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Appraise Valuable Assets -> Launch Opportune Navigation (AVALON)

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In a couple of hours the new gauntlet design will be ready. If Tony hauls ass, by the time it's done he should also have finalized the new power regulation interface that goes with it. Best-case scenario, the Mark 51 should ready for testing around midnight. Or a bit after that. It's a good thing that the workshop is soundproof; he never seems to get to the fun parts where things go boom during socially acceptable hours.

It's a total surprise – a good one of course - to find Steve in the workshop, near the main workstation. Especially with such a nice view of his glorious backside, molded in what has to be the best pair of jeans Steve owns. Baby blue, almost white, and goddamn indecent in the way they hug his ass and thighs. Tony has dubbed them the Jeans of Sex ™, that's how good they are. After a good eyeful that he can chalk as his daily dose of perving done, Tony speaks up.

"Oh, hey, I didn't know you were here! You should have had FRIDAY-" he starts saying.

He stops, words dying in his mouth when Steve pivots towards him rapidly. He looks pissed. The trifecta of flushed cheeks, a clenched jaw and dagger-like eyes are present and announcing an epic Steve meltdown. Things will go boom a lot earlier than expected, though for the life of him Tony has no idea what he's done wrong this time.

"What the fuck, Tony?" Steve spits out, tone harsh and loud.

Again, Tony has no clue what this is about. Normally he sees the arguments coming and evades as much as possible, but he didn't prepare for this. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in what has to be weeks now. Maybe it's a past fuck-up that has resurfaced? Tony raises his hands, trying to be as appeasing as he can.

"Whoa, hey, what's going on?"

"This!" Steve says, jabbing his index at a list hovering in the air. "What the fuck is this shit?"

Brows furrowed, Tony cautiously approaches, speed reads the entry and... oh, it's the AVALON protocol.

>>> +++ Radio silence

>>> OD

>>>

  1. Steve
  2. Jim
  3. Pepper
  4. Team
  5. Happy
  6. Civilians
    1. biggest number
    2. kids
    3. parents
    4. others
  7. Non-civilians
    1. First responders
    2. Key political players
    3. SHIELD
    4. Police
    5. Armed Forces
      1. Local troops
      2. Allies
  8. Kamikaze if probabilities of success > 65%. Rise to 7 if medium to high threat.
  9. Obey tactical orders
    1. Steve
    2. Jim
    3. Team
    4. Pepper
    5. SHIELD
    6. Happy
    7. United Nations
    8. President
    9. First responder
    10. Police
    11. Armed Forces
  10. Minimize (collateral or otherwise)
    1. Injuries
    2. Property damage

>>> 

>>> Use of lethal force: only if previously authorized

>>> Does not override ICARUS protocol

 

No one was supposed to see this list, and he wonders how the hell FRIDAY even allowed Steve to access it. The AVALON protocol has been uploaded to the suits’ systems for months, and that file was definitely not open when Tony left the workshop earlier to take a quick shower.

It is a sensitive set of rules, granted, but not one that was hard to build at all. Well not much, because Tony still feels guilty about Happy being 5th in the order. However, it's also a logical list and a perfectly valid way to go, so he doesn’t know why Steve is acting so offended. Tony grows defensive in return-whatever he chooses to do, it's never good enough.

"What does it look like, Steve?" he says, crossing his arms over his chest and clenching his jaw, getting angrier by the second. Nothing manages to rile him up like Steve getting self-righteous. It's a gift.

"It looks like a load of bullshit!" Steve declares.

"Looks fine to me!" Tony says, eyes scanning down the list again. No one would blame him for it. But maybe the problem is that he prioritized his closest and dearest. "Is it the order that puts your panties in a twist?"

Steve looks as if Tony is a second away from being grabbed by the shoulders and shaken hard.

"The order is just one of the many unacceptable things on this screen!"

