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Trouble on the Way

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The rope is actually clothesline; it was hard to find, but it seemed less suspicious than buying a big coil of rope at the hardware store and just having it lying around for no good reason. Steve cut it to what he hopes is a decent length and melted the ends, and now he's sitting here staring at it, like he's been for the last fifteen minutes. He's not even totally sure how he's going to do it; he looked it up on the internet, very carefully hiding his tracks, and he found half a dozen different websites that all seemed to be saying exactly opposite things from one another.

He was never going to not do it, though, so he finally picks it up, trying to figure out where to start. He puts the middle of the rope between his hands, weaving it back and forth and looping it around his wrists- and ends up with a tangled mess that his hands slide out of. He tries again, tying the ends of the rope together and putting the big loop around his hands, trying to work his way in- and ends up with something that looks more like a Jacob's ladder than a form of bondage.

He's disheartened and starting to get less and less turned on, but he just has to give it one more shot. He's come so far, and he can't stand to stop here and let it all slip away. He ties one end of the rope around his left wrist, looping the rest of the rope around both of them. It's so close but so far, loose enough that his hands will come right out. He's got an idea though; he takes the rest of the rope and whips it around the middle of the loop, which makes the whole thing tighten up, trapping his wrists. He tucks the end in, and there it is, his wrists all wrapped up like a present, neat and tidy.

This was all going off the tracks, but now he's definitely on course again. He spends a while just looking at his hands, twisting them experimentally, figuring out how far he can move them. If he struggles too much the whole thing will come apart, but he needs to feel it, the rope sliding against his bare skin. He feels so vulnerable and so safe at the same time; the ropes are holding him, grounding him, keeping him steady and stable, but it still feels like anybody could come in here and do anything to him. Anybody- it's a man in Steve's head, and that's more terrifying than anything else, because Steve's not gay- could come in here and roll him onto his stomach, hold him down and take him. He could make him do horrible things, and he couldn't do anything to fight back- okay, he could snap the ropes pretty easily and probably fight pretty decently even with his hands bound, but that's the part that's slipping out of his mind. It should be terrifying, and it is, it definitely is, but it's also turning him on like crazy, and Steve has no idea what to do with that.

Not getting naked before he tied his wrists was probably an error in judgement, but it's not that bad, not too hard to slip his hands under the waistline of his boxers and push them down around his thighs. His cock is hard, already wet at the tip, and he wants badly to touch, but he waits, resting his hands on his stomach and shutting his eyes. He never really thought he'd get this far, get this far down. He's mortified by what he's doing, the shame eating at his stomach; he's so ashamed of how much he wants it, but it's a little splash of water on a raging wildfire, doing nothing at all to hold him back.

He takes a deep breath and lets it out, and then he reaches down, taking ahold of his cock. He tries it one-handed for a second, but it doesn't work out at all; two hands it is, one over the other. He goes slowly to start, the tension fading as he strokes himself. This is what he wanted, this is okay, this is more than okay. It doesn't feel like he thought; he never could have prepared himself for this, because it isn't like anything he's ever done before in his life.

The ropes shift across his wrists as he moves his hands up and down, and he moans, relishing the feeling of it, the way they make tiny whispering noises as they work against each other and his skin. He wants badly to come, so badly, but he's stuck between having that and having more of this feeling, delicious and so fulfilling and just a little terrifying.

Soon he's bucking up into his hands, his hips working as he gets closer and closer. It's so good, so good, so good it blows his mind, screws him up entirely, and he comes, straining upwards, his cock pulsing in his grip. He's gone, just gone, floating somewhere else, somewhere good and high and perfect.

He doesn't move for long moments after that, staring up at the ceiling. He brings his hands up, staring at them for a moment before he unties them, picking the end of the rope out with his teeth. There are no marks, and he thinks about how he can get some, if he can do it tight enough, hard enough to mark his tough skin. After he unwinds the rope, he's left with the other end of the rope still tied around one wrist, and he leaves it there for the moment, wondering what in the hell to do.

--

It's the next day, and Steve can't stop thinking about it, what he's done. The guilt feels like it's floating around behind him like a shadow. It's not just that it's something he's not supposed to do, because Steve is used to doing what's right instead of what's appropriate. It's that it's not him. Steve's known gay people, even back before he was frozen, never had a problem with them, but Steve's not one of them. Steve shouldn't be doing this because it says things about him that aren't true. Steve's not gay, and he can't be thinking like that. These are just bad thoughts, invasive ones; he doesn't know where they come from, but he's doing a piss-poor job of ignoring them, which is what he should be and isn't doing. He doesn't even know how to touch the fact that these bad thoughts have been in his head and he's been acting on them with ropes tied around his wrists.

