It wasn't even Thursday. Weird things were only supposed to happen on Thursdays.
That was definitely the rule, Tony thought, as he tapped the bootjets on and hopped backwards to dodge Amora the Enchantress' latest blast of energy. It was a close one. The air crackled pink only a few inches in front of him. The suit sensors blinked a fragmented analysis at him, and none of it was comprehensible, numbers too high here and too low there and entirely unnatural -- because, of course, it was all magic. That was one of Tony's big complaints about magic. It just didn't make sense.
He was beginning to regret offering to handle this one alone. He'd thought it made sense when the call came in. It was only Amora, after all. Only one foe -- why should it take more than one Avenger? And Peter had already left for work, Bruce had gone to the library at Empire State, Jan had been showing Ororo a marathon of her favorite reality-TV fashion programs, and God only knew where Logan had gone off to. Probably Canada. Even Steve had still been eating breakfast. So it hadn't been worth bothering anyone else just to take down Amora. Or so he'd thought. So he'd assured Steve, Jan, and Ororo that he would be fine by himself, thanks, and he'd headed out to Central Park.
But the fight had been going on for a good half-hour now, and Amora showed no signs of letting up.
He should have asked Jan and Ororo. Jan could have just squished her.
And then Ororo could have made an angry little raincloud follow her around. Maybe zap her with lightning every so often. That would have been cute.
Or he could have asked Steve, he thought, more than a little wistfully. Steve could have knocked her flat with the shield in an instant, and then Tony could have swept Steve triumphantly into his arms, kissed him, and flown him home in jubilation. The last time someone got a photo of the two of them doing that, the resulting publicity had managed to break Twitter. Six months together, and public interest in their relationship still hadn't died down yet. (Steve thought it was cute how the tabloids smushed their names together.)
Another bolt of energy sizzled past Tony's head. He needed to focus. This was taking way too long.
He raised his hands and fired repulsor rays, the light streaking blue from his palms... and that was a miss. Goddammit.
Amora only laughed. Then she turned and ran deeper into the park, ducking behind a tree.
No, no, no, Tony thought, gritting his teeth. You're not getting away from me now.
He kicked the bootjets on, half-power, and he sailed forward, swerving between two trees, feeling like he was suddenly starring in his own version of Return of the Jedi, on the forest moon of Endor with the lightspeeders. He nudged the jet power up, dodged another tree, and leveled himself out, flying horizontally now--
Amora was right ahead of him--
And that was when the next shining pink energy bolt hit him right in the face. He hadn't sealed the suit's mouth or eyeslits, and everything smelled faintly floral for an instant. The suit HUD filled with ones and zeros and then blacked out entirely. The jets cut out, and Tony hit the dirt, skidding forward several yards through the grass to come to a halt at Amora's feet, with the suit dead around him.
"What the hell did you do to me?" Tony's unamplified voice echoed in the helmet. The external speakers weren't working. Nothing was working.
Amora threw her head back and laughed. "Why, I put a curse on you, of course!"
"A curse?" Tony asked.
He hated magic. He hated magic so much.
REBOOTING, the HUD informed him, and Tony curled his hands into fists, inside his now-useless gauntlets. Come on, he thought. Come on. Faster.
She wiggled her fingers impishly. A pleased smile broke across her face. "Indeed. A curse."
He wouldn't have sensors until the suit came back online but as far as he could tell, everything seemed fine. His heart was working. He could feel all his limbs. It didn't seem like anything about him had moved or changed in any way. He was maybe a little sore from the landing, but that was it.
"I don't feel any different," Tony said. "What did this curse of yours do, exactly?"
She looked down at him, and her gaze was somehow both arch and mischievous. "Your greatest love will be combined with your greatest enemy," she intoned, like an oracle making a pronouncement, "and only your love can lift the curse."
Tony tilted his head to the side -- or tried to. The gorget was locked down, and the armor just creaked ineffectually. "What the hell is the point of that? What does that even mean?"
"The point?" She laughed again and tossed her hair back. "The point is that I am having fun," she said, her voice full of a kind of scornful delight. "You might even enjoy it, yourself. And as for the meaning -- that, you will learn soon enough."
The words SYSTEM REBOOTED flashed across Tony's vision, and then the familiar HUD overlay was back. Targeting crosshairs lit up in front of Tony's eyes. And Amora was right in the center of them.
"You know what?" Tony asked, and Amora raised a quizzical eyebrow. "I am sick of this conversation."
He raised his hand and fired. The resulting repulsor ray struck Amora dead-on, and she flew backwards, hit a tree, and slid to the ground, unconscious. She was Asgardian, though, so that wasn't going to keep her down for long.
Ugh. Tony wrinkled his nose. He pushed himself to his feet while he replayed the exchange in his mind. I am sick of this conversation. That was the best pithy quip he could come up with? Really? What had he been thinking? He was usually better at banter than this. Well, they couldn't all be winners.
He opened the comm listings on the HUD and scrolled through the superheroes. Ororo had said that Thor was back on Earth. Tony was definitely going to let Asgard handle this. He should have suggested it to them in the first place. This was Odin's damn problem.
He ran a medical scan and then a suit diagnostic on himself, for the hell of it, while waiting for the comm to connect to Thor. It came back instantly: no changes. Whatever Amora had done, it wasn't directly affecting him. At least not in any way he could detect.
Whatever the curse actually was, if it wasn't immediately obvious, it couldn't be that bad, right? Right, Tony told himself. Definitely.