Unsurprisingly, it makes Tony bristle even more. He will not put up with being belittled like this. If Steve has something to say about the AVALON protocol, then he should come out and say it instead of being vaguely sanctimonious. Tony could snipe too, but he chooses to pitch his voice sweet and biting and plays the fake civility card. "Did I forget something? Pray tell, if it's that much of an omission."

"Did you-" Steve stops, seems to get two shades darker and then downright yells the rest. "I can't with you, Tony! Kamikaze? In what world is that even acceptable? And what the fuck is ICARUS?"

There it is, he's a disgrace again. It seems that Captain America being done with him is a recurring theme in Tony's life, even though he tries so hard to be good, to be better. Tony would give anything for Steve to be proud of him, for once, to acknowledge that he's trying his best. That's all he wants, but every time he misses by a mile. As for the kamikaze line, of course Tony's going to throw the armor at the problem if there's a 65% chance of success in squashing it! It's the fucking right thing to do! As for ICARUS, well that is non-negotiable. Always has been.

"ICARUS is a hardwire fail-safe already in place in all the armors. If it's inevitable that the suit is to fall into enemy hands, it has to fly right up until it's safe to auto-destruct," Tony says, chin held high. When Steve gapes, he barrels on, almost snarling. "I won't let Iron Man be taken, Steve! Never!"

"Have you ever thought that if you're into enemy hands with the armor, you'd have a better chance of eventually getting out of trouble?" Steve asks.

Well duh, of course. The suit won't self-destruct if Tony needs it! If the AVALON protocol engages, that's because Tony will never need the armor again. It makes him furrow his brow, squinting at Steve because he's not making any sense.

"Well yeah, but it's not relevant in that context. I couldn't care less about self-destruct causing an empty casket. Just put in my phone for the wake, it will be symbolic enough."

Bad attempt at humor, but this is getting heavy. It's Steve's turn to look confused. "Wait, what?"

"I really don't mind," Tony says, shrugging. Heck, he wishes to be incinerated anyway; it would be fitting for it to happen when Iron Man dies too. "Dead is dead."

"What do you mean dead?" Steve is now very still and a lot quieter.

Tony tilts his head and narrows his eyes. "The AVALON protocol," he says slowly. They've been yelling at each other about it and all.

Steve visibly swallows. "You say that as if it makes sense."

Tony scans the screen and shit, he thinks that he knows what is happening here. It's not written on that screen when the AVALON protocol takes effect. If Steve opened the file randomly, he has no context at all.

"It engages if I'm mortally wounded. But FRIDAY is perfectly able to fly the suit and finish the fight that is in progress without my input. The list is just priorities."

It makes sense, too. Iron Man is powerful, critical for the Avengers if he can say so himself. Why put it out of commission because Tony is gone when FRIDAY can take the relay, at least until the dust settles?

Steve has gone from brick red to almost green, and looks as if he has been sucker punched. He lists to the side, a hip crashing against the lab bench, and then sits right down on the floor. Tony has never seen Steve look so shaken and he crouches down by his side.

"Hey, hey, easy Cap," he says softly.

Steve's eyes are wide and… Good Lord, he looks so devastated that Tony feels as if he should be thrown in jail to rot. It's certainly treason to make Captain America look so sad and close to crying.

"Radio silence?" Steve rasps out.

And ouch, of course Tony would hate it too, not being told that a friend is mortally wounded. But isn't it better, in the end?

"Well yeah," he says, trying to be gentle. "If death is a foregone conclusion, inevitable, and there's nothing more to do for me, then why should I distract you or the team when in combat?"

He knows his teammates, he knows Steve, Rhodey too. They'd try to get to him, to help, but it would be for nothing and they'd lose precious time or concentration. It would put them at risk. Tony doesn't want to be the cause of someone else getting hurt. Not having a last word or a goodbye, if he's even lucid enough for it, is a small price to pay.

