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“I don’t know about this,” Steve says as Tony closes the manacle around his wrist, fingers twitching at the steely snick. It’s a long time before he can look away.

“Relax,” Tony says—as if it’s obvious; as if it’s easy—but he doesn’t understand how impossible a request that is. Tony’s right there, near enough that Steve can feel his breath against his skin, can smell the cologne Tony has on and the underlying hint of metal that comes from wearing the suit. All he’d have to do is take one step forward and they’d be pressed together from chest to thigh.

All in all, relaxing really isn’t on the list of things he’s capable of doing right now.

Steve takes a fortifying breath, but he’s still not prepared for the sensation of Tony’s hand encircling his other wrist, Tony’s thumb brushing over his pulse point before being replaced by the next cuff, cold and rigid around him.

“You okay?” Tony asks, glancing up at him, and no, no, he is not. “Okay” doesn’t even begin to cover the way his heart’s pounding, thundering in his chest; the way his stomach is twisting, excitement and nervousness crashing against each other.

He should ask Tony to let him go. He should stop this before it has a chance to go any farther. All he does is nod, though, because no matter how much he knows what he should do, he won’t. He can’t.

He wants this. And heaven help him, he’s too weak to walk away.

Tony places larger bands around both forearms and biceps, and then he kneels down, locking another one around each ankle. Steve swallows, throat clicking at the sight of Tony at his feet, and turns his head so he can’t see Tony hands on his calves, on his lower thighs as he adds even more restraints. Not that it helps. He still feels each press of Tony’s fingers like they’re being burned into his skin, even through the layer of his clothes, and Steve knows he’s going to remember every single point of contact for days to come.

“Alright, let me just turn this on,” Tony says as he gets up and moves off the platform to the console, where he turns several dials. There’s a low humming noise that gets faster and faster, and then Steve’s gasping as he’s being yanked upward, arms jerking above his head and his legs forced open until he’s hanging spread-eagle in the air.

Oh, Steve thinks, somewhat in a daze. The vibrations in the machine are matched by an answering thrum in the metal surrounding him, driving the sparks of arousal deeper and deeper. This is going to be a problem.

“Okay, see if you can get out.”

When Tony had asked him for help on one of his projects, Steve had assumed Tony would want him to hold something for him maybe, or possibly sketch some kind of rendering. He hadn’t thought he’d end up suspended in the middle of a circular frame, trying to escape.

If he had thought to ask Tony questions instead of letting himself get distracted by Tony’s cajoling smile, he would’ve refused.

Assuming he’d managed to say anything coherent at all, that is.

“Oh, c’mon, you’re not even trying! Put your back into it, Rogers!”

“I am trying!” he protests but nonetheless tries to pull harder against whatever’s holding him (“Think magnetism,” Tony had said, patting the frame, “but not really.”). It doesn’t accomplish anything. No matter how much he struggles, he’s well and truly trapped.

Steve does everything he can not to focus on that fact.

Tony walks around the platform, and Steve’s hyper-aware of each step. Steve’s clothes are starting to stick to him from sweat, his muscles contracting and bunching as he fights, and he wonders if Tony appreciates the view at all, wonders if he’s taking any pleasure in seeing Steve writhe. It makes him redouble his efforts, Tony’s demands that he try harder somehow a goad and reward both.

“I can’t,” he admits finally after what seems like hours. He's panting for breath and savoring every last second of it, the throb in his muscles, quivering now with fatigue, the unforgiving press of the manacles against his skin, and Tony watching all of it. That last, most of all. “I can’t, Tony.”

“Sometimes I amaze even myself,” Tony says as he comes back around, the look on his face positively gleeful. “And this is just the prototype.”

Tony stands in front of him, craning his neck back to keep eye contact. Tony’s head is only level with his stomach, and seeing Tony look up at him so triumphantly puts half-formed images in Steve’s head that he pushes away immediately. It’s bad enough this is almost a fantasy come to life. He doesn’t need to make it worse by revealing that fact to Tony.

"Do you mind letting me down now?” he asks, hoping Tony will mistake the roughness of his voice as being due to his exertions.