Luckily, Thor was, in fact, on-planet, and he was willing to take charge of wrangling Amora. It took more time than Tony had thought it would -- especially when Amora woke up halfway through the transfer and Thor had to take her down. But an hour or two later, they finally had it all sorted out, and Thor was going to pop back to Asgard, drop Amora off, and be back in time for his dinner reservations with Ororo.
"So, uh," Tony said, as Thor wrapped him in a farewell hug that left him feeling squashed even in the armor, "Amora said she cursed me. Is this... something I should be concerned about? I can't find any physical changes."
Thor frowned. "The Enchantress' curses are fearsome, friend Iron Man! But if thou art in fine health, then methinks perhaps it is not a matter to be feared at all."
Translation: don't sweat it, Tony thought. And if Thor wasn't worried, then maybe it really was nothing.
"Thanks, buddy," Tony said. "You and Storm have a good date, okay?"
"We shall!" Thor brightened. "I shall accompany her to the land of New Jersey. And she has assured me that after our fine repast we shall stroll upon the shore and eat many delicious sugary confections, and then play a noble and storied game among your people. I believe it is called... skee-ball."
Tony laughed. "Sounds great. See you later."
Thor stepped back, waving goodbye, and Tony rocketed off. Time to go home and get on with his day.
It had been a weird curse, though, Tony thought, as he banked easily and flipped onto his back as he flew, turning to the south. Avengers Tower was just barely visible in the distance. What had Amora said? He tried to recall her exact words. Your greatest love will be combined with your greatest enemy, and only your love can lift the curse.
The thing was, it didn't sound like it affected him, now that he thought about the precise wording. Which meant that it could very well be active, just on something else.
His greatest love and his greatest enemy. Okay. He could think this through. The curse was going to take something he liked -- no, something he loved -- and combine it with something he hated. Something that was his enemy. He could figure this out. Step one, identify what he loved. What did he love most of all?
Hmm. He liked his armor an awful lot, but it couldn't be his armor, because it was working fine. He'd checked. The diagnostics had come back clear. What else did he like?
It could be roller skates? He liked roller skates a lot. Maybe his roller skates were villainous now. Maybe they were possessed by an evil spirit. Some kind of roller skating demon.
Well, that just sounded ridiculous.
On the other hand, his actual life sounded pretty ridiculous most of the time. He tried to imagine explaining, say, MODOC, to anyone who wasn't a superhero. Or Ego the Living Planet. Or the time that Batroc the Leaper's plan to bring down the Avengers had involved a dating service.
What else could it be? Surely he liked other things. He liked coffee.
Maybe all coffee was poison now.
Tony shuddered in horror. Actually, that one sounded, unfortunately, very plausible. And that brought him to the second part of the curse. How was he supposed to fix this with his love? It wasn't like he was going to drink poison coffee.
He was almost to the tower now, and he braked hard, spiraling down to the landing pad. Well, he wasn't going to worry about it. Whatever it was, he was sure he'd figure it out. And Thor had said not to worry. It was probably nothing. Nothing at all.
Tony's first stop in the tower was his workshop. And, yep, all his computers said his suit was fine. He hadn't detected anything weird. Ergo, there was nothing weird going on. Everything was perfectly fine.
He made a pot of coffee with the coffeemaker he kept in the workshop, while he was waiting for all the suit diagnostics to finish. Then he paused and looked at the coffeepot. It was probably nothing, but he might as well check. He'd earned the right to a bit of paranoia, hadn't he?
He scanned the coffee. Absolutely fine. It was one hundred percent coffee. Shrugging, Tony poured himself a cup.
He looked at the suit diagnostics again -- all clear -- and took a hesitant sip of coffee. It tasted fine. Then he took a larger sip. He felt fine. He dropped the faceplate down and ran the suit's full-body medical scan again. He was completely fine.
Maybe it was a slow-acting poison...?
That didn't seem to be in the spirit of the curse, though. He was just going to provisionally scratch his armor and his coffee off the list of potential Greatest Loves. Obviously, he loved something else best. Whatever that was. Or -- and this was more likely -- the curse was nothing at all. If he hadn't noticed it at all, it was really probably nothing, like Thor had said.
It was almost lunchtime. Tony peeled himself out of the armor, in preparation for heading upstairs and joining the rest of the team. He slid out of the last of the plating and found a serviceable enough t-shirt and jeans in the corner. No need to dress up too much for lunch. It had been a rough enough morning.
He might ask the rest of the team if they had any ideas. Maybe the other Avengers would have some kind of idea what object the curse could be on.
When Tony came into the common area, the TV was off. The reality-show marathon was clearly over. Jan and Ororo were bent over a book -- how very low-tech of them -- at the table, their heads together, and Steve was nowhere to be seen. He was probably out for a run.
"I'm just saying," Jan said to Ororo, and her voice sounded a little strained, which was odd for her. Jan was almost always cheerful. "I don't know much about this kind of thing either, but that can't be what that word means."
"Perhaps, when he returns, we should ask the doctor for another book," Ororo said.
The doctor? Tony peered at the book on the table and wandered closer. He didn't recognize what they were reading. It looked old. Leather-bound. Hand-written, maybe. There was some kind of sigil or diagram on the right-hand page. Tony squinted. It wasn't even in English.
This definitely hadn't come from the Avengers' library. Curiouser and curiouser.
"So," Tony asked, "what are the two of you reading? Anything good?"
Jan and Ororo's heads snapped up simultaneously. Jan's face was horrified, stricken; Ororo was a little better at covering, but even she looked rattled. What was going on?
"Oh, God, Tony," Jan said. Her face was too pale. "I'm so sorry. We're working on it. I swear we're working on it."
What the hell?
