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When I think about you

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There's a knock on the door. Clint's eyes fly to Phil's shape under the blanket on the sofa, but Phil merely stirs and grumpily mutters something. Still, Clint jogs to the door on the balls of his socked feet, because Phil needs all the rest he can get on his one day off in longer than Clint wants to remember, and Clint isn’t having anyone waking him without due cause.

"We're pranking Rogers," Stark announces when Clint cracks the door open. "You in?"

Clint considers a range of responses ("What?" "Are you mad/suicidal/really that bored?" “Who have you been talking to?”), but let's face it, Rogers can stand to loosen up a bit – no one at SHIELD would dare prank him, which Clint happens to think is just daft – how else is the guy supposed to know he’s one of theirs? The man’s okay, he can take a joke, and treating him like some kind of demi-god just pisses him off. Anyway, Phil always looks slightly less like he might snap and shoot Stark full of tranquilisers when he’s kept busy and away from explosives, so Clint decides to be a good boyfriend and help him out with that.

"Sure," he says. Stark grins this really rather ominous grin, throwing his fist in the air in triumph. Clint briefly considers the fact that this is Rogers they're talking about, and Phil might skin him alive if they make Cap cry; but, hell. What is life without a little adventure?

He is not nearly as confident when he hears what Stark has planned, but by then there is a menorah-shaped Christmas tree in one corner of the room and Steve is wearing a Santa hat with bats hanging off its rim, and three-quarters of the Avengers and assorted others are getting thoroughly hammered on eggnog vodka punch (funnily enough, everyone BUT Thor and Steve, who keep drinking it like it's water, and Barnes and Nat, who probably think it is water), and all Clint can do is drop his face in his hands and groan in despair. Fuck, he needs him some of that punch like yesterday.

"No I'm serious," Stark slurs, one arm around Steve's shoulders, leaning in and looking him earnestly in the eye. “Isn't this the best? December 2nd is all-winter-holidays-mesh-up day! Look, I brought you a hat, oh, wait, you're wearing the hat, isn't that the best hat ever? I love that hat, you're lucky I let you wear it because I totally plan to keep it."

"I thought you had it just lying around from last year’s celebration?" Steve says innocently, drinking more of his punch and watching Stark get a pinch in the corners of his eyes that betrays the frantic activity in his brain as he’s well and truly caught out. "Say, this stuff is delicious. We should have it again on actual Christmas. This is fun, Tony, thank you for telling me about this holiday. I wonder why more people don't celebrate it? We should spread the word, bring a little more cheer into their lives."

Clint and Stark both stare at Steve with varying degrees of disbelief. Clint, having had slightly less booze than Stark at this point (if only slightly), narrows his eyes and searches Steve's face. It's completely serene and relaxed, but there's something about his eyes...

A loud, ineffectually-stifled snort comes from the corner by the menorah Christmas tree. Clint tears his eyes away from the puzzle that is Steve Rogers and finds Barnes and Nat curled cosily together, drinking pint glasses of the punch and looking not the least bit affected. It's Barnes who is biting into a knuckle, eyes dancing gleefully where they're fixed on Steve and Stark.

"Ten bucks says a week," Nat drawls.

Barnes takes the finger out of his mouth and shakes his head vehemently. "No way, Steve’s the best at this shit 'coz no one believes he could be such a--a troll, right? That's the word? Seriously, I'm telling you -- but if you want I should take your money, you're on. Twenty says a month at least."

Nat scoffs. "Not even Rogers can pull that off for so long."

The grin on Barnes' face is devastating, ten parts vicious anticipation to three parts pure evil. "Oh, babe, you ain't seen nothing yet."

He grunts the next moment when Nat elbows him right in the ribs for that little slip. She isn't pulling her strength, either. Clint might snigger, he's not admitting to anything. Barnes sends him a filthy look from his crunch of pain.

Meanwhile, Steve and Thor are chatting by the garlands of bats and pumpkins and snowmen, leaning comfortably against the mantelpiece covered in fake snow.

"Yeah, I tried it," Steve's saying. "Kinda strange, playing with yourself, but I could get behind that."

On the sofa, Stark starts choking on his drink, hacking up a lung while Bruce pounds him on his back, biting down on his lip with how obviously hilarious he's finding the whole thing. His eyes catch Clint's; he raises a speaking eyebrow, and this is when Clint finally realises just how utterly fucked he is. Phil is going to give him a what-for when he finds out, sure as anything. His own fault, really, getting entangled in one of Stark's hare-brained schemes and not taking into account that this is Steve Rogers they’re talking about and the man grew up with Bucky Barnes for a best friend.

Thor seems unconvinced by what Steve’s saying. "I did not understand why I was making a scary face all the time, though I can see how it would strike fear in the hearts of mine enemies. Also, my feet were square. How is a warrior supposed to stride forth with square feet? But I did like that they let me keep Mjolnir, however diminished, for I would rather have my hammer than any other weapon in Midgard's arsenal."

Steve nods agreement. "Same with my shield. Good touch with the gloves. Really, all our uniforms were spot-on. The little Iron Man suit is adorable."

"Aye, did you know that if you let Tony rest for a moment in the middle of battle, he does a stilted mechanical man dance?"

Steve's bark of laughter sparkles in the decorated-within-an-inch-of-its-life room. "He does the robot dance, really? I didn't know that. I'll have to play with him next time."

Stark starts wheezing. Barnes is laughing out loud now, and Nat has a smirk lifting the corner of her mouth that is truly worrying for everyone's peace of mind.

Clint swallows dryly, catching Stark's watering eyes. Stark looks like he would be yelling "Abort, abort!" if he could drag enough air into his lungs. Oh god, this is going to end badly for everyone involved, Clint just knows it.

Seriously. So much more punch.



Thor had never expected to feel so at home here, far from the halls of Asgard that he knows like the backs of his hands. He misses the glint of golden sunlight off the towers of the palace, the rustle of wind through emerald leaves, the tinkle of the river running over stones made from precious metals that remain pure even under the endless onslaught of water. He misses the low, placid conversations of his mother's court echoing softly inside the great halls, the victorious yells of warriors in practice, the silence resting within the courtyards, enjoying the scent of blooming trees.

Here, everything is loud. Everything is brash, rushed, and you sink or swim, and you navigate a dozen cultures in a day, and how do his friends not tire of it? How do they not wish to leave once in a while, immerse themselves in quietude, stand and watch the sunrise for once without the ever-present gaggle of car horns and irate city dwellers making their displeasure known, and dogs barking, and cats screeching, and sirens calling? Sometimes, Thor misses home with a shudder in his heart that makes him want to curl up small, lay his head in Jane's soft lap, let her braid his hair and talk to him of Yggdrasil until his soul is soothed by her passion, her dedication to her work and his well-being both.

Of course, those moods do not last long. Thor's disquiet is usually fast laid to rest by the good Captain Steven clapping a hand on his shoulder in greeting, by the Man of Iron Tony's ceaseless chatter and his friend Jarvis's clever replies. The Lady Natasha is usually the fastest to sense his unease, and readily challenges him to duels of strength and wile that tax all his muscles and plenty of his mind until he is pleasantly exhausted and back in good humour, eager for the next new and exciting thing he will come across.

