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Mechanical Heart

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"Iridium, what did they need the Iridium for?" Dr. Banner asks.

"It's a stabilizing agent," a new voice says. Steve turns in his chair as two men walk in with Agent Coulson. He recognizes Tony Stark from the briefing documents about Iron Man, but the other one he doesn't recall. Tony is looking at Coulson, his hands moving through a swift series of motions that make no sense. He turns after a moment and makes another series of gestures.

Steve can't help but stare. He's seen Tony's picture and, yeah, Tony's an attractive man, but pictures don't do justice to how animated he is. His hands seem to flow as they move through their strange gestures.

"It means the portal won't collapse," the other man says, slowly, his eyes trained on Tony's hands. "Like at SHIELD." Tony walks through the room, surveying them but staying silent, though his hands never stop. Is it some kind of mental tick? Some defect? He'd heard one of the SHIELD officers say that Stark wasn't normal. It's a little weird that Tony hasn't said anything. Isn't he supposed to be some kind of genius?

"No hard feelings, Point Break," the other man says. Tony claps Thor on the shoulder. "You've got a mean swing." Tony mimes swinging. Thor and Dr. Banner look between Tony and the other man with interest. Natasha stares at Tony's hands. It's the swinging motion that makes everything click for Steve.

He's heard of this. There was a unit in France that'd used signs to communicate because one of the soldiers was deaf, but that doesn't make sense because Tony Stark is Iron Man and Iron Man had seemed perfectly functional, for a man in a metal suit.

Tony turns back to the other man as he circles the table. "It also means the portal can open as wide and as long as Loki wants." Tony wanders onto the bridge. "Raise the mid-mast, ship the top-sails. That man is playing Galaga." Steve has no idea what Galaga is or how it's played, but it seems like something that shouldn't be done on the flight deck. "Thought we wouldn't notice, but we did."

There's an exuberance to Tony's motions that matches Iron Man's mechanical tone. His motions are large, encompassing the full room as he signs. His translator speaks in a near monotone that makes the words seem out of place.

Tony turns, covering one eye as he looks at the screens. He looks to Hill and signs.

"He turns," Maria says.

Tony signs something back and then turns to them. "The rest of the raw materials, Agent Barton can find easily. Only major component he needs is a power source. High energy density, something to kick start the cube."

"When did you become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics?" Hill asks, her tone wry.

Tony shrugs. "Last night." He looks at Steve and the others gathered around the table. His hands smack as they sign. His expression is a mix of smug and incredulous. "The packet, Selvig's notes, the Extraction Theory papers. Am I the only one who did the reading?"

Steve turns to the translator. "Does Loki-"

He's cut off by a sudden series of snaps. If Tony's gestures had been sharp before, they're cutting now, his hands smacking loudly together. "Eyes up here..." The man translating frowns at Tony. "I'm not saying that. That's disrespectful." Tony arches an eyebrow and signs at the man who sighs and says "...Capsicle." Tony signs again, staring at Steve as he does. At the end, he jabs himself in the chest. His face is set in a scowl. "You're talking to me."

Steve flushes. He feels like the class buffoon who's just been called out by the teacher. "Does Loki," he keeps his eyes fixed on Tony as he speaks, "need any particular type of power source?"

"He's got to heat the cube to a hundred and twenty million Kelvin just to break through the Coulomb barrier," Dr. Banner says.

Tony's eyes light up and Steve is forgotten. Tony's hands flash as he signs at Dr. Banner. At least Banner seems to need the translator as much as Steve.

"Unless Selvig has figured out how to stabilize the quantum tunneling effect." It makes Steve's head spin to think that there are actual signs for 'quantum tunneling effect'.

"Well, if he could do that he could achieve Heavy Ion Fusion at any reactor on the planet."

"Finally, someone who speaks English." Tony enthusiastically shakes Dr. Banner's hand.

Steve bites back the retort he wants to make. None of that seems like English to him but he doesn't want to comment on it and seem insensitive to Tony's apparent inability—or is it just a disinterest—to speak.

"It's good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I'm a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster."

Steve feels a bit of vindication that he's not the only one who has to bite back laughter at the last few signs. Even Natasha quirks a smile. He's guessing the one where Tony claws his hands next to his face and fakes growling is the sign for monster.

Banner looks down, but he's smiling. "Thanks."

"Dr. Banner is only here to track the cube," Fury says as he joins them. He looks pointedly at Tony. "I was hoping you might join him."

Steve feels like the conversation has finally come back to his level. "Let's start with that stick of his. It may be magical, but it works an awful lot like a HYDRA weapon."

"I don't know about that," Fury says, "but it is powered by the cube. And I'd like to know how Loki used it to turn two of the sharpest men I know into his personal flying monkeys."