“What? Oh yeah. Sorry, I needed a second to admire the pretty picture you make,” Tony says, reaching over to fiddle with a box on the metal ring.

Steve has to remind himself that Tony’s most likely saying that because he’s very vain when it comes to his work and not because he has Steve hung up and vulnerable, defenseless against whatever Tony wants to do to him.

He has to close his eyes for a second, swallowing past the desire that threatens to drown him.

He’s wondered sometimes if it’s wrong to want this, if he’s screwed up somehow because he thinks that being bound means being safe, that being trapped means he’s free to let go.

He doesn’t know. All he knows is that it feels right, feels like security and love, and that it fills something inside of him that always aches with emptiness.

One day, he thinks. One day he’ll find someone who’s not only willing to do this for him but wants to as well; someone who understands what it means to have Steve need this and takes as much fulfillment in giving this to him as he does in offering it.

The fact that that “someone” looks a lot like Tony in his head is something he’s going to have to deal with later.

Right now, though, he just has to make it through another few minutes before he can go back to his room in order to relive the experience again and again and wish the circumstances had been different.

“I’ve programmed a couple of neat tricks in here, want to see?”

It’s a rhetorical question. Tony’s already pushing a button that arranges Steve so he’s no longer spread-eagled but hanging in a straight line, his arms high above his head, wrists stuck together. “Neat, huh? I can put you anyway I want you,” he says, and Steve has to stomp on the ideas that pop into his brain.

He clears his throat. “That’s very impressive. Down, Tony?” he asks, and he wonders if Tony can hear how hoarse his voice has become as obviously as he can.

“Okay, okay. Let me just . . .” Tony fiddles with the dials.

Nothing happens.

“Huh. That’s funny.”

Tony.”

“Not to worry, Steve; I’ve got it all under control,” he says breezily. It doesn’t fill Steve with confidence, however, especially when Tony then says, “JARVIS, run a diagnostic.”

Three minutes later, Tony has taken apart the console and given himself a small electrical burn, but Steve’s still hanging in place. His arms are going numb, and he wonders with a touch of panic if part of the problem is how all the blood is rushing to his cock instead.

Please don’t notice, he thinks, hoping that Tony remains too caught up in finding the problem to realize Steve’s developing an entirely different problem of his own. He desperately tries to will down his erection.

“Aha! I think I figured it out. I just need to get something from upstairs,” Tony says, not looking up from his hand-held device. “Be right back.”

“Tony, wait—”

“All under control, Steve!” Tony says, waving distractedly, and then Steve’s alone.

What the—

Okay.

Okay, he can do this. He’s going to—he has to get down before Tony comes back. He’s been lucky up until this point that Tony’s been too absorbed in isolating the problem to pay much attention to anything else, but there’s no way Tony won’t see the condition he’s in the first time Tony actually looks at him.

He can’t . . . there’s just no way that he can explain any of this to Tony. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad admitting the truth if he and Tony were together. He could lead up to it in small steps; not reveal how important it is to him if it makes Tony uncomfortable. It’s not something he’s had before after all, so living without it surely can’t be that bad. Can it? Especially if he has Tony to make up for it.

The thing is, though, he doesn’t, and he—

He doesn’t know if he ever will.

For all the flirting they do, Steve can never tell if Tony’s serious; or if he is serious, if it means anything to him. There have been times when he’s been almost certain that Tony was about to say something—but then those moments would pass, and Steve would convince himself he’d been imagining things. Surely if Tony had feelings for him, he would’ve said as much by now. Tony’s never been shy after all about asking for what he wants.

And while technically, Steve hasn’t exactly been forthcoming either (no matter how many times he’s cursed himself for it), it’s not like now is the right time to reveal he’s in love with Tony, especially when, oh, by the way, he really enjoys being tied up.

It’s too much truth all at once; there are too many ways that Tony can reject him.

Bad enough if Tony doesn’t feel the same way. That would . . . that would be . . . painful. Still, Steve could understand at the very least. Just because you loved someone didn’t guarantee he or she loved you back.