He's pretty sure he's going to do it again, and that's the worst part of all.

He needs a distraction badly, so he takes a trip around the tower, checking in on his teammates. Natasha is doing some kind of complicated yoga that looks positively bizarre to Steve. She doesn't mind when he comes in and wants to talk, but she also doesn't stop; it is so disorienting to have a conversation with her when she has her foot on the top of her own head that Steve doesn't stay for long. Clint and Thor he finds in the TV lounge. They're watching ice hockey, which is pretty much Thor's favorite thing in the world after snacks, fighting, and Jane. Clint seems less excited about it, but he looks happy, relaxed.

The entire time he feels like one of them is going to turn around and call him on it; he feels like he smells like it, like clothesline and come and shame. He waits for the shoe to drop, but it continues not to happen, he continues to be welcomed like nothing is wrong at all. His fear starts to ease, his mind calming slowly.

He actually gets to the point where he goes up to Stark's lab- admittedly, he goes there looking for Bruce, but he's willing to take the chance of running into Tony. On the stairs he's still thinking about it, but it's a different kind of thinking, a better kind; he still feels like God can hear him, but he feels a little less like other people can.

"You may not want to," Tony is saying, as Steve nears the lab doorway. "It's hard to describe. Not always comfortable. Hard to parse. Sometimes you get words, sometimes pictures, sometimes you only get-" Steve steps into the lab just in time to hear Tony say, "And just who the hell in here is thinking about kinky gay sex?"

All eyes go to Steve, and he stops, his eyes going wide. He's about to run, but Coulson steps in. "My thoughts aren't any of your business, Stark," he says, sounding a little annoyed, but not overly so.

"Yeah, but did you have to have them about Steve?" Tony says, pushing the dark glasses he's wearing up over his eyes, and Bruce's eyebrows lift almost all the way up into his hair. "That is just a thing I never needed to know."

Coulson looks at Steve, giving him a silent just go with it. "I'm sorry, Captain Rogers," he says, his tone efficient, businesslike. "Please accept my apology. That was unprofessional. I swear to you it won't happen again."

Steve looks up, and Tony is shaking with laughter, his face pressed into Bruce's shoulder. For his part, Bruce is looking down, very obviously having trouble keeping the smile off his face, and Steve gives Coulson a pathetically grateful look. "It's okay, agent, I, uh." He coughs. "I understand that sometimes, when people work closely together-"

"Okay, okay, take it out of the lab," Bruce says, breaking in. "You're going to kill Tony, and he's wearing very delicate equipment right now."

"Of course," Coulson says smoothly. "After you, Captain."

Steve very gladly lets Coulson lead him out of the lab, steering him down the hallway and into an out of the way alcove. "I am so sorry," Steve says quietly, absolutely mortified, trying very hard not to hear Tony's laughter.

"Stay away from Stark's lab," Coulson warns him, not unkindly. "He's gone and decided to learn how to read minds. He doesn't have the technology to the point yet where he can use it directionally, but-"

"I am never coming to this floor again," Steve says, putting his hand to his forehead. His heart is racing, and he feels sick to his stomach. "I'm so sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Coulson says, and Steve can tell he must be visibly freaking out by the way that Coulson is speaking.

"I'm not gay," Steve says adamantly.

"Nobody said you were," Coulson says, though he sounds a little disappointed.

"Everybody has thoughts, it doesn't mean anything," he says, and now Coulson is looking at him like he's trying not to show that he pities Steve, and Steve would do anything to take it all back, make it so nobody had any clue. His shirt collar feels too tight, the air around him stuffy; the room is too warm, too close.

"Breathe, Captain," Coulson says, putting a hand on his arm, and it takes all Steve has not to knock it away. "I need you to breathe. Deep breaths."

Coulson keeps his hand on him, breathing deeply in and out, showily, and it sounds stupid, but it works, helps Steve level out, slows the terrified beating of his heart. "Thanks," he says, and Coulson lets go of him, patting his arm.

"Don't mention it," Coulson tells him.

"I'm not gay," Steve tells him again, just to make sure everybody's on the same page.

Coulson gives him a piercing, searching look, one he's not sure he likes. "Has anybody ever told you that it's okay if you are?"

"Goodbye, agent," Steve says coldly, brushing past him as he walks towards the stairs.