"We contacted Stephen Strange as soon as it happened," Ororo informed him. "As you can see, he loaned us this volume about curses, but he could not stay. He was called away on urgent business."
"He tried a few preliminary spells. He said it was a curse and he couldn't break it but in the meantime he was loaning us this book. And then he said something about an emergency involving the dread Dormammu and then he just -- poof! -- disappeared into thin air," Jan said, still apologetic even as she gestured wildly to indicate teleportation.
"Amora said she cursed me," Tony said, vaguely, entirely confused, "but it didn't seem to affect me, and that doesn't explain-- I just-- how do any of you know about it? It only happened to me a couple hours ago, and I only told Thor. Did Thor tell you?"
Jan and Ororo looked at each other.
"Two hours," Jan said, almost solemnly.
"The timing is right," Ororo said, her voice gone hard.
Tony frowned, trying to put all the pieces together. They knew about the curse, and they'd gotten Strange to come here, so it must have been something here in the tower that was cursed. The Avengers had seen it. In that case, it was weird that Steve hadn't stayed and taken charge of the matter. He was the team leader, so surely this was important to him--
Oh, God, no.
His greatest love. Not his armor or his coffee. Not a thing at all. The curse had been meant for a person, not a thing. A person. That hadn't even occurred to him. And now the answer to that was obvious: it had to be Steve. Steve was his greatest love.
Tony swayed on his feet, flailed for balance. and he gripped the edge of the table so hard he thought the wood might splinter. "What happened to Steve?" he asked, and he was distantly proud that he still had some voice left in him. "Is he--"
"He's alive," Ororo said quickly, and Tony breathed out.
Jan nodded, wide-eyed. "He's... he's. Well. Uh. He's in good health. As far as we can tell."
Tony stared down at her. "What's wrong with him? What did she do to him?"
He was going to kill Amora if he ever saw her again.
Ororo looked hesitant. "He has been... altered. It is difficult to explain."
Was Steve evil now? Maybe she'd made him believe he was evil. No, no, not even Amora could be that cruel.
Tony's heart was pounding. "Where is he?"
"He's in your bathroom," Jan said. "Probably the bathtub. I don't know. He wouldn't let the rest of us in. I think he's hiding. He's awfully upset."
Tony blinked. "He's hiding in our bathtub?"
That was... really not an answer he had expected. What the hell could Amora have done to him? Well, there was only one way to find out. He took another steadying breath, turned, and headed toward the door. The room was still a little wobbly.
God, Steve. He had to be okay. He just had to.
"Tony," Jan said, and when he turned back, Jan was biting her lip anxiously. "He... he didn't want us to tell you. He really didn't take it very well. I don't think he wants to see you at all." Her face was pale, her voice quiet. "He doesn't want you to see him this way."
Maybe Amora had taken the serum away. That sounded possible. And Steve's reaction would be in keeping with that. He always got touchy when he was deserumed. Like he thought people -- Tony -- only liked him for his muscles, for his superpowers, for his serum-enhanced body.
"Sucks to be him," Tony told her, "because I love him, and I don't care what he looks like."
He ducked out the doorway and headed down the stairs at a dead run. Whatever Amora had done, he was going to fix this. He was going to see Steve, and figure out what to do, and they were going to get him back to normal.
Tony knocked on the bathroom door.
"Go away!" Steve called out from the other side, thickly, voice a little distorted. He was never curt like this. Something was definitely wrong. He was upset, and he was never this upset, and when he was upset at all he usually went to the gym and punched every padded surface he could find, and then maybe some that weren't. "Please. Whoever you are. I just want to be alone right now."
Tony cleared his throat. "It's me," he called back. "It's Tony. I'd really like to see you, Steve. Will you let me in?"
The noise from inside the bathroom sounded like a strangled sob. "It's really-- it's horrific," Steve said. "You don't want to see me like this."
"Yes, I do." Tony splayed his hand against the door. "Please. It doesn't matter what you look like. I love you. And if you let me in, maybe I can help."
That part was even true. His love would lift the curse, Amora had said, and, well, he had plenty of love for Steve. Somehow they'd figure it out.
"I doubt that," Steve said, and there came a resigned sigh. "But the door's open. Come in, take a look, say what you have to say, and get it over with. I think that would be easiest for both of us. You're not going to want to stay long."
"Of course I want to stay," Tony yelled back. "It doesn't matter to me. Steve. Please."
There came a sigh through the door. "Really, Tony. You're not going to want to be with me once you see this. It's all right. I'll understand when you decide you have to leave."
How could Steve think he was leaving? How could Steve even entertain the idea? Tony didn't care if he'd lost the serum. He loved him.
"It's going to be all right," Tony said, and he turned the doorknob. "I promise. I'm coming in now, okay?"
Steve didn't reply, but Tony opened the door anyway.
Tony was willing to admit that his bathroom was maybe a little bit on the expensive side, and the bathtub was its most lavish fixture. It was marble, sunken into the floor -- a few steps led down from the shining tile floors of the rest of the room -- and was festooned with jets. It was also huge. The first time Steve had seen it, his eyes had gone as wide as repulsor emitters and he'd told Tony that he'd had beds smaller than that tub. And then he'd corrected himself and said he'd probably had bedrooms smaller than that tub. (Considering that Steve had grown up in Lower East Side tenement slums in the 20s and 30s, it wouldn't have been be hard.)
Oh, Steve had relaxed about it eventually, but Tony still got the feeling he thought the bathtub was... excessive. He didn't use it much, anyway. Tony was the one who poured his bruised and battered body into the tub after the fights got rough; it did wonders for the aches and pains he built up in the suit. Steve, the lucky bastard, had a healing factor from the serum, and even so he seemed to prefer showers.
