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One: Bondage

As the Quinjet flew on, as Los Angeles grew closer and closer, Steve stole glimpses of Tony and thought about telling people about the two of them. Tony was curled, just a little, around his injured arm, but the rest of his body was angled toward Steve, open and relaxed. It was a tell, a dead giveaway, and someone as brilliant as Tony had to realize he was doing it. Eventually the team had to notice something was up. Steve considered the once-remote possibility from all angles. It wasn't illegal anymore, but that didn't mean the team would like it. And how should he let them know? He thought about a team meeting and winced. He didn't want to make a production of it.

Tony met his eyes and smiled, and Steve let himself smile back. Maybe he should just let it happen. That had worked well enough for them so far, with the rest of their lives. They had a month or two, probably, before it would occur to Clint, Bobbi, and the rest of their team. Obviously it wouldn't occur to them right away that Cap and Iron Man were queer. They'd take separate rooms. They'd keep on being the same way they'd been in public. Sure, the Avengers weren't dumb, and sure, they'd figure it out eventually, but he and Tony could just keep it quiet until then. Keep it casual.

With that decided, Steve settled back for the rest of the flight.

The West Coast Avengers figured out Steve and Tony were sleeping together about fifteen minutes after the Quinjet landed at the compound.

Bobbi and Clint were leading them down a long hallway of identical doors: team quarters. Steve had been to the compound before, but he'd never gotten the move-in tour, which the two of them were only too happy to provide. Bobbi was a few steps ahead; Clint had turned around to gesture and talk as he walked backwards, with the kind of practiced patter that Steve suspected he'd actually picked up in the circus.

"So." Clint chucked a thumb behind him, in the direction they were heading. "Me and Mock are down at the end of the hall here." He swiveled his thumb to point at the door they were walking past. "Tony, we kept the room open for you that you had last time you were here, though we've got a lot of space, so you can switch if you'd like." He glanced at Steve. "And Cap, you can pick any room you want. Just say the word."

This was where he should pick a room. A room that wasn't Tony's room.

He opened his mouth and no words came out.

He found he didn't want to hide this after all.

Steve didn't say anything. Tony didn't say anything. But something about their faces must have given it away, because Clint's mouth rounded in surprise, and he stumbled on his next step, causing Bobbi to pause in concern. Steve hadn't wanted to make a big deal of this, but it seemed like it was happening anyway.

"That's okay." Steve's pulse pounded in his head, heavy and fast, as he spoke. "I think-- I think we've got this sorted, me and Tony." He felt more than a little faint. Strange. He'd been less afraid on Omaha Beach.

Clint stared between the two of them. "I. Uh," Clint said, mouth hanging open. "Okay? Okay."

And then Clint's gaze went to Tony, like he thought that somehow this was Tony's fault, as if it could be anyone's -- and then his narrow-eyed gaze went back to Steve. He couldn't decide which of them to stand up for. It might have been funny if it weren't terrifying.

Not quite knowing what he was doing until he'd done it, Steve reached out for Tony's hand. Tony's fingers wrapped instantly around his, holding on tight, and Clint, still shocked, stared at the motion.

"Everything's all right," Tony said, low and calming. It was a tone that all the Avengers had trained into them after years of practice; it was how you talked to civilians. Usually when something had just exploded. Steve wasn't sure which of them Tony was reassuring. Maybe himself. Maybe everyone.

Clint nodded, a vigorous, earnest nod. "I-- I mean, I'm not," he said, inarticulately, awkwardly, but he was still going, trying to explain. "It's good. I don't mean to say it's not. I just wasn't expecting it. I really wasn't."

"You and me both," Tony said.

Finally, Clint grinned, and Steve's stomach unknotted itself. "I'm happy for you," he added.

Behind him, Bobbi smiled. "Same. Congratulations."

"And, hey," Clint said, "we'll definitely save on space. Room for more Avengers. Good thinking."

Steve snorted. "Hawkeye. Really."

But Clint was still smiling, and that was it -- the worst was over.

The sun was setting, sinking into the ocean, disappearing beyond the endless waves in a brilliant wash of pink and orange against the line of the water. It was an alien view for Steve, the lifelong New Yorker, and as he sat here in Tony's empty room, on the edge of Tony's empty bed, he felt alone and out of sorts, the way he had when he'd first arrived in the future.

He didn't live here. Tony didn't even live here. However long Tony had stayed with the WCA before, it hadn't been long enough to acquire anything in the way of personal touches. It could have been a hotel room. It belonged to no one.

And then, behind Steve, there were footsteps, and he stood up and turned to find Tony leaning on the doorframe. Tony had finally changed out of the robes. He was borrowing some of Clint's clothes, purple t-shirt a little too big for him, jeans belted tight, and a pair of flip-flops on the small side. In the intervening hours they'd managed to set his shoulder and give him a better sling for his arm. The relaxed cast of his eyes spoke to the fact that hopefully he was finally taking some goddamn painkillers. He looked tired, a little too pale, but quietly pleased nonetheless.

"Hey," Tony said, softly, and his lips twitched in a smile. He was looking at Steve like Steve was the best present anyone had ever gotten him -- not a gaudy, flashy, unfathomably expensive present, cars and houses and priceless pieces of art and all the things Steve had actually seen Tony buy. Tony was looking at him with understated yet complete joy, as if seeing Steve were getting the perfect pair of warm woolen socks on a cold Christmas morning. Like Steve, at that moment, was exactly what he needed.

Something deep and contented blossomed within Steve and settled, finding an anchor. He was home. As long as Tony was here, he was home. They'd never lived here before, and so? They could live here together.

"Hey yourself," Steve returned. "Did you get some quality time with a welding torch yet?"

He hadn't seen Tony since the team dinner -- it had been taco night -- as Tony had promptly disappeared into the section of rooms he'd staked out as a workshop. Clint had given him the space after the destruction of Circuits Maximus, he'd said, and at some point Steve was going to have to ask Tony what that was. He knew nothing beyond the vague intuition that it sounded like something Tony would name a company.

God, he'd kicked himself out of Tony's life and he'd missed so much--

No, he told himself. He wasn't going to go there. He wasn't going to wallow in self-pity. It was in the past. They were moving on now.

Still smiling, Tony lifted his bandaged arm. "That's another one of those things I can't do with my off hand," Tony said, and the glint in his eye invited Steve to consider the recent memory of Tony naked, Tony lying next to him, Steve's hand on Tony's cock. "So it was all just design work. But I'm glad," Tony added, his voice still light, "that you're willing to cede some claim on my heart to my first love, engineering."

The way Tony said it, he'd clearly meant it to be a joke -- but it couldn't be, not entirely. There was a flicker of something somber in his eyes, and he looked away.

Steve thought about all the people he'd seen Tony date, over the past few years. He thought about how many of them might not have understood that this was Tony, and he loved the Avengers and he loved engineering. Tony was generous, one of the kindest men Steve knew, and he gave of himself all that he could to people he cared about -- but some days, there wasn't much else of Tony left after the priorities were handled. He wondered how many of Tony's lovers had wanted to take one or both of those things away from him; he wondered how many people had craved more of Tony than there was to give.

And he knew Tony. Tony would have tried and tried and been miserable. He needed the team and he needed his work.

Steve thought about how he'd demanded that of the people he dated. Oh, the reason had been different -- a desire to keep them safe, an appreciation of their abilities -- but he'd done it, over and over. He'd tried to get Sharon to quit SHIELD. He'd tried to get Bernie to give up on her dream of being a lawyer and run his hotline. Both of them had been strong-willed enough that they'd told him in no uncertain terms what they'd thought of that.

He wasn't going to do it to Tony. He was learning. He was going to be better now.

"I know how I'd feel if I didn't have my shield," Steve said, and Tony's smile was grateful, a kindred understanding. "I can only imagine how you've been feeling without your armor."

"Eh, it's not that bad." Tony was still speaking with that studied casualness, but from the way his face lit up it was clear it had meant something to him, Steve's acceptance, and they both knew it. "I have a very old model around, in case of emergencies. Besides--" he lifted his arm again-- "I probably shouldn't be suiting up for a few more days, anyway."

"You probably shouldn't," Steve agreed.

He paused, and he looked at Tony, and Tony looked back, and for an instant it was almost ridiculously normal, Cap and Iron Man's post-battle banter, the way they'd talked for years and years. It was just like they'd never been together, like the past week hadn't happened -- except it had, they had, and they did, and they were going to keep being together.

Steve raised his arms to either side of him, halfway up. It might have been pleading.

"Hey, Tony?"


Hope glimmered in Tony's eyes.

With the slightest flick of his wrist, Steve gestured inward, holding his arms open. "You wanna come here?"

"Oh, thank God," Tony breathed. "I thought you'd never ask."

And then Tony was kicking the door shut and barreling into him with a speed he usually reserved for combat maneuvers, and Steve was on his back on the bed with Tony lying halfway on him, warm and alive and right her. They could have this. They could keep having this.

He shifted to avoid crushing Tony's arm, and Tony ended up curled up with his head on Steve's arm. Tony went boneless then, relaxed and easy, studying him with a smile.

Steve reached up and brushed Tony's hair back off his forehead. "Hi."

Tony beamed. "Hi."

"Glad to see you again," Steve told him.

"Likewise." Tony laughed... and then looked away. "I, uh. I'm sorry if I got your hopes up, but I think maybe I'd just like to sleep? It's been a long day."

He sounded honestly nervous. Like he thought Steve would just assume that was what he wanted. Steve was offended on his behalf. He knew Tony had a reputation, and -- God, he hated to think of Tony doing anything he didn't love, a hundred percent.

"Not a problem," Steve said, and he petted Tony's hair again. "I'm here."

Outside, the sky was darkening rapidly; there was no twilight here, not like in the east. He'd get used to it. They'd get used to it together.

Tony smiled again, easy and contented, all his masks slipping away. Too exhausted even to undress, he nestled his face against Steve's shoulder, his eyes falling shut.

Steve waited a minute, maybe two. He waited for Tony's breathing to even out, to deepen, as outside, in the distance, more and more stars came out.

"I love you," he whispered.

Tony kept breathing, slow and regular. And then the tiniest smile curved into being on Tony's face.

"I heard that, you sneaky bastard." Tony's words were slurred into the vicinity of Steve's collarbone. "I love you too. Mmf. I'll tell you again in the morning. Go to sleep."

And then Tony drifted off again, asleep for real.

Steve stared up at the ceiling -- he loves me, he loves me, he loves me -- grinning huge and proud.

The next morning, Steve hardly remembered his dreams. Perhaps the magic of that cabin had enhanced them, this past week -- but now they were broken, fragmentary things. He was sure there had been tentacles, once again. There were a few images, here and there, a tentacle twining around an outstretched limb, and a hazy sense of pleasure. That was it.

And then that was how they continued, day after day after day, fading away, more remote every time he woke up. They felt like an old memory now, worn and frayed, coming apart, until he wasn't quite sure what he'd dreamed and what he'd only thought about.

And they didn't... he and Tony didn't talk about it.

It wasn't like they weren't sleeping together, because they were, but it wasn't quite the same as it had been. The cabin had somehow been its own world, a place where they could give voice to things in a way they didn't do in reality. It wasn't the same now. Which wasn't to say it was bad. Tony obviously loved him. But... they weren't talking about it like they had.

That first morning waking up at the compound, they'd showered together. Steve had washed Tony's hair for him and Tony had made gratifyingly indecent sounds at that, then kept making them as Steve dropped to his knees in the shower and sucked him off, holding him up against the wall to brace him as he came down Steve's throat. He'd waited for Tony to ask him how he was doing, to suggest things he could be thinking about, but Tony said nothing. Steve shut his eyes, knelt on the floor, and stroked his cock. He thought about how he'd held Tony against the wall, thought about pinning him harder, thought about tentacles holding him down, and he came hard.

After the sling came off, a few days later, Tony seemed determined to make up for the week-long deficit of not being able to use his left hand for anything, and they'd been alone in their room for about thirty seconds before Tony undid Steve's fly, leaned in, and kissed him hard, his skilled fingers encircling Steve's cock, rubbing exactly the right way, with the perfect speed and pressure. Steve hadn't lasted more than two minutes.

"Wow," Steve said, dazed and wobbling on his feet as the post-orgasmic lassitude rolled through him in a wave. "You're good. Your hand's okay?"

Tony smiled at him and held up his hand, wiggling his fingers in illustration. "I am absolutely good to go."

And that was all he said. There was no discussion of Steve's tentacle fetish. And there was nothing like that moment, glorious and terrifying, when Tony had looked at him and said the words humiliation kink, and then everything he'd said had somehow been a direct line to Steve's deepest darkest secrets and Steve had loved him for it. And that was all he said every time now. Basically nothing. Hardly anything at all. The usual sort of compliments and praise, certainly. But nothing like... that.

And Tony kept on getting him off, morning and night, or whenever they had any free time at all, whenever they had a bit of privacy, like he couldn't get enough. And Steve wasn't complaining. He certainly wasn't. But he wanted... what they'd had. He wanted more, but he couldn't quite say what more was. And he didn't know how to ask for it.

