarvis wouldn't have let him in.
He unfolds his table and dresses it with clean sheets. Takes his phone out of his pocket to turn the ringer off, and glances at the clock. Stark is only a couple of minutes late, and while ordinarily Steve is a bit of a stickler for punctuality, he finds he doesn't mind so much. He looks around the room, noting the understated but obviously expensive furnishings. Everything in the room is modern-looking, except for the sofa – a big, grey monstrosity that looks to Steve like it might be the most comfortable thing ever. He almost steps forward to try it out when the door behind him opens, and he whirls on his heel
* * *
Tony comes out of his bedroom still damp from his shower, hair dripping, and grins at Steve in his living room.
“Sorry, I've been going all day, and I thought maybe you didn't want to know what three days of engine grease and welding rods smells like,” Tony says, unable to keep himself from looking Steve up and down. He certainly hadn't forgotten how attractive the massage therapist is, but the reminder in person serves as a nice bit of evidence that he hadn't been exaggerating it in his mind. He hitches his thumbs into the waistband of his sweats and waggles his eyebrows. “We about ready to get started?”
“Of course, Mr. Stark. You go ahead and get comfortable, and I'll be back in just a moment.”
Steve heads into the kitchen with his duffel bag, and Tony slips his pants off and lays on the table, naked as a jaybird.
He's not trying to tempt Steve. Not really. Well, maybe a little. He realizes he could be wearing his underwear right now. But it's his home, and he really does have some tension in his glutes.
And, okay, maybe he has a bit of a fantasy about Steve's hands on his ass. But that's neither here nor there.
He shifts on the table as Steve re-enters the room, adjusting the sheet so it covers Tony up to his shoulders.
“Anything in particular you'd like me to work on tonight?”
“Uh – back's tense again. I've got deadlines, or something. And my ass.”
Tony tries not to smirk at the little bit of strain in Steve's voice. “My glutes? I've got some tension there. Is that weird?”
“Not at all. You'd be surprised how many people carry their stress there.”
“Well, I've got enough stress for three or four people, so you've got your work cut out for you.”
“I'm not worried,” Steve answers. He gets to work, and Tony doesn't say anything for a while, just enjoying the feel of Steve's soft, warm hands pushing and pulling at his flesh.
About an hour in, he realizes his mistake. Well, several mistakes, really.
Steve has worked his legs, and his back, and has moved to stand at Tony's hip. He leaves the sheet where it is, covering his butt, and starts working over it, pushing the heel of his hand experimentally into different parts of the muscle.
So on the one hand, Tony realizes he really could have been wearing his briefs for this. Clearly Steve's going to stay over the sheet.
On the other hand, even without the oily slide of those strong hands on the flesh of his buttocks, he's enjoying Steve's hands enough that his cock has started to harden.
He lets out a groan of pleasure as Steve pushes against a somewhat painful knot, and hears Steve let out a shaky breath above him. He swallows, the sound clicking in a dry throat, and tries to will his erection away. But Steve's hands on him, the slight shift in the tempo of his breathing, is making it impossible. Steve's thumb skips over the curve of his ass, almost teasing at the juncture of his thigh, and he lets out a moan that even he can't pass off as being a reaction to a newly located knot.
* * *
“All right, Mr. Stark, you can turn over now,” Steve says, trying to keep his voice level, lifting the sheet away from him.
“Mr. Stark?” he tries again. Maybe he's fallen asleep? “Would you like to turn over?”
“Wow, this is embarrassing,” Stark finally says, his voice a little hoarse.
“Are you okay?”
“I – yes, I am fine. However, I think we'll stick with just my back today.”
“Are you sure? We still have another twenty minutes left.”
“Oh, I'm unquestionably sure that I don't want to roll over onto my back.”
“What?” And then Steve realizes, and feels his cheeks heat almost instantly. “Oh. Oh.”
“Oh, God,” Stark groans, and he sounds mortified.
Steve ignores the little rush of pleasure low in his belly. “It's fine, Mr. Stark. Really. It's a – a natural response,” he says.
“Well, sure, but that doesn't make it less embarrassing,” Stark points out.
“It's really fine. I don't – I don't mind,” Steve says. He takes a deep breath and tries to stop stumbling over his words. “I can – I have more blankets. I can put them over – you know.”
Steve wonders how red his face is right now.