Thor frowns. "Monkeys? I do not understand."

Steve sits up slightly and raises his hand. "I do! I understood that reference." Tony rolls his eyes but the look he gives Steve is slightly fond.

"Shall we play, doctor?" Tony's translator says as Tony turns to Dr. Banner.

Dr. Banner smiles. "Let's play some."

Steve can't help but watch as Tony leaves. He wants to follow, though he knows he'll be of no help to the two scientists. Still, for all his irritation during the fight earlier, it's almost like that was another man. Tony is animated where Iron Man's metal mask is still. The sarcasm isn't quite as biting when it's filtered through a translator. Tony outside of the suit is a riddle and Steve's always had a fondness for puzzles.

Steve isn't sure he'll ever get used to the lavish apartments in Stark's Tower. There's a level of luxury to them that makes his mind boggle while the other Avengers seem to take it in stride. It's not the most ideal of living spaces but he'd wanted them all together after the fight—after Tony had nearly died, but they're relative strangers so Steve doesn't get to use that excuse—so that maybe, just maybe, they could go from a team based on necessity to a real working unit.

Tony had been quick to offer the tower. Apparently, the rooms they were in were guest suites while the main living area is repaired from Loki's attack. The fact that there's an area even better than what they'd been given blows his mind.

He finds Natasha in the gym the second morning they're all there. Steve's always been an early riser and he's pleased to find he's not the only one. They go through their exercises in silence, even though there are questions Steve is dying to ask, but he doesn't want to seem rude.

"You wanna spar?" Natasha says.

Steve smiles. "Yeah." He hasn't found many people who are up to sparring with him but he's confident Natasha can hold her own. He's seen her in action.

They square off on the open mat. "Just ask."

Steve's response is delayed as Natasha lunges at him and follows it up with a swift series of kicks and jabs that have them dancing around the mat as she tries to strike and he dodges. She comes close a few times and there's something about that that makes Steve feel proud. This is his teammate and she's good. "Ask what?"

They resettle into starting positions. "You know what."

Steve leads off this time. Natasha dodges every one of his attacks like it's nothing and then sends him to the floor with a flip that involves her legs around his neck. He laughs as he hits the floor and when he gets up Natasha is smiling too.

He rolls his shoulders. "Why doesn't Tony talk?"

"He's mute. Been that way since birth."

Natasha strikes. They tumble on the mat for a few minutes, grappling before Steve manages to pin her. If he hadn't had his enhanced strength, she would have pinned him. Still, there's something in her expression that's calculating as they stand, figuring out the holes in his moves and how to exploit them. He's looking forward to seeing what she has.

"But Iron Man talks," Steve says.

Natasha shakes her head. "It's part of the suit. Pre-programmed phrases."

Steve mulls that over as they jab and kick and tumble. Natasha knocks him down more than she should and Steve blames that on his strange fascination with Tony. He gets up and Natasha shakes her head, holding up her hands to signal the end to their sparing.

Steve speaks up before she can leave. "Hey, Miss Romanov?"

She rolls her eyes. "Natasha, please. Or Nat. That's what Clint calls me."

Steve's smile widens. "Nat. Can you teach me how to understand Tony's hand signs?"

"It's called sign language," Natasha says. "Clint's the expert, but yes, we can teach you."

Steve leaves the gym feeling lighter than he has in weeks.

There's a crash in the common room and Steve detours on his way to the elevators. Steve sticks his head into the lounge, but there's no one gathered on the couches. He hears noise from the kitchenette and wanders further in. The New York skyline is just starting to lighten with the first hints of dawn. Steve expects one of the other early risers—Clint or Natasha—to be in the kitchen. Instead, he finds Tony crouching between the island and the sink, picking up shards of broken glass.

"Hey, let me help you," Steve says as he grabs a roll of paper towels.

Tony looks up with wide eyes lined with dark shadows. It's been a few days since Steve's seen Tony. Natasha had said something about a lab but Steve had found Dr. Banner there, but no Tony. He's not entirely sure what's driven him to seek out Tony beside a need to make sure Tony's okay after the battle. Steve isn't sure if the stench of alcohol is entirely from the spilled drink or if some of it explains Tony's state.

Tony's hands still as Steve kneels opposite him. Steve frowns as he notices the cuts on Tony's hands from the glass, judging by how fresh the wounds seem.

"Here." Steve holds a paper towel under Tony's hands. "I can take that."

Tony lets out an explosive breath and lets the shards go. He seems to deflate after that, falling backward to sit with his knees drawn up and his hands gripping his hair. Steve doesn't say anything for the moment. He's not sure what good speaking would even do since he can't understand Tony's signs. Natasha and Clint have been teaching him but they're still working on finger spelling.