(Because, you see, what Thor misses the most about Asgard is his friends – the stalwartly Volstagg, the clever Heimdall, the brave Hogan, the generous Fandral, the kind (when she wasn’t involved in breaking in new recruits and starting battles because she was bored) Lady Sif, they have been a part of him for so long that turning around and finding them not there is an ache inside his gut, every time. But an ache that is slowly being erased, little by little, every time the friends he has found here, in his new home, turn to him with welcome in their eyes, and find ways to make each other feel a part of a whole of their own making.)

And there are things Midgardians do better than the realm of Asgard, however controversial a statement that might have been in his father’s ears; and one of those things is their music. Oh, how Thor loves the Irish jigs! They make his very bones want to dance, remind him of feasts in Asgard under the light of the full moon, his brother warriors but an arm’s length away. The hypnotic rhythm of drum and base reaches inside him and makes his pulse thrum in time. The talented musicians twisting tunes through their fingers – the banjo, what an instrument! And then there’s Tony’s music, loud, brash like this realm, a punch in your face and a hook in your gut, and Thor cannot help but admire its heart. The ladies taking up guitars and drumsticks, fighting for their rights through a medium unapologetically in your face, making no excuses and taking no prisoners, is brave and admirable, and Thor plans to introduce the Lady Sif to Pussy Riot and The Runways and The Pretty Restless as soon as he can feasibly entice her and the Warriors Three to visit.

Thus, when Steven’s ‘phone receives a call with a song Thor recognizes, he is nothing but pleased that he and the Captain share such good taste in music.

“I congratulate you on an excellent choice, my friend! I too very much enjoy the Lady Khia’s ode to making sure you leave your partner satisfied betwixt the sheets.”

To his surprise, Steven’s cheeks flush fetchingly as he stares down at his ‘phone in what Thor can only assume is dismay, although why that might be is a mystery to him. Midgardians are often confusing, if he is honest. They can be so open to accepting new things into their lives, yet so easily disturbed by others.

“How did this happen, oh, God. Jarvis?”

“I am sorry, Captain Rogers, I did try to dissuade him,” Jarvis replies. Thor has become used to discerning Jarvis’s moods by now – it is easy, once you have spent two hundred years communicating with Heimdall, who does not have expressions so much as vocal tones – and Jarvis sounded rather sheepish just then, much like Volstagg caught with his fingers in the jar of butter cookies.

“Christ,” Steven mutters under his breath, rubbing at the side of his face as they are both being instructed to lick the Lady Khia’s lady parts just like that. Thor is at a loss as to what to do to help the good Captain out, when Steven lets out a lusty sigh, grits his teeth and answers the call.

“I wasn’t aware you were considering a sex change, Tony,” he says dryly.

Thor lifts an eyebrow, grinning at the Captain’s still-pink face.

“Friend Tony should talk to the Lady Darcy,” he tells Steven. “She regularly informs me that she has friends in many different circles, and I am sure she can show us how to support him.”

“Did you get that?” Steven asks Tony through the ‘phone, and bites the inside of his cheek at whatever the Man of Iron says in return. Thor cannot hear the other side of the conversation, but the Captain is smirking now, and there is something devious in his eyes that Thor finds himself liking instinctively – it reminds him of a simpler time, when his brother was his brother still, before the madness took him.

“Aww, Tony, that’s not very nice. Darcy is a lovely young lady, there’s no need to be crude. No, I mean that—Ya know, you surprise me, I’d have thought you of all people would have experience with the… acts this song promotes, I mean, you were Pepper’s fellow… Sure? Okay, talk to you later, then.”

The Captain taps the front of his ‘phone, cheeks still red but a satisfied twist to his mouth. Thor will never understand these mating games – thank the Nine Realms that his Jane is a smart, grounded woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to go after it (for one thing, Thor himself has plenty of experience with the contents of the song in question). But Fandral is one of his most important people, and Thor knows the chase is often as enjoyable as the prize at the end of it – and so he can only wish both of his friends good hunting.



“Green day,” Steve repeats. Bruce can’t work out the precise note in his voice – it’s not exactly a challenge, but there’s a weight to it that makes Bruce bite down on a grin.

“Yes, it’s a day when all we eat and drink is green, how hard is that to get?” Tony says, deceptively off-hand. Bruce, who has now been subjected to several months of Tony’s opposite-of-genius at social interaction, wants nothing more than to quietly escape the room so he doesn’t have to try to stifle the urge to roll his eyes and sigh at the kindergarten scene that’s been playing out over and over again in recent days (longer, if Thor is to be believed, but Steve’s ringtone has been his usual “New York, New York” every time Bruce has heard it, so Bruce has no way to verify Thor’s claims, since Jarvis Isn’t Talking). Unfortunately, just as he turns very carefully towards the exit, Tony remembers he is actually in the room.

“It’s a new thing,” Tony blurts out. “Only been around for a year or so, to show America’s appreciation of the Big Guy. You wouldn’t want him to think you don’t like him, would you?”

Steve looks like he’s ready to box Tony’s ears, of throw the whole thing and show his hand by doing—other things to Tony that Bruce isn’t going to think about, nope.

“There kind of is an appreciation day dedicated to the Other Guy,” Bruce throws in. (He doesn’t say that it’s predominantly an online event ran by fans, or that it’s actually in May, for his birthday. He’s got fifty bucks on Steve lasting until next Tuesday, and he isn’t above playing dirty.)

Steve’s expression shifts in interesting, slightly worrying ways. (Bruce isn’t really attracted to guys that way, but even he has to admit that Steve’s the kind of guy who inspires making exceptions – case in point.)

“Oh, well, in that case,” Steve says. He smiles his Good All-American Boy smile at them.

Bruce feels a shiver of foreboding slither down his spine, but Tony is looking triumphant and there’s an arch to Steve’s eyebrow that dares him to backtrack.

Bruce sighs. Why does he always get himself into shit like this? Damn his impulsive nature!

His premonition proves correct seven hours later, when he crawls out of his lab and makes a beeline for the kitchen. He’s still mostly in his own head, crunching numbers for the experiment he’s running, which is why he almost gets buried when he opens the fridge door and an avalanche of previously-frozen greens pours out. Bags of peas, broccoli, green beans, mange tout, asparagus, it’s a veritable horn of plenty. On the lower shelves apples, avocadoes, kiwis and limes crowd against each other, shining appetizingly in the bright lights. There are jars of wasabi and Thai green curry paste in the fridge’s doors, knocking shoulders with bottles of green salad sauce to go with the explosion of iceberg lettuce, spring onions, green bell peppers and leeks in the veggie drawers.

Bruce crams the bags back into the fridge with some effort and slams the door shut. The pantry is locked, but the cupboards, when Bruce tries them, are filled top-to-bottom with cans – canned peas, pea soup, even mushy peas that Bruce has no idea where Steve (because of course it’s Steve, there isn’t even a question) sourced from.

His slightly hysterical, all-pervasive, very loud belly laugh brings Tony running in from the workshop, demanding to know what the hell’s gone wrong and does he need to break out the biohazard gear. Since Bruce can’t really speak as of yet, too busy rubbing tears out of his eyes and trying to, you know, breathe, he merely waves one hand in the general direction of the food storage equipment. Then he has to sit down and clutch at his sides, wheezing as Tony squawks and slams doors and actually yelps a distressed “No!” when he opens his precious coffee cupboard and all he finds are beautifully arranged tins of loose green tea leaf in a variety of flavors.