Steve now has both hands over his face and his breath is coming fast and shallow. It looks an awful lot like an anxiety attack – Tony's old friend – and he has no idea how to help, even while every atom of his being screams that he has to comfort Steve.

"Hey, oh, it's okay Steve." He closes a hand around one of Steve's wrists while he puts the other on his nape. When he isn't shaken off, Tony carefully starts to pet the back of Steve's head.

"It's not okay," Steve mumbles.

"I don't want to use it," Tony says softly, carefully. "It's just in case. To be prepared."

Steve looks up, stares Tony in the eyes.

"So how does that end, hm?" he asks, a little fight coming back in him. Tony can't help the pang of admiration and affection that comes with it. No one keeps Steve Rogers down for long, not even being sucker-punched by insensitive teammates having plans in case of their untimely demise. "Once the fight is over, FRIDAY casually announces you've been dead for who knows how long?"

Tony swallows and nods. That's indeed how he planned it. Now that he stops to think about it, he can imagine the shock of being suddenly presented with a body in the armor. At the acknowledgement, Steve flinches.

"I'm sorry," Tony apologizes. He sits back on his haunches to give Steve some space.

"How can you even-" Steve looks distressed, breathing having sped up again and eyes a little wild. "Do you have any idea how horrible that would be?"

"Well yeah," Tony says, biting his lower lip. "But it would be even worse to sideline the armor when it can still help, no? FRIDAY could get me out, first."

If he's dead, being in or out of the armor makes no difference. He still thinks it would be a distraction for anyone to know, though.

Steve looks as if he's going to be sick. "God, Tony, no!"

"I don't want that to happen!" Tony says, tone rising. He doesn't want to die! However it's inevitable that one day, his luck will run out. He always envisioned that he'd go out in a bang, and sooner rather than later. When that space army gets here - he squashes the thought.

"And I've seen you all dead," Tony continues. "I know how devastating that can be. Please, Steve, please take this list as my dying wish okay? Let me protect what's important to me the only way I can. I beg you."

He knows it's manipulative, but it's true. If Tony has to die in action, it's more important to him that the armor helps than where his fucking company and money will go afterwards. He needs Iron Man to be there for the ones he loves, to do good, to finish the fight for him. Steve looks up at the list, silent. Maybe Tony is making some headway, so he presses on.

"We can talk about it, reorder if you want," Tony tries to coax, fingers barely touching Steve's arm now. "But I warn you, the first three are non-negotiable."

Steve, Jim and Pepper are his top priorities, and have to be protected at all cost.

"Why me?" Steve asks.

Tony blinks, not sure he gets the question. "Why you?"

"First. Why?"

Ah. The big question, and Tony looks away, afraid the answer will be in his eyes. With his luck, it will be obvious that Steve is first because Tony is crazy about him. Tony would march his soul voluntarily into hell to get tortured for eternity if he let something happen to Steve. However, Tony also decided a long time ago that he would not burden Steve with his unrequited feelings.

He bottles it up – he has a lot of practice – and then makes eye contact again for an answer that is not even a lie.

"Logic. The goal is to win, to keep everyone safe. Need you for that, Cap."

For a moment he's sure that Steve bought it. But one of the reasons he loves the man is because Steve can see through his bullshit.

"I get why you'd make FRIDAY in the suit listen to me first. But obeying my orders comes pretty far down the list."

Tony sighs. "What do you want me to say?"

"Tony," Steve insists.

Maybe it's time, Tony realizes. He's lived with this secret for so long, where it's been doing damage inside bouncing everywhere with nowhere to go. There's a good probability that Steve will be uncomfortable with the whole truth, with Tony's love confession, but he's a good man. He will let him down gently, insist they remain friends and will mean it. Tony nonetheless hates making himself this vulnerable, so he takes a moment to collect his thoughts. There's a way to do this without looking too much like a fool. He shifts on the ground, moving to his knees, facing Steve.

