The steady drip, drip, drip of water on metal echoed through the makeshift camp, bouncing off wall and ceiling and pipe until no one had any hope of tracing the sound back to its source. Not that this stopped Tony from trying, lying where he was in his bunk, staring up at the underside of the empty mattress above his head.
Drip, drip, drip.
Not that finding the leaky pipe and fixing it would do any real good. It couldn't stop Ultron. It wouldn't improve the quality of life for them few resistance fighters. And in the end, he wouldn't even be able to find the leak if he tried. Just another way he had failed everyone. Just another way he was useless.
The bed creaked as Tony rolled over onto his side, facing the rest of the room. Luke Cage was snoring loudly in the cot not an arm's length from Tony's. Above Luke, Tony could hear the softer sound of Clint's breathing as he slept.
As quietly as he could Tony pushed himself up from his bed. It creaked, loud enough to wake the dead, but Luke stayed asleep, and if Hawkeye's breathing changed just the slightest, he remained silent on his perch. Bending down, Tony tugged work boots on before he stood and headed for the tunnels. His footsteps were quiet, soles of the boots long worn down almost as soft as moccasins, weight of them tugging down on his feet much lighter than they were when this whole thing had started. Worn down and worn away. Just like them all.
When he reached a branch in the tunnels Tony didn't stop, feet taking him down a path they knew well. Almost as well as the person Tony was tracking down, as the man whose feet had worn this path more than his.
The tunnels opened up for just a moment, a small chamber where four pipes met and branched off from each other. Seated there, in an almost pitch-black corner, was the man Tony had been looking for. The man whose mattress lay empty above Tony's night after night.
Without a word Tony sat down next to him, pulling a box in line with Steve's own and settling down on the cold wood. He stared down at his boots, scuffed the toe of them against the damp ground. Steve stayed silent, next to him.
When the silence became unbearable, the itching under his skin too much, Tony mumbled: “You should get some sleep.”
Steve made no move next to him. He didn't even say some variation on “Slept for seventy years,” his normal response to someone requesting him sleep. He just... sat. Head down, like he was dead to the world. It sent a shiver through Tony.
Unmindful of the damp which sept through everything in this miserable place, Tony slipped off his box and onto his knees in front of Steve. Immediately pants grew wet through to the skin, but he suppressed a shiver as he got to work. It took some effort to get to Steve's belt: the other man still wasn't budging, and his folded up arms and curled up legs felt as solid as steel. It was a struggle to move the heavy limbs, to push them aside so that Tony could reach his goal.
He managed it, managed to worm his way under Steve's arms, between his thighs, to work his hands at his belt and uniform pants. In the back of Tony's mind he thought there was some kind of vague sense of appropriateness of him having to fight to get to Steve, to push and pull and wriggle his way inside, like a virus. Like a parasite.
Steve's penis was flaccid inside his pants, but Tony didn't let that deter him. He took the soft, tender skin into his mouth and moved up its length once, twice, being sure to slather as much spit and moisture onto it as he could. When he pulled back it was only to spit into his hand. He stroked Steve, then, working the other man up into some semblance of turgidity. Slowly the member filled, growing stiffer and longer under Tony's skillful hand. It was the only spot of movement in an otherwise stolid man. Marble sculptures had more life in them than Steve did.
When he was half-hard Tony bent forward and took him in his mouth again, bobbing his head up and down as quickly as he could. He kept firm pressure on the member with his tongue, licking a line up the underside to the base and then back again as his head moved.
Five minutes, ten passed unnoticed. Tony pulled back, a crick in his neck and his throat sore. He moved his hand to Steve's dick and jerked it, fast and hard, as he took a few seconds' respite. When he bent back down he blew gently on the head, watching it twitch above his steadying hand. When he took it back into his mouth, Steve gave the first indication that he was aware of the proceedings at all.
His arms curled out. His hands settled on the back of Tony's head, big fingers stroking soft at the short hair there. Tony gasped, moaned as he sunk down onto Steve's length, taking him to the back of his throat and further as some twisted thank you for responding, for coming out of his catatonic state for even a minute. Tony redoubled his efforts, hand jerking roughly at Steve's erection when his throat could take no more, eyes watering, neck sore, throat on fire but still taking him in, deeper, faster.