--

Coulson leaves almost immediately, taking Clint and Natasha with him; Steve knows that that's life around here, picked up for missions in an instant, but he can't shake the feeling that it's because he was, well, such a dick, to put it plainly. He knows that Coulson was trying in some misguided way to be helpful, but it definitely in no way helped Steve. No amount of Coulson saying it's okay is going to actually make it okay.

That sounds stupid when he thinks about it. Is he really going to lie to himself and say he's not worried at all about what people think of him? Is he going to ignore someone saying to his face that it doesn't matter to them?

Well. Maybe.

The question eats at him and eats at him. If he thought it was bad to be thinking about sex with men all the time, it was nothing compared to wondering if he was the one in the wrong, the one who was denying what was clear, the one torturing himself.

He's actually really happy when Doombots attack. For the week and trek across Europe that the fighting takes before Doom is finally beaten back to Latveria, Steve doesn't think about anything except strategy, the next fight, trying to get Stark and Rhodes to stop chattering to each other on the comm.

And then they're in the Quinjet headed home, and it sneaks up on him again. Bruce doesn't miss the way that he knocks his head back against the wall. "Feeling okay, Captain?" he asks, pulling his blanket tighter around his shoulders.

Steve smiles, though he knows it's weak. "Just exhausted. Are you alright?"

"Starving," Bruce says sheepishly; he's sitting next to a stack of demolished MREs, but Steve knows it's really not enough to put a dent in Bruce's post-Hulk hunger. He makes a mental note to have a better supply next time, because it's not a problem that's going away.

Soon enough he's back in his room; he takes a long shower and falls into bed, wanting so badly to sleep. Unfortunately, he hasn't jerked off in what is actually eight days but feels like an eternity, and his dick just won't cut it out. Before he even knows what he's doing the ropes are around his wrists again, and he's picturing a guy holding him down, his arm pressed across Steve's back to keep him in place, driving in and out of him, kissing the back of neck while he does it, whispering devastating things into his ear, and-

Jesus Christ, maybe he is a little gay.

The realization hits him all at once, and he doesn't know what the hell to do about it. But something about admitting it- conditionally, provisionally, just a tiny bit- makes him feel better, for reasons that Steve can't explain. Something about it is just a little freeing, despite the fact that he still feels pretty bad about it. It's still a catastrophe, a crisis, but if he knows what kind of catastrophe, maybe he can learn how to handle it.

There's really only one person he knows to talk to about it. Coulson pretty much owes him a good long talk at this point, given how much of this is his fault.

--

Coulson and company finally return almost a month after they left, looking a little worse for wear but generally fine. It takes Steve another few days to finally get the nerve to track Coulson down.

"Can I talk to you for a minute?" Steve says, pulling him away from a conversation with Thor perhaps a little rudely; Thor doesn't seem offended, though, which makes him feel better.

"Of course, Captain," Coulson says. He lets Steve lead him out onto the balcony, where no one else can hear them.

"I'm sorry," Steve tells him. "The last time we talked. I shouldn't have been so brusque."

"It's fine," Coulson says. "I was probably out of line."

"No, I." Steve takes a deep breath. "It might have been something I needed to hear."

"Oh," Coulson says, sounding faintly shocked.

"So are you, um." Steve is really doing very bad at this. "Are you gay?"

"Yes, Captain," Coulson says, completely unashamed, like it's nothing at all.

Steve resists the urge to say something really stupid or rude like 'Wow' or 'No shit?'. "Call me Steve," he says instead.

Coulson smiles. "It's Phil."

"Phil," he says. "How long have you been-" He stops, realizing that's a bad question. "I mean, how long have you known?"

"Since I was about fifteen," Phil says patiently, and Steve can't really wrap his mind around that, being that young and that aware, that honest with yourself. Steve's pushing thirty and still doing very, very badly at it.

"I'm sorry, I'm being nosy," Steve says, ashamed of himself.

"It's nothing," Phil says.

"Fury, he- he knows about you?" Steve asks.

Phil shakes his head, looking amused. "He's a master spy. Of course he knows."

Steve thinks about all the implications of that statement; if he goes any further down this road, then maybe Fury's going to know about him, too, and he doesn't know if he could stand that. "And he doesn't care?"

Phil snorts. "Director Fury thinks that attraction to anyone is a barely-tolerable risk," he says. "It doesn't matter at all to him who that is, as long as it's not a target."

"Good to know," Steve says, though it doesn't really make him feel better.

"If you needed someone to help you," Phil says. "I'm not coming on to you," he adds quickly, and Steve is a little taken aback at that. He didn't really know he wanted Phil to until he suddenly felt let down, but he has no idea whatsoever what he'd do if Phil was.

