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Virtues for the Unvirtuous

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Steve tipped his head back against the armchair with a sigh. The day had been long and draining but Jarvis’s wonderful cooking had definitely gone a long way to improving his mood. He heard giggling from somewhere to his right and rolled his head lazily until Carol and Jess came into view.

“Seriously Carol, what the hell are you up to? You’ve been restless all night.” They were curled up together on the neighboring couch, Jess’s long dark hair draped messily all over Carol as she leaned onto her to dig at the pint of ice cream in Carol’s hand.

“Patience is a virtue, Jess,” Carol sing-songed. “Besides, you’ll see soon enough,” she added, taking advantage of Jess’s lax grip to snatch the spoon back.

Jess narrowed her eyes. “This has something to do with Tony, doesn’t it?”

Carol shrugged, glancing over at Steve. “Just saying, for a genius, Tony sure has some dumb ideas sometimes.”

Steve shook his head. “Honestly.”

“Where is Tony anyway?” Jess asked. “I didn’t see him at dinner.”

“Still sulking down in his workshop,” Logan answered gruffly as he walked in. He relaxed into the other armchair and took a large gulp from his beer.

Steve frowned. Tony had a habit of missing dinner to work -- he was, after all, still running a company on top of all his Avengers duties -- so Steve hadn’t thought too much of his absence tonight. But perhaps he should have.

He stood up. “I should go bring him some food.”

“By food do you mean your man-juice?” Jessica called as he ducked into the kitchen and headed for the fridge.

“Remember to use protection!” Carol added.

Logan snorted. “Why should they? It’s not like he can knock Stark up.”

Spiderman’s shriek floated through the open doorway. “Gahh stop! Bad, bad images in my head!”

Steve rolled his eyes and shut the refrigerator.

Whenever Tony missed a meal, Jarvis carefully put together a plate and set it on the top shelf of the fridge. Some days, there were at least three of four plates of meticulously arranged food laid out but they were always gone by the next morning. Steve didn’t know for sure if Tony went on binges sometimes or if Jarvis just didn’t like having too many leftovers piling up. He strongly suspected the latter.

Come to think of it, Tony had pretty much disappeared right after they’d all gotten back, heading off somewhere after a quick word with Carol. It was a little strange. Usually after a mission, Tony and Steve couldn’t keep their hands off each other, the need to assure themselves of one another’s continuing existence overwhelming them as soon as the threat had passed.

Perhaps it was the sheer ridiculousness of this one and the way it had started, the whole conceit of it. And they had been apart for most of it, the danger in each of their situations not immediately apparent to one another. It was a bit easier not to think of your loved ones throwing themselves directly in the line of fire when it wasn’t happening right before your eyes.

He found Tony quickly enough. Logan had been surprisingly accurate -- Tony was in his workshop and he was definitely sulking.

“Hey.”

Tony looked up from his screen. “Hey,” he answered glumly, then dropped his gaze back to his screen, chin in hand.

Steve fought down the smile that was threatening to break out over his face over Tony’s gloomy expression -- he looked far too much like Droopy the dog right now. Steve turned towards the microwave, taking advantage of the positioning to get his amusement under control. It was highly unlikely Tony would take kindly to being laughed at in his current mood.

“So that was an interesting day, huh?” Steve said casually, once he felt comfortable enough meeting Tony’s eye again.

“I guess that’s one way of putting it,” Tony grumbled.

“Carol is never going to let go of the fact that her girlfriend saved my boyfriend’s life,” Steve joked.

Tony grimaced, whether at the reference or the use of the term ‘boyfriend’, he didn’t know. “Yeah, well I heard Carol had to give you a last-ditch save too,” he retorted. “By the way, will you please stop jumping out of planes without a chute?” He glared at Steve. “I’m going to knit one into your damn costume,” he muttered.

Steve scratched his head sheepishly. “She told you about that, huh?” Tony just raised an eyebrow at him. “Well, I knew she’d catch me,” Steve protested.

Tony ignored his, let’s face it, pretty useless response. “And what the hell happened to my quinjet?!”

Steve opened his mouth. And closed it. Thankfully he was saved by the beep of the microwave. “Oh look, food’s done!” Tony scoffed but seemed to decide to let it go.

Steve elbowed the microwave door shut and set the steaming plate in front of Tony. Tony eyed it skeptically for a moment, then looked up at Steve. “Is there any kale in this?”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Yes. It’s kale macaroni with kale cheese and a side of kale potatoes and kale fruit salad. Oh, and a little kale brownie for dessert because I know you’ve got that terrible sweet tooth.”