But when Tony opened the door, there Steve was, in the bathtub, curled up at the far end, slumped over and partly turned away as if even now he could hide from Tony's sight. Steam wafted around him. And Tony stared in confusion, because as far as he could tell, Steve looked fine. Sure, half of him was underwater, but the half Tony could see looked exactly the same as always. Steve looked just the way he had this morning. His skin was pale and smooth, his muscles perfectly sculpted -- it sure looked like he still had the serum. And his face, at least in profile, was still unmistakably his face. Amora hadn't hit him with some kind of ugliness curse. But his jaw was set, his eyes were shut, and his features were twisted in misery. Like he couldn't face Tony's reaction, but he knew it was going to be bad.
Tony didn't understand. There was nothing wrong with Steve.
And then the steam wafted away, and Tony got a better view, and he saw that, under the water, the bottom half of Steve was-- Steve was--
"Oh, my God," Tony said, shakily. His own voice sounded like it was coming from far away. He felt his knees starting to wobble.
Steve had tentacles.
Tentacles. Apparently Tony's greatest enemy. Well, he couldn't say that he hadn't earned that one fair and square.
So Tony might have fought a lot of tentacle monsters in his tenure as Iron Man. Not as many as Strange had, but a respectable number. He was willing to concede that by sheer numbers, they might perhaps be his most numerous foe. His greatest enemy, as the curse would have had it.
But that wasn't the whole story. The whole story was rather personal. It involved several gigabytes of hentai of dubious quality, a large and very unusually-shaped dildo (you could get anything on the internet these days), and a great number of Google queries for even more pornography that Tony studiously erased from his browser history after viewing. Accompanied by the aforementioned dildo, of course. He wasn't ashamed of it. Private about it, sure. But, come on, didn't everyone have that one thing they were really into? His thing happened to be tentacles.
Tony honestly would have figured that tentacles would have stopped turning him on after maybe the third time he'd actually gotten tied up by real tentacles, but he guessed kinks were just funny things like that. Because, boy, did they ever do it for him. He'd never tried it for real -- unless you counted the tentacle dildo -- because his actual tentacle encounters had all been strictly G-rated and entirely hostile, but he loved the idea of it: all those tentacles moving over him, in him, holding him immobile in their powerful grasp and just taking him, filling him up in every possible way. It wasn't anything he was going to be able to do in reality, obviously, but, hey -- that was what his imagination was for.
But now-- now there was this.
Steve had tentacles, and they were gorgeous.
Dear Penthouse, Tony thought, half-hysterically, already composing the letter in his head. I never thought this would happen to me, but today I came home and my boyfriend had tentacles.
He couldn't even have imagined this. He'd never imagined this. This was more beautiful than anything he could have imagined -- Steve, his amazing, handsome, wonderful Steve, with tentacles.
The tentacles stretched out under the water, long and sleek and shining a vivid bright blue. There looked to be eight of them, in true octopus style, starting out thick and trunk-like at Steve's waist, extending several feet and gradually tapering down to elegant points. They curled over each other in coils. As Tony watched, Steve lifted one out of the water in a dexterous, almost dainty, movement. The last foot or so of the tentacle, Tony noted, amused, shaded purplish to bright red to a very dark red at the tips, and the suckers that took up one side were pale and whitish. Red, white, and blue.
Water ran in rivulets down the shining flesh of Steve's upraised tentacle and dripped off the delicate little point at the end as the tentacle gracefully turned and curved down. It looked so smooth. Tony's mouth went dry. He clenched his fingers into fists, imagining the way the tentacle would glide slickly against his fingers, through his grip, over his skin, down his body. He wondered if it was warm, if he would feel Steve's blood pulse through it if he touched it.
Tony was very abruptly aware of the blood rushing through him, gathering low and deep in his belly, his cock already hardening at the thought of Steve so much as brushing one of his tentacles (God, one of Steve's tentacles) against him. And then reality came crashing back to him and he took a gasping, horrified breath because what kind of utter pervert was he, getting off on this while Steve was miserable?
"Wow," Tony said. His voice was faint. He knew he was still staring. He was aware that he should come up with something reassuring to say. He was aware that this is the hottest fucking thing I have seen in my entire life was probably not what Steve would consider reassuring right now.
Steve opened his eyes and looked at him, wordless, features distorted in anguish.
Tony licked his lips. "Hey, it's all right," he eventually managed to say, and if his voice was low and husky for a reason that was different from sympathy, at least Steve didn't seem to notice. "It's going to be okay."
Steve's mouth was a harsh, wretched line. "How the hell is this all right?" He raised three more tentacles, their tips just barely poking out of the water, and it took an immense amount of effort not to shiver. "I'm-- I'm monstrous."
"Now, that's not fair," Tony said, instantly. "I think you're-- you're very--" Handsome. Sexy. Beautiful. Amazing. Gorgeous. No, no, no. That wouldn't do. Steve's expression was growing more and more dejected, and Tony scrambled for the first non-revealing adjective that came to mind. "Uh. Patriotic?"
A breath of air somewhere between a laugh and a sob burst from Steve's lips. "Patriotic," he said, shaking his head. "Tony, I'm a goddamn octopus."
"A Captopus?" Tony offered, and Steve glared at him like he was a breath away from either screaming or bursting into tears, and honestly either of those was pretty frightening to contemplate. Tony held up his hands. "Okay. Sorry. I am sorry, for what it's worth." Sure, it was his lifelong fantasy, but Steve was clearly so miserable about it that he just couldn't find this appealing. He hoped.