Bitter come flooded his mouth without even a grunt of warning from Steve. The only indication he got that Steve even realized he had come at all were his hands: stroking, petting, so gently at the base of his skull. Tony swallowed the come and lapped at Steve through his motionless aftershocks, before letting his cheek come to rest on one of Steve's muscular thighs. He just needed a minute to catch his breath.
Just before he was going to stand and walk away, leave Steve to his thoughts once more, those big hands moved from the back of his neck to his shoulders, then under that and tugging up. Tony went, letting himself be moved. Steve wasn't looking at him, his eyes still dark and downcast as they had been since this whole war had started—no, since this whole war had ended and they just refused to admit it—but he brought Tony in for a kiss anyway, dry lips against wet ones; tight, controlled peck against Tony's slobber and desperation and slick.
Tony gasped, breathing hard against Steve's lips, his mouth open and wanting before he dove in for more. Moaning, Tony climbed into Steve's lap, his erection jutting out from his under-armor obscenely, bobbing between them in an unsubtle request. After a moment Steve's hand reached down, pressing its way into the jumpsuit to wrap around Tony's hardness. His hand was dry and cool, callouses rough against Tony's sensitive skin. Tony gasped, face screwed tight against the discomfort and want battling with each other. One stroke and Steve was pulling his hand out, turning his face away from Tony's to spit in it. Tony shivered, rutting against Steve uncontrollably at the wrongness of that image.
Steve was meant to be had in a bed. Comfortable, sweet, right. Steve deserved to have every inch of him paid attention to, from the roots of his hair to the gentle arch of his feet. He deserved candles, and sweet words, and all the love someone as broken as Tony could never give him.
Instead, all Tony was able to give him was this. Quick-and-dirty blowjobs in the sewer system, knees wet and the only lubrication being his own inadequate, dirty spit.
Steve's slicked hand wrapped around Tony's erection again, so much better this time with the wetness of the slide. Tony moaned, then sobbed, pressing his face into Steve's neck. He tried so hard to focus on that: Steve, Steve's warmth, Steve's hand jerking him to completion. But his mind was too big, too broad, and Tony found he couldn't stop himself:
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” he whispered, voice cracking.
Steve's free arm came up and wrapped itself around Tony in comfort, holding him close. His other hand moved slower between them, more gently. Tony groaned and dug his fingernails into Steve's shoulder, thrusting his hips forward violently. No. No. He needed it fast and dirty and wrong. He didn't need—didn't deserve comfort.
Steve growled. “Shut up, Tony.” The tender kiss he pressed to Tony's hair contrasted with his harsh words and had Tony shaking, clutching to Steve. The tension ratcheted up in Tony, feeling less like pleasure and more like warnings of an impending doom, until he couldn't take it anymore and broke apart under Steve's hands, spilling his release across dirty, wet fingers.
Unsubtly Tony wiped his face against Steve's shirt, drying it. Shame engulfed him as he came down: shame at being unable to come up with a solution, shame at coming apart like that, in front of Steve, when Steve was the one who needed him to be strong right now. With a grunt Tony grabbed Steve's dirtied hand and wiped it off on his own under-armor, ignoring the way his come stained the black. It wasn't like there were many niceties left to bother hiding behind, in these dark days.
Tony drew himself up onto his own two feet, watching Steve as he slowly tucked himself back into his uniform pants and buckled them back up. Steve still wasn't looking up, wasn't making eye contact with Tony. After he finished with his belt Steve's hands came to rest on his knees, heavily. He sat there for a beat, two, three. Then he stood, eyes hooded as he turned around and looked down one of the four tunnels that made up this juncture.
“Take a walk,” Steve said. He still hadn't looked at Tony. But he started off down the tunnel, and Tony knew that there was an unspoken “with me” at the end of that sentence, so he followed loyally behind.