Tony humphed but he picked up the fork and stuck it in the macaroni. Steve slid up onto the workbench. He kicked up a foot and dug it into Tony’s left side. “So are you going to explain or what?”

“What?” Tony mumbled around his gigantic bite of piping hot food. Steve sometimes thought that Tony had long ago permanently burned off the roof of his mouth -- he seemed to shovel food in at the same rate, no matter what temperature it came to him at.

“You know what.”

Tony swallowed with an audible gulp and began picking at the brownie. Steve cleared his throat. Tony glanced up from his plate to catch Steve’s pointed look.

“You want me to explain why I’m eating my brownie first?” Tony asked.

Steve leaned forward and flicked Tony on the shoulder. “Playing dumb is not a good look on you. But you really should eat your potatoes, you could use the carbs after a day like today.”

Tony huffed but dutifully speared a piece of potato on the end of his fork.

“Seriously, Tony. I know I was being kind of an ass about it before but I am sorry things worked out the way they did.”

Tony sighed and dropped the fork back to the plate with a clatter. “It’s just...it’s so damn hard, you know? And I really just wanted to, I dunno, lighten things up a bit with Bruce. Instead he was forced to Hulk out so his insides didn’t get devoured. And then everyone else got dragged into it too.”

Steve’s eyebrows drew together. “Okay...but you know none of it was actually your fault right? There’s always going to be nutjobs trying to remake mankind or whatever insane thing that psycho was trying to do.”

“Yeah,” Tony exhaled, picking up his fork again. “I guess.”

They both fell quiet, the silence punctuated only by the sounds of Tony chewing through his dinner. Steve leaned back on his hands and watched him eat, just enjoying the companionship and the serenity that seemed so rare these days.

“You know what the worst part is?”

Steve cocked his head curiously at Tony.

“I won’t get to see Banner walk his naked ass over to the Baxter Building. I really wanted to see Reed’s face when Hulk showed up on his doorstep, giant green schlong and all.”

Steve grinned. “It’s a good thing I’m not the jealous type, with a statement like that.” He reached over and broke off a piece of brownie, just narrowly avoiding Tony’s reprimanding hand.

“You already had your share you little thief,” Tony said, jabbing his fork in Steve’s direction. “And what are you talking about?” he asked incredulously. “Last week you threw your shield at Peter when you thought he was taking a photo of my ass!”

“I didn’t! My shield just...slipped,” he finished lamely. “Besides, it’s hard to tell what a camera is focusing on,” he complained. “How was I supposed to know he was just gathering evidence?”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Well, maybe that’s why we’re such a good fit for each other.”

“I feel like there was an attempt at an insult in there somewhere but you know, people tend to say that opposites attract so I really don’t know where you were going with that.”

Steve jumped off the workbench, grabbing the rest of the brownie. He darted around Tony, getting just out of reach before Tony could react, and stuffed the entire chunk of brownie in his mouth.

Tony turned on his stool, indignant. “You’re a cruel man, Steve Rogers.”

Steve swallowed hard and grinned. He darted his tongue out to the corner of his lips. “Mmm, that’s good stuff. You know,” he said, waggling his eyebrows at Tony, “you can still have a taste.”

Tony eyed him speculatively for a moment, then swiveled back around to his food. “I probably shouldn’t. My daddy gets mad if I don’t eat all my potatoes first.”

Steve laughed. He took a step forward and hooked a finger into Tony’s belt loop, spinning him around. “I’ll show you who’s your daddy.”

Tony groaned. “You did not--“

Steve kissed off the end of his sentence, the words Tony was determined to spit out truncated between their mouths until they resembled more of a low hum.

When he pulled back, Tony licked his lips. “You’re right, that is good stuff. Better make sure...” He fisted a hand in Steve’s shirt and pulled him down.

It seemed Tony really was intent on ensuring every trace of the brownie left in Steve’s mouth tasted just as delicious as the first one. He parted his legs and tugged Steve forward between them, leaning back until he hit the workbench behind him. Steve braced his weight on the workbench, his thick arms bracketing Tony as their tongues tangled and Tony’s hands dipped beneath the fabric of Steve’s shirt.

Tony moved his attention to Steve’s neck, forcing a moan from Steve. It was a favorite pastime of Tony’s -- to see if he could make a mark that lasted longer than a few minutes on Steve’s serum-enhanced skin. Steve found he couldn’t complain much.