Another week later, Steve had about given up hope. He had to say something. Somehow.

When he came back to their room after his turn on monitor duty, he found Tony sitting on the edge of the bed, his gaze nervous, twisting some kind of odd-shaped bundle between his hands. Steve stepped forward to get a better look.

It was rope. A long length of rope, looped and tied together. Not too thick, not too thin. It looked... soft, somehow. Not jute or hemp. Maybe cotton. Not something Steve had seen in their day job. A villain wouldn't use this to restrain you. It looked like if you tied someone up with it, it would hold them but it wouldn't hurt them. Steve stopped, mouth hanging open, as he realized that that was exactly the point.

It was also a very familiar lurid shade of green.

Steve could feel his mouth go dry, and the world around him wavered, thin and unreal, as his perception focused down to this and only this.

Oh. Oh, wow.

Tony hadn't forgotten after all.

"Uh." Tony licked his lips. "I know I should probably have asked first, but I wasn't really sure how to work this into everyday conversation."

Tony's fingers toyed with one loop of the rope. Steve couldn't stop watching the motion. He could see it in his mind's eye, the way it would look wrapped around Tony's arms, bright against the pale skin of Tony's wrists.

What if Steve was wrong? Tony had to mean what he thought Tony meant, right?

"Just so I can make sure we're on the same page here," Steve said, very carefully, "why don't you ask me now?"

He watched Tony's throat move as he swallowed; Tony's eyes unfocused and focused again, his gaze darting around, like he honestly had no idea how Steve would react. "I was thinking," Tony began, "that one of the things you... might have liked... was me being held down. And I know I can't give you the, uh, full tentacle experience. But if you'd like to tie some rope around my wrists and ankles and keep me from moving, like that, I can make that happen for you. If that's something you want."

Steve's body started to take an interest about halfway through the statement -- oh God, holding Tony down, yes, please -- but the way Tony had talked about it was almost remote, his gaze faraway. Tony's reactions were deliberately guarded and Steve absolutely didn't want to do it if Tony didn't want to.

"Is it something you want?" He repeated Tony's own words back to him. "Because, yes, I'd absolutely like to try it, but only if you want to."

Tony was looking at him like he wasn't even seeing him, and then he blinked and focused. "I've had... some encounters. Involving bondage. Had a girlfriend who was into... this sort of thing." Steve remembered the comment Tony had made about having tried humiliation; he wondered if it was the same woman. "Anyway," he said, and he grimaced. "It could have been better. And I know that, with you, it would be. I'm sure I'd like it. I'd like anything you wanted to do to me." He breathed out, and his smile now was hopeful. "It wasn't the bondage that was the bad part, anyway."

"I wouldn't hurt you," Steve said. It was only a guess, as to what had gone wrong. "I don't want you to come to harm. First and foremost."

"Yeah," Tony said, under his breath, "and that would be why you and Sunset are two different people." And then he coughed, and he lifted one end of the rope and raised his eyebrows. "And you-- you know how to do this, right?"

"You mean, can I tie you up safely?" Steve nodded. "Yeah, sure. Of course."

It was a useful enough skill in his line of work, knowing how to restrain someone quickly and without damage. He'd just never used it for these particular ends.

Tony smiled. "Okay. Okay, good." His eyes gleamed; he was looking interested now, like Steve had presented him with one of his favorite engineering conundrums. "So, when do you want to try this? You can take some time to think about it, and we can--"

"You want to wait?" Steve asked, incredulous.

Clint and Bobbi had gone out for the evening; Simon was on monitor duty all the way across the compound. They practically had the whole place to themselves.

Tony stared at him and then started chuckling. "I love you so much," he said, fervently, and he started to unbutton his shirt. "I just wanted you to know that."

"I'd actually recommend leaving my legs free," Tony said.

Tony had stripped and he was sprawling back on their unmade bed, his arm stretched into Steve's lap so that Steve could wrap one of the lengths of rope -- there were actually multiple pieces -- around Tony's forearm. It had taken a minute or two for Steve to work it out, but he was now halfway through constructing a very wide band of rope that would even out the pressure if Tony decided to pull, and in the back of his mind all he could see was a tentacle twining around Tony's arm over and over. It took him a few seconds to process that Tony had even said anything.

"Hmm? Why?"

Tony flashed him a brilliant grin. "I mean, it's your choice, but that way you can get my legs up and fuck me."

"Maybe I want to ride you," Steve retorted, without thinking, and then he paused, awkward, because what if Tony hadn't wanted that? What if that wasn't how this worked?

Tony's grin went a little lazier. "You spoil me." He stretched. "And you despoil me."

"Is this what you want?" Steve asked, which he knew he'd already asked, and it still wasn't exactly the question he'd wanted to ask.

Tony gestured down at himself. His cock was half-hard and getting harder, gratifyingly, as Steve slid a finger under the wrist tie to check the tightness. Tony's cock twitched. "Do I seem like someone who doesn't want this?" Tony murmured.

"No, I mean," Steve said, frustrated, and then finally he figured out what it was that he needed to say. "You're the one who's done this before. Do you want me to -- I don't know -- order you around? Tell you what to do? Isn't that what happens?"

That was how it was supposed to work, wasn't it? Steve didn't know a hell of a lot about this bondage and domination thing, but he thought he had the basic idea down, which was that you ordered around someone who wanted to be ordered around. That... didn't seem like Tony, honestly. Tony had been lying here giving him advice on how to tie him up, like they were doing any ordinary thing. Did Tony want him to order him to be silent instead?

He squinted and tried to imagine Tony saying yes, master, obediently. He couldn't really picture it.

"Hey." Tony reached up, trailing rope from his arm, and patted Steve's cheek. "This is whatever we want it to be. You don't want to do that, then we don't do that. Simple."


Tony kept stroking Steve's face. "No buts." And then he took pity on him. "I mean, is that how most people who like this thing do it? Yeah, probably. Is that how I've done it? Definitely. Would I do it again if that was what you wanted? Of course. But is that what you want? I don't think so. You don't want to give me orders. Not like this." He let his hand fall, and now he was holding Steve's hand, his fingers stroking Steve's wrist. And then he grinned. "You want bondage, for me, and you want me to humiliate the fuck out of you."

Steve could feel his face grow hot, and -- oh, God -- he was getting even harder, because Tony knew, Tony knew, of course Tony knew. "Tony."

"That's what you want," Tony told him. He flexed his rope-wrapped wrist illustratively. "You want to hold me down, and you want to pretend this nice green rope is a tentacle, and you want me to tell you what a fucking filthy pervert you are for thinking it." His grin was sharp, his mouth curling lovingly around the insult.

Steve was suddenly, achingly hard. "I-- I-- oh, God, Tony, yes, please--"

"It would be my pleasure." Tony patted his hand. "It would definitely be my pleasure."

Steve felt more naked than he ever had in his life.

Objectively, it was ridiculous. The Army had managed to remove any sense of modesty he'd had about nudity. He'd had sex before. He'd had sex with Tony before. He'd had sex with Tony this morning. Hell, Tony was the one tied to the bed -- if either of them were going to feel at all uncomfortable, shouldn't it have been Tony?

And yet, Steve was standing here, one leg propped up on the bed, two slick fingers shoved up his own ass, and Tony was staring at him, enthralled, lewdly appreciative, like Steve was putting on the best show he'd ever seen. It made Steve feel, somehow, both that he was going to die of shame and that it would be amazing when he did. The thought made him grow harder and hotter and Tony could see that because Tony could see everything.

Maybe the actual nudity was what was responsible for this; thanks to Steve's particular circumstances, he could count on one hand the number of times, before Tony, that he'd slept with a man while actually having the luxury to be able to remove his clothes. But he suspected, even as he thought it, that this was probably just... Tony.

Tony knew him like no one else had. Steve wasn't going to be able to hide.

"Did you know you're blushing?" Tony's voice was bright and amused. "We haven't even started, and you're already blushing. Nice."

Of course, that made Steve blush even more, like it was a goddamn reflex. "Tony," he whispered, hoarsely, and half of him wanted to look away, but Tony's dark, smoldering gaze was magnetic.

"Anyone ever told you that you blush so pretty?" Tony drawled, with that smile that just made Steve melt. "It's that peaches and cream complexion. Gorgeous."

Of all the things Steve's lovers had ever called him, pretty hadn't been one of them. It hit him, shocked him, a jolt of electricity. His skin was too tight all over. The world was warm and bright. He wanted to be pretty for Tony. He wanted to be anything and everything for Tony.

"Oh, you liked that?" Tony beamed. "I've got more where that came from, beautiful. Come here when you're ready."

Even though Tony was tied to the bed -- spread-eagled, without much give on the ropes -- it was clear that he was the one calling the shots right now.

So Steve crawled onto the bed, and, very carefully, straddled Tony, not putting his weight on him. He could feel the warmth of Tony's thighs against his. Tony was trembling, just a little, looking up at him, suddenly solemn, wide-eyed.

"Ready when you are," Tony said, with another little smile, and Steve watched the ropes at the headboard go taut as Tony tried to reach for him and couldn't.

Steve took a breath and then sank down, taking Tony in in one long slide, until he bottomed out, Tony's cock resting fully inside him. He was big, and Steve hadn't done this since '44, but he was already remembering the feeling of it, that warm, heavy, satisfying pressure.

Tony's eyes were even wider. "Oh, fuck," Tony said, the words a breathy moan. "That's-- Jesus, Steve, you feel wonderful." He was trembling again, shifting; his body sought leverage to thrust up and found none.

Steve knew he was blushing again, because everything Tony said was going to make him blush, a short circuit right to shame, through it, and out the other side.

Settling down, Steve balanced himself, then rose up and slid back down, slowly, tightening down as he did, a skill he hadn't used in years but was pleased to find that his body still remembered. Tony watched him, meeting his eyes at first, but then his gaze fell away, downward. Steve glanced down to find that Tony was -- oh, God -- watching Steve's cock bounce, huge and hard between them, slick with pre-come, dripping on the muscles of Tony's stomach. Steve was Tony's own personal entertainment, and that realization just made him even harder. That was what he wanted to be. He wanted to be that for Tony.

"That's it," Tony breathed, and the sentence ended in a groan as their bodies met. The exhalation turned into a laugh. "This is what you needed, huh? Needed me to be able to look at you. You wanted me to watch while you did this. You wanted me to watch you fuck yourself on my cock."

Steve opened his mouth and he just gasped. He was burning now, on fire. He couldn't stop. His body seemed to be moving without his own volition; his hips rocked, taking him up and down again, driving Tony's cock in him again and again, setting a pounding rhythm.

"Oh, yeah." Tony moaned. "Like that. Maybe you -- mmm, oh, fuck, just like that -- didn't even know that was what you wanted, but you did."

Tony's hands were curling on nothing, opening and closing as he strained against the rope, and then Tony glanced up to see where Steve was looking and he laughed. "Just like the tentacles, huh? You like that. When I can't move, when you hold me down and you-- you make me take it, and maybe you think you shouldn't like it, but you do, don't you? You like that you can make me."

"Tony," Steve said, pleading, in a voice he didn't even recognize, and somehow his hand was around his cock, and he was thrusting up into his fist, desperate, and thinking about the weight of Tony, pinned under him, the way the rope coiled around Tony's wrists. He wanted Tony to stop talking and he never wanted him to stop talking, both at the same time.

"Yeah, go on," Tony said, low, coaxing. "Touch yourself. You can't hold back." His voice went lower. "You lose control. That's how much you love this -- oh, God -- deep, dark fetish of yours. Gets you off like nothing else, huh? I'm tied up, but you're the helpless one, aren't you? You're gonna come all over me, thinking about what I look like when I'm covered in tentacles." His lips parted in a smile. "You're getting close, aren't you? Thinking your filthy, filthy thoughts."

Steve had to shut his eyes then, and slow his hand on his cock, but it didn't really help; his mind was full of curling, slick tentacles. He'd watched them twine around Tony's cock, ripple, stroke the tip, caressing him, and he couldn't not think about it.

When he opened his eyes, Tony was still grinning. "You're saving the best thought, though, aren't you?" He rocked up, as best he could, to punctuate the point; his cock slid against Steve's prostate, and Steve gasped, his balls tightening up -- oh, God, he was so very close. "There's one perfect thought, and you're saving it, in your mind, for right when you -- mmm -- right when you come. Gonna push you over the edge. And," Tony added, "I know what it is. Maybe you haven't even let yourself think it. That's how ashamed you are. How humiliated you are." He stressed the word, and Steve went, impossibly, even hotter and harder. His cock was throbbing in his hand. "But I know. I know."

"Then tell me," Steve gritted out. "Oh, God, Tony, I can't--"

"You said you dreamed about you and me and tentacles, huh?" Tony's smile went sly. "But, you want to know something? When it was really you and me and tentacles, there was telepathy. And I know exactly what you wanted. And even then, you wanted me. And that's what you dream about, isn't it? They're holding me down and you're right there, getting me off. And you'd never tell another living soul, because you feel like a decent man would never want this, but -- you feel like you'd have done it then, if it had let you. You'd have made it good for me, wouldn't you?"