"One minute I was sitting at the table reading the paper," Steve said, "and then the next -- I didn't have legs anymore." He gestured helplessly at himself, with his hands this time, at his... appendages. Maybe they were arms if he was an octopus. Tony kind of liked the sound of tentacle better.
"Uh," Tony said, hypnotized by the soft sway of Steve's tentacles underneath the surface of the water. "Yeah. That, uh. That would be my fault. I'm sorry."
Steve squinted. "Your fault?"
One tentacle slithered up behind Steve and curled over the edge of the tub, gripping and sticking to the marble with a soft, wet, obscene sucking sound that went straight down Tony's spine and right to his cock and thank God, Steve didn't seem to have noticed and if he did Tony was going to die. Well, possibly he was going to come in his pants, untouched, and then he was going to die. Steve was suffering, and here Tony was, trying to fight off his hard-on. Jesus.
Tony took a deep breath and tried to calm himself. "Yeah. Amora the Enchantress cursed me. Well, she cursed you, via me. It wouldn't have happened if I'd dodged better."
"She hit me with some kind of spell. Then she said my greatest love would be combined with my greatest enemy," Tony said, and then he had to look away because Steve was blushing and, God, he blushed down into the tips of the tentacles, which were even now changing color, the red going a little deeper.
There was a very little smile on Steve's face. "I-- okay, honestly, Tony, that means so much to me. I mean, right now it's not really working to our advantage--"
Speak for yourself, Tony thought, and he bit his lip.
"I really am sorry," Tony tried again. "I didn't know this would happen."
"I'm not blaming you," Steve said. "I just-- well-- for one thing, I don't understand why you haven't run away in horror."
Tony coughed and looked away awkwardly. "You're still you. It, uh. It doesn't bother me." Time to change the subject. He gestured in the vague direction of Steve's... appendages. "You don't need to stay in water like that to live, do you? Or do you?"
Steve shook his head. "I just-- I wanted to get away from everyone for a bit, and I felt--" he waved a tentacle again-- "a little exposed, and there were ladies present."
"Of course you were concerned about that." Tony stifled a chuckle. And tried not to think about how Steve was naked. Oh God. He needed to stop this.
"And the water feels nice," Steve added. "It's easier to move in it. I can kind of walk by slithering about but it's not really very... dignified. This is better. Maybe I should try the pool." He sighed. "I'm really hoping that Strange comes through soon about a way to fix this."
They had to get Steve back to normal, Tony told himself. So what if Tony enjoyed the idea of Steve like this? Steve hated it, and Steve was Captain America and it would be in everyone's best interest if he could keep being Captain America and he couldn't do that if the bottom half of him was made up entirely of tentacles.
"Amora mentioned a solution, actually," Tony said, and Steve's whole body lit up. Even the tentacles seemed to be brighter. "But I didn't understand it."
"Oh." Steve's face fell, and the tentacle that had been curled over the edge of the tub drooped and plopped back into the water. "What did she say?"
"She said that my love would lift the curse," Tony said, still perplexed. "But I don't understand how that's supposed to help, because obviously I still love you and yet you're still-- Steve, are you okay?"
Steve had shut his eyes and turned away again. If Tony had thought Steve had looked bad when he had come in -- well, he was definitely worse now. His skin was rapidly going pale. Three of his tentacles were out of the water, sliding over the edge of the tub, and they were changing color once again, the blue gaining an almost sickly pallor now. He was hunched over, and from what Tony could see of his face it was twisted, wracked in agony.
"This can't be happening," Steve said, low and wretched.
Steve lifted his head. "There's only one answer," he said, and there were hollows around his eyes like bruises. "If it's not the feeling of love, if it's not the emotion, then it's the-- then it's the act of love, and I-- I can't ask you to do this. I can't. It's, it's disgusting, that's what it is--"
Steve broke off. He was clenching and unclenching his fists, one hand underwater, one hand digging into the edge of the tub. His tentacles were lashing back and forth underwater. The water rippled as one of them broke the surface, splashing down in a wave that slopped over the lip of the tub and onto the floor.
It couldn't be true. But now that Tony thought about it, it made sense. Amora had told him he might even have fun, he remembered.
Oh God. He had to have sex with Steve. Who had tentacles.
Well, that was-- that was--
That was a lot of conflicting things, that was what it was.
Here was Tony's favorite fantasy, his unachievable fantasy handed to him on a platter, and Steve was looking at him like he'd rather be dead. Like he thought there was no way Tony would ever want to touch him. Tony's heart pounded and everything in him tensed up, a confusingly heady mix of fight-or-flight arousal and, well, the other kind.
He wanted this. But Steve was clearly not going to think kindly of him for wanting this, and Steve definitely did not seem to be into the idea at all. And since the curse had very specifically mentioned love, Tony suspected that entirely passionless tentacle sex would not be enough to break the curse. If the act of love, as Steve had called it, was what was required, they had to want this. And Tony did, but not if Steve didn't. He couldn't do it if Steve actually didn't want to. But if Steve knew he did...
His secret weighed on him, pushed him down. He had to say something.
Steve blinked up at him. "Yeah?"
"Actually." Tony swallowed hard. "If that's what we have to do, to break the curse, it... wouldn't be a problem for me."
Steve's smile was bitter, pained. "I don't think this is something you can nobly sacrifice yourself for, Tony. But thanks."
"It's not a sacrifice." Tony's mouth was dry. His voice cracked in the middle of the sentence. "Really more of a... dream come true?"