"Oh," Steve says intelligently. "Yeah, I- that would be really great. I'll take all the help I can get."

Phil puts a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Whatever you need."

It turns out that he has no end of things to ask Phil about, but Phil has no end of patient, thorough answers. Steve has no idea how to return the favor, so he tries to make it up with coffee and donuts, bottles of beer. A lot of the time the conversation wanders, baseball games and the SHIELD gossip that they are both definitely above but talk about anyway.

At some point Steve realizes he might be closer to Phil than any of his teammates, but nothing about that realization seems to bother him.

One thing is bothering him though, a subject that hasn't yet come up, despite the fact that it's been bouncing around in the back of his head for a while. They're at a coffee shop not far from the tower when he finally manages to get his nerve up. "If I wanted to talk to you about-" Steve swallows. "Sex stuff, would that be okay? I know, uh, about mechanics, but other stuff. Stuff that's less, um." He looks for a word. "Theoretical."

"We could do that," Phil says; he's trying to mask his amazement and only failing a little. "I just don't think it's a conversation for public." Phil puts on a nonchalant face. "Did you want to maybe come over?"

"Do you want the honest truth?" Steve says, sighing. "I don't think I could look you in the face and say those things. I'm told I'm pretty brave, but I'm not that brave."

Phil looks at him contemplatively for a moment. "I think I have an idea."

--

Steve checks three times to make sure the camera isn't on, just the microphone; they're specifically not using StarkPads or Starkbooks, just cheap old personal netbooks that Phil had lying around. Steve trusts Stark with his life on a regular basis, but he wouldn't trust him not to peek if he knew Steve and Phil were having a secret late-night video chat.

He takes a deep breath and clicks on Phil's username, calling him up. The few seconds it takes for him to answer the call are so, so long, years and years, and Steve is almost ready to cancel it when Phil finally picks up.

"Hey," Phil says, and his voice is so calming, warm. "Can you see me?"

The answer to that is yes and no; he can see Phil's left headphone and the room behind him. Steve trusts him, but there's nothing like proof, nothing like being able to see the door. "Yeah," Steve says. "Can you hear me?"

"Crystal clear," Phil tells him. "What do you want to talk about?"

Steve stalls out. "How was your day?" he says, grasping for the nearest thing.

"Not bad," Phil says, not pushing it. "Spent most of my morning breaking up junior agent slap fights, but it happens."

"Sounds like a ton of fun," Steve says.

"My afternoon was much better," Phil tells him.

"By better, you mean classified," Steve says.

Phil laughs. "You know me too well." The laughter is comforting, making this all seem so much less threatening. "How about you?"

"Oh, y'know," Steve says, shifting in his chair, getting more comfortable. "Same old same old."

It's nice to just talk to Phil about little things, nothing pressing or scary at all. It grows in him though, the need to get it out of the way, to do what he came here for.

"So I guess we should talk about the elephant in the room," Steve finally manages to say.

"Whenever you want," Phil says.

"I don't know how this works," Steve admits.

"Works how you want it to work," Phil tells him.

Steve purses his lips. "It would work a lot better if you told me how it worked."

"Okay," Phil says. "Tell me what you've done."

"I, well, nothing," Steve says, feeling nervous. He thought that much was obvious. "I mean, a guy looks in the shower sometimes, but that's nothing, right?"

"I don't know about that," Phil says. "Bunch of wet, naked men, that's something to see." Steve swallows. "But I know what you mean."

"Tell me about you," Steve says; he feels like he's all alone here, like he's on trial, and he doesn't like it.

"Well, I did a lot of not looking at people in the shower when I was in the Army," Phil says, and Steve feels like Phil's hit him square in the heart. Phil knows exactly, and that's so comforting, so good that Steve doesn't really know what to do with it. "Before that, in college, I used to screw around sometimes. Trading blowjobs, handjobs, stuff like that."

His tone is so matter of fact, like of course Phil has had another man's dick in his mouth. He's speaking so plainly about it, like there's nothing salacious about it at all, but it's still making Steve squirm. "You, um, you've had sex sex with a man before, right?"

The way Phil's headphone moves, Steve just knows he's smirking. "If you're talking about penetrative intercourse-" and somehow those words sound absolutely filthy, even though they're just medical terms- "then yes." Steve is trying to figure out how to ask his next question, but Phil cuts him off at the pass. "Giving and receiving. Mostly giving."

"Oh," Steve says, and it comes out breathy and shocked, even more than he is.

"Steve," Phil says, sounding serious. "Is this okay? We can stop when you want."

"No, no, we're fine," Steve says quickly.