But if Tony does feel the same way . . . if he does, but this drives him away . . .

His erection finally goes down as his something in his chest lurches horribly.

He has to get free before Tony gets back. There’s no other choice. He has to.

Swallowing heavily, he considers his situation. Egged on by Tony, he’d attempted to break free with brute force before, but maybe if he . . .

Steve tries to pull his arms down, not yanking or tugging but exerting as steady a pressure as he can. The cuffs are surprisingly comfortable luckily (which makes sense if Tony expects his machine to hold people for any extended period of time, although considering they’re made of metal, Steve has no idea how Tony managed to achieve that feat), so nothing hurts too much. His arms are almost completely numb from being over his head, however, and it’s almost impossible to force them to cooperate.

He’s determined, though, and he ignores the ache as blood circulates sluggishly, pins and needles pricking everywhere. He keeps at it until it feels like every muscle in his body is shivering with tension.

Gradually, his elbows lower until they’re level with his forehead, and he thinks, he can do this, just a little bit more—

And then the machine makes a series of clicks and whirs, and he grunts loudly as he’s jerked back into place.

No.

No.

He wonders despairingly if he might have succeeded if he’d tried that at the beginning before using up so much of his strength. If he could’ve avoided all of this.

But then he’d had every opportunity to do so, hadn’t he? He could’ve stopped Tony at any time. He hadn’t wanted to, though, because how often would he get a chance like this? Being held down, being trapped, and by Tony’s hand . . . Steve had given into temptation without a backward glance.

Fuck, he thinks. What kind of person is he to let himself take advantage of Tony’s request for help and use it for his own furtive pleasure?

He looks down, grimacing as he takes in the way his jeans stretch over his renewed erection, obscene and unwanted. Even with his mind in turmoil, his body knows exactly what it wants.

What is he going to—

His eyes snap to the door as he hears footsteps.

Tony.

Tony, who is going to see everything.

Steve tries and tries but even thoughts about Tony’s possible reaction aren’t enough to get his cock to go down this time.

Dread and a sickening sense of resignation churn in his stomach, and he squeezes his eyes closed, head hanging low.

“Sorry that took so long. I couldn’t find the—”

Then there’s just the hum of the machinery and the sound of his heart pounding in his ears.

Steve flinches when Tony finally starts to walk again, the steps agonizingly loud, and he tries to interpret each careful, deliberate tread, tries to get an indication of whether Tony is angry or horrified or something entirely different. It doesn’t work, and by the time Tony’s standing a few feet away, Steve has worked himself up to the point where he almost doesn’t care how Tony responds—he just wants to know; he needs to know.

Please, Tony, Steve thinks, still not looking up, as if not being able to see Tony means Tony can’t see him either. Please.

There’s a sound, the scrape of a shoe against the metal of the platform, and wait, fuck, is Tony leaving? Steve’s head snaps up, panicking at the idea that Tony’s abandoning him—

“Steve,” Tony whispers, and if anything, he’s gotten even closer; he’s standing so close that Steve can almost imagine he can feel the heat of Tony’s body against his, and it makes him shiver.

"What are you doing to me?" Tony asks, his voice cracking, his hand coming up as if he wants to reach out.

Steve’s eyes flicker all over Tony’s face looking for condemnation, for disgust—but he sees wonder instead, sees lust and longing, and it’s all he can do not to start shaking with relief and hope.

“What am I doing to you?” Steve croaks, feeling almost light-headed, and he sways toward Tony, only to be kept back by all the bands locked around his body.

It’s too much, all of it together, the fact that he’s restrained, that Tony is looking at him like that, that Steve’s been in love with Tony for months, and he’s not alone. It breaks something in him, the last little bit of control he's clung to for so long, and he thinks he's going to go crazy if he can’t touch, can’t be touched, right away.

"Tony," he groans, yanking at the cuffs, but there's no give to them; he doesn't know why that makes him feel like he’s choking with desire, but it does. "Tony."

“Do you—” Tony stops and swallows, his tongue sliding over his lower lip. “Do you want me to let you down?”