They walked for a mile, maybe two. There was no fear of getting lost, or coming out right in front of one of Ultron's spy drones: the one person who knew the tunnels better than Tony himself at this point was Steve, thanks to his habit of leaving the group, wandering away with his own thoughts for hours or days on end.
The stone pressed heavily down on them from all sides. Water dripped, sending that chill through the air that never seemed to leave, no matter how many blankets or generators they managed to bring back to base camp. Out here, so far out from there, the cold was even more oppressive, more easily sinking into their bones and setting. Tony shivered, tucked his arms into his chest. Next to him, Steve was less noticeably curled in on himself, but compared to his normal straight-backed eyes-ahead gait, he might as well still been curled up on the floor, head between his knees. His shoulders were slumped, eyes downcast. His feet sloshed water with every step, as close to a shuffle as Tony had ever seen him. He looked like he needed support. Needed someone to lean on. Only, there never was anyone for Captain America to lean on, was there? He was everybody else's pillar. He never needed one of his own. He'd been Tony's support, his strong shoulders, so many times in the past. More times than Tony cared to remember. What good could Tony offer him?
What happened when your foundations crumbled beneath you, when your load-bearing walls collapsed under the weight above?
Tony came to a stop without saying a word. Steve didn't even take another step, stopping right alongside Tony, completely in sync. At least that was something that Ultron hadn't taken from them. So many other things had, before. At least this time they were together.
It seemed so clear in Tony's head all of a sudden, what he had to do. Reaching out, he took Steve's big, heavy hands and dragged them up. He set the left on his corresponding shoulder, then the right. Then he placed both his hands on top of Steve's and pressed down, enough for Steve to feel it.
Finally, Steve looked up. He had the look of a haunted man: worse than haunted, dead and brought back from the ashes, broken and wrong. Unable to live up to any of the expectations the world had of him, and hating himself for it. Shouldering responsibility for everybody's failure, and his inability to do that, to handle it, the greatest failure of his own.
Tony met his eyes, and pressed down.
“I've got you,” he said. His voice was more of a croak than he meant it to be, less sure.
He cleared his throat and tried again. It was still sore from Steve's dick.
Tony held Steve's eyes with every word: “I'm here. I'm going to figure something out. And you're going to tell me what to do. Because I've got you.”
Steve's eyes were still haunted. So filled with guilt and disappointment and shame. It was like looking in a mirror. But Tony knew everyone looked to Steve so much more than they looked to him to solve this problem, to solve every problem. So Tony could handle it, just this once. Could handle being the foundation for the load-bearing wall, the support beams holding up the pedestal.
“You're going to figure this out, Steve. I know it. Trust me.”
For the first time since... since His Shield was broken, really... Tony thought he saw something move behind those eyes. Thought he saw some of those storm clouds clear.
And then. Tony swallowed bile. And then, Tony had to ask:
“Do you trust me?”
And, Steve. Fucking magnificent Steve. He didn't even hesitate, even though he should, he always should, when it came to Tony. But he didn't, he just replied: “Yes.”
So Tony pressed down harder on Steve's hands, digging them into his shoulders, pushing himself down, but staying standing. Steve's eyes brightened more: almost unnoticeable, but there. Growing. Like the dawn fighting its way over the storm-broken seas.
“Then trust me when I say: You. Will. Fix this. You will lead us out. Because I know it's true.”
For a long moment both men looked at each other. Then Steve's fingers tightened on Tony's shoulders, squeezing, weight bearing down just a fraction more. Tony's knees stayed locked, his back straight. And something like the memory of a smile ghosted across Steve's face.
He let go, turned back in the direction they came. Tony followed suit, falling in at Steve's side. Where he belonged. In silence they followed the long and winding way back to their makeshift camp. And in Tony's mind, doubts crept up on him. Not about Steve: never about Steve. But about himself, as was natural. If he could be the support that Steve needed him to be. If he would be enough to hold Steve up, as Steve led the rest of them through this new horror.
Ultimately, it didn't come down to if Tony thought he could. It came down to the fact that he had to. For Steve, and for them all. But for Steve most of all.