He tried for flippant levity, the better to hide the actual reality of it. Of course, Steve being Steve, that didn't exactly work. Steve's head snapped up, and it felt like his gaze pierced to Tony's heart, like Steve just cut through all of his defenses and could see every bit of how he felt, no matter how he tried to cover it.
"You're not joking," Steve said, and his voice was a little uncertain.
"No," Tony agreed.
"You're really not joking," Steve said again. His face twisted. "You'd-- you'd have... relations... with me even though I look like this? I-- I don't even know what we could do. How we could be together."
He lifted an illustrative tentacle in Tony's direction, and Tony clutched the fabric of his pants so he wouldn't reach out for it, because that was just pathetic.
"Believe me," Tony said. "I have a whole lot of ideas." He paused and licked his lips. "Only if you want to."
"We don't exactly have much of a choice," Steve said, and as Tony stared, dismayed, Steve held up a hand. "No, no, I didn't mean it like that. I love you. I just don't want to... take advantage of you."
Couldn't Steve see how much Tony wanted this? Maybe he didn't want to believe it. "You wouldn't be. Totally willing. I promise."
"You want this." Steve's voice had gone flat in disbelief. The tentacle in the air went crooked and curled. "Me. Me when I look like this."
Tony held out his hands, palms flat. Begging. Leveling. No secrets now. "Honestly. You're... lovely. You're gorgeous. You've always been. This is just... a different kind."
The tentacle was closer to Tony now. If he took a few steps forward, if he reached out his hand--
He realized his hand was slowly edging forward, toward Steve's upraised tentacle, and hastily he jerked it back. He wasn't going to touch Steve without permission.
"You look like you want to touch it." Steve's words were an observation, but to Tony it felt like a question.
"Please," Tony said, quietly. "I want to. So much."
In response, Steve stretched the tentacle forward, and Tony took three halting steps and held out his hand. He brushed two fingers against the reddish tip of the tentacle. It was warm, blood-hot, and smooth to the touch. It was wet with something a little more viscous than water, something slick, and it was unbelievably, satiny soft.
Tony's cock jerked in his pants. This seemed almost unspeakably lewd and he still had all his clothes on.
"Jesus fuck," Tony murmured. "That's really-- that's really something else. That's perfect. You're perfect."
Slowly he set his whole palm against the body of Steve's tentacle. He could feel Steve's pulse pound through his hand as the tentacle slid against his skin.
Steve gave the tiniest gasp. "T--" he said, like he couldn't quite finish Tony's name.
"Are you all right?" Tony asked. "Does this hurt? Am I hurting you?"
When Steve didn't answer immediately, Tony made to jerk his hand away but the tentacle promptly twined about his wrist, looping and holding him in a solid grip and squeezing down and oh Christ that was amazing. Regular bondage was just never going to compare. Tony's cock, trapped in his pants, twitched again, and for a few dazed seconds of heat Tony could only wonder if it would break the curse if he just got his fly undone with his free hand and jerked off right here.
"Uh," Steve said, and he was breathing hard, dark-eyed, and he looked like someone who was very much not in pain. "That's... the opposite of hurting. Oh, wow. They're sensitive, but that's good. That's so good, Tony."
There was either too much air in the room or not enough. "Same," Tony said, and he reached down and palmed his cock so maybe he wouldn't actually come in his pants just from Steve holding his hand. Steve's gaze dropped down and his eyes went even darker.
The very tip of Steve's tentacle rested against Tony's fingertips, and he flipped it around to press a sucker against the pad of Tony's index finger and oh, that was an interesting sensation. Tony groaned. He could imagine how that would feel -- well, a lot of places.
"I can think of a few things now," Steve said, very quietly. "That we could try."
"Anything," Tony breathed. "Anything, oh God, Steve."
There was a bit of color in Steve's cheeks. "I don't think I can undress you like this, though."
Steve's grip on him slackened and dropped away, and Tony quickly yanked his shirt over his head, kicked his shoes off and threw them in the general direction of his bedroom, and then slid out of his pants. His erection bobbed, and Steve glanced down.
"Not kidding about liking this, huh?" Steve said, faintly.
Tony smiled. "Really not. You can-- you can do whatever you want to me." He realized belatedly that that wasn't very specific, and take me sounded like bad romance novel dialogue. "Manhandle me. Just really... go to town." He swallowed. "I want to feel you. All of you. Everywhere. All over."
"So," Steve said, and there was that familiar air of confidence and determination in his voice again, a far cry from the wretched sadness that had been looming over him when Tony had entered. "You'd like it if I did... this?"
Steve leaned back, and then three tentacles rose from the water, whip-fast. Before Tony could even blink, one was around his upper arm. The one that was already out of the water, that had been holding his hand, now encircled his other arm, and the remaining two tentacles went low, wrapping around his thighs, pulling his legs apart, dear God, yes yes yes. And then he was flying forward as Steve lifted him bodily into the air and drew him down. The water he sank into was warm, and then Steve pulled him close, and Steve's actual arms went around his neck, the hard planes of flesh and bone a striking contrast to the lushness of the tentacles wrapped around him.
"Oh my God," Tony said, dizzy, panting, as the tentacle on one of his thighs gently curled and uncurled a little, repositioning his leg for him. The tip of the tentacle lay very promisingly against Tony's inner thigh and Tony twitched a little, flexing, thrusting, trying to see if he could get the tentacle to move higher--
"Hi there," Steve murmured. His voice was low, his eyes lazily half-lidded with pleasure, with satisfaction. "That what you had in mind?"
Tony opened his mouth and found that all he could do was whimper.