No,” Steve says, begs almost, and he doesn’t have to protest more than that before Tony is dropping the tools in his hands to the ground.

“Oh, thank fuck,” Tony says, his hands wrapping around Steve’s thighs, and shit. Steve shudders from just that, and he’s never felt this way before, desperate for anything Tony’s willing to give him, his body crying for some kind of relief. “Steve, can I—?”

Please, Tony. Anything, just, please—you have to—”

He lets out a strangled moan when Tony strokes him through his jeans, a rough, all-too-brief caress, and Steve had thought he’d tried hard before, but it’s nothing compared to the way he struggles now, straining forward for the feel of Tony’s hand against his cock.

“Tony,” he gasps. His whole body is sore from fighting. His wrists in particular are throbbing from the way he’s been twisting them to get free, but it’s a good pain; it’s one of the best things he’s ever felt.

“You’re beautiful like this,” Tony says, his voice soft and reverent, and Steve doesn’t know how to respond, can’t talk at all past the tightness of his throat, even if Tony’s name is a mantra in his head.

“Fuck, you’re so hard,” Tony groans, the pressure of his palm almost negligible against Steve’s cock while the fingers of his other hand dig into Steve’s thigh, harsh but welcome. Truth be told, he wishes Tony would grip him even harder. He wants bruises from this. He wants the proof that he can look at days from now. “Have you been like this the whole time? Were you—?”

Please,” he says again, wishing Tony would touch him skin-to-skin; praying Tony wouldn’t stop touching him long enough for that to happen.

“You’re so ready to come, aren’t you? Just from this.”

Yes,” he manages to say, because it’s true, it’s so true. Tony’s barely done anything to him, but he can’t be ashamed for how far gone he is when the weight of all these months—of every look, every smile—is bearing down on him; when Tony is giving him almost everything he’s ever wanted and hadn't thought he’d have.

He jerks forward, shoulders wrenching, frantic to get closer, to feel the cuffs bite into his skin as they hold him back.

“Fuck, Steve,” Tony groans, his hands moving to grip Steve’s hips, and Steve barely has time to whimper at the loss before Tony’s rubbing his cheek over Steve’s cock and saying raggedly, “I want you so much.”

His voice is low and unsteady, as if Tony can barely get the words out, as if he has to give himself permission to say them at all because he’s always kept them trapped inside before, and it makes Steve feel like his heart is going to beat its way out of his chest.

He tries to reply in kind, to confess that he wants Tony too, has for so long that it’s difficult to remember a time when he didn’t want him, didn’t ache to just be near him, even if it didn’t ever become anything more. All he lets out, however, is a guttural, broken sound as he comes, his orgasm stealing his voice as he shakes, helpless in his bonds; secure in Tony’s embrace.

He’s barely able to open his eyes after that and is thankful in a new way for the machine since he’s not sure he’d be able to stand on his own. When he does, however, it’s to see Tony leaning back just enough to undo his own pants and pull his cock out, long and thick and flushed with blood.

Steve doesn’t realize he’s started tugging against the restraints again—so damn eager to take Tony’s cock—until Tony gasps, “I'm sorry," clutching onto Steve with one hand like he can’t bear to let go while his other works furiously, "I can't wait.”

Tony grinds his forehead against Steve's hip as he strokes himself off. It's a different kind of torture to watch Tony without being able to get his hands or mouth on him, and Steve whines low in his throat as Tony climaxes, come splashing onto the platform and the machine frame.

Next time, he thinks, and he knows there’s going to be a next time from the way Tony’s hands tremble, from the way Tony keeps looking at him. Next time, he’s going to touch Tony until he finally doesn’t feel like he’s starving for him. Assuming that’s even possible.

Everything hurts when Tony finally releases him, although it’s his own fault for throwing himself against the confining bands, and Steve staggers momentarily before managing to stand upright.

Tony’s there, however, to offer a steadying hand, and then Tony’s arms are around Steve and holding him so tightly that he can’t help but feel grateful. “I’ve got you.”

He shudders, and Tony pulls him even closer.