Everything in Steve was incandescent, white-hot in a hideous rush of shame and terror that swept through him in a rush and made his cock twitch and his hips snap up and Tony needed to stop talking, oh God, it was true--

In his mind the tentacle monster offered Tony up, whispering give him pleasure in Steve's thoughts, and as the tentacle uncoiled from Tony's cock Steve knelt in the dirt and took him into his mouth. Tony's ass was stretched around the huge tentacle that still fucked into him, the monster's brutal thrusts pushing Tony's body forward, pushing his cock forward into Steve's throat, hard and deep--

"And in your dreams you can do it again and again," Tony gasped out. "You can do it the way that some part of you wishes you could have done it, and the tentacles, they'll hold me for you right where you want me while you make me come--"

Steve broke. He sobbed and came and came, his cock jerking in his hand, spattering Tony's stomach and chest with come, and it was awful and wonderful and Tony knew, Tony knew it all, and Tony loved him anyway, and he was coming and coming. Dimly, he was aware that Tony was shaking underneath him, thrusting into him with ragged thrusts and then finally coming. Tony's words were a low murmur of obscenities and praise, fuck yeah and I love you and that's right, sweetheart, you keep going as Steve bore down and coaxed another orgasm out of his wretched body. He was burned by the heat of it, by the terrible weight of his secrets that Tony knew, knew all of, every last one, and it was perfect.

When he came back to himself, he was lying next to Tony, untying him with shaking fingers, running his hands all over him with an aching need he didn't understand. Somehow, now that the bliss had faded, the exposure was terrifying. He was vulnerable. Tony knew so much about him and what if-- what if--

"I didn't," he told Tony, and he repeated it. "I didn't, and I-- if it really had happened--"

He wanted to say you know I wouldn't have, but he didn't know if it was true. For one terrifying instant it didn't feel true. He was cold all over, suddenly, shivering. Something was wrong with him. Jesus, he was a mess. What was wrong with him?

"Shh," Tony said, and Tony pulled him into his arms, still looped with rope, and then he pulled the covers over them both. "It's okay. Shh. I've got you. It was intense, I know. Brought up a lot of feelings. Sometimes you feel like this after. This is normal. I'm right here. Not going anywhere."

One of Tony's hands was stroking Steve's back, a slow, hypnotic movement. It was reassuring. Anchoring. This was Tony. Tony was here. Tony knew what he was doing. Tony knew what this was.

Steve opened his mouth to speak, but there was only empty air.

"I've got you," Tony repeated, quiet and calm and sure. "It's okay. I'm not judging you. Whatever does it for you is absolutely fucking okay with me, you got that?"


"It's all right," Tony repeated. "You aren't sick and it's not wrong. And I know you wouldn't hurt me. I know that."

"But if it happened again, if we had to--"

Tony shrugged. "Then we'd have to. And that's different, because it's not like you'd have a choice either. And I'm absolutely positive that, if we had to, you would be as kind and gentle as it is possible to be, because that's who you are. What you think about in the privacy of your own mind is a fantasy. And it's okay to have that fantasy."

"Okay?" Steve echoed. God, what if Tony was just humoring him?

Tony cupped his hand to Steve's face. "Better than okay. I like it. Yeah, it took a bit of time to get used to, but I think it's hot. And I love doing this with you." His thumb rubbed Steve's cheekbone and Steve felt tension ease out of him. "You were wonderful. You were so good. Everything was perfect. You did it all exactly right, okay? And I love you."

Steve could feel himself smile weakly. "You called me a filthy fucking pervert."

"Yeah, and?" Tony's grin was crooked, his words a challenge. "You're my filthy fucking pervert and I'm keeping you."

The world around him seemed to glow, and everything felt, finally, like it was going to be okay. Better than okay. Tony loved him. Tony had him. Steve held on, and he never wanted to let go.

Two: Toys

The box on the table was short and narrow -- about four inches on a side -- but maybe a foot long. It was wrapped in -- of course -- shiny blue paper, with red and white ribbons tied around it.

"Happy birthday," Tony said, and he was rocking back and forth, bouncing on his toes, like he couldn't wait for Steve to see what was inside.

Steve frowned. "You got me a present already."

Tony smiled like the Cheshire Cat -- which was appropriate, Steve supposed, because his other present had been a first edition of Alice in Wonderland.

They were here in New York, ostensibly to liaise with the East Coast team, but in reality they were here to spend Steve's birthday in New York and everybody knew it. They knew about him and Tony too, and Tony's identity; Tony had just grinned and said he was tired of keeping secrets. The cross-country video call where Tony had announced he was Iron Man, bisexual, and dating Captain America had been something to behold. Steve wasn't sure which fact had been the most surprising. And the team had welcomed them. Of course they had. They were their friends.

Since the day, thankfully, had been free of supervillains, Steve actually got to enjoy his birthday for once, albeit rolled into the usual holiday celebrations as always. The team held a cookout behind the mansion: hot dogs, hamburgers, and a very respectable birthday cake festooned all over with an incredible number of candles. Seeing it, Steve had laughed until his sides had hurt.

And then he'd opened presents, and Tony had most definitely given Steve a present already -- it had been sweet, to see that Tony remembered Steve's love of fantasy literature -- so Steve didn't really understand what Tony was on about, giving him something else.

"I did get you another present, I know," Tony said, still grinning. "But I didn't particularly want to explain this present to anyone else."

They were in Steve's room in the mansion, the room Tony had given him when he'd woken up in the future, the room the team had held open for him -- and it made something in Steve hum, contented, to know that Tony was finally here with him where he'd always wished he could be, here in their home.

Whatever it was, they definitely had privacy for it now.

Steve reached out halfway toward the box and then stopped, watching Tony. "Can I?"

"Please do."

He pulled off the ribbon and then carefully loosened the tape on the wrapping paper so that it could be saved for later; it was a habit that a lot of the team teased him about, but he realized Tony never had. And indeed Tony was watching him, quietly, as he smoothed out and folded the paper before turning to the box. The box was plain, unmarked cardboard. Tony hadn't gone to any fancy stores for this, Steve thought -- which was honestly a relief, as Steve suspected he didn't want to know how much Tony's other present had cost.

He opened the flap at the end and slid the contents out. And inside the box was-- it was---

It was a tentacle. Well, a representation of a tentacle. Maybe nine or ten inches long, it was molded out of a rubbery material -- firm, but with a bit of give to it. It was narrow at the tip, curving and broadening considerably as it went down; the base was about the diameter of Steve's wrist. There were little ring-like bumps molded all the way down one face of it, obviously an attempt at depicting suckers. It was an eye-catching bright blue.

At first Steve didn't quite get it, and he stared at the object in confusion. Was this some kind of statue? Sculpture? He turned it over in his hands. He was missing something here.

"Blue was the only color I could get this done in, by the time I realized that I could do this," Tony said, a little apologetically. "I figured that was probably okay, right? You like blue. And besides--" he gave Steve a surprisingly filthy grin-- "I figure I'm not gonna be the one looking at it, unless you want to take pictures of my ass. Which I would not be opposed to, for the record."

And then it hit Steve all at once. Oh God. Tony had gotten him--

"It's a marital aid," Steve said, stupidly. He thought that was what polite people called them, these days, and he knew that the term didn't quite fit, because the two of them weren't, well -- but he didn't know what else to call it. A dilator, maybe.

"You and your charming vocabulary," Tony said. "God, I love you." He raised both his eyebrows. "It's a sex toy, yeah. A dildo. Doesn't vibrate or anything, though if you want it to, I think I can rig something up." He paused, and his voice now was hesitant. "Is that... is that okay?"

Steve couldn't stop staring at the dildo in his hand. It felt like a brand new world was opening up, right in front of him. It had never occurred to him that they could do this, like this, that there was a way to make something that looked like... like what he wanted. He could look at Tony and, God, Tony would let him watch, Tony would let him put this in him.

Heat gathered in his belly, and, oh God, he was getting hard already, just at the idea of it.

And the way Tony had talked about it-- "You made this for me?"

Tony nodded. "It's not exactly something you can buy at a store. I molded and cast it myself. It's silicone." He bit his lip. "Do you-- I mean, if it's not what you wanted--"

"Are you kidding?" Steve asked. "It's amazing. You're amazing. Thank you."

He pulled Tony into his arms and kissed him, hoping that could express some fraction of the gratitude and love he had for him. He wasn't always good with words, he knew, but when Tony sighed happily and leaned into him, Steve thought maybe he understood now.

"Can we--" Steve began. "Right now, can we-- I mean, do you want to-- will you let me--" He couldn't even get the sentence out.

Tony pulled back, and his smile was full of promise. "I don't know," he said, teasing. "Let me check my calendar. I think I've got a hot date tonight."

"Tony," Steve said, struggling to suppress his laughter.

"Yes." Tony was grinning, pleased with himself. "God, yes, of course. There's lube in the suitcase. Come on."

Call it a cliché, but Steve wanted to unwrap his present himself. And Tony -- well, Tony certainly didn't seem to mind. Tony, who always wanted things fast, who always wanted things now, was standing there, in his stocking feet, and letting Steve unbutton his shirt, slowly, one button at a time, revealing a few more tantalizing inches of skin with each button, until Tony's shirt hung open and Steve was on the floor, where he'd knelt to undo the last of the buttons.

Tony was still a little on the thin side, still scarred, but he was always going to be goddamn beautiful. Steve reached up and laid his palm on Tony's chest and then drew his hand slowly down. The muscles of Tony's stomach tensed and relaxed under Steve's fingertips, and then Tony blew out a trembling breath as Steve rested his fingers on the cool metal of Tony's belt buckle.

The soft fabric of Tony's pants did nothing to hide the swell of his erection, and Steve gently outlined the growing shape of it with his fingers, teasing it with light strokes. When he leaned in and kissed Tony's cock, through the fabric, Tony made a quiet whimpering noise and his cock twitched against Steve's mouth.

"Steve," Tony said, hoarsely, "this is your birthday and I wanted to do something nice for you. You don't have to--"

"Shh," Steve told him. "If it's my birthday, then I say I get to do this first."

He unbuckled Tony's belt and undid his pants, pushed them down, tugged Tony's shirt off his shoulders and then to the floor, and then very gently freed Tony's cock from his briefs. Tony was so hard already, his cock huge and dark, and Steve leaned in and took him into his mouth.

"Oh, fuck, Steve," Tony said, and his hands came up to rest on Steve's head as Steve took him in deeper, Tony's cock filling his mouth just like he liked.

Tony was shaking with the effort to hold still as Steve licked and sucked, exactly how he knew Tony liked it best, and it wasn't long before Tony was gasping and tugging his head up and saying, "Hey, hey, that's great, but I think you'd like it better if we got to play with your present first, huh?"

And then Tony hauled him up and they were kissing, Tony's mouth sweet and soft on his, Tony's fingers unerringly undoing every buckle of his uniform until somehow he was naked too and Tony had pulled him over onto the bed and it was so good, so good already. Steve let himself thrust up against Tony and he groaned, and God, he could come like this.

And Tony reached behind Steve's head, and when he drew his arm back he had the tentacle dildo in his hand. "Missing something?" he murmured, his voice eager and dark at the same time, like they were sharing this amazing secret together.

Steve watched as Tony rolled onto his back and... licked the dildo. His tongue swiped up the side of the blue silicone, trailing over the bumps on the side. It glistened.

It should have been ridiculous. Rationally, it was ridiculous, but apparently Steve's body didn't care about being rational, because his cock throbbed and he heard himself gasp.

"Jesus Christ, Tony," he breathed, and Tony just grinned.

"Hey," Tony said, "it's your birthday, and you get to see whatever you want to see."

And he proceeded to give the tentacle an amazingly filthy blowjob. His lips were red, spit-slick, stretched around the dildo as he licked it, his gaze fixed on Steve. Reality was overlaid with memory for an instant, a tentacle jammed in Tony's mouth and oily iridescence leaking down Tony's chin, but oh God, this was better, because Tony wanted this, and this was for him--

Steve realized he was jerking off, furiously, one hand squeezing his cock as he watched Tony's tongue glide over the dildo--

And then Tony stopped and, confused, Steve let his hand slow. Tony wrapped his fingers around Steve's wrist and lifted Steve's hand away.

"You don't want to come like this," Tony said. "You want to see it all. You'll like it."

Tony pressed the dildo into Steve's hand, nudged the lube toward him, and then... rolled over and turned, pushing himself up onto his hands and knees, showing himself off, presenting his ass to Steve. It still felt, even now, like he was getting away with something forbidden; he could scarcely believe that Tony wanted him to look. Tony wanted him to do more than look.

He lubed up the dildo with one hand; he let his other hand trail over the lush curve of Tony's ass. Tony shivered.

"You know," Steve said, "I used to dream about this."

"What, my ass?"