“Oh, hey, fellas,” Steve says serenely, walking into the room. He opens the fridge, expertly keeping the bags of vegetables from braining him and snagging an apple from the bowl on the second shelf, polishing it on his shirt while he maneuvers the door shut again. “I hope I didn’t go overboard, I just get so excited about vegetables and fruit being readily available in the—uh, now. I mean, frozen, fresh, canned, you got everything. This Green Day is really the perfect excuse to indulge myself, so – I did. Thanks so much for making sure I knew about it, Tony, you’re a peach.”

He beams at them and walks out of the kitchen with a spring in his step, the loud crunch of juicy apple the only punctuation.

Bruce lets his head fall down onto his arms folded over the table, and lets the howls of mirth run free.

“Fuck me,” Tony says, slumping into the chair across from him, sounding the kind of bemused that makes Bruce laugh even harder. “I can’t work out of he’s trolling us or he really is that oblivious.”

Bruce just shakes his head and doesn’t bother looking up. He isn’t touching that one with a ten-foot pole; the two of them can sort this out between themselves. There is the end of the world, and there is the madness Tony can unleash, and Bruce knows better than to get involved. His blood pressure would never take it, and the Other Guy always makes such a mess.



“Hurry up, we’re gonna be late for the movie!”

Steve doesn’t reply beyond a distracted hum. Well, that doesn’t sound at all ominous. Ever since this whole pigtail-pulling contest started, Bucky’s been maybe sort of kind of anticipating the next in the line of badly-disguised grumbles for Steve’s attention Stark will come up with. For one thing, they always make Steve go fantastically red in the face, and for another, Steve hasn’t had such a good excuse to let his inner sass goddess rip in quite some time (seventy years, really, but Bucky tries not to think about that – it makes something behind his ribcage twist and ache).

“Oh, god, what now,” he mutters, walking into Steve’s bedroom.

Steve raises a speaking eyebrow at him – yeah, Bucky’s fooling no one, but he’s fine with that; fine with having people knowing him that well again, fine with getting a lot of enjoyment out of this whole shebang. Steve still has a towel around his hips, acres of skin and muscle on show (Bucky’s straight, not blind). He’s standing in front of his underwear drawer, and yep, there’s that flush over his face that signals another of Stark’s ‘ideas’.

Bucky takes a peek over the top of the drawer, and then he actually has to stuff his fist into his mouth and bite down not to laugh like a hyena. The neat rows of Steve’s y-fronts in muted colors have disappeared without a trace, and instead there’s a mess of bright lace and cotton and silk, flowers, hearts, polka dots, pinks and purples and satiny blacks pouring over the edges.

Yeah, nope. Composure just ain’t happening.

“You’re a terrible friend,” Steve complains. (The fond note in his voice really ruins the chiding.) Bucky straightens from being bent in two with his hands on his knees, and tries to wheeze some air back into his lungs.

“Fuck me, that’s priceless. Swear to god, he seriously cannot get more obvious.”

“Bite your tongue,” Steve murmurs absentmindedly, one hand rubbing the back of his damp neck, the other hovering over the explosion of lingerie inhabiting his undies drawer. He picks up a silk pair of panties in a soft pink that will probably look delicious on his skin, letting it hang off the tip of his index finger.

“You’re not seriously,” Bucky starts, and then stops and shakes his head, because this is Steve, and this is a dare even without the actual words pinned to it. Of course he will.

Steve sends him a look, the stubborn one that once upon a time meant bruises and plasters and staunching a bloody nose because Steve could not afford to lose any more of the red stuff, he had little enough of it to start with. Now, apparently, it means beating Tony Stark at his own game. Bucky has to marvel at the guy’s obliviousness – surely, surely he should have worked it out by now, he’s supposed to be some kind of genius and Steve isn’t really trying to misdirect him. How can he still think Steve is some sweet virgin deb? Bucky stopped falling for the ‘innocent blue eyes’ act by the time they were six, and he’s never pretended to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

“O-kay, I’m… just gonna be outside. You—you do what you need to do,” Bucky says, backing out of the room to the sound of a towel hitting the floor. Five minutes later, Steve walks out in his jeans and the hoodie Natasha picked out for him, nothing about him giving away the fact that he’s wearing ladies’ underwear for (Bucky’s pretty sure) the first time.

“They’re surprisingly comfortable,” is Steve’s only concession to the way Bucky’s eyes are trying to laser through his jeans to see if he’s put them on or gone commando.

“Jesus Christ, pal. You’re gonna break his tiny mind.”

“That’s the plan,” Steve says. There’s a diamond-sharp smile lifting one corner of his mouth, and Bucky grins, and grins, and finds he can’t stop. Oh, this is gonna be so good.

Five hours later, they’re back from watching the new Jack Ryan movie and consuming their weight in popcorn and coke, and the entire team has gathered in the living room, and Bucky’s cheeks are starting to ache with suppressing his shark smile. Stark keeps throwing these suspicious looks between him and Steve, but hasn’t cracked so far.

And then Steve walks past Stark’s sprawl taking up most of the huge, criminally soft armchair, and Stark drops his pen in his path. On purpose, or Bucky will eat his metal arm.

Steve stops. Looks down at it. Then he bends from the waist, crouching a little, enough for the waistband of his jeans to slip just so.

“Here, Tony,” he says, handing Stark his pen. Stark – well, Stark doesn’t seem to be capable of much at the moment, seeing as he’s staring at Steve’s crotch with wide eyes, mouth hanging open.

“Tony? Something in my lap?” Steve says dryly, and Stark snaps to attention, blinking a couple of times and looking at Steve with a cross between worship and naked lust. He takes the pen Steve is still holding out, fingers curling around it seemingly out of habit.

“Thanks,” he croaks. He doesn’t appear to be breathing.

Steve holds his eyes for a moment and then turns away, resuming his path to the kitchen, where he takes out a bottle of milk and lifts it to his mouth, neck a long arch as he gulps the white stuff down.

Stark goes from staring into space to choking and hastily excusing himself, all but bolting from the room. Bucky watches Steve watching after him, doesn’t miss the sharp longing in his eyes, the way his fingers spasm on the bottle. He wipes the tears of laughter from his eyes and pushes out of his seat with a sigh, making his way over and stopping to stand with their shoulders nearly touching.

“Not that I ain’t hugely enjoying you torturing Stark, because that right there was fucking gold, but – you sure you know what you’re doing, pal?

Steve breaks his silent vigil of the door and slants him a speaking look.

Bucky rolls his eyes and huffs. “Not asking about that. Asking ‘bout how far you plan to take this thing. Ain’t too keen on seeing you hurt, Steve. You oughta know that by now.”

Steve’s eyes soften. He puts one of his huge, warm hands on Bucky’s shoulder, squeezing once.

“I know, Buck. Let’s hope it won’t come to that.”

Crap. He’s serious about this.

Oh, well. Bucky’s been preparing his shovel speech for nigh on ninety years, and even accounting for Stark’s… Stark-ness, he reckons he’s got it down pat by now.



Natasha is generally not big on intuition. She prefers to think of it as training, or common sense that allows her to be where she needs to be, when she needs to be. Intuition is on par with monsters and magic and voodoo shit that she cannot stand. Give her a shift in the air currents she can identify, or the absence of noise where noise should be – this she can work with.