"Good," Phil says, and something about that one word feels like Phil has reached out and touched him, calmed him. "What else do you want to know?"

"Have you ever, um." Steve sort of hates himself right now; he's a full-grown man, and he sounds like a teenager. He doesn't know what to do though, because he doesn't know if there's anything between this and full-on interrogation. "Have you ever tied anybody up? I mean, I know you've tied people up in the field, I don't need to know about that."

"Yes," Phil says, and for some reason, he sounds a little shaky. "I- yes."

"We don't have to talk about it," Steve says quickly.

"Sorry," Phil says. "Just got a little caught up thinking about that one."

"So, that's something you like to do?" Steve asks, curling the headphone cord up around his finger.

"A lot," Phil says, with a chuckle. "Let's talk about what you'd like to do. What do you think about, Steve?"

Steve laughs nervously. "That covers a lot of ground."

"Start small," Phil advises.

"When I think about it, it starts in bed," Steve says, shutting his eyes. "And he- the guy-" he doesn't say you, no matter how much he means it- "he's on top of me, and we're kissing."

"Go on," Phil says, and his camera moves; Steve can hear the creak of his chair, like he's leaning back.

"He's kissing me," he says, because it's not the other way around, because it's Steve giving up, letting it happen. "And he, he takes my wrists in his hands and he ties them together, then he ties them to the headboard." This is one of the hardest things Steve thinks he's ever had to do; his palms are sweating and he might be shaking. It's getting a little easier as he goes, though, as he starts to get into the fantasy, as embarrassing as it seems right now. "And then you-" Steve sucks in a breath, his eyes flying open.

"What do I do next, Steve?" Phil prompts. He doesn't sound at all like he's shocked or disgusted; his voice is rich and low, and something about it pulls Steve in. "Tell me."

"You push my legs open," Steve says, getting it out quickly, before he can stall any longer. "I can struggle, but I can't stop you, and it doesn't matter, because you already know."

"What do I know?" Phil asks.

"You know I don't want to stop you," Steve says, and there it is, the scariest part of the whole thing. He can pretend all he wants, but Phil knows. Phil knows so much about him now, things he can never take back, things he wants no one else to have.

"Steve," Phil says, and Steve is terrified that he's said the wrong thing, gone too far. "Are you hard right now?"

"Y-yes," Steve says, biting his lip.

"If you feel uncomfortable, I want you to hang up on me," Phil says clearly. He exhales. "Put your hand on your cock."

Steve doesn't have any idea what to do; he does feel uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, like he's going to burst into flames at any moment. That doesn't mean he wants to stop, doesn't want to get more of that deep-down, forbidden feeling that Phil is offering him. He sighs, shutting his eyes again. "Okay," he says, doing it; he hasn't been this hard in a long time, his dick distending the fabric of his jeans, pushing almost painfully against it.

"Do you like that?" Phil says. "Do you like it when I tell you what to do?"

"Yes," Steve says, and he doesn't even have his pants off, but already he feels like he'll come if he even moves funny. "Please do."

"Then rub it," he says, his voice soft even while it's uncompromising, brooking no dissent. "Don't open your pants yet."

For a moment Steve wants to ask how Phil knows he's wearing pants, but it wasn't like Steve was going to show up for something like this with no pants on. "I'm doing it," Steve says, working his hips up, grinding against his hand.

"Good," Phil says. "Tell me what comes next, Steve. I've already got you tied up in my bed." That gives Steve a shiver; it's always been just a bed, but the idea of it being Phil's bed adds something, inexplicably. "I push your legs open, and you try to stop me, but we know it's for show, don't we? You just like fighting back, and I like winning. You're always going to let me win, because you want what comes next. You want me to spread you out and hold you there. What do you want me to do next?"

Steve's never felt this way before, not ever. A fantasy is one thing, but someone else saying it, getting into all the cracks and opening him up, that's different, so much better. "You-" Steve's panting, trying to get the words out. "Can I unzip my pants, please? I can only take so much."

Phil chuckles. "Go ahead."

"Thank you," Steve sighs, unzipping his pants and pushing them down, far enough that he can get to his cock. He hesitates. "Can I ask for another thing?"

"You can ask for whatever you want," Phil tells him, and Steve doesn't miss the way he stresses the 'ask' in that sentence.

"Can- will you touch yourself, too?" he asks. "I just want-"

"We can do that," Phil says quickly, stepping on his sentence, and he hears the rasp of Phil's zipper. "We can definitely do that." Phil sighs. "Now answer me."