Steve chuckled. "No. I mean, yes, but. You. Here. In my bed." He could still remember it. "The team had found me, and they said were taking me to Mr. Stark's place, you know, and I didn't know what you were going to be like, and then -- well, I guess you had to go get the armor off first -- but then you were there, and I remember thinking, wow, they didn't tell me you were so handsome."

"Steve," Tony said, and his head dipped low, like he was trying to hide his face. Steve couldn't see his face from here anyway.

Steve ran a thumb down the cleft between Tony's buttocks, parting them, sliding a now-slick finger over Tony's hole, and Tony sighed and pushed back.

"No, seriously," Steve said, and he slid his finger inside Tony as Tony's body relaxed around him, letting him in and then clenching, hot and tight. "I was-- I was so alone and you were so kind. You kept wanting to help, wanting to know if I needed anything. And finally when I was alone again, that night, right here in this room, trying to get to sleep -- I remember, I still remember I wondered, what if you came back right then, just opened that door and came in, and came to bed to with me?"

"Oh, God," Tony breathed, rocking back on Steve's hand as Steve added another finger. "Do you have any idea how much I wanted to?"

After a few more seconds of fucking him with his fingers, Steve slid his hand out. "I think I'm beginning to see. Deep breaths," he added, as he picked up the dildo.

He pushed the dildo in, slowly, slowly, and he watched as Tony's body swallowed it up, as Tony's ass stretched around the silicone, wet and bright, slippery with lube. Blue, like it had been in the last of Steve's dreams in that cabin, the color of his uniform, like it could be a part of him.

"Ffffff," Tony said, and the word didn't quite turn into an obscenity. His sides heaved. "That's big. Nice. I think-- I think you were the only one who didn't know. How I felt."

"I know now," Steve said, and he waited for Tony's breathing to settle. "You good?"

Tony's head bobbed as he nodded. "Fantastic. Looking good?"

Steve was sure he was blushing again, but -- hell, they were doing this for him, and the point was for him to look. He pushed the dildo in a little deeper and slid it out again, watching the slick slide of it, the tentacle pushing into Tony's ass over and over. Lube glistened on Tony's thighs. His cock was dangling, dripping pre-come on the sheets.

"Perfect," Steve said. "You think you can come from this?"

Tony could sometimes come without his cock being touched, as Steve had discovered, to their mutual delight. He angled the dildo down and drove it in again, and Tony moaned and thrust back.

"Oh, yeah," Tony breathed. "Keep going. Right there. Harder."

Steve drew back and pushed the dildo in harder, faster, deeper, again and again. Tony's body made obscene, wet noises, and here he was, all of him, on display. Steve used his other hand to pull the cheeks of Tony's ass apart a little more, to get the best view, to watch his hole, stretched and slick, take the tentacle over and over and over.

Tony sobbed. He was barely staying up; he'd dropped from his hands to his elbows. His head was on the bed. His thighs were shaking, and his balls were tight, drawn-up.

"Please," Tony whispered. "Please, please, please, oh God, right there, just a little more--"

One thrust, two, three -- and then Tony was coming, spurting all over the bed, clenching down on the dildo, still coming--

Tony sighed happily. His ass was still in the air, tentacle dildo still in it. He was the most beautiful mess Steve had ever seen, and abruptly Steve was very aware of his own neglected erection. He got his hand around his cock and started jerking himself off -- God, looking at Tony like this, he was going to finish in about ten seconds--

"I was gonna blow you," Tony mumbled, his face pressed into the mattress. "Give me a couple minutes. Gotta find my brain again."

"No, stay there," Steve said, pushing himself up to his knees. "I'm -- mmm, oh God -- I'm good--"

Tony's ass was right there, his hole slick, relaxed now around the giant blue tentacle dildo that jutted out of it. Steve ran his free hand over Tony's ass again while his other hand stroked up and down the shaft of his cock. He pulled the dildo out just the smallest bit and pushed it in, mindful of how sore Tony probably was, but needing to see it fuck Tony again, just a little bit more. The dildo slid in and out, in small movements, and Steve could see it all. Steve's fingers slid over the head of his cock, and God, that right there, that was perfect, Tony was wet and open and maybe Tony could fit him and the dildo, oh fuck--

He came all over Tony's ass. His come spurted and spattered the dildo, dripped down Tony's thighs, over Tony's balls, adding to the slippery mix of sweat and lube, and, moaning, Steve came and came and came, marking Tony all over, messy and beautiful and his.

When he was done, Tony grinned over his shoulder at him. "I think my face is traditional, but you sounded like you enjoyed that one a lot, so we'll have to save the other way for another special occasion." He winked. "Maybe for my birthday."

"You'd let me come on your face?" Steve blurted out, and his cock twitched again, clearly willing to rise to the occasion at just the thought.

After extricating the dildo, gingerly, Tony turned around and crawled into his arms and kissed him. "Steve," he said, his voice deadly serious. "Setting aside the fact that, independently of you, I do like it, I'd let you do pretty much anything you wanted, and I'd probably love it because you wanted it. I want to give you everything you want. I think you've known that since the day we met."

Tony had given him this room. A home. A team. Friends. A future. And now, his love.

He'd known, Steve realized. He'd always known.

Tony kissed him again. "Happy birthday."

Outside, there were fireworks.

Three: Pornography

Steve could tell that the tape was important precisely because of how much emphasis Tony wasn't placing on it.

He knew Tony, and he knew how Tony handled gifts: if he'd done something especially for you, something he'd put a lot of effort into, or if he'd gotten you a present he picked out for you specifically -- not a birthday present, but one of the things he got you just to give you, just because -- he'd be casual about it. And the greater the gift, the more casual it would be. Steve had figured this out after about two days of knowing Tony, when Tony had looked at him over breakfast and said, as he was flipping through the paper, by the way, Captain, I have a replacement uniform for you and a few other things as well, and it had turned out to be an entire new wardrobe.

It was Tony's own kind of modesty, Steve supposed. He never wanted to make a big thing of it, and then he always got a little awkward about being thanked, like he thought everything he did for everyone -- everything he did for Steve -- should just go without notice.

And here he was, at it again.

Much to Steve's disappointment, Tony was only here in between business trips; he'd gotten in from Tokyo at some ungodly hour last night, with barely enough energy to stumble into their bed and fall asleep. And now it wasn't even seven in the morning and Tony was off to Paris, squinting at his reflection in the mirror as he tied his tie.

"Have a good flight," Steve said, feeling the anticipation of loneliness start to well up within him and carve out a little aching void.

Tony met his eyes in the mirror and gave him an encouraging smile. "I won't be long. I'll be back before you know it. Just a couple days."

And then Tony was turning around and kissing him -- briefly, too briefly -- and drawing away.

"I'll miss you," Steve told him.

Tony smiled. And then his gaze went to the pile of clothes he'd dumped out of last night's suitcase, and he rummaged through it until he found a small plastic bag, which he held out to Steve.

There was an odd look in Tony's eyes now, something bright and excited, damped down by nerves. "I'll miss you too. Here."

Steve's hand closed around something flat and plastic, an inch or so thick. A videotape.

"What's this?"

"A little present for you from Japan," Tony said, in that studied, faux-casual tone of his that made Steve realize something was up. "You know, nothing much. I saw it and I thought of you." Tony's gaze didn't quite settle, and Steve suspected that if his coloring had allowed it, Tony would have been blushing. "So you know, uh. If you... miss me... then maybe you could watch it." He coughed discreetly. "I'd recommend against watching it in public. If you get what I'm saying."

Dear God, Tony had brought him pornography?

"I, uh," Steve said, and he could feel his own face start to heat up. "Thank you? I'll, uh. Maybe I'll do that."

"Let me know what you think, huh?" Tony's smile was still awkward, still a little nervous. He kissed Steve once more, brushed his fingers across Steve's temple like he wanted to memorize Steve's face with his hands, the way he always did. "Okay, okay, I've got to go. Love you."

"Love you too," Steve called after him, and Tony blew him a kiss before pushing the door shut.

Tony's footsteps echoed down the hallway, and then Steve was alone.

Well, not quite alone. Because apparently Tony had left him with a porn video.

It wasn't like Tony had never brought him a present from one of his trips. In fact, he usually did. Mugs. A chocolate bar or two. Sometimes, if he was feeling whimsical, it was kitschy knock-off Avengers merchandise; Steve really adored some of those t-shirts. But Tony had never brought him pornography before.

They hadn't really talked about porn. Steve figured that Tony had seen a whole lot more of it than Steve had, which wouldn't have been difficult, because Steve hadn't seen much of it at all. And the pin-ups of the forties had been tame compared to everything on offer now, where you could buy a dirty magazine at the convenience store and see far more than the pin-ups had ever dreamed of showing. And that didn't even take into account the theaters... and now, the tapes. If you wanted to watch someone having sex, the modern world could make that happen for you twenty-four hours a day.

The thing was, Steve mostly didn't. It wasn't that he didn't have a sex drive, because he most certainly did, but... pornography was never what he wanted to sate it with, those times when he was between partners. It had all looked too fake, too staged, too unkind, and the women had been obviously acting. All in all, it just threw him out of the entire experience, because he spent the whole time wondering how they really felt. His own fantasies were far more satisfying. And, he thought, remembering Tony and the tentacles, his fantasies now weren't going to be the kind of thing that showed up in porn.

It was strange, because Tony was usually a very good judge of Steve's tastes.

Steve set the bag on the table and contemplated it.

And then his Avengers alert went off.

"Later," Steve told the bag, and he went to suit up, putting Tony's gift -- for now -- out of his mind.

The last of the bruises from the Wrecking Crew were fading as Steve walked into the bedroom. It had been a hell of a fight. Hell of a day, really. He wished Tony had been there, and not just because it would have meant fewer hits for the rest of the team. Steve sighed and glanced at the clock. Ten p.m. Definitely too late to call Tony in Paris and tell him about his day. Oh, well. So what if he missed Tony? He could call him tomorrow if he missed him that much. Right now Steve would just have a shower and get to sleep--

His gaze passed over the plastic bag and then stopped.

Tony had said to watch it if he missed him.

Steve couldn't believe he was considering this, but the part of his mind that couldn't believe it was clearly not in charge, because somehow he was across the room, sliding the tape out of the bag. It was in a clear plastic case, the kind of case that video rental stores used, and the tape itself was labeled solely in Japanese.

I saw it and I thought of you, Tony had said. Steve didn't see exactly how that was possible, given that Steve had never before expressed an interest in imported Japanese pornography, but he was game for finding out.

And if he didn't like it, he'd just quit watching. No loss there. No harm done.

He opened the tape case.

He was half-hard already, just from the idea of it, the odd remoteness of this way of being wanted. Tony bought him porn. Tony wanted him to get off on it. Tony had -- found? watched? -- this before, on his trip, and had thought of him. Tony had imagined him doing this. And, God, the idea of Tony knowing he was doing this -- well, that was already a turn-on, wasn't it?

Steve pushed the tape into the VCR, dimmed the lights, hit play, and sat down on the couch, leaning back. His hands smoothed self-consciously over his thighs, even though there was no one to see him. Was he-- was he just supposed to start? Was he supposed to wait for something he liked? Was he supposed to watch the whole thing and then touch himself?

The film began, and... huh. It was animation? That was a surprise.

It wasn't like the idea of dirty pictures was new to Steve. He'd seen his share of Tijuana Bibles, after all. He just hadn't realized they made animated ones too. He supposed there was everything in the future these days.

The film was in Japanese, and even though Steve didn't speak Japanese and it wasn't subtitled, he figured he didn't really need to understand the words, because it was plain to see what kind of film it was. The way it was composed was enough of a story. The camera lingered on women with long, bare legs, their skirts blowing in the wind, exposing glimpses of lacy underthings. Their breasts were almost too large to be believable, straining against the fabric of their clothes. Steve's cock twitched a little, hopefully, and he rubbed his palm over the shaft of his cock, through his pants, not sure what to do. Was it all right to get off on this? It wasn't real. He wouldn't have to... worry... about real people being used. And getting off was the point, right? It wouldn't hurt anyone.

One of the girls jumped up and down, and the film cut to a close-up of her breasts bouncing, cleavage prominently displayed to the viewer. To Steve. Steve swallowed hard and undid his fly.

It was-- okay, it was a nice view. It was sexy. He could admit that. He wasn't blind. But he wasn't seeing what had made Tony think of him, unless Tony had been concerned that somehow Steve's fantasy life no longer had enough women in it. That seemed like something Tony might worry about. He might have worried that he wasn't enough for Steve. Which was ridiculous, because Steve had absolutely no complaints in that area, but it had the flavor of Tony's particular brand of insecurity.

The plot moved on, not that Steve was exactly sure what the plot was. A blonde woman, as busty and scantily-clad as the rest of the girls in the film, had somehow become separated from her friends and was investigating what looked like your standard creepy castle. Alone. The camera made sure to feature her ass prominently in every shot.