Tell her it’s a sixth sense that the Red Room bred into her, and she’s liable to break your neck without much preamble.

Take this exact situation. Clint, if he were down here and not hiding in the vents like a sissy, would undoubtedly say that his Spidey senses were tingling (though whether he’d do it out of desire to needle Coulson or actually feeling anything is at fifty-fifty chance – then again, Clint hasn’t much space to talk right now. Natasha knows who was responsible for last Wednesday’s Panties Day debacle, and Clint better keep himself scarce for the next while if he knows what’s good for him). Bruce would take one look at the gleeful look on Tony’s face as he struts through the door and flee the room/settle in more comfortably, depending on his mood. Coulson would – well, he’d probably taze Tony and then Clint into behaving (unless he knows that these pranking games target Captain America, in which case Natasha will never see either of those two idiots again).

She, on the other hand, knows what Tony ordered online two days ago, which is why she’d changed her bet on Cap finally snapping to today. Honestly, isn’t that so much simpler?

Tony places the box in his hands at the center of the only clear corner of the table, making sure the label is visible from all angles. It’s a pretty box, pure white with decorative swirls and a mocha-colored ribbon tied in a bow over the top. Steve’s names are written out in lovely cursive in the same mocha shade, loops decorating the space above and below. Once Tony’s done fiddling with the placement, he steps back and sends Natasha a thoroughly suspicious look that warms the cockles of her soul.

“What, no comment?” he asks, chin jutting out belligerently.

Natasha contends herself with a single arched eyebrow.

Oh, for the days when that still worked. She kind of misses the way Stark used to cringe away from this particular look. Now, Tony merely narrows his eyes at her and pointedly plants his ass on a chair at the table, folding his arms over his chest. He raises an eyebrow of his own.

Natasha gives in. The urge to mock is too strong, and she sees no reason not to indulge.

“This is not going to end well for everyone, you know,” she says, calmly laying another piece of the giant five-thousand-piece Thomas Kinkade puzzle spread over the kitchen table in place. It’s a group project, partly because she and Cap enjoy putting things together, and partly because at one time or another they have all needed something to do with their hands (other than punching) while they healed.

“I beg to differ,” Tony sniffs. “I think it’ll end well for everyone once Rogers has that giant stick out of his ass.”

Natasha snorts. “Really. You can’t be that obtuse. There is no one living in this house that hasn’t seen this mess for the weird, socially-awkward courting ritual it is.”

She hadn’t expected Tony to get flustered and blush, and she isn’t disappointed. She likes it when she reads people right. Tony rewards her with one of his real grins, not so much wide and bright and rigid, but smaller, shot through with more feeling than ten of his public faces.

“Plausible deniability,” he admits easily.

Natasha laughs, barely stopping herself from slapping her forehead in resignation.

“He’s gonna kill you for this one.”

Tony huffs a laugh. “Yeah. He might. It’s okay, lots of people have tried before. I’m pretty hardy.”

“Not really what I meant,” she says, smirking down at the puzzle. Yeah, Rogers is gonna kill him so dead – or rather, Tony’s remaining brain cells, because seriously, if there’s one thing that everyone knows about Steve Rogers, it’s that he never backs down from a challenge.

Hell if she’s gonna warn Stark, though. If he hasn’t worked it out by now, there’s no need to clue him in and ruin the fun.

Of course, he could have worked it out already and be enjoying the game too much to stop.

Either way, this should be spectacular to watch.

“You could just tell him, you know,” she says quietly, because to her own surprise, she likes Tony Stark. She has been watching him for longer than any one of them by now (started out as mission-related habit, ended up as just watching out for him), and she has seen the way he looks at Steve when he thinks no one is paying attention.

Tony scrunches his nose and looks down at the table, sliding several puzzle pieces in place. “Not my style,” he says at last, trying for unconcerned.

Going by what Pepper has said in the past, Natasha knows that to be true – at least, when it comes to something Tony Stark wants to keep. Natasha can relate; the fear of rejection sometimes gets so big, it threatens to swallow up the whole world. So this game, it’s Tony testing the waters. Not too terrible, as those things go (and she knows what she’s talking about. She and Clint had pretty much beaten each other to a pulp before admitting they wanted each other, never mind that that’s ancient history now).

“Just don’t break New York,” is all she says, still looking down at the pieces of the big picture.

“No worries. By my calculations I should have an answer soon, one way or another.”

Hah. This is his endgame, then. Well. Not bad. Not bad at all.

“You are not prepared,” she murmurs to herself once Tony has meandered back out of the kitchen. She isn’t moving from this spot for anything, not until she’s seen what happens when Steve turns up.

She doesn’t have to wait long. Steve potters into the kitchen not twenty minutes later, giving her a warm smile that she returns. She likes Steve. Likes him enough to want Tony for him, because those two complement each other like she hasn’t seen too often. They can each be what the other needs – an anchor, a reason to keep fighting the good fight.

It doesn’t take long for Steve to notice the box. He stares at it for a long time, long enough that Natasha wonders if she shouldn’t run interference – every person has a snapping point, and she doesn’t want Steve to snap. –Or, well, okay, she does, but she wants him to snap with precision, in a very particular direction.

But then Tony bounces into the room, all but vibrating with anticipation, eyes bright and possibly slightly manic when they flit between Steve and the box, and Natasha has no choice but to sit back and watch the train crash unfold.

“Well? Aren’t you going to open it?” Tony says, making shooing motions with his hands when Steve hesitates.

“Not sure that I should,” Steve prevaricates, but obediently sits at the table and unties the ribbon and lifts the lid away. And then he stares. And stares. And stares some more.

Just when Natasha thinks Tony might explode from keeping his fiendish glee to himself, Steve reaches inside the box and takes out a chocolate dick, fingers curling around it just so.

“Look at this craftsmanship,” he says, sounding genuinely impressed.

Natasha has to bite down on the inside of her cheek and call on all her years of training to keep from laughing at the look on Tony’s face.

What?” Tony splutters.

Steve looks up, eyes wide and innocent (hah! Nothing innocent about that man, nothing at all, ever) and excited. “Yeah, wow, Tony, look at that! Look at how they’ve shaped the veins around the shaft, here and here—oh. Oh my God, look at this! There’s fondant cream running from the tip when you squeeze the shaft, now that’s clever. Hm, I wonder if it tastes as good as it looks…”

And then born-in-the-20s, perfect-mannered, rescues-kittens-from-trees, visits-nursing-homes, kisses-babies-and-puppies-and-grannies Steve Rogers puts the tip of a chocolate dick with cream running from its slit in his mouth and bites down.

Above them, there is a loud thump, such as could be made by a grown man losing his balance and falling flat on his face. Then, there is a series of light scratches that might signal said man’s departure from the vents above the kitchen, until they disappear through the wall. Steve chews thoughtfully, licking the cream off of his pink, plush lips. “I’m amazed. It tastes even better, and is that Irish Cream fondant? Genius.”

“Excuse me, I just remembered I gotta—there’s a thing in the workshop I—enjoy your dick, Rogers, I need to just—“ Exeunt Tony, pursued by the specter of Steve Rogers stuffing his mouth full of cake in the shape of a twelve-inch cock.

Steve chews his second mouthful, swallows, then picks up the box and offers it to Natasha. “Chocolate cock, Agent Romanov?”