"Fine. I love this gig, being Iron Man, saving the world. It's given my life a purpose. I can only hope that every shred of good I manage to do can, in some way, balance the bad," Tony starts. He will never repay his debt totally, but he tries. "But above all that everything I do, right now and every day, is to keep the people I love safe. That wouldn't stop if I died, on the contrary. I'd gladly give my life to keep you safe. If it's the last thing I can do? Then it's a no-brainer."

"You love me?" Steve says quietly, eyes searching his face.

Tony lets a wry smile stretch his mouth; it's been awhile since he could fool Steve Rogers with a whole lot of words trying to dilute an underlying truth.

"Of course I love you. I've been in love with you for years." It comes out easily, after all. Tony is surprised at how light he feels after outright admitting his feelings. In the end it's just a truth in his world, indisputable and unsurprising to probably everyone but Steve himself. The Earth is round, mathematics is the language of the universe and Tony Stark is in love with Steve Rogers. "It just is, don't worry about it."

Steve is still looking at him with a stunned expression, eyes a little round. Tony taps his arm while shaking his head.

"It doesn't have to be weird. Just forget about it. We're friends, I'm good with that." It's true, too. He resigned himself to never having more a long time ago, and the fact that they are friends is a gift in itself. He doesn't want to lose that.

"Forget about it?" Steve asks. His expression is starting to morph from confused and a little lost to something more familiar, firmer. Steve furrows his brow and it looks a lot like determination. "No."

And fuck, this is not a good thing, Steve growing annoyed with him so soon. The last thing Tony wanted to do was to jeopardize their easy rapport, it's been such a long time coming. Now that he has confessed, Tony won't pretend that what he said isn't true, or that it isn't there. Tony can't stop loving him like that. He knows, he tried.

"Okay, then, don't forget about it," Tony says, shrugging a shoulder. The perfect see if I care movement. "It's not a bad thing. It just is, I won't bring it up again. If you need time, I can make myself scarce for-"

He's stunned when Steve all but lunges at him, grabbing him in a tight hug. After a second Tony closes his arms around Steve's middle and hugs back. Steve has drawn him tight, which leaves Tony straddling his thighs, as close as he can be.

"Oh, God. Tony, no," Steve says, saying the words against Tony's shoulder.

He's clinging, and Tony feels helpless once more, rubbing Steve's back. He has fucked up again, triggered a man who has lost everything twice in a row. First by admitting he has a plan in case of his own death, and then by saying that he'd leave to avoid things getting weird. Clearly, Steve doesn't want him gone.

"Easy, Cap," he hushes. "I'm not going anywhere."

"I can't do this without you," Steve says, squeezing even more (not that Tony complains). It's good, reassuring even.

"Then I'll stay right here," Tony says.

"Promise me," Steve demands in the crook of Tony's neck. The words against his skin make Tony shiver, heart in his throat, but he nods.

"I promise." He will always give Steve what he wants, whatever the cost. It's a dangerous promise because life is fragile, but he means it.

"I'm sorry you had to learn about the AVALON protocol like this." Tony dares to run a hand up and down Steve's spine.

"Tony, losing you would break me," Steve murmurs. "It guts me just thinking about it."

"I'm sorry." Tony puts a hand on Steve's nape again, keeping him close. "Losing a teamma-"

"Losing you," Steve insists. "I can't lose you."

Tony tries very hard not to read into this. They put effort and time into it, but they are good friends at last and they work great together. That's why Steve wants him to stay close, to support him. The Avengers are a weird group, a mix of personalities that make little sense. Steve is a great leader, but he needs Tony to challenge him, to make him think differently. In return Tony learned to rely on Cap's steadfastness, to be a little less brash, and to function better in a team. Tony's pretty sure that the team and Steve would manage quite well without him, if the worse was to happen, but it would be an adjustment.

"You've got me," Tony murmurs, caressing Steve's hair gently. He soaks in the feeling of being able to touch him like this while he can. God, he loves that man so much.