The heroine -- if that was indeed who she was -- had crept through the dusty foyer, up a grand staircase, down a long hallway, and was investigating a bedroom with a huge canopied bed. Now, Steve suspected, was when it would turn out that she wasn't alone after all; some man would show up soon, and the actual sex would begin.

Steve let his hand run up and down his cock. Admittedly, he wasn't a hundred percent into this, and he still wasn't certain why Tony had thought he would be; mostly what was doing it for him now was the sketchy, half-imagined thought of Tony watching this, alone in some hotel room, eyes fixed on the screen, one hand down his pants. Maybe Tony had gotten off watching this and wanted to share it with him? He could give it a few more minutes.

Onscreen, the door was pushed shut by an unseen force. The heroine made a quizzical, frightened noise that needed no translation.

And then two tentacles grabbed her and pinned her to the wall.

Steve was rock-hard in an instant.

Oh, God, Steve thought, dizzy with desire. They had really, truly made this. He was really watching this. In Japan they evidently made pornography with tentacles and Tony had bought him this. Here were all his fantasies, drawn by someone else, acted out in front of him.

I thought of you, Tony had said, and suddenly everything was perfectly clear.

The heroine was struggling in vain against the tentacles, as another tentacle rose up and ripped her shirt open, exposing impossibly-perfect, generously-proportioned breasts that quivered under the tentacle's slick touch. Yet another tentacle caressed her, a tentacle that slid between her ample breasts and then down, tugging off her skirt and panties. Steve held his breath, and oh God, were they going to-- they couldn't really be going to-- were they really going to--?

The tentacle pushed inside her.

The animation wasn't the best. The art style wasn't anything Steve was used to. But all Steve could think as he watched the crude, lurid close-up, a tentacle thrusting in and out, was oh thank God, I'm not the only one. Profound relief swept through him.

And arousal, of course. That was a given. Steve was achingly hard, and he shoved his underwear out of the way, sliding his cock out as, onscreen, the heroine's cries of dismay began to change into pleasure. Oh God, this was good, Steve thought, as his hips rocked almost helplessly, as he fucked up into his fist. He had to take his time. He didn't want this to be over already. He could probably come in about thirty seconds. And then, hey, he could do it again; he was blessed with a superhuman refractory period. But he wanted to savor it. He wanted to yearn for it. And there was nothing like the first time.

Maybe there are more scenes, Steve thought, and then he actually whimpered out loud, at the same time as the woman onscreen moaned. There could be a whole world of this. Maybe there were dozens of these tapes. Hundreds. Thousands.

It was like the animators knew exactly what Steve wanted to see. He was beyond any kind of shame or embarrassment, stroking himself as he watched a tentacle slide into the heroine's ass, as both tentacles fucked her at the same time, in and out and in, a rhythm that Steve easily matched with his hand on his cock, so slick that he was dripping pre-come. His cock was throbbing in his fist, and oh God, he was close. He breathed out, slowed down; he didn't play with his balls or his ass. He didn't rub the most sensitive spot just under the head of his cock. He didn't want it to be over.

The view shifted again, back to the heroine's face as she gasped and moaned, then panning down to her improbably-large breasts, bouncing as the tentacles fucked her, as other tentacles still caressed her. A distant part of Steve's mind observed that it was astonishingly ridiculous, but oh fuck did his cock not care about that. The tip of one tentacle fondled one of her nipples, and as she cried out again Steve tightened his grip, thrust up into his fist, rocked his hips helplessly. God, he wanted to be there, he wanted that to be real, he wanted to touch, he wanted to slide his cock between her breasts or into her mouth--

He wanted it to be Tony.

Steve actually stopped, stunned by the sudden, obvious realization, breathtaking and erotic, as his brain tried to reconcile what he was seeing with what was a dramatically more powerful fantasy. On screen, the heroine arched her back and moaned, crying out, screaming, an incredibly fake orgasm, and that was-- it wasn't quite right. He wanted this, God, did he ever. But he wanted Tony more. He wanted Tony here.

He paused the tape and fumbled for the phone, punching in Tony's mobile phone number, not even thinking about it until after he'd done it. It was so very late in France. But he-- God, he had to. His cock throbbed again. He had the phone in one hand and his cock in the other, fingers curled loosely around the base of the shaft, and Jesus, what was he thinking? He couldn't wake Tony up just because he had a hard-on. But it was too late; the phone was already ringing.

Tony picked up on the third ring. "Mmm?" His voice was fogged with sleep, and Steve knew he'd woken him up. This had been a mistake.

"Never mind," Steve said, and he meant to sound apologetic, but his voice came out of him low and dark, somehow smoky. On the edge. Like... well, exactly like he'd spent twenty minutes teasing and denying himself and was now desperate for relief. "I'll-- I didn't mean to wake you up. I'll just go--"

"Steve?" Tony's sleepy confusion was rapidly giving way... to concern. "Steve, hey, no, don't go. What's wrong? Talk to me. You don't sound so--"

"I watched the tape," Steve blurted out.

There was five seconds of dead silence.

Steve considered the fact that Tony had given him the tape and essentially run away. Had Tony been afraid of what Steve's reaction would be? Was he still?

"So, uh," Tony said, his voice laden with an awful tension, a weight that never should have been there, a strain Steve would have done anything to remove. "Did you-- oh, God-- if you didn't-- I mean, if it's not your thing, that's fine-- we don't ever have to talk about it-- I just thought maybe you would--" He was stammering his way through a series of hideous apologies.

God. Tony had been afraid of what he would think, after all. Even after everything they'd done.

"Tony." Steve cut him off. "Do you have any idea how hard I am right now?"

His voice came out of him pleading, begging, aching. He licked his lips.

More silence.

"Oh." Tony's voice was soft, barely audible over the hiss of the phone line. "You liked it?" There was a dawning hope in the way he said it.

"Did I ever," Steve said, fervently. "I never-- I thought I was the only one. I didn't know anyone else even-- how the hell did you find it? Are there more?" He heard his own voice rise in excitement. But he knew Tony wasn't going to judge him.

Tony's laugh was easy. Relieved. Maybe a little dirty, the way Steve liked, the way he got when he whispered the best kind of filth just for Steve. "Don't know if there are more, sorry," Tony said. "As for how I found it, Japan has some fucking weird shows on late-night TV." There was a contemplative pause. "Or maybe just some weird fucking." Tony chuckled at his own joke.

Steve snorted. "I'll say." He could see what Tony must have done now; Tony had somehow looked it up and found him a copy of his very own.

"You can see why I thought you might enjoy it." The pause this time was a little more tentative. "But, uh, I thought maybe you'd have wanted to finish enjoying it, if you know what I mean. Was it not-- was it not what you wanted? If they'd had one with guys, I would have gotten--"

"It was absolutely what I wanted," Steve assured him. "But I just-- I wanted." He didn't really know how to say it, and he stumbled helplessly through an incoherent explanation. "I wanted you there. I watched the first scene and it wasn't-- it wasn't right without you there. I'm sorry, I know that makes no sense."

It was silly, of course, because Tony wasn't here. Tony couldn't be here. Tony couldn't give him what he wanted.

Tony made a quiet, breathy noise of discovery. A familiar sound. Genius at work.


"I know," Tony said, confidently. "It's okay. I know what you need." There was a rustling sound, like Tony was shifting position. "I'm here."

Steve didn't see how Tony knew what he needed, when he didn't even know. "What are you--?"

"I'm getting comfortable," Tony said, and there was a lazy indolence to his tone, low and full of promise. "You should get comfortable too. You're probably still wearing your uniform, huh?"

Steve glanced down at himself. "Mostly. It's, uh. Unzipped."

There was a view that wasn't ever going on a poster: Captain America, in full uniform, lounging on the couch, pants undone, fist wrapped around his hard cock.

"I'm sure it is," Tony said, and the laziness in his voice went sharp, a sudden snap of command in his low, sultry tone. "How about you get out of that uniform for me, huh? Just like if I were there, watching. Mmm." There was a very soft moan, and Steve was certain that Tony was jerking off. "We both know you like when I watch. I like watching. Win-win."

"Tony," Steve ventured. "Are you-- I mean, right now, are you doing, uh, what I think you're doing?"

"Depends what you think I'm doing." Tony's voice was a tease. "Probably. Mmm. Oh, yeah." He was panting. There was a familiar, slick rhythmic noise in the background. "So what I want you to do," he continued, and Steve wasn't exactly sure how he could still think straight, but maybe that was why Tony was the genius, "is get naked for me, and fast-forward that tape to the next bit of... excitement. We're going to have ourselves a little viewing party. I know I can't be there to watch it with you, but I'm gonna be right here, okay?"

"Okay," Steve said. Everything in him tingled with anticipation, like his skin was too tight. His cock ached and throbbed, neglected. "I'm going to put the phone down. One second."

It occurred to him after he'd put the phone down and struggled out of his shirt, with his thumb jammed on the fast-forward button, that he hadn't done this quite right. If he'd asked Tony to do this, Tony would have made the stripping into a production, would have described it in detail, until Steve would have come once just listening to Tony talk. Tony was so good with words. Next to him, Steve felt clumsy. Still, he thought, as he sat back down and peeled off his trousers and underwear, leaving them in a pile with his boots and socks, he hoped Tony wouldn't object too much.

He picked up the phone again. "All right," he said, "I, uh."

Tony's laugh was low and breathy. Jesus, Tony practically sounded like pornography. "All off?"


"You gotta say it," Tony said, coaxing, in that voice that made Steve want to do everything for him. "Come on, Steve. Tell me you're hard for me. Tell me you're sitting there, naked, waiting for me. I could see you right now if I walked in, couldn't I? You'd be all ready for me. Hard. Spread open. No need to hold back. No need to be modest."

Oh God. He wondered, not for the first time, how Tony could just talk like this, completely unashamed. "You could see that." Steve's voice broke on a moan, because, oh, the thought of Tony walking in on this. "You would, if you were here. That's-- that's what you'd see. All of me."

He let his hand slide over his cock again, once, experimentally, and then thought better of it, because, God, he was going to come.

"Good," Tony said, and Steve heard the same wet sliding sounds in the background; Tony was getting a little more into it. He'd watched Tony enough that he could imagine what Tony was doing: starting out slow, maybe playing with his balls with his other hand, the way he liked. "Okay. Press play. You wanted me here, I'm here."

Steve got up, pressed play, and sat back down.

He hadn't known exactly where to stop when he was fast-forwarding, but he'd paused it when the tentacles had appeared again.

Another woman -- this one a brunette -- had entered the same castle, and found the very same room where the blonde woman had encountered the tentacles. The blonde was now reclining, nude, on the huge bed in the middle of the room, with the tentacles creeping up around her, rising up behind her. The brunette stopped in the middle of the room, and then a tentacle drew her close, as another tentacle began to slide once again up the blonde's bare thigh.

Groaning, Steve slid his fingers up his cock, matching the pace of the tentacle onscreen.

"Steve?" Tony prompted. "You want to tell me what you're watching?"

"There's another girl in this scene," Steve said, feeling so awkward in comparison to Tony's nonchalant ease, watching the tentacles approach the second character. "The first one, she's on the bed, waiting, and the tentacles are coming for the other one-- God, they're-- they're holding her legs apart--"

The girl writhed in the tentacles' grasp as they coiled and slithered up her legs. One tentacle's tip nudged at the hem of her skirt, revealing a pale thigh to Steve's avid gaze. Onscreen, she was gasping, moaning, but Steve was aware that Tony, in his ear, was uncharacteristically silent.

"The brunette, right? That was the scene I saw." Tony paused; his next words were hesitant. "Do you... do you wish it were me?"

Tony said it like he didn't know what Steve would think, but oh God yes. The noise Steve heard himself make was unlike anything he thought he could make, a low, desolate groan, as Tony took him apart with words alone.

"Please," he said, hoarsely, and the word was barely more than breath, and he didn't know why he was begging, but he needed, God, he needed Tony.

There was a relieved sort of exhalation on Tony's end of the line. "You want to know something?" Tony asked. He sounded like he was smiling now. Steve could hear it in his voice, could imagine the way his lips curved.

The tentacles plucked the clothing off the brunette. Steve squeezed his cock and let his vision blur, letting Tony's raspy breath in his ear wash over him, imagining Tony there instead, Tony exposed and naked, held down. "Yeah?"

Tony's voice dropped low, quiet. A secret, just for Steve. "I got off watching this. Thinking about how much you'd like it."

Steve opened his mouth, but all he could make was broken sounds, and his cock, impossibly hard, dripped even more pre-come over his fingers. He was a wet mess, and on screen the tentacles had stripped the brunette girl as well, holding her spread-eagled as she pushed against her bonds, which only coiled tighter as she moved. All he could think about was Tony watching this, Tony doing what he was doing, Tony thinking about him.

"I like it." Steve's voice sounded thready in his own ears. "I like it a lot."