Natasha grins outright. “Don’t mind if I do,” she says, picking up a handful of spongy, delicious-looking penis. “Better than I’ve ever seen,” she muses, eyeing it up critically. Then she looks back up at Steve. “You are such a troll,” she says affectionately, then bites the tip off her piece.

“Hmm,” Steve says. He finishes his cake, licking the pads of his fingers before wiping them off on a paper towel. “Delicious. And now, excuse me. Gotta go see a man about a dog.”

“Sure you don’t mean a dick?”

“And Bucky thought he couldn’t escalate after the panties thing. Ye of little faith.”

“Good luck,” Natasha manages, too busy laughing to bother with more. Steve throws her a jaunty salute, turns smartly on his heel and stalks out of the kitchen.

Jesus. Natasha is almost a little jealous of Stark. She wonders if Barnes might be up for a tumble, he’s never been too picky.

“Hey,” Coulson says, walking in. “Seen Clint?”

“Nah, he’s gone,” she says, absentmindedly taking another bite from her cake while she squints down at a particularly stubborn puzzle piece. “Try his room, he should’ve crawled back in by now.”

Coulson clears his throat, the only sign of surprise she’s likely to get from him. She looks up, grinning at his pained look.

“Stark?” he says.

Natasha shrugs, taking another bite. Damn, these really are delicious. “Who else? Want one? They’re yummy. I’m sure Steve won’t mind sharing, he’s probably got a real one to play with by now.”

“Oh, God, why do you tell me these things?” Coulson complains, before his eyes sharpen. “Wait. Prank war?”

“Got it in one.”

“And I just bet I know who else was involved.”

This time, Natasha knows her smile contains too many teeth – and she isn’t the least bit concerned. “I’d say go easy on him, but we both know he likes it a little rough.”

“Excuse me,” Coulson says, dead-calm, before following Steve’s lead and stalking out of the room.

“Oh, hey, chocolate dick cake,” Bruce says a little while later, walking into the kitchen and switching the kettle on, bringing Natasha out of her pleasant contemplation of fit men contorting in interesting positions.

“Help yourself,” Natasha says generously, watching as Bruce dives right in, moaning a little at the taste.

“Mmf, this mint fondant is amazing. So who won?”

Natasha licks her fingers clean and pushes away from the table. “I did,” she says smugly. Bruce’s dancing eyes lift from his cake to rest on her face, inviting her to laugh with him.

And right then, that’s the moment she has the sudden, visceral realization that this thing has been creeping up on her ever since that night in Mumbai, coming up slowly, filling the void until she feels whole in a way that for all her years is brand new and so very addictive.

Yes. Perhaps it’s time for her to stick both feet back in the water, too.



Tony would be lying if he said he wasn’t expecting the knock on the door. He just… doesn’t know what he’s going to find when he opens it.

Regardless of what he told Natasha, he knows exactly how close to the wire he’s been winding Steve. He knows full well that Steve’s the one who chose to play this game with him, not the other way round; knows, too, that while it may have started as a cheap thrill, shocking the prudish, still-living-in-the-40s Captain America, it has evolved into anything but. For one thing, Tony’s misconceptions have been thoroughly corrected; for another, this Steve, the deadpan, irreverent one, the guy who doesn’t hesitate to make fun of you – and of himself in the process – this Steve, Tony wants to keep around. He wants to spend time with this Steve; he wants to find out exactly how far Steve will let himself be pushed, how much more Steve can surprise him. This Steve, Tony could never find boring or stuffy. This Steve, Tony can imagine building a life with.

So, naturally, he’d done what he does best, and tried to push him to the breaking point, so hard that Steve would do the sensible thing and run as fast as he can in the other direction, away from Tony Stark and his madness.

Instead, Steve is on the other side of the door when Tony opens it, and he still might punch Tony and leave, but there’s something in his eyes, in the line of his jaw that tells Tony that maybe – just maybe – he won’t.

They stand and stare at each other for what feels like weeks. Tony can’t even fidget; he’s frozen in space, a grown man of nearly forty, and he has no earthly idea what to do next, how this will play out.

“Ask me inside,” Steve says. His blue eyes are dark and intent, pouty mouth set in stubborn lines.

Tony swallows and steps aside. “Come in,” he says. He doesn’t recognize his own voice.

Steve walks into the apartment not like he owns it, but like he belongs there. This confidence, it’s almost always present in the field and it really shouldn’t shock Tony so much when he sees it in everyday life, when Captain America is resting curled up around his shield and it’s just Steve Rogers in the room, Steve Rogers who has taken to the twentieth century like a duck to slightly too cool water, cautious but ploughing ahead, braving everything it throws at him and handling it with a kind of fumbling grace that often leaves Tony breathless. Steve does not pretend to be someone he isn’t; he just is, and he lets the world fold itself around him. He is, for lack of a better word, a marvel, and Tony wants him with the kind of desperation that makes him honestly afraid.

He closes the door behind Steve’s back, follows him several steps inside the nearly empty room. Steve has been here before, but he still looks around like it’s the first time he’s seen it. There isn’t much in the way of furnishings – a nest of sofas, a drinks table, an enormous screen on the nearby wall and a working space along the far edge of the room. A drinks bar, because of course, because Tony might not drink quite as much as he did for those two months in 2010 but he hasn’t given up the comfort of a good scotch altogether. The furnishings are even sparser than pre-Loki, and that’s the way Tony likes it – plenty of space, nothing that makes him feel cooped in, like the walls are closing over his head.

Yet just by standing there, it feels like Steve surrounds him, like he’s everywhere, like Tony never has to be alone again. Steve keeps looking at him, as if he’s trying to see inside Tony’s head, puzzle out what he’s thinking. Yeah, good luck with that; Tony himself doesn’t know what he’s thinking right now, and his mind is not the most ordered place at the best of times. Finally Steve takes a deep breath. A muscle twitches in his jaw.

“Are you done?” he asks. Tony tries and fails to find anything remotely argumentative about his tone; it’s an honest question, a request for information. Is he done? Well, is he?

“Done with what?” he says, because he’s always been a fucking coward, he’s always run away from the things that scare him, never given a straight answer when he could hedge and bluff and misdirect until no one knows what he thinks, who he is.

Steve sighs. Tony grits his teeth, hating himself, and hating Steve for making him want more than what he already has, and hating the way his heart feels like it might fly apart at any moment.

And then, Steve is moving. One fluid, beautiful arch, a twist that leaves Tony stunned and blinking, so utterly perfect it shorts out his brain for a second; and then he’s lying on his back on the floor, and Steve is straddling him across his hips, hands braced by his head, leaving Steve open, so open and vulnerable that Tony could kill him then and there and Steve would be too slow to stop it. The heat of him over Tony’s lap is torture; both of them are wearing jeans, and Tony can feel everything, every line, every bump. But it’s the look on Steve’s face that truly arrests him, determination shot through with hints of vulnerability, a softness at the corners of his mouth that suggests Steve is steadying himself for heartbreak, and god, this is not something Tony can abide.

“This all your game was about? This all you want out of it? Because if it is, then fine; damn it, let’s do it, you and me, here and now, let’s just fuck and get it over with, hell, I’ll lie on my back for you if that’s all you want, if—if you’re that obsessed with it—“

Tony is shaking his head before he even knows he meant to. “No, Steve, Jesus, no, you should know better than that, is that what you think of me?”