Stark chuckles tightly, and Steve can see that the back of his neck is red, too. It makes him feel a little better.
“If it's all the same to you,” Stark says, “I think I'm just going to not turn over.”
“Of course. That's fine. Whatever you're comfortable with.”
Stark chuckles again. “You are seriously making me sound like a prude right now.”
“Well, I mean...” Steve starts.
“I am not a prude,” Stark says, not quite managing to sound offended. “I have a well-deserved reputation for being a playboy.”
“I had heard that.”
“So if I want to keep my body's natural response to myself, that's my business.”
Steve's trying not to laugh at Stark's affronted tone.
“And I'll thank you to remember,” Stark continues – and Steve can hear the barely concealed laughter in his voice – “that I tip well, and it would be smart of you to forget this conversation ever happened, and get back to work.”
“What conversation?” Steve asks innocently.
“Atta boy,” Stark says, looking up from the table with a grin.
Steve lays the sheet back down over Stark's body and folds it back down at his waist, moving to the head of the table and starting to work on Stark's arms and shoulders from there.
It's not the first time he's had a male client get an erection. He hadn't been lying about it being a natural response – people have all kinds of different erogenous zones, and while the massage itself isn't meant to be titillating, he knows people can't always control their reactions. So it's not the first time this has happened to him. It is, however, the first time his mouth has watered at the idea of it. The first time it's been a client he wanted. The first time he'd thought of pulling that sheet down and spreading those perfect, firm cheeks and slipping his tongue down – Jesus. He really needs to stop this train of thought.
Tony is his client, and Steve is, despite all evidence to the contrary, capable of maintaining professionalism.
“You can call me Tony,” Stark says from the table, and Steve starts a little. “I mentioned that, didn't I?
“If you like.”
Steve finishes the rest of the massage in silence, and then leaves Stark – Tony – in the living room to get dressed. He washes his hands in the kitchen sink and starts packing his oil and other supplies into his duffel.
Tony joins him in the kitchen a moment later, smirking.
“How do you feel?” Steve asks him.
“Good. Thanks. So listen, I was going to ask you, how do you feel about a regular appointment schedule?”
Steve moves back into the living room to start packing up his table, and Tony follows him.
“That can be arranged with the office,” he explains, trying to control the pounding of his heart.
“I want to know how you feel about it, first.”
Steve stops what he's doing and meets Tony's eye. He knows this is a bad idea. He knows it, deep in his gut, that his attraction to Tony – to his client – is inappropriate. That he should tell Tony no, and tell Sharon in the office that he'd prefer not to take appointments with Mr. Stark.
He knows this.
“That would be fine.”
God, he's stupid.
“Great,” Tony says, clapping his hands together. “I'll set it up. Well, Pepper will set it up.”
“I look forward to it,” Steve says. He finishes folding up the table, and he reaches for the hand towel draped across the arm of a chair at the same time Tony reaches to hand it to him, and for just a second, their fingers brush together.
Intellectually, Steve knows there isn't a shock of electricity there. He has touched Tony's hands before – he's massaged them, even. Hell, not that long ago he'd had a handful of Tony's ass (and, oh, what a handful). So this gentle touch? This accidental brush of fingers? Definitely shouldn't go straight to his gut, to his dick, shouldn't make his throat dry and his cheeks red.
But it does.
He snatches his hand back, running it through his hair, before putting the towel away in his bag and finishing packing up.
“So. See you soon,” Steve says, trying to sound professional instead of breathless with lust.
Tony's got a small smile on his face, as he sees Steve to the door. “See you, Steve.”
The elevator doors close behind him, and Steve slumps against the wall.
God, he's so screwed.
* * *
“No, really, it was totally impressive,” Steve says, and Tony can hear the grin in his voice even as he pushes against a mean knot alongside his spine.
“You said he was playing the Itsy Bitsy Spider,” Tony chuckles, lifting his head a little from the table to look at Steve's face out of the corner of his eye. He's rewarded with a hard palm sliding across his lower back, pushing deep.
“But in a complex way. Like, it sounded like a whole symphony, the way he was playing it.”
Tony bites his lip, throwing a teasing grin over his shoulder. “I feel like you might be attributing a little more talent to random subway violinists than is strictly necessary."
Steve's laugh is warm and rich, and it sends a shiver down Tony's body all the way to his toes.