And then Steve brought his hand up to the back of Tony's head, tipped their mouths together, and kissed him thoroughly. Steve's tongue was slick and hot and wet too, and as Steve kissed him Tony felt one of Steve's tentacles start to slide inquisitively over his ass, and God, yes, please, yes, more of that.
He was breathless when Steve broke the kiss, straining forward against Steve's slick but very firm grasp, and Steve only grinned crookedly at him.
"Well, I'm not just going to feel you up without even kissing you first," Steve said, a little apologetically, like somehow he could still win some kind of points for being wholesome and virtuous while they were wet and naked and he was petting Tony's ass with a tentacle. "I'm not that kind of fella."
Steve brought another tentacle up and curled it around Tony's head, sliding it over his hair.
Tony could only gasp at him. He felt hot all over, sensitive everywhere, and he could feel Steve's tentacles throb against his skin. "Yeah, well," Tony retorted. "I might be." And he managed to turn his head and plant a kiss on the tentacle that now curved over his shoulder.
Steve shuddered, glassy-eyed, and then the powerful tentacles around Tony's legs bunched, and all at once Steve dropped his arms and lifted Tony into the air with his tentacles, suspending him so he hung freely. Water ran off Tony -- and Steve's tentacles -- in dripping rivulets.
Tentacle bondage. Sexy tentacle suspension bondage with Steve. This was Tony's lucky year.
And then one lone tentacle tip slid around the base of Tony's cock. Tony moaned and tried to thrust forward, but he had no leverage; Steve was holding him up even as he rocked uselessly in midair. A second later, the tentacle spiraled up his cock, coiling around it, covering it all over. The tip of the tentacle toyed with the head of his cock, so much more delicate and smooth than anything Tony could have imagined. Glancing down, Tony could see it -- the elegant little pointed red tentacle-tip curled around him, pale suckers turned to the outside so that the smooth side was caressing Tony's cock, sliding back and forth, with the barest glimpse of his own flesh underneath.
Tony moaned again and strained against the bonds, swinging his hips forward, trying to thrust into Steve's grip, but Steve just moved with him, letting him rock in vain, without relief. Tony could feel sweat trickling down his neck.
"Easy there," Steve said, low and almost soothing, like Tony needed to be gentled. Didn't he know Tony needed this rough? Couldn't he tell Tony needed it right now? "Gosh, you're handsome, all spread out for me like that. Relax. Breathe. I've got you."
"Yeah, well," Tony said, panting out his response with all the frustrated breath he could summon up. "I wish you'd hurry up and--- mmm, oh, oh fuck."
At that precise moment, Steve's tentacle tightened around his cock, rippling in a pulsing wave of perfect sensation. It was like burying himself inside Steve, as deep as he could go, except it was Steve wrapped around him, and Tony strained against Steve's hold, arching forward, trying to get more, and God, if Steve kept doing that he was going to come in ten seconds flat.
Steve's face was bright, his gaze enthralled. The tentacles holding Tony's arms up shifted position, and before Tony could quite process what was going on, both of his arms were now held together above his head, pinned at the wrists, and one of the tentacles from his legs was now encircling his thigh once in a loop, then curving up around his waist to do the bulk of the lifting. It was a snug hold, and Tony squirmed a little, still trying to rock his hips forward, to plunge into that slick, welcoming grasp. It was a lot more difficult now.
Steve's lips parted in a delighted smile. "Oh," he murmured. "You like that. I can do whatever I want to you. I can touch you all over, at once. You want that, don't you?"
Tony could only manage a nod and some kind of whimpering noise, a shadow of his voice.
Not relaxing his grip -- any of his grips -- Steve reached out with another tentacle. This one, he set on Tony's torso. Then Steve's mouth quirked and Tony felt the extremely interesting sensation of a long, powerful line of tiny suctioned points over his chest, focusing on his nipples, a sensation that went straight to his cock as he tried again to rock forward into Steve's embrace.
"Ngh," Tony said. "Oh, God, Steve, please, more."
In response, Steve lifted that tentacle away, revealing a line of little sucking bruises. God, Steve was mauling him. But before Tony could complain about the absence of that tentacle, the tentacles around Tony's thighs shifted his legs wider -- easy access, oh, fuck -- and the tentacle that had been on Tony's chest slid between his thighs, the very tip of it gently caressing his balls even as the tentacle around his cock continued to ripple, even as the tentacles on his arms and legs and waist held him immobile. It was like being in the center of an orgy where every other participant was Steve, and it was glorious.
And then another tentacle, this one slicker than the others, slid over his ass, slipping and sliding and pulsing almost inquisitively at Tony's entrance. Slicking him up.
Steve was holding Tony above him now, and Steve's head was thrown back so he could look Tony in the eye. He couldn't quite focus, and his eyes were wide and dark. "Can I?" Steve breathed. Like he thought Tony might say no. Steve had put his fingers in Tony's ass. His cock. His tongue. It wasn't like Tony was about to say no to Steve's tentacle.
"Yes," Tony whispered, and he tried to push himself back onto Steve's questing tentacle. "Yes, yes, yes, so much yes."
Gingerly, gently, Steve's tentacle breached his body, and they both groaned at the same time. God, this was so much better than the toy. Steve was warm, and solid, and so much bigger, oh, yes.
"Oh!" Steve said, surprised. His face and chest were flushed, and the tentacles Tony could see were even darker, now a deep blue at his waist, shading down to purple-red tips. "You feel so-- so hot and tight." Steve shuddered, a ripple that went all through him and made Tony sway in his grasp, and Tony dazedly wondered if Steve could come, with this particular anatomy. He supposed they were going to find out.