“What am I supposed to think, when most of your tricks and pranks were obviously designed to make me feel like a blushing virgin, which, FYI, I have not been for some time—“

“That’s not—okay, I admit I may have gone a little overboard on the last one, but fuck me, you don’t shock easily—“

“I went through World War Two, you utter moron, you think I can live through something like that and come away unaffected?”

“No, of course not, but damn, Rogers, you can handle yourself, I was pretty impressed, you know—“

“Yeah, ‘cause I live to impress you, Stark.”

Tony winces. “All right. I’m sorry. Is that what you wanted to hear? I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.”

Steve heaves in a breath. It tickles Tony’s cheek on the exhale, and sweet fuck, he smells so good, all manly and alluring and god, Tony wants him so badly.

“It’s not about feeling sorry. I had fun too, you know I did. They were good pranks, and your face was priceless, but—was it just needling? Do you want to fuck me the once to get over your obsession? Because I’ll be honest, Tony, I—I can take a lot, but I need to know what you’re angling for here. I just—I need to know.”

It’s the pleading note in his voice that finally makes Tony snap. God, he’s pushed and pushed at this man, harder than he has at anyone in his life, and Steve’s still here, still pushing back, still taking everything Tony’s got and just… absorbing it, processing it, setting it aside and coming back to see what else he’s got, and Tony…

He can’t pretend anymore.

He surges up, wraps a hand around Steve’s neck and tugs him down to meet his mouth, kisses him like he needs to breathe, kisses him like nothing else in his life matters more than this (it doesn’t), like he can convince Steve through touch and want and strength of will alone that that’s not it at all, that he wants so much more, so much he can hardly articulate it, can’t let himself hope that there’s even a chance he might get it. Yet Steve kisses him back, open-mouthed and so brave, melting into him like Tony can barely process, hips sliding back and forth, knees bracing against the floor, one hand coming to rest over Tony’s chest where the arc reactor isn’t anymore, just flesh, bone, sinews and blood and all of them want Steve helplessly, hopelessly, until there’s no more breath in his lungs or thoughts in his head.

They kiss and they kiss until Tony has to pull back or black out. He opens his eyes and immediately takes advantage of the dazed look in Steve’s gorgeous baby blues, pushes sideways, rolling them until Steve’s the one on the floor and Tony can crawl over him, swap their positions, press down slow and then harder onto Steve’s groin until Steve whimpers and bucks up into the cradle of Tony’s hips, wide open and welcoming him with every ounce of honesty Tony has inside him.

“I want this,” he whispers against Steve’s puffy, spit-slick lips pouting open to let him in if that’s what Tony wants. “And I want you. I want you to stay. I want you to want this, too; to be here, to somehow handle my crazy and not run away. I want to not drive you away, although I’ll try, Steve, god knows that I’ll try, but please, please don’t go. Don’t let me win. Okay?”

“Okay,” Steve whispers, nodding so that his mouth brushes Tony’s in a small caress that should not feel as intimate as it does. “Okay, Tony. How could I leave, when this is all everything I want, too? I hoped, after the panties, and then the look on your face just now, I hoped, but you’re you and I didn’t want to assume – but apparently I can now. Assume, that is, and—God, yes,” he gasps when Tony shifts over him, leaning in until their chests touch, slide together, muscle over muscle. “Just like that, sweetheart.”

Tony may or may not lose what coherent thought he had left. Steve Rogers, calling him his sweetheart, who knew that this would be the thing to break him? Not the super-soldier body, not the huge hands holding tightly onto his hips, not the glazed look of Steve’s eyes, the want in them, the lust; but Steve Rogers, claiming him for his own, that’s the straw that cracks him wide open, makes his limbs give out, drops him to writhe on top of Steve like a high-price escort (because let’s face it, anyone as high maintenance as Tony will need to charge at least triple to keep himself in the style he’s accustomed to – and he’d be worth every cent, if he does say so himself).

“God, you don’t even know, do you?” he whispers, nipping at Steve’s mouth until Steve lets out a groan of frustration that goes straight to Tony’s cock and crunches his abs, pulls him down until their lips crash together and he can lick inside Tony’s mouth and turn his insides to liquid heat. “You don’t know – Jesus, Steve, how are you so—so—“

“Christ, do you ever stop talking?” Steve complains, voice shot through with fondness; then he stops trying to kiss Tony quiet and runs his hands up the backs of his thighs instead, filling his hands with Tony’s ass and squeezing, pulling apart his cheeks as much as he can with Tony still in his jeans. His hands are fucking huge; Tony wonders if Steve could hold him up against the wall, spread him open and keep him there while he fucks right into him…

“What?” Steve asks, grinning when Tony moans like he’s dying.

“Nothing, nothing, just, oh fuck me, I had a thought about the next time, shit, Steve, next time’s gonna be so good, it’s gonna blow your mind, trust me.”

“D’you think we could maybe, I don’t know, concentrate on this time first?”

He punctuates that latest piece of priceless, thoroughly arousing sass with a roll of his hips, holding Tony in place with absolutely no effort at all, and yeah, maybe Tony does shut up every now and again, when he’s given good reason to.

—Or maybe he just stops filtering his thoughts.

“Right, yeah, focusing, no problem, let’s get you out of that shirt right the fuck now, let’s just start with that and see where we go from there, huh, oh good god, no, I’m serious, praise the Lord for this body, praise him for these abs, give thanks for those shoulders, I can’t, I mean, seriously, how is anyone supposed to even, god, your skin, ugh, I want to lick every inch of you for the rest of my life—“

“Okay,” Steve says, sounding breathless (though that could be from laughter as much as because Tony is currently thumbing at his nipples like it’s a religion in and of itself). “Let’s give your mouth something better to do.”

And then he lifts Tony bodily to shift him half a foot down, and then he opens his own jeans, takes himself out of his boxers, all flushed and shiny and leaking from the tip, how long has that been going on, Tony needs to know, he needs data, oh-so-very-hard science, he needs to run experiments to try and understand how anyone can be so fucking perfect, it should not be possible.

“I can hear you thinking,” Steve points out, gasping a little as he twists his fist over the head of his cock. “Kindly stop that and make yourself useful.”

Tony is, for one of the few, very few times of his life, completely, utterly speechless. With lust, admittedly, but he’s not gonna split hairs when his mouth is watering so hard he has to keep swallowing of he’ll drool all over himself. Add to that Steve’s apparently natural inclination to top, and yeah, thanks, Tony’s mouth really has better things to do than flap.

Steve tastes… Well. Tony could be an ass and say he tastes like justice and freedom and the American dream, but the truth is, he tastes like a man, bitter and salt and musk, delicious, give him this any day over idealistic moral values. Steve goes very still when Tony swallows him down right off the mark (all those years screwing his way through at least three states come in handy at the best moments), and Tony’s not exactly clear on which one of them keeps making these noises that spool lust through his gut, but whichever one it is, he can say, hand to heart, he doesn’t mind in the slightest. Steve’s hands clench by his hips, veins standing out in stark (heh) relief; when Tony looks up, Steve is biting down hard on his bottom lip, and his eyes are squeezed tight, and there’s a flush taking over his face, and he is so, so beautiful, so intoxicatingly gorgeous in that moment that Tony could kneel here forever, fill himself with everything this man is willing to give him and be content.