“I swear, it was magical. I started to think I was on one of those hidden camera shows, because no one else was noticing this intense music.”
“Maybe he wasn't that good,” Tony snickers.
“Oh my God, Tony, I'm serious. It was really, really impressive. One of those true story type of things that end up becoming Oscar-winning movies. Like, the middle-aged guy with a beard to his belly button playing the violin like a savant on the subway.”
“Remind me to copyright that,” Tony laughs, breath hitching when Steve hits a knot under his shoulder blade.
“Did you do any of the stretches I gave you last time?” Steve asks, voice showing just a hint of aggravation.
“I get on a roll, I don't have time to stop and do yoga,” Tony says, rolling his eyes.
Steve sighs. “At least do a couple of shoulder rolls or something once in a while? Please?”
Tony tries hard not to think about other scenarios in which Steve could say 'please'.
* * *
“I'm surrounded by morons, you have no idea,” Tony huffs, shifting on the table. Steve digs his thumb into the bottom of Tony's heel, relishing the tiny little whimper it elicits.
“Do you ever take vacation? You seem to be under a lot of stress lately,” Steve says, trying not to think about Tony spread out on a beach somewhere, golden skin glinting in the sun.
“Pepper would suggest that I vacation daily, when I skip all the boring meeting parts and stay down in the workshop building tech and knots for you to have something to do.”
“All these knots would argue the point with her,” Steve mutters, instantly regretting the words. He's supposed to be a professional, not disparage Tony's personal assistant.
But Tony lets out a bark of laughter, shoulders shaking with mirth. “If you had ever really met Pepper, you would be curling up in a corner in the fetal position under the assumption that it was possible she'd just heard you.”
“She can't be that bad.”
“The woman is terrifying.”
“But she works for you,” Steve says, confused. “Don't you just tell her what to do?”
“Oh, God no,” Tony says, letting out a sigh as Steve finds a knot in his ankle. “No, no, no. I ask, very politely, if Pepper will deign to do something well beneath her skill set, and hope that she does it without plotting some sort of terrible revenge.”
“Couldn't you just fire her?”
“Wouldn't dream of it,” Tony says, his voice pitching in a way that makes Steve think the meaning behind the words is 'are you insane?'
“But if you can't tell her what to do –”
Tony chuckles lightly. “Pepper is the best thing that's ever happened to me,” he says after a moment. “She's smart, and tough, and terrifying, and way, way too good to be my assistant. She runs my life, she runs my house, she runs my company. She keeps me on task when I just want to be down in the workshop, and makes sure I get where I need to be when I'm supposed to be there. Mostly.”
“Oh,” Steve says, swallowing down a feeling he can't name at the low, serious tone of Tony's voice.
“She puts up with my shit, and I make it nearly impossible to put up with my shit. I am completely full of shit. But Pepper takes it and deals with it and makes me better.”
“That sounds nice,” Steve says.
“I honestly don't know where I'd be without Pepper. I don't – I don't have a lot of friends.” Tony's voice lowers in register, but picks up in speed. “I don't – that sounds weird, but I don't. Mostly it's people who want something from me, or want what I can do for them, or – you know, not real friends. Not people I trust, not people who actually care about me. Tony, not Stark Industries, I mean.”
Steve doesn't say anything, but finds his hands clenching on Tony's ankle. He feels sad, suddenly, wanting to pull Tony up off the table and wrap him up in a tight hug, keep him warm and safe and loved.
Well, not loved, of course, but – but cared for. Certainly not loved, that would be ridiculous.
“Pepper's one of those people. She puts up with my shit, and not for a pay check. She puts up with my shit because she genuinely likes me. And I genuinely like her.”
“That sounds really nice,” Steve says, aware that he's repeating himself. Aware that the lump in his throat is tightening his voice.
“I'm sorry. I made it weird,” Tony says sighing.
Steve's hands move up to Tony's back, pressing against the muscle there. He doesn't say anything for a moment.
“I'm glad you have her. That's good. A lot of people aren't – we don't think about how much our friends mean to us, most of the time. How important they are to us. It's good that you recognize it in her.”
Tony doesn't respond.
“Did you and she ever – you know?” He knows he's crossing a line. He knows that, of course he does, but he asks anyway.
Tony snorts a laugh. “Oh, fuck, no. I like my balls right where they are, thank you.”
Steve can't help but laugh with him.