"And then-" Steve swallows, his throat feeling dry. "And that's when you fuck me. You hold me open and just push your dick into me." He knows there's some stuff that needs to go there, preparation and things, but it's a fantasy, and Steve- Phil can do whatever he likes. "It feels so good in me, I can't stand it."

"How does it feel, Steve?" Phil asks him, and his breathing has picked up. "How does it feel when I fuck you?"

"It hurts," Steve says, his hand moving faster on his cock. "Only just a little, but it hurts. You're big and it's hard to take it, but I do it for you." He whimpers, the sound catching in his throat. "I do it because I want it. I want all of it."

"Jesus Christ," Phil murmurs. "You're going to get it," he promises. "You're going to get everything, and it's gonna feel so much better than you ever expected." Steve arches his back, getting closer; he's not even sure that it's possible for it to be better than he wants it to be. "Tell me what happens next."

"Um," Steve says. "That's it. I, uh. I'm usually done by then."

Phil huffs a laugh. "Seems like there should be more."

"Oh, y'know," Steve says breathlessly. "It's done the job so far."

"We'll do better than that," Phil says. "I'm going to show you things you've never even thought of before. I'll tie you down and fuck you until you can't stand up. I'll do whatever I want to you, and you're going to love every second of it."

"You'd do that for me?" Steve asks.

"You won't be able to stop me," Phil says darkly. "But now we both know you don't want me to stop."

Steve tips his head back, making a desperate noise. "I'm so close," he moans. "Please, Phil-"

"Come on," Phil says, through clenched teeth, like he's barely keeping it together. "Steve, come on, let go, come for me."

Steve moans brokenly, speeding up his hand, and then like that he's coming, his mind blanking out. Through his haze he can hear Phil swearing, saying his name, but it's distant, not as important as the feeling enveloping him. He feels like his orgasm is coming from his whole body, shaking all the way through him.

He opens his eyes, coming back to himself. "Phil," he says, looking at the video feed.

"Yeah," Phil sighs. "I'm here."

"Did you-"

Phil laughs. "Oh yeah."

"Can I see your face?" Steve asks tentatively.

The camera moves, and Phil comes into frame; he looks different than Steve's ever seen him, different than Steve ever pictured him looking. He looks sated, pleased, his expression soft and a little hazy. "Hey."

Steve can't help but smile. "Hey yourself."

"Did you enjoy it?" Phil asks.

Steve looks down at himself. "I think I enjoyed it all over my shirt."

Phil laughs, unguarded and genuine. "Well, if you liked it, there's plenty more where that came from."

Steve rubs at the back of his neck; he doesn't want to do this part, but he feels like he has to. "Look, if you- I know some things got said-" he starts.

Phil looks let down. "Steve, don't-"

Steve presses on anyway. "And if you didn't want to, I would understand."

Phil stares at him. "Me? Not want to?" He shakes his head. "Believe me when I wholeheartedly say that I am prepared to deliver on every count."

"Good," Steve says quickly. "I mean, I would like that."

Phil looks apprehensive for a moment, like he's getting up his nerve. "I have the distinct feeling that we've put the cart before the horse," he says, "but I'd like to take you to dinner."

Steve takes a deep breath. This is another step, a different one; he's very aware that a lot of guys play off sex with another guy as meaningless, but going on an actual date with one of them is very, very different. "I'd like that a lot," he replies.

Phil is obviously relieved. "Great," he says. "Maybe Saturday?"

"Barring Doombots, I'm free," Steve tells him, glad Phil can't see the stupid smile on his face.

"Seven-thirty?"

"It's a date," Steve says. "I'm gonna hang up now. I think I need to change my shirt."

Phil smiles. "See you soon," he says, and then the connection breaks.

Steve leans back in his chair, smiling to himself.

That took long enough.

--

They're in bed together, and Phil's just finished stripping him, driving him crazy with his teeth on Steve's neck; it is so great that he's so hard to bruise, because he absolutely cannot get enough of it, of Phil's mouth on his skin.

"I'm going to fuck you," Phil says into his ear, making Steve damn near go cross-eyed, "if that's what you want."

Steve's been wanting for what seems like weeks, pretty much since they started actually dating. He hasn't come quite to the point of begging, but he casually slipped it into more than a few conversations and may have asked once or twice or seven times in bed. But no matter what he said, Phil just replied, "You're not ready until I say you're ready," and that gave Steve such a shiver that he didn't argue one bit.

"Yes, please," Steve says, quickly holding out his hands. Phil smiles, the vaguely evil smile that he only has in bed, and he picks up the rope from the nightstand, pulling it through his hands to uncurl it.