“Stop, stop,” Steve gasps, one of his hands coming to thread through Tony’s hair. It pulls, just a little, just enough for Tony to get the perverse itch to not move at all – but that was real desperation in Steve’s voice and Tony is still learning him, still figuring out his buttons, and so he goes along with it, pulls off Steve’s cock with a tight, slick pop that makes Steve gasp and keen.

“Yes?” he drawls, because never let it be said that Tony Stark isn’t a giant tease in addition to being a sure thing.

“You keep that up, and I won’t last.”

“I thought the whole point was to keep it ‘up’?”

Steve arches an eyebrow; the next moment, there’s a hand closing on the bulge in Tony’s jeans and Tony hisses loudly, torn between shifting into the perfect pressure and pulling away because holy shit, he had not realized how very close to the edge he was skirting himself.

“Point taken,” he says, sounding strangled to his own ears.

“I want inside you,” Steve says, hand still very firmly in place, and god, Tony hasn’t been this close to coming in his pants in decades.

“Sure, babe, anything you want,” he babbles, punctuating it with a truly pornographic moan that he just cannot keep back. “Might wanna get a move on that if you want it happening now, though, ‘cause I’m gonna blow in the next sixty seconds if you keep doing that.”

“Doing what?” Steve says, twisting his fingers to run his palm over the head of Tony’s cock pressing against the zip.

“Christ, you fucking bastard,” Tony gasps, batting Steve’s hand away and gingerly opening his fly, sighing in relief when his cock no longer feels like it’s gonna choke. Steve, when Tony looks up, is staring down at it with wide eyes that are almost all pupil. His tongue pokes out of the corner of his mouth, swiping along his lower lip like all he wants is to taste, to lick along Tony’s cock until he’s learned him more thoroughly than anyone ever has.

The thought alone is enough to make Tony shove a hand in his briefs and squeeze tightly around the base, think awful thoughts about a naked, glistening Fury being pegged by a leather-clad Hill. When he thinks his head might be a touch clearer than before, he lets go and sighs shakily before pushing to his feet, only narrowly avoiding braining himself on the coffee table while he kicks off his underwear. Steve just lies there, all bulging muscle and tanned skin, eyes fixed on Tony and dragging down his body until it makes Tony feel more naked than a moment ago.

“I’m just gonna get… supplies,” he stammers, feeling absurdly self-conscious next to that perfect, scorching-hot man that apparently wants him.

“Hurry back,” Steve says. His voice is dark and low, drugging, honeyed tones like liquid sex. Tony shudders all over, nearly trips over his own feet in his rush to the bathroom. Why the hell did he have to design it so far away? First thing he’s doing in the morning, he’s sticking a tube of slick and a reel of rubbers in the fetching antique rosewood box that Pepper bought for the apartment one day just because she thought it fit.

Well, okay, maybe not the first thing. Or second, or third, but definitely in the top ten.

It feels like hours until he reaches the medicine cabinet, days until he’s staggering back with his hands full. Steve has moved only enough to drag a cushion off the sofa and appropriate the throw Tony keeps there for when he passes out on the first flat, soft surface he stumbles across, too exhausted to reach his bed. He has it doubled up and spread out, and he’s lounging on top of it like it’s the most comfortable place in the world and not the cold floor of Tony’s rarely used rooms.

He looks so at home, Tony almost can’t breathe. He certainly can’t stop staring at him, tall and golden and everything he wants.

“Tony,” Steve says softly, fondly. “Tony, come here.”

Tony walks closer, close enough for Steve to reach one long arm up, circle his wrist with long, delightfully thick fingers and reel him in until Tony is straddling him again, cock to flushed cock, chest heaving from the simple sensation of Steve’s hips holding him open. He wants him inside so much he’s shaking with it, so much his stomach keeps clenching, sending his cock bouncing. Steve takes the lube from his hand, pops the cap and wets his fingers, then reaches behind Tony. He never takes his eyes off Tony’s face, holds Tony’s gaze and keeps holding it as one of his fingers tease around the rim of Tony’s ass with just the tip of it nudging inside.

“Goddamn it, Steve, come on,” Tony growls, jerking backwards, trying to get that finger inside to the second knuckle like he wants it, needs it.

Steve’s mouth quirks, but he gives Tony what he wants, pierces him slow and thorough, keeps pushing beyond what Tony thinks he should be able to reach. “God, yes”, he gasps, throwing his head back to fix sightless eyes onto the ceiling. “Yes, this. More, come on, give it to me, you know I can take it.”

“So impatient,” Steve murmurs, but complies, gives him another finger, then a third once Tony loosens around them (it doesn’t take long). Christ, it feels so good.

“Steve, shit, fuck, Steve, I’m gonna come,” he rasps, voice gone high and helpless as his body winds up tighter.

And then the bastard pulls his fingers out, leaving Tony dry and gasping and desperately squeezing down on thin air, whole body twitching with desperation to get to that place just out of reach.

“I fucking hate you,” he grumbles through clenched teeth, eyes squeezed tight, back bent in a long, straining arch.

“No, you don’t,” Steve says, but he sounds just as strung out, hands shaking a little as they tear the foil and roll the condom over his twitching length.

“I do, I really do, Christ, fuck, get inside me already, damn it—“

And then Steve’s there. It aches, and it stings, and it hurts, because it’s been a while since Tony’s done this, years, really, longer, because bottoming’s all about trust and the only person Tony has trusted in too long has been Pepper, perfect too-good Pepper whom he’d hurt so terribly towards the end, and even she hadn’t known how much he needs this, how his fucking soul thrums with relief to have Steve press inside him, open him up, fill him, take up that space inside that has been achingly empty for so long.

He can’t breathe, let alone speak. He can barely think. His entire being is narrowed down to the stretch, the sensation of being taken by another person, a man, Steve. The very tips of his fingers tingle with how. Goddamn. Good that feels.

“God, Tony,” Steve whispers hoarsely, fingers twitching on Tony’s hips, pressing bruises into his skin that Tony will trace and try to span tomorrow, track and mourn their fading.

“I know,” Tony manages. He honestly does not recognize his own voice. It’s ragged, overwhelmed. Not that far from how he feels.

He sits back, pushes down against the incursion into his body, welcomes it as much as he can, forces his muscles to relax around the girth of him, clenching his fingers into Steve’s shoulders and taking strength from his unyielding body. The moment he feels the backs of his thighs resting on Steve’s hips, the surge of smug satisfaction is nearly overwhelming.

Steve huffs a laugh through his teeth. “You look so damn pleased with yourself,” he explains when Tony raises both eyebrows at him.

“Well. I am. I never thought I’d—“ he bites his lip, because there’s talking and there’s spilling his guts, and he knows Steve said he wanted this and more, but no one wants their… Uh. Something. Spoiling a perfectly good fuck with feelings.

Steve’s hands spasm on his hips, dragging him down another inch. Tony is so full of him now that he feels like his skin might split apart, give up on containing so much.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Steve says, voice wrecked. “Oh, Tony, you feel so good. Shit, don’t move, don’t, just—stay there for a second.”

“Mmm,” Tony replies, widening his knees to accommodate Steve’s hips better. His balance shifts; he squeezes down to compensate. It makes Steve moan, long and loud and sounding like he doesn’t know what’s up and what’s down anymore, and Tony decides then and there that he needs to hear that sound again and again, every day for the rest of however long his life turns out to be.