Tony smiled down at him. "Keep going?"
The thing about the tentacle-shaped toy -- or hell, about actual humans -- was that, physically, you eventually had to stop. You could fit a whole cock in you, and you'd bottom out. And the thing about Tony was that -- though Steve steadfastly refused to use the actual term -- Tony was a size queen. And the third thing, the thing about Steve having real-life tentacles, was that Steve didn't have to stop. He could just fill Tony up, push into him until Tony was full, until Tony was stretched wide, taking something bigger than anything else could be. Taking Steve.
So Tony breathed in and out, huge deep breaths, relaxing, focusing on the comforting little ripples of Steve's other tentacle around his cock, feeling himself open up wider and wider as Steve slid deeper. He was full, so full, and he threw his head back and groaned.
He could see Steve trembling, trying to hold back. Steve's hands were clutching the edge of the tub and his remaining tentacles were stuck tight to the marble.
"Come on," Tony said, and he squeezed down hard, and oh God, that was good--
Steve's eyes went wide, and then deep inside Tony Steve's tentacle curved and looped back, the tip of it rubbing over Tony's prostate again and again, and Steve's other tentacle tightened on Tony's dick, and Steve groaned out something wordless as Tony was held suspended between the two sensations, trying to shove himself back and then forward and all the while bound so tight. He could feel his orgasm building, fast, fast, fast, and he'd known he wasn't going to last, but he wanted to hold off just a little longer.
"Steve," Tony panted. "I'm gonna-- I've got to-- I can't hold out, I'm sorry--"
The tentacle that was twined around his balls pulled, gently but firmly tugging them down and holding, keeping his orgasm at bay. Tony wanted to scream, but at the same time this was exactly what he wanted. If he was only going to get to do this once, he wanted more than thirty seconds of it.
Steve just grinned up at him. He was breathing hard, and his skin was gleaming with sweat. "Not just yet. Wait for me, okay?"
And then Steve started to move within him in earnest. Tony was poised on the very crest of pleasure, and Steve drove into him, again and again, filling up and stretching him wide, the tentacle all sleek and hot and gliding over exactly the right spots, again and again and again. Steve's other tentacle rippled and tightened around Tony's cock, and it was so much sensation, overwhelming him, flooding him with a tide of pure, perfect pleasure.
He could almost come, if only-- if only--
Steve's teeth were gritted. He was trying but he wasn't quite there yet, and Tony was betting he wasn't exactly sure how to get there either.
Well, Tony could help.
"My mouth," he gasped. "Steve, my mouth-- please--"
Steve had to be balancing on his arms and one remaining tentacle by now -- Tony had kind of lost count -- but then a tentacle came up, wrapped around the back of Tony's neck, pressed suckers all the way up Tony's throat, and Tony opened his mouth wide.
It filled his mouth up, rested on his tongue, and carefully didn't go too deep. It tasted... nice, actually. Kind of like Steve smelled. So Tony smiled around the tentacle in his mouth, and he licked, and Steve's eyes went wide and the tentacle on Tony's cock twisted and there was the teeniest bit of suction, and deep within him Steve hit his prostate again, a heavy, undulating pressure, and oh God if Steve didn't let him come he was going to die.
The tentacle around his balls relaxed, still curled around them, pressing into the sensitive spot just behind them, and that was it, Tony was gone. He was coming and coming, moaning around the tentacle in his mouth, thrusting back and forward, and he looked down and saw his own come spattering Steve's tentacles and his cock jerked again, another wave of pleasure.
The bonds holding him up started to loosen, and then suddenly Steve was dragging him close, dragging him down, pressing them together skin-to-skin and wrapping his huge tentacles all around his body. The tentacle slid out of Tony's mouth and Tony was still coming, come smearing white on Steve's chest, on his dark blue tentacles, on their red tips. Steve pulled Tony close to him with arms and tentacles, and the tentacle that was still inside him drove in deep, and then Steve was kissing him--
Steve moaned something that might have been Tony's name and squeezed him tight, tight, tight, and he was shaking all over in one great trembling spasm, and then another, like a wave, before he finally released him.
Tony tipped his head against Steve's shoulder and -- as Steve delicately extricated his tentacle -- started to laugh, relief and delight mixed together. "Well," Tony said. "I have to admit, I wasn't sure if you could come at all."
Steve shrugged helplessly; one tentacle petted Tony's hair before dropping back into the water with an exhausted splash. "I wasn't sure either. Then it seemed like I could, so, well." He shrugged again. "Really strange, though. To feel it in, uh, all your tentacles."
"You betcha." Steve flashed him a grin. "And I'm going to guess you had fun?"
"Oh, yeah," Tony said, and he leaned in and kissed Steve. "That's going on the top ten list. Top five list. Top three. It's up there." He frowned. "I have to admit that I'm a little concerned. I mean, you thought it would break the curse and it didn't--"
Which, of course, was when the tentacles disappeared.
"Oh," Tony said. He pushed backwards in the tub and peered at Steve's perfectly normal legs, underwater. "There we go."
Steve likewise was staring down at himself. "Well, that's a relief." He looked up and his eyes twinkled. "I had been going to ask if you wanted to do it again."
Tony laughed. "It would have been my pleasure."
"Yeah," Steve said. "I can tell."
Tony splashed him.
Steve splashed him back.
"Right," Tony said. "Now that that's done, we should get out of the bath and tell the rest of the team we fixed you."
Steve frowned. "What if they ask how?"
"Easy." Tony beamed. "Just like Amora said. With the power of love."