That is, until he moved his hand and found himself with a handful of cheese.

“Gross!”

Tony immediately pulled back. “Gross? Gross?!

“No, not...” Steve straightened up and stuck his hand in Tony’s face.

“Oh.” Tony stared at his hand. Then, with a smirk, he wrapped his hand around Steve’s wrist and pulled Steve’s hand towards his mouth, taking one long finger between his lips.

He ran his tongue down the side of Steve’s finger and across his palm, clearing a streak through the cheese smeared across his hand.

“You know,” Tony said, words coming between licks and sucks, “if my dinner was always served to me like this...” He grinned up at Steve. “I’d probably show up for it a lot more often.”

Steve snatched his hand back, an idea forming in his head. “That doesn’t sound like a very balanced diet.” He maneuvered his way out of Tony’s grip and moved towards the door. “I think maybe I should stop distracting your from getting all your proper nutrients.”

“What? Steve! Where the hell are you going? We have stuff to do! Important stuff, Steve!”

“Maybe once you finish all your fruit,” Steve threw over his shoulder. “Besides, you need to save yourself for tomorrow.”

“Why, what’s tomorrow? Steve, what’s going on tomorrow? Steve? Steve!

“Patience is a virtue, Tony,” Steve called back as he approached the exit.

“CRUEL, STEVE,” Tony yelled after him. “YOU’RE A CRUEL MAN.”

Steve huffed out a laugh but kept walking. He and Carol had some plotting to do.

***

Superhero business was slow the next day and most of them were lounging around the living room after returning from Bruce and Tony’s little excursion to the Baxter Building. Tony definitely seemed to be in better spirits since yesterday. He’d even joined them for lunch and was now sitting in the armchair, surprisingly without any tech in his hands taking his attention. Steve knew this because Tony was currently running both those hands through Steve’s hair and down his neck, occasionally rubbing at the tense muscles there. Steve was on the floor leaning back against Tony’s legs, trying his best not to purr like a cat. On the couch were Jess and Carol again, this time with Spiderman perched on the arm next to them instead of hanging off the ceiling. And of course, in his usual spot sat Logan, complete with his usual beer.

Bruce was conspicuously missing -- he seemed surprisingly self-conscious about the whole thing considering how many times the world had seen him nude between his transformations from Bruce to Hulk and back again.

“That’s exactly why,” Jess said when Steve voiced this thought. “I mean, this is probably the first time he’s chosen to expose himself like that. Or I guess, expose the Hulk. He’s probably still figuring out how he feels about it.”

“Unlike Tony over here, who couldn’t wait to take off his pants,” Carol added.

“Yeah, what’s that all about?” Spiderman asked. Steve shifted his body slightly so he could crane his neck up at Tony, dislodging Tony’s hands.

Tony shrugged. “What can I say, I’m an obliging guy.” He was met with an entire roomful of raised eyebrows. “Okay, fine. Steve made it sound like he had a surprise for me today and I thought maybe he’d finally taken me up on my suggestion for an Avengers orgy. Good team bonding and everything.”

Steve spluttered. “What?! You didn’t...I wouldn’t...you...”

“What? Spiderman’s very bendy you know.”

“Kill me now,” Spiderman moaned.

“Well, my guesses were either that or you that you have an exhibitionist kink and we were going to get down and dirty right there in the kitchen...” Steve choked and Tony peered down at him. “Oh my god, you do have an exhibitionist kink. I was just joking around but holy shit, look at you. You were probably, what, you were probably picturing yourself right there next to me when I was out there...” He leant forward until his mouth was right next to Steve’s ear and dropped his voice down low. “Or better yet,” he continued, the soft words creeping their way into Steve’s brain and shooting straight to his groin, “me on my knees in front of you, the whole world looking on as I took your sweet cock into my mouth and you tangled your hands in my hair and I just--“

“Excuse us,” Steve all but squeaked as he wrapped one hand firmly around Tony’s upper arm and in one swift motion, rose up and pulled him bodily from the room.

“Thank fucking god.” Carol's voice chased them as they made their way swiftly towards the bedroom. “I thought Steve was going to explode.”

“Nah, he looks like he’s got some stamina,” Logan put in off-handedly.

“Okay, that is not what I meant.”

And just as they turned the corner, he heard Spiderman groan loudly, “I hate everything.”