His heart flips in his chest when he feels what seems like a kiss against his neck. Steve lips linger, and there's a second kiss, firmer, near Tony's jaw. Immediately Tony's heart rate ratchets up; Steve has to notice, being right against his pulse point.

"I need you," Steve says. His voice is raspy and Tony shivers all over, frankly shocked at this turns of events. But then Steve adds, "I'd do anything to keep you," before kissing behind Tony's ear and the shivers of pleasure are replaced by alarm bells.

Tony rears back and manages to put space between them. Steve is flushed and his eyes are very dark. Every outward sign points towards desire, but Tony has to make sure it's real and that it's something Steve won't regret.

"You don't have to do this," Tony says cautiously, searching Steve's face. "I'll stay, I promised."

The statement makes Steve frown. "What's wrong?"

"I told you I'm fine with being friends," Tony insists. "You don't need to do anything else, not if you don't really mean it."

Steve blinks. "Not really mean it?"

"The kisses," Tony says, gesturing to his neck. He's starting to feel anxious himself and focuses on a point over Steve's shoulder. "They were great, a dream come true really, but it's been a very emotional couple of minutes? And you just learned I love you? It might seem like kisses would be a good way to make sure I want to stay,”

“Tony-”

“-and it is, but what I want to make clear is that you don't have to. Just think about it first? I'm fine with friends,”

“-Tony I...”

“-but I can't have this and then lose it when you realize it was just a pity thing, or some sort of overwhelmed swept in the moment thing-" Having Steve the way he has dreamed about only to be told afterwards it was a mistake would be too much to deal with. Tony's pretty sure he'd never recover.

"-Tony!" it's maybe the fifth time Steve has said his name since he started babbling, but Tony has bulldozed right over them. This one is forceful enough that he stops his tirade and clamps his jaw shut.

"Look at me, please," Steve says, and with a sigh Tony complies. He gets an eyebrow raise, and at least Steve doesn't look angry, just exasperated. It's familiar. "Are you done?"

"Yes." It might not have been smooth or even dignified, but Tony's pretty sure he got his meaning across.

He managed to get space between them, meaning that he scooted away, but he's still just an arm's length away. Steve reaches out and grabs his left hand gently, squeezes his fingers.

"First, I don't kiss people if I don't mean it," he says, which is great news, really. It's crazy how fast hope rears its head again. "Who'd do that, kiss someone to keep them from leaving?"

Tony can't help the self-depreciating wince because yeah, been there, done that. He was so desperate for companionship and affection that he tried to have people stay by giving them whatever he thought they wanted. Gifts, trips, the spotlight, sex if necessary. Granted, it hasn't been the most successful strategy.

"Tony, I don't need to think about it," Steve continues, eyes intent. It must be something else to be so sure of oneself. "It's certainly not a pity thing, how can you even think that? Anyone would be crazy lucky to be with you. But it's true that there's some 'overwhelmed swept in the moment thing' going on."

"Thought so," Tony says, trying to smile while his heart threatens to sink again. So Steve meant to kiss him, but wouldn't have done it if he hadn't been emotionally weakened. Tony had never considered the 'Steve likes me back, but we can't risk it to preserve the team' angle, which was stupid on his part and is a new level of torture.

"Hey, no, in a good way," Steve reassures. He leans forward, cups the side of Tony's face with his big hand. "Overwhelmed because I've just learned that you love me back. Swept in the moment because I finally had you in my arms, right there to kiss."

That is… that is- "You love me?"

Steve smiles, small and soft. "Of course I love you. I've been in love with you for years."

And whoa, Tony's never been happier to get his own words parroted back at him. Surely this must be the moment he wakes up?

"Wonderful." Tony can feel his lips moving, but the words are meaningless as he continues to stare at Steve like a befuddled idiot. Did Steve really say he loved him? More than once? And clearly as more than a friend?