So many things were going on that Steve couldn't focus on anything for more than a second at a time. It was all too good. There was the porn -- and for someone who hadn't ever really enjoyed the genre before, he was enjoying the hell out of this. Maybe it was the tentacles. Maybe it was Tony's voice in his ear, Tony's familiar rhythmic groans and gasps, because Tony was never quiet and Steve loved it. And then there was the feel of it, the feel of everything, and it was just -- too much. His hand, the slick tentacles on screen, Tony's voice, all blurring together in a haze of pleasure.

It hardly even mattered what was happening on the screen now. The tentacles had slid into the brunette, pumping in and out of her as she arched up, in the grip of the tentacles, giving herself over to desire. There were tentacles at her wrists and ankles, tentacles over her breasts, glistening, practically sparkling, and -- no coyness here -- a close-up of a wet, broad tentacle, the width of a wrist, plunging into her, over and over.

Tony chuckled throatily. "How's the tentacle action going? Is the other one in on it yet?"

"The other one?"

As Steve wondered what Tony meant, the screen shifted: a tentacle began fucking the blonde, as she lay on the bed, watching. She was clearly immediately in favor of this now. There were no restraints on her, and as another tentacle curled up by her mouth, she kissed it, all the while rocking her hips like she could, impossibly, fit more of the tentacle into her. Steve's hand sped up on himself. It was obvious now how much she loved it, and, oh God, that made it even better.

"Yeah," Steve gasped. "The other one -- oh, geez, she really likes that--"

"You like that too." Tony's voice, smooth and certain, was right here with him, and if he couldn't have Tony here, this was the next best thing. "I know you'd like it if that were me. If I liked it. Mmm. Yeah."

The slick, wet sounds down the line increased, and Steve slowed his pace. He wanted to wait. "Tony, are you-- are you--"

"I'm close." The words were slurred. "I-- oh, fuck-- I mean, this was when I came before, because I knew you'd really-- mmm, oh--"

Steve ran his free hand up his thighs, rolling his balls, letting his fingertips rest on the delicate skin just behind them, teasing himself. He was shaking, his breath jolting out of him. On screen, the cries of pleasure were louder, every one echoing in him, amplifying the heat rushing through him. He couldn't hold on.

"Tony," Steve groaned. "Tony, I'm going to-- please, Tony, I'm going to--"

"Go on," Tony urged him, his voice edging toward broken. "Go on, Steve, let me hear you--"

And Steve let go. He came, shaking, moaning, whispering Tony's name. Come spattered across his stomach, and he kept going and going, riding the pleasure out, still jerking himself off. Blurrily, on the screen, the girls were shouting, coming, open-mouthed in ecstasy as the tentacles fucked them, and he remembered the tentacles disappearing into Tony's body as his cock jerked again in his fist, again and again.

"Oh, fuck, Steve," Tony said, soft and intense, and Tony's groan of release rasped in his ear and Steve was still coming, his body forcing it out of him, again and again.

There was come all over his chest. He was covered in it. Tony would like that, he thought, and his cock twitched again even as he was sinking back into the couch, spent now.

Contented, Tony sighed in his ear. "Oh, that was good. You sounded like you liked that."

"I'll show you next time," Steve said, staring down at himself and trying to summon up the energy to clean up.

Tony made a tiny broken noise, and Steve knew they'd have to keep it in mind for later. There'd be a later. There'd be a next time. "Mmm." Tony's voice was verging into sleep again. "Thanks for calling."

"No, thank you," Steve said, as sincerely as possible, and Tony laughed.

"Love you," Tony murmured, and there was a kissing noise, Tony pursing his lips at the phone. "See you-- see you soon."

Steve smiled. No one could see him now, but he didn't feel quite so lonely. "Sleep well."

The line clicked and went dead, and Steve got up and paused the tape. He'd save the rest for later.

The next time Tony went to Tokyo, he came back with three more.

Four: Dream Vision

It was two in the morning, and Tony wasn't in bed. He wasn't on a business trip, because no one would work with his company anymore. He wasn't out Avenging, because Iron Man had been blamed for Whiplash's death -- and, in a cruel twist of fate, Iron Man had in fact killed the man, but Tony hadn't. Not that Tony could tell the world that his armor had done it... or that he was Iron Man.

The hits to Tony's reputation had kept coming, fast and furious. A news expose had even fallen so low as to mock him for his alcoholism, when everyone who knew Tony knew how much his sobriety meant to him now, and how hard-won it had been. Steve had seen red.

He'd barely avoided punching the television. Then he'd called the team publicist and gotten himself booked on a talk show to defend Tony in both his identities. Two of the finest men I've ever had the honor of knowing, he'd said, and he'd known full well that the gossip magazines would savage him the next day because they knew he was dating... well, they knew about Tony, at least. But it had been worth it.

This evening Tony had found out who was behind the smear campaign: his old friend, Tiberius Stone.

Tony had gone to the Viastone corporate offices to confront him, and he'd come back three hours ago: pale, shaken, with an awful thousand-yard stare in his eyes. He looked like he'd come back from a war.

"He won't walk for months, if ever," Tony said, hoarsely, like he hadn't even heard Steve's actual question, are you all right. "But I let him live."

And then Tony'd headed down to the basement, and Steve hadn't seen him since.

He was worried about Tony. Of course he was. And it wouldn't hurt to check on him, would it?

There was no reply when Steve knocked on the workshop door, and he gave Tony a good few seconds before knocking again. Nothing.


"Yeah?" Tony called back. "It's open."

Steve pushed the door open to find Tony in the center of chaos that seemed far more chaotic than usual. A machine that looked vaguely familiar, whose name Steve couldn't quite place, was spread out over one of the workbenches. Tony's sleeves were rolled up and his shirt was unbuttoned halfway, the gleaming charging port for his artificial heart visible beneath, like he'd plugged himself in, charged himself up, and forgotten to set himself to rights again. It was unlike him. The cords for his heart still lay on the table.

And there was an awful gleam in Tony's eyes, part manic energy and part bone-deep despair, and -- God, no -- his hands were shaking. Steve hadn't seen him look like this since that day, years ago, in that cabin -- and that was a day that Tony had just barely avoided diving back into the bottle.

Something was wrong here. Something was deeply wrong here.

And whatever it was, it was Tiberius Stone's fault.

Steve stared. "Tony, what in God's name did he do to you?"

Tony looked up and finally seemed to see him. He was holding a multimeter, and his knuckles were white where he was gripping it. "I'm okay," he said, even though that was an obvious lie. "He-- I have to-- I have to do this, I have to figure this out--"

"It's two in the morning," Steve said. "Come on, it can wait. Come to bed."

Tony shook his head violently. "I have to," he repeated, wild-eyed, as if he were in the grip of some nightmare. "I can't sleep anyway, and I have to-- I can't let him do it again, oh God--" He shuddered.

Steve swallowed hard and held out his hands. "Tony, please. Talk to me. Whatever it is, maybe I can help."

And Tony looked at him... and started crying. Tears slid down his face. The multimeter clattered to the floor, and then he stumbled into Steve's arms. He mumbled something that sounded an awful lot like please tell me you're real.

"Shh," Steve told him. "It's all right. Come on. Sit down and tell me what's wrong." He tugged Tony toward the worn couch in the corner and Tony went, unresisting, sitting down next to Steve like a puppet with its strings cut, all ungainly awkward limbs.

Tony took a shuddering breath. "It's okay, really. I mean, psychotic ex tries to murder me, I really should start expecting this, huh?" His voice was twisted and miserable.

Steve blinked. "You dated?"

Tony had never mentioned that. Tony had, in fact, barely mentioned Tiberius Stone at all. He'd gone out of his way not to introduce Steve to him at that gala with Hank and Jan, but Tiberius -- "call me Ty, Captain" -- had sidled up to him and introduced himself, saying something about how he was so excited to meet Tony's new beau. He'd struck Steve as calculating, too smooth, a type of man Steve had always innately distrusted. He remembered now how Tiberius had moved past Tony to greet him, an almost-possessive hand on Tony's elbow, a brush past Tony that was a little too close.

And Tony'd kept giving the guy so many chances. Tony had made so many excuses for him, until it was obvious that Tiberius had to be behind it all.

Tears glistened on Tony's cheeks. He nodded. "I don't think he'll ever own up to it, but... yeah. It wasn't much of a relationship, really. My parents-- my parents had just died, and I was a wreck, and he was there. And I-- and he-- I thought he loved me," he whispered. "But he just wanted to prove he was better than me. That I was too weak. Too needy."

Oh, God. Well, he'd known exactly how to get to Tony, all right.

"Hey," Steve said, and he stroked Tony's hair. "You're not any of those things, all right?"

"He murdered his parents," Tony said, dully, a terrifying non-sequitur. "He told me so, tonight. I'm never going to be able to prove it, but... I wasn't kidding about him being psychotic." He shook his head. "I didn't know. I never knew who he was, really. I thought I did, but... I was wrong."

The man Steve had met -- he seemed like the sort of fella who was good at pretending. Hiding his true nature. And Tony always wanted to believe the best of his friends. Tony wouldn't have seen it. Tiberius would have hurt him slowly, subtly, and convinced Tony it was all his fault.

And then Tony changed the subject. "You remember that Dream Vision machine Ty was showing off, at that gala?"

Steve nodded. "What about it?"

"I went to see him," Tony said. "And he knocked me out and hooked me up to the machine, and he was-- he was going to trap me in my nightmares. Forever." He was staring off into the distance. "It's not just for dreaming up TV shows, like he made it sound. In the dream, you can... share someone else's dream. And-- well, I guess you'd call it psionics. There's a kind of telepathy. He knew what I knew. He learned I was Iron Man. And he-- he could make me feel things. He could manipulate what I was feeling." Tony's eyes were wide and dazed.

God, no. If there was one thing, one thing that was going to get to Tony, it was removing his command of his own feelings. Taking away his self-control.

"He could do what he wanted to me," Tony whispered. "He could make me feel exactly what he wanted. And he did. God, Steve, he took me back to when my parents died, and he made me cry, he made me, with his mind. And then he showed me myself, on the streets, drunk, and I-- I felt drunk, and I keep, I keep wanting--"

Christ. Of course he did.

"He kept going. He knew I hated cockroaches." Tony's voice was full of a terrifying, despondent anger, and he didn't need to explain any more than that.

Steve wanted to be sick.

"It's okay," Steve said, and he pulled Tony close. "You want to call Henry?" Tony shook his head, mute. "You want me to sit here with you?"

Tony's gaze went to his worktable. "So I overpowered him," he said, like above all else he had to finish the story, "and I stole the machine. Not like he was in any position to stop me. And I have to-- I have to try it again, I have to figure out some kind of defense, I have to be prepared, because he's never going to stop."

And then Steve saw it. What he had to do. "Can you put other people in? Or just you?"

Tony lifted his head, and his face was full of confusion. "Why the hell would I want to do this to anyone else?"

"Can you?"

Tony shrugged. "Yeah." The admission was reluctant. "I've got another syringe of the nanites that you need to use Dream Vision. And they're still in my bloodstream, of course. So I can put myself in and one other person. If I wanted to."

"Then put me in."

Tony stared. "What?"

"Put me in with you," Steve repeated, and he started rolling the sleeve of his t-shirt up. "Let's dream something together. There's nothing saying it has to be a nightmare, right?"

"Steve, you-- you can't want--" Tony shut his eyes. "My mind. My past. It's not pretty."

"I'm not afraid," Steve told him, the honest truth. "And I love you, and I want the best for you, and if you trust me, we're going to dream a new dream for you, where nothing hurts, okay?"

Tony met his eyes. His throat worked as he swallowed. "Yeah, okay," he said, voice barely louder than a whisper, like asking for this was an imposition. "I'd really like to shut my eyes and see something nice."

The sun was pleasantly warm, and Steve's feet sank into the white sand. The ocean was a clear, gorgeous blue, lapping at the shore. There were palm trees. It was an image straight off a postcard. Literally. Steve was pretty sure he'd gotten it off a postcard. He didn't think he'd ever been here in real life. Wherever here was.

Anyway, it was the first thing that had occurred to him, and surely Tony would like a relaxing tropical island.

"Really?" Tony asked. He raised an eyebrow.

The words sounded dubious. At most, the sign of a dry wit. but Tony had been right about there being telepathy. Steve could tell exactly what he was thinking. Tony was--

Tony was goddamn terrified. His thoughts were circling and circling, racing, never settling, and then Steve saw it in Tony's mind -- the armor, crouching over him.

The last time he'd been on a beach like this, his armor had tried to kill him.

"Oh, geez, no," Steve said, aghast, and he held out his hands helplessly. "Tony, I'm sorry--"

"I can't," Tony said, a cry of anguish, and then the dream melted around them.

The winter wind bit into Steve, so real even within the dream, the chill working its way to his skin in an instant. The sky above was dark, portending snow. They were on a street corner -- probably New York, but not somewhere Steve had spent a lot of time. This was Tony's doing.

Across the street, the glass-fronted door of a liquor store opened and shut, disgorging a thin man, hunched over into the wind, dressed too lightly for the weather. His clothes were stained, and he was a mess, with a scraggly, unkempt beard. In his left hand he was clutching a bottle. A wino, sure... but why was he in Tony's dream?