Once the glass is gone and the mess cleared, Steve kneels next to Tony again. "Hey." He hesitates before gently placing a hand on Tony's shoulder. Tony flinches and Steve pulls his hand back like he'd been burned. There's raw pain in Tony's eyes when he looks up and then it's quickly shuttered away.

"Look," Steve says, "I don't know what you're going through but I can guess. You, um, you nearly died." The flash of pain that crosses Tony's face tells Steve that he hit it right on the nose. "That's an experience that anyone would have trouble dealing with. I'm still dealing with my own." He has nightmares, sometimes, of waking up trapped in the ice still, unable to move. "You don't have to talk to me." Tony raises an eyebrow and Steve stutters over his next words. "I mean, I can't... I don't know how..." He gestures to Tony's hands. "But I'll try. As much as I can, or if you want me to get someone, you can just sign..."

Tony's eyebrow moves higher and he makes a quick series of gestures that involves pointing at Steve.

Steve shakes his head. "I... Um, I haven't gotten that far, but..." He stares down at his hands as he carefully finger spells his name.

Tony snorts but when Steve looks up he's smiling slightly. Tony meets Steve's gaze and then looks down at his hands. He slowly spells out T-H-A-N-K-S.

Steve smiles back. He stands and offers Tony a hand up. Tony's hand is cold in his. Steve wants to be the one to warm Tony's hands up but he lets go instead and takes a step back. He doesn't know Tony. He doesn't know who Tony likes or if he likes men at all. He'd thought someone had mentioned Tony and Miss Potts were a thing and Steve doesn't want to get in the way of anything.

Tony waves to get his attention then spells C-A-P and gives Steve a quizzical expression.

Steve shakes his head. "I'm fine. Is there... do you want me to call anyone for you?"

Tony also shakes his head and grins slightly

"Hey, Tony, can I..." Steve hovers in the doorway to Tony's bedroom. He's been in here maybe two times in the last month and it still feels a little weird to be in someone else's personal space, even if he and Tony had been getting along pretty well as Steve's sign language lessons progress. They can even have basic conversations as long as Tony's okay with Steve missing half the signs and talking slowly.

Tony half-turns from where he's flipping through a book at his desk and waves Steve in.

Steve stops too close. He knows he shouldn't, but he can't help but want to be closer than he's allowed. He wants to be closer than he is now, but then Tony would know somethings up. Tony looks at him with an eyebrow raised and Steve shakes himself. There was a reason he'd come in. "Clint mentioned a movie I'm supposed to watch. Something with aliens and the Fourth of July? Do you know it?"

Tony snorts a semblance of a laugh, rolls his eyes, and nods.

"Oh. Good. Um... did you want..." Steve gestures vaguely toward the common room and the excessively sized TV there. "I mean, unless you're busy with your... book." He's not really sure what Tony's busy with but he just generally assumes Tony's busy. Tony runs a massive company, after all. Or maybe Pepper does but under Tony's direction? He's not really sure how that works.

Tony closes the distance and pats Steve on the chest, then makes a gesture for Steve to lead the way.

They're so close. Tony smells like machine oil and solder, though neither is visible on his person. Steve's mouth opens, words falling out before he can think better of them. "Can I...?" Steve hesitates, his hand hovering in the space between them. Tony tilts his head in inquiry and his look is so open that Steve can't help himself. He can't believe he gets to see Tony like this, that they've grown close enough over the last few days for Tony to trust him enough to open up. Steve's hand rests on Tony's cheek and instead of pulling away, Tony leans closer, as if magnetized by the touch. Steve can't help but kiss him. He keeps it chaste, soft and tentative in case Tony wants to pull away.

Tony doesn't pull away. He goes boneless, practically falling into Steve with his hands gripping the front of Steve's t-shirt and holding them close. Their second kiss is more demanding. Tony surges forward, going up on his toes to match Steve's height and that's not something Steve will ever get used to. Steve's... he's never really kissed like this but Tony seems to know how. Tony licks his way into Steve's mouth and coaxes Steve into his. It becomes a war after that, though a quiet one. A war of tongues and teeth and lips and wet. Steve has never tasted another man, not like this, not this close and he's suddenly grateful of this new age he's woken in where men can kiss men without hiding and without shame.

Air becomes a necessity far too soon. Steve knows he's blushing. He can't help it, but Tony seems to like it, judging from the way his eyes scan Steve's face. Tony smirks like the cat that caught the canary. It's a look that Steve wants to memorialize in charcoal or soft pastels. He wants to wake up in the morning to that look. He wants Tony to smile for him, always.

"Will you... I mean... can we go out, sometime? I don't..." Steve's blush deepens and he scrubs the back of his head. Tony's amusement only grows. "I'm not sure what counts as a first date anymore. We'd go to the park or walk along the river. I don't know..."