Steve chuckles. "Yeah, good thing. God Tony, I was sure you knew."

Not only is Tony staring, now he's gaping too. "No!"

It never crossed his mind.

"Breathe, Tony!" Steve chides and whoa, yes that would be good. He manages a shaky inhale, which prompts Steve to worry about him again. "Are you okay?"

"Yes?"

Blinking is about all that he can manage to do (a very sexy and a reassuring comportment in a potential partner, of course).

"Are you sure? It looks as if you need a jump-start," Steve says, looking amused again.

Tony would protest that he's fine, but he is indeed still rebooting following Steve's revelation.

"And how would that work, pray tell?" he asks. There-words. Humor even, he can do this.

The answer comes by Steve leaning forward to brush their lips in a very soft kiss. It's indeed as if Tony's been struck by a spark directly to the heart. He instinctively grabs fistfuls of Steve's shirt to keep him close when he tries to lean back.

"Nu huh," he protests. "More."

"Yeah?" Steve asks, smile widening.

"I think it's working," Tony says.

"C'mere," Steve says, letting go of his face to curl an arm around Tony's middle and haul him back flush to his chest.

It's just good strategic thinking for Tony to loop his arms around Steve's neck. They both lean in for another sweet brush of the lips, followed by a second, then a third. The kisses are getting progressively firmer and it's as if Tony's stomach is full of butterflies. His heart goes into overdrive when Steve bites his lower lip and takes advantage of Tony's surprised inhale to deepen the kisses. From there it's suddenly on, forceful and urgent as if to make up for lost time. Tony's the one holding Steve's head now, fingers grabbing short hair to angle it back and to the side for easier access. They kiss like they fight the bad guys: anticipating the other and in perfect sync. It's so, so good that Tony knows he's ruined forever. You can't top something like this, the rush of it so bright he could happily die right now. Steve is pawing at him, hands roving and groping until he slides them under Tony's t-shirt, making them both groan.

Tony is no stranger to desire. He's prone to addiction and sought satisfaction through sex for decades. Sex was fun, mostly uncomplicated, and he's had a lot of it. Afghanistan changed his whole life and this part of it too. Tony has slept with Pepper and only her since he came back, and was fine with that. He loved her and wanted her, but it was a need that was slow and steady, strong and dependable (like Pepper herself). Very good sex, satisfying for the soul, but nothing excessive. He thought that he'd finally found how being intimate with someone you loved and loved you back was supposed to be like.

This, with Steve, is like nothing else. It's like a fire has ignited in Tony's core and the kisses and caresses are making it hotter and hotter. It's so strong that the flames are threatening to consume him whole and leave nothing behind. Instead of being scary, it makes Tony want Steve even more fiercely, but also urges him to give everything in return. Steve takes off Tony's shirt, cutting the kiss for a moment and they clash together again as soon as he's free. Tony manages to get out of a loop of SteveSteveSteveSteve to tug at Steve's t-shirt right back. Unsurprisingly, it's even better when it's out of the way and they are skin on skin.

"Fuck," he breathes out, mouthing at Steve's jaw. He feels so good.

"Tony." Steve sounds wrecked. "Tony, please."

Agile fingers are unbuttoning Tony's jeans and he's all for it.

"Anything you want," Tony says, palming Steve's erection now molded by the fabric of his jeans. He already was tempted to be inappropriate when Steve was in those jeans before. From now on it's going to be a challenge to behave, especially with the high keening sound the rubbing pulls out of Steve.

"Tony, Tony," Steve repeats like a mantra while he shoves a hand in Tony's underwear, grabbing his cock. It's a jolt of pleasure bright and sudden that makes Tony curse again. He needs to get a little control back, or this is going to be over very fast.

As distraction goes, focusing on Steve will have to do. He manages to open Steve's pants for some groping of his own. He's big, which is not a surprise at all, and Tony can't wait to tackle that particular challenge. It doesn't seem that they will get to actual fucking right now, though, because Steve seems just as gone as he is.