"You can push me away if you need to," he says, binding Steve's wrists but not attaching them to the headboard. "Tell me if it gets to be too much." Steve nods; they both know he's not going to say anything, but it's the reassurance that matters, the promise that Phil is looking out for him.

Phil presses his wrists down into the bed as he kisses him, firm but not demanding, taking his sweet time about it. His cock brushes against Steve's hip, and Steve rocks up against it, wanting to do his best, give Phil everything. Phil makes a noise, putting a hand on his hip to keep him still. "Don't tempt me," Phil says, smirking a little.

Steve doesn't apologize, but he doesn't move either, letting Phil hold him in place. Phil is out to drive him crazy, Steve can already tell, and Phil won't let up until he gets just exactly what he wants out of him.

Phil gives him one last kiss, nice and hard. "Don't move them," he says, pushing on Steve's wrists, and Steve nods. He watches as Phil moves down his body, kissing him here and there. He shoves Steve's legs apart, and Steve moans; that simple action, the way Phil lays him bare all at once, gets him every single time.

Phil reaches over him, grabbing the lube and the plug from the nightstand; it's the bigger plug, the one that really scared him at first. It's still scary; it's just that now he knows how good it feels inside of him, and scary is just a whole lot less important.

He watches as Phil slicks up his fingers, planting his feet on the bed and spreading his legs a little wider in invitation. Phil doesn't hesitate to take it; he watches Steve's face as he pushes his fingers inside him, looking at him with that serious, focused look that makes Steve want to die and come in equal measure. When he's satisfied that Steve is open enough, he slides the plug in carefully, all the way to the base in one long, slow push.

"Is that good?" Phil asks, stroking Steve's cock, and Steve nods quickly. Phil smiles at him; he lowers his head, kissing Steve's thigh before he wraps his lips around Steve's cock. Even without having anything to compare it to, Steve is confident that Phil has an extraordinary mouth. It feels like it was made for this, so hot and wet, exactly perfect. He's pulling out all the stops today, sucking with intent, bobbing his head up and down. Steve's not sure he's ever been this turned on in his life, and he feels like he's going to go off at any second, no matter what he does.

"Phil," Steve says, thrashing his head. "Phil, I'll come if you don't stop."

Phil looks up at him, giving him an amused smile. "No, you won't."

He's not necessarily wrong about that, because both of them know Steve will try his very best not to come until he gets Phil's permission. Even if he can't, it's still going to be okay; Phil will just leave the plug in him and do what he wants to Steve until he gets hard again. Steve is really not sure if that's supposed to be a punishment or not, but he tries to be good anyway.

Phil finally takes pity on him, taking his mouth away from Steve's cock; he carefully works the plug out, setting it aside. Steve feels how he always feels after the plug comes out, loose, dirty, a wriggly kind of shame in his stomach that's not nearly bad enough to make him want to stop. Phil pours more lube onto his fingers, sliding them into Steve's hole, and now Steve feels even dirtier. He can feel the way Phil has stretched him out, and it's hot and filthy, the idea that Phil's made him like this, just so he can fuck him, get his pleasure from Steve's body.

"Are you ready for me?" Phil asks, pumping his fingers slowly in and out.

"Please," Steve says. He swallows hard. "I want you in me."

Phil bites his lip, making a noise that sounds gratifyingly wrecked. He picks up a condom, tearing it open and quickly rolling it onto his cock, and it strikes Steve that this is really going to happen. Nothing's going to stop it short of some catastrophe; he's really going to let Phil do this to him.

Steve spreads his legs wider.

Phil pushes his knees up towards his chest and starts to press into him, and it doesn't feel like he expected, nothing like the slickness of a toy, nothing like Phil's fingers. Phil's cock isn't that much bigger than what he's taken, but it feels huge, impossible. It hurts more than he expected, even though Phil is being careful with him, pushing in bit by bit.

"Okay?" Phil says, sounding hoarse and a little winded.

Steve nods. "Keep going."

Phil keeps pushing in, glacially slowly, and Steve tries not to squirm too much. It hurts, but that doesn't mean it doesn't feel really good too. The pain is receding as Phil opens him up, sinking deeper and deeper inside of him. And then Phil stops; Steve opens his eyes, wondering what's wrong, and it takes him a second to realize Phil's all the way in, Phil's hips flush with his ass.

"Fuck," Steve says breathlessly. "Phil."

"I'm here," Phil says, running his hands over the flat of his stomach, up to his chest.

