He saw it in the elevator first; its use of the thumbprint and voice recognition system had set alarms pealing in the Extremis, and he'd known what to expect when he looked through the cameras. It was still a shock; he had thought that he'd be able to tell, that it'd be a thing, not a person.
Like he'd looked at the clone Thor; he'd never, really, thought of it as a person.
But this moved exactly right; the way it leaned against the wall, not quite a slump. The tired look in the eyes it raised to the cameras, knowing Tony would be watching it. Even the way its hair stuck up at the back. It was too thin, but if it was hoping to convince Tony... surely it couldn't be hoping to convince him. They knew that he knew about the Skrulls. Carol had already sent him a message to let him know there was a Steve Rogers Skrull in Manhattan, and had been sending him regular updates, which Tony hadn't been reading. He didn't need, didn't want, to know the details.
But he was letting it in, wasn't he? It would be stepping out of the elevator in seconds.
If it didn't know that he knew - did it think it was Steve? Or was it on a mission, some task?
Did it have Steve's memories?
He was striding towards the door even as it stepped through. When it opened its mouth to speak, he stopped it. Fingers tangled in the soft blond hair, mouth rough and careless, and its hands went to his waist and tried to push him away.
"Tony - " it said, and bewilderment, relief, pleasure were precisely Steve's tone.
"I missed you, God I missed you," said Tony, and kissed it again, grabbed at it, touched its face and its neck and pushed his hands under the neckline of its shirt to spread his fingers out over broad shoulders.
"Tony," it said, and kissed him back. It didn't know, it didn't realise, it thought this was normal. It didn't have Steve's memories, or it didn't quite trust them.
It was easy to believe it, the slow uncertain touches, the flush and grin as it dipped its head, the way it insisted on stretching Tony far too thoroughly before finally sliding into him, the way it kissed Tony's neck when it was fully sheathed and murmured This doesn't mean you get out of actually talking about it. It was perfect, and Tony moaned and panted and told it all the things he'd wanted to tell Steve, and it cupped his face with big warm hands and told him everything was going to be fine, that it loved him too, that they'd make things right.
He didn't want it to end, but seeing Steve's face as he came inside Tony made him feel absurdly grateful to the Skrulls. It kissed him sweet and slow, and when it tried to pull away from him he gripped tighter with legs and body and it made a helpless noise.
"Tony. Oh, Tony, just - all right, all right." He could feel the faint twitch of it inside him, already responding. Was that Skrull physiology? Or Steve? It was rocking its hips a little now, biting down on its lip. "I didn't mean - " it blurted suddenly, and then it laughed. That hurt more than anything, Steve's laughter, and he turned his head away. Its lips touched his neck. "I didn't expect this," it said. "I thought - I thought I'd have to convince you who I was."
Tony's head snapped back, eyes widening. His heart hammered. If it was confessing to being a Skrull, odds were it was on a killing mission - gold flowed out of his pores, covering his skin, and it made a startled noise.
"What - Tony - " it peered down between them, and the gold couldn't cover his body entirely, because the Skrull was still in him. "Um, what are you doing? If you want me to stop - "
"What else were you supposed to convince me of?" he said harshly, and its eyes widened.
"Tony, I - " and then it stopped. "I thought you must have spoken to her. Carol. You haven't, have you?"
"To - " Tony accessed his email, checked the folder he'd been shunting all the Avengers' emails into. Twenty-three unread emails from Carol, increasingly frantic, and the subject lines of the last four were STEVE ROGERS IS ALIVE.
He stared up at Steve's face as he riffled through them, starting with careful hints and requests he get in touch and finishing with the news that Steve was coming over now and he wasn't a Skrull and dear God, Tony, don't kill him.
That would explain all the telephone calls he'd been ignoring, too.
The gold flowed away, and he was skin to skin with Steve again.
"Was that - was that all just a ploy?" Steve said in an unsteady voice, and Tony shook his head, squeezed his eyes shut. "What - what was that?"
"I thought," and his voice cracked and he had to stop and swallow several times. He couldn't find a lie to tell, not now, not to Steve. "I thought it was the only chance I'd ever have."
"You idiot," said Steve, and Tony laughed, but it twisted into a sob and he put a hand up to cover his eyes.
"I am, I am," he gasped. "I'm such an idiot, Steve, please forgive me, I'm so sorry - " his voice failed again, and Steve's arms went round him, pulling him close, and he caught his breath at the jolt from their still linked bodies. He dug his heels into Steve's thighs, and Steve groaned in his ear.
"Maybe we shouldn't - "
"Please," Tony said. "Please, please, please," and he blinked away tears as Steve began to move in him again. "I'm sorry," he said again, and Steve shook his head.
"Not now, Tony," he said, and the familiar exasperation in Steve's voice made him laugh, a great bubbling surge of laughter that left him limp and giggling. Steve ignored him, though the corners of his mouth twitched, kept up the steady slide and grind of his hips, and Tony was still snickering when he came. He put his arms round Steve's neck and kissed him again and again, and Steve sighed and shivered and smiled at him and finally made a very undignified series of noises before collapsing heavily onto Tony.
"Ow," Tony said mildly, and grinned. Steve shifted his weight mostly onto the mattress, and touched Tony's cheek. Warm and alive and smiling, it was going to be all right.
"I'm sorry," Steve said, and Tony shook his head.
"It doesn't matter."
"No, I mean I'm - "
"It doesn't matter. Not now." Tony put a hand over Steve's mouth. "You're alive. We'll fix things. It'll be all right, now."