"Oh, God, Tony, I'm close, I'm-"

"It's okay gorgeous," Tony says, breathless. "Me too, it's so good."

Tony repositions himself to shuffle closer, wanting his cock against Steve's. He then does his best to hold them together even if Steve's amazing fingers are somewhat in the way. When Steve gets with the program and intertwines their fingers, closing the grip, it goes from pretty amazing to perfect.

Tony's leaning up for a kiss when he sees that Steve is staring down at their hands and dicks, mouth opened as he breathes in fast little pants. It's as if it's the most fascinating thing he's ever seen. Tony starts twisting on the upstroke and Steve's eyes go hazy. He's so goddamn beautiful.

"Oh, darling, I can't wait to take you apart," Tony says, and Steve's eyes snap up to his. They are blown dark and so intense it makes Tony shiver.

"Doing a – Jesus - fine job already," Steve rasps.

Tony uses his unoccupied hand to grab Steve's nape and brings him into a filthy kiss. Steve seems to want to speed up their hands but Tony resists, keeping things slow and steady.

"You've seen nothing yet," Tony murmurs when he breaks the kiss, getting lightheaded. "I'm going to get you in bed and take my time, worship you like you deserve." He's going to kiss and lick every inch of that perfect body, learn everything that turns Steve on and use that knowledge without mercy. Steve keens in the back of his throat, visibly on board with that plan. "Have you thought about this, about us?"

"Fuck," Steve says, and this time he does speed up the stroking, and Tony tries but can't stop him, which is insanely hot. He tightens his fingers and hangs on, pun intended. "Yes. Yes, I think about you all the time."

"Tell me," Tony demands, as he feels his orgasm build and build. It's right there, seconds away at best.

"Tony, God, everything. Everything I could think of, you drive me crazy," Steve pants.

"Same, I'm going to make you feel so good, I promise."

"Please, whatever you want… God, Tony!"

"All I want is you," Tony says, which makes Steve shudder. "Always you, only you," he adds and clearly Steve is right on the brink too, hand going so fast the sensation is dizzying. "You can let go baby, I've got you. It's alright."

That does the trick and Steve comes with a shout, making Tony follow him over the edge right after. The rush of it is phenomenal, pleasure hitting hard and long, strong enough to leave him shaking and spent. He slumps forward to rest his forehead on Steve's shoulder, failing to get his breathing under control.

Tony feels Steve kiss the top of his head, which makes him smile. He glances up to see Steve watching him with such a tender expression that his heart does a loop-de-loop. He can't believe Steve wants him back. Tony doesn't know what he did to deserve it, but he's selfish enough to want to keep it.

"Hey," Steve says softly, love so very clear in his eyes.

And there we go, another flip in his belly. "Hey," Tony replies, barely keeping in a string of 'I love you's.

Steve smiles shakily, "I need you. I can't lose you Tony."

"Told you, you've got me," Tony says.

"And you've got me," Steve answers.

Tony kisses him, slow and sweet, trying to convey how much that means to him. The earlier frenzy is gone, but it's just as intoxicating as before. He wants to take Steve in his arms and never let go, but unfortunately there's way too much spunk on his right hand to follow through. Jesus, they are coated with it. Steve looks down and makes a face too. There are even drops of come on Steve's jeans.

"Okay, that's it. You can never wear those pants in public ever again," Tony jokes.

"What?"

"Unless you want me to embarrass myself," Tony says. "I already thought they made you irresistible, now it's instant boner fodder. So yeah, be kind and just wear them at home, if possible not in common areas."

Steve smiles, adorably mischievous. "I thought I'd seen you check out my ass. Why do you think I wear them so often?"

Shaking his head with a sigh, Tony has to break out the universal truths. "Steve, sweetheart, everyone with a sex drive or any aesthetic bone in their body checks out your ass. It's just that great."