The first flakes of snow began to fall, sticking to the roofs of the parked cars.

"This is where he brought me," Tony said, and then he grimaced. "This is the end."

The wino sat down on a stoop, uncapped the bottle, and tipped his head back to drink. Steve stared in horror. It was Tony. He was nearly unrecognizable, but it was him. Tony's eyes were glassy, and his face was tight, uncaring. He'd given up. Steve had never seen Tony like this.

This was how Tony had nearly died.

"He made me feel like that," Tony whispered. "Drunk. Hopeless."

Steve could feel Tony's thoughts starting to spiral down. Tiberius wasn't even doing it to him this time. Tony was doing it to himself.

"Tony, you're not there," Steve said, urgently. "You're not there, okay? This happened, and it was hard, but you did it. It's over. You did it. You're alive."

Tony was still staring at the hunched-over figure across the street.

Useless, Tony's thoughts chorused. Useless, hopeless. A tear rolled down his cheek.

No, Steve thought back. No, never. He shaped the thought, like throwing his shield, and pushed it at Tony as fiercely as he could.

Tony's head snapped up. Steve?

There was a desperate hope in Tony's eyes.

I love you, Steve thought, and I'm right here. I'm not leaving. I believe in you.

Familiar determination gleamed in Tony's gaze, and he lifted his chin. I made it through. The thought was tinged with uncertainty.

You did, Steve told him. I'm proud of you. And he sent every feeling he could, every iota of that pride, right at Tony.

And Tony just... lit up. Like he'd been starving all his life for this. Like this, right here, was what he lacked, what he needed to fill that void within himself. And if Steve could give him that, he was damn well going to give him that.

Steve, Tony said again, his name echoing in his own mind in amazement and wonder, and Tony's mouth wobbled like he might cry from sheer joy.

Steve held out his hands. Come on, let's get out of the cold.

Tony stepped into his arms, and the world changed again.

Tony's room at the mansion -- their room now, in reality -- was everything that the street corner hadn't been. Outside, the snow was falling thickly, gathering on the statues in the garden, and frost rimed the windowpanes, but the room was warm, the sort of temperature that invited the occupants to remove their clothes. The heavy winter-weight duvet was on the bed, one corner pulled back, and there were two mugs of hot chocolate on the bedside table.

There was a twinkling strand of Christmas lights hung over the door, and a tiny sprig of mistletoe. All in all, it was, Steve thought, the perfect day to call a snow day, and thereafter to stay in bed.

Tony blinked. "What...?" He glanced around. "Steve, this-- it's never been like this."

"It could have been," Steve said. "It's a dream. It doesn't have to be real." He exhaled hard. "I wish it could have been."

Walking to the window, Tony put his palm against the glass. "It's cold out there." He shuddered, and the look on his face was too far away for Steve's liking.

"Not in here," Steve said. "And I think-- I think that's how you keep yourself safe, in this place, in this dream. You go to the safest place you can, and you make it yours. And you're safe here, okay? I'm here, but even if I'm not here, you can come back here."

Tony turned back, and the self-possession had returned once again to his gaze. He exhaled. "Okay." His smile was real now, weary but real. "Looks like you've built us a nice cozy refuge."

Steve shrugged and went hot again. "Well, you know. I... I have my biases."

Tony crawled onto the bed and rolled over, stretching his arms above his head, and his thoughts had a tentative, but very definite undercurrent. "I bet I can think of something that will make this place even better," he offered.

And then Steve yelped, surprised, as a lavender tentacle rose from behind the headboard.

The inevitable instant arousal that coursed through Steve was mixed with shame. For God's sake, Tony had just been through hell, and here Steve was getting off in a dream? To something that had hurt Tony? Pretending was one thing, but how in the world could he ask Tony to actually do this?

"No, no, no, it's okay," Tony said, because of course he could tell what Steve was thinking now, too.


"I wouldn't offer if I didn't want to," Tony said. "At this point, the first thing I think of when I think of tentacles is having incredibly good sex." He grinned. "It's kind of Pavlovian." He bit his lip. "And if-- if you held me with them, I'd--"

I'd feel safe, Tony's mind contributed, the thought that he wouldn't let himself finish out loud.

A second tentacle came up and coiled around Tony's wrist, and Steve swallowed hard.

"You really want this?"

Tony nodded. "It's... it's comforting."

Far be it for him to deny Tony comfort.

"All right," Steve said, "but if you change your mind--"

Tony grinned at him, and everything in his brain was yes, yes, yes, an aching hunger for touch, for connection. "Steve," Tony said. "Telepathy, remember? You'll be the first to know."

And then Tony pulled him down and kissed him.

It wasn't like reality. The world was hazy, bright, a dream of nothing but pleasure, and somewhere between kisses their clothing disappeared, like magic. Tony's body was warm under his, his mouth sweet, and when Steve ran his hand up along Tony's outstretched arm, he found that a tentacle was already there. Tony's wrists were pressed together above his head, a tentacle wrapped around them.

And then Steve was the tentacle, too, and he could feel Tony's skin as he encircled Tony's arms, as other tentacles rose up to capture Tony's legs.

Tony arched up against Steve -- not struggling, but moving like he wanted to feel the weight of him, to be reassured that Steve was here, that Steve had him held down.

You're safe, Steve thought at him, and he kissed him and kissed him. Tony kissed back gratefully, hungrily, like he needed everything Steve could give him.

"Touch me," Tony pleaded, and Steve-- Steve let one of the tentacles do it.

He could feel his tentacle coil around Tony's cock, slick and tight, rippling, and Tony choked out wordless encouragement. When Steve glanced down Tony's body, it was everything he could have wanted to see: tentacles pressing Tony down at the hips and thighs, and a delicate, violet tentacle-tip teasing the head of his cock, just barely visible as Tony strained and rocked up into the hold of the tentacle.

When Steve glanced back up, Tony's gaze was far away again.


More, Tony's mind whispered, almost frantically. Hold me. I have to know. I have to-- just, please, tell me--

The thought broke off.

Steve wrapped his arms around Tony as well. Tell you what?

There was a thin and panicked line running through Tony's mind. Tell me you love me. Tony's mind was wide-open, begging. You could-- you could make me think-- whatever you want--

There was need there, need and denial, and God, Tony had been starved for it, dying for it, never believing he deserved affection, never believing he was good enough.

"I won't make you feel anything you wouldn't have," Steve whispered. Tiberius had, and Steve wouldn't. "But I want you to know how I feel."

Their minds were perfectly attuned. And Steve looked Tony in the eye and felt at him. Everything he felt. All his love, all his pride once again, everything he'd tried to express in words since the day he woke up in the future. You're the best person I know, Tony.

Tony's mouth opened, soundlessly, and Steve knew he was giving him everything he wanted, as Tony smiled and smiled and threw his head back and came as Steve held him close, covered him and held him all over.

You really feel like that? Tony asked, wondering.

I can't lie, Steve said, and then he moaned as pleasure rolled over him, as he came, as Tony touched somewhere hot and bright in his mind--

--and they woke.

Steve struggled up to sitting, pulling the electrodes off his face, as Tony sat up and looked around, bereft. There were tears on his face again, but now, Steve was sure, they were tears of joy.

"Thank you," Tony said, and he threw his arms around him. "Thank you, thank you--"

Steve held him close, feeling already like reality was somehow a pale imitation of the dream. "I'm sorry I can't always do that for you."

"Don't be." Tony drew back and smiled, mistily. "It's enough to know that that's how you feel." He winked. "Sorry I can't get you real tentacles."

"Tony," Steve said, knowing he shouldn't be embarrassed because, hell, it wasn't like they didn't both know he wanted them, but it was different when Tony actually said it.

"Eh." Tony lifted a hand. "I'll work on it. Later."

"Bed now, though?" Steve asked, hopefully.

Tony smiled. "Sure. I know I'll have good dreams now."

Five: Extremis

The last box was labeled, in Tony's neat handwriting, AVENGERS TOWER - COMMON AREA - MISC TEAM PHOTOGRAPHS (FRAMED), and Steve set it gingerly atop the others, mindful of the glass rattling within.

For all that the team had actually started moving in a month ago, their new home was a mess. Everyone had found their comms, their cards, and their uniforms, and that was really about it. The bare minimum. They were still eating off paper plates with plastic sporks, because the last three times Steve had sat down and attempted to find the silverware he'd been interrupted by an Avengers alert.

And now they'd been to the Savage Land, and they'd come back with Logan as an addition to the team, which meant that the only thing in the refrigerator now was half a ham pizza and a case of beer. At some point Steve needed to sit down and have that Responsible Team Co-Leader talk that Tony clearly wasn't going to have with him, the one that started "so I know we're all adults here," wended its way through "we started keeping the mansion dry a couple years ago, for Tony and Carol's sake," and probably ended with "here's a hundred bucks, please buy your own mini-fridge and keep your beer in your room."

And then, of course, there was Tony.

Tony had come up from his tinkering downstairs one morning three weeks ago, said I've just got a documentary interview this morning and then a board meeting, kissed him, and walked out the door. Steve hadn't been particularly alarmed when Tony had called him a couple hours later, saying an old friend of mine in Houston is in trouble but I'll try to make it back for dinner. He hadn't even been concerned when, a couple hours later, Tony had called back with rain check on dinner, I need to go to San Francisco. This was what happened when your boyfriend and superhero team co-leader was also a Fortune 500 CEO. Sometimes he had other things to do. Steve didn't take it personally. He didn't get worried.

Steve hadn't even been worried when the Avengers alert had gone out. Tony, calm as always, had reported that he had information on a suspect, presumed superhuman, who'd attacked an FBI office in Houston. Iron Man is available for intercept and engagement. Steve been watching over Peter's shoulder while Peter was getting the hang of monitor duty, and watched Iron Man light up and lock down on the main board. Tony wasn't asking for back-up. He had this.

An hour later, Peter had pounded on Steve's door, frantic and panicked. Cap, Cap, you gotta put the news on right now, he'd yelled through the door. Steve was never going to forget the look on Peter's face when he'd opened the door, and Steve had taken the stairs to the common floor two at a time as Peter had swung up.

All the channels were showing it: carnage on an interstate near Houston. Twisted, burning metal. Cars tossed about like toys, the work of someone with superhuman strength. And under one of the cars was the gleaming red and gold of the Iron Man suit. Tony lay there, and he didn't get up. His foe had crushed him, ground him into the dirt, and left him to die.

No report on Iron Man's condition, one of the news anchors said, and Steve's heart was in his throat. Steve's identicard reported that Iron Man's comm system was inoperable. On screen, the car above Tony was finally shifted. Tony still didn't move. A van loaded up Tony in the suit, dropping him down heavily, roughly, as if he were just scrap metal and not a man.

And then nothing.

It had been the longest twenty-four hours of Steve's life. Even now, the only thing he could remember thinking was someone would have told me by now if he were dead. Desperate, he'd clung to that thought. None of the hospitals had said they'd admitted Tony. But he had to have gone somewhere. He had to be alive.

Steve was Tony's next of kin. They'd have told him.

Twenty-five hours after Houston, the news said Iron Man spotted in DC.

His first thought when the report came out was that there was no way it could be Tony. He'd seen Tony taken down in Houston, after all; there was no way he could be walking a day later, much less fighting. And besides... Tony would have called him.

And then Tony had landed at the tower like everything was fine, shucked his helmet as he walked inside, and grinned at Steve with his perfect, unblemished, unmarred face. Not so much as a bruise.

"Sorry about going AWOL," Tony had said, a fleeting grimace passing over his face,. "I had to see a man about a horse. Retrovirus. Not really much like a horse."

"I thought you were dead," Steve had blurted out, and he'd meant to be angry, because Tony always pulled these goddamn stunts, but he couldn't feel anything but relief. "I saw you go down. I swear to God, Tony, I thought you weren't going to make it."

He'd wrapped his arms around Tony, feeling the plates of the armor under his hands.

"Yeah, about that," Tony had said, and then the armor plates had fallen to the floor as the golden undersuit beneath them had melted into Tony's skin, Jesus Christ.

So, yeah. Tony had Extremis now.

The most annoying thing, honestly, was that Steve knew he had no standing to resent Tony for also essentially turning himself into a super-soldier, but that didn't stop this Extremis thing from worrying him. Reflexes, he understood. A healing factor, he understood. But not even the US Army had asked Steve to make telephone calls with his mind. He just... didn't think it was safe, being a computer.

And, okay, Steve could admit it: he was jealous. Just a little.

Tony had always been glued to his laptop or his phone; now that he had any scrap of information that he could want in his head at any moment of the day, Steve wasn't sure if Tony was even paying attention anymore. And a tiny voice in Steve's head had started to wonder: maybe he didn't care anymore. Maybe he didn't care about Steve.

It didn't help that Tony had been spending so much time in his garage -- if anything could be called a garage when it was an armory of Iron Man suits. He had a cot down there. He slept down there half the time now. They were supposed to be running this team -- they were supposed to be in love -- and Steve felt like he had barely seen him since Extremis. He hadn't seen him at all this week. Tony had been working on some secret project, and that meant it was up to Steve to do the last of the moving.