Tony snorts and rolls his eyes. Steve's not sure what his face does, how deeply his disappointment shows, but it's enough to make Tony smack him lightly on the chest, nod grudgingly, and then poke at Steve's lips until they turn up again.

"So that's a yes to a date, then?"

Tony rolls his eyes again. His hands settle on Steve's hips like Tony's about to lead him in a dance, but Tony doesn't take a step. Instead, he drops to his knees and looks up at Steve with a wicked grin.

"What?" That's all Steve can get out before Tony's popping the button on Steve's jeans and pulling the zipper down. "Jesus, Tony!"

Tony grins and then he's reaching in. He's touching... and Steve... Steve's dick is out and he's not sure where to put his hands or what to do but shoving Tony away is not an option. He doesn't have time to make a choice before Tony's lips close around the tip of Steve's penis and holy Jesus, this is happening.

"Tony?" Tony hums, the vibration shooting right through Steve's dick. Steve nearly doubles over. He gasps, eyes squeezing shut for one moment because he's never... He didn't even know... Well, he knew but he'd never... Jesus. Then Tony moves and Steve is frozen in place because he's afraid that if he even shifts his weight, Tony might stop.

Steve's got one hand on Tony's shoulder and another on Tony's head. It's so easy to slip his fingers into the short strands of Tony's hair, not to hold but to feel. That's not what Tony wants, though, which is made obvious when Tony places one hand over Steve's and guides him into gripping Tony's hair.

"That... that doesn't hurt?"

Tony gives him a thumbs up. He doesn't even slow down his pace where he's swallowing Steve down, mouth bobbing like he's sucking a particularly delicious popsicle. And, God, does Tony look like he's enjoying it, almost as much as Steve's enjoying it. Tony's eyes are closed in concentration like there's something reverent about the way he's taking Steve into his mouth. Tony's mouth is warm and wet. Tony's tongue presses against him, pushing on the underside of Steve's cock and swirling around the tip when Tony pulls back far enough.

Steve wants to close his eyes too, wants to just bask in the pleasure that is Tony's brilliant mouth but he can't look away. He wishes he had his pencils on hand, though drawing something so obscene seems wrong. Wrong for his day and age, maybe. He's not sure about now, though he's fairly certain people from the current generation don't even know the meaning of obscene.

Tony touches Steve's arm and pulls back a little. Steve automatically lets go of Tony's hair before he accidentally hurts Tony and the look that Tony gives him at that would chill him if they weren't in the middle of such an intimate moment. It takes Steve a moment to connect the dots and then he blinks down at Tony in surprise.

"You want me to pull your hair?"

Tony gives him another thumbs up. Steve's face goes warm but he curls his fingers in Tony's hair and gives it an experimental tug. The pleased look Tony makes is so, so worth it. Steve shouts and nearly comes but he can't... not yet.

"Tony, I... I'm going to..."

Tony gives him a thumbs up again and swallows Steve down so far Steve's afraid he might choke.

"Tony, I... you should..."

Tony shows him another thumbs up and urges Steve to pull his hair with a touch on Steve's wrist.

"Jesus, I..." Tony swallows and that's it, that's all Steve can handle. The world explodes in white-hot pleasure and all he can think about is his hold, don't grip too tight, don't hurt Tony. He keeps coming as Tony's lips suddenly disappear and Steve stares in horror as he squirts ropes of milky come on Tony's face. Tony's eyes are closed, mouth opening as he finishes swallowing and dear God in heaven, did Tony just swallow his come?

"Tony, I..." He brushes away some of the come with his thumb but Tony chases after it, sucking on Steve's thumb hard enough that Steve nearly goes off a second time. "That was..." Tony looks up at him with a smug grin and Steve can't help but smile back. "Yeah, you're amazing. You know you're amazing, but wow. Really. Just... wow."

Tony pulls himself up using Steve's hips. The movement draws Steve's eyes down, straight to the tent in the front of Tony's pants.

The scant amount of sexual knowledge Steve has flies through his head but none of it seems to apply to this, right here. "Um. Should I..?"

Tony arches an eyebrow while sucking come off his fingertips. Steve is never, ever going to be able to look at Tony's mouth without thinking impure thoughts. Ever.

Steve is not the kind of man to back down from doing the right thing, and in this case, Tony's given him pleasure—so much pleasure—so it only seems right that Steve returns the favor. "Do you want me to... Um, I can do the same?"

Tony rolls his eyes again. He grabs Steve by the hips and backward walks them until they hit the edge of Tony's bed. Tony falls backward, legs open, and tugs Steve's shirt until Steve follows. Then he grabs Steve's hand and purposely places it over his own crotch.

"Oh," Steve says. "I can do that."

Tony smiles.