“Christ, nope, I changed my mind, move, move, this ain’t gonna last long.”

“I am so okay with that, you have no idea,” Tony manages, employing the excellent thigh muscles that the Iron Man suit has given him and setting a punishing pace. He can barely form thoughts, that’s how insanely amazing this is, but there’s a point where he looks down and all he can see is Steve, his blown-away expression, lips shiny and pouting open, the muscles in his shoulders and his abs flexing and straining, and then he starts laughing and he can’t. Stop.

“Tony, you absolute fucker, what now?”

“I’m not the fucker in this scenario; in fact, I’m riding you like a cowboy a prize stallion right now, that’s amazing,” Tony wheezes, and he’s off again, laughing so hard his arms give and dump him onto Steve’s chest, mashing his face in the middle of his frankly marvelous pecs.

“Aw, hell,” Steve laments, slamming his head back into the floor. “I’m in love with a lunatic.”

Tony immediately chokes on his own spit. Steve freezes, hands spasming on Tony’s hips before falling away, leaving him wide open, as unthreatening as he can get when there’s just so much of him. He watches Tony watch him for long, tension-fraught minutes, before his jaw firms up and he gets that look in his eyes, the one that Tony has come to dread in the field and appreciate away from it – just before Steve does something stupidly heroic.

“I’m not sorry,” Steve declares. “I meant it. I might be jumping the gun a little, and I certainly don’t expect to reciprocate it yet, or ever; or, God forbid, pressure you into saying it back if you do. But. Well, now you know.”

He looks so adorably earnest and noble, that nose and that jawline and even with his hair messed up all over the place, he is still someone you have no choice but to trust when he gets like this. And yet there’s something in the pinch at the corners of his eyes, something that all but yells his uncertainty, his plea for Tony not to break his heart here, and Tony loves him, he loves him like he loves breathing, JARVIS, the suits, his life – fiercely, unrepentantly, all-consuming.

That doesn’t mean that, if he tried to vocalise the words clamouring in his heart, he might not choke on them, cough up a lung attempting to dislodge them. He hopes to god Steve understands. He stares helplessly down into Steve’s face, tries to find the words to explain, tries not to die when Steve’s face very subtly yet very obviously falls.

“No,” he whispers, letting go of the support of Steve’s shoulder and cradling the side of his face in the palm of one hand. “Christ, you have no idea—I wish I could tell you, but – and oh, you’re gonna laugh this up, Captain Sasspants, I know you will – but I can’t, I don’t have—things. Words. Something. I think about just how much--and I got nothing, nothing that could—“ He snaps his fingers. “You’re a cog,” he realizes.

“A cog,” Steve repeats. To Tony’s amazement, he hasn’t shoved him off and walked away in disgust yet. He’s still lying there, shifting to make himself more comfortable with his dick still up Tony’s ass, what is this guy?! And he’s listening patiently as Tony tries and fails to make sense, thumbs running softly over the grooves of Tony’s hips, nudging him gently into a slow, rocking rhythm that drugs every one of Tony’s senses and makes his mind fog and his shields drop all the way down.

“Yeah. A cog, the perfect cog, when there are a hundred million other cogs in a hundred million sizes that fit in ten times a hundred million ways, and none of them work, they don’t mesh unless there’s this one piece, this small, unassuming cog that fits exactly right and makes them all turn like a well-oiled machine. You’re the cog, Steve.”

Steve shakes his head, a smile creeping over his face. “I must be spending far too much time with you, or else I’m losing my damn mind, because that actually made sense.”

“Of course it did. I’m – fuck, yeah, there -- I’m a mechanic, babe, it’s what I do.”

Steve hums, angling his hips upwards until he is somehow nailing that exact spot inside Tony that makes him arch and press down and see stars. One of Steve’s hands is on his ass, the other trailing long, gorgeous fingers down the small of his back in a way that somehow makes all the bones in Tony’s body melt away until he’s pliant and loose, riding Steve like he’s been doing it all his life. One of those fingers reaches lower, teases around the rim of Tony’s ass stretched tight and so very sensitive around Steve’s thick cock; then it presses down, and Tony gasps and clenches and comes on the next thrust, yelping in surprise, cock untouched and jerking between them.

“Shit, I, shit, Steve, god, oh god,” he groans, jerking in place, fucking the last drops of come out of himself, painting Steve’s abs in ropes of white. He can’t stop staring, mesmerized by the pretty picture that makes; can’t for the life of him stop himself from running his fingers through the mess, rubbing it into Steve’s skin like he can lay claim to him that way, like it means Steve can’t leave. Steve’s stomach clenches tight; he’s panting now, making small, strung-out noises in the back of his throat, hands twitching fitfully over Tony’s skin, massive thighs straining to push him further into Tony’s body, and he’s so beautiful, “You’re so fucking beautiful, baby, yeah, come on, you know you want it, come on, give it to me, I can take it, I can always take you, don’t hold back now, not with me, give me everything,” and then Steve does, he’s there, he’s biting his lower lip hard enough to draw blood, throat a long line of pleasure that Tony just has to lean in and lick and kiss and scrape his teeth along.

Oh,” Steve manages, voice almost half an octave lower than usual. “Oh, shit.”

“Mmm, you can say that again,” Tony replies. His hands have somehow found themselves in Steve’s hair, he can feel the pads of his fingers scratching at Steve’s scalp. Steve actually, honest-to-god purrs for him, this is the best day of Tony’s life.

“Yeah, no,” he says when Steve tries to move. “No moving. Staying right here. Christ, give a guy a chance to catch his breath.”

Since Steve is heaving in lungfulls of air like a steam engine at full power, Tony reckons he’s got about ten minutes before Steve decides he absolutely has to get up and move them to the bed – because he will. Just because he is a sassy bastard most of the time doesn’t mean he isn’t also one of the most considerate men Tony knows – and that’s to complete strangers. His mind stutters on the thought of what he must be like for someone he loves.

Steve loves him. Please, God, don’t let him screw this up.

“You won’t,” Steve says quietly, huge palms running soothingly over Tony’s back.

“Fuck, you can read minds now?” Tony grumbles, because that shit just ain’t fair, the guy’s got enough of an advantage over the rest of humanity as it is.

“No, but I can read body language, and I don’t know if you’re aware but you’re clutching at me pretty desperately. Tony. I’m not going anywhere. You can’t make me, okay?”

Tony blinks past the sudden, traitorous prickling behind his eyelids. “Okay,” he whispers, hardly daring to raise his voice enough to speaking level for fear of spooking the moment. “Okay. I’ll try to, to accept that.”

“That’s all I’m asking.”

“You’ll have that, I promise. Sometimes, though, trying just isn’t enough.”

“But you want to make this work. Sometimes, that’s more than any empty promises you can make me.”

Tony sighs and closes his eyes, burrowing closer to Steve’s delightful heat. How he got so lucky, he’ll never know.

“In five minutes, I’m getting up, and if you don’t get up with me I’m going to carry you to the bed like a fainting damsel.”

“Hell, Rogers, you’re the one with the muscles, they gotta be good for something.”

“Is that actual permission to carry you places?”

“Only in public, dear.”

“You’re an ass.”

“I know. I’ll get it up for you, promise.”

“Not actually what I meant.”


“Not in the slightest. I love you, you gigantic pain in my ass.”

“I know.”