He shouldn't have minded.

He minded.

"Hey, Steve?" Tony's voice crackled in Steve's comms. He probably wasn't even speaking aloud. "You want to come down to the garage and help me out with something? Only if you're not busy, though."

Well, at least it meant he'd get to see Tony today.

Steve suppressed a sigh. "On my way."

Tony was sitting on the cot in the corner. It didn't look like he was working on much of anything, or like he needed Steve's help at all. He was wearing jeans and a faded MIT shirt.

"So," Tony said, as soon as the heavy doors closed behind Steve. "I've been kind of an asshole, and I'm sorry. I know I haven't been spending as much time with you or the team as I could have." He winced. "But I'm going to do better. I swear. I've got Extremis figured out. I don't need to... sequester myself. And I know you literally haven't seen me since Tuesday, but I, uh. I actually have an excuse for that."


As Steve asked, he wondered if this was some kind of plan of Tony's, to apologize first so that Steve couldn't actually bring up his frustrations.

Tony half-smiled. "You know me. You know how I say I'm sorry. I thought I'd make you something."

Steve blinked. "That's why you've been down here?"

He couldn't imagine what Tony had made him. All his gear was in perfect working order. He didn't need anything.


And then something moved under the cot. Steve's shield was in his hand in an instant -- and, just as fast, Tony was standing up, holding his hands up.

"No, no, no!" Tony said, quickly. "Sorry. It's all right. That was intentional. That was me."

The thing in the darkness shifted again. Steve couldn't quite tell what it was.

And then a tentacle poked out from underneath the cot.

It was coppery, smooth, sleek; it looked to be made of a similar material to Tony's undersuit, but with a different metal. The tentacle tip was small, agile, waving in the air. As more of the tentacle... protruded... Steve could see that one side of it was covered in rippling bumps, a technological attempt at suckers.

Tony had made this?

Steve stared. "You're... you're controlling it with your mind?"

"Them," Tony corrected, and four more tentacles slid out, crooking their tips in unison at him. A wave. "Yeah. It's not exactly... I mean, I don't have skin-equivalent sensation built into them, so I can control where they go, but I can't personally feel it."

"You did this for me," Steve said, still stunned. "I-- I thought you were ignoring me."

"I sort of was." Tony frowned. "And then I realized I was, and I realized I was being a fucking idiot and wanted to apologize, and I figured I could at least, uh." He glanced over at the tentacles. "I could get you something I knew you liked. You know. I mean, you don't have to, but I thought you might like--"

"Yes," Steve said, before Tony could say anything else. "Yes, please."

They hadn't played like this in a while -- not since before they'd lost the mansion, certainly. It had just been difficult to find the time lately. But Tony had made the time for him now, and who was Steve to say no?

All he could do was smile at Tony, suffused by a sudden swell of love.

"Can do." Tony grinned back, and two of the tentacles behind him rose up toward each other in an arc, forming... a heart?

"You're adorable," Steve told him.

"Don't tell anyone." Tony laughed and pulled his shirt over his head; his skin now was disconcertingly unscarred. "You'll ruin my reputation." He held his arms out to the sides, then stretched them out behind him and one tentacle coiled possessively around his elbow; Steve was seized with the impulse to draw him. "Anything in particular you want to do this time?"

Steve's brain stuttered on the words. "This time?"

A tentacle was very unsubtly stroking Tony's cock through his jeans. Steve tried not to stare.

"Well, sure," Tony said. "No reason you can't use them more than once. I already tried them. Kind of had to, to make sure everything was in working order. A+, would recommend, et cetera."

Steve's mind helpfully filled with several very evocative images, and his cock, already taking an interest in the proceedings, was suddenly much, much harder.

"You tried them without me?"

Tony grinned. "Well, I did save a video. For debugging purposes, of course."

Steve snorted. "Is that what they call it these days?"

"Yes," Tony said, straight-faced, although admittedly the effect was slightly spoiled by the tentacle fondling his chest. "Mmm. That's definitely what they call it." He grinned. "Come on, there has to be something you want. Something we've never tried?"

And then a memory surfaced. Not a memory -- a dream. He'd dreamed this, but he'd never done it.

"When I used to dream about the tentacles," Steve said, hesitantly, "the last dream I had, I dreamed they were part of me and I-- I fucked you. With the tentacles."

"We can do that," Tony said, immediately. "I mean, okay, I did just do that without you, and I'm pretty sure we've done that before, but sure, anything you want--"

Tony didn't get it. Steve shook his head. "Not like that. Not with the tentacles. With them."

He remembered how it had felt in the dream, Tony's body so hot and tight, clenched around his cock, with the tentacle there too, pushing and sliding, stretching Tony so wide, wide enough to fit them both.

"Both," Steve added. "At the same time. If you-- if you want that. If you think you can do that."

And Tony, the genius, was silent, his mouth hanging open. His eyes had gone dark, dilated, the blue nearly black. "I, uh," Tony said. He'd obviously been expecting to be the most adventurous one in this conversation. "I've never tried that before. Not entirely sure about the fit." And then he grinned, like Steve knew he would, because he always liked a good challenge. "But I would really, really like to try."

He said it like somehow he meant more by it than just putting tentacles in his ass. He said it like he was determined to be a better human being, and somehow this was the start of it.

Steve smiled. "All right."

Tony let the tentacles pull him back to the bed and pin his arms above his head, like he liked, while Steve got his gloves off. Another tentacle thoughtfully slid a pillow under his hips as Steve undid Tony's fly, taking the opportunity to give his cock a few friendly strokes as he divested him of his jeans and underwear. Tony groaned and pushed up into Steve's hand.

Steve found the lube and quickly realized he had to lube up the tentacle; the material wasn't slick on its own. It was cool, soft, with the suggestion of a firmer core underneath. It probably felt good. He hoped it would feel good for Tony.

Tony clearly wasn't wasting any time. The tentacle darted away from Steve's grasp, and then pressed inside Tony, and, oh God, that was a magnificent view. It writhed. It undulated. Tony's ass stretched around the tentacle, which slid in and out and in, and Tony threw his head back and grinned at Steve as he rocked his hips toward the tentacle.

"That's good," Tony breathed. "That's good." He smiled. "You want to show me how much you like it?"

He was never going to say anything bad about Extremis ever again.

Steve unzipped his pants and freed his cock, realizing as he did so that he almost definitely wasn't going to last, especially if he was going to keep watching exactly what that tentacle was doing, fucking into Tony over and over.

"Oh, you definitely like that," Tony said, appreciatively, and he licked his lips.

"At this rate," Steve admitted, "I'm going to be able to like that for about thirty seconds by the time you're ready for me. I can--" he waved his other hand, vaguely, in a different direction-- "go take care of it myself, and be able to last a little longer--"

"Oh, no, no, no," Tony replied. "I've got this."

The tentacles lifted Tony. Steve hadn't realized they were weight-bearing, but apparently Tony had put considerable effort into making Steve's dreams come true. The other tentacles moved to take his weight better and -- God, there was still a tentacle in his ass -- push him closer to Steve.

Tony opened his mouth as the tentacles bore him down, his head level now with Steve's cock. And then he grinned up at Steve and let the tentacles push him forward, as Steve's cock slid into his mouth, deep, deep, deep, and oh God, Tony was so good at that, and the tentacles were holding him in place. Steve's hips rocked helplessly forward, fucking Tony's face, and he could see that the tentacle still curving into Tony's body was fucking him. They were taking him from both ends at once, and this was nearly as good, and oh, he was going to come--

"Tony," Steve gasped, and Tony didn't stop, and Steve came, trembling, shaking so much he nearly fell over.

The tentacles drew Tony back and one -- oh fuck -- delicately wiped Steve's come off Tony's lips. Tony coughed once and then smiled up at him. He was starting to look a little hazy, surrendered to bliss, the way he got sometimes when he'd been fucked good and hard for a nice long time, like he couldn't possibly think of anything else again ever. Happiness was a good look on him.

Steve was, unsurprisingly, still achingly hard.

"Let me know when you're ready to go," Tony said, as one tentacle began to encircle his cock. "Mmm. The bumpy parts are really nice, by the way."

"I'm ready right now," Steve said, stripping off the rest of his uniform as fast as he could.

The tentacles eased Tony back down to the mattress, and Steve thought he might die with how much he wanted him. How much he loved him.

The tentacle that was inside Tony slowly slid out, obscene and glistening -- but not all the way. The tip was still inside, and Tony's hole was relaxed around it. There was room. It would be tight, but there was room. Steve climbed up onto the cot -- it was really too narrow for this -- and settled between Tony's legs, lined himself up, and pushed.

For a few seconds, he thought there was no way it was going to work. But then slowly, slowly, Tony's body opened for him, and he eased in. The tentacle nestled against his cock was quivering.

"Tony?" he whispered, searching Tony's face.

Tony stared up at him wide-eyed, enthralled, silent for long seconds, like he didn't even have words for this. "It's good," Tony whispered back. "It's so good. Nice and slow. I can-- I can feel you."

Nice and slow. He could do that.

He had barely rocked his hips forward when Tony groaned underneath him.

"It's everywhere," Tony breathed. "It's perfect."

Steve and the tentacle set a rhythm, easy and slow, both sliding into Tony at the same time, again and again, as Tony, held perfectly still in the tentacles' grasp, smiled dazedly up at him.

But it couldn't last forever, for either of them; as Steve felt the familiar tightness coiling low, Tony was urging him on, the motion of the tentacle beside his cock faster and faster still, and then Tony gasped and came. His face was radiant, bright and ecstatic, and that was all it took for Steve too to tumble over the edge.

"Congratulations," Tony said, drowsily, as Steve pulled out, followed by the tentacle. "You've ruined me for other men."

It was probably supposed to be a joke, but it didn't really sound like one. Which was fine by Steve. Steve fit himself in the tiny space on the cot that Tony had left, and flung an arm over him. "I do my best."

Tony was grinning fuzzily up at the ceiling, and then -- even more fondly -- at Steve. "So I'm sorry I'm a fucking idiot," he said. "But I'll try to do better. You can let me know next time."

Steve considered the fact that excellent regular sex was probably a very good inducement for them to communicate.

"I'll try too," he said. "Just... try to let me know what's going on with you, okay? I don't like the kinds of surprises where you nearly die and you don't even let anyone know you're in trouble. I don't even really know what you're up to these days and I-- I'd like to know."

"Noted." Tony's mouth firmed. "My schedule these days is pretty boring, though. Next up, I'm heading back to DC. Hopefully not killing anyone else this time. Congress wants my testimony on some superhero registration bill." His smile dimmed. "It's an absolute travesty. It'll never pass. I hope to God it doesn't."

"What, like Mutant Registration?" Steve's nose wrinkled at the very thought. "That's a terrible idea."

Tony snorted. "Tell me about it. Anyway, it's me and Peter going, if they'll even accept his testimony with a mask on. Probably some other people. I'm surprised they haven't asked you."

"Well, it's not like they'd get my endorsement either," Steve pointed out. "Besides, you're better at dealing with those government types than I am."

"Yeah, you just like to quit being Captain America whenever you're mad at the government," Tony said, chuckling. "I've got your number."

Steve could feel his jaw reflexively begin to clench up. "They can't tell me what to do."

"They kind of can," Tony said. "They could compel you to testify. Against me, even. If it were that kind of thing, which it isn't. But they could if they wanted to."

"I'd never testify against you--"

"Well, since we're not married--" Tony began, patiently.

"We could fix that."

There were several seconds of dead silence, during which Steve had plenty of time to consider what he had just said.

And then Tony started laughing.

"You bastard," Tony said, heartfelt, with tears in his eyes, "all these years and -- did you just offer to marry me for spousal privilege?"

"Uh," Steve said. "Maybe?" His heart was pounding loudly enough that Tony with his new senses could surely hear it. "Why, would that work?"

"It's non-existent at the federal level for same-sex couples," Tony said, "but that's very sweet. Now stand up. Or at least sit up. We're doing this properly."

Tony wriggled out from under him, practically bounced across the room as Steve sat up, and rummaged through a drawer until he came up with... a jewelry box. Oh. Tony was prepared.

"How long have you had--?"

"A truly embarrassing amount of time," Tony said, cheerfully, and he got down on one knee, naked, right there on the concrete floor of the garage. Steve reflected on the fact that this was probably what he should have expected from Tony. God, he loved him so much. "You can get me a ring later," Tony informed him. "I'm very patient. Besides, I have a feeling that whatever happens next, it'll be better if we're together for it." He paused, shifting his weight; his eyes were wide, his expression starting to fall into uncertainty and nervousness. His outstretched hand wavered. "So will you, uh...?"

"Yes," Steve said, and he pulled Tony up and kissed him.

Behind Tony's head, the tentacles made another heart as Tony slid the ring on Steve's finger, and Steve laughed and laughed against Tony's mouth, his own heart full of joy.