"S'got nothing on yours," Steve says, groping for good measure and Tony grins.

"Well thank you."

"There are websites," Steve adds. "Very dedicated fans, pictures dating from before the Internet."

Tony huffs. "Stop making me sound so old."

"It was a great ass then, it's even better now," Steve shrugs.

"Now off the market?" Tony's pretty sure about that, but better check before he starts assuming things.

"Definitely," Steve says, nodding for good measure. "Mine and mine alone."

"Good." Tony looks up, sees the AVALON protocol still hanging there and winces. "FRIDAY, be a darling save everything and close all screens."

"We need to talk about this, Tony." Steve follows that statement with a kiss on the neck, which is better than starting an argument.

"I know, I know," Tony sighs. "But not right now?"

"Not right now," Steve concedes.

"Let's go get cleaned up?" Tony suggests, happy to have dodged that bullet, even if temporarily. They're going to fight on this, on a lot of things, but he hopes that they love each other enough to always make up too.

"Yeah, good idea," Steve says with a smile, and then evilly wipes his hand on Tony's pants.

"Oh no, you did not!" he exclaims, outraged.

Steve laughs and pulls him into a kiss. "They've seen worse," he says against Tony's lips.

It's hard to stay mad with that. Plus Steve has a point, so Tony wipes his hand on his own jeans too. He won't desecrate the Jeans of Sex ™ more than they already have been. He puts his t-shirt back on and throws Steve's in his face.

"True. Why were you down here in the first place, anyway?" Tony asks as he gets up, wincing at the pain in his knees. He supposes that Steve didn't come over to snoop.

"Thor and I might have cleaned up the fridge earlier," he says, looking a little sheepish. "I came to ask if you wanted to go get something to eat."

Tony looks towards the assembly unit, but quickly dismisses upgrading the armor tonight. He's worked up an appetite, and there is no way that he won't spend the evening with Steve if he's up for it. Hopefully they will end up in bed and he can make good on the promise he made earlier.

"Sure, or we could order in," Tony says. He's got a feeling he might be able to lure Steve in the shower with him, and they might not be in the mood to go out after that.

"Okay," Steve agrees easily. "Chinese?"

"Whatever you want," Tony says. "FRIDAY?"

"Yours and Captain Rogers’ regular order are on the way, boss."

"Good," Tony says.

Steve keeps a hand on Tony's lower back as they walk to the elevator, and then crowds him in a corner as soon as the door closes.

"Mmm," Tony says as Steve starts kissing his jaw. Seems like little Cap is already up again, pressing against Tony's hip. But then he thinks back about what Steve said minutes ago and the pieces fall into place. "Oh my God!"

"What?" Steve says, distracted by sucking what will surely be a hickey.

"You were asking me out! Wearing the Jeans of Sex!"

Steve huffs. "Yeah. Been trying for months. You've been a little slow on the uptake, genius."

Tony takes Steve's face between his hands and forces him to meet his eyes. He looks amused, but also a little sheepish.

"A word of advice?" Tony says. "Don't assume I'll read your mind, okay? I'm terrible at this," he adds, gesturing between them.

"Fair enough. And frankly I'm probably worse, so..." Steve bites his lips. "But I want it to work. Us."

"Me too," Tony says, and then adds a kiss. They've reached the penthouse level, so Tony pushes on Steve's chest. "C'mon. Giddy up, out, let's start on this date."

"By having shower sex?" Steve asks, rising an eyebrow.

"Best strategic mind in the world confirmed," Tony says with a grin.

Steve winks, and then takes his hand to pull him towards the bathroom. "You bet. Let me show you how much."

"That's promising!" It sure sounds like potential marathon sex with a super soldier, which is right up there as fantasies go. "Please lead the way," Tony agrees easily.

Heck, following Captain America wherever he led was already in his overarching life plan. Add love and sex and Steve Rogers all to himself?

Tony's all in. And aiming for forever.

 

The End