And then, "I love you," just slips out of Steve's mouth, before he even knows what he's saying. Steve doesn't know where it came from or even how long he's been holding it back, just that it's true, has been for a long time.

"I love you, too," Phil says, a wry kind of smile on his face. He begins to thrust, moving slowly in and out of him, and Steve turns his hands despite the ropes, clutching at the pillow. "Just relax," Phil says, wrapping his hand around Steve's cock and stroking. "Does it feel good?"

"So good," Steve moans. "Just keep doing it Phil, please-"

"I've got you," Phil says. "You're doing so good, just relax and take it."

Steve doesn't even know what to do with everything he's feeling, Phil's hand stroking him, his cock brushing that place inside of him that Phil has taught him to love. He feels insatiable, like he could never ever get enough of this, but he's barely going to last any time. He's just going to have to make up for it the next time, and the next time, and again and again and again, because he's not giving this up.

"Phil," he says, "I'm gonna- let me-"

"Whenever you want," Phil says, stroking him faster. "Come for me, Steve."

Steve feels like he comes forever, over and over again. Phil is still moving inside of him, dragging it out of him, but he can tell when Phil loses it, when his hips stutter and he loses his rhythm entirely. Steve can't feel it, not with the condom, but the knowledge that Phil is coming inside of him is shivery-good, makes him feel connected to Phil in a way that he didn't know there was to be connected.

Phil eases himself down onto his elbows, kissing Steve over and over again before he finally withdraws. Cleaning up is, as usual, kind of gross, but Phil takes care of it; he doesn't even let Steve move while he does it, leaving him tied up until he's finished. Then he takes Steve's wrists into his hands, unwinding the rope and setting it on the nightstand. There are very faint marks on Steve's skin, and Phil kisses them gently.

"When I said I loved you, I meant it," Steve tells him.

"Wouldn't have said it if you didn't," Phil says. He kisses Steve's lips, tender and slow. "Love you, too."

"Good," Steve says, taking him into his arms and holding him close.

--

It's kind of a boring day, all things considered. He watches the Dodgers game with Phil, but it isn't much of a contest. Now Phil is off taking a nap, which Steve knows is code for 'doing a bunch of paperwork on my day off.' Natasha is reading; it's always dangerous to interrupt her in such a state. Clint is teaching Thor some kind of card game that involves slapping the table and is going to end incredibly poorly for everyone, but they both seem happy.

Maybe Bruce and Tony will be entertaining; Steve and Tony are warming up to each other, and truth be told, he's starting to see what people see in Tony's brand of humor.

"Is it even charged?" Bruce is asking as Steve walks towards the lab. "It's been in a box for God knows how long."

"I charged it this morning," Tony replies, and Steve has the sneaking suspicion something familiar is about to happen. There's a pause. "Yup, we're still working. Your shirt looks fine, by the way. Didn't I buy that one? You know I've got impeccable taste. I don't even know why you're worried."

Steve doesn't change his path at all, walking straight into the laboratory. "God you have boring thoughts," Tony tells Bruce. "I don't- Jesus Christ," he yells, yanking the glasses off. "Out of my lab, everyone out of my lab right now."

"Why?" Steve says innocently.

"I knew this was going to happen," Tony moans. "I knew it was susceptible to manufactured thoughts, why didn't I listen to myself for once in my goddamn life?"

"Someone thinking at you?" Bruce asks.

"Yes," Tony says, "but this is not like that time you thought about my girlfriend naked."

Bruce frowns. "I said I was sorry."

Tony puts the glasses down on the lab table, pulling out the earbuds and setting them down too, shoving the whole thing away like it's poisonous. "Whoever's thinking about doing it bareback with Coulson can get out of my fucking lab."

"No offense to Phil, but I really just could have done without you ever saying that," Bruce says, wincing.

"Suck it up, Banner," Tony says. "You didn't have to see it." He puts the heels of his hands to his eyes. "Is my hair turning white? My hair feels like it should be turning white. Or at least sticking straight up."

"You already put enough stuff in it to make it stick straight up," Steve tells him. "Guess I'll leave you to it." With that, he saunters out of the lab, to the sound of Tony's sputtering.

He makes his way back down the stairs, headed for Phil's rooms. Phil is, despite Steve's suspicions, actually asleep, and Steve takes off his shoes and slides into the bed next to him, wrapping his arm around Phil's waist. Phil rouses, blinking at him, accepting Steve's kiss and letting Steve pull him closer.

"Hey," Phil says.

"Hey," Steve replies, kissing him again. "So listen, I was just thinking about trying something new."

"For you, I am always all ears," Phil says, smiling sleepily as Steve kisses him again.